Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Tale of Two Weddings

A major reason I've been blogging so infrequently is that most of my spare time has been wrapped up in weddings. My dear friend Gena married Marty—the redhead of her dreams—on September 23rd, and my best-friend-more-like-my-sibling Meg married noted anarchist, musician, and vegan chef Marc just last night—Friday the 13th, of course. I was a bridesmaid in both weddings—in fact, I was Unicorn of Honor in the latter—so for the past few months my weekends have consisted of showers, bachelorette parties, and crafting sessions.

Now that both happy occasions have passed, I believe a recap is in order.

#GenaMartyParty

The morning after a rehearsal dinner at Rock Bottom that can only be described as jolly, we awoke to a beautiful, sunny September day—except that it was 90 degrees fahrenheit. Catalina, Felipe, and I grabbed breakfast at Dollop (obviously better than the fancy hotel breakfast Gena & Co. had, nbd) and headed to the W Hotel for hair, makeup, the works.

With Kesha blasting in the background and Zero Dark Thirty on TV (yeah, I know), we groomed and preened. I threw on the emergency dress that I ordered from Amazon a week before the wedding because I gained too much weight in Southeast Asia to fit into my original dress, and it ended up looking better than my original dress anyway.

Gena was a statuesque, shimmering city bride. Marty resembled a wealthy oil baron—in a good way. Dapper AF.

#genamartyparty
We took some pictures in the hotel, then piled onto a trolley to play supermodel in Millennium Park. There was no air conditioning on the trolley. We survived.

Loft on Lake was the wedding venue, and it had everything you could ever want for a chic urban ceremony—exposed brick walls, a bright skylight, simple bulbs draped across the ceiling. I am not one to sniffle, but I sure did sniffle during this marriage. My friends just looked so damn in love with each other! I couldn't help it!

Afterwards we drank beer home-brewed by Gena's dad and stuffed ourselves silly with steak and pasta and salad and gelato (!!!). The DJ did this great through-the-decades sort of set, kicking things off with The Beatles and ending the night with Chance the Rapper. When he played The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" we collectively lost our minds.

I danced. A lot. Very sweaty.

At the end of the night we headed next door to McDonald's for McFlurries and chicken tenders. A McFlurry has never tasted so good.

Gena, Marty—I love you. If I ever get married someday, I hope he adores me as much as you two so blatantly adore each other. Your wedding was a rose-gold, glorious blossom of an event.

#HolyCatrimony

The morning after a rehearsal dinner at Revolution Brewing that can only be described as boisterous (there was a flash mob and everything!), we awoke to the one day this week that it didn't rain—thank goodness. I tied on my new purple Chuck Taylors and walked over to Stan Mansion, the fancy-but-potentially-haunted wedding venue.

Inside the mansion's gorgeous bridal suite, we readied ourselves for the party of the century. Laura did our makeup one by one while the rest of us ate bagels and drank mimosas. Eventually we slipped into our black dresses, knotted our paisley bowties, clipped on our feathery fascinators, and stepped outside for pictures by none other than Braden Nesin, who I hadn't seen in a good long while. Virtually every aspect of this wedding was a wonderful reunion of some sort.

Meg was Marie Antoinette—if Marie Antoinette were super goth. Marc was a sharp-dressed, punk-rock dream. Total babes.

The ceremony was like something out of a movie—I still can't quite believe it really happened. Anastasia balanced humor and sincerity perfectly as the officiant, and we all got to wiggle while Katy read Worm Loves Worm. Molly, Leta, and I sang three-part harmonies on Bright Eyes' "First Day of My Life."

For cocktail hour: a performance by spooky drag queen Discord Addams. For dinner: VEGAN. TACO. BAR. Enough said.

After we ate, I gave a speech! In front of hundreds of people! I hear it went well, but I don't remember much. I'm glad people liked it—I thought it was funny when I wrote it, but you never know with that sort of thing.

Then it was time for my semi-private J.C. Brooks concert. I've never been to a wedding that had an actual band before, and let me tell you, they're one hell of a wedding band. Of course, they're one hell of a band in general, which is why I suggested them in the first place. Very glad my not-so-sneaky musical scheme paid off—though I wish Gena had been there to see it with me, since she is my J.C. Brooks-loving soulmate.

I danced. A lot. Very sweaty.

At the end of the night I went back to Meg & Marc's and crashed. Don't worry—they stayed at the venue's bridal suite again, so I wasn't interrupting anything, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. This morning we brunched at Ground Control, and I ate so much delicious food that I haven't wanted to eat since.

Meg, Marc—I'd marry you both if I could. As weird as you are, you're the Platonic ideal of what a supportive relationship should be, and I've learned a lot about love from you. Your wedding was a majestic soiree, sweet and warm as whiskey with a jack-o-lantern glow.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Monday

Last night, when I was going over today's schedule in my Passion Planner, I wrote this as today's focus: "It's okay if Monday isn't perfect."

Well, Monday was far from perfect.

I'm glad and grateful that all my friends in Las Vegas are safe. I'm sad that I'm not there to hug them. I'm outraged that our government still hasn't done anything about the gun problem in this country, that they act like nothing can be done. Thoughts and prayers after the fact--however sincere--aren't going to prevent horrors like this from happening in the future.

It should be as difficult to get a gun license as it is to get a driver's license. Extensive training, then 40-50 hours of supervision. And we need to entirely ban assault rifles, which are good for nothing but mass murder.

Ideally we'd just chuck guns out altogether, but god forbid (mostly) white people lose their freedom to hunt for sport. I write this, by the way, knowing that my dad's healthy collection of hunting rifles and handguns is only a floor below me in the basement. It's an issue where we'll never see eye to eye--which saddens me. It saddens me to know that my dad doesn't care how many people die. Or maybe he cares on some level--he says he cares, and I want to believe him--but he obviously doesn't care enough. His hobby is more important to him than their lives.

How do you come to terms with that? How do you come to terms with the fact that your father, who you love, and who loves you, can't seem to muster anything more than vague sympathy for the victims of mass shootings?

Seriously. Suggestions appreciated.

Here are some things you can do to help:
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In happier news, Pithead Chapel published my story "In Captivity" in their October issue. Appropriately, it's about grieving. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Beep Beep, Beep Beep, Yeah


The big news in my life right now is that I bought a car. She’s a 2017 Toyota Prius C, electric orange.
Her name is Geri.
(Short for Tangerine, but also a nod to the great Geri Halliwell, a.k.a. Ginger Spice.)
I wasn’t excited about this development at first. As you may remember, the VW Beetle I’d been driving in Vegas died very early in my road trip back to Chicago last year. That car was never technically mine to begin with—it was my mom’s, and because she just-so-happened to purchase a new car at the same I left for grad school, she was kind enough to give me her old one. The VW Passat we leased in St. George, Utah after the Beetle perished was also theirs, and it now resides in Florida, at their snowbird residence.
So I knew I was going to have to bite the bullet and buy my own car—at some point. However, I didn’t think it would happen quite so soon. I was under the impression that sharing a car with my mom was going well, since my dad could easily drive her to work.
My impression was incorrect.
Last Wednesday night, my parents—impatient and tired of sharing—kidnapped me and took me to the Kenosha CarMax. After various negotiations and test drives and credit applications and all that nonsense, we returned on Thursday night so I could sign on the dotted line.
Lines, actually. You have to sign a lot of stuff to buy a car!
Now Geri is mine—and I’m extremely happy with her, for the record. I consider her my new pet. She’s nice and small and easy to park. She’s a hybrid, so I’m not totally murdering the environment—and I save a lot of gas money in the process. In fact, she tells me how much money I spent on each drive after I turn the ignition. And there’s this screen on the dashboard that shows when the fuel engine is powering the car, and when the battery engine is powering the car, and when the wheels and brakes are powering the battery—it’s super interesting and also super distracting.
I get to make car payments for the next six years of my life, but, you know. C’est la vie. At least I’m mobile.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Business School Ruins People

My new job has been going well. I like all my coworkers--though there are so many of them that it's difficult to remember everyone's name. I keep trying to glance at their badges, but oftentimes they're flipped around. Meg decorated my cubicle so that it's #officeunicorn chic, and I brought in my glitter lava lamp to match the aesthetic. Feeling very much like Peggy Olson at the end of Mad Men:



via GIPHY

Minus the cigarette, of course.

As of right now, I have only two problems with the job. One is the commute. It's actually not that bad, since I'm still at my parents' place in the suburbs. But until recently I've been rolling out of bed between 8 and 9. Now I have to get up between 6 and 6:30, and it's making me outrageously exhausted. I'm pretty much useless during the evenings. But I'm sure I'll get used to the lack of sleep.

My other problem isn't really a problem--it's more like a mild annoyance. But as someone who loves language, I can't help but find it troubling.

Business school ruins people. Or rather, it ruins their ability to communicate clearly.

I've sat in on several meetings this week in order to acclimate myself to the inner workings of the company, and so many times I've heard people reject simple statements in favor of business school terminology that garbles their meaning.

The most egregious phrase I've come across is "communication deliverables." Why don't you just say "communications"? Because at least two people are required for communications to occur, the word itself implies delivery. Why waste your breath on the unnecessary extra word?

There are others. The ubiquity of "utilize" instead of the simpler "use." Everything is a "proposition" instead of a philosophy or an idea, all solutions or responses must be "facilitated." Acronyms abound. Meg warned me that I might hear about "learnings," as in: "What learnings did you take away from this seminar?"

::shudder::

I should mention that this isn't an issue on my own team--thank goodness. But I suspect that's because most of us studied English or Journalism or some other subject where obfuscation is the enemy. Strangely, I get the impression that the people who do use business school terminology think that their jargon is making things clearer. I want to assure them that it most certainly is not.

Except I won't assure them of that aloud, because it's my first week and I don't want to get fired.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about when I mention business school terminology, please refer to The New Yorker's delightful parody "A Deep Dive to Remember: A Love Story Between Business Managers, Written By A Business Manager."

This is my life now.

===

In totally unrelated news, Black Lives Matter is having a fundraiser. If you've been condemning white supremacy all week on social media but haven't taken any concrete steps to destroy it, I encourage you to put your money where your mouth is.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Updates!

I am the worst at blogging right now. In my defense, my life has felt kind of like this lately:



via GIPHY

Exciting! But hard work.

Here are some cool things that have happened:

  • My story "Fame is the Opposite of Love" was the runner-up in Round 1 of Midwestern Gothic's Summer 2017 Flash Fiction Series. You should read it because you love me, and also because it's fewer than 500 words. 
  • I started a new job at Allstate. My official title is "Corporate Relations Senior Consultant," but really what I do is work on the company's internal social media site. My observations about corporate life can be found on Twitter via the hashtag #officeunicorn, because that is what I am--as opposed to my esteemed colleague and best friend Meg, who is #officegoth. It should be noted that any views expressed on my social media channels are solely my own, and have nothing to do with Allstate. It's only my first week, you guys. You can't expect me to be the voice of the company just yet.
I'm going to make an effort to blog every Friday, I think. That way there won't be such long gaps. Plus, that kind of journaling will be good for my mental health. So much is changing right now! It will help to write my feelings down. And lucky you! You get to read them.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Kids in America

As I have so many times before, I must apologize for the long silence. Between my part time job, my freelance work, applying for new jobs, volunteering for Split Lip, and participating in two separate bridal parties, I have very little spare time. Unfortunately, I've had to shove blogging down to the bottom of my list. But rest assured, I got back to the United States safe and sound, and I've reconnected with most of my friends and family. It's good to be home.

But today I don't want to talk about any of that. 

Today I want to talk about teenagers.

Over the past few days, I've been watching the CW show Riverdale while I eat dinner. It's based on the characters from classic Archie comics--but instead of following the wholesome, all-American plots from the comics, the show's creators have turned it into a campy, murder mystery noir. It's utterly delightful. It's feminist, and they at least try to address issues of race (Josie & the Pussycats are black!)--though they could still do a lot better on that front. Jughead is my boyfriend. Back off, ladies. 

He's one of the oldest "teenage" actors on the show, so that makes me feel like less of a creep.

Anyway, Riverdale has once again made me wonder why I love stories about teenagers so much. I really do. 1990's teen comedies are my favorite movie genre. 10 Things I Hate About You, Empire Records, Clueless--I could watch them once a month and never get sick of them. Some 1980's and early 2000's teen comedies are strong enough that I consider them 1990's teen comedies as well. Heathers and Mean Girls certainly make the cut. John Hughes movies are okay. I still like them, but they don't hold a candle to the renaissance of the 90's. 

I enjoy reading stories about teenagers as well. During my recent trip to Southeast Asia, I devoured seven YA novels, most of which were fantastic--with a few notable exceptions. You can read my reviews of them here. I also like books for adults that feature teenage protagonists. Donna Tartt's The Secret History and Karen Russell's Swamplandia! come to mind.

And of course, I frequently write about teenagers. My novel is a YA novel. Obviously, there's something about adolescence that appeals to me.

It's not nostalgia for my own teenage years. Not that they were horrific--middle school and junior high were much worse--but I do feel like my life generally improves the older I get. I wouldn't go back to being a teenager, that's for sure.

Part of it is probably that everyone loves a good "coming of age" story, and teen stories almost always provide that narrative. But I think there's more to it than that. I suspect my preference has something to do with teenage emotions, which are ALL OVER THE DAMN PLACE. Adults often accuse teens of being melodramatic as though it's a bad thing. But I find it wonderful that every little thing matters so very much to teenagers. Any small rejection, and it's the end of the world. Any sign of requited love, and it's the best day ever.

And at the same time, teens seem better equipped to handle situations that are truly dramatic, perhaps because they're already so steeped in their emotions that they don't feel as though they have to hide them. Terrible, tragic events often occur in these stories, and the teens either get themselves through it without the help of adults, or they're the ones helping the adults through it. In Empire Records, for instance, Joe Reaves is ready to give up his record store after Lucas' major monetary mistake--but the teenage employees feel such loyalty to Joe and to the shop that they come up with a ridiculous plan to save it. They have significantly more hope than Joe.

I consider myself a fairly optimistic person. But I honestly think I'm jealous of teenagers, and that's why I enjoy their stories. I was raised Catholic and Midwestern--hiding our emotions is just what we do. Not even hiding them, exactly. It's more like we wouldn't want to burden others with our feelings. It's impolite. It's shameful.

I've tried to push back against this damaging impulse in my own adult life--with some success, I think--but it's a hard habit to break. And so I'm envious of these fictional teenagers, who are unabashedly open and free.

And on that note, let's listen to Kim Wilde's 1981 classic "Kids in America," since it's been stuck in my head ever since I used it as the title for this post. And because Archie and Veronica covered it on the episode of Riverdale I watched last night.  

Monday, June 5, 2017

DAD --> PQC --> SGN

The bad news: I'm flying back to the States on Wednesday.

The good news: I'm flying back to the States on Wednesday.

As you can tell, I have mixed feelings about this. I'm obviously excited to get back to all my friends and family, but at the same time, I love the nomad life! Despite its disadvantages, it suits me.

I returned to Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday afternoon, and received a warm welcome at The Common Room Project, where I originally stayed when I first arrived. They were so happy to see me they even gave me the big bed. :) 

Phu Quoc Vietnam harbor boats
But before my return to Saigon, I visited Phu Quoc Island. I'm not much of a beach person--and Phu Quoc Island is pretty much all beach--but I wanted to go snorkeling. I'd never been snorkeling. I booked a tour through my hostel and headed out on a boat. Then they gave me a mask and breathing tube and basically just told me to jump in the ocean and go. A little more instruction would have been appreciated--it took me a while to get used to blowing water out of the tube. Or maybe I was doing something wrong and there shouldn't have been water in there at all? No idea. 

That said, I had a nice time. I suspect it wasn't the most spectacular place to snorkel. There was coral, and some fish. But not bright coral or huge fish. For a first time, though, it'll do. At least I didn't get stung by a jellyfish or a sea urchin or anything.

When we were finished with our second snorkeling...dive? I don't know what you'd call it. When we were finished with our second round of snorkeling, the friendly Russian couple I met on the boat looked at me askance. "You still very pale. You like milk."

Painfully accurate.

Phu Quoc also had one of my favorite night markets that I visited. Plenty of fresh seafood--although it was a bit pricier than your average market. One night I got Indian food, and I swear the garlic naan was the size of a large pizza. Needless to say, I did not finish it.

What have I been up to in HCMC? Mostly buying souvenirs. YOU'RE WELCOME. Ben Thanh Market was just as miserable as I expected it to be. Well, to be fair, the market itself was not miserable. Bartering is miserable. It is an utterly joyless process. I'm sure I paid more than I should have for lots of things--but I think I got good deals on a few items, at least.

Afterwards I rewarded myself with a trip to Propaganda, a chic bistro that serves upscale Vietnamese food in a room filled with 50's and 60's propaganda art. However, I sat on the patio. I had a beer and crunchy tri-colored rice with shredded chicken and a fried egg on top. It was delicious.

Cu Chi Tunnels Vietnam
Today I took a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels--part of the massive system of tunnels built by the guerrilla fighters during the Vietnam War. The whole site is swimming with tourists, of course, but it was interesting to see. Showing off the traps full of sharp spikes that they used against American soldiers--still interesting, but also kind of disturbing. My favorite part was when they actually let us climb through the tunnels. Thank goodness I'm not claustrophobic! I didn't have to crawl, but I was crouched to the point that my stomach met my knees, and my backpack scraped the ceiling. There were only a few inches on either side of my body, too. And when we climbed out on the other side, our guide told us that they had doubled the size of the tunnels before they allowed tourists to visit. Doubled! At the original size, I would have been shimmying along on my stomach for sure.

Our guide essentially forced us to take photos at one of the hidden tunnel entrances. There was this Australian guy in my group who had quite a gut, and he literally got stuck. It took three other men to pull him out.

Tonight there's a family dinner at my hostel, and then tomorrow is my last full day! I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do.

Any suggestions?