Friday, June 29, 2012

Muriel

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:40 a.m. 

When her mother told her she was a quitter, Muriel replied: “Good. I want to be.” That was the day Muriel quit her family. She walked out the door with only the clothes on her back and went to quit some more.

Muriel has never understood why everyone considers quitting to be such a bad thing. In Muriel’s experience, quitting typically brings about good things. For instance, when she quit ballet after eleven years of lessons, her parents yelled and accused her of wasting their money. But Muriel didn’t think it was such a waste; quitting ballet gave her a reason to quit smoking cigarettes. Good for her health and good for her bank account.

Muriel quit wearing makeup, and now her complexion is flawless. Muriel quit college after a few months, and now she has no student loan debt. Muriel quit dating men, and now she’s come to realize that she’s a lesbian. Her willingness to quit has only served her well. That’s why she’s currently flipping through the classifieds section—Muriel thinks it’s time to quit her job and move on to the next adventure. She’ll probably quit that, too.

And with that, I bid you farewell for another busy weekend. Tonight Leta and I are going to paint the town red! Or rather, we're going to kind of paint Improvised Shakespeare red, and then we're going to paint my deck red. I guess. Tomorrow we're off to the suburbs for my sister's graduation party. Sunday we're going to City Lit's Adaptation Festival to support our friend Meg. Fun ahoy!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sasha

Seen waiting in line for a career fair on State Street near the Lake Red Line stop at about 2:00 p.m., June 26th, 2012 

It’s sad to see all of us waiting in this line, threaded together by a string of hope that frays more and more every second. We clutch our resumes close, and we stare at the sky, the ground, the passing cars—anything but the competition. You don’t want to get too friendly with the people you’re trying to defeat, and you certainly don’t want to see yourself reflected in the nervous sweat on their noses.

Our cheap clothes (tags still tucked inside so we can return them after the interviews) clash stunningly with the grand old buildings on State Street. But I know those marble columns are just a façade, and on the inside it’s all fluorescent lights and ugly carpet and desperate people scrambling to make a living. Oh, to be one of the miserable, overworked few. It’s better than being one of the miserable, unemployed masses. 

I saw all these people waiting for the career fair when I was on my way to physical therapy the other day, and remembering that so many people needed work made me sad. The line was GIANT. It was mostly younger people, but there were some older people, too, with their shabby briefcases and worn work clothes. Depressing. I'm really lucky to have a nice job with benefits and all that. Sometimes I almost feel like I'm betraying my generation, though, by not struggling along with them. Which is ridiculous, of course, because pretty much any unemployed person would take my job if they could. I guess I just feel unfairly lucky, or something. I don't know what I did to deserve it more than anyone else. Or rather, I don't think I do deserve it more than anyone else.

Anyway, in happier employment news my lovely lovely Leta is visiting Chicago right now because she has a job interview! Everyone needs to send happy thoughts her way.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bill & Nik

Seen waiting for the Brown Line to Kimball at about 8:30 a.m. 

“Daddy, Mrs. Morris says I spell my name weird.”

“What do you mean?”

“Mrs. Morris says that usually people spell it N-I-C-K and that N-I-K is weird.”

“Mrs. Morris is an idiot.”

“Mrs. Morris says that calling people names is mean, Daddy.”

“She’s right. But your name isn’t weird at all. We named you after one of the greatest scientists and inventors of all time, Nikola Tesla. Remember last year, when I took you to the Griffith Observatory in L.A., and we saw that room full of lightning? That was a tesla coil; he invented it.”

“Yeah, I remember. But we don’t learn about him in school. Why didn’t you name me after the scientists we learn about in school?”

“And what scientists are those?”

“Um…I dunno. Like that guy who went to those islands, and he figured out that people come from monkeys.”

“Do you mean Charles Darwin?”

“Yeah! Him.”

“Okay, first of all, it sounds like you should pay a little more attention in class. Second, Charles is an ugly name. Nikola is a badass name.”

“Oh! I thought of another one. What about the lightbulb guy? Thomas Edison.”

“Nik, please don’t speak that awful name in front of me again. Thomas Edison was a horrible man who was threatened by Nikola Tesla’s genius and did everything he could to ruin his life. Thomas Edison was an asshole.”

“Dad! Name calling is mean!”

“Normally I’d agree with you, but Edison totally deserves it.”

“Mommy named her new cat Edison.”

“She would do that.”

“Can we get a cat?”

“I hate cats.”

“Did you and Mommy get divorced because you hate cats and she likes cats?”

“No.”

“Did you and Mommy get divorced because she likes Thomas Edison and you hate him?”

“No, but in retrospect that’s a pretty good reason. Don’t tell her I said that.” 

Oh man. I <3 Nikola Tesla. I don't know why I decided to name this kid after him. I just saw this cute little boy with big glasses and his cute dad with big glasses and I thought to myself, "SCIENCE!" Anyway, here are my favorite Tesla-related links on the internet: this Hark! A Vagrant comic, this Hark! a Vagrant comic, The Oatmeal's "Why Nikola Tesla was the Greatest Geek Who Ever Lived," and finally, Drunk History vol. 6, featuring John C. Reilly as Tesla and Crispin Glover as Edison. Tesla is the electric Jesus.

This weekend was really fun and crazy. My friend Catherine from high school came to visit, and we did many things. Friday night was Improv Shakespeare, then Delilah's, and then we ran into this late-night drunken jam session playing Stray Cats on the way home. Turns out I knew one of the drunken musicians, but I had not seen him for many years. So the next night we went back to Delilah's with a bunch of other people, and he came, too. Then we had a party on my deck until 3 a.m. Yesterday was the Pride parade; I got sunburned, and I received many beads, and I went dancing to Lady Gaga with my friends at 6 p.m. A busy and fun weekend.

Tonight my sister's band Bittersweet Drive is playing the Elbo Room. Be there, people. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ally

Seen getting off the Brown Line to Kimball at Fullerton at about 8:30 a.m. 

She bought it in the children’s department of Target. Ally’s baby-sitting charge, a 7-year-old girl, squealed at the sight of it.

“Lookit Ally! It’s a sparkly belt! It’s good because Mommy doesn’t let me dress like a princess usually, but if I wore this then I’d feel like a secret princess, because of the glitter. Can I get it?”

Ally held the cheap, thin piece of plastic in her hands for a moment. It was beautiful. “Sure, sweetie. And you know what? I’m going to get one, too, so we’ll match! We’ll be twin secret princesses.”

Now Ally wears the belt low around where her hips should be, on top of black skinny jeans that stick close to her fragile thighs. Ally knows that the life of a princess isn’t easy—you’re always in the limelight, you can’t go anywhere alone, your personal life is everyone’s business. You always have to be on your best behavior. No matter what, you have to control yourself.

Ally’s sparkly belt represents that control—the control over what she puts in her body, the control over her appearance. It’s hard work, and she feels accomplished every time she buckles it. When she wears the belt, Ally truly does feel like a secret princess. 

I wasn't sure about writing this story--it seems weird to assign a disease to someone who may or may not actually have that disease. On the other hand, I've written about murderers I've seen on the L who I'M SURE are not actually murderers, so I guess an eating disorder is fair game. For the record, I think you should love your body, no matter what size you are, big or small. 

Happy news: JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound are playing in Millennium Park tonight FOR FREE! Show's at 7:30. I'm going with my friend Gena. You should come, too. Oh, Chicago in the Summer. You are a beautiful place.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Regina & Song

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:45 a.m. 

Regina’s scrubs are pressed and purple, fresh for another day. She plays on her phone to distract herself. She tries not to see her reflection in the screen—a tired, eroded face. Her eyes have yellowed from witnessing death. She tries not to look at her hands, tries to forget the blood in which they’ve bathed. No matter how many lives she saves, it will never be enough.

Song’s scrubs are not quite so neatly pressed as Regina’s, but he’s too young to need that sort of comfort. He sleeps through the train ride, hugging his bag to his chest. He dreams, but he will remember nothing when he wakes up. As his head tilts forward, his glasses slip down his nose. The blood has not yet soaked into his bones. The trauma and stress haven’t scrawled all over his skin. Regina is jealous. 

Sorry I didn't write yesterday. I was working from home. We have so many people staying at our house right now! Two of my sister's British friends are here, and we have a couchsurfer from Japan staying. Then Bethany and Catherine, my friends from high school, might come over the weekend. It never ends! In a good way. Party on. 

Trivia tonight at Burwood Tap. We shall dominate. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Melissa

A guest post from my lovely friend Leta! She saw Melissa browsing the shelves at her place of employment... 

Even on a woman thirty years younger, Melissa's makeup would have been garish.  On Melissa, closer to seventy than to fifty, perusing the store with her two grandchildren, it was tasteless.  Blue eyeshadow has been troweled onto her eyelids, while a wide swath of eyeliner tries to conceal the sparseness of her lashes.  The blush, three shades too red, doesn't cover up the sun damage on her face, while the lipstick, two shades too pink, can't plump the narrow lines of her lips.

Melissa's hair sometimes fools people.  It retains its youthful color, sways and bounces the same way it did when she was eighteen.  But her body has let her down.  The rhinestones on the back pockets of her jeans only highlight how the curves of her hips have lost their battle with gravity.  The low scoop of her top reveals skin that has a delicate paper thinness, instead of the glowing plumpness that used to make men wolf whistle out their cars when she walked to the lake in her bikini.  Melissa doesn't like looking at her hands, though.  They aren't her hands.  They are the uncertain, lined, wasted hands of her grandmother.

But her deep tan, her blond highlights, her pushup bra, her expensive manicures help her forget all of that.  She walks confidently, and in her head she is still the firm and heartbreaking teenager, the bombshell twenty-something, the sexy mom that made other moms at the PTA meetings jealous. 

Leta's kind of saving my butt here. Our couchsurfers were AWESOME, which means that I basically haven't slept lately. I was too wiped out to write this morning, but then I remembered she had sent me this story a while back, and all was well. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Samson

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

Samson doesn’t usually feel his age, but his fingers seem stiff and heavy as he types the text message: “See you soon.” When did his hands get so wrinkled?

One of his coworkers, Samantha, is teaching him how to text. They send messages back and forth all day, and even at night sometimes. At first had trouble with it. The autocorrect infuriated him, and he could never remember how to find the punctuation marks or the numbers. But Samantha was always patient with him, and it paid off. He’s a lot better now. Faster, too.

Samantha’s not like other women her age, in Samson’s opinion. She’s twenty-something, but she doesn’t write any of those obnoxious abbreviated texts with acronyms that Samson can’t understand. She believes in grammar, she believes in syntax, she believes in punctuation. At the office, Samantha always smiles at him and says hello. They talk about their lives. Samantha tells him about her boyfriend and her dog and their new apartment. Samson tells her about his wife and what his kids are learning at school. More about the kids, obviously.

Samson thinks he might be in love with Samantha, but that’s okay. At his age, he’s learned to be content with what he has. He has a wife, and kids, and a home, and now he has text messages from Samantha. He never deletes them. 

I watched Lost in Translation last night with my roommate, and I think that inspired this story a lot. I also went to see Moonrise Kingdom last night with my friend Felipe. It was wonderful! Such a sweet story, and a perfect Summer movie. Wes Anderson's films are always good. I highly recommend it.

Our couchsurfers from San Francisco arrived last night! And you know what that means. Weekend adventures await...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kevin

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:45 a.m. 

Kevin watches the girl putting on her make-up, watches her transform from something tired and ugly and beneath his notice into something better. Kevin pulls his graying hair in frustration and wonders why girls always have to trick him by slathering that shit all over their faces. That’s what it is. It’s shit, and it’s a lie, and it makes him like girls under false pretenses. Kevin thinks they do it just to spite him. Girls are always doing things just to spite Kevin. Like they say that personality is more important than looks, but they won’t look at Kevin because he wears his khakis too high and he keeps his polo shirts neatly ironed. Make-up is shit, and a lie, and so are girls. 

Sorry I didn't write yesterday. I was working from home. And then later I was getting drunk with my Dad for Father's Day at Delilah's. Sure, it's not the normal way to celebrate, but it was fun. You should try it sometime.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Inventor

Seen on the Red Line to 95th at about 11:45 a.m., June 10th, 2012 

His shoulders are blue, blue from the chemicals that drip drip down from his machine. His hair is white, white from stress, but white also from the corrosive exhaust that bursts and billows from his machine. His glasses are orange, orange by special design, orange because the color helps him to see even the tiniest flaws in his machine. His machine is metal, meticulously built. It is mighty, magnificently developed. It moves, it motions to you in a way that seems almost magic. 

Saw this crazy looking guy on the way to Printer's Row Lit Fest. Thought he was definitely story-worthy. The festival was really fun! Talked to lots of great people at McSweeney's, Drag City, Featherproof Books, Midwestern Gothic, the Poetry Foundation, and more. Definitely check all those lovely publishers/journals/organizations out. And I only bought three books! That is some serious self-control, my friends.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Mad Hatters

Seen on the Brown Line to the Loop at about 10:20 p.m., June 7th, 2012 

There is a poem that the little children of Chicago recite to keep time while jumping rope:

“Afraid you should be
Of the Mad Hatters three
That prowl around the city.
They murder and steal
And they don’t ever feel
Any sense of pity”

A rhyme has never been so awfully accurate.

Zara is a tall, proud woman with sharp features. Her brown fedora has only one distinguishing mark: a scarlet feather that flies as high as her bloody ambitions. Ezekiel wears the cap of a Civil War soldier, for he delights in the idea of turning brother against brother. He is a master manipulator, a connoisseur of betrayal. Zadie is a classic femme fatale, with a blue velvet fascinator hugging her dark hair and a short piece of netting flirtatiously covering one eye. She has tempted countless men and women straight into their own destruction.

Whenever the three Mad Hatters are alone, they laugh at CAPES. “Who needs a ridiculous costume,” they say, “when a simple hat will do?” 

More CAPES villains! You're welcome, Leta. 



So busy! Happy hour with coworkers later at Hopleaf. Prometheus tonight. Gogo dancing tomorrow. Printer's Row Lit Fest on Sunday. Hope you have equally fun plans! 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Nadine

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:45 a.m. 

Nadine keeps her eyes shut not because she’s sleepy, but because the sun stings them so much. She likes the way it feels on her skin, though. The warmth helps her forget about the cool, dark cavity where her heart should be. Her nose is hard and strong, sharpened by the cruel deeds she commits daily. Exhaustion and even boredom have started to plough their way across her forehead. She purses her lips with dissatisfaction, then raises a napkin to cover the ugly expression. At moments like these she wishes she could feel a bit more human. 

I like how sinister my story turned out today, even though I suspect her cruel deeds are nothing more than telemarketing, or something like that. 

Who's excited for Printer's Row Lit Fest this weekend! You know I am. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Nell

Seen at the Fullerton Station waiting for the Brown Line to the Loop at about 8:30 a.m. 

The last time she went to visit her family in Kenosha, Nell packed all the battered paperback books she’d read in elementary school into a cardboard box.

“Oh, are you going to give all those to the library?” her mother asked. “That’d be a nice thing to do.”

“Nope, I’m taking them back to the apartment.”

“But why? You haven’t read them in years, and you’re certainly too old to read them now.”

“The nineties are back in a big way, Mom, and I’m going to do it better than anyone else.”

The box now sits in the corner of Nell’s cramped bedroom. Every day she selects a book and tries to dress like one of the characters on the cover. This morning, for instance, she pulled out one of The Baby-Sitters Club series. The drawing of Dawn caught her eye immediately. As she unfolded the dog-eared pages and attempted to straighten its warped spine, Nell pondered how best to capture that breezy California look. (She’d actually always preferred the California Diaries spinoff series to The Baby-Sitters Club anyway.)  Finally, she grabbed a pair of Day-Glo orange pants and a faded jean jacket. She brushed out her blonde hair, and when she looked at herself in the mirror, Nell saw Dawn Schafer looking back out at her.

So far nobody has noticed her efforts, or at least nobody has ever said anything. But Nell has faith that there are other bookworm-children-turned-fashionistas out there like her. One day someone will look at her, smile, and compliment her for looking so Scholastic Book Fair chic. 

That's right, I'm bringing it all the way back to my childhood today. You know you loved the Scholastic Book Fair. Although, personally, I preferred the BSC Mysteries to the regular Baby-Sitters Club books. What were some of your favorite childhood series?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Abe

Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 7:40 a.m. 

“Why’s the train so crowded?” Abe asks the girl with the long blonde hair. She hasn’t put her headphones in yet, so he doesn’t feel too rude.

“The 7:30 train didn’t show up. So this is like two trains.”

“Oh, I was a little worried I woke up late and didn’t notice or something.”

She smiles. “Well, hopefully it’ll run express to Davis.”

“Yeah.”

Quite frankly, Abe doesn’t care if it runs express to Davis. And he’s well aware he didn’t wake up late. The thing is, he’s worried about his friend Emmi. She texted him from the 7:30 train. Their conversation is still on his phone.

Emmi: I’m on the train. Where you at?

Abe: Running late. See u at work

Emmi: k

He hadn’t heard anything else. If the 7:30 train never came, what train is Emmi on? Where is she going? Not to the office, certainly. What if there was a gruesome accident? He checks twitter. Nothing. What if the train rumbled right through some invisible barrier into another dimension? Abe hopes that she ends up in a happy place, where her pretty smile will come out a lot. He texts her one last time, but his rolling stomach tells him he won’t hear back. 

Ok, I can't write long. Busy day. Busy busy day. So much stuff. So little time. DWChitown tonight, though, so that's awesome. Looking forward to it. Until tomorrow!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Casey, Rochelle, Marisa, & Gemma

Seen waiting at the Fullerton station for the Brown Line to Kimball at about 8:25 a.m. 

None of them spoke, but they were easily the loudest people on the platform. While everyone else stood still, eyes glazed over with lack of sleep, their hands were flying. Palms flipped in and out, wrists twisted, arms swooped, fingers curled. They conversed in an animated language far more vivid than the written word, and far bolder than the spoken word.

Everyone who noticed them tried to understand what they were talking about, but only bits and pieces were clear. A wave hello, a sarcastic roll of the eyes. One of them carried a canvas, so perhaps they were discussing art. The group didn’t mind the staring. They didn’t have to worry about eavesdropping—their gestures were too quick, too clever for the average person. Furthermore, they understood that most people were jealous. In a world full of noise but lacking in meaningful conversation, in a world where even the closest of friends spend most of their time communicating via text message or Facebook, these women possessed something rare—a true connection. 

Back to posts about people I see on the CTA. It was fun writing other things last week, though! I'll have to have another challenge like that sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Oh man, I had a fun weekend that was also productive. Such an anomaly! I had my first gogo gig of the season with Fortunate Sons. Here's a photo:

My partner in crime is also named Becki, but with an i. So we are Becky Squared. Becki Squared? I don't know. Anyway, it was great to get back out there.

Yesterday I finished Chapter 5 of my novel. I now have over 20,000 words written! Definitely the longest thing I have ever written in my life. Which is awesome. Kind of scary. More awesome, though. 

Last night I went to see my sister's folk band Bittersweet Drive play Subterranean. Check out a video I took of them here. "Duet" is my favorite song of theirs. So beautiful.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Keith; Le Déluge

Happy June! Time for the final two stories from my Memorial Day Challenge! I asked you to retweet PTKY or share it on Facebook, and in exchange I'd write a story about whatever your heart desired. Windy City Soul Club (the finest rare soul dance party in the world) asked for a story about someone that I saw at WCSC last Saturday. Here's a piece about someone I've named Keith:  

Keith can’t dance, but he sure likes to watch women who can. On this particular Saturday evening he finds himself at The Empty Bottle with a cold PBR and a dance floor boiling with bodies. He gazes at full hips swerving up and down to the heavy rhythm of the soul music. He sees the hems of their skirts ripple along with the soft crackle of the vinyl records.

He loves how these women don’t seem to give a damn about their appearance. The room is fever-hot and everyone is sticky with sweat; nevertheless, they lift their arms up high, and they don’t wipe the perspiration away as it drops from their foreheads and rolls into their cleavage. Make-up smears, fat jiggles. It’s a gorgeous sight.

Keith stays until a hand presses on his shoulder, and flushed lips whisper in his ear: “Wanna dance?”

He breaks away from her, pushes past the crowd. He likes to look. He’s afraid to touch, afraid to move.  

Finally, my lovely friend Leta is probably the biggest fan on the planet of CAPES, the Chicago superhero league that I invented. (Click the "CAPES" tag below to read the rest of the stories.) She demanded a story about a supervillain that fights against CAPES. I came up with one called "Le Déluge" (Seen on the Purple Line to Linden at about 8:35 a.m., May 31st, 2012):  

Does it look like I cower, with my head tucked down and my eyes lingering only on my lap? Do my rosy cheeks seem mild and obliging? Good. That’s what I want you to think. I don’t want any of you to see it coming.

The lines on my shirt are like the lines of my influence, except my influence is far more deeply tangled and widespread. One of these days I’ll push all that power in a grim direction. I’ll start small. A mugging-at-gunpoint. The murder of a child. But soon the crimes will gather speed and increase in frequency, until everything around you is chaos and destruction and you suffocate with horror.

This city ends when I say it ends, and not even CAPES can stop me. 

And here is the badass CAPES logo that Leta designed: 


 Fan art is awesome. 

In other news, my sister's folk band Bittersweet Drive is playing Subterranean on Sunday night! You should come. It'll be great. Also, my gogo alter-ego Blondie Saint-Shimmy is dancing with The Fortunate Sons (the world's greatest CCR tribute band) on Saturday at Orland Days! You should come to that, too. We will choogle all night long...