Friday, September 30, 2005

Car Crash

I saw another bicyclist go flying after getting hit by an SUV this morning. We were both headed south on Wells and were waiting for the green light at Wacker.

Wells is a one-way street and we both started out in the right lane. The El rumbles overhead and creates a somewhat challenging bike route with several imperfect options because the support pillars for the train tracks effect the movement of traffic. There are two lanes of traffic, with a parking lane on each side. The parking lane is quite wide and separated from the traffic lane by the El supports.

A lot of bikers ride in the gap between the support pillars and the parked cars. I don’t usually take that option, because I find it a dangerous place to ride: pedestrians often move into my path, lots of dooring potential, cabs are picking or dropping off passengers and most importantly, there are tons of parking garages that cars pull into without regard for the cyclist they passed two seconds earlier. The other two options for riding involve riding in the traffic lane, but staying close to the supports. This of course tempts cars to pass ridiculously close. The option that I often use instead is taking the whole lane for myself, since there really isn’t room for both a bike and a car to safely travel. Dear Lord, the honking and yelling that this provokes. Even worse is the fact that this stretch is a decline and I usually keep up with, or even pass the traffic in the other lane. To make it even more ridiculous, the way the lights are timed basically guarantees that we will all hit the red light two blocks later at Randolph, so it really doesn’t matter anyway.

Today, I began in the right lane when the light turned green and then took the left lane after a while because the cars were too slow in the right lane. Unfortunately she didn’t follow me into the left lane, but instead stayed to the right, either in the lane or in the space between the parked cars and the support columns. I heard the crunch and looked back to see her flying through the air – her front wheel separated from her bicycle. The offending SUV had made a right turn into one of the parking garages and their paths collided.

I yelled either "Fucker" or "Motherfucker" – I honestly don’t remember which– stopped and ran over to the site. A pedestrian only a few years older than me admonished me that this was no reason to use such language. A woman with a cell phone was debating whether the authorities should be called. I instructed her to call 911. Then ‘no reason for cursing boy’ told me to calm down and not make too big of a deal out of this. I snapped back that there is a woman lying on the ground bleeding because the driver was careless – calling the police & cursing were completely appropriate. Pedestrian boy argued that he "saw the whole thing, it was just an accident, the guy just didn’t see her." Exactly. That is exactly the problem. The pedestrian’s attitude is part of the problem.

It shouldn’t be an excuse to crash into people because the ‘didn’t see them’ when they didn’t begin to look for them and should have just seen them seconds earlier. The driver chose to operate tons of steel at a fast speed during one of the busiest times of day in Chicago’s Loop – one of the most densely populated daytime areas in the country. Given this choice and the consequences of Not Looking – he is burdened with the duty to pay attention and look to see what is in the path of his four-wheeled monstrosity. Most of the ‘accidents’ in our city aren’t accidents at all, but instead caused by carelessness or recklessness of at least one of the parties involved.

Anyway, several bicyclists stopped to help the woman, the cops were called, the driver stopped, we gathered the witness’s contact information (I also wrote down the vehicle description on the back of my business card) and gathered the parts of her bike together. Her leg was scraped and quickly bruising, her knee was also bruising and she hit her head. I left before the authorities arrived, but everything seemed in control. She seems like she will be basically alright, but I wouldn’t want to wake up in her body tomorrow.

As pedestrian boy left, he cautioned all of us bikers to ‘be careful and look where we are going and to watch our language.’ Grrrr.... He wasn’t at all nasty or anything, but he obviously was of the opinion that bikes were inherently dangerous and intruders on the cars’ territory. This pervasive, unquestioning acceptance that cars and all of their dangers are just an integral, unalterable part of human life truly drives me crazy.

Of course I was late to work because of this, and entered my bee’s hive of an office to jump back into trial prep craziness.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Thursday -- The Craziness Gets Worse

I honestly couldn't make this up if I wanted to.

5:51pm. We received a message that the boss remembered he had a cocktail party to attend and was going to try to make it. WTF?

6:30pm. A huge crowd of people burst loudly into our office and don't shut up. My boss comes in to tell me that he invited them from the party to do an impromptu telethon for his charity fundraising project. They will be using the spare phones in the office, but there aren't enough phones, so "since you aren't using your phone do you mind if someone makes calls in your office?"

me (scowling fiercely): "while I am working?"
crazy boss: "Yes, would that disturb you?"
me (with a bewildered, angry, threatening look): "Of course it would disturb me. I have to get a new motion researched and finished tonight."
cb: "Oh. Should I close your door."
duh.

So now, while we are on the eve of the firm's biggest trial, at which the media will be screaming down our necks, with our offices completely covered in confidential and privileged material and the attorneys unfed, stressed and unhappy, now we have strangers all over the place making loud fundraising phone calls. I think my boss is making these calls, too instead of preparing for trial.

The boss ordered them pizza which is smelling up the office something terrible. He (uses a support staff member to order and pick up his lunch everyday) has been bitching all week when he learned that attorneys were out of the office for lunch or supper. Today barely anyone took lunch and now we are past dinner, too. And he has the nerve to bring the saliva-inducing smell of pizza that we can't eat into the office while all of our bellies are grumbling.

All of the important work on this file has fallen on his partner's shoulders and the partner just threatened to quit. The craziness is seriously out of control. I can't possibly give it justice in this entry.

Unbelievable. Incredulous. Unreal.

Work. An update:

4:45pm. I get assigned an entirely new motion to draft due before I leave tonight.
4:47pm. The boss goes home.

My Crazy Fucking Office & Ruined Weekend Plans

Wednesday:

Spent all morning in court monitoring a super-high profile police brutality/forced confession/wrongful death row conviction motion hearing.

Finally got a phone call from a convicted serial rapist of nine woman. Was so excited that I was able to speak with him and arrange an interview that I forgot to be completely creeped out. Actually gushed, "please call collect anytime you want, I have directed the secretaries to always accept your call." Blech. I need to bathe.

Had to go out to the god-forsaken suburb to surrender my sex-offender ward to the police for booking. I felt completely stupid and inadequate because my knowledge of police procedure & criminal law is so woefully inadequate. It shows, too. I hate these files.

Back in Chicago, I got disoriented coming out of the train station and wandered a bit in the wrong direction. It was dark, raining and I was wearing heels. I got pissed because at damn near every taxi line there was an obnoxious homeless-looking guy offering to hail a cab for people. Fuck you, dude – the cabs are already lined up. Besides I can certainly hail a cab for myself. Why in the world do you expect me to tip you for being an obnoxious opportunistic jackass? My stubbornness unreasonably kicked in, so I walked over a mile back to my office in heels. This was stupid, because I am trying to be very good to my knee. Luckily I only got a blister and my knee feels fine.

Thursday:
Receive an email directing all attorneys and paralegals to report to the office on Saturday morning. Fuck. I was scheduled to go hiking and meet the bros in Madison, WI this weekend. The office is taking its most important case to trial on Friday, so it is an ‘all hands on deck’ situation.

EXCEPT for the fact that I am not even assigned to work on that trial and barely know enough of the facts to really be useful.

EXCEPT for the fact that our crazy boss has all of the secretaries and most of the paralegals doing fundraising work for his pet charity. This means that even though we are on the eve of trial, the attorneys are doing their own photo-copying, filing & general office work. The boss hired a temp for the next few weeks – to do fund-raising work. The boss has directed that the charity work take precedent over the ‘real’ office work.
This might not seem like a huge deal, but it is truly perplexing and fucked up. There is no reason why are office is both on ‘Red Alert’ and we are deprived of our support staff. Plus, the client should not have to pay $200 +/hour for attorneys to alphabetize exhibits and photocopy. So fucking unprofessional.

EXCEPT also for the fact that the boss sprung this on everyone at basically the last minute. My paralegal had airplane tickets purchased to visit a friend: tough shit. EM, another attorney, has to miss a friend’s wedding. too bad. My weekend plans are ruined unless I can call down a miracle of mercy. This trial date has been scheduled for months. Certainly, the bosses (who have been through this sort of huge trial before) knew far in advance that we’d have this sort of weekend scramble. They could have alerted us months ago to not commit to any out-of-town plans for this weekend(s).

They each make so much money that losing money on canceled trips might not seem like a big deal, however that certainly isn’t true for my paralegal. This is such bullshit. Last time we had one of these emergency weekend meetings, I ended up working until about 9:00PM and then all day Sunday, too. Fuck this bullshit.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bags

John came back last week and we had a ‘Welcome Back BBQ’ for him. Good stuff. Michael and Josh also arranged for a mini "John Greenfield tribute concert" in our living room. Even better stuff. Our house was nicely full of people for many hours.

Prior to the BBQ, Mia, John and I went grocery shopping at Edmar. I forgot my canvas sacks, so we had to get new bags. Does anyone know who is driving the trend of seemingly trying to use as many plastic bags as possible for each grocery order? Chicago’s tree branches are littered with trapped bags, and every grocery store seems to endeavor to do its part to continue ‘decorating’ the trees in the neighborhood. Do they consider this free advertising?

Normally when I go to a store I have either my canvas sacks, paniers or messenger bag and therefore don’t need bags. Somehow this simple request is offensive or too hard to understand. Why in the world would I want a gallon of milk in a plastic bag – especially when it will have to be double or triple bagged in order to even approach supporting the weight of the milk. And charcoal – what is the purpose of trying to squeeze the bottom third of a charcoal bag into a flimsy plastic bag? I cannot imagine that the bag will somehow make it easier to carry. Cases of soda or beer – please the sharp corners + weight of liquid will tear through any grocery store bag with ease PLUS these cases come with handy-dandy handles specifically for carrying.

I know that I have griped about this practice before, but I am seriously perplexed? Who are the geniuses who are behind this behavior. I totally understand that most of the bags are ridiculously shoddy and couldn’t support a load of packing peanuts without being double bagged, but still the bagging is out of control. [Oh yeah penny-pinching managers and/or purchasing agents: I highly doubt you are saving money by ordering the super-thin, crappy plastic bags instead of the sturdier ones, when your employees are now using near ten flimsy bags for every one sensible bag. Please re-calculate your pricing analysis].

It was raining when we went shopping, and the checker simply could not comprehend that we didn’t care about the rain. First, rain is made out of water – even assuming that Chicago’s rain is closer to acid rain that pure spring water, it is still friggin’ water – not molten lava. Second, if the rain was lava or super-acidic water, those crappy bags wouldn’t offer a damn bit of protection. Third, LISTEN and DON’T ARGUE when we have expressed our preference for as few bags as possible – you don’t have to like it, but it is our choice. Fourth, what exactly is the concern if the bags of chips or soda bottles get wet?

Is this phenomena limited to Chicago, or is this a (idiotic, wasteful) trend everywhere?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bratty Brats and the Mother Who Spoils Them

On Friday night, Paul and I biked down to see Red Moon Theatre’s newest play. The set was on the water of the lagoon in Jackson Park and the ‘seats’ were the steps behind the Museum of Science & Industry. The play started once darkness descended.

There were plenty of kids in the audience, and all of them were well behaved EXCEPT for the family next to me. There was a gaggle of children and two women. The children with one woman were very quiet and polite. However, the other woman’s children, Sara and Sage were obnoxious spoiled brats. The mother was older and had some sort of well-bred, Englishish accent. The girls were almost exactly the same size and my guess is about five years old. They were cute and blond and bratty.

While we waited for the show to start, Sage screeched demandingly about what food she wanted her mother to give her. The volume and pitch of little girl screaming is an amazingly tortuous noise to come out of a child so small. She was a greedy, selfish little bitch, too.
"Raspberries! I want Raspeberries! Gimme Raspberries! gimme, gimme, gimme!"

The mom tried to placate, but not discipline the girl for her obnoxiousness, byletting Sage know that she was trying as hard as she could to bow to her daughter’s every whim.

At first I was sympathetic, but my patience wore thin shortly and I caught myself flashing mom dirty looks. I felt sort of guilty, and tried not to do it, even as the girl’s voice scraped my eardrums. Besides feeling guilty, I didn’t want Paul to see how intolerant I can be, since he is so damn nice. I couldn’t help but joke with him quietly about tossing Sage in the drink, though.

There was another young couple in front of this family with there arms around each other. Sage wrapped her arms around Sara to mock this couple, "I Love you Sara!" she screamed and Sara joined in – together they kept yelling this to the embarrassment of the lovebirds. The mother smiled. In short order these brats were draped over the couples necks, purposefully coughing and slobbering in their faces. Mom kept smiling. I almost wished the brats would have dared that with me to give me an excuse to cuss them and their mother out.

This was obviously a well-to-do, well-educated household. Their presence oozed entitlement. I am sure that the mom spent a lot of ‘hands-on’ ‘quality time’ with these girls. She is probably very concerned about encouraging the girls’ creativity and providing a rich, learning environment. The girls’ vocabulary and observation skills were impressive – obviously smart kids. However, they were completely undisciplined and shrewish. Plus, they drank Pom (the super-yuppie, expensive pomegranate juice).

Once the show began, they didn’t stop being obnoxious, but instead asked tons of questions that mommy tried to answer. Grrrrrrrr........... Late in the show they became super-obnoxious and just yelling unchecked. Then an amazing thing happened......Paul ‘shhh-ed’ them. Their volume only increased and he hissed ‘Shut Up’ to them. Holy Shit!

This was Shocking. Paul is painfully nice and polite and considerate. He isn’t a hothead, doesn’t yell and is ridiculously sweet. The boy calls his cats, ‘kitties’ and composts religiously and will talk for hours about his tomato plants. He is a very, very good person. His reaction was totally unexpected.

Even less expected was the mother’s. Instead of displaying the slightest bit of embarrassment she instead lashed out at Paul!

"How dare you speak so rudely! I am doing the best I am to control them! You can move if you want!"

Holy. Shit.

I wish so much that this would have been a bus or a waiting room instead of the middle of a performance. I would have loved Loved LOVED to give Mommy an unforgettable upbraiding. My hunch is that I could have gotten her to slap me – that would have been awesome. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to further the distraction for the rest of the audience, so instead I didn’t say anything. Plus, I figured that Paul was mortified, and didn’t want to draw any more attention to the situation for his sake.

At the end of the show one of the girls piped up "now can we finish the movie in the car?" The mom of course granted this request. Grrrrr. Grrrrr.

I bit my tongue and learned I was wrong again about Paul. My poor, sensitive Paul isn’t so sensitive after all, but instead was holding his tongue because he thought I might be offended or embarrassed. (WTF?) He said he had no regrets about the incident. We giggled about this and he explained that the family stood at the intersection of two of his pet peeves: people who rudely talk during performances and parents who refuse to discipline their children. Besides, he said that many people in the vicinity were giving the family dirty looks, and that he only said what many were thinking.

I explained to him that much of indignation was probably because of his choice of words. Recently I learned that ‘Shut up’ is considered almost cursing to some people – to me it is the same as ‘be quiet’. This was news to Paul, too and I told him that he basically said ‘Shut the Fuck up you little cuntrag’ according to the mother. Paul now expressed regret that he didn’t actually curse at the pair of pint-sized bitches. How delightful!

It is so easy to imagine this mom and her girls throughout the next 20 years: She will defend them relentlessly in school and deny any insinuation of wrong-doing on their part; she will help them with their homework and send them to great summer camps; she will work to make sure that they get into good schools and better colleges; they will exhibit the upper-class version of delinquency, but be shielded from the consequences by the nature of their class, position and the protection of a mother who will be blind to any of their misdeeds, small or large; they will be sorority girls who scream drunkenly & sluttily at frat parties and then later at swanky bars when they are adults; then they will go to my law school to be able to afford expensive shoes and designer bags until they find a husband to buy these things for them; then they will have spoiled brats of their own to run around unchecked and screaming.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Gimpy

I somehow fucked up my left knee. This worries me.

Sometime yesterday I realized that my knee felt stiff, but nothing too bad. As the night went on, it got worse. When we got back to Paul’s place I considered just locking it to the fence outside because I didn’t want to carry it up the steps because of my knee, but I did anyway. I didn’t mention anything to anyone, because it didn’t seem like a big deal.

This morning I woke up and it didn’t want to bend. It was much stiffer than the previous night. When I forced it to bend, it couldn’t bend as tightly as my right knee. When it is bent too far my whole knee area starts to feel like it is asleep – especially if I put weight on it. Damn it. We noticed that the lower outside part of this knee was puffy while the same spot on the right knee was convex. Strained muscle was Paul’s guess. I don’t know about such things because my body normally behaves.

I didn’t have enough time to take public transportation (and more importantly, I am too stubborn), so I tried to ride without using my left leg as much as possible. I wish I would have went home for the Bianchi, because riding like this is much easier on him. I rode almost an entire Critical Mass using only my right leg to pedal, while I tucked my left foot behind me and rested it on my rear rack. The Julep doesn’t have a rack, so I kept my left foot just barely on the pedal and concentrated on not pedaling with that leg. I think I did a pretty good job except for starting up and stopping – then I could feel the strain in my knee.

There are only two things that I can think of that caused this weirdness. First, to my embarrassment, it might have been caused when I took the tall step, in heels, with my bike up onto the train. Maybe this is punishment for immediately being offended when the guy offered to help me yesterday. The only other weird thing was that on the way home I rode in heels (normally I am clipped in) over an extremely bumpy section of road. I remember this was weird because, without being clipped in, my left leg bounced off of the pedals a few times and it sort of felt like the Julep was ‘kicking’ me, even as I tried to keep my pedaling continuous. Grrrrrrr.....

At work I have been limping around to try to put as little strain on the knee as possible– and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. I realized that the puffy spot was hot to the touch, so I’ve tied a frozen water bottle to the knee with a scarf. Super-styling.

I am not at all pleased with this development. After I get home, the Julep is getting stabled until this knee feels better. Any thoughts on what the hell this weirdness is?

Oh yeah, it doesn’t actually hurt. It just feels......wrong.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bikes on Trains & Waiting for the Metra

As I mentioned before, I had to take Metra trains on Sunday night. Getting bikes to be allowed on Metra was a huge, huge fight for CBF. This is the first summer that it was really permitted, and the program operates under several limitations.

First of all, there are black-out dates for huge festivals in Chicago. The conductors also have the discretion to not allow bikes on trains if the bike is too dirty or the train is too crowded. The bikes share the handicap spaces, so if there is an ADA convention the wheelchairs take priority over the bikes and the bikes get booted off. Plus, bikes aren’t allowed during rush hours in the direction of the ‘rush’.

These limitations make the Bikes on Metra program less reliable than bikers prefer. Every other time I used this program over the summer worked fine, but Sunday night was different. Celtic Festival was going on in downtown Chicago, and the conductor made me take my bike off of train. The train was crowded, but there was room for my bike. I also noticed that in one of the bike spots there was a couple and their mounds of luggage. Their luggage was taking up more space than my bike would have.

As the train rolled out of city it picked up more passengers. Several people were wandering from train to train, apparently looking for seats. On the one hand, this justified the conductor’s refusal of my bicycle. On the other hand, there were several men on the train who were hogging two seats for themselves. Some of these men were friends, because they were yelling back and forth to each other. They had their legs draped across the spare seats and never attempted to move when people looking for seats passed by. Bastards.

I didn’t pay for this ride because the conductors/ticket-takers didn’t even attempt to check for tickets. The train was almost exclusively filled with white people, presumably from the suburbs.
While I waited for the return train (which I was forced to take because my bicycle was still in Chicago) I met another woman waiting for the train. She was there waiting when I arrived at the station. She lives in Chicago and works at the Staples store in the suburb. She waits at least an hour, usually more, for the train to take her home every day. The woman is married and has an eighteen month old baby. She said that sometimes she rides her bike to work, because the trips to and from work by bike are definitely quicker than the train ride plus waiting time. She doesn’t know what she will do in winter. I suggested that she keep riding her bike, but she was scared of the cold. I told her that me and my friends ride year round, and it is isn’t usually too cold because of the heat we generate. I also reminded her that it would certainly be warmer than waiting on the platform for the train. What a miserable situation.

Besides having to spend all of this time waiting and in transit, the woman wasn’t doing anything. She didn’t have anything to read at all, but instead just sat there waiting. What a waste. I joked that she could study Spanish or something else productive during this time. She sighed and said that with the time she has spent on this platform, she could have learned a lot of things. As dreary as she sounded, it seemed like she had never thought to do anything productive during her long waits. Hopefully she will consider and act on this idea. Her daily life sounded dreadful and I hope that she improves it or even better, gets a new job that doesn’t require so much wasted time.

Once again on the return trip I wasn’t asked to show a ticket, so again I didn’t pay for my passage. Weird. The train was relatively full of mostly white people.

When I got off in Chicago I walked down a long tunnel under the tracks. It completely reeked of urine. There were homeless-looking people lying on or near the platform. Some were snoozing and some stared at me as I went to unlock my bike. I didn’t linger longer than necessary, and attached my lights a few blocks away.

I should have just biked the whole way there. It probably would have been quicker – and certainly less boring and frustrating.

Tuesday: another day, another train.

I had to interview a witness up in Evanston this morning, so again I took the Metra train. Since it was a reverse commute, I brought my bike along (if I missed the 11:00 train returning to the city, I was planning on riding back to Chicago). Another bike got on and I unhooked mine so that his was the inside bike, since I got off before he did. The train was full of people. Because I am the least intimidating-looking person, the seat next to me was the first one filled when the passengers had to ‘double up’ their seats.

My interview finished at a perfect time and I easily made it to the station to catch the 11:00 back to Chicago. A man at the station asked if I needed help with my bike. My first instinct was to be offended, but then realized that this was the same man who helped an elderly woman from the train, and apparently was just a nice guy. Then I realized that in my business skirt/heels combo, I probably didn’t look very tough. Maybe he just wanted to lay his hands on the always cute Julep.

This train was nearly full, too. A man about my age and an older businessman were seated in the spot for my bike. Before I could say anything, the younger man hopped up to make room. I thanked him, and he good-naturedly said it wasn’t a problem. The older businessman refused to make eye contact or respond to my ‘excuse me, sir’ that was getting louder each time I said it. He finally responded when the conductor came and stood next to me. Then he obnoxiously said, "Well, excuuuuuse me!" as if he was a snotty teenage girl, and left without making eye contact. I chirped a sacharin-sweet ‘Thanks!’ as he huffily departed.

I hope he would have been kinder had I been in a wheelchair. When you sit in those seats, you know that you might have to give them up to someone in a wheelchair or on crutches – or recently for bicycles. It is also nice to reserve them for people with children, strollers or luggage. That is just the way it works.

His whole aura was of the "I’m better than you, My time is valuable" type. Grrrrrrr...... He was white-haired, rotund and wearing a nice suit. Everything about him seemed polished and expensive. Were this an earlier era, he would have worn a three-piece suit and pocket watch, with his vest stretched tightly across his ample belly and an omnipresent cigar. Maybe even a fluffy white cat to stroke while he plotted to thieve from unsuspecting workers or customers. So hells yeah – making him move his fat ass for the Julep was damn fun! If he hadn’t moved, it would have been fun to park the Julep’s wheel on his lap while her streamers tickled his face. Tehehe.

When I stood to unhook my bike, there was an older couple sitting on their luggage in front of her. The man asked whether it didn’t have a rear brake or if it was a coaster brake. I explained that it was a fixed gear, and he seemed to understand. They were visiting from Washington state and he said that the hills were too steep to go down without perfect brakes. They were pretty cool and showed my bike to their son when he came back to our car. Good Stuff.

I barely rode Metra trains before they allowed bikes on them. It seems like Metra should run their trains more frequently. Both the trains I took today were the last train to leave for about two hours. Certainly some of the people on the train arrive to their destination earlier than they would otherwise. Plus, there are probably several people who don’t ride the Metra simply because the timing isn’t right. My guess is that extending the frequent morning train schedule another hour would bring more customers to Metra. I wonder at what capacity the trains need to run in order to be profitable.

How many people do the limited schedules and full trains deter from using Metra? Seriously. Two hour gaps in service are not very convenient for most people. Knock it down to an hour....and it becomes much more feasible. Knock it down to trains every half hour – and damn – these trains can easily be the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to travel.

I wish we had the political will to really fund and increase public transportation. With high gas prices, people might flock to the CTA and Metra. High gas prices are such a good opportunity for this type of expansion campaign -- however I haven't heard nary a peep from the politicians about this type of campaign. Instead they only blather on about repealing the gas tax (WTF??? -- with our huge state deficits!!!) and increasing the price of public transportation. Dumbfucks.

Monday, September 19, 2005

I Might Need a Cell Phone (Or stop being stupid)

As much as I hate to admit it, I might need to get a cell phone.

Yesterday (Sunday) I put myself in a pretty stupid situation that would have been slightly less stupid had I carried a cell phone.

Just before leaving work on Friday afternoon, my office got another call that required us to act as a juvenile’s emergency attorney. The kid was accused of sexual assault. Unlike most of my little delinquents, he lived with a foster parent instead of in a group home. I left a message with the foster dad to call me to arrange a meeting with the kid before Monday afternoon. I knew this was going to ruin some part of my weekend.

I was checking messages Friday night and Saturday, but I didn’t hear a word from the foster dad, and thought I might just dodge this bullet. Paul and I slept in at his place on Saturday night and spent most of the day in bed. I went home and found a message from the dad around 5:00pm. I left him another message and sat reading the paper in my underpants, expecting to arrange to meet with the kid on Monday morning.

The phone rang at approximately 6:15PM –it was the dad and he said that he wanted me to meet with the kid that night, since he had school the next day. School? How strange–most of my other delinquents don’t regularly attend school. School has never before interfered with me meeting the kids during school hours.

The family lives out in the suburbs, and our office’s rental car place was already closed. I quickly checked the train schedule and saw that the next train departed to the suburb at 6:44PM. I called the dad back and he said he’d pick me up at the station.

I desperately wanted to take a shower, but I simply didn’t have time. I threw on some clothes, stuffed the file in my panier and pedaled to the station. The train was late – I totally could have showered -OR- I could have at least called Paul or someone to let them know that I was going to the home of an alleged sexual molester. Too late, though.

I wheeled my bike aboard the crowded train and heard a conductor tell me that since there was a festival in downtown Chicago, he was not allowing bikes on the train. Fuck! I was planning on riding back to Chicago, since otherwise I’d have to wait forever for the return train.
As I sat on the train, I realized that besides being merely unbathed, I also reeked of sex. The stupidity of getting a ride from a stranger to an accused sexual molester’s home was also beginning of sinking in. Somehow the combination of reeking of sex, not having informed anyone of my plans and visiting a sexual molester seemed like a really dumb idea. I was going to be bikeless, phoneless, clueless and friendless in some strange suburb. And yet, I normally consider myself a smart girl.

Anyway, the visitation with the kid and his dad was thankfully eventless. They asked me out for dinner, but I declined and chose to wait the 1.5 hours outside at the train station.
At this point, I am sure that I could have found a pay phone to call and arrange a cab back into Chicago. But my experience with cabs in most suburbs is that they suck and take forever to arrive after they have been called. If I had a cell phone, then on the train to the suburb I could have used directory assistance to find a suburban cab company, arranged for a cab to pick me up at the station, take me to the foster home & pick me back up in 40 minutes, PLUS I could have called a friend or two to let them know what I was doing.

Damn do I hate cell phones, though. I especially hate that I might have to get one because of work. Not surprisingly, most attorneys have cell phones and are completely dependant on them. If I get one, then the office will definitely contact me whenever I am away from the office during business hours – including vacation days.....grrrrrrr. Not only will this be annoying – but I’ll have to pay for it with daytime minutes.....grrrrr. I can’t help but feel that if my work is going to keep sending me into somewhat sketchy situations like Sunday night and my Tuesday adventure on the Southside, where a cell phone provides some security, then they should pony up and pay for the damn thing.

I got back into Chicago around 10:00PM. My bike was still there, unharmed and I quickly unlocked it while the homeless dudes eyed me creepily. I still needed to replace John’s Canfield’s Cream Soda (which I couldn’t find at the grocery stores I normally go to). Continuing the search, I got completely lost going to what had been my grocery store when I lived in the Den of Awkwardness. Even I was shocked by my lack of memory. After biking around getting increasingly frustrated, I remembered that it was somewhere on my old commute. I biked down Milwaukee avenue and found it –AND– they had the cream soda! Woo Hoo!

By the time I arrived home it was 11:00PM – Just in time to get ready to go to bed for another work week. Grrrrrrrr.......

Friday, September 16, 2005

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

Shortly after noon on Thursday my boss whirlwinded into my office and told me that I was going to a luncheon meeting with him. I kicked off my bike cleats, yanked my heels on and was out the door with him in less than a minute to hail a cab.

The luncheon was to present the winners of the John Paul Stevens award, and the namesake of the award was present to speak.

My boss wove us through the throng – seemingly knowing everyone we passed – until we found our table. I followed behind him like a puppy.
Everyone made introductions at our table and the salad course was served. As the waiters removed our plates, all of the speakers and special guests were announced. Below is the order of the tables flanking the podium (it is important later):

White Guy, White Woman, Black Guy, WG, WG, (WG) Justice Stevens & Wife, WG, WG
—Podium—
WG, Brown Guy, WG, WG, WG, WW, WG, WG, WG

The warm-up introduction was laden with sports references. Justice Stevens through the opening pitch at the Cubs game the night before, and several speakers addressed this fact. About a third of the words spoken involved sports. Blech.

When the Justice spoke, he too, mentioned the ongoing Red Sox wagers between himself and Rehnquist. He said that it was always, ‘the first order of business on Monday mornings.’ Great – the Supreme Court Justices are gambling in the halls of the Supreme Court weekly. Is this even legal?

He spoke of his three favorite Rehnquist decisions – one of them was memorable simply because Rehnquist did it so quickly to end the term so that Justice Brenner could make his ferry reservations to Martha’s Vineyard. What a guy – he writes an important opinion on a case between the U.S. government and Iran two weeks faster than expected so that another Justice’s vacation plans don’t get messed up.

Then the awards were announced and the necessary self-congratulating of the legal profession began. Dear Lord, this type of talk is so sickening it makes me want to scream. I became nauseous when I was sworn into the Illinois Bar upon hearing this language. "You are becoming part of the great tradition of justice; the best legal system in the world; the most open system that brings justice to all corners of the country....blah....blah...blah ad nauseum." Yesterday was the same bullshit.

Here is what I have learned in law school and as an attorney: The legal world is open only to those with money and resources. The legal world is primarily used to distribute money. The legal world almost always upholds the status quo. Lawyers and Judges mold the system to perpetuate their power in society.

Fairness and Justice have very, very little to do with it. As much as we speak about activist judges, the courts are rarely a means for social change. The few cases that actually drove changes in society are vastly overwhelmed by the weight of opinions that merely uphold the current social systems.

One of the professors at my law school was famous for scrawling the words ‘Fairness’ and ‘Justice’ on the chalkboard on the first day of class. He then turned to the class and instructed him that he never wanted to hear these words in his classroom. He explained that these words have no place in the classroom, the legal profession or the courtroom. He is Judge Posner, of the Seventh Circuit Federal Court, the level of courts just below the U.S. Supreme Court. As harsh and unbelievable as it seemed at the time, I much prefer this type of honesty to the flowery lies spewed yesterday.

There were four recipients of the award: WG, BG, WG, WW. They all spoke about the openness and inclusiveness of our courts. Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit. The courts are inclusive and open only so long as you can pay the fees. Without an attorney almost all pro se clients will fail because they cannot navigate all of the rules successfully. Do you know what color the top page of a plaintiff’s appellate brief should be? What font and size? Endnotes or footnotes? Justified or not? Cited cases underlined or in italics? Do you know? Where would you find out? How would you even know to think that this mattered? Not to mention the rules and customs of filing or responding to a complaint. Trust me it is not intuitive. Nor is it easy. Nor are the city/county/state employees very helpful. Grrrrrrr....... Open and inclusive my ass.

There was not one word spoken to suggest that there was any additional work to be done to improve the court system.

Abner Mikva (WG) was one of the recipients. He currently teaches a few classes at my law school. He has woven himself into Chicago’s political fiber and has had the ears of the original Mayer Daley, Harold Washington and our current Daley. He made a quip about being a firm believer in ‘innocence by association’ and said that he must a saint, considering the company he kept. Then he continued on about the inclusiveness of the group. "Look we’ve got a woman a black guy, an Asian guy.....we’ve got it all. Next year we should elect an Eskimo and a Pacific Islander and we’ll be golden!"

The crowd cheered this. What. The. Fuck. Seriously, this is grounds for celebration? In a city that has as many black as white people – with Hispanic numbers increasing to trisect the city’s population in the next few years – and as many women and men, this is considered utopia? I don’t think the inclusion of a few token white women and minority men really balances the scales. Plus I think the Eskimo comment was quite inappropriate. Comparing the inclusion of women to the inclusion of a small native population 1500 miles away seems like an apples and oranges situation. Or more worrisome, maybe it isn’t to this man.

When the woman who won the award was announced, she was described as being nice and compassionate to everyone...janitor to judge, rich to poor....and on and on it went. The men were announced by their accomplishments. She was announced by her personality. It wasn’t until the end of her spiel that I realized that she was the first woman appointed to the Seventh Circuit court. Maybe that should have been included in her introduction instead of how warm of a smile she always has.

Gotta love the legal world.

Seconds before the closing speech concluded, my boss stood up and bolted through the tables to the door. What the hell? He was gone before I decided to follow him and then everyone was crowding to leave also. I left the building, got my bearings and walked the mile back to my office wondering what caused my boss to bolt.

The next time I saw him in the office he explained, "I wanted to get my shoes shined."
Exhibit #126 in support of my belief that my boss is crazy and has ADHD.

Too Close for Comfort

I almost got hit by a car last night.

Almost everyday I encounter a situation that could have caused a collision if I weren’t paying attention and riding defensively. Most of these aren’t all that close and rarely bring my heart into my throat.

Last night was very close, though.

I was riding West from downtown on Lake street, under the Green Line El tracks. This street was pretty empty and only one or two cars approached from behind during the two miles that I rode on this street. It was dark, so I had my front and back lights on. I was moving pretty fast on the Julep towards a green light. There were a row of three or four cars in the oncoming lane approaching the intersection and none of them were signaling a left turn, so I continued to watch them, but didn’t slow down my pedaling.

When I was in the intersection one of the cars swung into my path. I slowed down my rear wheel with my feet and my front brake squealed with effort. I directed my bike to the right to avoid being hit and ended up riding almost parallel to the car that was stopping. When the car was completely stopped, I wiggled around in front of it to make eye contact with the driver. His window was open and I saw two teenage boys laughing. Laughing. They just almost caused an accident and they were laughing about it. I bet they would have been crying for mommy and daddy had they actually spilled my blood all over the street.

For the next several blocks I was trembling with nervousness/outrage/fear and whatever emotions boil after you’ve just barely avoided a serious crash. Usually my close encounters don’t occur when I am riding fast. Even as I was furiously slowing the Julep, I was also imagining just how horrible it would be when the car hit me. Certainly it would have launched me into the air and over the car.

Ugh. Ride safe everyone.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I’m not a criminal lawyer

And I haven’t seen enough Law and Order to fake it, either.

I got sent on another mission to defend a juvenile delinquent today. The cops were totally fucking with me. I went to three different facilities before I found the client. Almost every single police officer that I spoke with, either on the phone or in person, was unhelpful and rude.

I worked for quite a while answering phones at a telemarking firm and am automatically polite and to-the-point. Normally I get great customer service because I am respectful of the people I talk to and am not an idiot. I ask if I am speaking with the correct person and try to give a concise statement about what I am hoping to learn. It didn’t do a damn bit of good today and I was hung up on and treated to snotty attitudes by completely unhelpful public employees.

One officer continually kept calling me ‘young lady’ while questioning whether I was an attorney (after I showed him several ID cards – including photos – that clearly proved my status). I hate Hate HATE these fucking power plays. Finally I was able to meet with my client. He is the first male delinquent that seemed aware, intelligent and alive. His eyes were not yet glazed over and vacant looking. Unfortunately, I could only speak with him through glass and didn’t get to connect as well as I would have without that barrier. Why do I get locked in rooms alone with the scary thugs and then have a wall between the one male kid who seems like he still has a chance?

After speaking with him I learned that he had didn’t have a court hearing scheduled and hadn’t been charged with a crime yet. My legal hackles rose – isn’t there a problem with police detaining, but not charging someone? The police told me that they were still figuring out how to charge the kids and were still investigating the incident. The desk Sargent refused to give my client my business card, agreed to attach it to the file, but refused to attach a note explaining that my client was exercising his right to remain silent and that I was his attorney. For these tasks to be done, I would need to speak with the investigating officer, who would arrive at 3:00PM.

Fuck. This is not what normally happens. Normally the officers I speak with agree to relay this information.

Later, back at the office, I research and learn that the police can hold a person for 48 hours before his court hearing. Tick tock tick. However, they are not supposed to do this to ‘buy time’ for investigating for reasons to charge the offender. Very suspicious. When I called the station back I learned that the officer whose name I was given was NOT the investigating officer. The investigating officer worked days and normally left at 3:00PM. He happened to be working overtime when I called, so I was able to speak with him.

My client still hadn’t been charged and even after I explained that he was asserting his right to counsel and to remain silent the detective told me that a State’s Attorney was coming in later to speak with him. W. T. F.?! I sternly repeated that my client was not to be interrogated further and that any communication relating to the incident needed to be relayed through me. The detective then became very harsh and assholish. I then tried to confirm that he had my business card, but he said that it wasn’t attached to the file. Double Fuck. I gave him my contact information and made him repeat it. Fucker. This is just not normal or right. The whole situation stinks. I totally feel like Mr. Polish last name (white) officer is planning to fuck over this young, black ward-of-the-state.

Fuck the CPD and their racist disregard for civil liberties.

This whole experience blew. Besides all of this power-play, and bad cops to deal with, the trips to and from the stations sucked, too. I wasn’t expected to travel so much and forgot to change into an ugly pants suit. Instead I was wearing a work outfit that is somewhat hoochish. I forgot how much I hate the stares at the police station from the officers, clients, criminals, juvenile delinquents and male members of the families-in-waiting. I feel like a slab of meat and long for a burka in these places. Today was much worse than otherwise because the cops were brazenly staring at my neckline and legs, I think to try to make me feel more uncomfortable. Fuckers.

Plus, I had to wait forever for cabs at the intersections near a couple of stations. Cabs don’t come very often to the Southside. A dressed up white girl in these neighborhoods becomes a spectacle and someone to stare at, yell to and make those nasty kissing/hissing noises to. Pedestrians and people in vehicles alike. God, did I wish I had my bike. At the last station, I knew the chance of a cab arriving was nil, so I just took a bus and train back to the Loop.

I didn’t say a word about this yucky aspect of my day when I arrived back at the office. However, my partner apologized immediately when he saw me. He said that it was completely stupid to have me running around those neighborhoods by myself without a car. My bike and CTA would actually have been the best option for getting around quickly.

There was some humor in the day, though. One of the stations had a Costco representative visiting them. She had trays of cookies and donuts – and all of the cops were acting like it was Christmas. Knowing the reputation of cop-donut love, I would think that they would have acted with dignity, but No. None was to be found. Cops were literally running down the halls as the word spread about the cookies/Costco Lady. Looking at how almost all of the cops were oozing and bulging out of their uniforms, I’d guess that this is the only running they ever do.

If my client isn’t released the second past the 48 hour point, I am totally going to turn into bitch-lawyer and spring his ass out of jail. Those motherfucker donut-scarfing, racist, lazy, rude, sexist cops can bet on it. Maybe I’ll mention that one of my other projects is investigating police misconduct. Bastards.

The Spatially Retarded Card

As a primer, there are three basic types of Learning:

Verbal Proposition – reading, listening, lecturing. This is the way we learn in school, the typical way that we recognize intelligence. It is more than just ‘book smarts’, but ‘book smarts’ are completely within this category.

Spatial – This is the ability to remember, recall and correlate the physical world. Sense of direction, ability to recall/understand layout, and facial recognition are included in this category.

Procedural – The hardest to test, define or notice. The ability to recall the steps to accomplishing a task; the ability to formulate the necessary steps; the ability to see the beginning of a project or situation and visualize the end result; the ability to see a final project or situation and recognize what had to come first.

My spatial ability Sucks. Really.

I came in late to a Cognitive Psychology lecture discussing this topic, missing the introduction. My mind was blown as the professor explained exactly how I navigate the world. He described moving about deliberately and being forced to make detailed mental notes in order to understand and remember the layout of a neighborhood or building. He then explained that this also worked with faces. The distinctive features of each individual face would be recognized, categorized and then assigned to the person’s name along with a few facts to pin the person to a setting, relationship or point of view. I was so very excited, because he was perfectly describing my life. Then my happiness bubble burst when I realized that he was describing how difficult it would be to go through life with inadequate spatial abilities.

Shit – I’m retarded!

In the years since I first learned this, I have found my peace with this knowledge. Now I use this information as an excuse for my bumbling, constantly getting lost or spun around in the wrong direction. I sort of want to take a spatial intelligence test just to find out how miserable I really am. Maybe I could get some sort of disability insurance for it. Or at least a Get-Out-Of-Forgetting-People’s-Names Free Card or discounts on maps.

Friends and especially the boys I date come to quickly learn that I generally don’t remember where I have been, how I got there and certainly not how to get there again unless I was somehow deliberate in remembering it. People who are savvy will learn to do the opposite of what I suggest in terms of directions. They become concerned when I say things such as, "I think it is North of here," or "I’m not really sure, but I believe it is up ahead." Strangely, the boys that I date usually have fantastic senses of direction, so they are completely amazed by my brand of retarded. Their frustration usually just morphs into helpless humor once they experience a few situations where my complete lack of knowledge (and usually lack of concern, too) about my surroundings becomes ridiculously apparent.

I also use my lack of spatial ability to justify my inability to recognize faces. On Friday night at the Critical Mass Happy Hour, two different people, who I thought I had never seen before, were dismayed that I didn’t remember them. The first guy, Joe was a friend of Sean’s and he explained that this was the fourth time that we had met. I didn’t remember having met him at these other times either, according to him. After we talked I distinctly remembered meeting him a week earlier, but I don’t remember other times. A woman named Kate also said hello and greeted me by name. She didn’t even bring a glimmer of recognition to me. Later on we were talking and she said, "Oh, I’m getting used to it. Everyone knows who you are, but you never remember us." Ouch. Definitely not the reputation I want to have.

I need the Spatially Retarded Card to wave around in these instances, or just pin to my shirt.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Fixie Century (loooong)

I took the Julep on our first century ride yesterday.

By the way, Autumn’s presence was sorely missing yesterday. I know that it was at least 90 degrees outside. Whenever we stopped, the heat was damn apparent and suffocating.

Anyway, the local bicycle advocacy organization, The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (CBF) had its second fundraiser ride of the year, the Boulevard Lakefront Tour. I had never done this ride before. Normally it is a 35-mile tour of the park-like boulevards in the city. This year, however, there was also the option of a 62-mile route. So, of course that is what Paul and I signed up for.
As we discussed it, I mentioned that I was thinking about riding my fixie, since we knew it would be relatively flat. Earlier in the year I took the Julep on a 50-mile ride, without too much trouble, so I figured that 62 miles would be fine. Paul immediately, excitedly agreed that we doing the ride on our fixies would be fun. After we agreed, we realized that we left out the distance to and from the start/end point in Hyde Park. This I know is approximately 25 miles round trip.

62 + 25 = 87

When I realized this, I was a little nervous. 62 miles is a nice, comfortable long ride. 87 miles however passes into different territory that often involves discomfort. At the same time, 87 miles is not too far away from 100 miles, which is the hallowed century.
It was obvious that Paul and I had passed the point of no return when we agreed, "I’ll do it if you will." Translation: "I am worried that this will be horrible, but I will NOT be the one to chicken out first."

The Julep has two ‘problems’ that I thought I could overcome: her seat is too low, and not particularly comfortable, and; her bars remain raw, unwrapped metal. I knew that my Bianchi had a longer stem, and my super-comfy Terry Butterfly seat. My eyeball inspection told me that the seatstems looked to be the same diameter, so I thought this would be an easy swap. Wrong. The Bianchi is just a wee bit too wide. I learned this the night before the ride, so I just plopped the Julep’s regular seat/stem combo back on. I then also forgot to bring my gloves to compensate for the metal bars. Nice job.

On Sunday morning we woke up at 4:45am and Paul made us smoothies. We dorked around a bit and then biked South against the wind to Hyde Park for the BLT which started at 6:00am. I got us a little lost in Hyde Park and then we also dorked around getting registering as I chatted with different CBF employees/friends. Then we heard an announcement, "the 62-mile course is now closed." Oops. We jumped on our bikes and pedaled towards the start and announcer half-heartedly tried to make us stop, but ended up yelling "well pedal fast to catch up!"

Catching up wasn’t a problem. We quickly flew past group after group of spandex-clad ‘sausages’ on fancy bikes. We were headed NW, so the SE wind was mostly at our backs. We rode fast and easily. There was another fixie rider that we chatted with for a while, but obviously was struggling to keep our pace, so we dropped him pretty quickly.

Now, as much as I giggle at the over-geared Spandex, I look pretty ridiculous in my ‘long bike ride’ outfits, too. I braid my hair in low pigtails and then take the tips of these braids and stuff them into my helmet vents. It ends up looking like something that one of the Star Wars princesses would do. My current favorite skirt to bike in is made of two layers of gauze; when I’m riding I tuck it into my underpants to keep it from getting in the spokes. As I ride it flutters around me. Also fluttering are the Julep’s long, metallic streamers. Basically my get-up looks like it is purposefully meant to defy the aerodynamic principles that roadies live by. Plus, the Julep’s step-through frame and fixed-gear nature don’t look like an appropriate road bike.

Paul, too, doesn’t look like a ‘serious’ rider. He bikes in button-down polyester short-sleeved shirts, ripped off Khaki shorts and hiking shoes. His fixed-gear has upside-down, sawed-off drop bars, too. Together, we don’t at all match the sleek roadies and all of their fancy gear.

After about ten miles, we were looking ahead and saw another rider, who we foolishly followed. He lead us off course and we wasted a lot of time trying to figure out where the course was and how to get back to it. He was very ‘thankful’ that we were there, because he lived in the ‘burbs and didn’t know the city well. He kept falling behind, so we slowed our pace a bit so he would keep up without panting. When we got back on course, we had to repass a lot of the people we had earlier passed. At the rest stops, Paul kept scarfing down Cliff bars, but I wasn’t very hungry.

At another point we met up with a large group of roadies. These boys were hot and deserved to wear spandex. Had these boys gotten into the drops and seriously started to pedal, I am sure they would have dropped Paul and I easily. The members of the group were constantly leapfrogging with each other. It didn’t seem competitive, and we were all talking while riding fast. No one seemed to be trying to prove anything. My impression was that this was the fast group made of roadies who train together, but that this was a longer ride just for fun. Again the group got lost and no one but Paul and I had any idea of where we were and how to get back. A lot of these men seemed pretty nervous about being off-course in Chicago. They hugged our rear wheels as we cut back towards the route. Dudes, it was probably 9 or 10am on a Sunday morning, and NOT in a bad part of town. Don’t be such chickens.

Just as our route joined up with the 35-mile route, I started to feel less peppy. The roadie boys peeled off at the first rest stop while Paul and I kept going. At the next rest stop I discovered that my period had started, so I got to experience the fun of tampons and port-a-potties. Yippee!!! By this time I had eaten two of the baby Cliff bars, and I choked down another one, along with more water. I started feeling worse. Paul was mentally getting spacy and made a few bad traffic judgments before he decided to ride behind me for safety.

I hate to have felt this way, but in my crappy-feeling mood I was extremely irritated by many people on the 35-mile route. Lots of families and lots of ‘sausage’ type people. There were several people completely geered up, including Gell holster/belts, and riding less than 15 mph. Seriously. Several people we encountered had very poor bike-handling skills. Not just the kids, who are excused, but adults who had a hard time biking in a straight line – especially starting from a stop light. Lots of dangerous wiggling & wobbling. Plus the Sausages encountered on this leg were both slow and really aggressive in not letting people pass them. Miles 65 to 77 (the end of the BLT) were very frustrating and I felt very crappy. My hands, back and neck were aching and couldn’t find a comfortable position. Plus, we were in downtown traffic, which meant stopping and starting at almost every block for a few miles. This takes a lot of effort on the fixie.
I was feeling nauseous and very crappy.

At a rest stop about 5 miles from the end I sat in the shade and tried to eat an apple, but couldn’t eat more than two bites. I was also cold and goose-bumping, even though it was very hot. Paul scarfed down a bagel and fruit and felt much better, but the idea of eating made me feel worse.

Hmmmm..... 70+ miles on a smoothie and the probable equivalent of one regular Cliff bar.... Any thoughts on what my blood sugar was at this time?

I don’t really remember the last five miles, but I do know that I wasn’t feeling well. When we finally reached the end, I chugged a bottle of vitamin water before again flinging myself in the grass. Unknown to me, I chose the spot right in front of Paul’s ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend. I’m sure Paul must have been somewhat uncomfortable, but I was too out of it to feel it myself.

I started to feel less sick, but still completely lacking energy. We biked to a restaurant for ice cream soda floats and ordered pizza. By the time the pizza arrived I actually felt like eating it, and overall felt much better after the meal.

Back on our bikes we realized that in order to reach our century, we’d have to add another ten miles to our trip home. I showed Paul some neat places in Hyde Park, he ate a candy bar, and then we took a lingering, meandering ride through Northerly Island and the UIC campus to get back to the ‘hood. We logged 100.03 miles by the time we pulled into Paul’s alley.

We were filthy and the shower felt great, but my back was just aching and it kept me from napping. I think there were two main contributors to me being so wiped out. First, the small amount of food that I ate in the first 70 miles was definitely a problem. Paul figured he ate about 15 of the mini Cliff bars, while I had three. I never felt hungry, but somehow passed a crucial point that was hard to come back from. Second, the lack of gloves or bar tape. My hands were all red and tender after this ride and I just was damn uncomfortable. If it weren’t for these two things, I think I would have finished the fixed-gear century in much better shape. My knees definitely felt like they had been working, but that slight discomfort was far down on my list of complaints.

So even though I wasn’t feeling well during the end – I still did a fixed-gear century ride. WooHoo!

Friday, September 09, 2005

How Old is (S)he?

This was the question that we pondered while waiting in line for the BodyWorlds exhibit last week. The person in question was tall and bleach blond, with hair pulled into a high "I Dream of Jeannie" ponytail. She wore a lot of make-up, inartfully applied. Her skinned was too tanned and somewhat leathery. Her face seemed tighter than her neck, her nose was unnatural and her breasts seemed too round and high, even with a push-up bra. Her somewhat thick body was clad in somewhat tight, out-of-style jeans and a sleeveless motorcycle t-shirt. She looked as if she wanted to be noticed. Her companion was a yuppish-looking man in his mid to late twenties -- we couldn't determine if they were a couple or not.

I offered Paul two theories:

1. Forty-five year old woman, desperately trying to retain her youth and beauty, at museum with son; or
2. Sun-damaged, prematurely aging, late-twenties woman with boyfriend or friend.

He added a third:
3. Cross-dresser or M to F transgendered, with either friend or lover.

Margaret, Paul's sister, overheard a snippet of this whispered conversation and said, "I know who you are talking about!"

As we slowly moved through the cattle-style line, we examined our evidence. We agreed that she was:
sun-damaged,
overly make-upped,
plastic surgery: definitely her nose, probably her face and boobs, too,
used to being the 'pretty girl' that people looked at.

I wanted to ask her, but Paul and Margaret seemed mortified by this idea. (previously I embarassed them by making sheep noises as we stood in the unmoving line, so I didn't want to make them uncomfortable again -- does anyone else have this urge to make barnyard noises when they are faced with these cordoned off, back and forth lines?)

Instead each time we passed her we tried to gather more evidence. Her hands were somewhat large, but she was tall and they didn't look particularly mannish. Her make-up was garrish and clumsily applied. She and the man stood close and chatted familiarly, but there were no overt romantic gestures. Nor did we overhear them address each other with terms of endearment or 'mom'.

I think the most likely conclusion is that she is an older woman who is unsuccessfully trying to retain her youth and beauty. This explains the outdated clothes, leathery skin and garrish make-up. The nose-job, boob-job and probable face-lift also fit with this explanation. It also explains the 'look at me' attitude she had. I still don't quite understand the relationship with guy, though. He was cute, clean-cut, khakis, untucked button-down shirt.

Paul clung to his M to F transgendered theory. It also explained the clothing, plastic-surgery and poor make-up skills. However, she seemed mostly female to me. The guy didn't look like someone who I would expect to be comfortable hanging out with a transgendered person, much less possibly dating one.

Very perplexing. I totally should have asked her.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I should not live alone

This I have known for years. I have many bad, lazy, sloppy tendencies that are curbed considerably by the presence of another person. Basically, I am too embarrassed to let someone else witness how slovenly I naturally will be.

John has been gone on his three-week vacation for a week and a half now. I am disgusted by myself. Almost every night that I’ve spent here, I have succombed to laziness. I ‘ve read books on the couch until I fall asleep, only to waddle to bed hours later without brushing my teeth.

I haven’t taken out the kitchen garbage yet, and the recyclables are beginning to take over the kitchen. Our dining room table is covered with mail. I have three messengerish bags, two paniers and my panier garment bag strewn about the dining room, with their contents spilling out to mingle with the mail. I haven’t gone grocery shopping and am instead foraging for food in the apartment. Popsicles for breakfast? Sure. Chips and Salsa for dinner? Of course. Walking around barefoot makes grains of crud constantly adhere to the blackened soles of my feet while tumbleweeds of hair are lazily herded into the corners by the ceiling fans.

Paul wanted to go to my place instead of his on Monday night, so I cursorily cleaned the bathroom and picked up the pile of dirty clothes that was growing in the dining room. This pile was caused when I simply stripped out of my clothes when I walked in the door to take full advantage of being able to walk around naked or in my underpants. I also tidied my bedroom by changing the bedsheets and throwing all of my dirty clothes into the basket – which I then parked in the kitchen. I did not however, put away the ironing board turned table that is perched in front of my dresser.

I also collected all of the dirty dishes and ran them through the dishwasher – but I have not, and probably will not unload it anytime soon. The kitchen table is covered in some unknown source of stickiness and Paul pointed out that there are ants marching around brazenly on the shelves.
Luckily, tomorrow Mia moves back in. This might prompt me tonight to clean the place up a bit and hopefully rescue me from my downward slide towards slobbishness. Plus it will be great to just have her back in the place.

Before John comes back I need to replace his:

4 cans of cream soda
A box of cereal (eaten for dinner, leading to the breakfast popsicles)
2 cans of Coke
Tortilla chips
New blinking taillight.

Bad. Roommate. Bad.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Labor of Graffiti

I spent several hours finishing the final painting of the men’s restroom at the Hbar on Labor Day. First July 4th, now Labor day. Those fucking graffiti scrawlers have stolen two of the three summer holidays from me.

Knock if off you punks. Trust me, if I had the power to arrest president Bush or stop the Iraq war – I would. But I don’t, so quit writing it on the walls. You are only preaching to the choir at the Hbar – at least go deface some chain restaurants’ bathrooms and leave mine alone.

Finally – I have a hard enough time reaching spots on these walls even with the friggin’ ladder. How in the world do manage to scrawl this stuff in those spots? I understand that standing atop of the urinal is part of it, but do you also put your weight on the light fixture? Dudes, that just isn’t safe. Part of me yearns for the day you fall and hurt yourself when the light fixture’s single plastic screw snaps and you slip off the urinal and onto the tile floor. I will very much enjoy defending the Hbar against that frivolous lawsuit.

High School Friends

I took the train to Milwaukee where I met with my friends to go ‘back home’ for another high school friend’s engagement party. It was nice to hang out with Steph and Steve now that they aren’t freaking out about their wedding. Apparently their parents have moved seamlessly into pressuring them about grandchildren, now that the wedding is over.

Surrat’s engagement party was nice because we all got to hang out. Kim and Brian had their baby along – it is very big now. He looks like he is too big to hold like a baby. When I picked him up he tried to yank my necklace off –apparently he is part dog and feels the best way to explore the world is by tasting everything. He also was very grabby towards peoples’ faces. Kim looked concern when I told him ‘Watch it – I bite’ as a warning for him to keep his hands to himself. He must watch Brian, because he tried pulling down both mine and Steph’s tanktop straps. Anytime he started wiggling or drooling I quickly passed him back to Kim. His leaking mouth reminded me that his bladder leaks, too – and I want nothing to do with that.

Peter was obsessed with the baby. He and Shal just moved out to the country with the anticipation of starting a family in a year. Peter simply couldn’t leave the baby alone. He stared at it. He played with it. He made noises to it. He inspected the combo baby-jogger/bike trailer. He wanted to take the baby for a run in the trailer. He stared when Shalan held the baby. Freeeeky. Pete’s biological clock is set to ‘Baby’ and it is hilarious. Shalan was getting freaked out by him. She fortunately confirmed that she is handling the birth control situation. Whew.

The price of gas was on everyone’s mind. Both Shal and Pete have long commutes and now Steph does, too. I bit my tongue on the issue, because I expressed my concern and disapproval when they were considering these housing/job situations. The cost is significant to them, so I don’t want to gloat "I told you so" on top of it. They all spent a lot of time searching for their new jobs, and never considered this ideal in the first place. I know they will continue to seek to find better arrangements.

After we arrived back in Milwaukee, Steph asked for my help shopping for work clothes. Shalan did the same thing when she changed jobs. I have somehow become a resource for professional clothing advise. Considering how badly I dress at work most days, I question my friends’ judgment. Still it was fun and she got some nice clothes for her new job. Importantly she got padded 'nipple-proof' bras, because she is teaching junior high boys. It's better to not give them an additional excuse to stare at her chest.

Families

Saturday Paul’s parents came to pick up him and his sister and take them back to St. Louis. I might be wrong, but I had the weirdest suspicion that Paul wanted his parents to know that I spend the night at his place. They were supposed to arrive around noon. I had an errand to run and thought that they would probably have arrived before I was finished. Paul told me I didn’t have to leave, because his parents wouldn’t be weird about me having stayed the night. I explained that it wasn’t to avoid weirdness that I was leaving, but because I wanted to get the errand taken care of in the morning, because the place would probably close before we were finished having lunch. As I left, Paul then told me to just use my set of keys instead of ringing the doorbell when I came back. I got the impression that he liked the idea of letting his parents see that I stay over and have keys to his place.

Maybe I should have offered to walk out of the shower with just a towel wrapped around my head to make it clear that their little boy is in a relationship with a woman.

Unlike my own mother, all of my friends’ or boyfriends’ parents very much like me, and Paul’s were no different. Apparently I am cute, smart and so nice. They kept saying things like ‘when you come visit us in Missouri....’ They did refrain from measuring my hip bones or birth canal, but his mom did take pictures of together to ‘put on her desk at work’. She mentioned that everyone else has wedding pictures or cute grandkid pictures, so now she’ll have something to show, too. Yikes. I’ve heard the same sort of lament from my mom, too. I guess this parental weirdness is only going to get more obnoxious as I get older.

His parents are nice, but Paul was mostly dreading the boring weirdness he expected at his weekend home with his family. This trip has sparked lots of conversations about our families.

I’ve known it for a long while, but my family is weird. The brothers are great, but my parents’ household is just weird. Explaining it to a person I date is not fun. I want to adequately convey the craziness, but try to avoid bitching too much or making them wonder if I might really be a freak show. It is a fine line to walk. Luckily we just kept laughing as I described the five cats, the tapes of soap operas, the corn, the dog, the cherubs, the junk, the mess, the decorating, the petty fights and pure dysfunctional weirdness of my parents’ house. After we stopped giggling, he decided that while his parents house was boring, his parents were actually normal and a pretty good deal. I guess that is something good about my mom: she makes other mothers seem sane and reasonable.

Bike Fright & Corpses

Paul’s sister has been visiting from Australia for the week. We hoped that we could get her to bike around with us, but that just wasn’t meant to be. She was nervous about riding in traffic and apparently not very confident or coordinated on a bike under the best of circumstances. She was not pleased with Paul’s Bianchi road bike and we all walked our bikes back from the restaurant on Wednesday night.

Paul speaks often about biking as a boy and then mountain biking when he grew older. His sister is four years younger than him, but I expected that she had similar experiences. Not true. He speaks fondly of racing down the huge hill his parents’ old house sat atop only to have it be the last leg of each ride home. His bittersweet relationship with this hill is apparent and he wishes that his parents still lived there.

His sister was too scared to ride all the way to the bottom and never was able to ride up it. So very weird. I feel like maybe Paul shirked his sibling duties. He should have been encouraging her to both the top and the bottom of the hill – and then taunting/challenging her to try again. They haven’t had an opportunity to become close as adults, so there were several periods when awkward silence lingered.

Thursday night we all went to see BodyWorlds.

Dear brothers, I am so sorry I didn’t force you to see this exhibit when you visited me. It was great. Now it is gone. The last week it had 24-hour viewing and was sold out very quickly.

I won’t bore with babbling too many details, but it was an exhibit of plasticized humans, stripped of tissues to display the different systems of the body. Lots of smaller parts that showed healthy organs or bones compared to cancerous/arthritic/abused/wrecked parts.

The only creepy part was towards the end where I knew there was on display the corpse of a woman who died when she was eight months pregnant. This was a fascinating display, to be able to actually see how the organs and baby tuck into one another. So very sad of course because of the tragedy that it portrayed. In this final room were jars that showed fetuses at varying stages of development and then the later term preserved dead babies. What made the room creepy, though was the music. There was nurseryish classical music playing. A room with dead babies had fucking nursery music!

The rest of the exhibit was very scientific and made it easy to ignore the fact that these fascinating exhibits were dead people. However, when they displayed some of the most potentially emotional corpses, the fact was highlighted by the creepy music. How many women who had abortions or miscarriages walked through that room and were reminded of the baby they lost as they could look to see a physical representation of a fetus at the exact same age when their pregnancy ended. Fucking creepy.

Anyway, I highly recommend this exhibit if anyone gets a chance to see it.

Web Counter
Site Counter