Tuesday, June 21, 2005

...Six Feet High And Rising

I take pride in my lead sentences as I try, for the most part, to avoid the "Dear Diary" cliches that fall upon most journals- on- or off-line. Still, that doesn't mean that I can come up with a killer lead on a moments notice. It takes some patience.

I'm finding this in the two weeks that I've been posting on Chicagoist. I'm still gathering my bearings over there, but Rachelle Bowden, Erin Johnson, and the rest of the crew (totally unrelated: remember when "Gilligan's Island" was filmed in black and white and the theme songs lyrics went, 'The movie star/and the rest"? That's what that last sentence reminds me.) have been very supportive.

Still, in the upcoming weeks I and the other food contributors will be posting more than usual and, while I'm getting more comfortable with posting, it is a bit daunting. I don't want to overstep my boundaries. But that's what we live for as writers. We long to answer the call when we're needed.

The Chicagoist gig will also help me get out of the bad habit of failing to meet deadlines. That I'm writing about neighborhood eateries on the South Side of the city and utilizing my knowledge of beer, wine, and spirits is a bonus. I'm interested in the subject matter, feel that I can put the South Side in a better light than just "Hyde Park and everything else", and the folks at Chicagoist like the way I write.

Now contrast that with this this interview I did a couple months back with jazz vocalist Kevin Mahogany. It was an underwhelming interview. I went through the motions asking Mr. Mahogany questions he'd probably heard numerous times that same day. I just couldn't bring myself to submit the interview. I still might, but writing about jazz doesn't hold the interest in me that it used to. I've had my fill of the avant garde and improv scenes, and the assignments I get from editors for music-related sites and periodicals are all smooth jazz. A subcategory of jazz that I consider safe music for people who want to think they're lovers of jazz. Frankly, I wasn't enthused by the record Mr. Mahogany was supposed to promote in the interview. And I can't bring myself to submit somethign I don't believe in wholeheartedly.


Pod People Of The World UNITE!!!

I went to Taste of Randolph Street Friday night with Michelle. She was all geeked to see Cowboy Mouth (which I likened to a likeable Barenaked Ladies) but the crowd really ruined it for me. We were surrounded on all sides by women who were way too young to be worrying about wrinkles or any sagging body parts and the striped shirt clad pinheads who date them, all ignoring the drummer's call for them to "give him some rhythm." Resultingly, Michelle and I got into a game of counting the number of women with botox treatments (identifiable by their Jennifer Wilbanks-style wide-eyed stares) and collagen lip injections (recognizable by oversized lips shaped in a long-term paralytic frown I like to call "trout pout"). We salvaged the trip to River North Hell at Randolph Wine Center where, over Chimay and a wonderful Hendrick's Gin martini, we enjoyed an amazing crab meat and artichoke dip.

Did I mention that I'm excited to be writing about food for Chicagoist?

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Second Hand Unwinds...

It's late. Emmy, brilliant dog that she is, has taken to lounging on the floor to take advantage of the air conditioning I put in the windows yesterday. I have Cassandra Wilson's version of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" from Traveling Miles on iTunes, a healthy two fingers (think devil horns) of Jefferson's Reserve bourbon in my favorite tiki mug, I cleaned my inbox of letters from "Healthy Spermatoza", and I'm an hour away from a long night's rest.

Oh, I also posted my first official entry for Chicagoist today.

"And Mama cooked a breakfast with no hog."- Ice Cube, "It Was A Good Day"

Otherwise, it was an uneventful 36th birthday. Just the way I hoped.

Today stands in stark contrast to ten years ago. When I turned 26, I threw a cigar smoker in the back room of Ten Cat Tavern on Ashland. Of the thirty people who showed up I believe a solid one-third of us either permanently stained our teeth or planted the seeds for a terminal bout with malignant carcinoma that evening. But we didn't care. We were just a large group of people getting together to have a good time.

I thought about that this morning after my mother called to offer her birthday greetings and catch me up on how everyone else is fucking up. This time it's my stepafather. He went for his six-month post-op checkup last week; his doctor found a dime-sized growth- this time on his right lung. So he'll be running through the usual battery of tests to see if and how far it's spreading and likely non-invasive treatment.

Either way, he's been slapped in the face with the reality that his run is nearing an end. And, selfish as he sometimes can act, he fell off the wagon, got drunk, and wound up in the hospital a few days early yesterday, where he's drying out.

If I were to lay down money on his cause of death I would have placed it on cirrhosis- when the man had a pocketful of money he could drink a wet county dry. I forgot all about the harsh cigarettes- Benson & Hedges 100's, Pall Mall Red unfilters- that were his other staple.

I forgave the man for his actions and rtansgressions a long time ago. But I never forgot. When Mom told me about yesterday I wondered what makes a man act the way he does. What makes someone just want to give up and not be a part of the world around him? Mom took it to the logical extreme, begging that when her time is up she doesn't wind up like "that woman down in Florida." Though she tries, she can't hide the fear in her voice.

They'll be married for twenty-six years on the Fourth of July, and it's a strong measure of my mother's character to stay with the man and help him become- if not a better man- at least a more gentler and reasonable one in his middle age.

I hope that he comes to realize that, while he still has some fire left in him, he should treat every breath as though it were his last. I try to envision moments in my life like that smoker ten years ago. Those moments are what make life great. There small moments that pop up like spyware to remind us that we're not without flaws, we should strive for the moment.