Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Have Some Wine!

Some nights are for getting fired up about asinine writings on the Interwebs, and some nights are for drinking wine and halfheartedly watching Paul Blart: Mall Cop on ABC family while really, I'm playing around with a mustache cam and laughing hysterically to myself.

That's right. All of these things are happening.

I am a grown ass woman. 

Don't even tell me you don't find this funny, you guys.

Look, it was either this, or I was going to write more weird poetry about my feelings. And frankly, I am just not in the mood to be that serious, or 'stache-less. Besides, remember that time I posted a picture of myself in my BIKE HELMET? There wasn't even any wine involved then!

Now there's really nothing left to do but share an excerpt from one of the greatest literary inventions of all time. (Hint: If you picture me reading this aloud with this 'stache --------------->>>>>>>>>>>>
I promise it's funnier.) And it must be destiny that this happens! There was just a commercial for the movie adaptation right as I was typing! On ABC Family! I really am watching ABC family. holy crap, maybe I should not blog after drinking Jam Jar.

Whatever, it's happening.

From Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, "A Mad Tea Party": 
`Have some wine,' the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.

Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. `I don't see any wine,' she remarked.

`There isn't any,' said the March Hare.

`Then it wasn't very civil of you to offer it,' said Alice angrily.

`It wasn't very civil of you to sit down without being invited,' said the March Hare.

Say what you mean and mean what you say,
Alison(composes) and my stache cam

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Back Off Mama Bear: Why Slate's Rant Against the Berenstain Bears Was More Than Just Untimely

Tonight, I learned that Jan Berenstain, co-creator, writer, and illustrator of the bestselling children's books, the Berenstain Bears, passed away several days ago. Her husband and partner in the series, Stan, died in 2005. Together, the two wrote more than 300 books, which have sold 200 million copies and inspired an animated television series and more than 20 television movies.

Within minutes of reading Ms. Berenstain's obituary, I saw the following headline on Slate's website: Berenstain Bores.

I then made the mistake of reading the article.

First, may I just say: Shame on you, Slate! On the same day the NYT posted Jan Berenstain's obituary, you chose to run an article entitled 'Berenstain Bores'?

This title alone is offensive—because while the author of the piece, Hanna Rosin, and her editor(s), who most likely actually wrote the title, are obviously entitled to believe that the Berenstains', and or their fictional characters, the Berenstain Bears, are boring, the fact of the matter is, the timing of this opinion piece is inappropriate. Not only is it inappropriate, it is downright tacky and disrespectful. The woman just died. She happens to be the co-creator of a beloved children's book series. Tell me, what about her offends you so deeply that a rant about her books seems necessary right now?

Well, let's see, shall we? The article now begins with an update and "apology" from the author:
UPDATE, Feb. 28, 2012: I have been roundly (and deservedly) chastised in e-mails and elsewhere by Slate readers for my use of “good riddance” in connection with this kind woman’s death. I admit, I was not really thinking of her as a person with actual feelings and a family, just an abstraction who happened to write these books. Apologies. Next time I will be more humane. --Hanna

I hadn't even read the article yet, and I found this "apology" utterly ridiculous—"I was not really thinking of her as a person with actual feelings and a family," the apology goes. Um, what did you think, that Jan Berenstain was ACTUALLY a cartoon bear? Of course she was a person with actual feelings! Yes, next time you should be more humane, and your editors should use better judgement as well. Because if they did, this opening would never have been published:
The world today brings news that Jan Berenstain, co-author with her husband Stan of the 45 years and running Berenstain Bears series for children, has passed on to a better world. As any right-thinking mother will agree, good riddance.
Good riddance? Even if by "good riddance," Hanna Rosin was addressing Ms. Berenstain's books, the way these sentences are structured, it reads quite clearly as if she is saying "good riddance" to Berenstain herself. Just read it again if you don't believe me. But, okay: She's talking about the books. Hmm. Are the more than 300 books already published going to magically disappear because both authors are now deceased?

What a revelation! I can't believe this!


KURT VONNEGUT IS STILL ALIVE?! SYLVIA PLATH NEVER KILLED HERSELF! [Insert the name of all the countless other deceased authors whose publications are still on bookshelves.]

All right, I'm sorry. I take it back. I'm being a little childish now, aren't I? Maybe I should remember my manners. Oh wait, I have just the book:

This is just one of many Berenstain Bears books that my mother read to my brother and me when we were growing up. But according to Ms. Rosin, any "right-thinking mother" would agree that this is just awful bedtime reading for kids. Teaching manners at the dinner table, what a bore!

Here are some of the author's issues with the polka-dot wearing matriarch of the bear family, the beloved Mama Bear:
There, in the big treehouse down a sunny dirt road deep in Bear Country is Mama Bear, known only ever as Mama Bear, wearing the same blue polka-dotted muumuu and housecap in every single book, inside the house and on the very rare occasions when she leaves it. (What’s her problem? Is there no Target in Bear Country? Is she too busy to change? Is she clinically depressed?) Mama Bear’s only pleasures in life seem to come from being the Tracy Flick of domesticity, making up charts for good behavior and politeness, encouraging her children to use pretentious British affections such as 'terribly sorry' and 'lovely, my dear.'
Perhaps I might be equally appalled by Mama Bear being only known as such if all the other family members weren't similarly named. Papa Bear. Sister Bear. Brother Bear. But if only Bear Country had a Target, maybe Mama Bear could have had some time to herself to find a name! Berenstains! You fools!

Then there's the matter of her always "wearing the same blue polka-dotted muumuu and housecap in every single book"—so what? I don't recall Papa Bear ever changing out of his overalls, either. Sister Bear wore the pink overalls, Brother Bear wore the red shirt... seriously, what's the issue? Is it because it was a muumuu? Because of the housecap? The polka dots? I mean hell, I don't like polka dots much myself, but yeesh.

Look, I don't want to fight about this.

So let's just get to your real issue with Mama Bear, shall we? It's not just those silly polka dots. The article goes on to say:
I have loved many a midcentury book starring the retrograde housewife. Most great Dr. Seuss books were written around the same time. The Frances books are some of my favorites, and Mother in that book never changes out of her apron. And I can read Richard Scarry all day. But usually you need humor to soften the blow. Stan and Jan, sadly, were allergic to humor. This is the only thing I hold against Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. He was the one who apparently approved the Berenstain Bears books and yet he never pushed them to write one funny line. Papa Bear for example, is a bumbling oaf. The usual plotline in the books involves Papa trying to fix some problem but screwing it up, so that Mama has to swoop in and save the day. In defter hands, Papa could have been a prototype Homer Simpson. But in these book he just bangs on the table and shouts things like 'pinheaded fiddlebrain!'
What bothers me most is the implication that Mama Bear isn't a good role model, or is somehow lacking because her "only pleasures in life seem to come from ... making up charts for good behavior and politeness, encouraging her children to use pretentious British affections." Maybe Mama Bear's great pleasures in life do stem from encouraging her children, but I don't think it was ever about "pretentious British affections"—as I remember it, from some of my first memories as a reader, and some of my favorite childhood memories with my mother, Mama Bear taught the cubs:

To clean up after themselves and take care of their belongings. 

To appreciate what they have and to understand the importance of a family budget.

The importance of a healthy diet and exercise. 

Why it's always better to be honest (oh wait, that 'bumbling oaf' Papa Bear stepped up his game and helped teach this lesson!)

I'm not familiar with the particular book that this author is most annoyed by,  The Birds and the Bees and the Berenstain Bears, but whatever. That same mother who read these books to me and helped instill my lifelong love of reading also sat me down and had a frank talk about "the birds and the bees," so I might suggest you simply ditch the children's books for that conversation if you're looking to be candid.

So back off Mama Bear, her polka dots, and the fact that she is a stay-at-home mom. She might "only" be a housewife, but so was my housecoat-wearing Grandma Hamm, and she was a badass. My mother was a teacher, and I think she, along with about 200 million other readers of these books, enjoyed every minute with Mama Bear and the rest of the Bear clan.

Rest in peace, Jan Berenstain.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Let’s Split One

When I was growing up, every once in awhile, when we were driving through town, Mom would stop at the gas station, smile and say, “Want to split a candy bar?”

I swear, she’d smile so mischievously, you’d think she’d suggested we split a joint, not a candy bar.

I’d hop out of the car and go grab one for us, our mutual choice almost always a Milky Way Dark. (At some point when I was in high school, Milky Way Dark became Milky Way Midnight, but by this time we weren’t too concerned with splitting candy bars.) When I got back to the car, candy bar in hand, usually I’d just break it in half, study the two halves for a second to make sure they were even, and then hand Mom her share. Sometimes, though, if we were on our way home, we'd wait until we got home, when Mom would cut it with a knife, which I found really entertaining.

“This is what we did when we were girls,” she’d say, looking serious.

At least, this is how my memory tells me this goes. I can never remember if my brother was involved in any of this candy bar splitting, exactly, but my memory stubbornly gives me this image of Mom standing in our kitchen, cutting a candy bar for us to share.

When we weren’t splitting our candy bars, it was still a special treat to stop for a candy bar, but I’d opt for a 3 Musketeers, and Mom, a Zero bar. I used to think her Zero candy bars were disgusting—White chocolate? Almond nougat? Gross—and refused to even try it.

The first time I recall finally trying the Zero bar, I was driving either to or from Bloomington, on one of my weekend trips home. My mother was no longer alive; there was no one in the car with me at all. But when I stopped at the gas station I felt like I had to get one. I got back in my little Neon Sport, and took a bite.

And then I busted out laughing. I loved it! Mom was right! Who would have thought?

The next time I had one, I was really upset about something—what, I don’t remember. But again, I stopped, and bought a Zero. I got back in my car, unwrapped the Zero, and took a bite. I burst into tears and sat there for a minute, just looking at the stupid white candy bar in its silver wrapper as I cried. After I calmed down, I got back on the road, and every so often, would take another bite and sniff.

It’s kind of amazing how long you can make a candy bar last, if you really try.

Milky Way Midnight is still my go-to candy bar, even as an adult. But over the years, if I’ve decided to treat myself to a candy bar—and I say treat not because I’m so stingy with my diet and sweets, but more because that’s how Mom always made me think of candy bars: as a special treat—sometimes I’ll buy a Zero bar. Whenever I do, I’m usually driving somewhere, typically from Chicago to Knightstown, or vice versa.

I eat it slowly, enjoying each bite. When I get halfway through, I put it in the cup holder for a while and ignore it. Maybe it’s totally crazy, but I like to think I’m splitting it with someone.

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: When She Sings

I’ve had this Neko Case song in my head
For hours

Hey when she sings when she sings when she sings like she runs
Moves like she runs

And I’ve been feeling homesick for something that doesn’t exist
For years

Go on, go on scream and cry
You’re miles from where anyone will find you

It’s okay, though, really
Mostly just that I keep wanting
A conversation
That I cannot have

Cause I was once told to write a letter
That cannot be sent

Hey when she moves, when she moves when she moves like she runs

We used to toy with these grandiose ideas
Of things that were gonna happen
(they never did happen)

And it makes me a little sad
I’m more than a little wistful

So I went to the coffee shop
And I bought a mint tea
You weren’t there
Because you’re never any where

Hey there there's such deadly wolves 'round town tonight
Round the town tonight

They gave me my tea
On a little dish
With a tiny spoon
And even cramped at the tiniest table
Leaning over my massive Joan Didion book
It was perfect even if it was not
The other chair would stay empty,
So I propped my foot on it

Oh how I forgot what it’s like

Overwhelmed, I flipped around
Read about migraines and Georgia O’Keefe
Until I couldn’t concentrate any more,
So I pulled out my red journal
And began frantic scribbles of thoughts

Trees break the sidewalk and the sidewalk skins my knees

There’s an empty spot on the wall
Where I knocked the record off
Now there’s only a nail, bare

In my head, I compared it to myself
Then scoffed at my own ridiculousness
Wanting to laugh with him again
About how dramatic I felt
But he wasn’t there either

The look on your face yanks my neck on the chain

Today I tried to picture you
Reading my writing
I was hoping you might smile
Praying you’d be proud

And I would do anything
To see you again

I didn’t have the answer
I haven’t written a letter
I couldn’t cry

So I just held my head high
Against the Chicago wind
My collar flipped up
My boots clacking on the sidewalk

And I smiled,
Even though the wind was cold
Against my face

Because I think that maybe, just maybe
That when I’m alone
I walk fast, head up high,
Just like you did.
Right at that thought,
A stranger passed me and smiled

I knew it’d be okay.

Hey when she sings when she sings when she sings like she runs
Moves like she runs

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Mix Tapes: 'Cooing Elegant Boleros' with Y La Bamba, Robert Glasper & Common

I am in so much trouble. Here I am, already juggling multiple girl crushes on Sharon Van Etten, Ana Tijoux, and, yes, SIGH, Lana Del Rey, and then I find out about Luz Elena Mendoza of Y La Bamba.

photo from [here]
It was probably inevitable: Not only does Neko Case make a little guest appearance on the title track of Y La Bamba's new album, "Court the Storm,"  but it seems the inspiration behind the band name comes from Mendoza's six-toed cat, Bamba. From her six-toed cat. Bamba. Over at NPR, Felix Contreras writes of Mendoza:
Ultimately, it's Luz Elena Mendoza's vocals that draw me in. In interviews, she's said that the music she writes will never sound like traditional Mexican music. But to me, her deep, dreamy voice is exactly the kind I used to hear blasting out of the radio in my mom's kitchen — belting out rancheras, cooing elegant boleros or letting loose over accordion-fueled corridos.
I'm not quite sure what I love more—that I completely agree that her voice is deep and dreamy, or this amazing happenings in this kitchen he describes. Belting out rancheras? Cooing elegant boleros? Dude, that never happened in my mom's kitchen. And while I'm not even entirely sure what it all means, it certainly sounds fucking awesome, and reads that way as well. I also really enjoy the earnest-looking dudes harmonizing and playing with her: 

And since NPR First Listen so obviously fuels my Monday Mix Tapes as of late, next up we have the Robert Glasper Experiment.

Take a listen to "Black Radio" streaming at NPR. Lots of familiar guests on there, including Erykah Badu, Musiq Soulchild, Chrisette Michelle, Lupe Fiasco, Bilal, and the artist formerly known as Mos Def. (Side note: I fucking LOVE that I get to say "the artist formerly known as Mos Def"—it's Yasiin Bey now.)

Here's "Ah Yeah," featuring Musiq Soulchild and Chrisette Michelle. It's really a sweet song, with a simple but beautiful and true message. Right from the start:
I think beauty's overrated/cause that's something anyone can be/attraction now that's something different/ah-huh/ and thankfully you're both to me
When Chrisette Michelle comes in, after a lot of lovely "ah-yeah"-ing, talking, "You're sweet/and you see through me/you let me be free/I'm woman/I'm woman"—it's just the bizness. I love it:

And while I really enjoyed the entirety of "Black Radio," this one was another favorite of mine:

Last, but not least, I finished reading Common's memoir last week. I'm glad I read it (even if I now know more than I ever really needed to about his first sexual experiences). I particularly enjoyed learning more about his relationship with Erykah Badu and his thoughts on President Obama.

But his chapter, "Retrospect for Life," that begins with a letter to his unborn, was my favorite part. Being the Chicago man he is, I figured—and hoped— it was not a coincidence that he begins the chapter (after the letter) with an almost direct quote from Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks' poem, "The Mother," stating, "Abortions never let you forget."

As with the rest of his book, I found this chapter to be honest and thoughtful. I've always loved this collaboration with Lauryn Hill, particularly with the Stevie Wonder hook. Common writes about the song: "That was a very personal song for me. It was also a public song in that I wanted to reach out to women by talking about something that matters deeply to them." I'm glad he also admits that his acting in this video is not, um, the best.

The song, however, is something else entirely:

Happy Monday! What's been playing in your ear buds? Tell me about it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Size of the Past: An Ode to Sharon Van Etten (And Me)

I used to write these poems,
They weren’t good,
Really, I know that they were
Nothing that made much
Sense at all.
I’d mix in some words
In between a couple videos
Or pictures

And to me,
It was beautiful.
I swear, it made perfect sense
To me,
At least.
Almost no one would
Remark about these—
In fact, one friend said,
(and I can’t be mad at the honesty):

“I don’t really get it;
I just like your stories
So much more.”

That’s fine,
I guess.
The thing is,
This was a story
Just the same,
And sometimes it’s easier
This way

Like, to me,
It seems ridiculous
The way Layla won’t just
Hop on the bed:

She sniffs,
And sniffs,
And shuffles up to it,
Until, satisfied,
She makes a giant leap
And even then, she sniffs me,
My book, my arm,
Like she’s never seen me before.
Then she kneads her paws,
Slowly, steadily
Until she’s satisfied,
and she'll curl up in my arms,
her paw on my hand.

It’s totally ridiculous,
But it’s just her way.

I wrote this essay
About my ex-best friend
And how I cut her out
Of my life
But I was angry with it,
I kept sniffing at it,
Not sure what to do.

Found all these pictures
To go with the words,
But they didn’t make sense
Like this won’t make sense.
Because it was about her
and about something else

("It wasn't about me, so I didn't care,"
he said, without a hint of irony.)

You get that, right?
Tell me you get it.

The thing is,
I don't expect anyone to get it, really,
other than me,
And I know this time
you won't care to stop me
and say anything;
in fact, you probably won't read it at all.
That's fair; I get it,
I swear, I do. 

But I’d be lying if I said
I didn’t secretly hope
You’d look at me
And say:
“I get it; I always got it”

Because while I never meant to linger
I never meant those looks
Sometimes I can help it
And sometimes I can’t help but not.

It’s totally ridiculous,
But it’s just my way.

Tomorrow I’m going to see Sharon Van Etten sing
I already know the slightly
Mournful way I’ll feel
If and when she sings
“Give Out”
cause it’s just like
when you don’t look at me

and all I'm doing is looking (and you know it) or you do look at me but I can’t bear to look up (and you know it) 

“There was your breath on the back of my neck/ The only one holding/ The only one I had felt In years”

When I looked up from the table,
You were devastating.
I remember the way I watched you
That time,
I was late (I'm always late)

From across the street
I waited for the light to change
You were there,
Just waiting.

It scared the shit out of me.

Like how it scares me that you get me
So completely
Yet don’t,
Not at all.

You’re right, you know?

But still: You’re wrong, you’re so wrong.
As long as I think that, then maybe I can still be right.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Queen of the Night: Rest in Peace, Whitney

“Don’t make no difference if I’m wrong or I’m right,” Whitney Houston announced in “Queen of the Night,” and in a way, that’s how I feel mourning the loss of her, a woman who, of course, I did not actually know. Yes, it may seem a bit ridiculous to behave as if her death affects me personally—sort of like how when Heath Ledger died, I whined to my brother about how upset I was, and he retorted, “You realized you didn’t actually know him, right?”—but with his death, the more recent death of Amy Winehouse, and now, Whitney, I still think, stubborn and ridiculous as it may be, Didn’t I?

Although my first full-blown celebrity crush started at a wildly inappropriate age, when I was about five and falling madly in love with Orry Maine, aka Patrick Swayze, Heath Ledger’s face covered my bedroom walls as a teenager. I used to stare at that man’s face on a daily basis. I watched “A Knight’s Tale” an embarrassing amount of times, not because it was good, but because of Heath. I remember scoffing when I first heard he was dating Michelle Williams, because I thought, “What’s my boyfriend doing with Jen from Dawson’s Creek?” Yes, it’s ridiculous. But still, I felt something when he died. It’s a little embarrassing, but whatever. When Patrick Swayze died, I cried. A lot. I tried watching "Dirty Dancing" and couldn’t even get through it, for chrissakes. So maybe that’s even more embarrassing, but again, whatever. I feel a lot of feelings. We all know this already.

But: Whitney!

If you look through the record collection at my father’s house, it’s easily apparent when you’ve arrived at the milk crate that contains my mother’s old records, because it’s an obvious shift from all the rock ‘n’ roll records to R&B. In that milk crate, the record I always pull out, if only to stare at it, is a Whitney Houston album. I remember as a kid, looking at it and thinking she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

I’m talking about this one:

She seemed so elegant, so sure of herself, so otherworldly, in a way. I loved the tilt of her head, and that look in her eyes, like she was challenging the looker. So beautiful! I wanted to be beautiful like that. I wanted that kind of aura.

And my God, her voice! I don’t have any specific memories of my mom playing this particular Whitney Houston album. But I can say, with total conviction, that her music was certainly included in the rotation during our Saturday afternoon house cleaning, just like I know we listened to a lot of Gloria Estefan, Fleetwood Mac, Sade, and Annie Lennox.

I remember watching “The Bodyguard” with my mom, and at the end, when she says goodbye to Kevin Costner by the plane, we were both teary eyed.

I looked over and said to Mom: “I just don’t get it! They’re in love; why can’t they be together?”

She looked at me and, without hesitation, replied, “They’re facing reality. They’re from two different worlds. It would never be able to work.”

I said, “But why? Cause he’s white?”

She looked at me like I had lost my mind. “No, Alison. Because he is a bodyguard and she is a superstar.”

I don't remember how old I was at that time, but I'll never forget that conversation.

My mom was also a big fan of Terry McMillan novels, so of course I also watched "Waiting to Exhale" with her—and she got uncharacteristically embarrassed by one of the sex scenes. Afterward, I basically stole the soundtrack from her, listening to it nonstop in my room.

"Everyone falls in love sometimes":

A few years ago, I was at my dad’s for the weekend and “The Bodyguard” was on TV. I was a little surprised when he sat down and actually watched the entire thing with me. When it was over, I felt overwhelmingly sad. I went to the bathroom and cried.

It wasn’t about the movie, of course. So right now, as I write this and listen to Whitney, the sadness I feel isn’t just about Whitney. It is and it isn’t, at all. I remembered that Whitney had a daughter—she is 18. I just read that she was rushed to the hospital and treated for anxiety today. Of course I have no idea what their relationship was, and I have no idea just how she feels today, even though I was also 18 when my mother died. It doesn’t stop my heart from hurting any less at the thought.

Mom, I hope you have a record player up in heaven. I want to listen to some Whitney with you right now.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It's My Baby's Birthday! The Rainbow Chronicles Turn 3

Holy crap, you guys. So, I've been sitting here, watching Young Frankenstein and painting my nails (don't even pretend you're not jealous of this wild Wednesday evening) and I remembered:

Today, the Rainbow Chronicles turn 3! If only I had some Funfetti! Quick, go get a cupcake to eat while you read this!

It seems that last year, I neglected to host a blogging birthday celebration—I was far too busy feeling a lot of feelings about my recent discovery of James Blake—but this year, I'm in more of a celebratory mood. I mean, Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle are dancing on the television right now, and if that doesn't put you in the partying mood, what will?

For the first birthday bash, in 2010, back when I was still a young girl of 25, I recapped my favorite moments of my first full year of blogging. There was a lot of talk about Swayze, Schwinn Breezes named Patricia, and waiting tables. And of course, some more serious posts about family and my seemingly never-ending job search.

Now, two years later, though Sunday Swayze Fest may not happen as often as we'd all like (and by "we" of course I mean "I"), I can still say with all honesty that my most recent viewing of Dirty Dancing was three days ago and I now own a t-shirt with Patrick Swayze on it (clutch Christmas gift from Jay and Jasmine). So never fear, faithful Rainbow groupies. Swayze Fest will always be here in my heart, if not every Sunday on this blog.

And while I still occasionally have elaborate daydreams about riding my Schwinn Breeze all over town, I think we all know in reality I'm far too clumsy and terrified of Chicago traffic for that to happen more than twice every three years.

Speaking of clumsy—today at the coffee shop, I may or may not have knocked a framed record off the wall. Glass shattered, people stared, and I turned beet red, slumped into my seat, and cursed my elbows.

Back to the birthday bash, and away from my awkwardness, if at all possible. One thing I love about looking back over the last three years of blogging is how, in many ways, it's a tidy chronicle of my life. Of course, it's not a complete chronicle, and it never should or will be one, but as I look back I remember a lot—good and bad. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I think, "What kind of a creep reads her own blog archive?" But basically, looking back over this blog on its "birthday" makes me happy, and it makes me a little sentimental. Kind of like an actual birthday.

Three years ago, I sat in my first Chicago apartment's kitchen, listened to some Fiona Apple, and braved my first blog post, "Small Town and Scared Shitless in the Big City." Looking back, I'm almost shocked by my fears of exploring new places, and I'm still a little embarrassed about sharing those fears with the Interwebs. I may no longer be the young woman who's "scared shitless in the big city," but I don't mind admitting that no matter how long I live in Chicago, I'll still be that same "small town" girl who listens to Fiona and enjoys hanging out with my cats in the comfort of my home.

I recently reread A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Like many of my books, it was originally my mother's, and I vaguely remembered reading it when I was younger. When I found an index card tucked in the pages with my name and a sequence of numbers on it, I realized with glee that it was my 7th grade locker combination. I loved every minute re-reading the story of Francie and her family. Pretty much all of my reading happens in one of two places: on the train to and from work, or in bed. Sometimes, I get a little self-conscious after being completely absorbed in a book on a crowded train—I can only imagine the faces I must have been making as, teary eyed, I read the scene where Francie's mother shoots the man attempting to attack Francie in the stairwell. When I realized I was at my stop, I shoved the book in my bag and noticed some middle-aged guy was giving me a similar look to the ones I give the people shouting nonsensically in public. (Yes, that happens. I blogged about it.) But hey, if my funny faces keep a fellow commuter entertained on their commute, so be it.

As it happens, I was on the train when I finished the book. It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful book. I didn't care that the train was crowded, and I was sitting in a seat directly facing strangers. I smiled to myself, closed the book slowly, and then reopened it to the first page, where my mother had written her name 18 years earlier. I ran my index finger across her name and sighed.

It was a happy feeling. It was a little sentimental. It was something to be remembered.

Thanks for reading my little blog these last three years. Any time I find out someone's read any of these essays, rants, or even just a long, winding sentence I wrote, it makes me feel just like that.