March 26, 2002
35 and Still Wearing Flares

Our father, who art in denim,
How does your sizing work these days?
My stomach peeks,
My ankles show,
At Saks as they do at Nieman's.
Give me, for pity's sake, some room to breathe,
And lead me not into acid washing
But deliver me from Eddie Bauer.

A crisis occurred the day we flew to Texas earlier this month. Somehow, I ripped a huge gash in the right leg of my favorite jeans during lunch, doing nothing more strenuous than sitting at my computer.

In the short term, this resulted in my dashing off to the Gap instead of working, sweatily buying new khakis so that I wouldn't shame myself in front of my in-laws. In the long term, however, I have had to embark on that most mysterious of journeys: buying NEW JEANS.

Now, some will say I'm a gifted shopper. My own mother swears I can go to any store and find something great on the sale rack. This may well be true. But for me, buying jeans is a terrible nightmare. Honestly, I'd rather buy a bathing suit.

For the last five years, I fell into The Gap to buy their low rise button fly jeans. This worked great until they discontinued that brand in favor of "super low rise, hip hugging, acid washed, specially frayed 'whiskered' etc." jeans.

Furthermore they discontinued their sizing scheme in favor of one that apparently favors people who are "size zero." Who are these people who are size zero? Not anyone I know. We're an obese nation of people surrounded by jeans that are size zero. It's no wonder we're all overeating.

So, for the past two nights, I have gritted my teeth and prepared for the inevitable. Here's what I've learned, in a nutshell:

1. Do not go to Abercrombie and Fitch, ever. You will die of boredom. Their clothes are dull and their staff all look like Josh Hartnett, even the girls. Saved my self respect and left.

2. Fashionistas swear by Earl Jeans. The salesgirl at Saks cautioned me, "they are kind of a difficult fit, unless you have really small legs." I, too, found this to be the case. Saved $120 and left.

3. The French Connection seemed promising, but I ran into the usual problem here--jeans that are too big around my waist and too tight in the legs. AND, of course, too short. Saved my circulation and left. However, for a momentary thrill, I did get to try on something with the puckish label "FCUK." Hiccup or obscenity? You decide.

4. Many companies now make jeans that are striped, strategically faded at the crotch (why?) and randomly faded in big patches. Minimalism is apparently out, embroidery, permanent creases, and weird "washes" are in.

5. In the end, I ended up, of all places, at Express, where I finally found something that approximated the slouchy comfy feel of my old jeans. Long enough. Loose enough to breathe. Indeed, just to be on the safe side, I bought two pairs.

See the shopper's prayer, above.

Posted at 10:35 PM
March 21, 2002
Seen and Heard

Seen and heard:

First official day of spring here, and it's so cold everyone's bundled up like it's January. Plus, there's a nice stiff wind--today I swear I saw a little child flailing at her mother's side like a balloon.

Conversation in the elevator 1, or Confirming My Suspicions:
Disappointed Guy: They lied to me! They told me things only a child would believe!
Snarky Guy: Yeah, well, you should know not to believe in advertising.
(They laugh, and exit at Young and Rubicam floor.)

Michigan Avenue today:
Me and Young Black Guy, waiting for the light to change. Suddenly we see a guy jogging across the street. The oncoming traffic is just getting revved up! He nearly misses getting hit by a jeep! He jogs by obliviously and heads into the Virgin megastore! I look over my shoulder to see him rubbing his back fretfully as he goes through the door. YBG looks at me and I smile, and over my headset music I hear him laughing.

Conversation in the elevator 2, Or Mom Meets The Osbournes:
Middleaged Office Worker to friend: ...and he's a rock star, and they have these two punk rock kids. And they just film them, and you see what their life is like. And they have this assortment of little purebred dogs. And the dogs crap and pee all over this estate! And you hear how she consults with him, and asks what they should do about it. And it's just the funniest little show...
(They exit.)

I was surprised to hear Maxwell has covered Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work." Very overwrought it is, and the original wasn't any walk in the park, either. Maybe Tom Waits should cover it next. (Eric reads this and says "You mean Rod Stewart.")

Posted at 08:51 PM
March 17, 2002
Wabash and Hubbard

there was cold, clear water in a tall, clean glass
the sunlight hit the sides and it came through the water tilted
i saw the condensation on your hand
i could feel the glaciers melting

--"Song for an Old Friend"

Spring is almost here.

It's still only in the 40s here, but I've lived in this part of the country long enough to recognize the signs.

It starts the morning I step outside for the newspaper and the cold doesn't take my breath away. Instead, the air feels almost...soft.

It starts the day I leave work in the evening and the sun is still shining.

It starts when we start talking about flowers, gardening, and sitting on the porch. After six months of cold, dark, and ice, even talking about this is an act of hope.

It started this year when I was walking to the train and was stopped in my tracks by beams of sunlight filtering through buildings at Wabash and Hubbard. It went well with the Mountain Goats song I was listening to, which is all about light (and oranges and lemons). I wished I had a camera.

Something has started again. Something has let go. Even though we're still several months away from bare feet, the winter's grip on us is over.

Posted at 05:20 PM
March 11, 2002

For the record:

1. Tyler, TX, has the smallest airport I've ever been in. It's like waiting for an airplane in a coffee shop. This doesn't deter them from having extensive security, including two armed guards with huge guns. And it is the only place where I have been required to put my boots through the scanner. Want to see a sad editrix? Put her in her stocking feet in an airport waiting for her shoes to come out the other side.

2. Here's a scary statistic: Research "estimates management-level employees will spend four hours a day on e-mail by 2002."

I am going on an e-mail diet.

It was inevitable. After four years of being plugged in, 8+ hours a day to the Microsoft Outlook, I have had enough. I tried shutting it off for a while in the morning and was tortured. What was I missing? I'd get bored with the presentation I was writing and want a diversion--but no. In the afternoon it was better. I almost asked someone "Hey, when are you going to send me--" and then remembered that they probably already had. I just hadn't seen it.

3. Last night we watched the 9/11 movie. This was probably a bad idea given my recent state of mind but naturally I got sucked in. In the end it seemed like a weird product to me, even though we know one of the editors. Packaging and interpreting the events of last fall seem like a bad idea to me, because it's an attempt to impose meaning on them.

And for the life of me I can't see any meaning.

It has been six months and I still can't understand it, and maybe that is best. Once we can interpret and understand murderous and monstrous events and give them a soundtrack, we can file them away and forget them. Save them for later. Dust them off on holidays and anniversaries. With every newspaper columnist who tries to "interpret" what happened it becomes a little bit more banal.

I see no meaning. Just many, many dead and sad people and war and murder and bad art. I can't sanctify 9/11 with meaning or understanding.

In times of stress I always return to Virginia Woolf. This time I found a quote that pretty much summed up the way I felt six months ago, and--when I see the headlines in the paper--still feel:

"We were walking along that silent blue street with the scaffolding. I saw all the violence & unreason crossing in the air: ourselves small; a tumult outside: something terrifying: unreason."

Posted at 10:07 PM
March 02, 2002
Strangers on a Train

On the train the other morning, I stood by two young former classmates. Apparently they both studied in Paris, as I surmised from this snippet of conversation overheard during a pause in my headphone music:

Dude on Train: We found a Chili's restaurant off the--what is it--Champs Elysee? And we went and had beer and cheese sticks.
Girl on Train: I totally know what you're saying. We went to Mickey D's in Paris and I was just so glad to see American food. Everybody says the French are so skinny, because they just eat nothing but vegetables? That was not my experience!
Dude: Yeah, I gained a lot of weight in Paris eating fries and drinking beer.
Anne: Excuse me? If you would step out of my way, I'd like to get off here. I'm actually going to get on the Blue Line, go to O'Hare, get on the next flight to Paris, and APOLOGIZE for the both of you. Also, I'm stopping at the patisserie on St. Andre Des Arts for a croissant and some fresh orange juice. And a couple of bottles of Orange Volvic for the road! Pass me my cell phone, I need to call work and tell them I'll be late.

But I didn't say this, because I didn't have my passport.

On a sad note, Bistro Zinc on Southport has closed. Where will I find steak frites now?

On an up note, Pizza DOC in our neighborhood is certainly a good option and seems to be the place to see and be seen, as we saw everyone we know there last night. They understand the meaning of "thin crust pizza" which hardly anyone in Chicago does. Looking out the window as we were finishing up, I saw the snow start to fall in a gust, like someone had just turned on the spigot.

Posted at 06:31 PM