January 19, 2004

Farewell Fannie May

Fannie Mayis closing her doors. Have you ever tasted a Trinidad? If not, then you missed out on an amazing delicacy that was…a silky, sensuous, cholately truffled center huddled in cloak of toasted coconut and white chocolate. My first time? Joey B. made me eat one. “A sure cure for heartaches and hangovers” he said. That was before Chicago, where Trindads were plentiful as well as Garretts popcorn and State street, that great street. But I’m also thinking of “Trinidad, and the town Honolulu and the big Mississippi and the lake Titcaca. The Popocatepetl is not in Canada, rather in Mexico, Mexico, Mexico”… I never could trill my r’s. The "Geographical Fugue" is much too hard for an average handful of eighth graders to learn. Oh sure, it’s deceptively simple until you get so far into it that you feel you can’t scrap it. Why can’t geography teachers understand music? Music teachers, the most misunderstood persons in the faculty lounge.

Which brings me back to Chicago. I wouldn’t want to live there again, because I never realized how many handguns were (and still are) being toted around the good old U.S. of A until I didn’t live there any more. I chased a thief out of the building where I had my first job. The Illinois Institute of Technology has a few buildings designed by Mies Van Der Rohe. I chased him out of Roseanne’s office, down the hall, down the stairs and out the door. And what if he had been ‘packing heat’? It never occurred to me until someone else told me how stupid I had been, but at that point I’d only been living in Chicago a few months. By the time I left, I knew better. I learned that a person needs to be smart, hard, and always ‘on’ 100% of the time. (even in her own home, her own bed, her sweet tender midwestern heart) I didn’t want to do it any more, didn’t have enough money to live in a part of the city where it wouldn’t matter, couldn’t tell the lies from just wanting to be held. (I ain’t Oprah, but I’ve been on her show. She ‘played’ me on T.V.)

There are things I miss about Chicago. Cubs games. Living four blocks from Wrigley field in an overpriced apartment where I could tuck my son into bed on warm summer nights to the sound of the 7th inning stretch and Harry Carey singing ‘take me out to the ball game’. After Harry died, it wasn’t the same. Eddie Vedder came and sang it once. My old apartment has been turned into condos. I miss The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Pizza Company. Park on the little side street, Orleans, off of Clark and Webster. They don’t take anything but cash. There’s no special orders, no deviations from the menu, for that would be blasphemous to the experience of the hole-in-the-ground, 1920’s gangster feel of the place, its dark heavy paneling and high-backed booths, and the guy who can tell you how long you’ll have to wait by sizing you up. I never had to wait more than 15 minutes for a mighty fine seat and the oh-my-God Mediterranean bread. Do you know about the dressings?

Chicago also makes me think of…first, always thinking things were better than they were and then later, always wishing things were better than they were. Reading Toni morrison and dreaming of being that strong. Strong enough to lay my heart all over the page. What a wreck I was when I left, literally and figuratively. But isn’t that what has to happen to appreciate L-O-V-E? in all its forms and disguises? I should read Ms. Morrison’s latest and the growing stack of fiction that sits next to my bed, ready to topple before I have my revisions finished. Right next to the pile of books I half read and then pushed aside for the dust bunnies.

Maybe this is all a humble, terrifying tribute to Dave Eggers and his Heart Breaking Work, McSweeney's et al. Tell me reader, are you distracted by the superfluous flow or is the picture not entirely there unless every thought, dream, and piss of subtext is scattered on the page?

One last thing: Toni Morrison will be featured on the next Hot Type” with Evan Solomon. (tuesday, January 20) You can bet I’ll be sitting at home, dreaming of living in a world without guns and the someday when I’m being interviewed by Mr. Solomon’s smirky, biblio-rhapsodic face.

January 02, 2004

Almanacs and Resolutions

One of the long standing holiday traditions in my family has been getting a copy of The Old Farmer's Almanac in our stockings. It was a rite of passage to see the hint of goldenrod yellow poking out the top of my sock on Christmas morning. (I was probably twelve or thirteen when I first received my own personal copy.)

Even now I have several year’s worth tucked on a shelf in my kitchen and a few stray editions on a small table in the bathroom. I faithfully circle the dates of the full moons, lunar and solar eclipses as well as any other astronomical events for the year. I can spend hours reading them and I learn something new every time I flip through one…the recipe for the world’s best cheese cake, how to hypnotize a lobster, whether or not George Washington cut down a cherry tree, how to feed chickadees out of my hand and the current number of covered bridges in North America.

One thing I haven’t learned from my well-worn and personally annotated pages of these almanacs is how to be a terrorist. Evidently the FBI knows something I don’t about the who's who of almanac readers. (I suppose that’s their job…knowing things that most people don’t.)

Tuesday night, in a New Year’s Eve phone call to my dad, he apologized for being late in getting my 2004 edition to me. I was tired and giddy enough that I almost told him not to send it. “Whatever you do Dad, don’t write me a little note in it, don’t circle everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries on the calendar, and don’t get on a plane with one!”

Ah well, the madness isn't contained to just the US. Landed Immigrants AND permanent residents must now have an official spiffy new ID card if they want to get back into Canada after traveling abroad. Happy holidays to all you hopeful Canadian citizens who were stranded in airports the past few days. Do you think they were sent a letter informing them that they needed the card in the first place? nope.

My Writers’ Resolutions for 2004

Finish the revisions to my novel!
Find a ritual or practice that brings on the writing ‘flow’ in a more efficient manner.
Organize my mailing lists…email and snail mail.
Think ahead, plan ahead, think big!
Research new ideas
Read Read Read
Write Write Write
oh yeah, get me one of them spiffy new ID cards.