Sunday, February 21, 2010


I was sitting on a bar stool this weekend drinking the traditional Sunday Bloody Mary talking over the details of my friend Nikki's (pictured above with BF Ricky) new love affair (she calls it a "de-briefing", I call it a "post-mortem"; potato potahto). And if it were anyone but Nikki, in the interest of privacy, I wouldn't have even written the previous sentence. But anyone who knows Nikki knows that her life is Out There. She has carried on a long-distance romance for the last several months culminating in a real life first-time meeting a few days ago completely played out, in words and pictures, in front of 901 of her closest Facebook friends. Thankfully, the relationship is working. But if it wasn't? It wouldn't be working in front of her 901 closest Facebook friends as well.

That's just Nikki.

And, despite my proclivity for writing in this blog in public and for anyone in the whole wide world to see (many thanks to both my readers), I still consider myself a private person, much MUCH more so than Nikki. As she put it yesterday,

"I'm transparent. You're...opaque."

And although I share many details of my life here, it's true, I am opaque. In fact, I am a little crazy private with the exception of to a trusted inner circle of friends. But...still. As I've written before and in more than one blog post before that I am, for some reason, always haunted (maybe even obsessed) by the notion that I shouldn't be. That opaqueness is overrated. I can never quite shake the feeling that my reticence is holding me back from...something. Maybe because when I do overcome it? Stuff like this comes out. Stuff that I feel way better about that my usual blog fodder.

As it happens, at the same restaurant where Nikki and I were enjoying our Bloody Marys, some other friends of mine were hanging out in another section. I ran into them on the way out and in their party was a friend who writes for the Tribune. Of course I had to ask this friend if he knows Roger Ebert, my favorite movie critic and movie columnist, which lead to a conversation about Ebert's frail health and then a subsequent Googling.

Friends, if you haven't seen Roger Ebert in a while, prepare for a shock because this is what Roger Ebert looks like these days:

Talk about your transparent. The photograph above is from this excellent piece on Ebert by Chris Jones in Esquire. You can read Ebert's thoughts about his situation as well as the Esquire piece in his blog right here. Ebert has this to say about the photo:

I got a jolt from the full-page photograph of my jaw drooping. Not a lovely sight. But then I am not a lovely sight, and in a moment I thought, well, what the hell. It's just as well it's out there. That's how I look, after all.

Despite it all, Ebert continues to work, goes on, continues to watch and review films, and, as always he shares the details of his life pretty unflinchingly. Like Nikki. Totally unlike me. I continue to wrestle, for reasons I don't even begin understand, with the question of my opaqueness. I continue to resist transparency.

But I admire the hell out of those who don't.
[Photo Credits: Nikki #1, Ricky #2]

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

iLove it: The Oscars

Get my take on this year's Oscar race right here at iList. Don't miss your chance to attend the gala Oscar event planned at Maiden Alley Cinema on March 7th. Cast your vote and get all the details here.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Reindeer Games on Truman Drive

As always, I posted a link to my last entry on Facebook and it sparked a discussion about whether or not there exists any photographic evidence of me in my teacher garb. Sadly, I don't believe any pictures were ever taken; all that elaborate imaginary gaming was so the norm on Truman Drive as to go completely unnoticed. Just as me randomly engaging in five-minute handstands leaned against the hallway wall or studying my multiplication tables while sitting in the splits in order to prolong my stretch time was just another day in "Normal". Yes, the name of the town in which I lived.

It's occurring to me that I was a weird kid. Or, let's say, weirder than I ever before considered.

You see above Exhibit #2. Photographic evidence of my weirdness that DOES exist. That is me on the left and my cousin Diana on the right. I am still suffering from the Chocolate Hair virus. We are near to exactly the same age; a span of only three months separates our birth dates. We would have been 14-15 years old here (several years past my aforementioned teaching phase). This is our attempt at dressing terribly fashionably and then being insufferably cool posers while having our picture made by my mother with the 110 Kodak. We were far too haute to smile. It may be hard to tell by looking, but we have as much make-up on our faces as humanly possible; peer closely and you can tell our eyes are lined with what appears to be blue-gray crayon.

I have to, on some level, hand it to myself, I guarantee I staged that scene and masterminded both looks. As clothes go, it isn't too far off what was probably considered at least a little cool back then? I was an eager monthly student of all my Mom's Cosmos and Vogues and had my own subscription to Seventeen.

On the other hand....BWA HA HA! The flowers? No idea. Perhaps I thought them just the right additional touch. Baby's breath is, after all, so avante guarde. Kind of like those rich gold curtains and the plush, deep shag carpeting beneath our feet. It was the seventies, people. And we were rockin' it.

As it turned out, this was near the end of my time on Truman Drive. Six months after this picture was taken, my parents would split, and my connection to Diana interrupted in a way that, as life turned out, would not ever really recover. If you had told our younger selves that the day this picture was made, in June of 1978, we would not have believed you.

Monday, February 01, 2010

1801 Truman Drive

As it happens, I visited the exact site where this post took place just now. You see above, in all its glory, 1801 Truman Drive. My apologies for how dark that photo is [edited to add: this photo should appear somewhat improved now]. For various reasons, I do not have access to photo editing software and the house was terribly back lit (and I had only my bberry at the ready). You can likely tell the place is your average 1970s generican house, but like any one's childhood home (I lived there ages 7-15) it holds more memories for me than this beige exterior suggests. In my youth, the house was painted a barn red, was wood rather than vinyl sided, and those are not the original windows.

Like many houses on the frozen central Illinois tundra, the place features a full basement which equated for me to an enormous skating rink. Or rather it was what I THOUGHT was enormous at the time. (It is still enormous in my mind.) An average Saturday morning back in those days here would find me bounding out of bed, hopping down the steps, lacing on my skates, queueing up the soundtrack to, say, "Oklahoma" on my pea green record player and skating in endless circles as I sang along. I knew every word and note; the same can be said of the "Wizard of Oz" soundtrack, the "Sound of Music" soundtrack and others. I was a very show-tuney kid.

One corner of the basement was devoted full-time to my "classroom". In those days, there wasn't a doubt in my mind that I would grow up and be a teacher, an ambition that I now find abhorrent. Regardless, the corner classroom was elaborate and perpetually in session in case the mood struck me do to a little lecturing. I had a stand-up chalkboard, a bulletin board that changed seasonally (themed--pumpkins in October, snowflakes in the winter, hearts in February, etc.), my teacher's desk, an authentic gradebook just like the teachers used, curriculum books, and desks filled with my dolls and stuffed animals as students. Each student had a profile, there was the "smart" student, my doll, Elizabeth, the middle-of-the-road student, my stuffed Rabbit, and the problem student, Charlie, my ventriloquist doll who never studied or made more than a "D" and was constantly disruptive in class. Despite my best efforts, Charlie never improved as a student.

Don't think I was teaching in my street clothes and my skates either. Oh, heavens no. The getting ready for a teaching session often lasted as long or longer than the session itself. I had a separate wardrobe for my teacher self which included hand-me-down dresses from my cousins that I found appropriate, or cast-offs from my Mother's extensive (and I do mean extensive) wardrobe. My teacher's garb included high-heels, always skirts. And make-up. Full-face make-up with lots and LOTS blush, robin's egg blue eye-shadow and Maybelline Great Lash. (The make-up also culled from my Mom's cast-offs). Once appropriately dressed, powdered and coiffed (think Aqua Net), there was much time devoted to the choosing of the proper Teaching Jewelry. For this aspect of The Look, I had access to my own as well as my mother's jewelry boxes. Often, The Look would require earrings, necklace, bracelet AND a pin in order to make the proper statement. As a final, but still not-to-be-taken-lightly step, the Proper Perfume was spritzed on liberally. Very. Liberally. Normally, I chose from my own collection for same: Babe, Charlie, Love's Baby Soft, Heaven Scent, or Cache. Usually Cache. Cache was Serious Perfume. For Serious Teachers.

Once transformed, I spent a considerable amount scrutinizing my teacher self in the mirror from every angle, verifying that, indeed, I had perfectly captured the The Look. After that, I decorously pranced down the basement steps to face the daunting task of pounding the three R's into the reluctant heads of my students.

It was a lot of work.