While the Cat’s Away

So I’m off to Seattle for the rest of the week, reprising my former role as corporate jetsetter extraordinaire. When the flight attendants offer me some tomato juice in a tiny cup of ice, I’m going to tell them, “You know what? This is on my company’s dime – just give me the whole can! And let’s make that TWO bags of pretzels, shall we?” And then I will twirl the ends of my mustache and throw my head back as I laugh.
I feel a little bad about leaving you all alone, so while I’m gone, I’d like to encourage you to spend some time with a few of the brilliantly hilarious and disturbingly intelligent folks over on the right hand side. Or you can just play minesweeper. Your call.
But as you stray from my warm embrace, please remember one thing:
No one will ever love you like I do.

Do you hear me?! No one!!
Oh sure, you may seem like the perfect couple, with your fancy house and trend-setting hairdos, but she’s so busy advancing her career and partying it up in London, do you really think she’s ever going to want to start a family? She sees you as an anchor around her neck. You know it’s true.
I can see it in your eyes – you want so desperately to take some time off and be a father. I’ll find time for you, baby. We’ll have so many kids that we’ll run out of names. Twins run in my family – you want twins, don’t you? You were so good to Julia when she was pregnant with hers.
Don’t shut me out, dammit! I will not be ignored!

Oops, oh crap. I’m sorry guys. I must have accidentally merged this blog with my letter to Brad Pitt. Boy is my face red – sorry for the confusion! Please disregard.
Well, um, I guess I should go. See you next week!


What exactly do you say when your co-worker catches you picking a fight with your ultra-slow laptop at the end of the day?

Me (softly to computer, unaware that I’m saying this aloud): “Jesus! What part of ‘shut down’ do you not understand?!”

Him (channeling all his best South Side machismo): “Your computer giving you lip? You want I should take him outside?”

I guess it’s nice to know that someone’s got my back, even if it is against a Dell.

That’s What Friends Are For

I saw my husband on the train again last week. We did our usual routine – sat near each other, enjoying each others’ company, and feeling really good about the fact that we never feel obligated to fill silence with any sort of conversation. We’re just that comfortable together. That’s one of my favorite things about him.
As we walked home, I turned to go to my car and Orangehat kept walking straight ahead. For a moment, I thought about following him, just to see where we live. I can’t help but be a little curious.
Do we have a house? One of those nice condos with the balcony? Gosh, that would be nice. I’d love to plant some flowers out there in spring.
I decided against following him since I didn’t want to miss the beginning of Survivor Vanuatu – Islands of Fire. Plus, it was kind of raining out, and my hair started to frizz. Until he knows we’re married, I always want him to see me at my best.
Over the weekend, I was telling my friend Penny about my beau and how I thought about following him home.
Me: “I mean, if I just follow him silently to see where he lives and what kind of car he drives, and he never knows I’m doing it, that’s not really stalking, right? I’m only doing this so that we can be together.”

Penny: “Mmmm… that’s actually the definition of stalking.”
Me: “It is?”
Penny: “Yes.”
Me: “Oh.”
[reflective pause]
Me: “So then that would be a bad idea?”
Penny: “Right.”
This is why it’s important to run major decisions past an objective friend. Sometimes what seems like an innocent idea turns out to be a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Going On Up to the Needle in the Sky

[Sung to the tune of LL Cool J’s, “Going Back to Cali”]

I’m going to Seattle, Seattle, Seattle.
I’m going to Seattle… hmmm, I don’t
think so.
That’s right, I’m off to sunny Seattle next week for my first work trip at the new job. Can’t screw this one up – got a lot riding on it.
Actually, I’m really excited to go. Not only is this my first business trip in a long time, but it’s my first trip to Seattle ever. I haven’t really been anywhere on the West Coast, unless Vegas counts. I don’t know why I’ve never made it out West yet. I guess the flights are just so darn long – I figure if I’m going to be in a plane for 4 ½ hours, I’m more than halfway to Europe, so I might as well head in that direction instead.
Plus, I was never all that great with geography, so everything gets kind of sketchy for me once you get past Minnesota. I know there are a bunch of square states in the middle of the country, but from there it’s a bit of a blur. And growing up in Wisconsin next to Lake Michigan, my internal compass gets really screwed up if the water isn’t to the east of me.
But that’s all going to change for me next week. I’m packing up the covered wagon and heading out West. I may not know much, but I’ve heard enough about Seattle to know that it’s home to some of the country’s most exciting and recognizable landmarks. Since I know I will have a limited amount of free time while I’m in there, I’ve made a list of all the critical things I want to do:
1. Ride the roller coaster that goes around the top of the Space Needle.
2. Spend a few hours at StarbucksLand, home of the world’s largest free-standing latté.
3. Take the trolley down to the Golden Gate Bridge.
4. See if my hands fit inside of Angelina Jolie’s handprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
Yes, Seattle is such a diverse state that I’m sure I’ll have no problem finding loads of amazing activities to fill my evenings.
Of course, this trip can’t be all fun and games. I suppose I really should start planning out more of the “business” part of my business trip. I wonder if we can hold our client meetings at the bar where “Cheers” was filmed?

Super Secret Hush Hush Down Low on the QT Project

Oh, I have such exciting news to share! News of a project so important that it could change my life forever and perhaps alter the course of Chicago history. It’s still in the conceptual stage, but I’ve got an exciting idea I’m working on.
But before I tell you, you must swear to me that you won’t let this idea leak out. If this gets out, it’ll only be a matter of time before some idea robbers snatch it up and take it for themselves. Swear to me!
Okay, now that I can trust that this will go no further than this unsecured web connection, here’s the idea that struck me like a ton of bricks as I was riding the Metra home yesterday: I’m opening an art gallery.
[cricket. cricket.]
No, wait! Don’t go! It’s gonna be cool, really! This isn’t just any art gallery, but one dedicated to folks like you and me – the commuters. Initially it will feature found objects, but as word spreads – and I know it will – I will no doubt be flooded with requests from urban artists, dying to show their work in my prestigious gallery.
I’m calling it: the MetraPolitan Museum of Art.
Currently, my gallery is located in the trunk of my Honda Civic. Right now admission is free, with $5 donations suggested and appreciated. Hours of operation are 6:30pm-6:45pm M-F. Once I build up enough of a following, I will move my gallery to its permanent home: an abandoned rail car. I’m not sure where I might find said train car, or how much one would cost, or where I would put it, but it has to be in a Metra car.
For now, I’m working a collage entitled, “Discarded Ten Passes.” It’s a biting commentary on our workaholic lifestyle and throw-away culture. Although not yet complete, the work has received wild praise from renowned art critics Punch and Judy. In fact, upon viewing my initial sketches for the collage, Judy was so moved that she vomited right on my sketch pad. I can only hope that all my patrons respond to my art in such a visceral manner.
As soon as I hear back on my NEA grant, I’ll begin accepting applications for docents. I’m looking for some highly qualified candidates, so here’s a brief job description:
Position: Docent at MetraPolitan Museum of Art
Successful candidate will:

  • Look good in train conductor uniform
  • Be able to project voice loudly
  • Have prior experience riding a train
  • Possess proven hole punching skills
  • Own comfortable shoes
  • Be passionate about art, as it relates to rapid transit

Interviews will take place at Union Station on Track 14 between 5:41pm and 5:48pm each Wednesday.

Model Behavior

Sometimes, the harder I try to fit in, the more it backfires on me. Last Wednesday, Seamus invited me over to play poker with the boys. I hadn’t played poker for months, so I was both excited and nervous about my return to dark underworld of illegal gaming.
Aware that I would be the only woman in a group of seven men, I knew I had something to prove. I had to prove that I knew how to play Texas Hold ‘Em. I had to prove that I could cuss like a sailor. And I had to prove that I could hold my scotch.
See, the reason I haven’t played poker in several months is because Natasha and I were blacklisted due to the fatal error we committed the last time we played at Seamus’ house: we brought homemade cupcakes.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Nat and I decided we wanted to bring something other than a bag of chips and some beer, so we figured, what the heck, everyone loves a good cupcake, right? We attempted to decorate them like playing cards, but that didn’t really work out, so they just ended up with some black and red sprinkles on them. But they were really quite tasty, honest!
I hadn’t even made it through the doorway carrying the tray of treats when Seamus said, “What the hell are you doing? Get those cupcakes out of my house!”
Apparently eating dainty snack cakes is not seen as a manly thing to do during a serious game of poker. Plus they didn’t really taste that good with Glenfiddich on the rocks. Live and learn.
So this time I was prepared – I brought a six-pack of beer and some pretzels. No sissy light beer or chi-chi sourdough pretzel nuggets. Just good old Heineken and some pretzel rods. I debated over the pretzel rods, but then determined that they would go over well since they looked kind of like cigars. I was right. Men love their cigars and cigar substitutes.
As I sat at the card table, the window behind me was open and it was freezing outside, but hell if I was going to be the one to say anything about it. I’d sooner let my eyeballs freeze open than complain like a little girl about it being too cold. I could not risk being blacklisted again. Fortunately, after about an hour of icy wind blowing in, one of the guys put on his winter coat because we could see our breath, so I took that as my cue to be nice and shut the window. For his sake, of course.
We started playing cards, and everything was going pretty well. I won a few hands, knew when to hold them and when to fold them, and started amassing a decent stack of chips. But then my proverbial house of cards came tumbling down around me.
The phone rang, and since Seamus was already out that round, he took the call. It was our friend, Dr. Greene, the renowned human cloning specialist. I heard them chatting in the background, but didn’t pay much attention. Then I heard Seamus say, “Yeah, Jenny’s here. What? Hold on, I’ll tell her.”
“Jen – Dr. Greene wants me to tell you that Norelle’s gone, whatever that means.”
I leapt up, almost knocking over my beer and screamed, “Ohmigod, she is?! YES!! I hated her!”
Everyone became deathly silent, and just stared at me as I stood there red-faced, clutching a semi-crushed pretzel rod in my hand.

”Who’s Norelle? Is that the girl Dr. Greene was dating?”
“Uhh, no.”
“Oh – is she that co-worker of his?”
“Uhh, no.”
“Well who is it?”
“Uhh… nobody. It doesn’t matter. Hey, is it my deal? Don’t blinds go up now? Anybody need another beer?”
Norelle. Why did he have to bring her up now? Why, Dr. Greene? Couldn’t you have waited until I got home that night? Couldn’t you have just emailed me or left me a voice mail? An entire evening worth of hard work spent rebuilding my credibility was almost thrown out the window, all because the good doctor couldn’t keep his gene splicing lips zipped.
Most of you, I’m sure, have no idea who Norelle is, nor do you care. It’s only the sick, shameful individuals, like Dr. Greene and me, who are intimately familiar with that name:

Norelle is a woman who is no longer in the running toward becoming America’s next top model.
You see, sometimes Dr. Greene and I like to watch America’s Next Top Model on Wednesdays – okay we always like to watch it, are you happy now? – and Norelle is a really annoying person on the show who finally got kicked off. Hearing of her demise made me totally forget where I was, and what I was trying to accomplish that evening. I was unable to contain my excitement, and almost blew my entire cool girl cover.
I don’t know, I guess I can’t really blame Dr. Greene. It’s not his fault that we’re hopelessly addicted to the worst best TV show in existence. I just need to get a better grip on my emotions when I know I’m around people who wouldn’t understand.
Now I can only hope that most of the guys forgot my erratic outburst and didn’t catch the reference to America’s Next Top Model. I guess only time will tell – we’ll see if I get an invite next month to poker night. I just pray it’s not on a Wednesday night again.

Train Reaction

I met my husband on the train today. We were sitting next to each other when another woman came over and sat in between us. As the train conductor came by, the woman frantically looked for her December monthly pass, but couldn’t find it. She dug through her wallet and only came up with $2, but the fare during rush hour is $4. It was clear that the conductor didn’t care to hear that her December pass was still in the envelope on her kitchen table. He just stood in front of us stone-faced as he fidgeted with his hole punch.
That’s when my husband stepped in – he pulled out his 10-fare pass and told the conductor to take an extra punch. The woman was shocked and extremely grateful. When she handed my husband her $2, he refused to take it.
“Don’t worry about it. I hardly ever use the punch card anyway.”
Turns out he had forgotten his December pass, too.
I don’t know my husband’s name yet, but for now I’m calling him Orangehat Goatee. He has everything that a woman could ever want in a husband – he’s kind-hearted, generous, and attractive. He’s clearly intelligent because he knew enough to keep a spare 10 pass in his wallet for this very occasion. I assume he has a job, since he had a briefcase and was taking the train from downtown. And when he got off at my stop, he was blocks ahead of me in no time, so he’s clearly in good physical condition.
I love him so much. Sometimes it hurts just to think about it.
I haven’t told Orangehat that we’re married yet. I want to wait a while – maybe like a year or so – before I let him know. I know that sometimes guys can get a little spooked by the whole marriage thing, so I don’t want to stress him out during that touch-and-go first year of marriage. We’ll just keep going along with the status quo for the next 12 to 14 months. Riding the train together. Walking home together. Living life together.
Then, once I finally tell him that we’re married, if he freaks out, I’ll calm his fears by letting him know that we’ve already been married for a whole year. We will have gotten through that “getting to know you” year without a hitch.
“Orangehat, what are you getting so upset about? Baby, we’ve been married for over a year now, and has it affected your life negatively in any way? Name one thing that this marriage has prevented you from doing. You can’t, can you? I never stopped you from hanging out with your friends, staying out late, or dating other women. I haven’t nagged you to do more work around the house, or pressured you into starting a family. The only thing that’s changed is that you’ve been unconditionally loved and supported for the past year. How can that be wrong?”
I don’t see any holes in that argument, so I cannot imagine how this plan could fail. But now, when I finally tell him next year, do we buy each other wedding gifts or anniversary gifts? Doesn’t matter – I just cannot wait to let everyone know that I am Mrs. Jenny Goatee. Or maybe I should hyphenate: Mrs. Jenny Onassis-Goatee.
Oh yeah, if any of you know Orangehat, please don’t congratulate him on his marriage to me. Not until next year. I don’t want to mess up the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Radio Ga Ga

I’ll admit it – I’m a snoozer.
I’ve never been much of a morning person. Before I can actually get out of bed, it usually takes me about 30 minutes of lying under the covers, slamming the snooze button every 7 minutes, and calculating the latest possible time I can get up and still catch my train. (Okay – if I don’t wash my hair today, and I eat my toast in the car, that gives me at least another 15 minutes of sleep. If I don’t iron my pants, that will save me another 5 minutes…)
Since it’s part of my morning ritual, the radio station I listen to each morning plays a critical role in setting the tone of that day. Normally, I tune the clock radio to Greatest Hits of the 80’s and 90’s, which allows me to wake up to the sweet voices of the Eurythmics or Blondie. Some snappy little tune that will make me want to face the day. You know, something like, “Walking on Sunshine.”
But a couple weeks ago, something dreadful happened. My alarm clock went off, and all I heard was some annoying gravely voice talking, which led into some horrific 1950’s song. Don’t get me wrong – I love the 50’s as much as any thirty-something gal, but if I wanted to go to the sock hop, I would have asked Archie to the Sadie Hawkins Day Dance.
The first day this happened, it didn’t fully register with me. I just thought maybe my station was having an off day, or maybe I accidentally bumped the dial. I tuned the radio back to the right station, and didn’t give it another thought. But then the next day, it happened again. Then it hit me:
Oh god. My morning radio station changed formats.
With no advanced warning, they flipped from upbeat tunes by Wham! and Madonna to schmaltzy 1950’s and 60’s songs. Yesterday’s highlight? If I Had a Hammer. No offense to Mary, Peter, or Paul, but if I had a hammer that morning, there would’ve been nothing left of my radio except a smoking pile of wires and plastic.
So you’re thinking, “Big deal! Who cares what music you wake up to, as long as you wake up, right?” If only it were that simple.
See, part of the problem is that my brain is highly prone to suggestion. This is why I will never allow anyone to hypnotize me. I’ve always heard that a hypnotist can’t make you do anything under hypnosis that you wouldn’t normally do. That’s exactly what scares me – I need the pressures of society to keep me in line. My naturally repressed nature is the only thing holding back the snapping and drooling beast deep inside me.
But we should save that discussion for another day.
The point I’m trying to make is that my brain, prior to 10:00am, is somewhat like silly putty – slap it down on the comics pages, and you’ll end up with a somewhat distorted image of Family Circle. The five or so songs that I listen to each morning are permanently etched into my brain, at least until the next morning’s set list. And these songs will bounce around in my head. All. Day. Long.
To illustrate, there’s one particular scene in the movie Rain Man where Dustin Hoffman is in the car with Tom Cruise and they’re listening to the radio. Dustin Hoffman hears the radio tag line – something like “BAM! 102.9 Classic Rock!” and just keeps repeating it over and over again until Tom Cruise tells him that K-Mart sucks.
BAM! 102.9 Classic Rock!
BAM! 102.9 Classic Rock!
BAM! 102.9 Classic Rock!

This is exactly what my life is like.
Except now it’s:
If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning.
If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning.
If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning.

The day before that, I found my thrill. Wanna know where? Yeah, it was on Blueberry Hill. I found it over, and over, and over again. And let me tell you – wasn’t all that thrilling.
So why don’t I just change the station and stop my daily torment? Because, in addition to being highly susceptible to suggestion, I also suffer from short-term memory loss. I think it was caused either by all my years in the model airplane club, or from the medical marijuana that I smoke to combat the painful effects of my severe myopia and slight astigmatism.
Either way, by the time I finish writing this entry, I will have completely forgotten about the radio station dilemma, and will have to suffer through yet another day of sappy oldies but goodies. I guess if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near, la la la, la la la la, close to you…