Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The List of Things to Not Be

Today I turn 24, which is ninety-six percent of the way to 25, which is eighty-three-point-three-repeating percent of the way to 30, which is my official "Have Things Accomplished" age. Yikes.

Now, I know most people (including myself, to this point) have their lists of things to do, things to be, things to have some relative degree of success in by age whatever. But the more I think about it, the more unrealistic it seems to keep this ongoing Christmas list of what we want. It's too easy, as we grow up and as our goals change, to negate certain items, to brush them off with a simple "I was too young to know that was impossible," and also to add other items as they came to mind ("Well, if I'm asking for a house with a white picket fence by the time I'm 34, I might as well throw in a three carat engagement ring!")

So: Starting this year, I'm working in reverse.

I'm looking at what already is and deciding whether or not I want to work in a different direction. I am creating The List of Things Not To Be.

For example: I don't want to be stuck in an apartment forever, so I'm adding "Renter" to The List of Things Not To Be by the time I'm 30. I can add anything to the list: titles, adjectives, phrases. I can add items to The List at any time, and can give each item its own timeframe by which I should Not Be. And the best part: instead of mentally crossing things off the list as they become impractical (as I would have to do with a List of Things to Be) I can add a mental check mark next to the things I no longer am. See? Positive, not negative! This is the first step in checkmarking "Negative" on my List of Things Not To Be by the time I'm 25.

* * * * * * * * * *

As far birthdays go, my past two have been monumentally awful. Last year, I was at the peak of my annual change-of-seasons cold, brought on, I think, by my trip to Atlanta, where I had to endure the guilt-of-singleness implied by a full-blown Catholic wedding.

The year before that, I was forced to attend the wake of a cousin's cousin's cousin or somesuch distant relative I'd never met. As testament to how white trash I really can be: I was actually OK with attending a wake on my birthday, because I was told it would be at the KFC. Now, how I thought honoring our dearly departed had anything to do with fried chicken, I don't know; probably I misheard on purpose in some sort of psychological attempt to get right with the birth/death dichotomy unfolding before my very eyes. Or whatever. Turns out they were saying K of C, which, while it certainly does not serve fried chicken, absolutely does serve as the worst place in history to celebrate a birthday.

So, yeah, at this point I'm two for two in terms of shitty birthdays. Today's is going awesomely in comparison, but it's only 8:30. I'll hope for the best, though, because "Pessimist" is definitely at the top of The List of Things Not to Be.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

'L Diablo

Dear Chicago Transit Authority,

I know you've had a lot to think about lately, what with all the hubbub over proposed fare hikes and the concerns about your decidedly shoddy security. But I have another request to make as you eke out final details for 2006.

Please consider making the last car on each morning-rush-hour train a "Firey Cheetos Free" car.

I don't know who started the Firey Cheetos For Breakfast movement, and, frankly, I don't care. All I care about is: not seeing your patrons inhaling packetfuls of stopsign red snackfoods at 8:00 in the morning; not smelling that slightly acidic, burning-the-intestines-even-secondhand aroma before I've officially woken up; not nearly slipping on those silvery-lined biohazard bags that lurk under seat after seat.

I'm not sure if you know how I feel about public displays of fingerlicking: they make me feel all shuddery and angry and kind of like I need to scrape my tongue with my own fingernails to banish the sensation. And that's not even taking into account post-Firey Cheeto fingerlicking. I never imagined that a form of fingerlicking more heinous than that experienced after a Medieval Times fowl-dissection-by-hand could exist. But it can, and it does.*

At least bones are organic, unlike that fluorescent red powder that coats each knotty stick of deepfried... what the hell is the base of a Cheeto? Corn? Potato? Air? Oh, god, I don't even know. I do know that we should all be suspicious of cheese that appears in such a state and color so very contrary to the laws and occurrances of nature, and that we should actively discourage the ingestion of said cheese (and its equally-as-unhealthy carrier), especially in confined public transportation scenarios, and especially before noon.

So take a stand, CTA. Devise an elaborate marketing campaign alerting your riders to the dangers of Firey Cheetos, and take a no-nonsense approach to disciplining violators of the last-car-as-safe-zone rule. I would be happy to design some cute posters for the cause; I know just the right color of red to use to really drive the point home.

* There's more saliva and smacking, I've noticed, involved with post-Fiery Cheeto fingerlicking. This is presumably on account of having to orally dispose of every last fire-red cheese-particle, lest the acid from left behind cheese-particles should cause festering blisters on the fingertips.

Monday, November 21, 2005

There's a special place in Azkaban for people like me.

I won't go on and on about how great Harry Potter was — I'm sure there's plenty of that brand of geekery going on elsewhere. I will say this: Viktor Krum was OK, but I decided on second viewing that I'll always adore Harry the most.

There was a moment — just one — when Harry was pinned up against a tombstone, sort of breathlessly panting for his 14-year-old life, where Robyn and I looked at each other in the darkened theater and just kind of shook our heads. We are bad, bad, dirty girls. This much is true.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


The deal being made of Chicago's impending cold is big. Epically so. But I'm not concerned. I'll feel more at home in a city sharp and frosty and frigid, as I am those things, too.

As in Chicago Winters past, I will: Dress too light for too long. Catch my death of cold. Defy the Laws of Science, the History of Medicine. Recover miraculously. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. (That whole to-do about going outside with wet hair is an old wives' tale, you know, and I refuse to put stock in anything remotely wife-related.)

I will: Find solace in the steelyblue skyline. Take photographs that, for once, don't evoke Monet or Manet or whoever it was who used all that dreadful splotchy pink. Appreciate the natural duotoning of mirrored windows, metal rooftops, limestone, brick, glass.

I will: Start a fashion movement — mid-calf saltring chic. Have better hair days ("windtousled" will agree with me). Discover a way to discreetly wiggle out of underlayers in too-artificially-hot public venues.

I will: Continue my affair with public transportation without complaint. Chuckle through pursed-chapped lips at the overwrapped, down-padded masses elbowing for space beneath humming two-by-two lamps.

I will recall learning about heat, about wattage and kilocalories, about the pressure dynamics that cause radiators to hiss. I will not remember what it was I learned, exactly, only that, at some point, I knew something, something of heat.

Monday, November 14, 2005


Today I had to break down and open up a can of Whoop Ass at work.

No, seriously.

We get all kinds of weird organic-y products at work, and Jones Soda Co. sent us a crate of their new energy drink, Whoop Ass. It comes in totally cute Japanamation-y cans and lists as its main ingredients Taurine, which I guess is like a mild liquid speed, and, to counteract that, Royal Jelly, which, from my internet research, I have determined to be some sort of good-for-you bee secretion. Yeah, I don't know.

What I do know is this: they sure got the "Ass" part right. Bleck! It tasted like crushed-up asprin with a sting-y, tart-y afterbite. We — the brave few who tried it (b/c of the desperate need for a pick-me-up) — agreed that it would be many many times better with vodka, and we tried to psych ourselves into believing there was some in there.

I'm not too convinced that our attempts at psychosomatic intoxication were fruitful, though, because even on nights when I haven't thrown a few back, I'm usually old-ladying it up and in bed at 10 p.m. But right now I feel positively chipper. A little wound up, but chipper.

And I just noticed I'm typing extraordinarily fast. I just wrote this whole post in about sixpointfive seconds. For real.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


I've been given quite a few nicknames since starting my new job: Rookie, Medill, just plain Quinn (a nickname which got about twelve thousand percent cooler last Monday when the new character on Prison Break, Quinn, broke a dude's fingers within the first two minutes of his introduction.)

Most of my nicknames, though, have to do with what a huge dork I've already proven to be. And I'll be the first to admit it: the comment "anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of syntax could have written something better than this" probably wasn't the coolest utterance in the world. Hell, that wouldn't even have been the coolest utterance at a comic book convention. But come on! It was true!

My favorite nickname so far, though, is Goblet of Nerds. And OK, OK, maybe making such a big deal out of the trailer for the new Harry Potter movie wasn't the best way to establish myself as a suave young cosmopolitan. And maybe pre-ordering my opening-night, first-showing tickets a month in advance, and then going on and on about how excited I am (and, OK, downloading a Countdown to Harry widget) didn't earn me any urban hipster points. But we're talking about first showing at the IMAX here people!

And really? Did you watch the trailer? Let's talk about three times the (oops-still not legal!) hotness. And, of course, the kickass special effects, and the character developments we haven't gotten much of in the past three movies, and the Russian guy... aw shucks, I really am geeking out.

I have to say, though: I feel a little vindicated that my two most merciless coworkers watched the trailer with me, then asked to watch it again and admitted that it looked totally killer. And we've been watching the first three movies almost every day in preparation for the big day (Thursday at midnight, but don't think about getting tickets. They're sold out.)

And now that they're getting used to my geekiness, they don't seem to laugh at me too much when I say, "ooh, but in the book..." or when I find myself accidentally talking aloud in sync with the movies in a little British accent. And they do laugh—but not in a mean way—when I get flustered and absentmindedly fiddle with the twig they brought back from a lunch outing for me. So far "Deadlinicus Disappearacus" and "Wingardium Levioh-please-do-my-work-for-me" haven't had much effect, but I'm not giving up yet...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

"We were just a near miss..."

I got this e-mail from a guy I was supposed to go out with Wednesday night and who, in total keeping with the pattern, ceased all communication until this morning:

"Hey you. I am so sorry I am such a worthless correspondent. Basically, I am having serious maybe-get-back-together-with-my-ex-girlfriend issues, which sort of makes me skiddish, like a champion horse. :) Anyway, let's let things simmer for a week — I'll be able to tell you a lot more then. Whether or not we ever go on a "date" I'd really like to be friends — you are too smart and funny to ignore."

Well, this is just perfect.

Really, I should have seen this coming. I mean, the last guy I went on a date with had to postpone because the band Slipknot was going to be crashing at his apartment. Scary fellows, those, and the guy didn't turn out to be much better. Bonus points for creative get-out-of-date-free excuse, though. I guess "oops I got back together with my ex the same day we were supposed to go out" is just as good, though.

But let's dissect this, shall we?

We'll start with "skiddish like a champion horse."

In my reply e-mail, I told him exactly how well I get along with horses. I have one horse story. It involves a six-year-old me holding on for dear life and screaming my little blonde head off while a supposedly tame petting zoo horse drags me through the forest and into somebody's backyard. Pine needles, an angry woman shaking a broom, and the horse munching underwear off an outside laundry line also figure prominently in the story. Needless to say: me and horses? Yeah, not so much.

OK, on to "let's let things simmer."

Who (who!) is feeding guys all these cooking metaphors? They're "simmering," they're "marinating," they're, I don't know, "whipping until peaks form." What the hell's next? "Let's bring this relationship to a slow rolling boil before we turn the heat off completely"? (Hey, wait a second, that might be a step up.) How about you save the cooking stuff for someone who can make more than toast, or at least incorporate some "sizzling" or "melting" or (as is the case with most of my personal cooking experiences) "buring." The good kind, not the gross kind.

Finally, let's address "I'd really like to be friends."

I'll extend the horse metaphor for this one. When it comes to "just being friends" with guys who have girlfriends, my track record is less-than-spectacular.

And I know, I know, "let's be friends" is the widely accepted "right" thing to say. But do you think it's fair, really, to take up my time being friends when there are so many other guys who haven't gotten their chance to test-drive their can't-date-you excuses on me? Step aside and let the line move forward! (I'm actually interested to see who can top Slipknot. "My friend has tuberculosis and I have to visit him in the hospital" might have run a close second, but it was from the same guy.)

You know, sometimes it takes a conscious effort not to call my mom and say, "Mom, I know you're counting on me, your only child, to extend the family, but, really, you should just get a Chuihuahua or something now, because my failure in the getting-married-and-producing-offspring department becomes more inevitable with each passing day."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Slice, Slice Baby

I have to say, after getting a few initial omigod-they-expect-me-to-run-marathons jitters out of the way, my job pretty much kicks ass.

Maybe most importantly, I finally, for the first time ever, have an e-mail address that's just erin@. I know. Weirdo thing to get all worked up about. But seriously. I've always wanted an erin@ e-mail address. No impersonal last names, no even-more-impersonal initials, no (bleck!) numbers. Just simple, concise, elegant erin@. I love it.

Also, in our winter issue brainstorming meeting, when I jokingly suggested we get an ultrahot male model for our annual Gift Guide cover, not only did I get a hardy hell yeah from everyone, but the Zoolander references started flying almost immediately. Cut to tomorrow: I will meet and interview a "really really ridiculously good-looking" model (with a real headshot to boot!) to see if he's cover material. Then on Friday, the art department will spend the day in The Studio (sounds so offish, huh?) to direct an all-day shoot. I will be taking on the role of Jay Manuel from America's Next Top Model, which entails wearing lots and lots of orange makeup and directing the shoot like I've never even looked at a picture, let alone told someone how to take one. I will be bitchy and fabulous.

And finally, get this. Today I spent all day (between the Starbucks run and the long lunch) working on a photo illustration in the style of Hanoch Piven for a column about how stupid Americans get all psyched up by visiting websites like this one that convince you that your everyday activities burn tons and tons of calories, and imply that working out isn't really necessary if you do things like, say, shear sheep or vacuum expanses of carpet or blink on a daily basis.

The column talks about how one of the "healthy suggestions" on the official FDA food pyramid website involves making a face out of fruits and veggies and then eating it. Kind of morbid. Also kind of a brilliant art concept. So I spent the better part of the day (Pumpkin Spice latte at my side) slicing and dicing and artfully arranging oranges, bananas, red and green peppers, and kiwis.

The entire experience conjured fond memories of first grade arts and crafts day, except today I got to play with a big sharp knife (which I felt kind of guilty about stowing in my bag and carrying on the El) and was getting paid to play with my food.

What did you do at work today?