Sunday, August 28, 2005

Various nerdy endeavors

Here’s about a week’s worth of the dorky things I do because I don’t have a job and I’m done with school. I also saw my boyfriend several times. Oh, and got my apartment broken into. See the other 8/28 posts.

The first story doesn’t make me look good—but then, neither do the details in last Monday’s post (I have AOL dial-up AND DSL? My ex-roommate owes me a five-figure sum?).

My “poster” for the Aug. 20 Quimby’s show was an 11x17 color copy, the text overlaid over favorite Chicago photos I’ve taken and 3 very different Chicago maps. I needed to get one up quickly so I actually paid for a color copy at the Kinko’s a block from the store (I inexplicably put $30 or $40 on a copy card once, and it could take years to use it up). It was on the nice slick color copy paper. Later I made more color 11x17s somewhere else that cost me, um, less, but unfortunately aren’t on the slick paper.

Anyway, I forgot to take the poster down after the show and couldn’t get to the store Sunday, so I went by Monday afternoon before running my suburban trip. And it’d been thrown out because the employee thought it was “just a copy.” Okay, so it wasn’t screenprinted or cardstock or anything…but maybe it looks like something someone might want back. The employee found it in the trash, crumpled up of course, and I took it.

It always feels HORRIBLE to have someone get something out of the garbage for you—no matter how valuable or sentimental it is, this is a deeply humiliating occurrence. I don’t know if this’ll make sense to people, but I wanted it back not just for sentimental value (this was the one actually in the store window), but because this was a copy I paid for, and NOT because of the cost, but for the SYMBOLIC VALUE of being a color copy I paid for, when I usually don’t have to pay for them.

That little incident made it impossible to talk to the Quimby’s employees right then about how the Aug. 20 had actually been. And I'm not kidding when I say this cast a cloud over the next few hours.

At the Harlem Blue Line station, I’d just missed the 209 bus, so I had time to walk a few blocks around there, taking pictures of kitschy signs, adding to the long list of pancake house/family restaurant/snack shop establishments to “get to someday.” I almost got something at a burrito place but I’m glad I didn’t because right away in Des Plaines I saw that the little café under construction had recently opened—it’s Mexican, bright and new and “cheerful”, and had better prices and more vegetarian choices than the Chicago place I skipped. Veggie or potato tacos, $1.40! I had a huge burrito with avocado slices nicely inserted in the middle cut.

I returned books and browsed the new books at the library, checked out 5 more, and took 209 back to the midpoint of its route, Park Ridge’s Metra stop.

I stepped in what I thought quite possibly was the wrong direction (the literal other side of the tracks), but hey, I had a feeling—and almost instantly arrived at [My Last Name] Park! (Isn’t it worth the risk of giving up the entire semi-anonymous thing, just so I won’t have to invent such tortured locutions as [My Last Name] Park?) I didn’t know any people of renown in Chicagoland had [my last name]. I saw a plaque for the town’s time capsule, buried in 1973. And the city hall across the street, but no library.

In fact, I’d given up and headed to Panera, when I realized that big building across from the gorgeous old theater looked suspiciously library-like. And it was! I went in for about an hour. (Full report when I write my piece on “Libraries of the Suburbs” you’ve been clamoring for.) I picked out books to check out then realized the Chicago library was closed, so Park Ridge probably couldn’t call them to confirm my card and let me check out books…

So I walked out, through a highly restaurant- and coffeeshop-saturated (seriously, two Starbucks within a block? In a suburb?) area, and had bottomless coffee at Panera for a while, then got the 9:00 bus heading home.

Tuesday afternoon I was interviewed by Vanessa [oops, had to edit this later--sorry].... I met her at the Perpetual Motion Roadshow in Chicago Aug. 13; turns out she’d bought and read Noncompliant and written to my PO Box, but I hadn’t checked my mail since before the Portland trip.

She’s an anthropology student who got a grant from her college to come to Chicago this summer and interview people about zines. At the Quimby’s event, we set up a meeting at Earwax in Wicker Park.

I really enjoyed this, partly because I uh, like talking about myself (although her questions were more about how the interviewees perceive and fit into the zine community, and not much about what their specific project is), and partly because I’d been out of the zine scene for so long, I like hearing people’s ideas about where it’s at now.

My one minor complaint was that she didn’t have a prepared list of questions—not that I needed the discussion to be particularly efficient or whatever; it’s that I kept worrying I was spiraling off into all kinds of tangential topics (i.e. the history of Ajax Records). I explained everything all out of chronological order.

I thought of a really good question later—one that I’d love to hear other people across the zine world answer—do they regard their zines purely as an end in themselves, or as a stepping-stone to a so-called-“legitimate” (not self-published) writing career? For me, it’s both; I’d still love to do zines even if I was a published author, but I can’t imagine not wanting to take my writing to a wider audience and “only” doing zines. I wish I’d asked Portland people about this. Anyway, that’s a tricky topic I’ll expand on another time.

Tuesday evening I went to Andersonville, for the second in the Bookslut reading series, although by the time I got there I realized I wouldn’t stay, I’d be going to see Star Wars in Grant Park. But I told a couple people I’d be there—like Jason, who gave me back some stuff he’d borrowed, and Charles Blackstone, one of the readers. I bought his novel, The Week You Weren’t Here, from him at the Printers Row Book Fair. I like it a lot but didn’t get to see him read until Aug. 18 at Barbara’s Bookstore.

There’s this older man who goes to many readings and then asks lots of questions, often about how the author’s personal life relates to their work, and he asked Charles quite a few. I didn’t realize the extent he was a regular (when I see someone older at a book reading, I tend to think they’re a relative of the author, and it’s usually the case) until a Barbara’s employee said something. I definitely remember him badgering (but nicely) Elizabeth Crane. He showed up to the Hopleaf right as I was leaving.

Anyway, I had a couple things to ask Charles, and I did, and also said hi to Wendy McClure, who also read at the Quimby’s thing, and I didn’t say hi to Jessa Crispin, who I met last month, but at least this time I knew where the reading was, and found it early. (Referring to Jason’s story of the July reading, which got quoted in the Bookslut blog promo for August—about how attractive the audience was…)

The last outdoor movie in Grant Park this summer was Star Wars. We’d meant to go to another one but it never happened, so I thought we should see Star Wars. Also, because the early summer was spent watching Episodes I-III.

See, I said I’d go see the new one in theaters if he wanted, but I hadn’t seen Episodes I and II, and he said I needed to, so there was complicated process of borrowing a projector and setting up a decent, temporary home theater (also good for running through much of my Simpsons Season 5 DVD set) and renting I & II. Then finding a Chicago-area theater still showing III, and in certified THX sound, and so we saw it in Evanston on July 4, but the sound didn’t seem impressive enough (even I was underwhelmed)…Oh, it’s all a long epic tale of good and evil…

It’s been nearly 10 years since I (first!) saw the original Star Wars, and I honestly don’t remember much more of it than I would if I’ve never seen it (I mean, most people growing up in the U.S. absorb a fair amount of it without seeing it). I rushed downtown for the movie, starting a little after 8. I could tell people on my train car were going to it and once I got outside the flow of people with captain’s chairs and mats was obvious.

Since Shag and I hadn’t been to any of these outdoor movies, we didn’t set a meeting place, and we don’t have cell phones to find each other, so I decided it’d be better to try to see the movie than search for him. I sat on the grass for a little while, then a couple spots in the mostly empty bandshell area (not bad picture/sound for being so far away).

I realized we should have at least picked a meetup place for after the movie, but we didn’t, and I looked a while, and finally gave up and went home, but went to his place later that night, where he quizzed me on aspects of the movie and I realized how little I’d actually seen/absorbed. I missed a reading, and I end up missing both my boyfriend and much of the movie?! I still thought it was worth it, to see a movie outside in lovely weather and thousands of people and the Chicago skyline.

Wednesday afternoon may have been my first trip all the way to 95th on the Red Line. (My first outside glimpse of the station up close was during a southbound Greyhound trip—it’s a secondary Chicago stop.)
I had the foresight to head out during (the early side of) rush hour, so the train was too crowded for me to really see out. I took the West 95th bus to the Woodson regional library, at Halsted. Then to Hoyne, where I looked at the Beverly branch library (in a former church?!) and the very bustling Borders store. Then, at a new-ish shopping plaza (with the second time capsule plaque seen this week!), I went to Panera a while. All these were first-time visits. Waiting for the Western Ave. bus, after dark, I looked at Evergreen Plaza (kind of bleak) and one of those great and giant spaceship-resembling banks.

Saturday 8/27: my first visits to the Edgewater and Bezazian branch libraries, both far north. I got to Edgewater for the last hour of their big book sale, which I’ve heard of for several years but always miss. By then, it was $1 for all you could fit in a plastic bag, so after the first couple books, it’s like getting everything free!

I had decent luck--some fiction I wanted, “How to Publish a Fanzine” (Mike Gunderloy, 1988), 3 in the “Woman Alive” series of hardcover advice books (1974) (I’m slowly gathering the whole set from thrift stores; I actually had 2 of these 3 but took them all, because they were “free”), etc. That would have been worth the trip, but then I saw the cookbook section was full of recipe booklets, and I grabbed up everything I saw (plus a few spiral-bound organizational fund-raising cookbooks).

I LOVE these things (especially the mid-century ones)—put out by appliance manufacturers (Sunbeam Mixmaster Mixer “Portable Electric Cookery”) and gas companies (“Martha Holmes Holiday Recipes” from The Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company) and food industry organizations (“Frozen Foods the Automatic Way,” a 1940 booklet from the Evaporated Milk Association) and food companies (“You Can Count on Cereals,” which shows how “Grape-Nuts Wheat-Meal” is made), and newspapers (I have several “Mary Meade Recipes,” from Mary Meade, Home Economics Editor of the Chicago Tribune).

As with anything I like, I want to do a zine or zines about it someday, but for now I’ll just mention my favorites I got yesterday:

*The “Horseradish Recipe Book: New Cooking Magic with Horseradish” from the National Association of Horseradish Packers announces, “Horseradish…15 Million Pounds of It!”

*”Man-pleasing recipes,” from the Rice Council of America, 1971, starts, “No man likes the same thing every night!”

*”Cook with Vegetole, the All Purpose Shortening—It’s Texturated”

*”Enjoy Good Eating Every Day, the Easy Spry Way” with “Aunt Jenny,” 1949 (Spry was another vegetable shortening, “with cake improver”)

*”Bananas…how to serve them,” a wonderfully detailed and illustrated 1940 book from the Home Economics Department of the Fruit Dispatch Company. Mmm, “quick food energy”!

*I never thought about French’s Mustard being from the same company as French’s bird seed, but it is (and the R.T. French Company was on Mustard St.). On the back of “Mealtime Magic,” “Claudette Colbert enjoys her canary’s light-hearted song.” “Claudette Colbert, gay and sparkling, is one of Hollywood’s most glamorous and popular stars”

*Cheery Heering Liqueur’s 1964 booklet says “Entertain Differently in the Danish Manner” (with all sorts of cold meats, of course)

*”A Cook’s Tour with Minute Tapioca,” 1931!, contains “Superbly Effective Desserts for Formal and Informal Occasions” (who doesn’t prefer effective desserts?)

I took my unwieldy bag and got the Broadway bus and stopped at the Bezazian branch library. Bezazian (named after a soldier who died in WWII) inside looks incredibly like the Albany Park branch, almost like a mirror image of it. (Surely, this is my most obscure reference yet.)

And today I’m off to enjoy my last day as a 28-year old…

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