Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ghost of Christmases Past

Don't let her size fool you; she is evil.
This week sibling and I are back in Cleveland, celebrating the holiday with our family. The semi-annual pilgrimage to my old bedroom provides a good excuse to rifle through the closets and become reacquainted with the ephemera of childhood. My mother has painstakingly wrapped and stored most of these things in the decade since I left home, but that never stops me from tearing into boxes of tchotchkes. During this year's digging, lurking under a box containing old dance shoes, yearbooks, MASH notes, and The Unauthorized Biography of Jonathan Taylor Thomas, I found her.

Elizabeth. We meet again.

Elizabeth was the she-devil doll that haunted the dreams of my most impressionable years. My parents brought her back from a U.K. vacation when I was a toddler. I'm sure she cost a pretty shilling and getting her delicate porcelain back to the States in one piece was a challenge. Oh, how life could have been different had she shattered over the Atlantic.

No such luck. Proud of their gift, my mom and dad put Elizabeth in a place of honor atop a tall bureau in my bedroom ... where she proceeded to terrorize me for years to come. At night, lady Elizabeth cast a haunting silhouette against the wall, forcing me to sleep facing the opposite wall to calm my panic. Since she was perched too high for my smaller self to reach (and destroy), the S.W.A.T. team was eventually called in each night. At bedtime Dad would place a hand towel over Elizabeth's glass display dome, shielding her eerie shadow from view. That is both the mark of a very patient father and a cruel one ...

Recently as I was telling this story, a friend asked, "Why didn't your parents just put her away if you were scared?" Huh. Why not indeed?! I'd never asked myself that question before. Today my mom insists that they "didn't think it was that big of a deal", but I'm sure that the low-grade psychological warfare was tantalizing to exhausted parents of two young kids. "Remember when you threw that tantrum at the hairdresser's, Young Amy? Payback's a bitch. And by bitch I mean this creepy doll."

And stay she did. My family moved when I was five and like the Chucky doll she was, Elizabeth reappeared on the bureau in my new room. It took a couple more years until my mom finally retired Elizabeth to the cedar chest, probably because she was tired of folding hand towels every morning. (By "she" I meant my mom, but I would not be entirely surprised if Elizabeth herself came alive, lifted the dome aside, folded the towel, climbed down to stare coldly at my sleeping form, and then retreated to her lair at dawn.)

Elizabeth was gone but the damage was done; terror of nighttime remained. As the years went by, Bloody Mary (gah!), It, and every plot line of Are You Afraid of the Dark? taunted my overactive imagination. I'm the ultimate scary story wuss. Bloody Mary was so traumatizing that, even approaching 30, I still rush to turn the lights on in the bathroom at night lest she jump from the mirror and hatchet me, or whatever it was that she was supposed to do.

I was so anti-mirrors at night that I refused to have one in or near my bedroom, which lead to my habit of climbing the ledge of the bathroom tub to get a look at my outfits in the morning, which finally lead to a multi-fractured nose ... but that's a post for another day.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Holiday Gift to You: Buttersweet Cookie Recipe

Oh yeah.
This evening a friend is hostessing a retro-themed Christmas potluck: Jell-o molds, cheese balls, and all. What to bring? It's the perfect excuse to trot out my grandma's buttersweet cookie recipe.

The secret to this recipe is no secret, use real everything, no "healthier substitutes". My Grandma Peters did not cook often, but when she did her desserts were amazing because she had no qualms about fat or calories. These little guys are rich and filling, though always a hit. I've only made the recipe twice, but on my first attempt a couple of years ago, they blew away the competition at my office cookie contest. Never underestimate the power of butter, sugar, more butter and sugar, coconut, nuts, cream cheese, and chocolate in one bite. Om, nom nom. 

My gift to you readers this Christmas is her old recipe, modified to modern proportions. If you do give it a go, let me know how they turn out. :) On a sidenote, I'm also bringing deviled eggs to the party this evening, so I hope there is a defibrillator on the premises.

"Read more" for recipe.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Law & Order: SVU (Salon Victims Unit)

"In the criminal justice system, the people are
represented by two separate yet equally
important groups..."
Having officially made the commitment to streaming only Netflix I have been watching A LOT of Law & Order recently. Between eight available seasons of the original show and 12 of the Special Victim's Unit spinoff, that's roughly 320 hours of procedural drama at my fingertips and man do I love it. So much so, that I decided to start at the beginning ... to go back to the season that started it all, way back in 1990. These early episodes don't seem to pop up in syndication very often. My guess is that's because watching them is too much like opening a time capsule.

In 1990, my TV lineup got about as hardcore as forest gnomes on foxes, but over in the New York featured on Law & Order, weird $#** was going down. It was a place where cops used payphones and typewriters, nurses actually wore those little hats and white dresses, Times Square was still home to prostitutes, and sexism/racism/homophobia had yet to be more fully edited out of TV scripts. And in "ripped from the headlines" fashion, the first season is absolutely riddled with plots concerning crack and AIDS. In the first six episodes alone, those two topics came up six times combined. YIKES.

But ... let's put all those serious 20-year-old signifiers aside. Far and away the most laughably dated thing about the first season was THE HAIR. Oh my goodness, you guys. Get a load of these head cases:

The People vs. Male with Curly Bangs
Charges: Your honor, Mr. Curly Bangs is charged with ocular assault and his partner, Ms. Mushroom Head, is charged with aiding & abetting. In no time or place was a front sprout of permed and dyed bangs an appropriate hair style.
Verdict: Guilty on all charges. Sentenced to 7 years in Vidal Sassoon Penitentiary, no chance of parole.

The People vs. Cynthia Nixon in Feathered Mullet 
Charge: Your honor, Ms. Nixon is charged with trafficking & distribution of illegal hairstyles. Every woman at her NYC dance studio has been coerced into participating in her crime.
Verdict: Not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. Then again, those coiffures she sported as Miranda were mostly heinous. Released on probation.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Escape to Nature, and escaping the Escape to Nature

New Smyrna in a nutshell: do not kill the wildlife
with your four wheel drive.
After a city-locked summer, Nature was calling to this urban-dweller. Enough of city dangers. I fled Chicago this past weekend with my trusty peer Nicole, in the name of seeing our friend get married in Florida, but also to capture a Corona commercial beach moment. Atlantic coast, embrace our paleness!

[History nerd alert] As we passed a forest of scrub pines and palms on the drive to the shore, I admitted to Nicole that sometimes I try to imagine American places as the first explorers might have encountered them, centuries ago. When we literally pulled up to the ocean at New Smyrna Beach, Nicole quipped, "Well, if the explorers landed here they'd find a traditional highway."

New Smyrna Beach attracts a specific sort of beach-goer. Namely, one who doesn't want to leave his or her car. Smack next to the waves, opposite a worse-for-the-wear row of beachfront condos, is a two lane road. Neither Nicole nor I had ever seen or heard of such a thing, but man, was it eye-opening. We declined to drive our rented convertible on the sand, but took to the shore on foot to get a closer look at the spectacle.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Martha Stewart, Eat Your Heart Out

Or, how to make a cake without cake ingredients.
What is that, poppyseed? Oh, stale coffee crystals?
Interesting choice.
I’ve learned there is a big difference between meanings when people say, “There’s no food in the house! We need to get groceries.” When my mother says it, it really means, “We’re out of fresh fruit and only have three dozen eggs on hand.” Chances are her pantry could still feed a football team. When I say it, it’s closer to, “Go grab a plateful of grass from the lawn, because there is not a scrap of edible food within these walls.”

Coincidentally at these pathetic moments, I often have an urge for cake. However, if I’m too lazy to leave the house for general fridge restocking, I’m not leaving the premises just for one item. These urges have yielded a creative batch of desserts involving the Google search “cake recipe no milk butter eggs”. That’s just vegan, right? Sure, but neither do I have flax, soy, margarine, or any substitute item that could make something normal.

I’d like to put in a disclaimer here that, occasional laziness aside, I love to cook and get a rush from making a successful meal. When I’m expecting guests, the menu is carefully thought out and prepared. Something might even be presented in a ramekin (look it up!). And I make a strong effort even when it’s just me, because, duh, I like eating delicious food. However, you’d never know I have skill in the kitchen if you tasted the wrecks I’ve produced in desperation. These baking adventures have been my private shame, until now:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Coming soon to TLC: Irish Dance Wars and/or Moms

Dance the night away, live your life and
stay young on the floor.
You read it here first; the next 'great' reality TV series from TLC or Lifetime will be a reality show about Irish step dance competitions. Possible titles: My Big Fat Irish Dance Off or Next Top Step Dancer or Step Up 4: Gettin' Jiggy With It (other suggestions go in the comments section).

In my last post I mentioned that I was recently in Kansas City, MO; coinciding with that fair city's Irish fest. Included in the lineup of events was a showing of a documentary called Jig, about girls and boys of all ages preparing to compete in the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. [This reviewer says, two thumbs up!]

Wow, guys. The TV episodes would write themselves. Step dancing has all the right elements: crazy wigs & dresses, intense stage moms, barely suppressed rivalries, abrasive choreographers, and some really charming accents. On top of that, it looks like a highly difficult activity. Ratings gold.

Jig follows the stories of a variety of kids from a variety of backgrounds, but for my purposes I'll stick with the main rivalry: two ten-year-old girls, one from Northern Ireland and the other from New Jersey. Through their young eyes we learn several things:

1) A competition is properly called a feis (pronounced like "fresh" without the "r").
2) If you want to look your best, you've got to be tricked out in very expensive curly wigs and custom dresses.
3) If you're good you'll dance a first round in hard shoes, a second in soft, and a solo showcase piece again in hard shoes.
4) In the first two rounds you and another dancer compete at the same time on the same stage, each doing different dances. Remember this one for later.
5) Your family will spend all of its money (ALL of it) on your dancing expenses.
6) Irish, redheaded kids are sassy and fun. American kids act like the spoiled, entitled brats we are.

Lucky me, I was able to see a feis firsthand...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When You Care Enough to Tour the Very Best

This past Labor Day, I took a break from my laboring to visit Kansas City, MO and some Grade A friends and creative persons, Monica and Josh. Monica has been experiencing city dangers with me since we were roommates in Boston; her hyper-talented husband Josh currently illustrates for Hallmark. 

When Monica mentioned that Josh could give us a tour of said Gold Crown company, I was looking forward to it, but sort of imagined it'd be a tour along the lines of what I'd provide at my own office... Here's my cube. There's our overstuffed office fridge. Take a free candy from the communal bowl. Head to the elevators.

Oh MY was I wrong. In fact, Hallmark HQ is a designer's paradise. Come along with me on a tour of this magical place.

I'm going to rebuild Kansas City using only
my manly, manly arms.
11:00 A.M. Monica and I kicked off our own tour at the official Hallmark Visitors Center. Highlights included a collection of company Christmas trees, an automatic bow machine, and a free recordable storybook upon exit (just the beginning of my swag-fest). I think my favorite bit was the original Norman Rockwell portrait of Mr. Hall in 1951, rolling up his sleeves to help KC after a devastating flood. Umm, Mr. Hall was a fox! And I'm sure he'd hate that I sexualized Hallmark.

11:30 A.M. All that manliness makes a girl hungry. Thankfully, Josh collected us at this point and escorted us through a delightfully swank, late '60s-style lobby to an even more Mad Men-esque company dining room. Despite the vintage wood-paneling and chandelier fixtures, Hallmark's cafeteria serves up a thoroughly modern, healthy smorgasbord. Here you can make your sandwich next to famous Keepsake ornament designers. I'll admit that I am far from an ornament aficionado, but Josh assured me that there are cliques of people in this world that would have put a Spork in my back to be in that cafeteria line. I think I might be a little afraid to meet them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthquake Playlist!

Never thought an earthquake would be one of the dangers, but hello! Got one in DC today and it made for an exciting afternoon, i.e., I spent my afternoon making a playlist for the quake. The New Yorker did this too, but theirs is, like everything they do, just high-brow enough to be inaccessible.

"Shake Ya Ass" 

"Twist and Shout"
The Beatles

“Shake it Like a Salt Shaker”
Ying Yang Twins

“Like a Rolling Stone”
Bob Dylan

“You Shook Me All Night Long”

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Once and Future Netflix Addiction

I don’t know how or why movies seem to be made in pairs. Antz and A Bug’s Life, Mission to Mars and Red Planet. Friends With Benefits and that other one with Natalie Portman. It happens with TV shows, too, though mostly ones about vampires.

Oh wow, hands to ourselves, please.

I have been a fan of the BBC’s Merlin ever since I started stealing it from YouTube two years ago. Then recently, I went to cancel Netflix, but ended up watching The Sorcerer’s Apprentice instead (shut up), and at the bottom of the screen, the Netflix Fairy recommended I watch Camelot by the Starz network. British accents? Premium subscription cable show? TV-MA? All the right moves, Camelot.  It’s actually a heinous show, yet somehow I watched every minute of it. Odd.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Happy Birthday, City Dangers!

Andrew and I started this blog a year plus one week ago and amazingly we've coughed up 30 posts. Granted, they aren't smoothly distributed through 12 months, but I'm impressed our pedestrian lifestyles are still producing enough nonsense for entries. We're only medium boring. Yea! [I'm dragging you down with me, bro!]

That's very generous of you, Amy, but really, I think I'm a little bit more than medium boring. My best idea for a blog post in the five months (which, mercifully, has gone unwritten) was to recount my first tick bite. Also, there was the time I cheated on City Dangers for a little while with a lazy blog photo blog, which I created because I thought I had some interesting camera phone pictures.  Let's reflect on that: "interesting camera phone pictures".  

Friday, July 29, 2011

Weekend Roundup: Wait for iiiiiit...

First, an addendum to the last post about silly neighborhood signs. By taking only a slightly different walk last night I realized I missed THIS:
Literally a foot doctor.
(toe)Nailed it! What a way to end the week! AnkleNFoot Center, give me a call on my 24 hour phone service. I can redesign that poster for you.

And now for some international dangers...

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Saw the Sign

My evening power walk route provides me with cardio training and mental relaxation. It also offers up entertainment of a different kind: amusing store signs. I finally remembered to take my camera this soupy, humid weekend and here is a brief collection.

Mile 1: Crimes Against Puns/Design/French
Exalonce/Exsalonce Salon & Spa
Gross! Backtracking on my earlier statement, this sign is more cringe-worthy than amusing. I assumed for months that this place was named "Exalonce" and simply hated it for a dumb misspelling. Then Google taught me that it is actually "Exsalonce"... big difference!  Fail #1 is that the cross of the "X" isn't graphically conveying an "S" to passersby, leading to Fail #2 of a bad pun. And tucked at the end is Fail #3, a snobby French cĂ©dille on the "C".

Mile 2: Self-Explanatory
Owner might have wanted to think through this name.
Gets me every time, especially given its yuppie neighborhood location. Membership also valid at its Chicago sister studios: Self Important Yoga and Self Obsessed Yoga.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S Business Travel

Growing up in Cleveland, I thought business travel was the height of sophisticated adulthood. My father brought me (and sibling) books and Fannie May treats from his work trips to Chicago. My aunt went further afield to Hong Kong and California, bringing back jade souvenirs and boxes of dates. It was like a exotic caravan stopped at my house whenever business occurred. I couldn't wait to get in on work-related vacations when I was an adult.

20 years later...

Turns out traveling for work is nothing like a vacation. Nothing! True, business trips as a senior designer for a publisher aren't going to be as swank as trips for a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. However, I just returned from a client visit to Grand Rapids and with that fresh in my mind... some observations of business travel reality:

Uggg. Enough already.
1) You're never going to meet sexy, witty people at your hotel. Forget what you saw in Up in the Air. The closest you're getting to sexual tension is being stuck on the fitness center treadmill between a TV playing Basic Instinct (soft core porn) and a mildly creepy older man watching slack-jawed. It is very difficult to catch up on podcasts with Michael Douglas groaning at top volume.

2) Location doesn't matter. You're in beautiful Michigan on a summer day? Well, I hope you enjoy the gray, windowless meeting room that looks the same as the one at your own office. Whoa, you're going to Orlando for two days in October?! Tropical! Oh wait, the conference is at the airport hotel? The breeze off the tarmac sure is nice this time of year. Reality: you've traveled for a purpose and that purpose is to impress your client and go straight home, not to sight-see. Those cool souvenirs I got as a kid undoubtedly came from airport gift shops. Not that they are any less appreciated, just that the notion of a businessperson leisurely strolling through hip local boutiques suddenly seems improbable.

3) You will feel like a child, but shake it off. This is a pitfall of my own making. I have not owned a proper suit since I was a senior in high school. Despite this, I have landed several jobs and am not a slob. I think "arty folk" get a bit of a pass on business dress. However, even if that pass is accepted, standing amid a group of suit-wearers in classy, but non-suit attire, will make you feel like an infant. Can I just solve this problem by buying a suit? Yes. But A) I hate suits B) They are expensive and C) I'd rarely wear it. So I suck it up in my business casual black pants and present my heart out anyhow.

4) If you can, drive there. I guess if you hate driving, this is not an option. Plus, anything over five hours is probably impractical in a car. But, life is a highway, man, and I'd rather have the wind in my hair for a short trip. The TSA frowns on travelers tunelessly belting out "Tiny Dancer" in security lines. No such law in the Interstate system. Thank God.

Could be worse.
5) Be careful what you pack. There is a chance that valued co-workers will see your belongings at some point, so pack conservatively. On my recent trip, co-worker #1 went to the car to fetch a computer cord from co-worker #2's suitcase. Co-worker #1 returned with my hot pink, mini hair iron, asking "Is this it?" Wrong bag! But a good reminder that people you respect are in positions to literally see your dirty laundry. (PS- the mini flatiron might be the best accidental TJMaxx find ever. Great for travel!)

I could probably keep this list going for quite some time, but five seems like a nice round number. Readers, what joys have you discovered in your own business travel lives?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On Pets and Other Patriotic Things.

America...fuck yeah!
Happy July 5th everyone! Ugh. OK, can we just agree that this is routinely the most anticlimactic day of the year to be an American? On July 4th you're gorging on flag cake and grilled meats, exploding things, putting the finishing touches on your tan, and misting up at John Phillips Sousa marches (just me?). Maybe you're doing all those things at once while watching a parade. On July 5th you're stuck face to wattle with the other glum Metra commuters. And there is no cake anywhere. Wha wha.

My fellow blogger put me to shame this year with his uberpatriotic D.C. celebration spot. Double fireworks all the intense! I'll admit to jealousy, but I did have a pretty good consolation prize. I got to spend a long weekend with my favorite house pet*: Okie.

Okie is my landlady's rotund and hirsute golden retriever. Golden retrievers are the most American pet you can have. True statement. Okie's a total lover, but now that warm weather is finally here to stay, he's taken up residence in the flowerbed outside my windows. Given that my apartment is ground level this now means I am greeted by a furry, panting face whenever I exit the bedroom. 

Having a house pet is great. I essentially get to play the fun aunt who swoops in to give rubs and feed treats, but then leaves before any actual work (poop scooping) happens. And Okie is an ideal "nephew" because he is fairly lazy and undemanding. In any event, he's loads better than the other members of the natural kingdom lurking around my nest. House centipedes...totally not patriotic, probably Commies.

So, the Independence Day fun is over for this year, but that doesn't mean we can't all plan next year's extravaganza. I'm thinking... parade of puppies on the National Mall, with sunbathing Marines handing out burgers while we all sing, "God Bless America".

* This is not to be confused with my favorite pet, period. He knows who he is.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Old Movie, New Review: 2012 (Get Your Rapture On).

Actually, I wasn't warned.

If you've dropped by this blog before, you know my affinity for end of days movies. And you know that I have my survival plan in place for the Apocalypse. Right now, I'm feeling pret-ty smug about thinking ahead, because apparently The Rapture is coming TOMORROW. Yikes!

With my blueprint set, I've had time to get into the spirit of things and catch up on my disaster flicks. After lingering in my Netflix queue for, hmmm, about a year, 2012 finally had its day. Watching it probably was the best way to convince me of the impending Rapture, because for the first time ever I fast-fowarded through an Apocalypse movie. OK, and this film had L.A. actually tilt Titanic-style and slide into the Pacific, so where did it go so hilariously wrong? Let's break it down!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Peligros de la Ciudad en Puerto Rico!

100 years ago, Americans like me would have actually
approached this lovely old fort from the other side. 
I went to Puerto Rico for four days a few weeks ago and I'm thinking maybe I should go back for the rest of my life. Something tells me, however, that everyday life in Puerto Rico does not involve sitting on the beach all day, getting silly drunk on guava smoothies.

Top 3 Peligros:

1. Despite the fact that every sign along the main beach road through San Juan exhorts drivers to compartir the road with bicycles, San Juanistas are not super-big fans of said sharing, especially not with very obvious tourist bikers bumbling down the busiest road in the city on very obviously rented mountain bikes. Cultural learnings: Puerto Ricans use the same finger(s) that we do stateside to express dissatisfaction. Still, the adventure ended thusly: a sunny beach, Rihanna, meat and fried starch on sticks, coconut ice cream, and shockingly cheap beer.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The club handled me just fine, actually.

The girl behind us in line was 18, and dropped
 her  iPhone on the ground twice. Later, she
danced on an pedestal inside the club. 
While all of you were enjoying my wonderful sister's posts on books and other nerd accessories, I was busy clubbing and jet-setting to the Caribbean (read: I went to a club for the first time in my life and I took a four day "work retreat" to Puerto Rico). So: city danger central, as you can imagine.  My next post will cover PR, but right now: Da Club.

Night Club Take-away Points: 

  • Lines are humiliating. It is humiliating to wait with herd of teenage cattle in the frigid night air for the privilege of paying double digits just to get through the front door.My friend made the mistake of asking why we weren't in the "cool line," referring to the gaggle of people opposite us that were getting in faster. The reply, swift and pert, came from the tall blonde nightclub staffer: there is no cool line. And I quote, "Cool people don't wait in lines." Oh.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Border Closing Ahead

Closing time, you don't have to go home but you can't stay here.
News hit this week that Borders bookstores filed for bankruptcy, meaning the eventual closing of many branches of the chain. Included in this exodus is the store next to my house and the store next to my office. No bucks, double whammies!

Now, I know that to everything there is a season. Maybe the physical bookstore is the 8-track of the 21st century. Fun while it lasted, destined to become obsolete. But the closing of Borders ends an era.

Long ago and far away, going to Borders was a Kramy/Peters family ritual. If you've read this blog at all or actually know us in person, you are aware that my fellow blogger and I are NERDZ. None of the following should come as a surprise.

In our youth, the parental units would take me and my brother to Borders, often post-boring adult errand, as a bribe to keep us in line. We thought this was pretty awesome (re: nerdz). All of those books...there just for us to rifle through! Glorious. My parents had to feel like it was free babysitting. Each member of the family would happily splinter off to the section that interested them the most. Were you into sharks this week? Science section. Had you just seen The Lion King? CD section. Were you Dad? Newspaper and pastry at the in-house cafe.

Let's be clear, as a kid at Borders, I wasn't ever browsing for Joyce or skimming Dostoevsky. Nerdery had some limits. Tastes varied according to age but usually I was looking for something that, at this distance, feels faintly embarrassing.

"I thought the old lady dumped it into the ocean
in the end? - Well baby, I went down and got it for you.
- Aww, you shouldn't have!"
Elementary school was spent in the Babysitters Club or Anne of Green Gables aisle. As a preteen, I was jonesing for the latest novel in the Sunfire Young Adult Romance series. A series focused on 16-year-old girls (!!!) in historical situations, being wooed by competing handsome suitors. One was usually rich but stodgy and the other was poor but respected the heroine's feisty [anachronistic] nature. Whom to choose?! OMG, lol, ttyl! My favorite of the series was the story of Nicole on the Titanic. I'm pretty sure the author has a viable lawsuit again James Cameron.

Whew, I digress. Borders. As I grew up, reading interests evolved (thank God), but the store was always there to support that. In adulthood, Borders's extensive magazine section provided design inspiration for work. Or offered a free place to sit and read a book that I wasn't committed enough to buy. Ermm...forget that last bit. Sorry, Borders!

Maybe I'll eventually get into the Nook/Kindle phase (birthday's in June, people!), but until then I'll probably shift to Barnes & Noble. Holding an e-reader just doesn't seem to stack up against holding a real book with that paper smell.

Conveniently I just got a notice from that my local branch is liquidating their stock NOW. And so, for old time's sake, away I go.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Of Mice and Men: A Brief History of Landlords

Apartment hunt. Moving day. Two tests of city life that truly measure an urbanite's will to live. Like a masochist, I am currently in the middle of this process for the fourth time in six years.

As frustrating as searching for a new home and relocating your possessions can be, sometimes things only get more interesting after the boxes are unpacked. Chances are if you're young, you're renting and someone else owns the roof over your head. Someone who is probably a stranger and probably odd.

Soon I'll be entering a brave new world with a fourth landlord/lady. Before the baton is handed off, I'm taking a post to look back on the men in my life.
A case of expectations not meeting reality.

1. John #1: (Un)Sexy Beast. Post-college I moved into the attic apartment of a worn Victorian in Boston. The wiring was original to Edison's era and the roommates took turns running hair dryers, fans, or A/C units. Kidding! We could never run A/C. Back then, I thought it had vintage charm. Now, I know it was just old and crappy. Who owned this pile? John #1. My first dealings with him were by phone. He had a super dreamy voice. British, debonair...very Clive Owen. Then I met him.

A faulty radiator drew John #1 to our nest one evening. I opened the door to find...not Clive Owen. What appeared to be a homeless troll stood before me. The kind of person that, if seen across a street, would make a mom grab her child's hand. I remember my roommate half-hiding behind the kitchen door in confusion. Was this a home invasion? And then he asked, "Which room is it broken in, then?" That voice! But that body!? Blimey.

Over the course of two years, John #1 turned out to be absent maintenance-wise, but harmless. I rarely saw him after that first shocking night and my senses were fine with that.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day Nostalgia

Let's go, Swift!
It's an officially sanctioned snow day at the Peters household! I honestly don't remember the last time I got a nature-related hall pass from life, but probably not in this century. So, woooooohoo! And I've got to say that this one is way legit. I was blown to the ground twice on my walk home last night, despite the ballast of emergency bottles of Riesling. Mother Nature was getting very handsy and it was thrilling.

However, feeling the windows of my cocoon rattle and watching the snow howl by horizontally at 100mph, I'm doubting that this day off is going to be as rad as those of my youth...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle(s)...

Aside from the fact that this blog is filled with petty complaints by me and my fellow blogger, we both know that our urban experiences are lucky. This was highlighted for me during a recent four-hour flight delay. To kill time, I bought a copy of The Jungle, that infamous exposé of the Chicago meatpacking industry circa 1904*.

Debbie Downer! I should have bought Snooki's book. The Jungle was the Food Inc. of its day, except infinitely more foul and depressing. In brief, an immigrant family makes its way to the Union Stockyards and the members spend a couple of years destroying their souls and bodies amid cow guts, pig blood, and deadly, sharp things. The family is fictionalized but the basis of the story was very real.

The book got me thinking about how Chicago today, despite its flaws, is totally "out dangered" by itself a century ago. So it wins the battle of Chicago, but how does The Jungle compare to other notorious jungles? Let's investigate...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Old Movie, New Review: Willow

I'm nothing like The
Lord of the Rings! Nothing!
After an unseasonably balmy New Year's Eve, Chicago has succumbed to an arctic hangover. With the "feels like" temperature flirting with low double digits, leaving the warm cocoon of home is unappealing. But, one has to be creative in battling weekend cabin fever. Selected method this weekend: 1980s fantasy film Willow and the finest bottle of Moscato $7 could buy.

I had lukewarm feelings going into this viewing. It was heavily endorsed by the friend who loaned me the DVD, but the cover art suggested strong notes of cheese with undertones of The Lord of the Rings. Nevertheless, I popped the cork and hit play...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Unnecessary List: D.C. Edition

Here's mine. 
City Life Shout Out of the Year: Here’s a shout out to taxicabs: thanks for saving me a lot of money this year. Whether you maliciously ignored me, refused to accept a debit card, or just weren’t around when I needed you, you did what it took to protect my pocketbook and get me some much-needed exercise.