Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Ten Things... (part 2)

So I promised I would follow up with the other five things I like about Hyde Park. Here they are:

1. There are lots of small children.

Not so many that they get annoying (although the shrieks from the playground next door to my apartment are sometimes a little much) but just enough so that they strike you as very cute as they toddle down the sidewalk with their moms, dads, and babysitters.

2. There is a real "college town" feel to the place.

Now that all the students are back, the place is pretty much over-run with 18,19, and 20-something year olds. And you can tell most of the businesses cater to us students.

3. It's a great area for running.

Most of the intersections aren't too busy, the sidewalks are not overcrowded, and there are three rather large parks (Jackson Park, Washington Park, and the Midway Plaisance) in addition to the lakefront path. I've come up with several great routes so far that lead me through quiet, shady, neighborhood streets.

4. There are some beautiful old houses.

First of all, there's the Robie House, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed residence that is right across from the business school. But there also some amazing old houses- dare I say mansions- in all styles of architecture all around. Louis Farrakhan even lives in one. I can even call him my neighbor.

5. There are amazing views of downtown from here.

Today, in the middle of running one of my newly-discovered neighborhood loop runs, I was heading north along the lake and a stunning view of the city unfolded in front of me as I came around a little bend in the path, just about parallel to 51st street. From that vantage point, the whole skyline seems to stretch out into the lake and up into the sky. It's hard to appreciate the majesty of it all when you're living downtown, scurrying around like an ant under these giant skyscrapers. But when you put some distance between you and the fray, you get to admire the drama of it all.

I hope this list continues to grow as I spend more time here. Even though I don't want to live here forever, Hyde Park is not such a bad place to call home for a year.

Monday, September 27, 2004

First Day of Skoo

I'm still alive! No, seriously, it was wonderful/bizarre to be back in school. I mean, yes I never really left, but boy oh boy do I enjoy being back on the receiving end of the flow of knowledge and wisdom.

I had two classes today, one at 9:30 and one at 4:30 with a big bunch of nothing in between. Next week, I'll start "teaching" and I'll have a lector session thrown into the void there, and I will always have enough reading to do to occupy all those other hours, but today I was a little bit at loose ends. I discovered and sampled food or coffee from two campus coffee shops, Ex Libris in the basement of the library and the Divinity School coffee shop, which claims to be "where God goes for coffee" or something along those lines.

My afternoon class, it turns out, goes from 4:30 to 6:30 (as opposed to 6), two hours of the day which I like to call "Dana's cranky/stupid time," making those a most excellent two hours during which to participate in a discussion of contemporary (read: opaque and abstract)literature conducted entirely in French. Oh well. It's only two days a week.

Tomorrow I have a glorious morning off, and a three-hour whammy in the afternoon- a class taught in English, however, a real saving grace. After a few hours of French, it seems, my brain just starts to smoke and smell funny. I hope that goes away soon...

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Nourishment 101

In the spirit of food-relating blogging (check out my favorite, Chocolate & Zucchini), I'm going to mention the two Chicago-area restaurants I went to yesterday. I was very proud of myself for trying two new places instead of settling for what was safe and comfortable.

The first was Praire Moon in Evanston, a pub-type place with a great patio out back, and the second was Hema's Kitchen, which the reviewer from the local ABC affiliate deems the "best Indian restaurant in Chicago." Both places were pretty good, but I wouldn't whip out the superlatives for either one. The service was pretty slow at both places, which was fine actually because I was in good company at both places and in no need to rush.

Despite the obvious enjoyment of dining out for two meals in one day, my grad student budget just is not going to support that habit. So this afternoon I'm hoping to make a super economical trip to the supermarket with my roommates. I'm actually going to try to buy enough food for about 2 weeks, a task I've never actually accomplished before but also never attempted. I'm a notorious grocery store junkie, who in the past has had to limit myself to every-other-day trips.

But that was back when grocery store shopping was merely a leisure activity. I have been relying on dining halls for sustenance for the past six years of my life, and now it's time to feed myself, a much more daunting project than it might seem.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Last Weekend of (My) Summer

My own personal O-week continues, more overwhelming than it has been orienting. Thus the lack of posts here. So I apologize if I've left you all hanging. I fear that less frequent posts may be necessary, since I'm not sure you're dying to read about how many pages I have to read every night and which paper assignments are looming on the horizon.

I do know that one comfort I feel is related to the teaching aspect of my program. Even though I don't think any teacher ever gets to walk into a classroom on the first day (or any day) of class without butterflies in his or her stomach, at least I can walk in there knowing it's not my first time. I've heard a couple little squeaks of fear from a few other first-year grad students as they visualize a room full of eager undergraduates, zeroing on "the teacher." That's old hat for me, right? The only differences are that these kids actually care about getting an education; this is college, not high school; and, oh yeah, I'll be teaching in a different language. I mean I'm practically an old pro, right?

I promise to dispense with this self-pity soon. Oh, who am I kidding? I can make no such promise. But I do promise to enjoy this weekend as much as possible, carousing around till all hours before I make the full transformation into haggard graduate student come Monday morning. Ce sont les derniers jours de ma liberté, n'est-ce pas?

Monday, September 20, 2004


That's what they call Orientation around here. And it began on Saturday, with lines of cars, loaded up with kids and luggage, streaming off Lake Shore Drive. Now there are hordes of wide-eyed freshman wandering around, looking generally scared and overwhelmed. Ah, it feels like just yesterday I was in their shoes...

Meanwhile, I'm still raring to go, but my rare is a little shakier than it was just an hour or so ago. An older graduate student compiled several lists of helpful (read: fear-inducing) advice on everything from writing papers to finding housing your first year as a French grad student at the U of C. My own eyes grew as big as saucers as I read this. I am beginning to anticipate long hours in the library, endless cups of coffee, and feverishly composed papers and presentations. I'm pretty sure I won't be able to say "I've never pulled an all-nighter" much longer.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Bring It On

A synopsis of today's run, the final long run in the marathon training program...

Bugs (and, coincidentally, packets of Gu) swallowed: 2
Ounces of watered-down Gatorade consumed: 40-ish
Miles run: 22
Confidence gained: Infinite

Now, all that stands between me and this marathon is three weeks of tapering. I'm ready for you, 26.2.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Ten Things...

... I like about Hyde Park (part one):

1. It's away from the big city.

At first that annoyed me, but now I'm beginning to enjoy it. I like the hustle and bustle of downtown but I also enjoy not living among skyscrapers.

2. It's name doesn't lie.

There are literally parks on every street, and lawns and trees galore. It's much greener than I expected it would be... I guess I better enjoy that while I can.

3. It has everything you need, and it doesn't have everything you want.

For me, that's good. It means I have to make special trips downtown to look at clothes, shoes, and unnecessary hair products. Of course I have the time now so I've been making those special trips, but during school, there's no danger of me drifting past a cute shirt in a storefront on the way back from class.

4. It's close to campus.

Which is obviously why I moved here. And campus is beautiful. I've already spent too much time drifting around the quad and the library and the bookstore pretending I've actually already started classes.

5. It epitomizes diversity.

I took one tiny baby step toward living in a racially diverse environment when I left home and moved to Amherst. And then perhaps took another baby step to the side when I started teaching at Berkshire. But essentially, in my brief life experience, the word diversity was only something that came out of an admissions officer's mouth, followed by a percentage under 20, in a weak, self-congratulatory tone of voice. Here diversity is real. Any kind of person you can imagine lives here. Rich, poor, black, white, Asian, young, old, conservative, liberal- you'll see it all here. I don't want to sound proud of this fact, as if I'm somehow a better person for living here, because that's not true. If anything, I've discovered as I come into contact with all these different representations of humanity just how many preconceived judgments I've made about people I've never met before. It's disturbing and mind-blowing and often uncomfortable. But good in some way I can't really wrap my head around.

Stay tuned for numbers 6 through 10...

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I Like to Run With Friends

It's infinitely more interesting than running by yourself, although I do enjoy that too or I wouldn't pound the pavement as much as I do. But running with a buddy lets you fall into an easy rhythm, in strides and in conversation. I find myself eager to talk about almost anything, as long as I have enough breath to do so.

But alas, today it rained for the first time in weeks here in Chicago, and the run with company downtown by the lake was not meant to be. So I came back to Hyde Park. And for the first time, I ran with Friends.

It wasn't the first time I'd ever run indoors on a treadmill with a TV glowing in front of me. I've certainly done that in various gyms, where the screen is mounted somewhere near the highest rafters of the ceiling and, even cranked up to maximum volume, the darn thing can't compete with the whirring background noise. Usually, I opt for my own music or only half pay attention to the flickering images.

But today was different. In the U of C gym, there are about 10 cardio machines with individual TV screens and independent controls. You simply plug your headphones into the outlet and pick your channel. So today I ran my eight miles watching Hurrican Ivan coverage, Will & Grace, and yes, even Friends.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the experience. Sure, watching TV made the run go by faster, but I stepped off the treadmill feeling somewhat unsatisfied (yet still thoroughly exhausted.) I mean, you have running at one end of the spectrum- high impact, visceral, physical activity. And you have TV watching at the complete opposite end- passive, mind-numbing, coach potato- type stuff.

Now believe you me, I'm up for at least a good hour or two of dumbing-down in front of the electronic fireplace every day. But I'm usually horizontal or eating or almost asleep. I'm not usually sweating profusely and bobbing up and down. I'm sure I'll be back for more in the coldest depths of the Chicago winter, but for now I think I'll choose real friends to run with instead of the kind that decide to desert you after 24 minutes and two commercial breaks.

Monday, September 13, 2004

In Limbo

Well I'm starting to get antsy. Given that I've been ensconced in academia for as long as I can remember, I have never spent this much of September sitting on my duff. Usually around this time each year, the first test is looming and the leaves are starting to turn. This year, it's 85 degrees and I'm still twiddling my thumbs like it's August 13th.

Information arrived in the mail regarding orientation, meetings, etc. but those are still a week away! Meanwhile, I'm commuting to "work" everyday and doing things like trying to find the perfect pair of cheap-but-attractive-and-incredibly-functional-go-with-everything shoes (which don't exist, by the way, in a size 9 and 1/2.)

I guess it works out well since this is my peak marathon training week. It'd be nice if my legs weren't as creaky and sore as they are, but I think that's kind of the point. Plus they'll have three weeks of taper in which to refresh and rejuvenate themselves.

So I guess there's no real exciting news to report besides my shoe hunt and "Mission: Eliminate Roaches," which I enacted today by laying out a minefield of CVS brand bait trays. I'll update soon on the progress of this strategic maneuver.

P.S. I must admit I was somewhat reluctant to post today after the stinging comments I received in response to my last post. I will counter those remarks by saying:

A. I like my cortex of my brain mind head and,

B. soy nuts are DELICIOUS and cheap so bite me.

Friday, September 10, 2004


Knowing I wanted to put up a new post and wondering what I should post about, I found many items flying through my head. Here's a glimpse inside the cortex of my brain...

  • Fake seafood. Not fake really. Actually real fish. Not real crab. But molded and colored so as to resemble crab. Or lobster. So fake shellfish. But honest to goodness fish nonetheless.

  • Garbage cans. Gosh you hate to spend money on those things. But sometimes you want to have something sturdier than a plastic bag hanging from a doorknob.

  • Soy nuts. Yum.

  • Felecity. What a wonderful show. Why do they always take the good ones off the air and let shows like The Drew Carey Show run perpetually even though no one watches them? Luckily, my roommate has the first two seasons of Felecity on DVD. And she's basically counting down the days until season three comes out.

  • Being on a team. Sooo seductive. So many great memories and warm fuzzy feelings come rushing back from the days of Amherst crew and even high school cross country and track. I'm very, very tempted to dive head first into another team experience here. Even if I will feel like an old lady among all these undergraduate whippersnappers.

So there you go. It's a little scary in there, isn't it? Lots going on. Lots to think about. I'll post again when there's actually something going on outside my head. Until then...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Well the long days have begun. And classes don't start for another two and a half weeks.

I woke up at 6 this morning to row at Lincoln Park with the members of the crew team who are already here. I sculled a big, fat practice scull around the lagoon, mostly dodging buoys and cement walls and other boats. Then I trekked over to the salon (ay me) to get my hair cut. Then to "work" at the Alliance. I arrived back here in Hyde Park at 4:30 fully prepared to crawl into bed. But oh yeah, there's that marathon I'm supposedly training for...

Don't get me wrong. I love being busy. And I enjoyed all of the day's activities immensely. I just hope my aging body can keep up with this all. Not to mention my aging brain, especially the part responsible for reading, writing, and speaking French. I'm going to have to get in there with a Swiffer duster and clear up those cobwebs pretty soon.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Transportation Woes

As those of you who have read this blog since its humble beginnings will remember, I am a big fan of the Container Store. This morning, since I was already downtown anyway, I decided to take the el up to North and Clybourn, where the shrine to organization is located. I really needed a better system of shelving/drawers for my teeny tiny closet, so my mission was to find something that would be both effective for storing clothes in a small space and also easily transportable back to my apartment via el and bus.

Ha! No small task that was. Many deep breaths, reconfigurations of bags, hurdlings of turnstyles, and bumpings against of shins later, I made it home. But picture if you will two giant plastic bags filled with 5 awkwardly shaped stackable baskets and about 20 hangers of various sizes. Now picture me, schlepping these bags onto the red line train, off the red line train, onto the 55 bus, off the 55 bus, and then, by foot, the several blocks from the bus stop to my apartment. Thank goodness they only weighed a few ounces each.

Now I know I scoffed at all those who said to me, "Are you sure you're not going to want a car in Chicago?" And to be clear, I still don't want to navigate the city streets, pay for gas and insurance, and search desperately for parking spaces. I do, however, want a car. Donations will be accepted at any time.

P.S. I saw Garden State last night and loved it. I highly recommend you go see it... now.

Friday, September 03, 2004

I Hate My Stuff

I stumbled across a poll question on another blog a few days ago: "What advice do you have for people about to move?" Because I was about to move, I surveyed the responses. A good 10% of them were one word answers: "Don't." I have been reminded why someone would be moved (oy, pardon the pun) to give such advice.

I suppose as moves go, this one wasn't so bad. Although it's far from over. But I have a bed set up. I have a working computer atop a desk precariously perched on partially assembled bookshelves (which wobble dangerously with every keystrike). I have a relatively clean bathroom and, as of 5:00 this afternoon, I have a towel and even curtains (which I'm praying will keep out the glare of the alley lights tonight). So I guess I should consider myself ahead of the game.

I promise to post again when I have something else on my mind besides the pile of boxes outside my door and the piles of clothes spread throughout various bags, drawers, and shelves in the apartment. I think I can, I think I can, I... think... I... can.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Celebrity Induced Paralysis

I can't quite explain it, but I'm still kicking myself over it.

I'm talking about my failure to approach ESPN commentator Mike Hall, who was on my flight to Chicago tonight. He was right there, literally steps behind me down three moving walkways, and I couldn't bring myself to say hello. I was speechless.

I first recognized his face, then his voice, and my suspicions were confirmed as I eavesdropped on the conversation he was having on his cell phone. He mentioned to the person on the other line that he'd be doing the early show when he got back from visiting his parents.

If you watched Dream Job, then you'll know whom I'm talking about. This guy, Mike Hall, won the competition to be the next ESPN commentator; he was picked by a panel of judges and the viewing audience as the best amateur sports broadcaster among the 12 finalists.

So he is a legitimate celebrity. Which is why I was afflicted with the condition mentioned in the title of this post. But why? I ask. Why can't I wrap my head around the fact that people on TV are actually people just like me and you?