Thursday, February 08, 2007

Gravy grit

OK, what I'd like to do is write a post about all of the good things that have happened to me in the last few weeks and that will cancel out some of the whiny vibes that I've been putting out lately and then we can start fresh and I'll try to tell you some entertaining city stories.

Let's start with Martin Luther King Day.

I got to go to the The Peggy Notebaert Science Museum with my best friend from high school, Lorinda. We took her beautiful baby, Henry, and I was totally unprepared for a child who is almost walking with my cute little handbag. Handbags require one hand at all times. Almost toddling babies require two hands much of the time. I was also reminded several times that I don't think like a mom when I held him up to the replica of the Chicago waterworks. I knew Lorinda would have no problem with me letting him put his hands in the water, so I was feeling pretty good about getting close, but with the swiftness of a viper, his hands were in the water and much more slowly did I realize the consequences of that action would be tiny little wet sleeves. Oops.

The Wednesday night after that, I had a rollickingly successful dinner party with my best friend from now, Jess, and two of her friends from the Fiction grad program at Columbia College. The four of us had gotten together a couple of weeks earlier for Jess's phenomenal cooking and much much alcohol. We had so much fun talking about books and movies and ideas that we quickly set up another evening. I hosted that one and since I do not cook, we had the very best Chicago pizza that exists: Lou Malnati's. Although we had hoped that putting it on a weeknight might reign in our debauchery, our camaraderie overcame common sense and I spent most of Thursday hung over but happy. I seem to have found a group of people that I feel at home with. They entertain me and are entertained by me. They are straight-forward, which lets me relax in my own tendency toward putting it all out on the table. They are intelligent and read books and talk about art without being the slightest bit pretentious. I'm going to enjoy every moment of this foursome as long as it lasts.

Friday after that, I got to spend an evening with my best friend from college, Susan, at the Downers Grove South Speech Tournament. I didn't have to actually judge any events but I also didn't get paid like I had expected to. Still, any time that I can get with Susan is a gift. Over the course of the evening, she watched my crotch as I demonstrated the flexibility designed into my pants, we shared the joy of Jimmy Johns, we talked about her ex-fiance, and she encouraged me to go ahead and do some slightly dubious behavior in my near future. What else are best friends for?

Saturday morning, I made pancakes for Jess and her roommate, Leah. Sunday night, Daniel's band, Barely American, played a fantastic set at The Empty Bottle and I got to spend a little time with my blog buddy big belly epicure. Daniel's set included many original somewhat insurgent country songs. It also included their version of Jacque Brel's "Mathilde." I don't have video of them doing it but I'm going to try to post a Scott Walker version of it. Imagine my brother Daniel and three other guys with a standard garage band instrumentation with a much harder, much faster interpretation, although Daniel can really emote the complexity of the narrator's emotions. "My hands, remember all the years, remember when you caught my tears. My hands, you'll want to touch her now. Please try and be strong somehow. Mathilde's come back to me!" A killer key change, by the way.

Skip a week of being sick and we land on a week from Sunday. Jess and I returned from purchasing a new computer and went up to hear her new man read a short story of his at a bar somewhere near where all the yuppies live. Going to fiction readings in bars is one of the main benefits to living in the city. Because, unlike the island, the fiction tends to be good. And short.

Actually, rewind to being a the Apple store. Getting to nerd flirt while I asked them to diagnose my computer and then convince me to buy a new one was all sorts of fun. I don't get to do enough nerd flirting in my life.

At the beginning of last week, I hosted two community meetings at work. I am about to make some major changes in the policies and procedures of one of the programs that I run and I don't want to just hand these changes down from on high. I've done a lot of research about best practices of responsible charity and talked through a lot of these changes with some of the big dogs in Christian community development. But part of the philosophy of Christian community development insists that no one knows what will be good for the community better than the actual people that live in the community. So, I presented the new program to some of the folks that I partner with, asking themto approve or change the program as they saw fit. I was a little nervous going into the meetings because, after all, I'm a 29-year-old white girl from the suburbs. Hi-falutin book-learning and theory might not fly with people that are actually spending time with people that need help. But, interestingly, the meetings were textbook examples of what happens when you give community development practitioners a chance to talk with one another. I sat on the sidelines and just listened. They immediately began trading stories, asking questions of one another and even challenging one another towards the very goals that I'm working to incorporate in my new program. When they finally gave me a chance to talk, they were skeptical about a few things, but I had answers that satisfied them. I felt like I was worth the salary that I'm being paid during those two meetings.

So, those are the great things that have been happening in the midst of my struggles. I firmly believe that for life to taste good, it has to have a complexity of emotions. All good or all bad would be boring. As one of my favorite musicals, Jelly's Last Jam says, "You got to have grit to go with the gravy." Last night, I went to another fiction reading in a bar. This one was much boozier (although I heeded common sense this time because I had calculus exam this evening), had trivia questions that I could have won if I had been willing to shout out, a photo booth with Jess, and some extremely entertaining people. I'll go to another one of these next month and I'll be able to look around with the intent of sharing the details with you. Let's all look forward to that.

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