this happened last year, too

there’s something about lent that makes me want to go back to church. i’m guessing it’s a fairly decent mix of the whole “do something to make yourself a better/stronger” person, lots of pre-lenten advertising in the form of mardi gras, and those random folks with smudges on their head on ash wednesday saying loud and clear “you like the ritual of the mass, remember?”

the thing that always pushes me over the “go to mass” reluctant hill is the little voice in the back of my head that says “and the music. you know how you love the music of the mass. just go. be happy.”

so i go. and then i get to mass and i remember: you don’t sing happy music at lent because you’re supposed to be sad.

dammat. now i’ve got to sit through 6 weeks of doldrums music just to sing a hosanna and an alleluia and foley song other than “one bread, one body” ever again.

sigh…i suppose it’s as decent a penance as anything.

2007: a look ahead

here’s the things that i’d like to do this year:

  • drink less soda (maybe 1 a day?)
  • drink way more water (some in the form of tea)
  • wean myself mostly off of caffeine by march-ish
  • exercise regularly (once week by march, adding a “once” every week every quarter)
  • read one book a month (pitiful goal, i know, but considering i read about 3 all 2006, it’s not an unrealistic one)
  • write (at least 6 hours a week)
  • eat better (one “take out” meal a day, healthier choices in general)
  • take my vitamins
  • finish ryan’s scarf before spring

oh yeah, i know that it takes a few weeks to get a single habit ingrained, and that trying to do all of this at once means i’m probably doomed to fail and all, but ya gotta have dreams, right? speaking of dreams…

loftier “things i’d like to do/have/etc but can’t necessarily do on my own and/or have no real control over” goals:

also, the official motto of 2007 is “fuck that!”

cold turkey

while multitasking at work yesterday, steve and i started chatting on a broad range of topics. i do not understand why he doesn’t read more books. he doesn’t understand why i consider participating in nanowrimo to be a guilty pleasure. this led to a more refined discussion about how for me, it’s about the story. i like absorbing stories. tv, movies, reading, writing, and playing the type of videogames i play (rpg’s) are fundamentally about the stories involved with them. whether it’s extremely passive like tv, movies, or games, or an act of creation like writing, that’s the primary reason i do it. for me, videogames (WoW, specifically) are that sort of perfect balance of interaction and passivity. so we started down the path about the danger of liking mmorpgs too much,and i started thinking about how i don’t actually write all that much anymore and i haven’t picked up a decent book in…oh god, it’s october so almost 10 months, right? and that’s when it hit me:

WoW is cheap vodka.

sure it gets me drunk well enough (in this analogy “getting drunk” means “satisfying my need for story”), but since i’m filling my belly with the cheap stuff, there’s no room in my life for the good stuff. for the finely aged merlot, for the champagne, or even for the really great martini made with grey goose instead of the grocery-store label vodka. it’s been keeping me from experiencing the things i enjoy not just because they’re minimally satisfying, but for the quality of the experience as well.

in that one instance i lost all desire to play.

so, dear reader, on this fine thursday that i’ve take off to detox and prep for a whirlwind of a weekend (there’s a wedding), i encourage you to indentify the cheap vodka in your life and dump it down the kitchen sink.

weekend in chicago: brought to you by starbucks

friday: when you factor in the metrolink ride to the airport, waiting for the plane, and then waiting some more because the (vice) president was also flying out of the city that night, the 45 minute train ride from the airport to the stop closest to the hotel and the 6ish block walk, it may have actually been faster to drive :)

it might not have been cheaper, however.

our restaurant of choice on friday night had a 1.5 hour wait when we got there at 9:30 (and/or the host may have just been trying to scare away our jeans-wearing party of 4) so we walked around until we found a sushi place that sat us immediately (one restaurant over). this was my favorite meal of the trip. the atmosphere of the restaurant was perfectly japanese, from the flatscreen tv that displayed japanese cooking shows over the bar to the lighting, the … whatever you call plates and glasses and things (serving ware?) … to especially the trendilicious waitresses who had that extremely meek/shy japanese girl attitude that compliments the food so well.

and the food.

i know what red snapper is supposed to taste like now. the portions were bigger, the fish was fresher and it was about the same price as anything you’d find in st. louis that wasn’t uber-pretentious, although that wasn’t really a surprise. while i cannot truly comment on the originality of the rolls until i’ve eaten more sushi in more cities, they were considerably more creative/tasty than most things we’ve come across in st. louis. the majority of them (which are separate from the standard rolls on the main menu/website) were named/themed by color (white, red, green dragons, arizona sunset, winter, summer, etc) and they were oh-so-tasty. my favorite of the bunch was the white dragon which had tempura shrimp and some misc veggies (cucumber maybe?) on the inside and was topped with white tuna (yum!). it was decorated with some white roe of some sort (not masago), and little dollups of red sauce as spikes. the dragon was complete with carrot slices of ears and flame, a tongue, and eyes made of octopus circles topped with mayo and a tiny black dot of roe for each pupil. it was so cute i almost didn’t want to eat it :) hans’s camera has a picture of it somewhere.

total visits to starbucks: one (airport)

saturday: otherwise known as the day of walking. we started early, with a trip to starbucks soon after 9am and then made our way (entirely on foot) along the riverfront to shed aquarium, where we walked around several exhibits. the new wild reef is incredible, even if you’re afeard of sharks to the extent i am. i’ve never seen a tank so big and so full of predators. also impressive (but not new to me) were the dolphins, beluga whales, and the amazon exhibit.

after that we walked to the nearest train stop (appx 7 blocks away) and hitched a ride to the loop for lunch. it was probably only 4 or 5 blocks away from where got the train, but we had day-passes, so it didn’t matter. we wandered for a bit, looking for the expected cluster of restaurants to pick from but didn’t really find something. hans and kristan led us to a known restaurant they ate at during a previous trip. it was not incredible, but filling and warm, which was important. i do not think there was a starbucks stop during all of that, but i find that sort of hard to believe.

after lunch we hopped a train back to the hotel where we rested our feet for a few minutes and parted ways. kristan and i walked the magnificently crowded mile while the boys went…elsewhere. because it was actually between the hotel and our nearest train stop, it was entirely on foot as well. did i mention the strip was crowded? i’m guessing the two world-series games that weekend had something to do with the increased level of crowds, but it was nuts! at several stores we had things in our hands to buy, but turned and looked at the lines and decided it was not worth it.

also on the strip, i developed a sudden and searing animosity towards the american girl phenomenon. i was dimly aware of this phenomenon before we went, but hadn’t really understood what it entailed before we got there. in addition to a line of $90 dolls and coordinating outfits, there is a 3 story “store” where a girl can bring her very favorite doll or 2 and spend the day with her. the doll. there’s a salon (for the doll!), a glamour-shots esque photo studio, a restaurant (complete with seats/serving ware for the doll) a theatre…the list goes on and on and suddenly everywhere we went for the rest of the trip there were little girls clutching their dolls to their chest while mommy/daddy/grandma trailed along with brick-red bags full of merchandise. cuz that’s the genius of the thing. the dolls are time-period specific, so you can’t put felicity’s 1784 frock on melody because melody is from 1934 (note: i made those years/names up, so please don’t correct me, because i don’t really care). i just wanted to rip the dolls out of their hands and destroy them. i don’t know why the ridiculous excess made me so violent, because destroying the $90 doll in her $30 outfit certainly wouldn’t help the problem, but oh man did i want to.

kristan and i were going to hit starbucks on our way home, but the line was so obscene and we really just wanted some water/propel so we abandoned it for a convenience store along the route home. i heard a rumor that the boys managed one on their walk back to hotel, though.

dinner saturday night was at a real pizzaria uno, the kind where you order when you get there and even after your 1.5 hour wait for a table, your incredibly tasty slow cooked. deep dish pizza is not ready for you. while we waited in the bitter cold rain, we hit another SB. it was so much the caffeine or the thirst, it was the warm liquid while you walk/wait in that cold, bitter rain. the pizza was worth the wait. i picked up the sausage and instead of bits of sausage all over the pizza, it was one giant piece. very clever and very smart.

by the time dinner was over, the first game of the world series had started, so the streets weren’t incredibly crowded. we picked up some previously coveted items at the apple store and eddie bauer before heading to the blue man group show. we got to take the train for part of our journey, but there was still about 15-20 blocks of walking from dinner to the show and back home again. there would have been some soul-warming sb on the way back, but it was late enough they were all closed.

i was much much more impressed with blue man than i expected to be but it was hilarious and entertaining and all things interesting and good.

there is no describing what bmg is. its improv, it’s music, it’s absurd and it’s hilarious. the general “plot” is these 3 alien-like guys explore whatever gets put in front of them. this includes drum sets, bottles of paint, boxes of captain crunch, bags of marshmallows, pvc-pipe musical instruments and of course, the audience. they even find time to mock our concept of “art” and the excessive amount of media that’s thrown at us on a daily basis.

if you have the opportunity to go to a bmg show, then go. that’s really all i can say.

total visits to starbucks: two (three if you’re a boy) … although i may be forgetting one or two. that number seems low.

sunday: after the day of walking, we were all pretty beat. my shoes and i were not getting along, but they seemed to level off with the amount of pain they would give me. after the first 20 or so steps after any break, the pain leveled off and was ignorable. besides shoe-induced pain, there was some ankle/calf quirks happening, which were less comfortable.

we started the day at west egg cafe(no decent link), brunching with some in-town practically-family friends. more tasty, tasty food. after that, we walked to the pier and did some more people watching and shopping. we got sort of stuck with figuring out what we wanted to do with the rest of our visit. yesterday had taken a fatiguing toll on all 4 of us so while there was plenty we could do, motivation was pretty low. eventually we decided to wander around the bit of the mag mile we (the girls) hadn’t gotten to yesterday. we hitched a ride on a free trolley from the pier, which (to me) was worth the 20 minute cold-rain wait. there was still copious amounts of walking to be had as we wandered around inside and out of shops/malls for a few hours. the football game kept the crowds to a healthy minimum, so that was nice. eventually we wandered back to the area of the loop we had trained from the day before, and found an old navy where scarves and gloves were bought, and to a smaller, less chaotic H&M than the one we found on the opposite end of the shopping district. egged on by the “Y chromosome votes” actual commerce in considerable amounts transpired. i was happy :)

stores with multiple stories also make me happy. it might not be any more floor space than your average strip mall version, but it feels bigger.

after shopping we took the train back to the 10 or so blocks we called “home” for the trip, ate dinner at a tasty italian restaurant and picked our bags up at the hotel. we hung out in the lobby and then a nearby starbucks for a little bit, we headed home.

o’hare is just as twisted of an airport as they claim it is, and i’m not sure if the construction helped or hindered navigating through it. we passed several kiosks of SB (for one last bit of vacation silliness) before arriving at our destination, but the one near our gate was closing down and less than remorseful that they did not have the things that ryan and i wanted. i ended up drinking the rest of the bottle of water that was in my bag instead. i swear my laptop gained 35 pounds on the way, too.

when we finally got home, there was a will waiting for us, and in true will fashion, had reserved a few of his “hooray st. louis” white castles for us. nothing tops off a crazy whirl-wind mini-vacation like cold bacon cheese castles at 1 am.

total visits to starbucks: two (three if you’re not a stephenson)

total visits the entire trip: (5-7 depending on who you are)