Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yon Ti Moman. Only a Little While.

Times are tough up in Chicago. I'm broke, jobless, and it's GD EFFING freezing.

Yesterday I was feeling so panicked about money that, mid-job searching, I jumped up from my computer and started running around my apartment like a madwoman, collecting all my spare change. I dug through every purse, every bag, every coat. I picked up pennies off the floor. (Seriously, my whole life, there's always been change on my floor. When I was in high school, anytime my dad would walk in my room, he'd start picking up the change on the floor and lecturing me on the value of money. Maybe I should have paid more attention.)

I dumped all the change in a tupperware container, not including the $12 in quarters I found (laundry money!). I had another container full of change in the trunk of my car. So, clutching my tupperware jars of change like my life depended on it, I took my broke ass to Jewel and used the Coinstar machine. Some of my change got rejected because it was so dirty from being in my car for the last decade, but all in all, I had $52 in change.

Hallelujah! I'm pretty sure the cashier thought I was batshit crazy, because I handed her my voucher with a huge grin on my face. But you know what? I didn't care. I was 52 bucks richer. And right now, for me, that's really something.

Then today came. By mid-afternoon, I'd reached a pretty record low. I had no more change to collect. Rent's going to be due again soon. Damn, was I feeling sorry for myself. I headed toward the Loop to apply for a serving gig, because I needed to feel like I was really actively doing something. (Other than applying for the umpteenth job online, that is.)

Filling out an application turned into getting interviewed, and I actually left there with my hopes up. (Keep your fingers crossed for me!) So, I hop on the train to go back home, and start reading the latest New Yorker. I always read "The Talk of the Town" section first, so I flip there. 

The story I read first starts with this line: "My cousin Maxo has died." Immediately, I'm sucked in to this article (without even realizing until I finish that it's written by Edwidge Danticat). It turns out the author's cousin Maxo was killed in Haiti when his house collapsed on him during the quake. She continues, writing about Maxo and his life in Haiti. He sounded like a wonderful, unique person.

I'm so enthralled by this story that I'm pretty much oblivious to the fact that I'm still on the train. By the end, I'm teary eyed, holding back full fledged tears.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Mix Tapes: Harvest Moon

Really loving this cover of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" by St. Vincent's Annie Clark and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon from a Brooklyn show to raise money for Haiti earthquake relief. (Via Pitchfork.)

But don't worry, I'm well aware that nothing holds a candle to the real deal.

Who's More of a Broke Ass Than Me?

No one, right? That's why I just emailed RedEye and told them to feature me in their upcoming project.

If you love me and are sick of hearing me whine about being a broke ass, it couldn't hurt to tell RedEye about me.

Pretty please? Seriously, right before I emailed RedEye, I applied for a deferment on my student loans with Sallie Mae. I need this.

Here's how they say to contact:
"Shoot an e-mail to (with "Broke-Ass" in the subject line), drop us a line on our Facebook fan page or get at us on Twitter. We're around."
Broke Ass Alison

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Old Friends

Today I visited my oldest and dearest friend Eileen. We hadn’t seen each other since this summer, only about a month after her baby, Eli, was born. It seems silly, considering we only live about an hour apart—she lives in Aurora, I live in the city—but sometimes life just gets in the way of getting together. (That and the fact that until recently, I worked in a bar and she has a normal human being’s schedule.)

Eileen and I first met standing in line to go outside for recess in elementary school. We had the exact same coat. It was destiny.

Although sometimes we go six months without seeing each other, it doesn’t really matter. Not that I wouldn’t love to see her more often, of course I would. But it really doesn’t matter because, like we talked about tonight, we’ve known each for so long, and we know each other so well, that we can always pick up a conversation like we just saw each other yesterday. Plus, we laugh our asses off every time we’re together. What’s so funny, I’m not really sure. But it’s pretty damn terrific.

One of Eileen’s greatest qualities is how she makes everyone around her feel happy. You can see that just by being around her and her wonderful husband Aron, or the way her son’s eyes light up every time she looks at him. She always, always, always, looks for a positive note in everything in life. It’s therapeutic for me to be around her. I seriously drove the entire ride home with a big ass grin on my face.

And there’s really something to be said for being around a friend who, when I talk about my mom, not only knew her and understands what I’m saying, but gets a little teary eyed because she loved her too. Our moms were friends, too. My dad is still friends with hers. You get what I mean. She’s family.

I hope everyone has an Eileen in their lives.

Love ya, Bean.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blog for Choice Day: What "Trust Women" Means to Me

Today is the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It's also the 5th annual Blog for Choice Day. Each year, NARAL Pro-Choice America poses a question for bloggers to respond to on January 22, Roe v. Wade's anniversary.

In honor of Dr. George Tiller, who often wore a button that read, "Trust Women," this year's question is:

What does Trust Women mean to you?

I'm a little late in the day with my post, and I've already read some great responses to this question, so what I have to say is brief.

"Trust Women" means understanding a woman's right to make decisions about her body. It means trusting that we can, and must, make our own decisions regarding our reproductive choices.

Trust a woman to know when she's ready to have a child. Trust a woman to decide if she's not ready for a child.

All women, regardless of class, income, religion, or color, should be able to make decisions about their own bodies. That's why I support Planned Parenthood (and Judy Blume).

It's simple: Women's rights are human rights. Trust women to decide for themselves. We are capable.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And she signed each note, “Love, Rexanna”

My mother proofread everything, even her little notes to my father left on the kitchen counter before we’d go out somewhere—short notes, written on the backs of discarded “Page-a-Day” calendar pages. When I was little, I’d hover behind her, watching her mouth move as her pen swept from word to word, making sure everything had come out right. When I was a teenager, I’d stand in the doorway and groan for her to hurry up—“you don’t have to proofread everything, Mom”—but she didn’t care.

She’d never leave until she had reread the note, checking every detail. Was it so Dad would know exactly where we’d gone, what time we’d return? Or was it to make sure, just in case, God forbid, her last written words would have no errors? Maybe a little bit of both.

She signed each note, “Love, Rexanna.”

These notes were always part of the routine. Paper and pens sat, waiting, at the top of the fridge.

Now, desperate for something of my mother, I curse all those notes thrown out without a thought. But why would we save such things? I remember sitting in my dorm room at IU, only months after she was gone. Frantic, I searched through my email, hoping to find old emails from my mother.There were only a few. I read each line, desperate, praying for a clue. But they weren’t what I wanted. I wanted little notes written on the backs of Dad’s old Page-a-Day calendars signed “Love, Rexanna.” I wanted them piled, stacks of unimportant notes, all around me. Therein would be the answers to everything I had to know. I wanted to stand in our kitchen, hovering behind as she reread each word, mouth moving, pen sweeping across the paper.

Now, I can’t even remember my mother’s scarcely used email address. She would shudder at all the grammatical errors in our lives now. Twitter and text, she’d roll her eyes at such nonsense. Sometimes, I force myself not to capitalize my “i’s” in emails. It pains me in ways I can’t explain. An “i” in an email from me is not a careless gesture, not quick typing. It’s a meditated act—mouth moving, pen sweeping across the paper—but no one gets it but me. It’s my teenaged self, groaning at my mom in the kitchen: “You don’t have to proofread everything.”

“Yes, you do.”

Frantic, I try to picture her in the kitchen, proofreading her notes to my father.

Because my father still sometimes leaves me notes on the backs of his Page-a-Day calendars, I have a kitchen drawer overflowing. I can’t bear to throw such precious things away. He always signs them, “Love, Dad.” Every year my brother and I buy our dad two calendars: a Page-a-Day and a wall calendar for the kitchen. This year I forgot his wall calendar. I remembered Christmas Eve. Frantic, I feared I'd ruined our tradition forever. He opened his Page-a-Day calendar from Jay. It made me want to cry. I wasn't sure why.

On my refrigerator is a card my grandfather wrote me. I found it in a box two weeks after he died. Yesterday I looked at the line, “I have three robins in my yard, it makes me think of spring.” It made me want to cry. I wasn't sure why. In my father’s kitchen cabinet is a small jar labeled “Sage.” It’s my grandmother’s writing.

When I go home I check for it in the cabinet. It’s always still there.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: Sometimes Friendship Is a Little Romantic

If job hunting wasn't so utterly exhausting and mind-numbingly aggravating, I might have missed a second poetry slam in a row! But ... it is. I hate it. So, I decided to take a break and find a good poem to post.

I originally had an Erica Jong poem in mind to share, but when I looked at my shelf, the collection Good Poems jumped out at me. I'm glad it did. It was a gift from a friend my senior year in college. At the time he sent it to me, our friendship (relationship?) was, to put it gently, a bit complicated. (I am a lady, so that's all you need to know about that. And wouldn't you like to know. Just kidding. Sort of.) Because we've managed to stay friends throughout all these years, mostly by the beauty of instant messaging, and recently through occasional visits, I tend to forget just how it was between us at that complicated time.

Until I open this book, that is. Then I'm reminded by the dried rose petals I've used to mark my favorite poems. (Yeah, I admit it. I have dried quite a few flowers in my life. I'm a sucker.) I'm reminded by the letter he enclosed with the book that I've kept tucked in its pages. I'm reminded how I didn't really even like poetry until right about the time he sent me this book (even though I was constantly writing my own shitty excuses for poems).

Clearly, I now like poetry. And really, I can only thank him for that (and this fantastic collection). He probably doesn't remember what he wrote in the letter, and quite frankly he might be horrified that not only have I saved it, I'm blogging about it! But I'm glad I did. Reading it, I appreciate poetry, and our friendship, a little bit more.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Artist Bets His Life

The January 4th issue of The New Yorker has a really interesting story about Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and what may or may not have really happened on the Christmas Eve in 1888 before a prostitute named Rachel unwrapped a gift that turned out to be Van Gogh's ear.

(God, can you imagine? "Merry Christmas, baby. I got ear. Do you like it?")

I'll admit, sometimes when I get to the end of a New Yorker article, I pretty much just feel glad I stuck it out and read the entire thing. (Sometimes, only sometimes, really.) But I got to the final graph in this article and just thought, Damn. That's beautiful. And then I read it again. And then for some reason I picked up my pen and circled the paragraph. I don't really know why.

Here it is:

"It's true that the moral luck dramatized by modern art involves an uncomfortable element of ethical exhibitionism. We gawk and stare as the painters slice off their ears and down the booze and act like clowns. But we rely on them to make up for our timidity, on their courage to dignify our caution. We are spectators in the casino, placing bets; that's the nature of the collaboration that brings us together, and we can sometimes convince ourselves that having looked is the same as having made, and that the stakes are the same for the ironic spectator and the would-be saint. But they're not. We all make our wagers, and the cumulative lottery builds museums and lecture halls and revisionist biographies. But the artist does more. He bets his life."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

'I'm tired of fighting,' she said/Your words just rattle my head

This song by The Swell Season, "The Verb," is killing me. I'm a big fan of the entire new album (thanks, Beth!) but this is one of those songs I keep playing again and again. These lyrics are brilliant, I think:

"I'm tired of fighting," she said
Your words just rattle my head
All joy escapes in the dark and I can't make this make sense
Your words are lost to me now
I cannot take it
I'm out
I'm stuck here kidding myself
You're out there caring somewhere

What's the verb to kick it off
To take the time and walk away from it
I'm not playing
That'll never sit with us well
We're far too pious to get out of it and we're on our way

"I'm tired of fighting," she said
Your words just rattle my head
All joy escapes in the dark and I can't make this make sense
Your words are lost to me now
I cannot take it
I'm out
I'm stuck here killing myself
You're out there drinking somewhere

Listen to it and tell me it doesn't make you think about your last breakup. Or some breakup. Or some ex.

Dammit. What great musicians.

This is the best video clip I've found (not the full song):

This next one, "I have loved you wrong," is almost more than I can take. But still absolutely beautiful and tragic and wonderful.

Is it really sick that I'm almost glad they broke up so they could create this album? Pretend I didn't say that.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Feminists at the Gym

Since I moved to Chicago in July 2008, my exercise life has been pretty pathetic. In fact, I've gone months at a time with it being completely non-existent. Yeah, I'd go on kicks once in awhile where I'd daydream about getting a gym membership, or I'd go for a walk, do my Jane Fonda or Cindy Crawford tape, or do Pilates twice a week in my living room. (My cats get really concerned when I pull out my Pilates mat. Usually one or both decides it's best to stretch out on it with me. It makes me a little uncomfortable.)

The only thing that saved me from losing all muscle definition whatsoever this past year was my job waiting tables. All that pacing around in circles when you don't have tables (cause of course you're not allowed to sit down!), running after customers, and carrying trays of beer and burgers actually does burn calories. In fact, after my first month of waiting tables, I actually lost weight. This of course balanced out right around the time I realized I could get a free beer after every shift. What, beer's not good for you? Go figure.

Anyway, now that I've quit my job waiting tables, I've realized how easy it would be to sit on my couch in my sweatpants all day, computer on lap, eating, and not working out, ever. Next thing I know, I finally get a job interview, and I have to wear said sweatpants, because no other clothes fit. Hiring manager takes one look at me and calls security. I go home, sit on the couch and eat an entire box of macaroni and cheese, cycle continues.

Good news. I also now have a gym membership and I've decided to use it. After a week of announcing that I would go to the gym, I finally did it today. And here's the thing: As soon as I walked into the gym I felt better. I got on an elliptical, played Bajofondo Tango Club on my iPod, and I was ready to rule the world. Seriously. Every time I work out, my mind clears, I feel happy and energetic, and I'm ready to apply for 5,000 jobs if that's what it takes for someone to realize how brilliant I am. And all it took was 45 minutes of my day.

I realize that what I'm saying is of no surprise to anyone, least of all me. I grew up doing Jane Fonda workout tapes with my mom, for chrissakes. I played sports from ages 5 to 17. I get it. Endorphins, health, yada yada yada. I KNOW that I feel better when I'm working out and eating right. So what the hell? Why don't I ever do it? Well, all that's changing now. It's 2010, and I'm almost 26-years-old. My metabolism isn't going to have a crush on me forever. Plus, at this time in my life, poor and job searching, what I need more than ever is the mental and physical boost I get from exercise.

Now, you might be wondering (if you haven't given up on reading already), why I'm talking in such detail about my exercise habits. In recent months, I've grown increasingly aware of the discussion of body image and fat hate in the feminist blogosphere. Both are important topics, and until now, I've completely ignored them here on the Rainbow chronicles, aside from my one previous post about trying to find motivation to exercise. To be honest, that's most likely due to the fact that those aren't the feminist issues that really get my blood boiling and make me want to write. To be really honest, it's a topic that I find difficult to write, for a number of reasons. For one, I don't always agree (EEK!) with the popular discussion on the issues. That's not to say that I don't think body image is an important concern—it is, whether you're a woman, man, feminist, whoever, it's important. That's also not to say that I don't think there is a major problem with discrimination of overweight people, or "fat hatred" in our culture—there is. So, what, then?

You Make My Dreams Come True!

Why doesn't this ever happen in real life?

I love you, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Oh, how I love you.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

When Enough is Enough. (But not quite the way you thought it would be.)

Yesterday I quit my job.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about, planning out, daydreaming for months and months. But as with so many things, quitting my job didn’t go quite the way I’d been thinking and planning and daydreaming.

Since I first started waiting tables last August, I’ve missed my job at Indiana University. I have applied for job after job at various universities in Chicago; at Borders; at random companies I wasn’t even sure I liked, but that would give me the title of “writer” or “editor” should I be hired. I’ve gone to interviews and waited for callbacks that never came. I’ve juggled my waitressing job with poorly paid or unpaid internships, waiting for that fantastic moment when that internship would turn into a full-time, paid position, and I could make a victorious phone call to my dad, to my grandma, to my brother, to anyone who would listen.

I thought, and I hoped, that the day I quit this job, it would be because of a new opportunity.

Instead, I’ve quit my job, yet again, without a real idea of what’s to come in the future. Only this time I’m not moving to a new city. Here I am. Now what?

Carnival of Feminists!

Check out the 11th Carnival of Feminists at Gender Across Borders! My post about Jessica Valenti is featured in the "Feminism 101" section, but I'm not just completely shamelessly self-promoting today. There are a ton of great posts from feminist bloggers around the globe.

I'm really excited to be a part of it. Definitely the best part of this week so far, although competition isn't too rough, considering it's only Wednesday and I have already busted my lip, quit my job, and overflown my kitchen sink. Seriously.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: My Love Letter to London

My world kind of flipped upside down on me in the last 24 hours.

Went out with my girlfriends from work last night. Many, many hours later, when my cabbie finally turned on to my street, just as I leaned up to tell him where my building was, he slammed on the brakes. And I slammed into the partition. Busted my lip open. (Luckily my teeth stayed intact this time.)

Somehow, I manage to wake up this morning to call in to work for my "on call" shift. (Since we can't request time off work, the on call shifts are to cover the bar's ass in case someone gets sick or doesn't show.) I'm half awake. I dial. (Err, push the talk button.)

The phone rings. And rings. And rings.

I think you know where this is going. No one answered the phone, and I crawl back under the covers and go to sleep. I figure I'll just explain what happened when I get to work later this afternoon.

I'll leave the rest out for now, but clearly I'm not at work tonight. Turns out, I do have a breaking point, and today I reached it. But I think quitting my job warrants an entire blog post, so I'll save that for another day.

So seeing as how it's Tuesday evening and I'm still in my pjs, I figure I might as well go for it and make this Tuesday's featured (Yeah, I know. It's scary.)

I wrote this poem right before I moved to Chicago. I was sitting in my apartment in Bloomington thinking about how terrified I was to quit my job and move to this city. Thinking about my mom and wondering what she would think. Thinking about how terrified I was before I left for London, but how studying abroad there changed my life in about 5,000 fantastic ways.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday Mix Tapes: Daptone Gold

Nothing better than a little soul music on a freezing Monday evening in Chicago. Lee Fields' voice kills me! Oh, the heartbreak.

And here's Mr. Fields with the queen, Sharon Jones: