On the Road Again (May 25, 2014)

On election day 2012, I ran a yellow light in the rain at a six corner Chicago intersection where three busy streets converge. I got the business end of a giant SUV for the recklessness, not to mention the complete inability to enjoy Karl Rove’s Fox News meltdown. I had bounced off the pavement and broken my tailbone and sacrum. The tailbone was in a particularly bad way.

I spent the next three solid months on Tramadol, a strong painkiller, just to get through the necessities of life. During business hours I whimpered through and tried to stand as often as possible. I did a lot of wall leaning in meetings. It made me look authoritative. The drugs were blissfully effective – too much so for the office.

For nine months I sat on this soft black doughnut cushion that doubled as an excellent commuter train pillow. When I accidentally left her in Salt Lake City, I decided it was time to try sitting naturally again. However, it was only the beginning of this calendar year that I could resume Pilates or sit on a CTA train without leaning to the side. And I wasn’t the only injured party.

Poor L’il Red. Not only had she suffered a popped tire, bent wheel, busted brake hinge and misaligned handle bars, but she’d also been the victim of my neglect. I daresay scorn. As I have told several friends, my attitude toward Red after the smash up was similar to that of Daniel LaRusso after Johnny and the other Cobra Kai douchebags ran him off the road with their motorcycles. In the immediate aftermath of scraping myself off the pavement, I was ready to toss my girl into the dumpster. For 18 months, she sat behind the couch collecting dust.

But as you may have heard, Chicago is emerging from a painful and cruel winter even measured against its own diabolical standards. And my keister is feeling better. I also have eczema tamed well enough (thank you raw, organic beet juice!) to contemplate holding the handlebars again. So it was time to take Baby out of the corner, put the blame for the incident where it really belongs (on me) and get her the required medical attention.

Two weeks and $110 later, I walked a little over a mile in anticipation of a reunion with a clean, rehabbed Red. I had not ridden a bike for awhile. Last Fall I took a spin class with my little sister during a weekend in Wisconsin and I mostly did the whole thing standing. And I admit to being a little afraid to get back on the road again. I had already resolved that henceforth I’d confine cycling as much as possible to the safer lakefront area, rather than the city streets. I’ve had one incident too many, the last only being the most extreme in a fairly regular series. But to get L’il Red back home from the shop, the roads were the only option.

I started by strolling her to the corner of the nearest intersection and waiting for the pedestrian walk signal. I like to think I am capable of learning. As I took those first tentative few pedal strokes, a rhythm was sought. Cycling leverages different muscle groups than running, my habitual form of cardio. I know I have to ease in slowly. I stuck to side streets and began to relax. It was a beautiful day, the sort of spring perfection we’ve been denied until recently. I think we can finally put our winter coats away?

I also eased back into something else I’d forgotten I’d missed – traveling by life happening at medium speed. In the span of a short 10-block ride I saw: a woman briskly pushing a cat in a baby carriage, a middle aged man absolutely blasting the Scorpions “Winds of Change” out of the windows of his worn Toyota Corolla, beautifully dressed people streaming from a community church. Sunday in the city. I missed viewing the world from the bike seat.

The second act of my relationship with L’il Red reflects a revised 2014 approach to life in general. A little more cautious, a little more in the moment, but also a little less frenzied. What’s the hurry?

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Running From Consumerism (September 18, 2013)

I tend to view myself as an independent thinker. I’ve been a target of mass marketing, commercialism and political ideology like everyone else. But historically, I’ve congratulated myself on the ability to understand exactly what I’m hearing and maintain my own truths against the assault of outside influence. Deluded fool that I am. While out for a regularly scheduled run last Friday evening, I stopped dead in my tracks near the completion of mile five to face an uncomfortable truth: I am a member of the culture of consumerism’s well-tended flock of sheep.

It all started innocently enough. I jogged past a café and noticed an adorable red bicycle locked to a post. I own a cutie pie 2011 model red Schwinn Madison myself. However L’il Red is a bit beat up after high volume use, and an unfortunate wreck last Election Day that left me with a shattered tailbone and sacrum. I am healing slowly and nearly ready to terrorize the streets again. Thus I’ve been debating whether to take L’il Red to the bike hospital or upgrade to a newer model. So as I blew by the café and thought, “Oh! Sweet bike. I want!,” the reflection seemed appropriate.

Other thoughts of which I had no apparent control didn’t seem so logical:

Breezing past a convertible: “Wouldn’t I look cool driving that?” When I have my wits about me, I am THRILLED not to be a car owner. I live in the City of Chicago and wouldn’t go back to the parking hassles, gas prices and city sticker bullshit for anything.

“Those boots would look great with my long trench coat.” No they wouldn’t. I am a sensible shoe wearing lady – gym shoes, flip flops, hiking boots – and when I must dress it up, comfortable flats. Also, I never wear that trench coat. There’s this long, annoying slit in the back and when those famous Chicago winds kick up, the damned thing flies right open.

Trotting past a 7-11 window display: “Pepsi-flavored Cheetos are coming to the US? I have to try those.” I certainly do not. I loathe Pepsi products and the idea of uniting the flavor of the too syrupy cola with cheese flavored processed food should have immediately produced a stomach turn. Plus, um, I’M RUNNING AND THOUGHTS OF CHEETOS HAVE NO PLACE HERE!

And finally, the best for last: “Insidious Chapter 2 made $40 million at the box office last weekend. I wonder if it’s as scary as Saw.” No I don’t! You want to know why? Because I’ve never seen Saw. I avoid horror movies like so many Pepsi-flavored Cheetos because dammit, real life is scary enough. I can’t abide the sight of blood and violence, staged or otherwise. I watch most episodes of Grey’s Anatomy though my hands for Pete’s sake.

Oh the self-flagellation I have deservedly experienced since the conclusion of that eye opening jaunt around the neighborhood. Like the character of Silas, the albino Opus Dei monk featured in The Da Vinci Code, I feel the need for metaphorical bloodletting in order to cleanse myself of lemming disease. This might sound arrogant or naïve but I truly misunderstood the degree to which I am a product (pun intended) of the constant barrage of sales messaging. But now that I am aware of it, I vow to be more on my guard.

Got a bridge to sell me?

T’was the Night Before the Election (November 5, 2012)

T’was the night before the election, and all through Ohio
Margaritas were flowing like Cinco De Mayo.
Because Buckeye State residents were confident no matter who won,
Their days in the swing state spotlight were temporarily done.

Camp Romney retired its campaign of fluff,
Hopeful that the Etch-a-Sketch shaking had been enough.
To overcome the ire of chicks,
Who believed in their reproductive freedom, even without dicks.

Team Obama was bolstered by last minute polling,
That saw the incumbent ahead, and his opponent’s effort stalling.
Healthier job creation, increases in home sales, residential,
Images of a post-Hurricane Barry looking Presidential

Gave Obama a boost in the waning days
That claims about Jeep production in China just couldn’t sway.
Jon Stewart and Colbert toasted a winning season of lampoon,
Almost (but not quite) wishing Romney a boon.

Because jokes and puns write with ease
When your campaign platform has more holes than Swiss cheese.
From “extreme conservative” to moderate and back
While crying foul over ads that attack

One’s revolving positions, so hard to cement
Except for that business about the 47 percent.
“Borrow money from your parents” just doesn’t seem to be
A responsible education policy.

The Tea Party zealots, clutching copies of Ayn Rand,
Hoped that they’d filibustered enough to render Obama an also-ran,
When out of the blue from the sound bite penalty box
Came Joe Biden with Paul Ryan’s socks.

That was the only thing left of the GOP candidate, you see,
After Biden leveled him in debate, cheerful as could be.
“Medicare won’t change” promised Ryan, as long as you’re a Boomer,
But the rest of you will be screwed much sooner.

Romney/Ryan failed to learn the lessons of Bush
That entitlements turned vouchers have the appeal of stale tush.
Romney ran away fast from his running mate’s “serious” clunker
And all but banished him to the Cheney bunker.

But hide and seek is no game to play
With middle class voters still clawing their way
Back from the failed policies of Bush Number 2
That left the economy of ’08 a rancid stew.

“He’s had four years and his policies haven’t worked,”
Claimed Cantor and Gingrich and Boehner the Jerk.
Hoping upon hope if they said it was so
The voting public would forget the party of “no”

So off to the polls went John and Jane Public
In between looking for jobs and food for the stomach.
Because things are not fine but they’re definitely improving,
With much more to do to get the economy moving.

Believing in change, if slower than desired
Is a certainly preferable to being stuck in the mire
Of endless wars and tax cuts for the rich,
Watching the American Dream stuck in a ditch.

So “yes we can” re-elect Obama and forge ahead
With hope for the country that’s far from dead.
So to all you suffragists on the left and right,
“Happy Election Eve to all, and to all a goodnight!”

An Illinois Voter’s Pulse on Election Day (November 2, 2010)

I live in the State of Illinois, where today we’ll be electing a Governor and a brand new Senator, among other offices. Though he has been gone from the Prairie State electoral canvass for over two years now, this voting day is still somewhat of a referendum on deposed former Governor, Rod Blagojevich and the dispiriting legacy he left in his wake.

In the Governor’s race, citizens have a choice between Pat Quinn, the former Lieutenant Governor for the Blago administration, who has served half a term since Roddy Boy was given the boot. Although not a perfect lawmaker by any stretch, Quinn has suffered from two major flaws: a lack of scintillating personality and the bad luck to have been the person to inherit an economic meltdown, immediately after the Illinois State legislature voted to eject Blago. In the same way I feel that President Obama has been curiously blamed for prolonged economic pains that were not his doing, Quinn seems to have paralleled Barack in microcosm.

Illinois, now officially the most bankrupt State in the Union, was well on its way to being so before Pat Quinn took the reins. However his Republican opponent for the Governor’s mansion, State Senator Bill Brady, will not have any of that – if one assesses the situation by looking at his ads. Senator Brady is fond of highlighting the statistic that Quinn has retained “75% of Blago appointees,” a thinly veiled suggestion that Rod and Pat are chums and bedfellows who have celebrated the continuity of corruption in Illinois. The problem with that assertion is that for most of Blagojevich’s term and a half, the two men were barely on speaking terms. I think “frenemies” is what the kids are calling it these days. The suggestion that Quinn’s failure to clean house and fire everyone the moment he took office means he and Rod are ideological cousins is a stretch at best.

Furthermore, one of Bill Brady’s most treasured sound bites is his claim to be an “optimist. We are facing tough times, but I’ve always believed in America and the people of Illinois. Together, we’ll make a clean break from the past and grow jobs here.” That sounds wonderful, but how exactly? What is your plan Senator Brady?

Don’t look to the candidates website for clarification:

“The four cornerstones of the Brady Better Illinois: Jobs Plan begin with the fundamentals:

•Create a stable tax climate to help jumpstart the economy
•Engage in long-term strategic planning
•Create a fair playing field to once again make Illinois competitive
•Restore accountability and transparency to the state budget process”

I think I speak for many of us when I say that the only thing more unspecific than this plan is Charlie Sheen’s diagram for getting his cocaine and booze soaked life together.

So clearly, we know I voted for the Governor’s seat in Illinois. However, the race to replace outgoing Senator, and further Blagojevich collateral damage, Roland Burris, was not as simple as it might seem for a Lefty like myself.

Clearly, I would not be using the touch screen ballot to select Mark Kirk, the Republican candidate and five term Congressman, who been caught lying about everything this campaign season. Kirk had said he won the Navy’s “Intelligence Officer of the Year” award, which he didn’t. He said he was fired upon the last time he visited Iraq. Nope. Did he learn nothing from Hilary Clinton? He said he served in Operation Desert Storm when he was in actuality a reservist in Maryland. Even his civilian biography proved to be full of half truths. Kirk has frequently spoken about his time as a nursery school teacher, a huge former campaign talking point. Turns out he was just a work-study student from Cornell.

And the funny thing is, given the weakness of Kirk’s competition, Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias, the Congressman had no need to embellish his record. Alexi, as my friend Tim so eloquently put it, “has failed at everything he tried.” This hardly speaks to one’s ability to make sober and reasoned decisions for the state. The 34 year-old current State Treasurer (we’re bankrupt) and former BFF of Barack Obama (until the April failure of his family’s Broadway Bank created tension) is hardly qualified to be a Boy Scout Troop Leader, let alone a man in charge of advocating for the American people.

So as I entered the ballot booth early this afternoon, absolutely despising both candidates in this contest, wishing not for the first time that the two party system would provide us more palatable options, I made a snap decision: LeAlan Jones, the Green party nominee.

The former NPR documentarian, just 13 years-old at the time of his honest portrayal of life on Chicago’s south side, Ghetto Life 101, managed to impress me more with this one accomplishment, than anything I have seen out of Kirk or Giannoulias. Republican voters have long ago written me off, and my fellow Democrats might tell me I wasted a vote. No I didn’t. I am sending a one person message to both parties in this politically scarred state to get serious and send me some real candidates. In the meantime, I wish Jones, a linebackers coach at Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy, the upset of a lifetime.

Illinois Primaries (February 2, 2010)

rock-the-vote

It’s Election Day in Illinois. Or rather, today we vote in the Democratic, Republican or Green party primaries to choose candidates for the November races. In 2010, the citizens of this State have to choose replacements for some very important positions: Governor, Senator and Cook County Board President, among others. The State and County are facing a profound fiscal crisis, due in part to the incompetence of our elected leaders for the last couple decades.

I woke up early to vote for change before work this morning, and I hope my fellow citizens follow suit, even if, admittedly, the current candidates are not exactly an exciting lot. Need it be said that I went for the Democratic ballot?

I definitely felt underwhelmed as I exited my polling place, even if proud to have done my civic duty. Be that as it may, the following results should come by day’s end: Pat Quinn a lame duck Governor (I struggled mightily with this, but ultimately went with Hynes, the current Comptroller), Stroger out (anybody will do – KK and Rosebud for Cook County Board President!), and a Democratic replacement candidate will be selected for the mercifully retirning Roland Burris.

I don’t love it, but I went with Alexi Giannoulias on the last one. I voted for inexperience here, somewhat deliberately. I have had my fill of Illinois “machine” politicians, and will gladly give someone outside the establishment a chance. How could they make things worse, I argue to myself? Definitely no future Obamas in this lot.

Oscar nominations were released today, though I have yet to peruse them. A busy news day all around. Enjoy it!