Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tell Your Mother She Wants You

Last week we talked about those teens who can barely wait to come to the city so they can see art and see awesome things that can be found in the city.

This week, our beloved Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and there was a parade and a downtown celebration and ill-mannered teens came downtown with liquor they'd stolen from their parents which they put in thermos bottles.  Clever!  No one ever ever ever has thought of that before.

I work in an urban train station that serves the northern and northwestern suburbs of Chicago.  When I entered the building, there were multiple clumps of teenagers who'd come into town for the day.  I say clumps because they weren't going anywhere.  They were standing around and chatting, sharing their thermos bottles filled with booze.  Standing near the bottom of an escalator was just as good as off to the side.  Standing in front of the mailboxes would also do.  They were also very, very loud.  It was 7:15 a.m.

"But you must see things like that all the time if you work in a train station!"  No, no, no, no.  The G8 or a NATO conference or a sports team winning big is what brings them in.  When the Hawks won last time, school was still in session.  Because of the shortened season that started and finished late, everyone was out of school and there is no better way to spend one's summer than disrupting the working world.

In past blogs, I've remarked how well mannered Hawks fans are compared to other fans, like the Cubs, the Bulls, and even the Lyric Opera.  These were not those fans.  These were children looking for an excuse to be drunk and unruly and come downtown and scream.   Yes, there were adults who'd be doing that but they're 21 and can buy their own hooch; they don't go to the liquor cabinets of their parents and pour something into that handy thermos.

There were still plenty of Hawks junior fans hanging around at the end of the day but we bolted from the building so we didn't have to look at them.  We had a bigger idea!  My friend wanted to go to a local grocery store where he bought two 1.75 liter bottles of vodka.  It's okay, though because he's an adult, and while he wore red in honor of the Blackhawks, he did it mostly so he could wear his matching sandals.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Wide Open Spaces of Chicago

After work on Friday, I was walking from the South Loop to the river to meet family members.  I enjoy looking at people.  I like looking at their faces and into the eyes and maybe we'll share a smile; maybe the person will look away like I've tried to rob their house; maybe the person just never ever wants to meet the gaze of a stranger because strangers are scary, dangerous, or uncomfortably odd (of which I am proudly the latter).  Sometimes you see strangers doing things that make you instantly like them because you know what's going through their heads.  Such was the case on Friday.

There is a very nice McDonald's on the northeast corner of Clark and Monroe, right by Chase Plaza.  It's in a glass-walled building that allows patrons seated at the window seats to look out and enjoy the city; it allows pedestrians the chance to view them.

As I walked by on Friday, there were three teenagers sitting in the window.  One of the teenagers had taken his 49¢ cone and made a very large and handsome ice cream mustache.  It was magnificent and the three of them -- two boys and a girl -- thought it was wonderful.  I saw this and our eyes met and I smiled.  He looked slightly embarrassed but grinned back.  It was, after all, a wonderful thing.

When I am strolling around after work, I see a lot of adult tourists.  If there are kid or teen tourists, they are usually with their parents or in packs led by two-to-four adults.  They are requesting the teens keep up and are at the front and the back of the packs, respectively.  The kids are not being given the opportunity to think for themselves.  That's how I knew these kids were not tourists.

These kids were escapees.

The wide open spaces of the suburbs are wholly suffocating to them.  They have to drive or be driven everywhere and it was all a chore and so much work to just get to the library to get a book.  The city has busses and subway trains and lots of libraries to which you might even walk.

These kids had the look of kids everywhere who live in the suburbs of exciting cities whose parents, teachers, friends' parents, grandparents, etc., are constantly telling them how dangerous the city is; that people there are killed (or worse!) all the time; that horrible things happen in the city.  The city should not be approached.  The city was constantly dangled in front of them as the most poisonous of fruits. 

These were kids who could hardly wait to take a bite.  They had to come to the city to see for themselves.  They wanted to experience the danger and maybe eat something and see some art.

Boy A probably told his parents that he and Girl would be spending the day at the mall with Boy B.  Boy B and Girl each told their parents corresponding tales.  Asses were covered unless something happened.

They didn't want to go to a Cubs game which was as naughty as their friends got.  They wanted to walk all around downtown and see all the free art.  They wanted to see the Chagall, the Calder, the Picasso, "Cloudgate" by Kapoor (also called "The Bean"), and the Miro.  They wanted to touch the Dubuffet.  They were going to have their pictures taken at the Oldenberg Bat.  They were going into the lobby of the Willis Tower to look at the Calder mobile.  Unless weather prohibited it, they were going to dance in the waters of Crown Fountain (from Spanish artist Jaume Plensa) and take too many pictures of the faces spitting water.  They would sit and have their $4-Subway-sandwich lunch in Millennium Park while looking at Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion and then sashay themselves over to Buckingham Fountain to check it out.  They wanted to pay something -- a dollar was about all they could afford -- and have a run through the Art Institute.  Then they would go home.

But first, hey, there's time, let's have a 49¢ cone.

It was a dizzying day and entirely thrilling and satisfying.  The McDonald's treat was cool and creamy.  And there was a little ice cream on an upper lip, then a lot, then a mustache, then the odd woman saw it and smiled.  It was, after all, a wonderful thing.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

She Is Where, Part 44

Every signing in their town took place at the massive title company in the central part of downtown.  The real estate attorney -- or, if  one were recognizably fortunate, one's very own boyfriend -- would accompany the about-to-be owners and a lot of papers would be signed, maybe they'd realize how much money was being spent and how long debt would go on and they'd break into a cold sweat, and then it was over and the place was purchased.

But first, she had to meet her boyfriend at his office.

Mike's offices took up the entire 29th floor of a midrise building that had space overlooking the lake, the park, and a museum.  Mike's corner office looked east and south which gave him a lot of sun and let the three tropical plants in his office get enormous.  The rest of the space was occupied by his less-senior law partners, more than several paralegals, an IT department of some size, plus many administrative assistants.  People seemed mostly not miserable.  Mike's own administrative assistant was competent, professional, polite, the mother of four, and happily married for 25 years.  What Mike liked to say about her was that she eased his path.  She was fiercely loyal to him as he'd taken a chance on a mother of four who was reentering the work force because she wanted to help her family make ends meet.

Her own boss got up and left abruptly about thirty minutes before she was supposed to leave telling her, "Oh, yeah, good luck with that signing.  Ha ha ha!  Debt!  Ha ha ha!"  He then blushed and ran out.  She didn't think much of it because she didn't know him that well.

When she got into the lobby, she was hoping to run into Mr. King to share the good news but he was nowhere around.

"Is Mr. King nearby?" she asked the young man at the desk in the lobby.

"He had to go some place," said the young man with a strange smile.

"Thanks," she said.

"Good luck to you, then," he said.

Usually he told her to be safe; maybe he had a new catch phrase.

She walked quickly to Mike's office, arriving right on time.  She prided herself in arriving on time.

"Oh!" said the receptionist when she walked in.  "Hello!"

The receptionist blushed.

"How are you doing?" she asked the receptionist.  "Are you okay?"

"Oh!" exclaimed the receptionist.  "Yes!  Of course!  Why?"

"You're blushing," she told her.  "Like you're embarrassed."

The receptionist stood up and said, "Mike's in the big conference room finishing up a brief.  Go there.  You know where that is, yes?"

"No," she said, "I'm not sure I do."

"Good!" exclaimed the receptionist.  "I will show you.  But first, let me lock the door and put the phones on hold."

The door and phones were all done through her computer screen in about twenty seconds.  When the task was completed, the receptionist, blushing even more deeply, escorted her down the hall to a set of double doors.  She knocked with an excited vigor.

Both doors swung open with no one standing there and she walked into the large room.

There was an enormous conference table where Mike was seated at the head, with her cousins and their husbands and his father sitting next to him.  Lee was at the other end with Mr. King and her boss.  Her former boss, who'd had so much faith in her, was with them.  Mike's partners and what seemed like every other person in the office was either sitting at the table or standing against the wall.

A very handsome man came from behind the door.  He had a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist.  His eyes met hers and suddenly his eyes welled up and tears came rolling down his cheeks.  He gasped and seemed to gain his composure.

"May I share with you all about the locks of love?" he said and delivered a moving speech that she'd heard before in her own office.

It was delivered with such elegance and grace, such beauty and longing, that those in attendance got misty; they would all talk about the lovely things he said for the rest of their lives.  At the end of the tender speech, Connie unlocked the handcuffs and the briefcase and produced the most sensationally large diamond on a ring that anyone of them had ever seen.  He handed it to Mike.

Connie stood tall, trying not to look at her, trying to smile.

Mike had walked around the table during Connie's speech and went down on one knee and took one hand in his and said, "No, I'm the lucky one.  Will you marry me?"

She closed her eyes and teared up herself and said, "Well, of course I will."

Mike stood and they kissed.

The ring fit perfectly.  Everyone applauded and people started embracing her and Mike.  Connie went over to the side to pack up his things which seemed to be taking a long time.

She stepped over to thank the jeweler.

"Thank you so much, sir," she said.  "The ring is terrific.  You don't see diamonds like this every day."

"I got it in Africa.  It was a long process.  It took months really," he said, looking like he was about to say more.

She suspected what would come next and she had to make Connie understand that she was perfect with how things had turned out for her.

She said, "I'm a very lucky woman."

She reached out her hand to shake his.  He stared at it and then shook her hand with a few hard pumps.

Connie spoke quietly so only she could hear it, "No, he's the lucky one."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

She Is Where and Oh, I Think So

Yes, yes, where the hell and what the hell and oh my heck (the last one recognizable mostly if you are from Utah).  What is UP with that She Is Where and Oh, I Think So person?  Can't she wind this sucker UP already?  Come ON!

The answer is:  "Yes."

The next answer is:  "I have to wind it up right.  You don't want a lame ass cop out do you?"

The final answer is:  "While you're waiting, enjoy the Slow Mo Guys and Jenna Marbles."

The Slow Mo Guys and Jenna Marbles are awesome.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

She Is Where, Part 43

In addition to being personable, smart, and generous, Mike was also patient and kind.  He let her have equal say in their hunt for a new place.   Having determined they were not the types who wanted to take care of a lawn, a garden, winter walkways, and the little faces of eager Halloween trick-or-treaters, they each had things they wanted in a condominium.  He wanted at least two bathrooms, a big kitchen, in-unit washer and dryer, three to four bedrooms, a doorman, thick walls, solid floors, excellent security, in-building parking with three spaces for their unit alone, and a very healthy condo association balance.  She wanted to be near public transportation and a decent grocery store, deciding he'd covered everything else on his list.

They looked at dozens of places -- she was surprised there were so many buildings that had what Mike wanted -- and one day while they were walking around with their realtor, Hank, they passed a place she knew to be one unit on each floor of the seven-story building.

"I've seen this place," said Hank.  "Sensational.  Everything you want and near the lake."

"Maybe a miracle will happen and someone will have to sell," said Mike.

It was so ridiculous they all guffawed then split up with Hank to run some errands and have some lunch.

They'd just started eating their vegetarian burritos and iced tea when Mike's cell rang.

"Hi, Hank," said Mike.

Mike's face looked like he'd won the lottery.

"We'll be right over," said Mike and hung up.

"There's a spot.  In that building.  The one we just passed.  Top floor.  The owner died and it just finished going through probate," he said to her.  Mike was so excited his eyes were wide and his breathing was fast.

"Forget lunch," she said.  "Let's go."

They summoned the waitress, muttered something about an emergency, paid her for lunch and added on a generous tip, and almost ran to the building. 

Hank was waiting in the lobby with a small, blonde woman wearing a St. John suit and beige pumps, huge diamond rings, and enormous pearls.  She carried a large hot pink leather satchel.

"This is Gigi," said Hank.  "She's the listing agent."

Gigi shook their hands lightly and said, "You're smart to move so fast."

The doorman greeted Gigi warmly and nodded to the rest with a smile.  The building security was so good they could only stop at their own floor.  Her own breathing became shallow at the thrill of it.

The view was not ideal -- there was a skyscraper condo blocking a view to the lake -- but it was still pretty great.  There were four bedrooms -- "Or three bedrooms and a generous den," added Gigi -- three bathrooms, a formal dining room, a working fireplace in the enormous living room, and a large kitchen that had been recently renovated.

"I don't think he knew he was going to die," said Gigi.  "He wasn't very old but his wife had passed and his kids lived out of town.  He brought me in hoping to get it done -- and this is what he said -- before anything happened and he and I drew up the papers which he signed, but he died the next day and it shot into probate.  The kids aren't piggy but these things take time.  Right after his wife passed, he redid the kitchen so it's maybe two years old.  Same with the washer and dryer, which are front-loading and side by side, not one of those stackable affairs.  Here, let me show you."

Gigi led them off the kitchen to a full laundry room.  Mike gasped.  She got tears in her eyes. 

"You're making my lady cry," said Mike.  "Pretty soon, she's going to start saying she's so lucky.  We'll just take it."

"Wait a minute," said Hank with a laugh.  "Don't you want to hear the price?  Don't you want to see the garage?"

Mike looked her in the eyes and she smiled.

"Yeah," she said.  "We need to see the garage."

"There are three spaces," said Gigi.  "But there's only a valet on duty Monday through Friday.  You're on your own on weekends, I'm afraid."

"We will seriously take it," said Mike.

She was having to dab at her eyes with her knuckles.  They all took the elevator down to the garage and looked at the three spaces.  The spaces were generously sized.  Everyone was parked back in.

"Oh yes," said Gigi.  "I almost forgot.  The condo association wants everyone to back into the parking spots.  I hope that's not a problem."

Mike looked at his beloved and smiled.

"I'm okay with it, but my darling could go down a street and around a corner and then back into an  alley and up half a block all backwards.  No, it's not a problem," Mike said.

She was almost jumping up and down.  How the hell did she get so lucky? she thought.

Mike didn't even blink when they told him the asking price and didn't have a counter offer.

"I'm fine with that.  It's what I want.  I know there's a grocery store over behind the hospital and seven bus lines nearby so it's what my beloved wants," said Mike.  "When do you think we can close."

"Do you need to consult your bank about a loan?" asked Hank.

"We'll be paying cash," said Mike.

"Never buy what you can't afford," she said in agreement.

"This is the easiest sale I've ever made," said Gigi.

"Can you contact the owners now?" asked Mike.

Gigi pulled out her cell phone and did just that, stepping to a corner of the garage to have the talk.
It took her all of two minutes.

"Yes," said Gigi.  "It's yours.  Do you want to close this week?"

She and Mike exchanged looks and he winked at her and nodded his head toward Gigi and Hank.

"Yes, please," she said, and she and Mike signed the contract -- Mike wanted her to be an owner with him -- and the realtors left them to finish their day.

On the way home, they stopped at the hardware store to pick up paint chips.  After that they went to her place to survey her things to decide what would go with them and what would go to charity.  While they talked about what things she was absolutely in love with and had to keep, he realized they'd not eaten and offered to go pick up something for an early dinner.

When Mike left, she got out a big sheet of paper and was writing down which pieces she had to keep.  She was amazed at what she could do without.  That cabinet looked fine but needed paint; her landlord had admired it and could have it.  Her bed would work well in the second bedroom.  The oak chest could go to her cousin who'd expressed an interest in it.

And then the phone rang.

"Oh, uh, um, hi, long time no speak," said the familiar voice.

"Kevin," she said.  "Kevin."

"Yeah, hey, hi, yeah," said Kevin.  "Listen, Connie's finally coming back to town on Thursday and I know he wants to see you.  My lovely spouse will be making lobsters and you should come.  Just us four.  She wants to meet you and Connie would kill me if I didn't invite you."

She was silent.  All that was real.  Handsome Connie and large Kevin were real and their feelings were real.  She wasn't being played.

"Oh, hello?" asked Kevin.

"I'm here, Kevin," she said.

"Is 7:30 okay with you?  You still work in the same place?" asked Kevin.

"Kevin, things have changed," she said.

"Changed?  What do you mean?" asked Kevin.

"I'm in love," she said.  "I'm in love and my sweetheart and I are moving in together.  He's gone to fetch dinner."

Kevin was quiet.  She heard him breathing heavily.

"I didn't expect that," said Kevin.

"I didn't expect it either," she told Kevin.  "I am very lucky."

"Connie's a good man," said Kevin.  "You were lucky there, too."

"Connie's been missing for months," she said.  "You stopped calling me.  Everything was such high drama that I started believing it was two guys playing me."

"He was in the hospital," she said.  "He was pretty sick.  My lovely bride had to arrange to have him evacuated out of where he was.  He didn't want you to know.  He talked about you all the time, about how he'd see you when he got better."

It was real.  He really cared.  It was also high drama and she hated high drama.

"Kevin, I'm in love," she said with great sincerity.  "He's wonderful and I am not going to hurt him."

"You could bring him along to dinner and compare," said Kevin.

"No, Kevin," she said.  "And you know why?"

"Why?" asked Kevin.

"Because I'm in love.  It's steady, true, and real.  There's not been a moment of high drama," she said.

Kevin was quiet.

"I didn't expect that, is all," said Kevin.

"Please tell Connie I wish him nothing but wonderful things," she said.  "Please tell your bride I'm sorry we never met."

"I didn't expect it," said Kevin and he sighed.

"Thanks for calling," she said.  "Good bye."

He hung up on his end without saying good bye.

Mike came in shortly thereafter with a pizza, well done, easy sauce, with spinach, onions, and sausage, just the way she liked it for a special occasion.  Mike preferred more sauce, pepperoni, and green peppers, but he'd never considered well done and thought it was genius.

"It's a special day with my special lady," said Mike.  "So I got your favorite."

Her eyes welled up and she said, "I am so lucky."

"Come to my office next Thursday," said Mike.  "We'll have the signing and then we'll have a nice lunch.  Is eleven okay?"

Her boss was in town that day, but she didn't think he'd object to her taking a half day for a personal errand.

"Yes," she said, and bit into the pizza.  It was delicious and with the flavor and texture of the pizza in her mouth and her great boyfriend sitting with her, she was almost dizzy from the perfection of the moment.

She decided to not tell Mike about Connie and Kevin.