Hello there, 2012

Delicious consumables...and this is just the food

Our NYE party has come and gone, along with its delicious spread of spreads: pear-blue cheese chutney, mushroom-walnut pâté, spicy hummus, homemade crostinis and cinnamon sugar tortilla crisps, various cheeses, bacon-wrapped shrimp, cranberry-orange relish, bhel puri…many of these recipes I will present in the near future for your own experimentation.

As much as New Year’s lists can seem trite, I think it’s important to document where I’m at as an arranger of words, as well as where I am in my life at large, in a space that allows me to revisit my desires and goals and that enables others to encourage me to keep my word. So, without further adieu:

Things to Do in 2012

I. The Professional

  • Set up and maintain a solid, unchanging three-day a week writing schedule, during which I write for three-four hours at a time.
  • Maintain this blog regularly: Adventure Day recaps/status updates at least once every two weeks, more recipes (with photos and perhaps video)
  • Maintain Drawing Coffee regularly: update/cycle through my writing portfolio online, columns/essays on the state of writing and writing-, narrative-, and publication-related issues at least once every two weeks
  • Develop coding skills.
  • Finish all of the work I’ve begun revising and new work I’ve started over last fall and the coming spring.
  • Make some decisions about my thesis by September.
  • Secure at least one internship.
  • Develop bookmaking and binding skills.
  • Write personally about my writing process and my critical self once a week.
  • Submit my work to ten publications.
  • Finish reading one book a month.
  • Perform at three readings.

II. The Personal

  • Set up and maintain a workout schedule three times a week by the first week of February.
  • Take one day a week for myself–to write personally, to get things done around the apartment, to make food for the coming week, do laundry, clean my work space, play video games, etc.
  • Write and adhere to a personal monthly budget.
  • Volunteer.
  • Find/start a band, and play at least one show.
  • Plan at least one road trip.
  • Plan a writer’s retreat+trip for January next year.
  • Acquire enough poster frames for all of my artwork.
  • Go to at least one Cards game.

The beginning of the year has to come to be a very significant time to me. At the beginning of 2010, I felt like everything in my life had dropped away and left me suspended, free-floating in empty space, and I couldn’t tell if I was flying or falling. Graduating from college felt like I had run a marathon and vaulted over a single last hurdle off the edge of a cliff with no base, no ground to crash to. I forced a minimal amount of writing, and mostly stopped altogether. 2011 started with a bang and a bruise, celebrating in Chicago for the first time with tons of significant people who, though they may not know it, help keep me driven even though they are typically far away. And I was, of course, playing the waiting game in many ways, including hearing about grad school admissions. As compared to the previous year, however, I believed in the direction I had come to, and was cutting through the air around me despite not having hit the ground yet.

On the front page of my datebook for 2011, I wrote an important note to myself to be read every time I opened it up–“Devote this year to love.” Over the course of the year, my understanding of love developed in incredible ways. Love–big love, capital-L Love, not just the kind you say to your family or your SO, but the way you feel about life and what’s in it and all the people and objects and places you will never know–is why I write, is one of the things at the center of me that makes me the person that I am. Life is too short not to genuinely extend yourself, the best part of yourself, to as many entities in as many ways as you can and to try to see them for what they are and what they can be, to try to understand them in the way they understand themselves and to be a force of exploration and curiosity and growth and passion in their existence, if only for a brief instant.

More than any other goals for 2012, I plan to devote this year to love. My feet brush the ground beneath with every step.

How to start a trip to Boston


Working on story revisions and listening to music after enjoying some dinner at a hotel near the airport.
Yes, that is a brick wall behind me. And yes, I am wearing a Kate Beaton shirt.

It’s a weekend in Chicago

It would have been a lot easier to address all the things that happened in Chicago if I had posted them on a daily basis, but why post to a blog when you’re busy having a good time?

My trip started with me getting off work late on Thursday and still having to go water my boss’s plants, since I’m house-sitting for her. Thankfully, I had packed all my stuff earlier in the afternoon and made all the food I was going to bring with me (note to any of you out there who want to double my chana masala tofu burger recipe–make two separate batches to put in the food processor and combine when they’re done, otherwise there is too much stuff in the processor to get it all the right consistency; the top will be untouched and the bottom will be pureed), so I was able to clean up everything and throw all my stuff in my car quickly. Megan, Allison and I made late dinner (chana masala tofu burgers and broiled asparagus with olive oil and Parmesan) and hung out with Vikram, then called it an early night since I was having breakfast with a friend and Allison had to work.

Friday morning, Nick and I got breakfast at Courier, went to the library so I could get some CDs for the weekend, and swung by Art Mart for kicks. After that, I showered, packed up the car, and headed for Chicago. Justin and Sean’s place was easy enough to get to, and we managed to find some prime (read: free and close to my destination) parking right beyond the gravel plot next to their apartment building. Since Sean had a full weekend pass for Pitchfork, Justin and I spent a chunk of the evening wandering through the area where they live, checking out a sweet used record store, some bars, and American Apparel. We made an awesome vegetarian hash (like the breakfast food) for dinner (which I’ll post the recipe for later this week) and waited for Sean to get back so that we could rate one of the bars near their apartment. We ended up at some place advertising “boutique beers” (namely, ones you can get at the Blind Pig or Crane Alley for a couple of dollars cheaper–oh, Chicago), where I discovered that apparently every halfway decent bar in Chicago has Pimm’s No. 1 Cup (<3<3<3). I wanted to get a bottle of wine to take back to the apartment (since Jewel-Osco is just down the street) that was not the abhorrent Charles Shaw that my two fine hosts have stocked up on, but was foiled by Jewel’s policy of ending alcohol sales after 10pm. Instead, I ended up in line with Sean in ecstasy over his good fortune (buy one, get one free deal on Doritos) and Justin regaining his composure over his E.L. Fudge cookies after they drew looks from stockers in the snack aisle for their joyous shouting over appropriate food.

Saturday, Sean left for Pitchfork and Justin and I went to pick up Allison from the train station. After dropping her things back off at the apartment and contacting Kesha about hanging out for the day, we took CTA over to Devon Ave to browse South Asian stores (and a Russian bookstore, which was selling a Barack Obama matryoshka set; the owner asked Allison in Russian if she spoke the language while we were browsing). It was hot and we gave up on trying to find an ibrik for Allison, but I found some Turkish coffee and bought a bunch of movies and CDs. We had Indian food for dinner (<3 malai kofta, roti and mango lassi <3) and browsed a little more before Kesha dropped us off at a nearby theater to see Inception. It was good–definitely a plot movie, not a character movie, but very enjoyable. We took the CTA home to meet up with Sean and admired the view of the downtown skyline from the roof of their building. Robin, Ryan, and Kesha showed up at the apartment before we wandered down Division for a place to hang out. Justin’s friend Carl joined us as well–great evening out with friends at another bar that serves Pimm’s. Note to St. Louis bars: stocking Pimm’s would curry a lot of favor with me.

Sunday morning, we prepared ourselves for a long, hot day outside at Pitchfork Music Festival. On the walk to the park, a lady parked on a corner we passed started shouting out her window at Sean, who had to ask to repeat what she said: “You! You got nice legs!” Unexpectedly awesome.

We bought water bottles at a convenience store closer to Union Park to bring in, and began our full day of listening. We caught the last half of Allá‘s set, which I enjoyed enough to pick up a CD (and which I later got signed by their lead guitarist, who was walking through the festival grounds during the afternoon and was very, very nice). Then we watched part of Cass McCombs before Allison and I wandered off to hear what was happening on the other stage–Best Coast, which was pleasant but not hugely remarkable. We decided to find the water fountain and check out the massive number of tents for a while and grabbed an early lunch while we had time (before all the big deal sets later in the day). I was overwhelmed by the amount of interesting things for sale, from jewelry to custom knitted music equipment cables, new vinyl to band posters, fair-trade clothing to hammocks. We ate delicious lunch courtesy of the Chicago Diner tent (vegan gyro) and listened to Beach House while sitting in the shade. We waited in line for 30 minutes to get water before catching Surfer Blood‘s set, then traipsed off to see St. Vincent–Annie Clark can shred. We thought it best to start staking out standing room for Pavement at that point, so we forewent seeing Neon Indian and Sleigh Bells (who, according to Sean, performed a truncated set anyway because they only had a little over 30 minutes of material) and worked our way around deep into the crowed of other Pavement fans and Major Lazer spectators. The same incredibly drunk and/or stoned guy who stumbled through the audience for St. Vincent and shoulder-checked me and Allison because he couldn’t keep himself upright ended up behind us during the Major Lazer set, and as could have been predicted, he behaved even more like an intoxicated asshole behind us, continually running into me and trying to grind on Allison. His also-intoxicated friends couldn’t control him at all, so we made a lateral move into the crowd and left them to drop each other while trying to force each other to crowd-surf.

We survived Major Lazer and stood around while Big Boi played the opposite stage. Pavement took the stage a little after 8:30 and some intro by an old Chicago shock jock DJ who talked for way too long in order to be purposely annoying. Despite the bass being far too loud and Stephen Malkmus losing his voice, the show was fantastic–all in all, worth the months (or years, depending) I’d been waiting for it. There is something fulfilling about seeing a band that changed your musical tastes, how you listen, what you expect from music, and, well, your life. Pavement defined a period of my life–seeing them perform was more rewarding than I can put into words.

After the festival ended, Sean, Allison and I booked it back to the apartment and hung out with Justin, who was fabulous enough to have a great homemade dinner waiting for us when we returned. Jams, Charles Shaw, Andrew W.K. party tips, and a shower with sunglasses ensued–a relaxing end to a long day.

Sunday, Allison and I packed up and left (and I managed to forget my travel coffee mug and had to have Justin ship it to me today). We got back to Urbana around 1:45pm, and I dropped her off at her house and sampled one of Dana and Connie’s amazing cookies (a recipe I will post once I acquire) before heading to the library to return the CDs I’d checked out. After rolling my window down to use the drive-through drop-box, it refused to roll up and instead, replied with a horrible grinding, clunking noise. The forecast was rain and storms through the rest of the day, so I met Christy for lunch as planned and we went to Schnucks first to get trash bags to cover my window. After eating (Courier again–amazing black bean burger with sweet potato chips), she was gracious enough to drive me to the hardware store to get clear tarp and duct tape so that I could see out my window to drive home. The tarp managed to be too opaque, so after spending at least 25 minutes securing it, I ended up ripping it off so I could drive and drove the whole way home on the highway with my window down while it threatened to rain. It poured on me at one point for a good ten minutes, but other than that, I managed to get back to Springfield between downpours and get my car into my parents’ garage. At least my day was concluded by finding that the sweater vest Jenna has been working on for me since last September came in the mail and fits beautifully.

That concludes my weekend, which was everything I expected and more. I’m so fortunate to have the friends I do–ones to come with me to concerts, to put me up for the weekend and share their food and culinary skills, to hang out and have a good time, and to help me deal with unexpected crises.

And in case inquiring minds want to know, I took the car into a mechanic this morning (in more rain), who is ordering a new cable drive regulator for me. I should have my car back Friday after the part gets in. More from me later in the week.

Concert Party

First in a series of recap posts about what’s been going on in the last couple of weeks (aside from me buying Pavement tickets aaaaaah). This post: Concert Party weekend.

By “Concert Party,” I mean…

PAVEMENT

PAVEMENT TICKETS, I HAS THEM

Just so you’re aware

If you create a Brazilian music station on Pandora, the ad campaign for your browser window becomes completely devoted to selling you a Toyota Yaris in Spanish.

Today feels like…

…Bossa Nova.

“Águas de Março” performed by João Gilberto

“Brigas, Nunca Mais” performed by Elis Regina and Antonio Carlos Jobim

“Chega De Saudade” performed by João Gilberto

Graduation + CDs from the library

Pretty relevant song from a great album (Hideaway by the Weepies).

“Can’t Go Back Now” by The Weepies

Yesterday when you were young, everything you needed done was done for you
Now you do it on your own, but you find you’re all alone; what can you do?

You and me walk on, walk on, walk on
‘Cause you can’t go back now

You know there will be days when you’re so tired that you can’t take another step
The night will have no stars, and you’ll think you’ve gone as far you will ever get

But you and me walk on, walk on, walk on
‘Cause you can’t go back now

Yeah, yeah
Go where you wanna go
Yeah, yeah
Be what you wanna be
If you ever turn around, you’ll see me

I can’t really say why everybody wishes they were somewhere else
But in the end the only steps that matter are the ones you take all by yourself

And you and me walk on, walk on, walk on
Yeah, you and me walk on, walk on, walk on
‘Cause you can’t go back now
Walk on, walk on, walk on
You can’t go back now

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