Thursday, August 30, 2007

All clean!

This morning I had my first dental checkup since I started using Sonicare. And while my reliance on Sonicare has slightly undermined my heretofore unfailingly conscientious flossing habits and I totally got busted on it by the hygienist, I still got a clean bill of health and a giant gold star in my dental praise portfolio. I even took a post-cleaning picture in the dentist’s lobby (when I was pretty sure nobody was looking because right before I did it I pointed out the window and yelled “Oh my god isn’t that Brad Pitt in a Speedo kicking the shit out of Ted Haggard?”) with my fancy new camera phone, which was apparently designed to add a goofy clown nose, saucer-like chipmunk cheeks and unsightly eye wrinkles to everyone it takes pictures of, which if you ask me is just cruel:

Reliably smooth chompers notwithstanding, Sonicare requires a not-insignificant time commitment. Two whole minutes, in fact: 30 seconds for each quadrant of your mouth. Which multiplies quickly to four or even six minutes a day, depending on your dental habits. Not to mention all that time you use for toothpaste squeezing and spitting and admiring your shiny teeth in the mirror. And you can’t really do anything while the vibrating handle holds your arm hostage. When I started Sonicaring, I used the time to do calf-raises so I could build up some shapely man-legs. Please don’t laugh. But now that I’m running anywhere from 20 to 30 miles a week, I frankly don’t find calf raises to be a terribly pain-free use of my time.

Once the calf-raises were ruled out, I looked for other productive things to do with my two-minute dental incarcerations. But I’ve found most productive things require two hands: Tying your shoes. Packing your lunch. Pulling up your underpants with any degree of symmetry. I don’t make the bed even when my mom’s visiting, so that’s not an option. And since I had my rouge and eyeliner tattooed on, my face is ready to go from the moment I open my eyes. I have discovered, though, that I can successfully water my plants with one hand, but that’s only a twice-a-week project. Which I guess just means I need more plants. Or children, but only the kind that you just need to water.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Retail therapy!

Sometimes there’s nothing like an Internet connection and a line of credit to cure what ails you. Especially since it’s probably illegal to kick Ted Haggard, Jim Naugle, Bob Allen and Larry Craig in the head. And by head I don’t mean bathroom, though there would be a lovely Song of Sodomites poetry to Jim, Bob and Larry getting head-kicked in the head.

And while I’m on the topic of gay men, I just bought a bunch of show-tune CDs! I comparison shopped from the convenience of my computer and found everything I wanted on Amazon—all for up to 30% less than what Barns & Noble wanted to charge me. Honestly, I have no idea how stays in business—their prices are higher than Ted Haggard’s legs on a male hooker’s shoulders. At least where show tunes are involved. And really, is there any other reason to use your credit cards on the Internets?

Here’s a shot of the actual confirmation email I received from Amazon, cropped only to protect you from seeing the mountain of crap cluttering my desktop:And I know: Songs from the Labyrinth hardly qualifies as show tunes. But it combines Madrigals and post-Police Sting, which are two of my favorite non-show-tune genres. So I’m generally giddy over the whole order.

But I didn’t stop there! No! Sunday was the magic date after which I could upgrade my cell phone at a discount. And upgrade I did! I am now the proud owner of a cell phone with a built-in camera that’s actually better than the digital camera I already own. Plus it has a nice big screen for text messages! Plus I can use it to make phone calls! I even got one of those wireless ear things that I guess somehow turns your teeth blue when you use it. I don’t know how, but understanding the finer points of cellular technology isn’t exactly my job.

Neither, apparently, is cropping phone pix off the Verizon web site in such a way that they end up remotely proportionate to each other:

True story: My phone cost $229, but I got a $100 discount. The Verizon clerk actually had to find a piece of paper and write $229 – $100 and then stop to think about what that equals. I also got a $50 discount through some partnership with the fiancé’s company. And while I freely admit I couldn’t do $229 – $100 – $50 in my head without employing a few pregnant pauses, this clerk was so stumped by looking at the equation on her piece of paper that she had to go find a calculator. Then again, she didn’t plead guilty to attempted cocksuckery in an airport bathroom and then try to recant by blaming her decision on the Idaho Statesman. So she’s at least fit to hold public office.

Monday, August 27, 2007

23 miles!

Sorry for the huge delay between posts. There was an epic storm in Chicago, see, and trees were destroyed, pedestrians were blown into streets, porta-potties were blown over and Comcast (motto: Yesterday’s technology at tomorrow’s prices—now with intermittent functionality!) has been unable to get our Internets up and running again. Since Thursday. Comcast (motto: We suck ass) sucks ass.

I have a blog post about the blown-over porta-potties all ready to go. It’s on my hard drive at home. But since I can’t get online I can’t post it. And since I can’t email it to myself I can’t post it from work. But in a nutshell, the porta-potties blew over on their fronts. Just think of all the liquid-poop jokes I mined out of that simple fact. And, thanks to Comcast (motto: Less competent than the entire Dubya administration—what’s left of it, at least), you may never get to read them.

But the fiancé and I took a break from obsessively checking our Internets connection at home on Saturday to go running! At 6:00 in the morning! In rain as black and cold as Dick Cheney’s heart! For 23 miles! And it was fun!

The cold, windy rain lasted about seven miles. Which made my shirt cling to me like man-juice on a televangelist. Then we had cool breezy on-and-off drizzle for about 15 miles. Which was actually perfect. Then on the last mile, the sun came out with a vengeance and it very quickly became hot and muggy. And my still-wet inner thighs started rubbing against each other. And I am now the proud owner a big red crotch. Sexy!

Here’s how Judge-Judy-plaintiffy I look after running 13 miles with wet hair. And a wet shirt. Notice that in my staggering geniusness, I decided to do Saturday’s rainy run in cotton. Which makes me sexy and smart:

Intermittent drizzle means you don’t have to lift heavy water bottles to your lips when you run. You can just stick out your tongue:

Here is the foggy, misty, rainy Chicago skyline taken from the south end of the running trail. Which I believe is in Tennessee:

Here we are about three miles from the finish. I hadn’t started chafing yet, but this is kind of how I looked running with my legs apart on that last mile so my thighs wouldn’t blister and fuse:

And here we all are exhausted, chafed and happy to be finished. Be very thankful your screen isn’t equipped with scratch-n-sniff technology:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I know a place where dreams are born

We were related by only the most tenuous of threads—he was my fiancé’s brother’s father-in-law. I had met him maybe five times over the last 10 months, and we had bonded over our shared love of Disney and Chicago architecture.

And his love eclipsed mine heartily on both counts. He had been fascinated by Walt Disney’s sense of design since his childhood in Belgrade. And when he wrote Walt to express his admiration, Walt sent him a personal note along with some sketches. The response led to a lifelong passion for all things Disney, including annual trips to the parks and a museum-scale collection of cels, posters, sculptures, books, decorations and DVDs lovingly organized in endless displays that dominated his basement.

But Disney was just his hobby. He made his living as an architect, and he had been on the design team behind Chicago’s mighty CNA Plaza. His colleagues even attribute the building’s iconic red color to him. I’d always admired that building—especially the bold color that rocked its stoic International Style dignity, imbuing it with unmistakable new charisma. And it was a personal thrill for me to meet one of the minds behind it.

I could tell from the moment I met him and his wife that they had won the lottery with each other. They’d enjoyed almost five decades of marriage and raised two children and doted over five grandchildren together, and they were still best friends. Effortlessly, happily best friends. They’d integrated their Serbian culture into their American identities, peppering their world with Slavic customs and expressions. Their children and grandchildren called them Baka and Deka (I’m guessing on the spellings here as I’m finding a range of options on the Internet) instead of Grandma and Grandpa. Uncle Justin was Cika Justin, and on the day I met the whole family I became Cika Jake, an honor I wear with extreme pride. And the occasional happy tear in the corner of my eye.

Deka had been winning a seven-year battle against an insidious, stubbornly persistent brain cancer when I met him last fall. But when he got home from (where else?) a Disney cruise with his family earlier this summer, the cancer started to win … and with alarming swiftness. There was a day almost a month ago where we were told he had only a matter of hours to live. But he rallied, and a week later we all took him out for baked apple pancakes, one of his favorites. He made a special effort to thank me for joining his family before we packed him and his wheelchair back in his van—an undertaking that took four adults to accomplish.

Unfortunately, it was a short rally. He died Friday morning in his home, surrounded by the people who loved him.

There was a family get-together that evening, and Justin and I stayed until about 10:00. Then we drove all night to Iowa so Justin could finally meet my entire family and see where I grew up. (One anecdote: Justin was attempting to play Battleship with my nephew … with my niece’s dubious assistance. She eventually leaned over to my nephew and stage-whispered, “Is he a part of our family?” When my nephew and Justin couldn’t give her an answer, she eventually asked me. One guess what I told her.) We got back to Chicago at midnight on Sunday and spent all day Monday at the funeral, where the immediate family adorned its somber black suits and dresses with Mickey Mouse ties and pins.

A Serbian Orthodox funeral is a beautiful memorial, rich with chants and rites and traditions both in the church and at the gravesite. I was honored to be included as part of the private family events, but as the newest member of the extended family, I tried to keep in the background, staying on Kleenex alert and entertaining the youngest granddaughters when they got impatient during the service.

I am sorry to have known Deka for such a short time, but I’m richer for having witnessed his legacy first-hand: an unselfconscious love for the creative work of a childhood hero, a string of architectural landmarks, fond accolades from his colleagues, and a shining example of a happy, loving, triumphantly successful relationship that I vow to emulate for the next 50 years with Justin.

I’ve been grandparent-less since 1999, so I’ve already made plans to adopt Baka as my own and make sure she never feels lonely—even though her own grandchildren are probably going to exhaust her with their own love and concern. And I’ll give Deka’s big red landmark a big sweaty hello every Saturday morning when I find myself running south of the Loop:

Friday, August 17, 2007

Oh, there’s nothing halfway

The fiancé and I are due to make his first trip to Iowa to meet the whole fam damily this weekend. On the docket: hours of him being adorable for the niece and the nephew, pizza from Happy Joe’s or Tomaso’s (or both!), a 10-mile run past every school I ever attended and every house I ever lived in, perhaps a meet-n-greet(-n-show-off) soirée with as many old friends as I can scare up, and—if we can squeeze it in between rounds of canasta—some free labor as my folks and my sister’s family continue settling into their new homes.

Be good while we’re gone.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

How to be sick

• Develop a scratchy throat, a general sense of malaise and a Rovian case of dragon breath.
• Work the fact that you’re sick into every conversation. Say things like, “I’m sorry I’m no fun today; I’m sick.”
• Be sure to add that you bit a huge chunk out of your cheek over the weekend—and mention that it’s still swollen and tender—so people understand how much you are suffering. And how profoundly admirable you are just for showing up.
• Make a big show of using gum or mints or breath spray in meetings so people understand you are protecting them from the sulfuric pits-of-hell stench that your scratchy throat and chunky cheek are producing.
• Eat a double Quarter Pounder with cheese value meal—and super size it!—for lunch because the salty fries will help your throat, the Diet Coke will temporarily mask your dragon breath and the double Quarter Pounder with cheese will … um … just be so damn tasty.
• Duck out of work a little early, explaining that you’re sick and you need your rest.
• Constantly check the lymph nodes in your neck to see how swollen and tender they are. And to gauge just how much time you have left on this earth.
• Above all, do not feel sorry for yourself. There’s nothing more pathetic.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Five potential half-marathon excuses

1. It was hotter than Karl Rove in a corduroy burqa. At least it was supposed to be. Mercifully, Chicago’s week-long crème brûlée blowtorch of a heatwave got dunked in an early-morning downpour on Sunday that made the temperature at the start of the race downright perfect, if maybe just a little on the humid side. Unfortunately, once the sun came up, the heat was back in full force. Which for me was around the 10-mile mark. And though the last 3.1 miles were pretty brutal, I managed to finish only 10 minutes behind last year’s time.

2. I was bleeding, part 1. Good running prep involves trimming your toenails. It does not, however, involve trimming your toenails so short that your exposed toes chafe and bleed in your socks. Unfortunately, I got a little ambitious hacking away at my left big toe on Thursday, and it hadn’t grown back very far by Sunday morning. I was convinced the tender sensation in my shoe during the race was blood oozing and caking around my foot, but when I finished and gingerly removed my sock, I found that it had been nothing but paranoia. But I’m still using it as a scapegoat for my slowish time.

3. I was bleeding, part 2. Matthew and I carbo-loaded at a charming little Italian chain restaurant across from Millennium Park on Saturday after we picked up everybody’s race packets. I made it through the entire meal without hurting myself, but as I bit into one of the wafer cookies Matthew bought us for dessert, I managed to chomp off about 72 lbs of left-inside-cheek flesh with it. It bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled and bled. And it was still so swollen during the race it impeded my ability to eat and drink. And I never know whether to order the fish or the chicken when I’m drinking my own blood.

4. We were tired. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is the fiancé’s and my all-time favorite musical. Along with about 70 other musicals. We’d been unable to see it during its Chicago run, but it closed the weekend of the half marathon and we weren’t about to throw away an opportunity to hear one of David Yazbek’s best lyrics sung live and in person:
The air is French.
That chair is French.
This nice sincere Sancerre is French.
The skies are French.
The pies are French.
Those guys are French.
These fries are French!

So we saw the show on Saturday night. And we loved it! The new opening number isn’t much of an improvement over the old opening number (though it eliminates that stupid “Her family fortune was obscene / Her dad invented Orangina” pseudo-couplet) but the show is still a gem from start to finish. All three hours of it. Which didn’t get us to bed until 11:30. And we had to get up at 4:00 to be all stretched, hydrated, parked, gear-checked and in line for the 6:30 start of the race. But it was all totally worth it.

5. I had what we will euphemistically call “plumbing problems.” In the days before a long run, I always try to time my, um, sitting-and-reading moments so I can enjoy long runs on an empty tank. If you know what I mean. But apparently eating my own cheek threw off my internal timing, because I just couldn’t get the tank empty before the half marathon. If you know what I mean. So I ran all bloated and sluggish and full of … discomfort. If you know what I mean. (Poop! I’m talking about poop here! Sheesh!)

So, in short, I ran the half marathon in blistering heat with bleeding toes, oozing cheeks, a head full of show tunes and a butt full of euphemism. I’m lucky I finished at all.

Fortunately, I did. And fortunately (depending on how you look at it), Matthew brought his camera.

Our group was kind of small … just Matthew and me and two of his friends. And my big handsome fiancé, who ran with people from his own pace group:

The sea of runners was thick, and the view from our 10-minute-mile pacing point was pretty impressive. See that little white horizontal stripe on the horizon? That’s the starting line. It took us over six minutes just to get to it after the gun went off:

Matthew told me to look exhausted for this shot. Then he proceeded to mug for the camera like Lindsay Lohan at her weekly arraignment. He’s both the ham and the cheese:

Matthew didn’t tell me to look exhausted for this shot. I did it all on my own:

Here’s Taz and me near the 8-mile water station. I love this shot of the vast cup-littered lawn with the skyline in the background. It sums up everything I love about running in Chicago:

And here are Matthew and me at the finish. We had our picture taken by the professional race photographers on the right side of the flag, and then we went around to the back to take our own free photo. Which is why the flag is backward. But if you just focus on our shiny medals, you’ll hardly notice:

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The floors waxed. The walls suede.

My domestic fantasies skew toward the old-money soignée. I long for afternoons of leisure, flipping through yachting magazines in casually rumpled chinos … swapping stories of European sojourns on a gabled veranda … savoring a life of noblesse oblige in a living room whose walls evoke the supple hand of brushed suede with rich, authentic character.

Which is why we’re painting our living room and sun room in two shades of Ralph Lauren Suede, which, as it turns out, is designed to evoke the supple hand of brushed suede with rich, authentic character. It says so right on the web site.

(The colors we’ve chosen are Arrow Wood and Faun’s Leap, whose names seem to evoke more of the calloused hand of murdered woodland creatures, but deconstructive nomenclature is not really the point of this post.)

Ralph Lauren Suede does indeed add supple texture and character to our walls, which is especially good because the developer who rehabbed our building wasn’t exactly a wizard with a level and a drywall knife. And the previous owners clearly hosted Amish rake fights and Civil War re-enactments in the arena that is now our living room. So Ralph Lauren’s sandy-textured, subtly variegated suede paint is very nicely hiding a world of bumps and dents and scratches and angles not found in any geometry textbook.

But holy christ on a low-salt cracker does it take forever to apply. The first coat was pretty easy – we simply had to roll the stuff up in random, messy patterns. And we are nothing if not random and messy. But the second coat involves hand-brushing the paint in an infinitely random pattern of overlapping X strokes that are supposed to dry into that “supple hand of brushed suede” effect that’s all over the Ralph Lauren marketing materials. Except when the X strokes dry, sometimes the edges of the strokes show up as hard, dark lines. But hiding the lines isn’t as simple as making a few more X strokes; you need 97 more X strokes or you can see where the new strokes don’t blend into the old strokes. All of which is about to give me a … um … heart attack.

And don’t get me started on that blue masking tape, which has decided to allow my white baseboard paint to ooze a little onto our beautifully refinished wood floors right in the places it’s designed—by name!—to be masking. But I’d like to think I’m a bit smarter than a roll of masking tape, so I’m using those magical stain markers to scribble over the oozy parts. And I’m finding this process works like a charm. Especially once I place couches and other large pieces of furniture against the walls.

In any case, we’re slowly completing the faux leather (does this paint count as pleather?) backdrop for my domestic fantasies. And as soon as I get a gabled veranda, a yachting lifestyle and some worldly friends, we should be all set. As long as nobody looks too closely at the floors in front of our baseboards.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sunday, August 05, 2007

I got a slutty girl’s used phone!

First of all, never call Verizon on the phone to fix a problem. Because what their phone operators lack in empowerment, they make up for in incompetence. Since they were incapable of getting a supervisor’s signature two days in a row to ship me a phone they could barely discount in the first place, I went to the Verizon store on Michigan Avenue on Friday after work, where 1) the guy told me he could get me a big discount on a new phone at the end of the month when I reach some magical 20-month milestone on my contract, 2) he also told me the phone they were trying to sell me over the phone was a piece of crap that was guaranteed to break and then he showed me some seriously impressive new phones I was eligible to get in the store instead and 3) he gave me a used phone free that I could have until I hit my magical contract milestone in three weeks. In a matter of minutes, he connected the used phone to my account, restored it to its factory settings and sent me on my way. Woo-hoo!

I left the store, hopped on a bus and immediately texted the fiancé to let him know I was back on the grid, as the kids say. But when he texted me back, I got a popup saying my text memory was 90% full. Figuring the glut was messages I’d gotten when my phone was lost, I started scrolling through them … and quickly discovered I’d stumbled on a goldmine of racy texts the previous owner didn’t have the good sense to delete when she traded in her phone for an upgrade. Which to me is tacit permission to post them (at least the good ones) here. But with all names and identifying details removed. Because karma can still be a bitch if she's not thrown off the trail.

These texts aren’t part of one single conversation, but they sure suggest a healthy diet of … um … textual activity:

Guy #1: Mmm. Nice ass. I’ll think about it.
Guy #1: 2 bad u didn’t get a taste …
Guy #2: But I’ve already rubbed 3 out. I’m getting sore.
Guy #1: Well, have fun being a slut!
Guy #1: OK, sounds hot. What’s it take 2 get you up here in 45 min?
Guy #1: You haven’t had me. So maybe you’re just nervous.
Guy #1: Is your pussy feeling better?
Guy #2: Good morning, sunshine. Are you interested in going to the beach or do you want to see my bedroom?
Guy #2: My lord, slow down. I’m just going to shit and I’ll be ready.
Guy #2: Did you say smack my ass? Fuck yeah.
Guy #1: My gay friend left town. What are you doing 2nite?
Guy #1: My friend left some stuff at my place that I had to return. I don’t know if I can drink any more this weekend but want to check you out in a bikini.
Guy #1: Maybe I can get you out of whatever you’re wearing.
Girl #1: So Guy #1 got a bj huh? About time!

Whew! I need a cigarette. And maybe some Lysol to clean off my phone.

But my weekend wasn’t all about transcribing racy heterotextuality. The fiancé and I also managed to squeeze in a tiny training run on Saturday. The merest bagatelle, actually. A wee tiny 20 miles.

A 20-mile run on a potentially hot day requires an early start so we don’t melt in the August heat. Fortunately, our week of oppressive humidity transformed itself into six hours of blessed cool breeziness during our run. Here’s a shot of the sun rising over the cool breezy lake as we took off at 6:00 am:

The AIDS Marathon organization wanted us to all dress in red on Saturday so we’d form a huge red ribbon up and down the lakefront trail. Those of us who didn’t own any red shirts were encouraged to wear our yellow Aids Marathon shirts. My red shirts are all kind of hot and I find the yellow shirts to be itchy, so I eventually just went with my standard red pallor:

It’s hard to smile over your shoulder for a picture while you’re running. Trust me on this:

There’s a half-mile slab of concrete just south of Oak Street Beach where there’s nothing to look at but my middle-age waist jiggles. Fortunately, everyone’s arms and shoulders landed in just the right place in this photo to spare you from having to see them:

Here’s another picture on the same slab, with some of the same arms and shoulders performing their same civic duties:

Here's yet another picture taken a few minutes after the last one. Except this one's of some stranger we all thought had a nice … um … back:

Our 10-mile turnaround point was a celebration of icy wet paper towels, jugs of water and bags of pretzels:

And then sweaty, creaky runners trying to smile through their pretzel chewing:

Here we are heading back home a mile after the turnaround. I love this shot because it shows us enjoying the wide, runner-friendly sidewalk around the Shedd Aquarium and it showcases Chicago’s beautiful skyline, punctuated by the bright red CNA Plaza building:

Here’s our traditional final pose, after a few of us took cleansing dips in Lake Michigan. My sweaty bits and I didn’t want to be responsible for polluting the ecosystem, so we stayed on land and looked wet without any lakeular assistance:

Friday, August 03, 2007


OK. So I know I’m a wank for leaving my cell phone on the bus. But stuff like that happens. And rarely to me, so I’m allowed the occasional boneheaded oversight. And I was willing to pay mega-full price to get a replacement phone, so it’s not like I’m holding onto some misguided sense of it’s-never-my-fault entitlement.

But holy shit is Verizon being the Dumbest Company Ever about the whole thing. Everyone I’ve talked to on the phone has been more than friendly and helpful. But it seems that unless I’m there to ask them to do some pretty obvious things (“Can you tell me the total cost? Can you give me a tracking code?) they are pretty helpless about accomplishing the basic requirements of their jobs.

Which is why the phone I ordered on Wednesday to be shipped overnight to arrive on Thursday didn’t get entered in their system because they forgot to get a supervisor’s signature on the order. And the phone I re-ordered on Thursday to be shipped overnight to arrive today didn’t get entered in their system … because they forgot to get a supervisor’s signature on the order.

Now, I know that 90% of what a cellular provider promises to consumers is a load of crap: We have a network that won’t drop your calls! We have the lowest rates! Your phone battery will last as long as your contract! We won’t pee on you in your sleep! But how clusterfucky do you have to be to make the same customer-irritating mistake two days in a row? And when I asked if there was some sort of financial penance they were willing to make for being such a mess, they offered to credit my account ten dollars. Ten dollars! I’m willing to commit to a new two-year contract and buy a phone for $150 that they sell to new customers for $30, they fuck up the transaction the same way two days in a row, and they can’t thank me for my business and my patience and my understanding for any more than ten dollars? I could barely summon the motivation to kick Mit Romney in the face for ten dollars. (OK, I’d totally kick him in the face for free, but I won’t accompany it with any cool hiiiii-YAH! sounds for under five bucks.)

It’s enough to make me leave Verizon for good. Unfortunately, they have by far the most reliable service. And we’ve tried them all.

On the plus side, it’s given me an excuse to email everyone whose number I’ll need on the off chance my new phone ever arrives. So I’ve reconnected with a bunch of people I hadn’t talked to in a while. And it’s given me something to blog about in what would otherwise have been a slow blog topic week. And I won’t be so busy gabbing with friends this weekend that we might actually get the living room painted.

And if I only had a cell phone with a camera in it, I could maybe take a picture and show you.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Romantic reverie

When you’re enjoying an outdoor concert at Millennium Park on a lazy Wednesday evening with your fiancé … when he packs blankets and pillows to relax on along with sodas and snacks to enjoy including individual containers of cherry Jell-O that he made with fruit cocktail just the way you like it … when you get a spot on the lawn that’s close enough to the orchestra that you can hear more of the concert live than through the latticework of speakers over your head … when the sun is warm and the audience is enthralled and you’re just happy to be alive … when you lie back with half-closed eyes under the open sky with your fiancé’s hand in yours and Tchaikovsky’s lush Swan Lake suite and Sibelius’ mighty Finlandia washing over you … when some woman wanders by and steps a little too close to your blanket … you can totally see up her skirt.