Anarchy in the Northwest Corner of the 16th Floor

I was getting off the train yesterday in my usual Monday morning fog when I paused to let a woman go ahead of me. I had seen her before. I see her whenever I catch this train, actually. Sometimes, I think she might be crazy – she has that look in her eyes. Vacant, yet focused at the same time. She also always seems to have a good 2-3” of grey roots at the base of her Crayola red hair.
When I gestured for her to go ahead, she smiled and thanked me. As she grabbed the hand rail to step down to the platform, I saw that she wore elaborate rings on all ten of her fingers.
“Yes,” I thought, “crazy.”
And then I caught a glimpse of the ring on her right index finger – it was a silver pentagram.
“A clarification,” I thought, “she’s a crazy satanist.”
I nodded my head, pleased with my decision to be polite to this woman, lest I end up on some sort of sacrificial altar or as an unwitting surrogate to the demon spawn.
The encounter was over as fast as it began, but it was too late. My brain, as it is known to do, had already translated the experience into song. That morning, it was Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols. So during my walk to the office, and for the rest of the entire day, I hummed this tune in my head.
I am an antichrist! And I am an anarchist!
It’s no Katrina and the Waves, but still seemed to keep me going throughout the day. The problem was that these were the only lyrics I knew from the song, so I kept repeating them over and over again in my head. Like a crazy person. At lunch, I caught a glimpse of my hair under the harsh fluorescent bathroom lights, and noticed my grey roots showing.
I am an antichrist… Christ – look at those roots! Remember to pick up some Clairol #30 tonight… and I am an anarchist!
Now, the irony of singing about being an anarchist as I sat in my dull blue cube, writing up business cases to justify investments in new product development was not at all lost on me. I know that I’m a conformist and a lifelong resident of the corporate sector. But that morning, as I sat down and fired up my laptop, I paused for a moment while bending down to slip off my clunky black motorcycle-esque winter boots.
“No,” I thought, “not today.”
This would be the day I would take a stand. I pulled my boot back on and straightened my pant leg around it. A pair of much more professional looking loafers sat quietly in the bag next to me, but not today. I wouldn’t wear them today. These boots were office-inappropriate – anyone could see that – but I didn’t care.
I don’t know how they do things in the UK, but here in corporate America, anarchy often takes the form of the subtle pushing of dress code limits. I made a point of walking around and popping into people’s offices, crossing my legs in a manner to more clearly display my civil disobedience. No one said a word, but it was clear. I looked everyone straight in the eyes as if to dare them to say something about my boots. Had she forgotten her normal shoes at home? Recently undergone bunion surgery? I can only imagine what was going through their minds.
Then, on my way out, I walked right past the sign that said “Sign out with security.” I didn’t even say goodnight to the guard, and it felt good. Real good. It’s a slippery slope, this rebellion thing.

Tired of staring at the same old blog entries?

Brief observation: maybe it has something to do with my passion for infomercials, but I find that I am completely drawn in by advertisements that ask me rhetorical questions.
Confused by the new tax regulations?
Ever wish you had a flatter stomach?
Had enough of the same boring dinners?

Whenever I see ads like this on TV or hear them on the radio, I find myself subconsciously nodding along or responding aloud.
You can say that again!
Who doesn’t?
You’re preaching to the choir, my friend.

The thing is, I never actually buy these products, but it’s just nice to feel like someone gets you, even if it is Ron Popeil.


Conversations you probably shouldn’t have with your friend who is in her final semester of grad school, getting her MFA in poetry:
So what have you been up to lately? Anything exciting?
Ugh. Nothing. I’ve got to work on my thesis.
Thesis shmesis. Write some poems. Hey, I saw this thing on TV-
Okay, I love how you ask me what’s going on, and I tell you I’m working on a 100 page thesis so that I can complete my master’s degree and that’s your reaction – thesis shmesis.
No, just listen to me. I’m trying to help you. So I saw this thing on TV – quick muse? – have you heard of this?
Of course.
Well, I think it’s to help you write poems or something. There were these two poets – a husband and wife – hey, is it national poetry month or something?
In April. Where did you see this?
PBS. Anyway, there’s like this couple – Mary Jo somebody and Brad Lightsomething-or-other – do you know them?
Actually, yes. Well, not personally, but yes, I know who you’re talking about.
Well, FYI, they’re wackos. Anyway, they both go to this quick muse thing all the time and have contests with each other to write poems in 15 minutes. I guess the website gives you a theme or something. They were like, “Poetry keeps our marriage fresh!” or something like that.
Yeah, well, the theme this day was a poem by William Carlos… what is it – Williams?
Anyway – his poem was like blah dee blah roses something something love, so then that was supposed to inspire the two poets’ work. The woman took the whole 15 minutes, but the guy finished his in like 6 minutes.
So they actually had an entire show on poetry? That’s so cool.
Well, so then they read their pieces, and I don’t know – it seems like poetry is basically just talking, isn’t it?
What do you-
I mean, it’s just like having a conversation. But slower.
Well, it is made of language, yes.
No, but I’m just saying, it’s just a bunch of sentences with weird line breaks. Like, I could just talk about anything – waiting for the train, eating some cheese, washing my hair – and if I stressed certain syllables differently, it would totally be a poem.
I cannot believe we’re having this conversation. You do realize I’m working toward my MFA in poetry, don’t you?
What? No, look – all I’m saying is that there sure seems to be a lot of poetry stuff on TV for a non-poetry month. That’s all I’m saying.


I was talking to my friend Vivian the other day and she told me that she would totally move back to Chicago, if it weren’t for the weather.
But you live in New York City, I said. New York isn’t exactly Palm Springs, you know.
She told me that yeah it’s cold, but New York never gets as cold as Chicago.
I told her that being able to endure sub-zero temperatures builds character. It teaches survival skills. Like me, I know how to get by. I don’t leave my house with less than four layers on. I have wool blankets and extra hats in my trunk, and hand warmers in my glove compartment. In the Midwest, you learn that in winter, fashion is for fools.
Take the other night. After getting home an hour late because the trains were delayed due to drifting snow on the switches, I had to shovel my car out from under three feet of snow, piled high and compact by the snowplows. It was so high that I couldn’t even open my car door. Twenty minutes later, I had cleared the snow and ice from around my tires and doors, and made a path out to the street. Then, it took me fifteen minutes of rocking the car back and forth – drive, reverse, drive, reverse, floor it, wait here comes another plow, now go, give it gas – until I finally was able to swerve out of that parking spot. And did you ever hear me complaining? Even once? No, you didn’t. Because you weren’t there. But if you had been there, you would’ve heard something like this:
Motherf@#$in goddamn snow plows! You have got to be kidding me. Oh, you $%&#@. If you f@#$ing plow me in again while I’m trying to get out of this spot, so help me god I will pull you out of that plow and beat you to a pulp with my shovel. And you too, you lazy neighbor man, staring at me for thirty minutes while my wheels are spinning in vain. Ever hear of a little help? Oh, I’m sorry – is your prissy little dog too cold to stay out here so you can help me get out of this frickin’ iceberg? Why don’t you get a dog that actually has fur, huh? Huh?! You heard me. Yeah, you’d better look away. Don’t make me get my jumper cables, sh*t. I swear to god – I know I say this every year – but this time I mean it, I am done. I have had it with this subzero bullsh*t for 28 days in a row. If one more dripping nose leaky boot hacking cough mofo shoves into me on the train again, I’m gonna lose it. I will kill someone, and it won’t be quick or painless. Mofo.
So anyway, I told Vivian I never thought I’d say this, but New York has made her soft.

Most Precious Monkey

“I call shotgun!”
“Aww, come on. I don’t want to sit in the middle again. I had to sit there on the way here. How come I always have to be in the middle?”
It was almost 4:00am and we were piling into Farnsworth’s van after a long evening of celebrating our friend Marcy’s 33rd birthday. Our night began with spicy soups and cheap wines, tasty bread and Cornish hens. Marcy is my friend Dee-Dee’s little sister, and she, Dee-Dee and Natasha lived together in college, which is when I met them all. As we dipped chicken empanadas in spicy tomatillo sauce, we recalled the first time I met Marcy.
It was Dee-Dee’s birthday – over a decade ago – and by the time I arrived at her apartment, the party was already in full swing. Dee and four of her friends were doing shots of Jägermeister, the kitchen floor was slick from beer, and Marcy was dancing around the apartment playing a tambourine with such passion that her hand had an enormous blister on it the next day.
“I can’t believe you let those guys con you into matching them shot for shot, Dee-Dee. No wonder you were sick. Then all your creepy stalkers seemed to crawl out of the woodwork. Funny how being nearly unconscious always made you seem so much more approachable.”
Dee shook her head and laughed, “Yeah, but didn’t you make out with your little hippie poet that night, too?”
“Oh, god – yeah. Yeah, I did. And mid-kiss, he stopped just in time to run and vomit off your third floor balcony. I shudder to think what might have happened if his timing had been off. So then I held his hair.”
“You held everyone’s hair that night. Jenny always holds people’s hair. That’s why you’re such a good friend.”
It’s true, I do. People can always count on me to hold their hair. Although as I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve found that a well placed scrunchy does the job quite well, with far less effort required on my end.
After dinner, we moved on to another bar where six of us crammed into a booth meant for two. We’ve long since traded in the Jägermeister for Pinot Noir, but Marcy still had it in her to drink a shot of tequila, no lime. I gave the DJ a $20 tip and asked him to play Chaka Khan, but we left the bar before it came on. It’s okay, though. It was Marcy’s birthday, I was feeling generous, and he had already played nearly every great dance song recorded from 1984 to the present.
We picked up a companion along the way – a friend of a friend. An energetic young twenty-something who matched Marcy drink for drink, and then passed her up a few times over. It was somewhere around the second lap that we realized he might be one of those drunks. The kind who starts out really funny and adorable, but who might end up crying and hunched over a dumpster in the alley behind a McDonald’s. Fortunately for me, he had very short hair, so I knew my services would not be required that evening.
At our final destination that night, we witnessed him reach the tipping point after a shot of Bushmill’s. Dee-Dee and I were talking to a man we had just met, who saved us from tripping over a broken glass on the floor. Our tipsy friend of a friend wandered over and squeezed in between the man and me, then poked at the man’s arm.
“You’re very… what? Rambunctious! You know… you-,” he swayed back on his heels a bit, and then continued, “You’re really tall. And hairy. What the fuck is your…”
When he said fuck, he accidentally spit all over the tall hairy man’s face. Dee-Dee and I looked at each other, ready to duck from the blows that were bound to follow. As we edged back a bit, I tried to apologize for this friend of a friend, “He’s had a few shots…”
Fortunately, the tall hairy man decided that punching someone on the verge of alcohol poisoning was not necessary, so he just wiped off his face, thanked us for the conversation, and went off to join his friends. This was our sign that it was time to make a getaway. Farnsworth was already outside warming up his van, so Dee and I grabbed the rest of our group and ran outside.
“I’m getting smushed in the middle,” I said, as I squirmed back and forth between Marcy and Natasha to make more room for myself.
Nat held her ground and said, “But you’re in the best spot. It’s the warmest place to be. You’re like the special monkey.”
“The special monkey. I saw this nature show once that said that when monkeys are in trees, they keep their most precious monkey in the middle. To keep her warm and safe and protected.”
“They do? And then does the precious monkey groom them?” I asked, picking an imaginary nit from Natasha’s hair.
“No! They groom her. Because she’s the most precious.”
“So you’re saying that I’m the most precious monkey? I’m the one you’re keeping safe and warm?”
“Yes, Jenny. You’re the most precious monkey of all.”
I smiled as I settled back into the tight embrace of winter jackets, listening to tales of astronauts and garden snakes. These random pieces that build stories that become memories – it was ages ago, it was just yesterday, she still looks 21, occasionally I feel it. These stories carried us through our 4:00am fatigue and ultimately led me to my front door, where I returned, contented in the realization that the basis of love, happiness, and friendship really just comes down to being someone’s most precious monkey, even if only for the van ride home.


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Sweet Nothings

Best pickup line ever!
Man – 20-ish Jamba Juice employee
Woman – 20-ish McDonald’s employee
Man in line ahead of me at McDonald’s
Man: “How you doing today?”
Woman: “I have a headache.”
Man: “Really? Me too. How late you working?”
Woman [pauses]: “…’til five.”
Man: “Really? Me too. How ’bout I swing by after work and we go out and get some aspirin?”
Woman: ::blushes::
Me: [ear to ear grin]


What’s a clear sign that it’s really cold out? When you can watch seagulls walk across the Chicago River.
And hey! I thought rivers didn’t freeze. I also thought it never snowed when the temperature was below zero. Up is down, left is right, I think I’m starting to find runny noses attractive. What the hell is going on?

On Hold

I have a secret, and a shameful one at that.
Admitting this is a little hard for me, but I’ve always heard that the truth will set you free. Unless, of course, you’re a cold-blooded murderer, in which case the truth will get you 15 to life. But this is my confession: I like listening to the hold music that plays on the teleconferencing system we use at work. It makes me really happy. I like it so much that sometimes I’ll dial in to a conference call a couple minutes early just so I can listen to it until the conference chairperson starts the call.
The music that plays is always the same – it’s a synthesized, bubbly tune that goes like Bum ba da bum, bum bum bah dah dee dah dum. Bum ba bum, bee ba dum, dum dum dum. And then there’s this part that’s higher pitched and comes in over the bum ba da bum part, and it goes like Bim bim bee bah bah bim bim bim. Bim bim bee bah da dee dee dee dim.
That’s the part I like the best.
Anyway, this got me thinking. For the most part I think of myself as a pretty normal person, but then there are some strange things I do like looking forward to hold music that make me think I’m not as normal as I might think.
I actually started to try to notice some of the other things I do that aren’t entirely normal to see if I noticed a pattern. So far, one other thing that sticks out in my mind is the fact that I really like to watch my cats drink water. Not enough that I’ve actually filmed them drinking water so I could watch it all the time on demand, but enough so that whenever I’m around them when they’re drinking water, I’ll make a point to stop and watch them.
Oh yeah, I also do put about four or five small glasses of water in various corners of my apartment for them, but honestly, that’s just because they prefer to drink out of glasses. They’re civilized that way.
So now I have to figure out if these things make me a) eccentric good, b) eccentric bad, c) insane, or d) boring.
The jury’s still out.