Besides, who knows what else we'll find up there?

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I remember our Renter days when we'd just call someone (the landlord) for any house problem, and that was the extent of “dealing with it.” Just call someone (the landlord) and you get one-stop shopping, free of charge, never worry about it again. But now, as every first-time homeowner comes to realize, we can’t “call someone.” We are the someone. We have to figure out what kind of an issue we’re having (Electrical? Pipes? Pestilence? Meaning of Life?) and then find another someone we hope is experienced and trustworthy and bonded (what does that mean anyway?) to fix the issue in a timely fashion and without forcing us to take out a second mortgage. It’s enough to make a person crawl back under the covers and cry for mommy, really.

Two Sundays ago, I hopped out of the shower and into my Massage Therapist costume, veered downstairs into the kitchen to grab my keys and run out the door, when something made me stop short. Rather, something made me stop short, stare at the kitchen table, look up at the ceiling and gulp theatrically. There was plaster and water dotting the table and the items on it, and a nice chunk of our gag-o-rific popcorn ceiling had fallen away to reveal a groovy crack threatening to become a gaping hole. Of course we have a major plumbing problem. Why wouldn’t we want to add this to the growing list of Things We’re Putting Off (like the kitchen makeover we’ve had planned for months, the carpet that’s about to throw itself in the dumpster and the backyard fence that's on the wobbly verge of collapse)? Someone needs to let the Universe know that if it thinks we have this kind of money, it’s been sneakily thumbing through the wrong checkbook.

Meanwhile, we’ve been showering in the guest bathroom which, by the way? So much nicer than our bathroom. What the hell is wrong with our out-of-town friends that they wouldn’t want to come and enjoy a higher standard of bathing than we, the hapless residents of this crumbling abode, allow ourselves? The guest bathroom has everything our "master bath" does not: Full bathtub, great water pressure, room to turn around, fluffy towels, and blindingly orange walls, people. That’s all I’m saying. Feel the temptation. Taste the fucking rainbow.

Or something.

Monk called me as I sniffed bumpers towards home with the rest of the rush hour suckers yesterday. A plumber had shown up unexpectedly (apparently “call me back” actually means “come by whenever you want” in plumber-speak), and ran some high-tech tests (i.e., Plug the Drain, Fill Shower With Water, Wait for Water to Come Pouring Out of the Ceiling Downstairs; also impressive is the Spray Water All Over Bathroom & Again Wait for Water to Come Pouring Out of the Ceiling Downstairs test), and when nothing happened and the ceiling proved to be dry (ugly and threatening, but dry), they bonded with Monk (AHA! Bonded!) in bafflement and went on their merry way, presumably to pay a Surprise Plumber’s Visit to someone else.

According to the Unplanned Plumberhood, the next step is to cut into the ceiling over the kitchen table and “look around.” While the professionals can do this for a hefty fee, Monk says we can do this ourselves. Well, sure. But before we go all Tim the Toolman on our unsuspecting ceiling (which is also a floor, Monk. Which is part of a structure called a… frame, or something? Which I’ve heard is kind of an integral part in our house not falling down around us), we will be seeking guidance from my parents whose week-long Texas visit starts tomorrow (and is preventing me from attending a sex toy party on Saturday and, oh wait, getting off track here). At the very least, my parents can help carry the patch-up-the-ceiling supplies we will surely be purchasing this weekend. Plus, they are parents. Which makes them grown-ups. Who know things about owning property and having said property rear up on its hind legs and spit in your coffee.

Awfully nice that this parental visit is happening so soon after we broke the house, eh? I didn’t even have to crawl back under the covers and cry. Then again, they’ll be here for a week. I may end up like that anyway.


2 steps from the finish line

Thanks to a Dallas woman who I will have seen three times in one week by Saturday afternoon (addicted to my special brand of healing touch, wink wink nudge) (no, really, I'm good, apparently) (in a completely non-lewd, totally therapeutic sort of way - this client just can't get enough of me) (on the other hand, maybe three visits in a week means I'm really, really, ridiculously ineffective), this weekend will mark the completion of my massage internship. Starting Monday I'll be "on call" (like a doctor! maybe I should rethink my deeply-rooted bias against Scrubs on Massage Therapists and just go with the whole misrepresentin' flow), for regular clients specifically requesting a session with yours truly.

Hmmm... that first paragraph? A whole lot of wordy blandness to meander to its anticlimactic point: I'm almost done, people! Next week I'll apply to take the written part of the State exam and spend 4-6 weeks (according to the website) doing the study/massage/freakout dance. Hurry it up, test application processing gods! The sooner I take the written part, the sooner I can go down to Austin for the practical exam (which will be another month-long application process). So, obviously, the sooner I'll have my license. Which means: The sooner I can quit my job.

(You know how you can say/write a word so many times it begins to sound/look too strange to be a real word? Yeah.)


Unfortunately, the phase coming up next involves the Battle of the Two Anxieties: The let's-get-on-with-it type as described above, but also the WAIT! I-need-plenty-of-time-to-study-everything-I've-forgotten-from-class variety. And people who barely know me keep coming up to me and obnoxiously promising that I'll breeze through the exam. To these people I say, oh ho! You have no idea the magnitude of failure my test anxiety is capable of bringing! Also, shhhh! Don't challenge the beast to prove its might, with your empty promises and tampon commercial attitudes!

And that's all she wrote for the celebratory/freakout moment of the day.


In other news, someone I read regularly has been dooced this week. If you're wondering why you can't find any old posts that describe my job, my company, idiotic work exchanges or descriptions of my boss it's because you are obviously mistaking me for someone who would include such details on her site, which is never updated while she is working, by the way- you can set those post times and dates to whatever you want them to be so that's not really reliable data- and also Hi, Company! I love my job! You're the best! Just kidding about quitting someday! Smooches!


I want my gift with purchase.

When we first moved to Texas, we were smacked in the faces with the realization that the Dallas area must be in the running for one of The Top Five U.S. Cities Offering an Abominable Dining Experience. I’d give you a list of restaurants we patronized to prove this theory, but I’m afraid I will die from the mortification that comes with admitting that half of your dinner outings involve chain restaurants or something called a Whatachicken sandwich. Let’s just say that a pattern of mixed-up orders, delayed entrees and cocktails that never came resigned us to the idea that eating out was likely to be far less satisfying than just staying home and saving our damn money.

And then we discovered a tapas place, where the wait staff is clearly not from around here and therefore not clued in to the requirements of food servicing in Dallas. And a certain steakhouse chain where the waiter practically sat down with us to chat while we enjoyed our meal. And a bar & grill on Lower Greenville with a cozy patio and a perfectly attentive waitress. And a few other places that delivered plates promptly, brought the checks at just the right moment, never forgot a beer, refilled the water glasses without being asked, and so on. Monk and I thought our luck had changed. Or perhaps we’d finally proven to Texas that we came in peace and were here to stay- the People Who Give Good Service could come out to play again.

I do have faith that the next time we visit, our tapas place will be a wonderful experience (sidenote to Monk: We are long overdue for a tapas night, no? Landito must
be missing me by now). But again, I think that’s due to the establishment not knowing any better. Unfortunately, on a return visit to the bar & grill on Lower Greenville, we found it had gone out of business. Another restaurant showed us that the former good service we received was kind of a fluke. And lo, a certain steakhouse chain did fall mightily from grace on Saturday evening, with the Incident of the Bread.

Like almost any other chain restaurant in the country, every table in the restaurant gets a small loaf of its trademark bread by the time the orders have been placed and usually before the first drinks arrive. However un-American it may seem, I do not get excited by the idea of unlimited free bread just for sitting down in a restaurant because heaven forbid I don’t stuff my face every damn second I’m at the table. Waiting for food is better when you can eat other food while waiting! Yay! However, much like taxes, freedom of speech and a monkey in the white house, it is something I’ve come to expect, as a citizen of these United States. So you can imagine how my breadless agitation turned into chagrin, then shock, when we remained sans loaf throughout the drinks, the ordering and the arrival of our entrees and, after inquiring, were told that the restaurant had (HORROR OF HORRORS) run out of bread. It wasn’t until I realized bread was no longer an option that a craving for it crashed over me in a wave of carb-y wonder.

Monk was prepared to get over it, Skyhawk was busy mentally adjusting to the Surprise Entrée he had received (which was clearly not what he ordered but I guess he figured he’d go with the flow even though I would have sent it back but whatever), and then we witnessed the unthinkable: Wait staff zipping by with trays lofted high- trays that held one and sometimes two trademark loaves of bread, delivered to people that had been seated long after we arrived. Why the loaf discrimination? Did we look anti-bread? I’m confident that we (at least when we first arrived) were the best tippers in the place (it’s Texas, but the funny thing is that tipping? Not part of the “everything’s bigger” boast). What was the issue? I began to feel defensive, and then combative. If they didn’t think we were worthy of bread, they had another think coming! I caught the manager’s eye, but he squared his shoulders and looked away from our loafless table, and we remained condemned to our gigantic plates of food and an upcoming dessert order. I wouldn’t stand for it. We deserved the same rights and courtesies as the next patron! We demand bread! Bread for the people! We shall not be moved (from the table until we get our bread)!

Halfway through our dinner, the waiter came over to see how things were and I seized the opportunity. “Here’s my problem,” I began, and described the gaping void in my soul where a free loaf of bread should have been. Possibly to get the crazy girl to take her crazy stare and crazy bread obsession somewhere else, he rushed off and miraculously returned with a fresh, warm loaf of the trademark bread. And it was good. Despite the fact that all three of us were fairly full at this point, we made sure we (I) consumed most of the free, delicious bread. And when the waiter came by at the end of the meal to clear our plates, I may have shot him a look that said I’d be stabbing him with my butter knife if he tried to remove the loaf from the table.

Next time we dine there (next time is right, people- not a lot of restaurant options in the suburbs) I’ll be sure to ask for the free bread right away. Although I don’t think it’ll be a problem, now that I’ve shown them what’s what. Really, a huge meal and beers and fried onions and dessert without a loaf of bread to wash it all down? Nope, that’s not how I roll.

(ha ha! How I ROLL, get it? Like BREAD?! Oh, I slay me!)


There's an easy title in here somewhere

Last night I had two 90 minute massages back to back, like some kind of super massage rockstar. (What??)

Switching out the sheets in the 5 minutes between appointments was like a whirlwind costume change during a fast-paced Broadway show. (Or something like that.)

Whatever, people, it was hectic, is my point. You spend 9 hours straight plotting to kill your boss and then take on a physically demanding 3 hour evening without time to sit and catch your breath and you’d be slinging half-assed similes, too.

One of my clients was huge- I mean built like a tree. Rather, built like a tree that has its own gym and regularly bench presses cars before the first sip of coffee. But there was something endearing about this giant Redwood of a man softly telling me where he was hurting and how bewildered he was about it: “Maybe it was because I slept so good last night you know how when you sleep REALLY good and you wake up and you’re just like ‘urrrghhh’ and something hurts? I mean, I was fine at first I woke up ate a bowl of Frosted Flakes* and ran some errands and then later on it was like whoa, it hurts to breathe…”

(*Something adorable about such a Big Boy nonchalantly including breakfast details in his verbal account of the day… My Giant eats Frosted Flakes! Squeeee!)

Anyway. He went on to tell me his theory regarding men and massage (get your minds out of the gutter): no matter how uncomfortable they are, they will never tell the massage therapist he/she is using too much pressure. They’re so hell bent on proving they “can handle it” that, when asked if the pressure is too hard, they’ll lie and say it’s fine even if it’s hurting them. As much as I hate to generalize, there may be something to his theory, since I can only think of one male client so far who has copped to preferring less pressure.

---My public service announcement to anyone stumbling across this page: You pay a lot of money for a service that should feel good and benefit your well-being. If it hurts, that’s not helping you (unless we’re practicing Deep Tissue), so speak up, dammit. But also? Don’t ask the massage therapist (as Giant Client did) to punch you where it hurts. That’s not really a massage technique. And as tempting as it might be, I will not be persuaded.---

Having delivered his editorial on men and pain/pressure, the talking tree thought for a minute, then said “But you can go as hard as you need to with me, you won’t hurt me.”

So I did. And I did.

He confirmed this later on, marveling at my strength (FEAR ME, YOU MERE MORTALS WITH MUSCLE TENSION AND OCCASIONALLY SMELLY FEET). I told him I would have asked him about the pressure, but I figured he’d lie. He chuckled and replied “yeah, I probably would have.”

Now I’m wondering what his reaction would have been had I just gone ahead and punched him.


This is where we used to live

Monk and I get off the Red Line at the Addison stop into a wall of cheering from the baseball fans that have taken over Wrigley Field for the afternoon. Turning our backs to America’s favorite pastime (just like old times) we walk up Halsted Street towards our (once) neighborhood. I struggle to swallow the fifth refrain of “I’m homesick," partly because Monk probably doesn’t want to hear it again, partly because calling it homesick doesn’t quite cover it. Up Halsted Street with rainbows flapping on the lamp posts, past the old thrift store, pausing to smile at our old video rental haunt- the only place I’ve known to be so dog-friendly they toss Milkbones at your pup as you try to steer her towards the new releases.

We near our block and realize that it must have been up-and-coming when we lived there, if the new restaurants and condo building are any indication. Down the street, slowly, savoring the amble towards what used to be our front door. One of the neighbors is out in front, and eyes us curiously as we approach. He’s lived next door to the place for probably a decade now, watched numerous tenants come and go as new leases were signed and the octogenarian landlords sold and moved out; I’m certain he can’t place us, but we sure do look familiar.

We’ll meet up with old friends in the evening, stay the night just off of Michigan Avenue, then wander The Taste with my father and brother. The day will go down in history as the only time I’ve participated in the town’s feeding/spending frenzy without overindulging and giving myself a days-long stomach ache. We’ll explore the new park and take pictures of new monuments, all the while looking for our homecoming parade around every corner.

Chicago is playing Ferris Bueller, cutting class and driving into the city to run around with friends, sneaking around the Loop afraid my dad will leave his building for lunch (see me, then kill me).

It’s The Palmer House for senior prom, a drunken boat ride later, a kiss that started something perfect, effortless, meaningless, confusing and ultimately damaging.

It’s having a direct connection to get VIP access to the Shedd Aquarium & Oceanarium, and always passing on a visit to the Planetarium because gawd, only geeks are into stars and shit.

Chicago is walking around during college winter break with a friend from England, laughing hysterically as she complains about the “snot-freezing cold.”

It's going 90 (in a 55) on Lake Shore Drive ten minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve, because your lead-footed friend is frantic at the thought of not being able to find a party in time for the countdown.

Chicago is moving into an apartment in the dead of winter and spending the first few months living on Budweiser and Hamburger Helper, wondering if we’ll ever be able to afford a life here. It’s discovering that part of Real Life is how impossible it seems to be to make friends outside of college, and staying at a job I hate which pays pretty well, and taking my discontent out on the only friend I do have in the city. Who happens to be living with me and loving me despite my Old Hag impression.

Chicago is drinking vodka tonics and talking about books with Ruth, one of our 80 year old landlords living above us. It’s a telephone conversation on the back porch, choppy from pausing every 5 minutes for the train to roar over my head. It’s looking down off that same porch in the dead of winter and seeing that Joe (the other 80 year old landlord) has drawn a big heart in the snow and scrawled “J O E + R U T H” in the center. Then looking to the right and noticing he’s scratched out a similar piece of art for Monk and me.

Chicago is running up the steps to the El platform, only to miss the train and be stung by the February wind chill as the next one fails to turn up quickly.

It’s walking down Clark Street to a bar with a fantastic courtyard that is never full, and admiring the very pregnant bartender for her…dedication?

Chicago is catching a cab when you’re in a hurry, walking when you’re not, and taking the subway when you have to. It’s Thai food and creative cocktails, a local grocery, liquor store and coffee shop all around the corner, and the best pizza in the country. It’s friends moving in as we're moving out (or maybe that’s just what they call irony). Chicago is the dramatic demolition and reconstruction of a relationship. It’s growing up, being let down, realizing that life’s a bitch and that sometimes that’s funny. Chicago is not appreciating what we have until we’ve walked away from it, learning when to fight and how to do it fairly.

Chicago is love, boredom, misery. It’s reunions, grand conversation, insecurity, public intoxication and private depression. Chicago is loneliness, creativity, pride, filth, goddamn fucking cold winters, and a dog beach in the summer. Chicago, still, is home.

To say I’m homesick doesn’t quite cover it.