Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tonight Was Lovely

It's just after seven o'clock and I'm already tired, I think the early darkness is messing with my mind a little. I worked today and, when I arrived at home, tried to call the school where I'll be taking my prerequisite nursing classes, but couldn't get through to any of the offices, which are supposed to be open into the evening. I went through the entire school directory and called just about every office, because I was annoyed that no one was picking up when they were supposed to still be open, according to their website. Finally, I reached the number for the Vice President's office, and he answered the phone himself! We had a nice conversation, he was friendly, and apparently the best time for me to call back would be tomorrow between eight a.m. and four p.m. Oops.

Then I dragged myself back outside and made the ten minute walk to Julius Meinl, where I purchased five bags of coffee for my mom, who has officially been converted from her lifelong love affair with Kaffitár, her Icelandic coffee of choice. It was so quiet and cozy in there, it was all I could do not to buy a warm, savory pastry or a cup of soup and stay a while. But duty called, so I ventured back out into the chilly evening to pick up a loaf of German rye bread at Gene's Sausage Shop, also for my parents. I love walking on Lincoln Avenue in my neighborhood. There are Christmas lights strung around. Warm restaurants, shops, and cafes shelter smaller, relaxed weeknight bunches of people from the cold. As I rejoined the remaining bustling shoppers of the day on the street, I passed two older men speaking German to each other under the awnings of a storefront, which made me smile.

I live off of Western Avenue, which is a louder and busier thoroughfare than Lincoln in this part of town, but as soon as I turned onto the little tree-lined street where I live, all sounds were immediately hushed. It's been snowing all day, and the bare branches are laden with white, the snow crunched softly under my boots in places where the sidewalk hadn't yet been shoveled. Lit Christmas trees peeked out of my neighbors' windows, augmenting the otherworldly glow of snow in nighttime. I softly whistled "Angels We Have Heard On High" to myself as I strolled down my block to my front door.

The day of work and commuting was exhausting, and tomorrow will undoubtedly be hectic as I struggle through crowds at O'Hare airport, praying for a safe and timely flight home. But tonight was lovely.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Brazilians, Buffalo, and Christmas

It's been a while, so this is a sizeable update. For an abbreviated version, skip to the end.*

Everyone should have a Brazilian friend. This is mine. Her name is Claudia and she lives in Annapolis. Brazilian friends are good for all sorts of things. If you talk with your hands, for example, and start running out of gestures and are looking for new ones to try, call your Brazilian friend. Ask her how her day is going, sit back and watch the show begin. Take notes. They're also good at reminding you, I mean actively, verbally reminding you, that the most important things in life are, apparently and in no particular order: laughing, dancing, cachaça, washing blackberries before you eat them, and generally having a great time while you're still young enough to do so (ceiling age currently unknown until further notice). And sometimes they call you up at night and make you laugh, they laugh themselves, and remind you that you have a blog that they read and enjoy. Which is what brings me here, watching The Best of the Blues Brothers and typing out incoherent drivel instead of sleeping. Sincerest apologies all around.

I haven't written in a while because I moved out of Sara, Steve and Logan's house and into the House of Laura, and since then have been suddenly, unbelievably busy. The House of Laura is a two bedroom, TWO BATHROOM condo that she rents from a lady who moved to Boston and doesn't want to sell in this market. I rent the second bedroom, and have MY OWN BATHROOM!!!!!!!!!! No big deal, happens every day, nothing to pee one's pants over, not even a little bit. Laura is a tap dancer and a sign language interpreter, and so far an all-around groovy gal. She has an active social life and has thrown me into the mix, which is where the busy part comes in. It's been lots of fun going out again and making new friends of my own. In short, Laura and I get along just fine, the apartment is cute, and the neighborhood, Lincoln Square, is tops! It is a primarily German neighborhood with a library, a sausage store, a butcher shop, an apothecary, some great restaurants, a Brauhaus, a park with a gazebo, a Folk Music school, and a Julius Meinl. So I never have to live anywhere else, ever. Except for maybe my own private island, preferably a craggy and windswept one. Other than that, most of my needs are met right here, although technically I'll have to leave now and again, once I start school and Second City.

Yes, I'm going back to school, this time to get a second degree in nursing. I know this comes as a shock to anyone who knows me, so I'll just give you the short version of the alleged reasoning behind my decision, and then leave you to assimilate in your own time. I've come to realize the following things:
  1. In a certain number of years, I will be of a certain age.
  2. I hate working in offices.
  3. But I need a job.
  4. The only thing I could ever do day in, day out, each day for the next thirty or more years is this acting/writing thing that's got me so jazzed about going on breathing.
  5. Most people do not get paid much for doing the acting/writing thing, at least not at first, and so are forced to turn to what we in The Biz call "day jobs" to get that whole survival thing taken care of.
  6. If I do have to get a day job that isn't acting or writing or basically doing whatever I want whenever I want to do it, I'd like it to be something that sort of matters and will be useful after the Revolution or the Apocolypse, whichever comes first. I'll also need it to have flexible work hours, be reasonably recession-proof, have enough variety to satisfy my attention defecit disorder, and pay enough for me to live and maybe even send money into one of those "savings accounts" of myth and legend.
So, after much research, deliberation, informational interviews with nurses and nursing students I know, and soul-searching, I've settled on nursing school. Yes, for a little while it will take some time and attention away from my creative pursuits. But once that's over I'll be essentially set with a fall-back career... for the rest of my life. Any and all concerns that going into nursing as a means to create more time for art is immoral, sick, and just plain wrong can be directed to the nearest brick wall.

The apartment is just a couple of blocks away from the El, which is the nickname for the metro train system here in Chicago. The elevated tracks run so close to our building that we can hear the train go by inside the apartment. If you've ever seen the movie The Blues Brothers, which took place in Chicago, you might remember the scene in Elwood's apartment where the train runs right past his window every couple of minutes. We're not that close, but I've seen places that are. Still, it did make it difficult to fall asleep that first night in my new bedroom, it even woke me up a couple of times. But now I'm used to it, and I even kind of like the sound of it racing past us in the night. Sometimes when it starts to seem too quiet, or if a scary dream wakes me up suddenly and I find myself alone and nervous, if I just wait a few minutes, eventually the train will pass. That familiar, muted roar reminds me of the world going on outside my dark bedroom, and it's kind of comforting. I cracked a joke once that the train sounds like a herd of buffalo running outside our window, which evolved into my referring to the El as my "pet buffalo." Buffalo are spiritually important to me for a number of reasons that I won't get into here, so the sound of that train, which I originally thought would be a nuisance, actually puts a little smile on my face and occupies a warm nook in a corner of my heart.

Christmas is coming. Everyone is stressed. I'm too broke to do any shopping, so I'll talk about work instead. For the last couple of months, I've been temping for an advertising-related website as a data enterer. Is that even a word? A person who enters data. Data entry. Copying and pasting information from hundreds of ads into a database. The fast track to carpel tunnel. A surefire cure for interest in one's work. A quick and easy way to completely lose one's already tenuous grip on reality in seven short hours a day. A reason to jump out of 16th story windows. A necessary evil in the vast machine of corporate virtual reality. The opposite of dancing. Dronery in its truest form. A behind-the-scenes glimpse of a Huxleyan hatchery.

We might as well all wear matching white jumpsuits, address each other by numbers and letters instead of by name, respond in unison to buzzers and blaring voices over loudspeakers that instruct us to take our collective break, eat our collective lunch, empty our collective bladder. I called my dad once to tell him I was taking a moment to get some fresh air, and he asked me if that meant that I was going to stand in front of a black square set in a white wall, push a button, and have a cold blast of air blow into my face and push my hair back, before returning to my seat in the Pod. I told him yes.

Almost everyone who works there is a temp with one agency or another. I thought about trying to organize all of the different agencies into factions which would then function as rival gangs. At least the tension and occasional spurts of violence might make the day go by faster. The supervisors don't know our names, we were never introduced around the office, and no one pretends we matter, which should be refreshing but somehow isn't. At least we get to wear whatever we want and can listen to our ipods all day. No, we must listen to our ipods all day. I once forgot my headphones and almost went cross-eyed from boredom. I think a big part of the reason why I haven't been writing here as much is because I'm on a computer all day at work. And then I use up all my "crazy" instant messaging my new friend Alisha. I think tomorrow I might make good on my threat to write down everything we type to one another throughout the course of the day and post it on here. Might make for some good filler, and maybe you'll get as many chuckles as I do in the throes of near-epileptic fits of taedium vitae.

I'll be back in Maryland for Christmas, from December 23rd to the 27th. I think on the 26th I might pick a pub in downtown Annapolis, alert my favorite people as to where I am, and see how many are in town and able to make it out to meet me.

*For those of you who skipped to the end, here is an abbreviated version of this update in, my favorite, list form.
  1. I haven't updated because I sit at a computer all day.
  2. I have my own bathroom.
  3. I am going to nursing school soon.
  4. If you haven't already, go make friends with a Brazilian.
  5. I'll be home for Christmas.
  6. I love Chicago. (Sneaked that one in there, it wasn't included above. I do love Chicago, it feels like a city in America that I could truly call home. I want to stay here for a while. That almost never happens.)