Thursday, April 28, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 5:14 p.m.

Patricia buried her head in a book on the L ride home, but she couldn't concentrate; she was fuming. During that morning's meeting of CAPES, her colleagues expressed disappointment in her disguise. They apparently felt that the combination of the short, mousy hair, tan trench coat, a-line skirt, knee socks, and grandmotherly shoes was simply too modest and inconspicuous. The look in no way hinted at the accomplished, strong, intelligent hero she truly was. They told her that she should be proud of her secret identity. As if she didn't know that already.

CAPES--the Chicago Avengers & Protection Encouragement Society--was the oldest and most illustrious league of heroes in the city. She had worked hard for years in order to be accepted, and now her membership was in jeopardy due to a stupid disguise.

Patricia fretted. They couldn't kick her out. They couldn't possibly. She was The Encyclopedic Woman. She knew literally everything there was to know in the realm of human knowledge. And the breadth of her wisdom was continually expanding. It was too unique a skill. They needed her. Sure, other heroes could control the elements, or were outrageously strong. But who else knew how to disarm ANY bomb at a moment's notice? Who else knew the greatest weaknesses of every government on earth? Who else knew how to create and administer previously unheard of and totally undetectable poisons? Only Patricia.

She clenched her teeth. One thing was for sure: The Encyclopedic Woman wasn't going down without a fight.

That story goes out to my friend Ben, who writes the blog "Unaligned." He wanted me to write about a superhero.

Did you see the awesome missed connection that Lovelorn Poets left for Cassidy in yesterday's post? You should also probably check out the flash fiction I wrote in response to one of Lovelorn Poets' missed connections...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:18 a.m.

Cassidy eats her breakfast on the L. A bagel with cream cheese and coffee should provide her with the energy she needs to get through the day. She is the lead singer of Broken Promise, an up-and-coming Chicago rock band. Think Joan Jett meets T. Rex. Today she's heading up to the Northwestern campus to flyer for Broken Promise's show in Evanston on Saturday.

Cassidy has a very different idea of what it means to be a rock star than her bandmates. They're good musicians, but what they really want is the stereotypical rock star lifestyle--drinking, partying, sex. More sex. They're still sleeping off their hangovers, which is why we find Cassidy alone. She knows that creating a successful band is hard work, and she's determined to make it to the top. She advertises. She handles the band's finances. It even goes so far as her appearance. She always makes sure to look the part: messy hair, thick eyeliner, denim jacket, two or three necklaces, super-skinny jeans, black leather boots. Her bandmates may act like rock stars, but Cassidy is the only one whose utter coolness intimidates and intrigues people.

Yes, if Broken Promise succeeds, it will be due entirely to Cassidy's efforts. And even if they don't succeed, you'll always be able to find Cassidy on a stage somewhere.

Exciting news time!  David Malki ! of "Wondermark" and Ryan North of "Dinosaur Comics" have announced that they're putting together "Machine of Death 2," another collection of short stories about people who know how they'll die!  The first "Machine of Death" is pretty awesome, so I think I'm going to submit a story. You should, too! 

Also, today Chicago Quirk posted a delicious suggestion for what to do with your leftover Cadbury Cream Eggs...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 5:11 p.m.

Eric looked like Norman Bates, which was a problem. To everyone who brought this up (and more people brought it up than you might think), Eric pointed out that his face didn't really look much like Bates' at all. Which was true. But he was tall, softspoken, and awkward. Furthermore, he always dressed neatly in button-down shirts and ironed, high-waisted jeans. The comparison could rightly be made.

Naturally, Eric was furious about this. It's hard to make your way in the world when you look like a mother-stuffing, peeping-tom serial killer. No matter how polite and helpful he was, people never seemed to trust Eric. He felt that Norman Bates had given clean-cut guys a bad name. Sometimes he imagined slaughtering Norman Bates in a shower. That'd show him.

Wrote this on the way home from work. I actually wrote one this morning on the way to work, but I didn't like it.  My apologies to "Cindy," who would have been today's story.  It's not that you weren't interesting, it's just that I couldn't convey your greatness in an interesting way. 

In other news, if you are a Chicagoan hooked on twitter (like me), I hope you noticed the #fatlolla hashtag going on today. Turning band names into foods really made the announcement of the 2011 Lollapalooza lineup much more fun.  

Monday, April 25, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 5:18 p.m.

Okay, here's what you need to know: Jesse Eisenberg stole my freakin' life. I'm not kidding. It sucks. I know I'm younger than him, but whatever. That's not the point. First of all, we look exactly alike. Same sandy, curly mop of hair, same square forehead, same narrow stare. Everything. Second, I was going to be an actor. Seriously.  I was even a lead in my high school's production of "Our Town" last year. I'm pretty good. But now nobody's ever going to cast me because I look just like Eisenberg. It's been done.

I mean, I'm not gonna lie, looking like a young, Oscar-nominated actor has its perks. It definitely helps with the ladies. But it only goes so far. I mean, last week I was making out with Heather Jones (who's, like, the hottest girl in my grade), and when I kissed her ear she said, "Oh! Jesse!" What the hell is that?! Not cool. Anyway, I just feel like people should know that looking like a celebrity is pretty much the worst thing ever. For real.

Hello! I am back in the city after spending Easter weekend in the 'burbs.  I finally bought "From Hell," which I've been meaning to read for a long time.  I'm excited about it.  I feel kind of tired and sick, though, which I'm not too excited about. I am also not thrilled about the weather, but that's ok.  This coming weekend I'll be in Memphis, and it's supposed to be in the 70s...excellent. 

Friday, April 22, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line Train to Linden at about 8:10 a.m., April 21st, 2011

Jackson loved the CTA.  Everything about it. He liked to sit on the hard seats of the L and look out the window, watching the neighborhoods go by.  The dive into the tunnels at the center of the city thrilled him. He enjoyed riding the buses, memorizing the street names and listening for the "ping!" whenever someone requested a stop.  Even when the trains and buses were delayed, Jackson didn't mind. For him, the ride itself was more important than reaching his destination.

Some surmised that this obsession grew because he shared his name with an L stop at the very southern end of the Loop. However, Jackson's favorite L stop was actually "Chicago," for the name encompassed the whole of a thriving city. He had a backpack with the red "Chicago" stop sign printed on the back of it. He also had several CTA t-shirts, a coffee mug, and a shower curtain that displayed a map of the L. 

Jackson often felt like the city of Chicago was a giant beating heart, and the trains and buses were its arteries.  He was only 19, but one day he hoped to become a train conductor. He would proudly guide the people of Chicago--the blood that kept the city going--along the elevated tracks, and deliver them safely to their homes.

So I feel like the city-as-a-heart comparison is probably cliche and overused, but...oh well.  It works for now.  I saw "Jackson" yesterday morning.  Now I'm visiting my family in the suburbs for Easter, so there may not be an entry this weekend.  I don't know. We shall see.  Anyway, I hope you're still enjoying the blog. Share with friends!  Many thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 5:20 p.m.

It's windy out, so when I get up to the L platform I run my fingers through my short red hair a few times and adjust my thick glasses before I open my book.  It's about greening your living space. Tim and I have decided to make our apartment more environmentally friendly. Our apartment. I'm still so excited to actually say that! Tim and I moved in together a few weeks ago, two years to the day after we started dating. How great is that?

It makes me think of school. I'm studying Music History at Northwestern, and I'm writing my senior thesis on what I like to call "other side of the tracks" songs from the 1960's. You know--"Leader of the Pack," and "Dawn" by the Four Seasons. Girl-likes-boy-but-she-is-rich-and-he-is-poor-and-family-doesn't-approve. Stuff like that.  Tim and I were kind of that way. He's always had a lot less money that me, and when my parents found out we were moving in together, they weren't exactly thrilled. But our story won't end sadly. We're more like Billy Joel's 1983 classic "Uptown Girl." I had a choice, and I made the choice to be with Tim. Best decision I've ever made.

I made a conscious effort to write a happy story today. I don't want to depress everyone.  Anyway, I have to keep this short.  It's time to study up on current events for trivia tonight! Our team shall be unstoppable...

Also, for those of you in the Chicagoland area, my sister Molly Robison is playing a show at Metropolis Coffee tomorrow night at 6 p.m.! You should all go, for she is fabulously talented.  I am going, and consequently there may not be a story tomorrow.  I have to go straight from work to her show, and then from her show to my go-go dancing performance.  It's a busy night.  So there will either be no post, or a very late-night post.  We shall see.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 5:45 p.m.

Donna knows she's past her prime. She tries to cover up her short, pudgy body in magenta sweatpants and a black pleather jacket with studs, but to no avail. Her long, thin hair is dyed red, but it does not, as she had hoped, distract from the lines on her face. She's past her prime in other ways, too. Her husband recently left her for Claire, the kids' 21-year-old nanny. Yesterday she was fired from her research position at Baxter because they wanted to hire younger, cheaper people.  Donna is trying to find a way to put some value back into her life.

As she waits for the train, she holds a copy of On Writing Well. That's her new plan. To be a writer. She used to be pretty good at her English classes when she was in school all those years ago. Who knows? She could be the Next Great American Novelist. She's certainly in a position to be. She's alone, she's depressed, she's drowning her sorrows every night in gin. Yes, Donna's life sounds like those of so many other great writers: solitary and screwed up.

The train finally arrives; she boards and tries to think of a plot for her upcoming novel. This is all she has left.

Wow. I really do write depressing stories.  Sorry about that.  Hope you like them anyway. Maybe it has something to do with the miserable Chicago weather as of late. Where is Spring? What if it has left us forever?  Such a horrible thing is only acceptable if we jump immediately into Summer. Fact. 

Monday, April 18, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at around 8:10 a.m.

I like mornings, even when they're gross like today.  I'm waiting for the train, and I eat a banana in five bites--one, two, three, four, five.  It took me a long time to learn to count to five.  I like bananas.  Bananas are my favorite.

Anyway, it took me a long time to count to five because I just like letters more.  But I'm eight now.  I can count way higher than five and I know lots of words, too.  Well, I was eight.  I guess now I'm a grown-up. One time at the park I was on the swings, and I was swinging faster and faster, and I was going really high, and then I jumped off the swing and tried to fly like a bird!  I wasn't a good flyer, but when I landed I was all grown up.

I went home for dinner, because Mom always said every day, "Be home for dinner by six!" But when I came in she started screaming like the lady in that psycho movie that Dad wasn't supposed to let me watch and she told me to get out of the house.  I was really sad.

But then I realized I could have adventures like in The Boxcar Children! But I didn't have a boxcar like them.  So I walked to my favorite store, which is Toys 'R' Us. And I asked if I could help put the stuffed animals on the shelves.  I like stuffed animals, especially the bunnies.  So now I get to go to Toys 'R' Us every day, and I put lots of toys on the shelves, not just stuffed animals. And sometimes they give me money, too, which is good because being a grown up is kinda hard sometimes.  Lots of times I go back to my house and spy in the windows and look at Mom and Dad. I miss them.

I see this woman almost every day on my commute to work, and she always reminds me of a kid. Not in a bad way, though. She just always seems cheerful.  In other news, if you scroll down the page, you will eventually see a facebook logo on the right.  Click on it, and it will link you to "Pretending to Know You"'s brand new facebook page!  Following us is a great way to waste more time at work/school/elsewhere.  

Also, have you checked out some of the other links on the side of the page?  If you do, you'll find the blogs/bands/other projects of many super-talented people, and your life will be greatly improved.  

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Seen on the Metra Train to Fox Lake at about 10:35 a.m.

About a year ago, George boarded a train headed from New York to Chicago.  He had been hired by a prominent architectural firm, and he couldn't have been happier.  However, when he arrived in Chicago, he found himself perplexed and alarmed.  He had heard that Chicago was very different from New York.  Some even went so far as to call it wild.  But he never expected anything like this.  The men were running around in thin shirts and denim trousers, and the women--well, the women were simply indecent.  And you should have seen George's face when he saw his first iPod!  You see, when George boarded the train in New York, it was 1891.  When he arrived in Chicago's Union Station, it was 2010. 

George stumbled up the escalators and out of the station.  He was absolutely horrified.  The unfriendly black and gray buildings towered around him like gargantuan prison bars.  And when he tried to see the tops of them, he was shocked to see that they pierced the heavens.  He was almost flattened by several passing cars.  George might have helplessly wandered for days or weeks had he not encountered Sally.

The first building he entered was a bookstore; he thought he'd feel safer there, since he at least knew what a book was.  He first saw her flipping through an H.G. Wells anthology.  She had red hair tied in a low knot at the nape of her neck, and a kind face.  When George walked up to her and explained his impossible story, Sally actually believed him.  She brought him back to her apartment, and over the next few months she tutored him in modern American culture.  She even found an online program to help him learn AutoCAD, and eventually he was, once again, hired by a prominent architectural firm. 

Yet he also ended up with something far more important to him than a job; he ended up with Sally.  They were married, and now George proudly struts around Chicago with her on his arm.  They make a lovely couple, she with her red hair and soft white coat, and he with his pinstripe vest, pocket watch, and blue bowler hat.  He couldn't be happier.

I was going to take a break and not write a story today, but then I saw the man in the blue bowler hat.  I thought to myself, "Okay, Steampunk McGee, you asked for it." I hope you like it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


See on the Red Line to Howard at about 11:50 a.m.

I narrow my eyes and glare at the people on the train.  When I do this, most of them stop looking at me.  But some still dare.  That is why I take other precautions.  I wear these black, baggy clothes so that they cannot see my body.  I cover my fingers in rings so that nobody will take my hand.  I keep my curly hair cropped short so that nobody will run their fingers through it.  I fill my thick lips with metal so that nobody will kiss them.  I armor myself, and I am safe. Nobody can touch me.

I wrote this story on my way to Metropolis Coffee (if you haven't been there, you definitely should) to meet my friend Beckah, an aspiring comic writer and all-around awesome person, for what we designated a "work party."  Both she and I have some other writing projects we have to do, so we figured we'd do it together in a wonderful place with delicious drinks and food.  We mostly just talked the whole time, though. I think it was more party than work.  

Anyway, I am really excited about this story, because it is ACCIDENTALLY exactly one-hundred words long.  How cool is that?  When I pointed this out to Beckah, she informed me that a story of exactly one-hundred words is called a "drabble," which I never knew.  And there, my friends, is your vocabulary lesson for the day.  

Friday, April 15, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:10 a.m.

As the train becomes more crowded, Damen moves his large duffel bag off the seat next to him and onto his lap.  The first time he did this, he was afraid that people would somehow just know about the body.  But he quickly realized that this was not the case.  Morning commuters are barely awake, and most of them vehemently avoid interacting with each other by hiding themselves in a book or behind a copy of the Red Eye.  Besides, Damen does his job so well that nobody would ever notice anyway.  He slices the body into small, manageable pieces and makes sure they are thoroughly drained of blood before he packs them into his black duffel bag, one on top of the other.  

This morning he is off to a quiet beach in Evanston, where he will let the waves and hungry creatures of Lake Michigan erode the skin, hair, and bones.  Then he will travel to Wicker Park, meet his employer, and receive his pay.  Easy as pie.  

So there's a little eerie story to start your weekend.  My friend Lindsay G. (who is wonderful and is currently making me a Doctor Who bookmark) informed me today that some of her friends are reading and enjoying the blog!  This makes me very happy.  And it also reminds me that I should thank everyone who is reading and posting about this blog.  I am so very pleased that you like it, and I will continue to do my best to entertain you.  I hope you all have a good weekend!  

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 5:15 p.m.

Mary-Anne looked like a frog.  Not in a bad way.  In fact, she put herself together rather well.  But her stocky body, wrapped in a dark green wool coat, rested upon skinny legs.  She had small lips; however, her wide face and double chin made it seem that at any moment her neck might hinge open backwards to reveal a gaping amphibian mouth with a long, quick tongue.

If you had told Mary-Anne she looked like a frog, she would actually have found the description to be quite apt.  She was a high school biology teacher, and every year she taught her students how to dissect frogs.  She often wished that someone would come along--man or woman, lover or friend--and dissect her. She wanted to be split open, to have her heart examined and understood.  Not only her heart. She wanted someone to carefully navigate her insides and catalog the workings and needs of each organ.  The dissection would be performed with a deep, almost religious devotion.

Yes, in some ways Mary-Anne would have liked to be a frog.

Oh my, it was a long day at the office.  However, it seems that lots of exciting non-work-related projects are coming my way.  So I am looking forward to that.  By the way, I am a terrible person, because I still have not yet mentioned on this blog that my obscenely talented friend Leta is the one who made it so pretty.  Everyone should read her blog Brain or Shine.  Now for some dinner, then go-go dancing class. I shall talk to you again soon.


Seen on the Red Line to 95th at about 5:35 p.m., April 13th, 2011

Thomas has a vision of himself: he is the classic academic.  He tries to fulfill this in every aspect of his appearance.  His red hair is "carelessly" or "effortlessly" tousled, but it becomes more diligently trimmed as it inches down his face into a tidy beard.  A scarlet polo shirt collar peeks out from the top of his slightly worn camouflage-green jacket.  His legs are clad in gray corduroy; his feet in black leather.  A pair of thin-rimmed square glasses completes the look.

During his commute, he studiously reviews a double-spaced paper that he has written.  He shuts out the commotion of the train and pours all his energy and concentration into the paper.  If he could, Thomas would smash his face into the paper, grinding his molecules into the spaces between the lines until he was the paper, and the paper was a living being.  That would prove to the world how serious he is about learning, how deep his love of knowledge.  Despite his poor grades, despite his inability to comprehend his classes, everyone would know his true dedication to the scholarly life.

I saw "Thomas" on my way down to University of Chicago to see Neil Gaiman speak!  And I shook his hand!  Pretty much the best day ever.  I'm going to pretend that this means that some of his writing genius has rubbed off on me.  Yeah.  Let's go with that.  

Monday, April 11, 2011


Seen at Casa Bonita at about 1 p.m.

Dale leans on the glass counter that displays assorted candies--M&M's, Twizzlers, York Peppermint Patties.  He props up his head with his right hand; with his left, he flips through a copy of National Geographic that he swiped from the dentist's office yesterday.  He is reading an article about some caves in Mexico.  He compares the rocks in the caves to the walls of fake rock that surround him.  "Not even close," he thinks.

When he is not in class at DU studying International Relations, Dale works at the Casa Bonita gift shop.  Casa Bonita is a Mexican restaurant billed as "the greatest show in Denver!" But Dale feels its character is more accurately described by Tom, one of the waiters: "It's like Disney World meets Tijuana."  Admittedly, the place is paradise for five-year-olds.  The center of the giant restaurant is dominated by a life-size waterfall, where diners can see cliff-divers and "gorilla shows" (exactly what it sounds like--a guy in a cheap gorilla suit doing stupid things) every 15 minutes.  There are also two arcades, a small puppet theater, a play area for very young children, and "Black Bart's Cave," a dark maze featuring a spooky, glowing skull.  With its pirate booty, plastic palm trees, and Skee-Ball, Casa Bonita is obviously a somewhat genre-confused Mexican restaurant.  

It also contains the gift shop where Dale works.  Casa Bonita was made pseudo-famous by an episode of South Park, and Dale thought it would be fun to work in such an incredibly kitschy place.  Little did he know how quickly he would tire of the fat tourists and the screaming children.  He had come to loathe both the overpriced tacky merchandise that made sense--shot glasses, pens, t-shirts--and the overpriced tacky merchandise that did not--pink and purple stuffed-animal unicorns inside matching felt bags embroidered with "Casa Bonita."  He couldn't even escape the horror of it all when he went home after a shift.  It was impossible to wash away the smell of the restaurant's signature sopaipillas from his skin and hair.  

Dale hears a noise and looks up from his magazine.  Two girls have entered the shop who appear to be around his age.  How thoroughly refreshing!  He silently observes as they peruse the souvenirs, mercilessly mocking each one that they grab.  The blonde girl takes a shot glass and brings it to the counter.  She smiles.

"Just this, please."

Dale picks it up.  "You know, we have ones that actually say--oh." He realizes that the glass does say "Casa Bonita," on top of the more prominent chili peppers.  Both girls laugh. "I'm really bad at my job, in case you haven't noticed."

"It's got to get boring," replies the Asian girl.  "You can't get a lot of traffic through here."

"You'd be surprised.  I made nine-hundred dollars yesterday.  All sorts of overly-indulgent parents and spitting children came in."

"Ugh," starts the blonde girl, "that can't be fun.  I'm really only here because of my roommate.  She loves the South Park episode, and she insisted that I come here so she could live vicariously through me.  Hence the shot glass." 

"Well, it really is unlike any other place on earth."

As the blonde girl signs her receipt, her friend asks, "So, you wanna see Black Bart's cave, full of stupid animatronic creatures guaranteed to scare tiny children?"

"Definitely.  Where is it?"

Dale helpfully provides them with directions, and they leave the shop.  Grateful for the short respite of adult conversation, he returns to his magazine.  

I am officially back in the midwest!  I wrote this on the plane back from Denver.  I am so sad to have left Leta!  I wish I could have fit her in my suitcase.  I had loads of fun, though.  Here's a quick recap of my trip: The Shoppe (delicious cupcakes), Twist and Shout (amazing record store), The Tattered Cover (fantastic book store, written about in my last entry), the Denver Zoo (the animals were really out and about, especially the cheetah, which was awesome), dinner with my wonderful former roommate Caddie at a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant called Zengo, MST3K, Denver Museum of Nature & Science (super cool and informative Pirates exhibit where you could actually touch real pirate treasure [!!!]), chilling and watching Doctor Who and Michael Palin travel shows on Netflix (we are dorks), slices of pizza the size of your head at Fat Sully's, go-go dancing, and finally, our epic journey to Casa Bonita.  This is me eating a sopapilla there:

Also, sorry to ruin the surprise of your souvenir, Lindsey.  It was too good a story to pass up, I'm afraid. The shot glass is coming your way.  Anyway, I'll write more soon!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Daisy; The Tattered Cover

Here, for your reading pleasure, is a guest story from my wonderful friend Leta!

Daisy: Seen outside The Tattered Cover on Colfax at about noon.

I love being outside.  All the smells on the wind, all the people.  I stay outside when he goes in.  I always have to fight the twinge of anxiety when he leaves--he always comes back to me, but no matter what, I can't get rid of that instant of doubt.  But the breeze is playing along the sidewalk and the sun is warm, and I forget my worry watching the people passing. A lady has two girls with her in bright jackets.  They smile at me and I wave at them.  I like days like this, and places like this.  Everyone is happy and no one is in a hurry.  I'm so busy watching people I don't eve see that he has returned until he is at my side.  "Come on, Daisy," he says, untying my leash from the pole.  He scratches my ears, and I wave my tail at him.

And here is a story from me.

The Tattered Cover about about 12:30 p.m.

I must say, I enjoy my current state.  I was alarmed at first when they gutted me, viciously ripped out my insides, seemingly without a reason.  I didn't know what I had done to deserve it.  For years I had invited people inside.  I cushioned them in the plush red embrace of my chairs, and I sheltered them as they laughed and cried at the tales of human nature that were enacted before them.  It's true that I eventually grew older; as I became shabbier, they stopped wanting to come inside.  Still, I didn't feel that this was a valid excuse to disembowel me.

But then they came back.  They replaced my chairs with tall wooden shelves. Now I proudly display ideas and stories once again.  I like that the people come inside me and slowly browse.  I smile when someone discovers a volume that turns out to be an unexpected pleasure.  The same people come back again and again; I watch them grow.  I am happy to entertain and educate them, and I am glad that they love me.

Greetings from sunny Denver!  I am here visiting Leta (whose blog, Brain or Shine, you should definitely read), and we have been having a lovely time.  We went to the Tattered Cover, which is the bookstore from whose perspective I wrote.  It used to be a theater, but they turned it into an AMAZING bookstore.  It's huge and has a great selection, and the people who work there are really friendly.  We also went to a fun record shop called Twist and Shout, and soon we are heading to the zoo.  But we wrote some stories while we were at the bookstore, and I wanted to get them posted.  Anyway, more to come soon! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Simon; Alan

Simon: Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:10 a.m.

Simon sat near the emergency exit of the train car in the single seat facing inward.  In a way, his seating position was a good description of his character.  Alone and in a slightly different direction than everyone else.  That was Simon.  His greasy black hair fell over his closed eyes as he contemplated this.

Eventually he pulled his MacBook out of his bag and began to work.  Simon was a freelance video game reviewer for several small publications.  But that's not what he wanted to do.  He wanted to be a magician. Not some hack who performed at kids parties, but a proper, Houdini-style magician.  A magician who could fill large theaters with crowds and make them all gasp with terror and delight at his amazing feats.

The problem was that nobody was capable of being filled with wonder anymore.  The world had become too reasonable, and people dismissed even the most epic magical acts as mere trickery.  Not that he objected to the word "trickery."  Magic was, after all, highly skilled trickery.  But he did object to the word "mere" being used to describe it.  "Mere" implied that the tricks were unimportant and frivolous.  Modern audiences had failed to understand that magic comes from their willingness to believe in tricks, to regard tricks with the awe and respect that they deserve.

Simon stroked his beard as he thought.  No, the current world was a sad one, in which magic was seen as simple deceit, and was therefore rejected.  If only he could find a way to make people want to believe again...

"This is Howard.  Transfer to Red and Yellow Line trains at Howard."

It was Simon's stop.  He shoved his computer back into his bag, leapt off the train, and disappeared into the crowd.

Alan: Seen on the Metra Union Pacific North Line to Kenosha at about 5:35 p.m.

It had been a long day at the office, and quite frankly, Alan observed to himself, it was not easy to relax on a Metra train.  He felt cramped sitting on the upper level of the train, stuffed into the tiny gray seat, suffocating in his dress shirt and tie.  At the moment he'd have given anything for a Goose Island Green Line.

He settled for the next best thing: a book.  He zipped open his orange backpack and pulled out a large, hardcover copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes.  "Leaning back" as much as it was physically possible to lean back in a Metra seat, Alan opened up the book to where he had left off, in the middle of "The Dying Detective."

His coworkers at the insurance company didn't like to read.  While they talked about sports at lunch, Alan would always ignore them with a book.  He had enjoyed reading for as long as he could remember,  and Sherlock Holmes had been a special favorite ever since one of his high school teachers had leant him a copy.

When he was young he wanted to be a detective--to observe details that others missed, to solve seemingly inexplicable puzzles.  And he wanted to bring justice to the world.  Then, his freshman year of college, he met Valerie.  He fell in love, he married her, and he finished up his college career studying insurance in order to support her.  He had never regretted marrying her for a second, but whenever he read Sherlock Holmes his old dreams became vivid in his mind once again.

Suddenly he looked up.  He realized that he could never have been a detective, not when he was so forgetful.  It was Valerie's birthday, and he hadn't bought her a thing.  He sighed deeply and shoved his book back into his bag.  Time to get creative.

I decided to do two entries today in order to entertain myself on the Metra.  I came back to the burbs because tomorrow night I fly to Denver to visit my wonderful friend Leta!  (By the way, you should definitely read her blog, Brain or Shine.)  Well, that's all for now.  I'm going to go play with my dogs.  Sounds like a good plan. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Seen at the Vic Theatre during the Mountain Goats show at about 7:20 p.m.

Josh blathered on and on as we walked into the theater, attempting to fill my head with more information about this band than it could ever possibly contain.

"I mean, they're just so freakin' prolific, you know?  They've put out, like, a million songs since the 90's, and they're all so good.  John Darnielle's a fucking god."

It's not that I wasn't interested in the band.  Actually, I really liked all the songs that Josh put on the mix CD for me.  The lyrics were especially great.  They could be so funny or so bitter or so beautiful, or all three.  It's just that Josh is always a little...zealous for my tastes.  He never shuts up, and he always seems to be impossibly passionate about whatever he's saying.  But he's the only friend I've made since I moved here from Oklahoma, so I was, and am, willing to put up with his flaws.  He's ultimately a good guy.

The ground floor of the theater was built in three levels, and we settled in near the front of the riser that was furthest back.  A girl was standing there alone, facing the away from the stage.

"Are you saving spots for your friends?" Josh asked her.

"Well, I'm definitely saving one spot.  I know one of my friends is coming, but I don't know who else she's bringing.  I doubt it will be that many people, though.  I'm sure you can squeeze in," she replied with a smile.

While she and Josh had a conversation about concert etiquette, I surveyed my surroundings.  I like seeing rock concerts in old theaters like this one.  It always seems to give the evening a pleasantly surreal quality.  We were standing in a great spot.  I could lean against the railing, and since we were at the front of the riser we were a step above everyone else's heads.  Perfect for a short person like me.  I could see everything clearly.

Eventually the lights went down, and the opening band, Megafaun, came out to play.  They were very classic country; their music reminded me of the type of stuff my mom likes to listen to.  Think the "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack mixed with Bob Dylan but more modern.  They joked around a lot, and they were also extremely insistent on audience participation.  At one point they divided the audience into several sections and had us all sing different parts.  I was shocked by how nice we all sounded.  It seemed rather on key for a large group of people.

Finally the Mountain Goats came out to play.  While Josh screamed the lyrics and vehemently bobbed his head in time to the music, I tried to let myself get lost in the songs. I like John Darnielle's voice, but I'm not quite sure how to describe it.  It's nasally and sharp, but in a good way.  I think that if the thorn of a rose could sing, it would sound like his voice.  I had never heard most of the songs before, but I enjoyed them anyway.  Many of them reminded me of people and places and situations that I had left behind in Oklahoma.  I guess that makes sense. I haven't been in Chicago for long, so the songs didn't remind me of anything here.

The show went on for quite a while.  During their second encore, they played a song that I did recognize, one that Josh had put on the CD for me, called "This Year."  I was even able to sing along with the chorus: "I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.  I am going to make it through this year if it kills me."  I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.

Yes, I was at that Mountain Goats show. And yes, it was spectacular. (In case you were wondering, I am the girl with whom Josh had a conversation about concert etiquette.)  I am so glad that I noticed yesterday that it wasn't sold out and bought a ticket.  They are really fantastic live.  I've only seen them once before, at Pitchfork Music Festival a really long time ago.  2005, or something like that. It was definitely worth it to see them again. They played "Cubs in Five," which is the first song I ever heard of theirs, and "No Children," which is the second song I ever heard of theirs.  And lots of other amazing songs that are more serious. Well, I guess both those songs are serious, but they're kind of dark-humor-serious.  They just put out a new album.  If you haven't listened to them, you absolutely should.  Click the link above.  Also listen to Megafaun.  They are lovely as well.  And nice people. I talked to them for a bit after the show.

And now, good night. 

Monday, April 4, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to the Loop at about 4:40 p.m.

Juan is an intimidatingly tall man, about 6 foot 5.  But you wouldn't know that if you looked at him sitting on the train, clutching his bright pink mp3 player, singing his heart out.  His eyes are closed, and he smiles as he croons the Spanish lyrics.  Juan is an orderly at a hospital, but his dream is to win "American Idol."  He doesn't think the show is as good since Simon left, but he still wants to win more than anything else.  So every day on his commute home from work, he turns up the volume on his mp3 player as loud as it will go, loud enough so the other passengers on the train can hear it.  He relishes the idea that one day they will see him win and think to themselves: "That's the guy from the Purple Line!  I've seen that guy!  I sat right next to him!"

Juan does not know that he is tone-deaf.

Sorry, that's kind of a sad story.  But the tone-deaf part is definitely true.  I hope that Juan, whoever he is, does not find this story, so that he keeps singing.  I wouldn't want to ruin his fun.  By the way, the bright pink mp3 player part is also true, which is pretty awesome.  

I don't have much else to say, except that I've been listening to a great deal of Fionn Regan today.  He is an Irish singer-songwriter, and if you haven't listened to his music, you probably should.  Immediately.  And with that I bid you good night.  Sweet dreams!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mary; Adam & the Chicago Racket Football Society

I haven't written since Friday, and since then I've encountered two sets of particularly interesting people.  So now I present to you their imaginary stories, in VERY short form.  

Mary: Seen Saturday, April 2nd at about 11:15 a.m. in Lincoln Park.

I ring the doorbell, but nobody answers.  It doesn't matter; Satan can't defeat us that easily.  As someone who is in the truth, it is my obligation to make sure that everyone learns of the necessity of God's kingdom on earth.  I ring the doorbell again.  Still no answer.

"Why don't we just move on?" Sandra suggests.

I quickly retort: "Ladies, we must do everything we can to free this person from Satan's grasp.  We will wake them up if we have to."  And with that, I ring the doorbell a third time.  Finally we hear some shuffling from inside.  The lock turns and the door opens a crack, revealing a young woman with tousled blonde hair in her pajamas.  I smile.

"Good morning! I just wanted to personally invite you to an event where you can learn about Jesus Christ and how he died for our sins." I hand her a pamphlet.

"Uh, thank-you." She replies, obviously still sleepy.  Before she shuts the door, she tells us to have a good day.  I am glad that she was kind to us.  I believe that there is hope for her soul yet.

Adam & the Chicago Racket Football Society: Seen Sunday, April 3rd at about 1:30 p.m. at the park on the corner of Sheffield & Wrightwood.

Hey, man!  It's nice to meet you.  Welcome to the Chicago Racket Football Society's first meeting of the season!  I'm Adam; I'm the captain.  Me and some of my fraternity brothers invented Racket Football our sophomore year at U of I.  It was this crazy party.  There were, like, five kegs...well, I'm sure you get the idea.

Anyway, we're always stoked to have new members.  I'm glad Bob brought you along.  Has he explained the rules to you?  Well, I should probably go over them again, just in case.  I mean, basically it works just like regular football.  The major difference is the rackets, of course.  We all sling tennis rackets across our bodies while we play.  Like a purse, I guess.  Then there's this extra person on each team called the racketmaster.  The racketmasters always wear whistles around their necks.  At any point during the game, the racketmasters can blow their whistles, and when they do you have to stop touching the football with your hands.  The game has to be played only with rackets until the offensive team loses the ball.  Then you can use your hands again.

I know it's weird or whatever, but it's fun when you get used to it.  I think it's catching on, too.  My friend Dan moved up to Wisconsin and started a team there.  It's totally sweet, I swear.  So let's get started.  What position do you normally play?

And those are my little stories for the day.  To clarify, I was indeed woken up by Jehovah's Witnesses ringing my doorbell three times Saturday morning.  And today I did see these guys in the park playing football while they had tennis rackets slung over their shoulders, which I thought was a little weird.  I feel you should also know that when I mentioned to him that I was going to try to write another entry tonight, my friend Felipe blurted out that I should write a sex scene.  So now we all know that despite how nice and polite he seems, his mind's really just in the gutter.  Just kidding.  Felipe's the best. 

Friday, April 1, 2011


Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:20 a.m.

Tamara clutched the package with a fierce determination.  This was the last of his shit.  As soon as she shipped this box off to L.A., he'd be out of her life forever.  The U.S. Postal Service flat-rate box was fairly small; it contained only a few items.  Some charcoal pencils, a tacky Chairman Mao lighter, a Margot and the Nuclear So-and-So's CD.  And a cable-knit scarf that he used to let her wear when they'd go out to smoke on cold nights.

Tamara was from a small town in Georgia.  She was the first person in her family to go to college, and while her parents were thrilled that she was accepted to DePaul, they were nervous about her moving to "the big city."  They always referred to it as "the big city"--never Chicago.

She met Alex at a party during her first week of school.  He was unlike anyone she had ever known; his life was almost exactly the opposite of hers.  His father had traveled for work, so Alex had grown up in many of the world's major cities.  She remembered that story he told her about that lighter.  He had picked it up in high school when he was living in Beijing, at some place called the Silk Market.  She had always picture the Silk Market as some fanciful outdoor bazaar, until one day she googled it and discovered that it was just a giant, crowded mall, stuffed with kiosks selling knock-off clothing and souvenirs.

Alex was studying music--he played the piano wonderfully.  But he was really a Renaissance man of sorts (or at least that's how he presented himself).  He liked to sing, draw, and make films.  He was well-versed in literature and theater.  When he started talking to her at that party, Tamara was totally baffled as to why he'd want to talk to a business major like her at all.  He was like an alien.  An extremely attractive, fascinating alien.

And she had to admit to herself that at the time she was practically begging to be abducted.  After all, not many people are overflowing with confidence at the beginning of their freshman year of college.  She was happy to be wanted, especially by such a worldly person.  Their relationship moved quickly.  They were always together, and he continually introduced her to all the things you can't find in small-town Georgia.  They saw plays in little storefront theaters.  They danced to the music of Pitchfork-magazine-beloved bands at the Metro and The Vic.  They spent hours browsing in used bookstores and record shops.  Junior year they moved in together.

That's when she started noticing his many flaws.  He drank too much.  He didn't care about his grades, or what he was going to do after college.  Tamara had a part-time job at a bank, and when they went out she was usually the one paying.  And it's not as though he only enriched her life.  She could have found out about all those bands and books a million other ways.  Just living in the city probably would have done it.  He dragged her down, too.  She never smoked until she started going out with him.  She passed up opportunities to study abroad in order to stay with him.  She could have seen the world, and instead she just stayed to hear him talk about the world.  He was her world, and now she was disgusted with herself.  When she found him in bed with one of his professors near the end of senior year, it was the final straw.

That's right.  One trip to the post office and she'd finally be done with Alex.  She could focus on the important things, like her job at Northwestern's administrative offices.  She could put her own life together the way she wanted it.  Alien-free.

Alright.  There's that post.  Off to see Glittermouse!  They are a lovely little band.  You should check them out.  

Kate and Max

Seen on the Brown Line to Kimball at about 8 p.m.

Kate battled the desire to reach out and touch Max's long gray coat.  It looked so soft.  As usual, he was dressed impeccably.  With his hair tastefully slicked back, his black thick-but-not-too-thick-framed glasses, his black leather gloves, and his brown leather briefcase (and of course that tempting coat), Max looked like he had stepped straight out of an episode of Mad Men.  She wondered if he liked Mad Men.  That could be a deal-breaker.

She remembered the first time she saw Max.  He had strolled into her office a few weeks ago and sat down at the desk opposite hers.  His computer screen obscured most of his face, but she found herself frequently staring at his brown eyes, which peeked out above the monitor.  He was eating an everything bagel.

It turned out that they both commuted home on the Brown Line, so they just sort of fell into the habit of going to and from the office together.  The more Kate talked to Max, the more she liked him.  In fact, she could state with confidence that they had hit it off.  Thanks to Max, her commute was the best part of her day.  She'd take talking to him over reading on her new Kindle any day.

As she listened to him talk about his day, Kate smiled, and her toes curled up in her silver flats.  All too soon she noticed that they were nearing the Addison station.  She interrupted him:

"Hey, this is my stop.  Uh, do you maybe want to grab dinner, though?"

"Yeah, sounds great.  I'm starving.  What's good around here?"

Elated, Kate exited the train with Max at her side.

And there you have it.  My first story for this blog!  Exciting.  In other news, when I got back from go-go dancing class today (yes, I take go-go dancing lessons), I got off the train, and what do you think I saw? An ad for the new season of Doctor Who!  I was so thrilled that I literally almost squealed aloud.  I am that much of a dork.  Fact.  Anyway...I'll post again soon!