Thursday, March 29, 2007

en route to spain

March 15, 2007

The two headlines on the front page of this morning's paper:

1) Sept. 11 Suspect said to confess: Sears Tower a target, too, Pentagon says

2) Flying toward disaster? Near collision shows hazard in skies around O'Hare

This only seemed appropriate seeing as my last awake thought last night included falling out the tail end of an exploded plane. Out of superstition I wore a sold blue t-shirt I've owned since 7th grade, chosen because it's the same shirt I wore on my first ever solo flight, just three weeks after September 11 (2001), when I flew from NYC home to Chicago to surprise my dad for his 50th birthday. At the time I decided that if I made it to my destination sans terrorist action, I would always wear this shirt on future flights.

When we got to O'Hare a swipe of my dad's credit card wasn't enough to bring up our itinerary on the do-it-yourself computer screen. Of course he knew the record locator number by heart: Q...4...LBJ? And my parents already argued about something dumb, to which the Delta employee responded, "She's always right--haven't you learned that by now?" To which my dad responded, "A billion seconds."
"We've been married a billion seconds."
"And what does that translate to?" he asked.
"31 years and 8 months."
"Well congratulations!"
As the man weighed each suitcase individually, my dad bent over and peered under the counter, announcing, "and this one should be...." The man remarked how groups of retired men will turn this into a betting game--who can guess the closest to the actual weight.
"Times have changed," my dad said with a chuckle as he attached identity tags to each suitcase handle. "Cell phone and e-mail it asks for!"

Just past security my mom spotted the book she left at home with only 15 remaining pages to read. So she stood beside the kiosk and quickly skimmed the final chapter. The woman selling the books directed us to the Starbucks a few feet away and said they were giving away free cups of coffee. I had vowed I wouldn't drink anything, especially coffee, but I couldn't resist "free" (I've subsequently peed, I think, 6 times since then). In line we overheard the woman in front of us say she had both triplets and twins (actually 2 sets of triplets, but she "lost one"). So we started talking to her and we had to play the age-guessing game. She guessed "high" with 18, and her mouth dropped when I said 24. Before this, she had walked past and brushed her hand along my hair and said in passing, "Love the curls!" She, herself, had tightly-wound light brown ringlets.

We took a small plane to NYC's JFK airport and sat in 3 consecutive window seats. 9-11. Those numbers. Again. There are those brief moments where I hold my breath and assume we'll suddenly plummet or crash into a building. Instead the flight was fast and uneventful. The girl next to me read a thick book that I assumed was written in Polish. I might be the only person in the world who simultaneously reads The New Yorker followed by the fourth book of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. I started with a fascinating article about spiders and reminisced about my former aspirations of "When I grow up, I want to be a/an.....ENTOMOLOGIST." And the Pants book obviously reminds me of my friends--the "Septembers" standing in for the Unit.

[my dad watching us ascend]

I waited to eat anything until we arrived at JFK. We went to a place called the Sam Adams Restaurant, and I ordered quesadillas. Safe bet, right? Wrong. I hardly ever have complaints about food, but that was one of the worst meals I've ever eaten. But I didn't want to be wasteful, so I at it all anyway. Afterwards we sat at gate 8 for about an hour. My dad sat next to me reading about Madrid. "I can't find anything about Franco, but he died November, '75...five months after we got married. Ha! So he's almost been dead a billion seconds."

Boarded the flight to Madrid. My parents shared row 36 A&B. I had been assigned 37A, a window seat, which was already being occupied.
"Do you want the window?" the man asked, tilting the cell phone away from his mouth.
"I don't care," I replied, as I carefully lifted my backpack into the overhead compartment.
"To the girl sitting down," the man said into the phone. "I don't know. She's a young girl."..."My girlfriend," he mouthed to me and pointed at "her" in the phone. I half-smiled politely.
"HOW OLD DO YOU THINK SHE IS?" my dad dared him in a loud voice.
"Ha! Just like the woman at O'Hare!" my dad laughed. "She's 40."
"This is a really fun game," my input dripping with sarcasm. "I'm 24," I said to the man.
"No way."
"No you're not. Are you serious?"
"I'm serious." Why is this always a topic of conversation?
My mom turned around in her seat then and looked over the headrest--"And how old do you think I am?" she asked, her voice gleeful.
People always tell me I'll appreciate the young guesses when I'm older. Apparently my mom has reached that age. People usually express doubt that she's old enough to have not one, but two daughters in their 20's. She loves every second of it.

Another disappointing meal. I don't know what I was expecting being airplane food. Plus, the quesadillas are still taking up occupancy in my stomach. Now the salty pasta, wilted salad and two cans of Coke are piled on top of the gross lunch.

I was reading a good amount of the Pants book (there are at least 2 other girls reading the same one on this flight), and this baby has been persistently WAILING for almost an hour. Her dad keeps pacing up and down the two aisles trying to gently console her. I finally couldn't take it anymore--hence the journal continuation and the Amelie soundtrack blasting in my ears. I think I might attempt sleeping a little...they're showing Rocky Balboa, even though before take-off they announced it'd be Dreamgirls, which I actually would have watched. My dad is sitting in front of me whistling the Rocky theme for the third time, my mom just scolded him for the second time. At one point he punched both arms into the air in a forceful "V for Victory" motion.


Sleeping was virtually impossible. I had to incessantly crack my toes, and there was just no comfortable way to position myself. I maybe dozed off for an hour.

[photo taken by Mom]

We began our descent just as the sun began rising over Madrid. Topographical vocabulary started permeating my brain. That is a plateau boys and girls. As we touched down and pulled up to the jetway, music began playing overhead. Gipsy Kings? David Bisbal? Mána? Nope. A rousing sax-filled rendition of the theme song from Cheers. We landed over four hours ago, and I'm still whistling, "Where everybody knows your name...."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

hiatus note

i am leaving today for a 10-day trip to spain to visit my sister. i will be gone march 15-25. not that i've been too diligent about updating lately, anyway, but just in case you're wondering where the updates are.....they will hopefully materialize in my journals overseas....i'll be back with a vengeance. until then...

Friday, March 9, 2007

my first gallery

"I don't know, Amy, it's looking grim," I said to my best friend on the phone, as I headed east down North Avenue, less than a block away from Coldstone Creamery. "Oh...oh...oh--there is definitely someone buying ice cream!" I screeched into Amy's ear. I grabbed the door handle, expecting my eternal bad timing to render me ice cream-less outside a locked door. But no. Nothing could ruin this evening. Absolutely nothing! I thought as I effortlessly pulled open the door.
"Are you guys still open??" I yelled, excitedly.
The two employees looked at each other, then back at me. The older one said, "We sure are."
I threw my arms up into the air. "You just made my NIGHT!"
Amy laughed in my ear, and I suddenly realized I was in public and not in a delicious dream. Yet, I was not embarrassed. In fact, I proceeded to approach the counter and say, well first to Amy--"Can I call you back after I get my ice cream?" and then to the boy, "Can I just tell you why you made my night?" He looked just like my friend Christopher back in New York, and Christopher is one of the only people in my life who would actually care to hear a follow-up to that somewhat rhetorical question. Therefore, I felt the look-alike would have similar sentiments. "Tell me," he said. "Ok, here's what happened," I started. "I just came from the opening of my first ever art show in a gallery down the street. And I'm driving down North Avenue, and all I want is some ice cream. I pass your store and see people inside and get excited that I will be able to fulfill my craving. But there's no parking anywhere. I don't live too far away, so I drive home to ditch the car, run upstairs to check your hours on the website. It says 10:30. It was 10:37. Well, I was so stir-crazy, that I told my friend on the phone I was just going to walk here anyway and see if by any chance you'd serve me. And sure enough, you're open!!"
"You lucked out," he said. "This is the first night we stayed open late since October."
"Really?? Wow, this night keeps getting better and better!" Order your ice cream and stop talking, my brain said. "Oh ok so I'll have sweet cream ice cream with a brownie and, do you have blackberries?" I hadn't had Coldstone in two years, but I still remembered my favored concoction.
"We have black cherries...but that's not really the same thing."
"What about raspberries?"
"Those we have."
"Awesome I'll have those too. Thanks."

While "Christopher" smashed up my order, a bunch of people came in, one boy declaring, "It smells like 10th grade in here!" I laughed because I think I was in the same grade when the first Coldstone opened near my high school.
As "Christopher" rang up my order, he asked how my art show went.
"It went wonderfully! Thank you!"

Thursday night I went to the gallery at 6:30 p.m. to hang my photographs. I anticipated this only taking about 30 minutes. At 7:50 I was still pacing back and forth, once in awhile pausing to stare at the big blank white wall. I didn't know we were all hanging our own work, so I didn't bring any of my own tools (not that I have any...), and the only ladder in the place was being occupied. Pamela, one of the other artists, saw me getting flustered and offered to help. She held my first frame "eye-level" while I attempted measuring from the floor with Tifanie's tape measurer. Once one was officially on the wall I felt a little more confident about finishing in a decent amount of time. The second picture ended up several inches lower than where I had imagined its placing in relation to the first one. I don't have the patience for perfection, so once that I happened, I decided to do things the Alyse way...whereever I hammered the next seven nails, as haphazard as they appeared, that's where the pictures were going. My way worked! I only had to slightly alter one of them. Even Collin, the owner, didn't mind how it looked, so I left relieved and ready for the next two nights.

My horoscope in Time Out Chicago read, "On Fri 9, you feel confident about your intellectual and creative abilities, but you also feel your domestic life needs improvement." I couldn't believe it! I mean not that I read my horoscope (Sagitarrius) religiously, if even more than 5x a year, but sister and I used to have a running joke about how mine were always so depressing--your best friend is stabbing you in the back, today you might get run over by a bus, the person you love is actually cheating on you....stuff like that. Even with the "but" attachment to this prediction, my horoscope finally said something not only positive, but in direct correlation with this evening's events.

After running some errands Friday morning, I stayed indoors the rest of the day, mostly to prevent any accident-prone events and to let my hair dry without submersing it in any kind of inclimate weather conditions. At 5:00 I ran out in sweats to pick up my Thai dinner down the street. Down came the rain. Bye bye protected hair. But, I wouldn't let myself dwell on that because although it was raining, it was WARM, and when I got up to the counter at Penny's, I noticed someone had put a pile of promotional postcards for our show right in front of the register! Part of me wanted to say, "I'm in that show!" to the girl working there, but I kept it to myself and walked out silently satisfied.

I shoveled down my spicy noodles with a remaining 13 minutes to fix my hair, put on some makeup, slip into my new dress, and drive to the gallery (which, luckily, is only 2-3 minutes away, depending on the one stoplight). I walked into the Blake Palmer Gallery, and the first thing I noticed: my name on the wall!! From that moment on, I don't think I stopped smiling until Sunday. Two minutes after I walked in, someone I knew came by to see the show, and after him, there was someone I knew visiting me in the gallery for the next four hours!! Friend's parents and siblings, former teachers, some artists I met at Around the Coyote a month ago, as well as a bunch of my friends...about 25 the first night. Not bad, not bad at all.

I didn't think Saturday could possibly get any better, but from start to finish, I had possibly one of the best days of my entire life. Possibly it had something to do with the fact that I straightened my hair and wore my second new outfit of the weekend, and for those who know me, this was a big deal...i don't even remember the last time i updated my wardrobe. Again, there was a HUGE turn-out! 32 people came, including Amy's 3-month-old niece, Ella. . My parents brought me flowers, which I hadn't received since my final dance recital in 2001, and the Josephs gave me an "I read banned books" bracelet, which is awesome. My namesake came (read two posts back about that story), a bunch of friends from high school who I hadn't seen in years showed up, and they even had a guy in the gallery playing the drums! I was elated, just soaking it all in.
Several people this evening approached me and asked if I was a reply: in a past life...but secretly wished I could just say, yes. One man said, "You know how I knew? Because of your very large calves."...gee, thanks..."No, but I think defined calf muscles are very attractive on a woman." Great.
In regards to my art, I got a lot of praise, which felt wonderful, but I also got berated by a lot of people for not being a business-minded, money-hungry capitalist. "How much are you selling these for?" Oh, I don't know. "Did you sell anything yet?" I have no idea. The sellability of my work or how much money I was or wasn't making didn't even cross my mind, and I felt uncomfortable when people asked me questions regarding that. I honestly didn't care. All I cared about was that by the end of the second and final opening on Saturday night, there had been almost 60 people there who came all the way out to support me. That is what mattered.

After Amy and I hung up (after talking for 90 minutes!) that night, I thought about how ironic it was that after all the excitement, as usual, the night ended with just me and a bowl of ice cream. I couldn't get anyone to stick around, despite my energetic pleas. If any of the Unit had been there, I thought, I know they would have stayed, but, alas, we no longer live close enough to each other for them to even come. Every other artist and every other visitor those nights showed up with either a wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend by their side, which I found humorous. I was so high on life that that didn't even bother me, and instead I was proud that I could do something like this all on my own.

Bias aside, I honestly have never seen a strong and cohesive group show. I loved every artists' work, and that never happens. And I feel honored to be showing alongside such talented people.
"The New Breed" show at the Blake Palmer Gallery (1656 N. Bosworth) will be on display until April 27.


Thursday, March 1, 2007

revival of the writers week junky...again

Even though Writers Week is about words, I've decided to do another photo/video essay instead. (You can read my original posting about WW in the archives) My sincere thanks to the teachers who continue to bring this event to life...and who always let me camp out on the floor to soak it all in.

Brewner laughing in the wings

Sampson writing

Admiring Ted Kooser

Abby and Grace

Lounging Ted

Life Lessons

Writers are rockstars too.

The tribute.

The three retirees.


Sampson's exit.

Teachers and students.

Big Boy in the center.

A true viking.

More WWXIII photos

Here is the preview or trailer, whatever you want to call it, for my documentary about Wyman, Sampson, and Brewner retiring at the end of this year. (The quality--both visually and audibly--aren't great compared to the DVD, but I think it's worth sharing.) Let it "buffer" a minute before letting it play.