Friday, June 30, 2006

the meat-loving midwest

It's been four years since I stopped eating red meat and pork, two and a half years since giving up poultry. Whenever I tell people that I don't eat meat, they ask if I find it difficult being a vegetarian (pescaterian actually since I still eat fish occasionally), but after not eating it for so long I really don't even notice. I avoid restaurants where I won't find anything veggie-friendly and I know that I have to be flexible when I'm dining with a group. I make do at work lunches where deli sandwich platters fill the conference room table. It's really not a big deal. However, I take for granted living in Chicago. It's easy to find veggie foods at most restaurants, and my neighborhood even has a few vegetarian restaurants. But when I leave the city, I realize that most of the country is pro-meat. They seem baffled by those of us who claim not to eat meat because we don't want to. The restaurants lining the highways are famous for their cheap, meaty offerings. Road trips can be especially difficult for the vegetarian when every exit showcases McDonald's, Wendy's, and Steak & Shake. Once in awhile I'll get lucky and find a Subway or even a Taco Bell.

Earlier this week I had to travel on business to Michigan. The first night my team had dinner at one of the restaurants in our hotel, a very burgers & steak sort of place. When we walked in my boss asked if I'd be cool with the choice and, after perusing the menu and finding a few things I could eat, we sat down. Upon ordering the portabello burger, I was told that it was just a mushroom and no meat. Was that okay? Yes, I told the waitress, that was exactly what I wanted. She actually confirmed that twice with me before leaving our table because other patrons have been disappointed when they order that item and find no actual burger on the bun.

The rest of the trip was more of the same. I missed out on lunch at our clients' office since it was all meaty sandwiches. I took myself to Subway a few hours later. We also had a happy hour with our clients where I indulged on the veggie tray and the fried mushrooms. I think I accidentally ate a bite of chicken only because the entire tray was full of brown, fried foods which were unidentifiable except by shape. Lunch on the road was more of the same, although we lucked out by stopping at an exit with a Quiznos.

I was happy to get back to Chicago after my two days in Kalamazoo. Veggie enchiladas, deluxe salads, veggie sandwiches....these are just a few of the non-meat meals I've had since I returned. I can stay away from just getting by ordering a side salad or a large fry at Wendy's because I have so many options. I don't think I'd survive in a town of family restaurant chains and fast food strip malls.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Bobby Flay, stop teasing me.

I am hungry and I have very little food in my apartment. Some Froot Loops, wheat bread, cheese, and granola bars. I made the mistake of turning on Food Network where Bobby Flay is turning up the grill and making some vegetarian food.

Portobello mushrooms stacked with machengo cheese, spinach, and a sherry vinaigrette. Pizza with oregano, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, cracked red pepper, and fresh basil. Grilled apricots drizzled with chocolate sauce and almonds.

Mmmmm.....this isn't fair.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I'm blogging from the back porch in order to enjoy the longest day of the year. It was such a treat to get out of work on time today (read: not working until after 9pm) and I celebrated by laying around on the couch reading In Style and watching tv. Until I took out the garbage and felt how the humidity had died somewhat and it was actually a very pleasant night. So now I'm outside, where the wifi signal is somewhat low, at least until I finish this post.

I haven't felt this at home in a long time. Not at my old apartment and not in my college apartment. Or even when I came home from college and lived in the house where I grew up. Honestly, I haven't felt this comfortable since my second or third semester living in my sorority house. We've lived in our apartment for three months (time is flying) and since the beginning it has felt more homey than our old digs. It's neat, relaxing, and the kind of place you want to be after working 12 hours everyday of the week. It's taken me longer to get adjusted to the new neighborhood; I haven't felt 100% comfortable here, but it's getting better. After my West Town weekend with Anne, I feel much more at home. It's difficult when the majority of my friends don't live around here, but in Lincoln Park or Lakeview (near where we used to reside). I don't regret moving here, I just wish that more of my friends were closer. But it's officially the first day of summer and I plan on taking more time to relax and enjoy myself at home (or around home) in the coming months....before it becomes too cold to consider crossing Ashland.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

weekends a go-go

My Friday off from work was timed perfectly. Somehow, I always manage to do that.

I worked like crazy Monday through Thursday. 48 hours. In four days. Tuesday was the worst at 16.5 hours. When my boss told me we would be going home close to 5 on Thursday night, I was ecstatic. Leaving that early felt like having a half day. After a few late nights in a row, I was not only exhausted, but also ready to leave the office during daylight. It had gotten to the point where I cared little about the weather because I knew it wouldn't affect me (sitting at my computer all day). Predicting rain or thunderstorms? No need to bring my umbrella - I'll most likely be expensing a cab home at 10:30 pm.

But that's all over, at least until another hellish week in August.

My mom and I planned to spend a day together on Friday and, luckily, my bosses were nice enough not to cancel it even though work was so busy. After the second late night, I really started looking forward to my Friday. Not being at work was enough to keep me happy. And getting off on time Thursday evening made it even better. I came home and napped before going to a late dinner at a new tapas restaurant in my neighborhood.

Friday was perfect. The weather was beautiful, although a bit hot. My mom and I met at 10 and walked straight to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Our primary reason for going was the Andy Warhol/Supernova exhibit (which ends Sunday), but neither of us had been to the MCA since it moved locations. There were other temporary exhibits that were just as interesting, if not more, than the one we planned to see. A photography exhibit on the first floor occupied most of time when we arrived at the MCA. I loved it, but I would have preferred to study the photos of penises without my mom at my side.

After the MCA, we had a long lunch. One of my favorite things about my mom is how we talk. We talk about any and everything, and we are constantly asking each other for advice. So lunch went long, mostly because we just needed some face time with each other. It had been over a month.

I didn't want my perfect day to end there, but I didn't have any evening plans. My roommate Anne and I ended up on the couch watching too many hours of programming on the Style network (I do not recommend this). After hour three, we determined we were better than this and vowed to have a good night out (and not on the couch). My Warhol day came full circle once we got to Sonotheque a few hours later where the theme of the night was Sono-a-gogo. Anne felt like we were at the Factory with the drinks, 60s music, go-go boots, and films on the wall. I ordered a few gin & sodas and was having a great time despite the strange Dutch man with sour breath who wouldn't leave me alone.

After go-going for awhile, we left and went another bar and then to Anne's friend's place. Drinking wine, gin, and beer had made me quite the drowsy girl and I quickly passed out. Waking around 4, I was confused and left without Anne. All the while knowing that I might have to work today.

But there was no work today. Just sun worshipping in the afternoon and random parties (rained-out Taste of Randolph, wine, pizza, & Catchphrase, and a warehouse/gallery party where the temperature was about 95 degrees and we rummaged through the messy kitchen for some booze like we were 17 again) all night. I managed to maintain my three-day weekend and have a great time being a neighborhood whore with Anne.

Photojournal to come.

Monday, June 12, 2006

the baby thing returns

I don't know if it was the marathon session of Domino's Pizza eating yesterday (mmm....555 deal is so worth it), but I had the most terrifying dream last night.

I had a baby.

I didn't actually give birth in the dream; it's just that I suddenly had an infant. That was mine. That had no father. The baby's eyes were just like mine, but there were no other defining characteristics that indicated who the dad might be. Even more frightening.

It was a realistic dream. I recall actually feeling the weight of the baby, physically and emotionally. Thoughts were running through my head about keeping my job, maintaining my social life, and finding a babysitter. I could feel my life changing drastically as this baby was thrust into my arms. In my dream, I kept walking around with the baby held close to my chest while people talked about me. There were coworkers and strangers, and I think my dad made an appearance somewhere. It just all felt so scary.

Then the baby started crying and someone told me that he/she (no sex was revealed that I can remember) must be hungry. Being the inept, dreaming mother that I was, I started to give her solid food (I think it was cereal). But then it clicked. I should be breastfeeding her. And this was all in the dream.

When I woke up, I couldn't shake the feeling of overwhelming responsibility that this baby dream brought. It's not like I'm thinking of having a child any time soon, but I know for sure after last night that I'm nowhere near prepared for one.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

so what do you do when you can't stop thinking about someone? when he fills up spare thoughts? when you like being super occupied at work because you can't think about him? or when you wish he was curled up on the couch next to you when you come home from work and just want to relax? you see couples on the street or in restaurants, grabbing coffee or heading to the beach, and you want it to be you and him doing all these things. it hurts, all these thoughts and feelings, because you don't know if they will ever materialize. and it hurts because you can't help it; you can't stop the feelings and random acts of crying that come from thinking about him one minute too long. you're sure it would be love if it could just happen, and so you dismiss other potential possibilities because they don't measure up to whatever it is you've built inside your mind. it's not that it's fake; it's just not completely real. you're not pretending or inventing, but maybe you are making more out of what currently exists. and you can't tell him, at least not now or not yet. you want to. in fact, your mind has already imagined all the scenarios of how you'll tell him (of course, they all turn out great). but still, you wait. you let it go like it means so little to you when, in truth, it means so much.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

a fest for book nerds

It finally felt like summer today. The warm temperatures, the trip to the beach, the outdoor dining and drinking - none of these had gotten me in the mood for summertime. But earlier this week I made plans with myself to attend the Printers Row Book Fair today and had a beautiful, sunny, book-filled afternoon.

Printers Row, at the northern tip of the South Loop, was filled with large tents of books: new, used, expensive, cheap, rare, popular, hardcover, paperback. Booksellers from across the city and state set up in the streets and on the sidewalks. There were stages set up in the center and southern end of the fair for author readings. Book lovers like me crowded into the tents, hovering over the books. Often the lines were two or three deep just to get up to the bookshelves. I found myself standing on tiptoe to see the titles, occasionally reaching out my hand for something I liked. I bought one used book, a $4 copy of Empire Falls. Unlike many of the other book nerds, I wasn't there to scour the racks for books. I didn't really have the patience. My trip was planned around the readings.

I had the pleasure of seeing one of my favorite writers read for the first time. Augusten Burroughs's reading was at 2:30. For me (and for other readers/writers like me), readings are like the red carpet of the literary world. It's your chance to see your favorite author up close, maybe even have some Q&A or dialogue with the mind you so admire. I arrived more than early enough to peek through the fair and get a prime spot for the reading. I ended up sitting on the ground right in front of the stage where the tall and lanky Burroughs read a story from (I assume) his new book. He talked about the show he's writing for Showtime, the film adaptation of Running With Scissors, and James Frey. He was funny and he reminded me that I should be writing everyday. Easier said than done.

After four hours of weaving through the crowd, I left with a red CSPAN Book TV bag containing my signed copy of RWS, my signed copy of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (I missed the Dave Eggers reading, but made it to the signing), my new used book, and a 1972 New Yorker cover suitable for framing. And now, worn out and full from veggie enchiladas, I'm enjoying summer from my couch.