Archive for February, 2007

The Goat

I was out with the apostles tonight (well, almost all apostles — sorry Tres), at the Billy Goat Tavern after work. And of course we came up with great ideas just by setting foot in that legendary spot.

The Goat is situated in a dark corner under Michigan Avenue, and it’s where Tribune reporters used to congregate late-night. Since then it’s been the source of humor for many an American, with the famous “Cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger” skit on Saturday Night Live.

And, no kidding, it’s exactly like that when you walk in. They yell at you, tell you that you have to have a double, then tell you “cheeps, no fries; Coke no Pepsi”. And then you get a great burger to chow on while you drink Old Style.

Too bad it’s not called “The Pig.” Then it would really be my kind of place. (And the Cubs would probably be winning, after ridding themselves of that damn goat curse.)


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Landing a job in Chicago

Let’s face it, Kansas doesn’t get much respect, unless you’re talking hunting or basketball. The same was true when I was job hunting four years ago, looking to move to either New York or Chicago.

After literally a hundred query letters and phone calls to agencies in NY and Chicago, I finally managed to get a few interviews. I made sure I covered all the big-name agencies in both cities, and I both e-mailed the HR person and submitted my resume online, where I could.

One day I got a pessimistic e-mail back from the recruiter at a big Chicago agency, stating that they only had one job open, and it was for direct marketing on the John Deere account.

You can imagine my excitement. Not only was it an agency I was really interested in…it was a brand I actually knew something about!

So on the Friday afternoon of my interview, I got all gussied up in my black suit, and my friend dropped me off in front of their ominous building (with scary security people in the lobby). I met with the HR person, then an Account Supervisor (who I later learned I would be replacing). Then I met with Ted, who oversaw the whole account.

Ted was a big boisterous dude, who talked more B.S. than anything. And clearly I was scared out of my wits that I was going to screw the whole thing up. So it really threw me for a loop when he asked me what I liked to do. “Read, sew, play piano,” I said. He seemed completely baffled at my seemingly boring life.

After I left the office, I was kicking myself for not showing a lot of personality. (I’m sure it’s difficult for anyone to imagine that I could hide this about myself.)

The next morning I headed for Iowa to my brother’s house, then on to Kansas on Sunday. En route (about 4 p.m.) I decided that by Monday morning at 8:30, I had to prove to Ted that I was funny. I wanted that job.

I hit Kansas City at 5:57 p.m., three minutes before Best Buy was closing, and ran inside to get a digital camera so I could complete my scheme. Fortunately there was another helpful customer in the camera section who told me what to get (it was very good advice, by the way), and I ran to the counter to make my purchase.

Then instead of heading for Wichita (where I lived at the time), I drove to the farm so I could get up at the crack of dawn, take the necessary photos, and pull together a PPT document to e-mail to Ted by 8:30.

Long story short, I had on offer on Tuesday morning.

Here’s what I sent with my thank-you e-mail:

Love for Deere

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Airing My Dirty Laundry

When I bought my condo a year ago, I was so excited that it had “washer/dryer hook-ups”! Gone would be the days of carting my skivvies down the elevator or stairs to the creepy basement or moist laundry room full of half-assed washing machines and mediocre dryers.

After I moved in, I discovered that my laundry room (aka closet) was merely plumbed. It didn’t have any electricity. Or a vent.


Clearly I wasn’t paying attention during the inspection.

So for the past 11 months, I’ve been carrying my laundry out my back door and down three flights of stairs to the basement, where generally I don’t have an issue with the machines being in use. But in the winter, it’s really annoying to have to bundle up and tromp down icy stairs with snow blowing in my face, just because I don’t have one more pair of underwear to last me even one more day.

But I guess you can look at it as a workout — I go up and down the stairs at least six times in the course of doing laundry.

The plan all along has been to finish the needed work and get a washer/dryer in my place. So a couple weeks ago I had someone from “Mr. Handyman” give me an estimate. The guy was a little over the top in terms of being chatty and flirty, but he was helpful in the end, and we decided that it would be best to tap into the gas line behind the stove in the kitchen, run the pipe behind the cabinet, through the wall into the bathroom, along the tub (inside the hollow space), and finally through the wall into the closet. Then he’d put in a vent and tap into a 110 wire so I could have an outlet for the washer.

Two days later his supervisor called to give me the price. $3,000!

Woe is me. I have no boyfriend who can take this on. I am all alone. I have to tromp up and down the stairs and might kill myself in the process by slipping on the ice. Then rats will eat my dead body in the alley.

(And yes, this is a shameless plea for Dad or Brother DIY to come visit before farming season starts to help out their poor little girl.)

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Anyone who knows me will tell you I operate on “Nelly Time”. I always arrive 10 minutes after I’m supposed to. I wait until the 11th hour to work on a project. And I am always late on giving people gifts.

But today I have a procrastination victory! I have finally completed the log of the trip I took to Italy in December. Granted, it’s not perfectly edited, but at least I got it all down on paper. So please excuse the typos and weird words — I’ll clean those up later.

Click here to read it.

P.S. It’s snowing like mad here. Perfect for a night on the town.

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The Redskins

I had a 3-minute whirlwind tonight — getting home from Naperville at 7:05, furiously changing clothes, inhaling a snack bar and running down the stairs to catch a cab to my volleyball came at 7:08.

But I did stop to pick up my mail, and it was Hometown Paper Day. Yea!

As usual, many of the articles were about the school — sports teams, in particular. And I was reminded of the controversy of the dear old mascot of my high school: the Redskin.

Granted, if you think about the term’s literal meaning, it’s probably not that nice. But we always loved the symbol and stood behind it. And after a good 10 years of flack, the school has stood behind it, too.

(As an aside, I’ll admit it does seem a little weird to talk about the “Young Lady Skins” when referring to the junior high basketball team. I guess it’s not as weird as the “Lady Popes” where Jenn went to school.)

This same controversy came to an end last night at the University of Illinois, when Chief Illini danced his final dance. The Tribune offered up a few alternative mascots to take the Chief’s place, and surprisingly, one of them reminded me of a mascot once under consideration at LRHS:

The Caterpillar: Makes the earth move (and passes out brochures for Peoria tourism).

Sometime back in the ’80s, when they consolidated a bunch of little schools, LRHS became LRWGHS, and to alleviate bad feelings, the school considered changing the mascot.

At that time, there was a legendary music teacher who had been around forever. (I think my dad had him, too.) He was large, unhealthy, and arguably miscast in his profession. But it was a right of passage to be in his unruly music class and have a music stand hurled in your direction as a pacifier. (Fortuately he really liked me. But I suppose he had no choice, as without me, there wouldn’t have been an accompanist.)

At any rate, he was always front and center directing the pep band at ballgames, so it was natural that he would be cast as the mascot. If I remember correctly, the proposal was to pseudo-anagram LRWG into WIGL and have him dress as a worm.

This would have frightened the opposition into being paralyzed, so it’s probably unfortnate that it didn’t happen.

Someday LRHS might have to choose a new mascot. Maybe they could borrow from the Tribune’s list for the Illini replacement:

Horseshoe: The cholesterol-filled sandwich.

The Fighting Soybean: Extra advantage: No one knows what a soybean looks like so the costume could be just about anything.

How about a feisty, ready-to-fight Irishman who . . . never mind. Whitetail: The timid deer who runs away from sounds of disapproval.

The Obama: Fires up crowds, surely victorious (according to the hype).

Ethan the Ethanol vat: Gobbles up opponents — and federal subsidies.

Honest Abe: Delivers a halftime address: “The world will little note nor long remember what we do here, but we’re gonna kick your butts anyway.”

The Bag Man: Collects “attendance fees” (and nobody gets hurt).

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Sunburn and Southfork

Ah, Dallas! I love that it’s nearly 80 degrees in February. And I love that I’ve had BBQ twice today.

In true old-school manufacturer fashion, busses picked us up at the crack of dawn to go to the assembly plant, where we’d be learning the ins and outs of dump trucks. (In advertising, nothing happens before 9.)

My mind was running in circles all night, and the Sleep-Number bed I was in didn’t do the trick. I woke up to my alarm in panic about all the stuff I needed to accomplish today, knowing I’d have to also give some semblance of paying attention during the training.

There were about 200 people in the viewing hall, and for whatever reason, my cell phone coverage was crappy.  So every time I needed to make a call, I had to go outside into the sunshine.

Oh damn.

At any rate, I ended up on the phone at least 2 hours today, pacing head down in zigzag fashion around the six dump trucks parked outside. And the back of my neck is now bright red. Hallelujah! Sun!

Overall, it was an interesting session, though the padding on my chair wasn’t thick enough to ward off a case of tired butt.

This evening they shipped us out to Southfork Ranch for round two of BBQ in the convention center there. Sidekick John and I walked over to the ranch house, where the themesong from “Dallas” was blaring on the patio. A classic Texas woman dressed in a bright pink pant suit greeted us in with a thickly accented, “Come on in, y’all.”

Though the interior was different from the show (given it was filmed in a studio), many of the exterior places were recognizable. But the best part was the master bedroom, which had a ridiculously huge floor-to-ceiling canopy bed right in the middle of the room.

J.R. certainly lived it up right. (Especially the pink jacuzzi bathtub in a completely mirrored room.)

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My second home

Right now I’m hanging out on the “couch” in my second living room — gate K13 in O’Hare.

I’m in O’Hare at least 4 times a month, some visits more pleasant than others. My typical m.o. is to frantically rush around my place (with my hair in a towel and a toothbrush in my mouth), tearing up my bed trying to find my phone at the very last second, with the cab outside calling me to tell me it’s leaving without me. Then get stuck in the back of the cab in traffic (we all know what happens in that situation). Then get to the airport with 35 minutes to spare, but find myself in a 30-minute security line. Then sprint from the x-ray machine to the gate with my noisy rolling bag in tow, to find out they’ve just given up my seat.

For whatever reason, today was crazy. You’d think I would’ve had a nice relaxing day, given that our office was closed for Presidents Day. But no, I was up until 2 a.m. writing one of the six presentations on my to-do list, then started in again at 9 this morning.

I had a strategic planning meeting for an arts organization that I’m working with on a volunteer basis from 4:30-6:30, which was going to put me down to the wire on getting to the airport in time for my 8:05 flight to Dallas. The mound of work and errands I needed to accomplish before heading to the meeting just kept piling up, so at 4:05, when I should’ve been on my way downtown, I was standing naked in front of my dresser, alternately throwing something on myself and in my suitcase.

I flagged down a cab at 4:15, turned on my computer in the backseat (it’s astounding I didn’t barf), and spent the next ten minutes preparing for the sections I was responsible for on the agenda.

And at 6:30, after a successful meeting, I headed out the door and jumped in a cab to the airport.

Despite all the craziness today, the fact that it’s a holiday has been a treat this evening. First, there was no traffic, so I actually got to the airport and hour and fifteen minutes before my flight. There was no security line. And I’ve had time to enjoy my three favorite things in Terminal 3:

  1. McDonald’s (YUM!)
  2. Getting US Weekly at the magazine shop
  3. Perusing the bookstore, which is really quite a good one, even though it’s in the airport

And write, of course.

I’ve encountered the same cashier at the bookstore on three different occasions. He always chats me up with book recommendations.

Lately I’ve been on a historical non-fiction kick, and today was no exception. I immediately gravitated to Manhunt, The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson.

Apparently I had Presidents Day in the back of my mind.

But the store had an inordinate amount of great finds! Here are the other ones I intend to cajole the library to purchase:

The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson. It’s about London’s cholera epidemic and how it changed science, cities and the modern world.

Rats, by Robert Sullivan. He spent a year in an alley behind Wall Street observing those nasty creatures and the people who deal with them.

Where God Was Born, by Bruce Feiler. He’s the guy who does “Walking Through The Bible” on PBS.

And finally, a juicy fiction selection: Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley. It chronicles a romantic romp starting at the Oscars and lasting ten days.

Jane Smiley is always fun — especially her book Moo, which is about Moo U, a land grant university with crazy county agents and very large prize pigs.

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