Just Beachy

May 31, 2011 at 2:32 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

It seems like every day I find something else to love about my new apartment.  Yesterday I was able to add one more item to the list when I realized that there was a beach no more than a mile and a half from where I was sitting on my couch.  Since it was actually sunny and in the 90’s for our Memorial Day, I figured I should probably hit the sand.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Chicago weather for making me look like a lying fool.  I’ve had house guests two of the last three weekends and each of these visitors have had to put up with rain and unseasonably low temperatures for the

Beach Day!

duration of their stay.  Then, just as Mr. Murphy predicted, the weather cleared up and became downright beautiful once they left.  As an example, my old college buddy and I spent Sunday morning battling downpours as we walked to breakfast and then drove to the grocery (friends who stay with me and then drive me to do errands earn a special place in my heart).  These were serious downpours too – flash flooding was taking place and my friend actually had to climb in her passenger side to get in her car because the streets were so saturated.  It was miserable and I haven’t seen a drenching like that in a good long while.  After our brunch and errands, my friend departed into the storm.  Not even three hours later the rain had ceased and the evening became warm and pleasant with a nice sunset to boot.  Of course.  That was Sunday – Monday I woke up to 90 degree temps and abundant sunshine.  Double of course.  While I was bummed that my friend missed out on the nice weather, I did everything in my power to enjoy it enough for the both of us.

There are many beaches throughout Chicago and each of them are known for different things.  North Avenue beach is probably the most popular but as I’m not the type of person who goes to the beach to see and be seen, I’ll stick with what’s local.  Foster Ave. beach had plenty of kids and families but not so much that it made the entire experience ultra annoying.  There was some beach volleyball action going on and I definitely had some ice cream from a street vendor.  A friend of mine and I enjoyed the sun for a few hours and I even braved a walk in Lake Michigan before heading home – and it was freezing.  Lesson learned in that respect.  It’s nice to know I have such a sweet spot so near to my humble abode, even if I only get to enjoy it 3 months out of the year.

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Loving LUMA

May 27, 2011 at 10:25 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Tuesday night, our Northwestern class took a trip to the Loyola University Museum of Art (aka LUMA), which is off Michigan Avenue (and conveniently located next door to the Hershey Store, where I taste tested some products before entering the museum).  One of my favorite aspects of this Museum Studies course is that it exposes me to some of the smaller museums in Chicago that I’m not as aware of and gives me an opportunity to check them out.  That was the case with LUMA, where we were allowed to wander through their exhibits before and after meeting with two of their curators.  They were both kind enough to answer our questions and speak to us about working in such a unique space.  Their insights were informative and entertaining and it’s always interesting to hear about some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of any museum.  LUMA is a part of Loyola University, which is a “Jesuit Catholic university dedicated to knowledge in the service of humanity”.  While LUMA is funded primarily through the university, they are in fact an art museum in and of their own right.  And their collections really are worth your time.

LUMA

While LUMA features various temporary exhibits which rotate fairly often (including the current one on textiles), they have three rooms in their permanent collection as well.  The permanent collections showcase various pieces of religious art from hundreds of years ago.  Dozens of paintings, sculptures, wood and ivory carved pieces and much more adorn the halls and each piece is significant.  There are some items dating as far back as the 14th and 15th centuries and I found just standing in the presence of such art to be extremely meaningful.  The display of these collections is uncluttered and the gallery provides a nice flow from one room to another while still showcasing everything in a tasteful manner.  I looked in one ornate mirror that was hundreds of years old and all I could think about was how many sets of eyes have looked for their reflection in that glass over the last few centuries.  Not going to lie, it gave me goosebumps.

As someone who grew up attending Catholic schools and masses, I felt a bit deeper of a connection to many of these relics than what some of my other classmates might have had.  However, as you may or may not know, I don’t exactly consider myself a model Catholic any longer.  I do attend mass with some regularity (i.e. when I’m home visiting Mom) so I’m not entirely lapsed but affiliating myself with a specific religion isn’t something I worry too much about.  That being said, I’ll admit I felt more of a spiritual presence in the gallery at LUMA than I have in probably the last decade or so in a church.  There was a reverence surrounding these objects that I found humbling and being around items that people have worshiped and prayed over for so much of our history was enough to give me pause.  I actually sort of wished that I had been there on my own so I could have completely immersed myself in the experience.  Since our time there was unfortunately limited, I plan on going back soon to do just that.

At just $6, LUMA’s admission fee is hard to beat (especially given the hefty price tags at many other museums).  Tuesdays are even free every week, though it’s just my luck that that’s the evening I have my weekly class.  I won’t be in class forever though so until I can take advantage of the free days more often, I’ll be happy shell out six bucks to go back for more.

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Not in Kansas Anymore

May 25, 2011 at 11:29 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes have been wreaking havoc all over the Midwest this week and my thoughts are especially with those in Joplin, MO.  122 people have been confirmed dead and it was the deadliest tornado to hit anywhere since the National Weather Service began tracking keeping records in 1950.  200 mph winds – seriously.  I absolutely cannot imagine going through such a devastating event and I can only hope that those affected are able to find some peace soon.

Be Safe!

While Joplin has definitely been hit the hardest, this Spring has seen record-breaking tornado occurrences in multiple states.  The Tuscaloosa tornado isn’t all that far behind us and I saw some photos this week from my college town in Indiana that showed trees going through apartment buildings – and that was during a storm, no tornado in sight.  Thankfully everyone there is okay but it makes you realize that Mother Nature doesn’t play around.  We in Chicago battled winds and rain on our morning commute today and sitting 51 floors off the ground gave me an entirely new perspective on a major thunderstorm.  Things here have calmed down for the moment but they’re supposed to get nasty again right around 5pm, just in time for my trip home.  Most if Indiana is under a tornado watch for the day and I hope all of you, wherever are you are, manage to stay safe.  While weathermen (and women) may not always be right, in cases like these it’s best to be safe rather than sorry.  I know my mom has her emergency bag stashed in the basement should she need it and I suggest that you put one together just in case.  Clothes, medicines, communication devices, a flashlight, a bit of food, bottled water and of course a bottle of wine are all things that can help get you through the storm.  So be careful everyone, because even Dorothy would be a little freaked by this weather.

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I Dream of Falafel

May 24, 2011 at 11:23 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Working in the Loop provides one with ample choices for lunchtime eateries.  I usually don’t allow myself to eat out for lunch (as I’m no Rockefeller) but every now and then I splurge and brave the windy city streets for some delicious eats.  As many scrumptious options as there are within walking distance, I find myself time and time again heading to the doors of I Dream of Falafel.

I was turned onto this place by a coworker and in the three months since I first ate there, I’ve convinced three other

Yum

coworkers of the glory that is amazing falafel as well.  It doesn’t hurt that we have a Willis Tower Rewards Card that gives us a 20% discount, but even without the price cut I’d be there quite often.  In fact, I didn’t know about said discount until last week and it never stopped me from going prior to that.  Anyway, this quick and easy Mediterranean place serves up large quantities of hummus, baba ganoujeh, tabbouleh,  pita and of course falafel.  In fact, this place actually has sweet potato falafels and now that I’ve had that, i don’t know if I can ever go back.  For those of you who have know clue what the hell a falafel is, I’d be happy to enlighten you.  It’s basically a scoop of chick peas (the same thing hummus is made of), only shaped into a ball and deep-fried.  It’s much better than it sounds, I assure you.  It’s actually downright dreamy (pun intended).

I was treated to a meal here yesterday by a woman I work with – I’d helped her with a rather long, tedious project and she wanted to say thanks.  It wasn’t necessary but it was much appreciated, especially since one plate from this place will satiate my appreciate for an entire day.  Unfortunately, this is only a Chicago eatery (so far as I know).  There are three locations in and around the Loop so if and when you’re here and hungry, you know where to go.  And if you take me with you I can get us a discount!  Your treat, of course.

PS – You know how my life is full of coincidences, much like that which I blogged about yesterday?  Well last night I was watching a few episodes of the Simpsons from a friend’s box set and the episode where they go to Itchy and Scratchy Land came on.  There’s a rather long parody of the It’s a Small World ride in Disney World, which I found funny given my post topic yesterday.  That is all.

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Small World

May 23, 2011 at 11:47 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

If you’re reading this, congratulations on being such a sinner that the Rapture passed you by.  Knowing that I wasn’t one to be sucked up into space, I spent my Saturday evening at a Rapture Party with some friends.  Nothing special, just a bit of drinking, hanging out and enjoying our current heathen status.  It was especially enjoyable because the party was a mere 10 minute walk from my place, whereas I’d have had to take a bus, a train and a walk to get there from my old apartment.  Yay for living in a neighborhood near friends!

Small and creepy

Anyway, while I was at said party I had one of those experiences that makes you just stop and say, “It really is a small world”.  Perhaps it had to do with the end of the world and all but in reality it was probably just a very strange coincidence.  A group of us were hanging out in the living room when one girl suddenly looked at me rather strangely and asked if I had lived with a dark-headed gay guy in college.  I answered in the affirmative and then she asked if we used to put beer and ice in our washing machine in the basement during parties.  Again, I answered  yes and while I was accepting praise for having concocted such an ingenious way to distribute beer, I asked her exactly how she knew that.  Apparently this girl used to attend random parties we threw at my very first college apartment, back in the heyday of 2004.  We then figured out that she was dating the roommate of a guy I…well, a guy I knew for a bit.  I’d expand on that but my mom reads my blog.

Anyway, it was a bit strange once we put all this together.  The fact that this girl who had played beer pong on my basement door seven years ago eventually evolved into a girl I was drinking beer with 200 miles from where we first met was interesting indeed.  It was by no means the most random coincidence I’ve experienced in my life but it was close enough to give me pause.  And cause the Disney song “It’s a Small World” to be stuck in my head for the rest of the night.

(Semi-interesting story: I auditioned for a play once upon a time – the one and only play I’ve ever auditioned for.  It was a musical and even at the tender age of 9, I should’ve known better.  During the audition, I had to sing “It’s a Small World” and…I forgot the words.  All of them.  I froze and then tried to start over, but not before realizing I had just killed any and all chances of ever performing on stage.  I did not get the part).

Sometimes it really is a small, small world.

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Thank Goddess It’s Friday

May 20, 2011 at 12:04 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Because I’m completely and utterly exhausted.

Good news though – Dad got sent home yesterday!  He’s feeling pretty well and my sister is down there to help for a few days.  Things are on the up and up with him so I think I’ll stop with the updates here because at this point I’m nervous I’ll jinx something.  So hooray for him feeling better and here’s hoping the cancer is all gone!

Even with that great news, it’s been a rather long and hellish week.  Besides what was happening with my old man, my grandpa gave us a scare a few nights ago health-wise and this morning I had to take Catsby to the Animal Hospital.  Papa is feeling fine now and while we’re likely going to have to change the insulin dosage for Catsby, I’m pretty sure she’ll be okay as well.  Though she still needs to get a job.  Anyway, I’m sort of over this week.  And apparently tomorrow is going to mark the beginning of end of the world?  If that’s the case, then I’ll be pissed at all the money I’m shelling out at the vet’s office today.  I’ll be spending my Saturday at the Field Museum so if shit does hit the fan, at least I’ll be in a place I’m rather fond of.

And that’s it for today.  My mind is mush.  Mush mush mush.

Mush.

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May Book Club Review

May 19, 2011 at 10:34 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I was here

Our book club numbers have sadly been dwindling lately, as it seems everyone has gotten busier than we anticipated.  Last week there were a whopping three of us who showed up for our monthly meeting but in some ways that was kind of nice.  We met at La Creperie and it was my first time visiting the French-styled bistro restaurant.  If you don’t know much about crepes…well, you should.  They’re pretty amazing.  They’re typically made in both sweet and savory varieties, with the sweet being more like a dessert and the savory more like an entrée.  I split the Ratatouille savory crepe with one of the book club ladies and she had the brilliance to add in a bit of goat cheese to the standard zucchini, eggplant, onion, peppers and tomatoes.  It was delicious.  We then split a sweet crepe stuffed with banana and Nutella, which was equally as delicious though in a very different way.  Throw in a warm spring day, large glass of wine, book, good company and the obligatory guy playing an accordion in the courtyard and you’ve got quite the night.

Speaking of books, there was some literary discussion as well.  We read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  It’s about twins who

Two thumbs up

are the product of an Indian nun mother and British surgeon father.  They grow up in Ethiopia and the story chronicles their lives from birth (literally) to death.  It was a little longer than what we typically read for book club so I had to up my speed reader skills just a bit, but in the end I was glad I did.  While it was a little difficult to get into immediately, I found myself totally immersed in the story before I knew it.  I laughed, I cried and it was one of those books that I simultaneously didn’t want to end but was in a hurry to finish.  Some of the historical bits were a little confusing though, mostly because my knowledge of the political history of Ethiopia is pretty much nonexistent.  Since the entire novel took place in or around hospitals, there were also more than a few terms and descriptions that were a bit over my head.  All in all though, this is one of those books that I think I’ll be reading again.

Speaking of hospitals, Dad’s still on the mend.  We’re still waiting on all results to come back but my sister will be flying down there today and I’ll be down there in two weeks.  Not exactly the circumstances I’d like for a visit but I’m already ready to go!

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“Whoops”

May 18, 2011 at 10:42 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’ve been able to talk to my dad and he’s feeling better – we’re all still waiting on test results but since there’s not much that can be done until we know what we’re dealing with, I’m trying not to stress.  And since the daily grind doesn’t grind to a stop just because a loved one is sick, I’m still going about my normal routine.  Which of course means waking up early and catching the train to work.

Sorry!

So there I sat, enjoying a few moments of peace and quiet before starting another work day.  I had my eyes closed and was in that nice spot somewhere between dozing and being fully alert.  I was also enjoying some random thoughts and one of them had to do with public transportation (shocker).  I can’t quite remember if I blogged about how the train jammed a few weeks ago and caused a nightmare of a commute for thousands of Chicagoans but if I didn’t, I meant to.  No one was hurt and I managed to miss the headache by about an hour but it was strange because that same morning, as I was on that train line, I had wondered to myself how many times I had to ride it before being involved in an incident.  Statistically speaking, of course, not because I’m into that sort of thing.  It was a little weird when I heard the news later that day but I was just thankful I wasn’t involved.

Back to today.  One of my random thoughts pertained to coffee drinkers on the trains, as there are usually more than a few.  I’ve never seen anyone spill anything on anyone else and considering how jerky the rides can be, that’s somewhat surprising.  Roughly 3 minutes after that thought morphed into another, I felt something warm on my leg.  After quickly determining I hadn’t just wet my pants, I opened my eyes and saw some dude in a suit staring at me with real fear in his eyes as he apologized.  My reaction time was delayed as I was still in that semi-conscious state but I do believe I looked at the stain spreading on my knee in utter disbelief.  Before I could say anything to him, he ran off the train.

Luckily for me (and him), we’d been on the train about 20 minutes and the coffee wasn’t really all that hot.  Still – some stranger spilled coffee on me!  Not a great way to start the day.  It didn’t end up staining my pants but it did forever tarnish my perception of humanity in general.  Alright, maybe my reaction wasn’t exactly that strong but I cannot say I was pleased.  I’m also now scared of thinking random things on the train because they seem to come true.  Tomorrow I shall test this theory and wonder how often people find hundred dollar bills on the floor of train cars, but somehow I don’t think that will produce the outcome I want.  Although finding some money would allow me to buy a handy poncho for my daily commute.

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Keep ‘Em Coming

May 17, 2011 at 10:49 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

…the good thoughts, I mean.

Dad pulled through surgery but things are a little more complicated than we would like.  We’re trying not to freak out until his pathology report comes back later this week but of course it’s on my mind.  Your positive thoughts all help so don’t stop now!

Since everything in my life is wrapped up in what’s going on in a hospital in Baton Rouge, I’m not sure where to go with this here blog.  Chances are I’ll resume regular posting shortly, if for no other reason than to get my mind off of things.  Today, though, my mind is all over the place.  I don’t want to dwell on what I have no control over but I would like to mention how my dad’s cigarette habit is now affecting every person who happens to give a damn about him.  I know smoking is difficult to quit and I’d be lying if I said I’d never had one myself but ultimately…it’s a pretty stupid thing to do.  If you’re reading this blog chances are I know and care about you, so if you’re also a smoker I have just a few things I want you to keep in mind.  I’m sure you’re aware of the damage smoking does and I learned the hard way about trying to look at photos but below is a list of exactly what happens to your body after that last smoke.  Just something to think about:

When smokers quit — What are the benefits over time?

20 minutes after quitting

Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.

(Effect of smoking on arterial stiffness and pulse pressure amplification, Mahmud A, Feely J. 2003. Hypertension:41:183)

12 hours after quitting

The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1988, p. 202)

2 weeks to 3 months after quitting

Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.

(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp.193, 194,196, 285, 323)

1 to 9 months after quitting

Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.

(US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. 285-287, 304)

1 year after quitting

The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s.

(US Surgeon General’s Report, 2010, p. 359)

5 years after quitting

Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.

(A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease – The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease Fact Sheet, 2010; Tobacco Control: Reversal of Risk After Quitting Smoking. IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Vol. 11. 2007, p 341)

10 years after quitting

The risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas decreases.

(A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease – The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease Fact Sheet, 2010; and US Surgeon General’s Report, 1990, pp. vi, 155, 165)

15 years after quitting

The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.

(Tobacco Control: Reversal of Risk After Quitting Smoking. IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention, Vol. 11. 2007. p 11)

These are just a few of the benefits of quitting smoking for good. Quitting smoking lowers the risk of diabetes, lets blood vessels work better, and helps the heart and lungs. Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, but quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to smoke.

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Good Thoughts Never Hurt

May 16, 2011 at 12:21 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

So please send some in the direction of my dad today.

For a man who made it into his fifties with an appendectomy as his only surgical procedure, he sure has made up for it in the last half decade.  He was involved in a motorcycle accident a few years ago and while his helmet and thick head kept him relatively safe, he still wound up in the hospital with some stitches.  Which wasn’t great timing, as a few months later he donated one of his kidneys to a cousin of mine who had been on dialysis for quite a while.  The doctors managed to botch the operation and while both my cousin and dad wound up fully recovering, it was a more difficult and painful process than it should have been.  Fast forward roughly two years and he’s now having a malignant mass removed from his lung.  His prognosis is good and they caught it early but having a parent undergo surgery to remove cancer is never easy, especially when you’re almost 1,000 miles away.

The upside is all of this finally got my old man to quit smoking, something he’s been attempting for as long as I can remember.  The patch, the gum, cold turkey and hypnosis never worked but he went from smoking a pack and a half a day to down to nothing in the few weeks following his diagnosis.  This is as real a wake up call as you get.  I’m proud of him for quitting and will be even prouder once he, like my mom, finishes kicking cancer’s ass.  I told him I want him around to dance with me if and when I ever get married and since that could very well be decades into the future, he better get healthy now.  So send out some good vibes, say a prayer or do whatever it is you do in situations like this – it’s all much appreciated!

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