What doors?

Shane suspects I sit around all day and blog around him. He thinks that if he hasn't read it, it's because I've written about him secretly on my OTHER blog, the top secret blog I keep from him.

When P-nut comes over to the house and doesn't see me right away, he asks, "Where's Jessica? Blogging?" And if we go out to dinner, Q begs me to tell him what I've said about Shane. WHEN I HAVEN'T SAID SHIT ABOUT SHANE. Except that he hates roommates.

I'm going to end that right now. The saying, not the hating.

When Sunny and Shane asked me in August to move in with them, we struck a few deals. One deal was that we'd start by living together for six months. After six months, we'd decide if I should stay or go because either a) I'd need my own space for temperamental reasons and/or b) they'd realize there's a reason married people don't always let the best friend of one of them move in.

The second deal was that I'd pay rent on October 1 for the little room in the front of the house, off the living room.

The third deal was that Shane would put up doors on the room.

It would be untrue to say that we agreed the doors HAD to be up by when I moved in, but that was maybe implied. Sunny and I cracked prescient jokes about how Shane and I were going to have funny fights about the doors. Or lack thereof.

I got to Chicago on October 9 and knew that Shane had to special order the doors since the space wasn't a standard size. I'm not going to speculate about when Shane actually talked to the door people and told them to start cutting because that doesn't matter. What mattered is I knew doors were on their way.

In the meantime I thought it was cute that Hugo, the brown dog, stuck his head around the curtain every night to check and make sure I was there before he went to bed in the other room.

And I was cool with Lulu, the pit bull, bossing me around and growling menacingly in the middle of the night when I tried to wedge my body out from the space between the mattress and the wall that she had squeezed me into.

A part of me has come to accept that it is, if not Lulu's world, Lulu's bed, and she's just letting me in it.

Eventually the doors arrived but stayed in the garage while Sunny painted them silver and let them dry. I covertly took photos of Shane's to-do lists, written on the biggest post-it notes ever. You can see here the giant post-it notes and lists, posted over his desk, carefully categorized and crossed off.

A couple of weeks later Shane built a header because some instructions said the doors weren't the right size. Then some other instructions said the doors were the right size. Then Shane took down the header and called a contractor.

The contractor was supposed to hang the doors on Friday, THE DAY I WAS TO LEAVE CHICAGO for two months. We all thought that was pretty funny. The contractor's truck couldn't drive through the blizzard, however, the same blizzard my plane couldn't fly through, so I was still home on Saturday and getting ready to go to the airport when the contractor said, "Yeah, I'll do it, but I can't do it right now, I don't have time."

And Sunny and Shane and Lulu and I were all like TELL ME ABOUT IT.

Just say NO

If you are walking at night and a little guy slinks out of a parking lot behind you and asks, "Miss? Can you help me?" and you look back and say, "With what?" and he holds out a keyring and huffs like he's EMBARRASSED to even be ASKING but, "My car just broke down..."

And you notice that he's twitching and blinking like a maniacal weasel who mixed up the last batch of crank reeeeaaaal good, you're just gonna want to cut him off right there with "NO" and keep walking.

You might be aggravated for a few blocks and imagine how you'd like to grab his ropey little neck and slam him up against the side of Walgreen's so that his legs are wiggling in the air like a cartoon and say to him, "Seriously. WHO do you think is gonna fall for that? YOU. TWISTED. LITTLE. IDIOT."


When I don't answer the phone

Anyone reading last winter knows my familiarity with fear and phobia. My phobias came out mostly in childhood and I still wonder how my mom and dad, such upbeat, stable, model-citizen types, churned out a fatalistic little bed wetter like me.

I'm sure everyone in my family was relieved when I grew up enough in junior high to be able to spend the night at friends' houses without freaking out, calling my mom at 3am and begging her to come pick me up. It was at this point that I started to shake off the mantle of mama's girl and catapult myself into independence.

In ninth grade I quit fearing the grim reaper at every turn and my dreams of dying in housefires and plunging elevators started to abate. I was a moody teenager who wore berets and took photography and slammed my bedroom door so I could have some PRIVACY to write my Amnesty International letters and plan my life in the real world where I would FINALLY GET SOME PRIVACY. GOD.

I decided I'd grow up to be a human rights photographer or maybe a librarian as long as the library was in a country where there was a political revolution or a coup. I'd welcome and encourage the opportunity to stare down the barrel of a gun. Fearless had replaced fearful. Except I wasn't actually that gifted in photography and while I truly have valued my travels in violent, revolution-inclined countries, I'm not trying to break up any gunfights.

Now I talk about phobia like it's funny but I'm not laughing when little quirks and cracks reappear. When I can't sleep for days and the idea of not sleeping worries me into an even greater state of insomnia and all I can do is put a pillow over my head and scream or go to the kitchen to eat peanut butter with a spoon and think about how ill I'm going to feel the next day.

I worry that I don't have enough time to myself to read and write and think because this is how I figure things out and if I don't get any time, I'll NEVER FIGURE ANYTHING OUT.

Or I worry that I spend too much time alone. That I'm a loner and will one day be a hunchback and a cat lady and it won't matter if I figure anything out because there won't be anyone to tell it to. Depending on how good my weekend was, I can start AND end the week equally afflicted by opposite emotions.

Probably the best expression of this state is my periodic telephone aversion. There are people I need, people I miss, people I could use a good talking to, if only I could answer the phone or listen to voicemail. The knowledge that nine voices on nine messages want to know how I am and I mean they REALLY want to know, they don't want a sound bite, sometimes overwhelms.

Sometimes I just haven't figured it out and instead of talking through it, I wind myself tightly around my questions. Then, for no reason at all, the flip switches in my brain and I get a rush of energy and I listen to all the messages at once and write them in my notebook. And, hopefully, call back.



I last saw Charlie in New York. I was leaving the East Village for the Bronx and he was leaving for Australia, by way of Brooklyn. The last time we spoke on the phone last summer he said, "Berlin."

"See you there," I replied.

I remembered the day I was down and didn't want to get out of bed. Charlie and I pretended my room was a cabin on a ship that was sailing away and I wasn't supposed to get out to the deck because the sea was too choppy anyway.

"You're one of few people who can make depression kind of fun," I told him.

He said, "I can't wait until the next time I see you and you've exploded." And I understood that this was good, explosions of imagination and energy.

Charlie has high expectations. He believes in talent and imagination and creativity. He always asks WHY. He is sharp and curious and his questions penetrate the surface. But to really know him, you must be curious because he doesn't brag. I wouldn't have known, had I not recently meandered over to MySpace, that Charlie's band, Long Walk Home, released their debut album, Youism, in Australia just days ago. Or that "Androgenous vocalist Charles Canh captivates not only with his haunting counter tenor vocals but his theatrical approach to live music".

And I wouldn't have been completely sure that "Long Walk Home will be touring their debut album Youism throughout Australia in the next few months before re-locating to Berlin due to industry interest in 2007."


Ruby Red Monday

Eight years ago I worked at a pawnshop and I used to name days with the other employee, Tom. Good days were Martini Monday and Leave Early Friday. Boring days were Six Inch Veggie Sub Wednesday. Mean days were Balding Guys Shouldn't Wear Ponytails and/or Rip Off Your Neighbor Thursday.

Once Tom pulled an antique typewriter off the shelf and wrote a short story about how we were enslaved by the owner of the pawnshop and being forced to wash his windows with newspapers and pretend like it was okay for him to wear moccasins - all for minimum wage.

I thought about Tom today when the sun never really materialized and the grey clouds hung heavy over the city. Every single hour, from daybreak on, looked exactly the same, like dingy dusk. Like you should rush through rush hour just to get to the couch and the entire second season of Lost on DVD.

If you're like me and have already popped in the entire second season of Lost on DVD, you might opt to read a thought-provoking work of literature. Unless you find it's difficult to concentrate on anything more complex than the backstories of a fictional group of strangers surviving on a desert island, their jet having plunged into the ocean some 44 fictional days ago.

That's when I realized what it was: Ruby Red Monday.

As in Absolut Ruby Red. As in why did it take the Swedes so long (June 2006) to get this delicious grapefruit-flavored vodka on the shelf? My goodness.

Sunny and I unloaded groceries while taste-testing little glasses of ice and Absolut Ruby Red and I felt absolutely at least a tiny bit better than I did before and I felt SAFE.

In our house we feel safe when Shane comes home from Costco and restocks the bar with giant bottles of whiskey, gin and vodka. Sunny feels safe when the cabinet above the refrigerator is filled to the ceiling with a half dozen 2-liters of seltzer water and 16 rolls of paper towels.

She doesn't sleep well if there aren't several bricks of extra firm tofu waiting to be fried up somewhere and I get a little pit in my stomach if the soups in the cupboard dip into the single digits. I probably don't need to elaborate on the emotions associated with a case of Bud Light.

Where this sinister dependency and Depression-era mentality sprung from, I'm not sure, but I'm in no shape to deny it.


llamas vs. alpacas

Last weekend Sunny and I drove from Chicago to Cincinnati and spent several hours on the Indiana Interstate.

"Not that Illinois is that much better, Sunny said. "But I'm so glad I don't live in Indiana."

"Yeah," I said. "What's the deal with Illinois? I never think about Illinois. Just Chicago. What's with the rest of Illinois?"

"Who knows? I'm surprised whenever I remember Chicago's in Illinois. I always think Chicago's like DC."

"I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever thought about Illinois."

We sped along I-65, quietly considering the mystery of the 21st State, the Land of Lincoln, and thinking uncomplimentary thoughts about the Hoosier State. Until I remembered something nice about Indiana.

"My parents' friends Yasna and Jim have a farm in Sunman, Indiana, I said. "They spend every weekend in the country and swim in a huge pond and have horses and lots of land. AND LLAMAS."

And for some reason this was so funny to us that we almost swerved off the road. We realized that not only are we not sure what llamas are FOR, but we're not even sure what llamas ARE.

We made a list of what we think:

1. Llamas are not camels and llamas are not elephants and llamas do not have feathers.

2. Llamas belong in South America, in the the Andes Mountains.

"And what about ALPACA? What's that?" Sunny asked.

"I think alpaca is what you call the hair after you get it off a llama and make it into a hat."

She didn't believe me, "THAT IS SOME MADE UP SHIT."

"Well, you don't shear wool and go, 'look at my sheep sweater,'" I said.

"Oh. I guess you don't admire silkworm shirts, either," she said.

"No. You don't. DAMMIT. Where is Google when you need it? Maybe we can pick up wireless from one of these barns. Slow down."

Llamas are in the camelid family of the central plains of North America from 40 million years ago. Three million years ago, they left for South America. 25,000 years ago, llamas were common in modern day California, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Missouri, and Florida, but by the end of the last ice age (10,000-12,000 years ago) they were extinct in North America.

Alpacas are cousins of the llama. The Incas used the llamas for transportation and alpacas for their hair, which is finer and silkier than woolly llama hair.

According to the many llama websites I found, people outside the Andean Range now have pet llamas. Because they're nice. Even though they spit and sometimes wrestle with each other, they're fun to have around. They walk around and hum and don't often jump the fence.


At least I pay the rent

In January 2003, the Illinois Tollway began a Violation Enforcement System to crack down on toll scofflaws in order to remind the 97 percent of law-abiding Tollway customers who pay their fair share that they are BETTER THAN THE REST OF US. Illinois wants to reduce the amount of uncollected tolls and thinks this will happen once scofflaws realize that there are penalties for driving through tolls without paying.

I know this because I TOTALLY NOT ON PURPOSE joined the ranks of the three percent of Illinois drivers who drive through without tossing the required coins into the basket - 30 cents in my case - thereby flouting or "scoffing" the law.

And while I really don't think my inability to scrape together 30 cents from every pants and jacket pocket I could rifle through without getting in an accident makes me exactly public enemy number one, I got all shitty and nervous because I borrowed Shane's car to drive to the Bob Dylan concert and I caught the sign clearly stating that I had to call a certain number within four days, or else.

I suspected that surveillance cameras had already taken photos of me and the Nissan, photos which were being beamed to the state patrol who were typing up a warrant for Shane's arrest - or at least a ticket - to be delivered on day five. And that this would make me a bad roommate.

Especially if you bear in mind that 1) Shane hasn't had a roommate since 1992 because 2) THAT'S HOW MUCH HE HATES ROOMMATES and 3) I just moved in with him and his wife/my oldest friend Sunny and 4) this was the same day that I got locked in the bathroom and, in my panic, threw my weight against the door hard enough to break free, taking all the molding from the left side of the door with me.

You will see in the photo a long vertical crack running the length of the wall. Sunny tried to disguise this evidence of my hulkish nature by propping and nailing the wood back up after she got the note I left on the kitchen table:


I wrote Nissan's license plate number in my notebook and went online to look at maps of I-90 to figure out at which toll plaza I had scoffed the law. After deciding it was westbound Route 59, I identified the car and the time of the incident and put the 30 cents on my debit card. Last night I also tried to kiss up a little bit by drawing hearts on the envelope with my share of the rent.