Thursday, January 21, 2010


So I crawled out of my winter funk and took the metra down to a dress rehearsal at the Lyric yesterday. Life is ALWAYS better with opera. You know the music will be good. But how could such a big ol institution know that after being up all night with a kid with the stomach flu, exactly what I needed was an overdose of sunny Italy, some tight physical comedy, the golden tones of Nicole Cabell flirting with the boys. And the FABULOUS steampunk vision of Alessandro Corbelli as The Doctor Dulcamara with his big ol horse and wagon out of Dr. Parnassus. They need to sell that hat at the gift shop--everyone would want one. Look out Johnny Depp.

Ok, Ok, going to a movie is cheaper or you could hibernate with something off of Hulu, but crawl out of your frozen lair, throw on some polar fleece and get to the Lyric. I know a bunch of budgetarily challenged opera fans have broken down and given up and are heading out to the cinema to get their opera fix with them new fangled Met things (and it IS a way to see the competing Tosca versions), but I am hoping the lure of live theater brings them in again when they are off unemployment and back on a payroll. And if it warms up its so fun to dress up and just waltz about the golden lobby and feel so fancy.

Elixir made me feel like going home and having a lovely giggly glass of wine and smiling, no matter what life throws at me!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Musings on Shopping

When I was a girl, shopping was an idle pastime. We would go to some suburban downtown and poke around a favorite store. Betty's sticks in my mind. There was no real agenda, and I don't remember having much money (and I saved all that I would earn--all my kids know how I was able to spend a summer backpacking around Europe on babysitting and birthday money)

When there was a big occasion, your mother would take you to try on dresses and then you would have lunch somewhere. As teens in the 70's we discovered malls. Mom was not invited. We scoped for boys, ate fries in the food court, and tried on makeup at the department store counters.

Then I grew up and went away for college. Shopping became an ordeal of necessity--find a kid with a car and trade favors for a ride, or get on a bus for an hour to get to the mall and then trundle it all back. Shopping became a chore, not a way to while away the time I did not have.

Then I went off to New York for grad school and shopping became an adventure. I rediscovered the thrill of the browse: Soho on Saturday, street vendors in Alphabet City late at night on the weekends(before New York got cleaned up), window shopping on Fifth Avenue, Korean deli bar poking around on Broadway, or getting LOST in Strands Bookstore in the Village. I never bought much, but I acually got addicted browsing. Then, I finished school and moved to downtown Chicago, and sometimes I would just wander through stores looking at Stuff to clear my head. I would still travel to ethnic neighborhoods for the adventure, but when I set up a grown up household, somewhere in there, shopping stopped being a form of amusement and once again became a task on a large list of things to be accomplished: find a lamp for the reading area, get a throw rug for the bathroom to replace the one the cat destroyed. I even had a few jobs where shopping, or procurement, was a JOB. I got paid for the ability to source and obtain strange items for a reasonable price. This was a handy skill to have in an artistic career---and to this day I can find artistic inspiration in a hardware store.

Now the internet makes procurement so much easier. The ease has made me forget how much work SHOPPING can be. And the predominance of internet procurement in my life means that I have totally fallen down and forgotten to teach my kids how one shops(except thrift shops, antique stores on vacation and rummage sales--I have taught my kids how to Scavenge, not Shop). My sister in law had picked up the slack with a yearly ritual of an outfit and a lunch, but the demands of her own kids and full time job took that off the table. And so, I found myself last weekend, at an upscale mall with my youngest. I needed a winter coat, and I should have known that if I could not find it online, it probably does not exist(orange down, with inside pocket, under $100) but in the interest of connecting and introducing my child to a tradition, off we went. My daughter LOVED the day of being an only child with mama. She is a clothes horse, fashion maven and wanted EVERYTHING. But she now knows now that I am the pickiest shopper in the known universe, and I am not sure if she will ever shop again with me. We never found the coat I need. But she scored buy one get one free leg warmers, a Snoopy tee shirt on massive sale, and yet another Ugly Doll, on half off. (How man Ugly dolls does a girl need---as many as she can get!) She loved the way Nordstroms wrapped her package, and she compared and contrasted the ambiance and product mixes at the various stores. We liked Lord and Taylor. Kinda hated Macy's, which looked like the store had been raped. And we started late, so lunch turned into French Onion Soup and a pint of Guiness at the pub for dinner. Not a bad day. Not sure I will do it again, but though I bought nothing, I brought home a lot.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year

The day before the old year ended, I finished out a journal. I have been journaling since high school, and it always feels literally like the end of a chapter when I finish out a book--they are filled with poems, sketches, essays, the flotsam and mental jetsam of an overactive mind.
By the time I finish, the book is worn, pages are dog eared and stained, crunchy with use. Some of the ink may have run, the pencil may have smudged. I never plan when they should end. I just run out of pages. And then I must select a new book. It's exciting to crack it open and smooth the pages, all empty and waiting. I always pick a special pen to start a journal.

And so, this new year and a new journal begin. Of late, its not as big a deal, because after misplacing one journal, and leaving another in a different state, I have taken to having overlapping journals, which will drive some doctoral student nuts if I ever become famous, but since that is so entirely unlikely, I don't worry about it.

I do like to read through an old journal as an end of year ritual. I just randomly flip through a book. I try to guess the year. I like touching base with where I have been. Last year, before my daughter went off to Germany by herself (well, without a family member--she was part of a horde of teens) I reread my old travel journal from when I bummed about Europe one summer over two decades ago. Very little of my core has shifted, even as gravity takes its toll on the shell.

My other big ritual for the turn of the year is to pull out a tarot deck. I find them endlessly interesting for the free associations they pull out of cobwebby corners in my head. This year, I kept gettingthe World. Hmmmm.

Oh, and I take a big ol hot bath. Wash away the old, spoil myself for the new.

Here's to rituals. And newness.