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1. Hi, C & J!
2. I guess I am going to a hooping class… I have never in my life successfully hula hooped and the last time I engaged in any group-based aerobic activity I fell off the step (step aerobics, you see) and sprained my ankle in front of the instructor and the whole class and like, God and the whole world, but the first line of the class description is “Energized by the modern sounds of Chicago Style House music” and really, how can I say no to the modern sounds of Chicago house? I can’t, that’s how. I can’t promise I will be any good at this, but I can promise that I will be very amusing in a “laugh at” way.
3. Remember that time I complained about not being able to wear Lane Bryant Right Fit jeans? Of course you don’t. Why would you? But never mind because here’s the thing: I bought a pair of Red 2s (at the same store and on the same day as Colleen – OMG SISTERZ) and they are truly as awesome as I had been led to believe they would be. I had a hilariously irritating exchange with the cashier, during which she tried three times to get me to open a charge account, asked me if I would like to be measured, asked me if I understood how the Right Fits worked (I assured her that I was familiar with pants), told me that the jeans would not stretch out at all (lies! On day two, I was hitching them up like a plumber on a day hike), told me that I was buying the jeans in “tall” (true – my legs are a wee bit long for average length, and indeed too short for talls, but I hate that thing that happens with too short pants where the cuffs stick out in the back at the heel so I buy tall pants and hem, or cuff, or just walk on the backs of my pants like some sort of sloppy raver kid), told me I had selected “stretch flares” rather than “stretch boot cut” (false – I have no idea where she got that idea or why she felt like that was something she needed to tell me), and asked me again if I would like to be measured so I could be sure I had the right jeans for my shape. I reassured her that I had, indeed, tried on not only the pair of jeans I was purchasing, but four other pairs in various sizes, shapes, and lengths and that I was confident, having tried them on, that I was about to purchase the best jeans for me. I’m not altogether sure why this woman worked so hard to get me to not buy the pants that I was clearly excited about buying, but whatever the origin of her nefarious plan IT DID NOT WORK. Not only did it not work, but I intend to buy yet another pair of the same size, fit, and length in the darker wash. YEAH TAKE THAT, LADY.
4. I know that we are way behind on this one, but we finally sat down and watched a few episodes of Flight of the Conchords and all I have to say about the show is this: ROFL.
You know you’re a Chicagoan when…
…people reference the “Sunday Times” and you naturally assume they are talking about the Chicago Sun Times.
A friend gave my husband Rick Bayless’s Mexican Everyday cookbook for Christmas this year. We’ve both been big fans of the man since I first caught Mexico – One Plate at a Time on WTTW shortly after moving to Chicago. For my first birthday in Chicago, my husband and another friend took me to Frontera Grill, which was immeasurably delicious. Unfortunately, given the popularity of the restaurant and their no reservations policy, we’ve not been able to go back since but we eat at Frontera Fresca on the seventh floor of Macy’s once every couple of weeks. And sometimes if we’re lucky, as we were on the night we ate at Frontera Grill, we’ll see the man himself, smiling and just as weird and lovable in person as he appears on TV.
In the introduction to Mexican Everyday, Bayless talks a little bit about his philosophy of eating and health. Apparently a chubby kid who grew into a chubby adult, Bayless took up yoga as “a nice antidote to [his] fast-paced, late-night restaurant life.” Eventually he began to feel that the size of his body was interfering with the progress of his practice:
Which led me, in an uncharacteristically weak moment, to fleetingly consider the question, Is it possible for a person to sensibly get rid of extra weight without going on a diet?
Diets are something I’ve loudly railed against having seen too much hype, too many unrealistic expectations, too many failures. I oppose them on (as least) two grounds–one nutritional, the other social. Most diets, after all, restrict what the dieter eats in quantity or variety, or both. Unrealistic quantity restriction frequently provokes the fear-of-starvation backlash (aka gorging), and narrowed variety not only becomes unsustainably boring, but it can be nutritionally unbalanced, even dangerous–unless you’re treating a serious medical condition, which I’m not. Our species developed as omnivores, after all.
From a social perspective, diets can be isolating. I’d venture a guess that we’ve all known people who’ve used their diets as an excuse for not eating with family, no going out with friends and, in extreme but sadly frequent cases, not partaking in holiday feasts. Food may be the fuel for the body, but it’s also glue for the family, for the community.”
Amen, Rick Bayless. Amen.
As anyone who has seen the episode of Mexico – One Plate at a Time that opens with a shirtless Bayless repelling into an underground cave, he has certainly met his fitness goals (also demonstrated with a photo of him in the forearm balance pose, which I am here to tell my non-yogically inclined friends, is no freaking joke). His approach was to cut out what he called “empty calories” found in beverages, and listen to his body to determine exactly how much he needed to eat to stay at the weight that felt comfortable to him. He then took up weight training because that way he could eat more (no surprises, the man loves to eat) and also get up into that forearm balance.
My favorite part of his philosophy of food, though, is his celebration of feasting as concept and practice. After criticizing “bleak” diets “that lead us to judge everything we put in our mouths as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ that cause us to say that a break with their dietary prescriptions is ‘cheating,’” Bayless questions our “blind faith in the wisdom of the relatively young field of modern nutrition” that has led us to discard the concept of feasting “into the same dustbin as malnutrition and poor sanitation.” As a result, “many of us just eat defiantly. Willy-nilly and all the time.” Basically:
[C]uisines that have healthily nourished generation after generation have a pretty brilliant–but basic–way of putting essential foods together in the right proportions for everyday eating. Call it their foundation dishes. Yet those same cultures also realize that feating is essential for a culture’s aesthetic development, encouraging cooks to reach for new culinary heights. And that feasting is essential for cultural unity, brining groups of people together around the table to share sustenance, culinary art, related history. And that feasting is essential for the health of our bodies, allowing us the satisfaction of feeling thoroughly, completely full–with no need for midnight Häagen-Dazs raids.
A feast can make our spirits soar for days, while our bodies are regenerating themselves on everyday fare. In other words, no one ever got fat on a weekly feast, but missing that feast can leave you with strong cravings (both physical and spiritual) all week long.
Who can resist a strong craving?
I am absolutely delighted with this concept: eating simply and healthily, listening to and responding to what your body wants and needs, and then regularly gathering together with your community, whether that’s family, friends, neighbors, or a combination thereof, to tear the roof off this sucker with a feast.
It’s resolution time. The gym is about to get wicked crowded. I’ll see a whole host of new faces at my yoga studio next week. Weight Watchers and its ilk are about to increase their membership numbers. I usually don’t bother with resolutions; even when I was in the thrall of all those bleak diets I would usually count among my resolutions a firm commitment to start smoking again, or to read less and watch more TV. But I feel a sense of joy and liberation in the idea of everyday food and feasting that I honestly haven’t felt about eating in years, maybe ever, or at least not since the first time I connected eating with guilt and shame. So this year, I resolve to relearn the joy of eating, to embrace the concept of feasting.
And while the odds of my getting up into a forearm balance are about level with the odds of my waking up one morning with a complete understanding of differential calculus, I might strive toward executing a decent upward-facing dog with minimal grunting and squeaking.
According to this cleverly named post on Chicagoist:
River otters are making a comeback in Chicago waterways. According to the Chris Anchor, chief biologist for Cook County (jobs we didn’t know existed: that one), “Almost all the watersheds in Cook County have otters. They’re everywhere…there’s definitely otters downtown.” No one’s sure exactly why the otters have re-emerged, but the Brookfield Zoo and Forest Preserve District will be tagging and tracking the furry critters, so information should be forthcoming.
I am telling you right now. If I’m walking along the river and I see an otter, I am going to just straight up die of joy. And then the opportunistic otters will eat my joyfully dead corpse, and the cycle of life will continue.
Another I learned from that Chicagoist post? SIX-FEET LONG GIANT OTTERS.
Oh, hell yeah.
My therapist suggested that I channel some of my body image woes into good, old-fashioned anger (I’m not entirely sure how beneficial being angrier could possibly be, unless rage induced brain embolisms are good for you now, but I like her so I’m willing to try it) so here you go, from the Chicago Sun Times:
I’ll sum it up: Joseph Annunzio, nephew of the late Machine politician Rep. Frank Annunzio, had a sweet patronage position at the Chicago Department of Transportation. So sweet he felt like he could call African American coworkers “Mambo Gorilla” and “allegedly [put] a tablecloth on his head and [act] like a Klansman in the co-worker’s office.” He got fired and had a hearing before the Human Resources Board who gave him back his $77,000-a-year job because, despite the testimony of eleven coworkers that he was a racist asshole, none of them testified that Annunzio’s racial slurs were directed at them personally. And so “[t]he board did not think that kind of misconduct should cause someone to forfeit their career.
Big Joe can go to each coworker and spout a rich variety of racist statements, but as long as he’s always talking about somebody else, it’s okay, because we wouldn’t want to actually punish somebody for his racism. That would be unfair. And politically damaging to the members of the HR Board who handed down that decision.
I just wonder who on the HR Board owed whom a favor.
Somebody call Anthony Boswell. Oh no wait, he’s Mayor Daley’s political appointee to head the Office of Compliance, an office created by Mayor Daley charged with “enforcing terms of a federal consent decree banning political considerations in hiring and promotions of most city employees.” (Emphasis mine, and if you don’t see the hilarity in Richard M. creating and staffing an office designed to ensure compliance with an anti-patronage decree, then you must not live in Chicago.)
Once you’re hired, you can do whatever you want. As long as you’ve got clout.
Hm. Somehow I don’t feel any better.
Can I just vent here a minute?
I live in Chicago. It’s cold and sloppy outside. I don’t drive. I walk and take public transportation everywhere I go. Thus, I need boots to live. Tall boots. Warm boots. Flat or very low heeled boots. Boots that are stylish enough for the professional workplace. Boots that will zip over my calves.
Oh. Right. That last one. There’s the rub.
I know, I know. Duo Boots. But listen: THEY ARE OVER $200 USD. For the reasonably priced ones! Plus exorbitant shipping from the UK that takes a month! I understand the reasoning about paying for quality, and about how, by ponying up a car payment you’re making an investment. I hear that. And that makes sense, but only if you’ve got OVER $200 USD lying around. I don’t, but it would not be such a hardship for me to save it up, which makes me unusually fortunate.
Here’s the thing, though. I’d really like to try on the pair of $263 boots (with shipping, etc.) that I want more than anything else in the whole world before I pay for them, wait a month to get them, and then possibly have to pay exorbitant shipping to send them back over the pond when SURPRISE, once again I find that the way that math and measures work in my little world is totally different from the way it works everywhere else. I don’t think that is like some kooky pipe dream.
As I sit here, I’m wearing one Rockport Plainfield boot in black on my right foot, zipped up about halfway, that I ordered from Zappos. I decided to order them because I contacted customer service and customer service told me that the calf circumference was 17 3/4 inches. Perfect, I thought, as I have 18 inch calves and that 1/4 inch deficit would account for the elastic goring and stretch in the leather. Except no. They are actually only 17 inches around, and then only at the very top of the boot. About halfway up, where my freakishly large calves* start to really come into their own, the boots are a mere, Mischa Barton-esque** 14 1/2 inches.
Part of me wants to say, “Oh big deal, they are too tight across the toes, too, and really that heel is verging on too high and you know it, so this is for the best because if you’d been able to zip them up, you would have kept them and then they’d make your feet hurt and you’d have to explain to the husband why you kept them and he’s heard the ‘it’s so hard to find boots to fit my freakishly large calves that I tend to be grateful for whatever I can get’ story a bajillion times but he still doesn’t quite get it, not having freakishly large calves of his own to try and boot up,” and that’s true all but dammit, DAMMIT, there is little that destroys my resolve to just like my stupid body the way it is and never diet again like the way one simple fucking transaction for a life necessity turns into this huge massive undertaking involving research and measuring and calls to customer service and packing tape and standing in line at the post office over and over and over again and then is still ultimately unsuccessful. And I’m not even that fat, ya’ll. I’m either at the high end of “in-betweenie” status or the low end of… whatever comes after in-betweenie status. Medium-fat? Despite my boot drama, I can still nip into Anne Taylor for a new shirt if I dump coffee (actually, it was yogurt but whatever) all over the shirt I’m wearing.
I think that’s what I’m getting at here (well that and just whining because I’m really disappointed). I’m crying tears of fury at my failed attempt to purchase what is a Chicago wardrobe necessity, and I’ve actually got it good. It isn’t a totally kooky request to want to try on clothes or boots before you buy them, to avoid the hassle of carting packages home from work on the train because jerks steal the packages that you have sent right to your house. But if you’re above say, an 18 and you don’t live in a major metropolitan area or if you need an item of specialty clothing or you don’t feel like waiting a week to get your clothes or, God forbid, you just don’t care for all this empire waisted, bedazzled, caftan sleeved nonsense hanging on all the racks of mainstream plus-size retailers,*** that’s your fate. The mail order ghetto.
It’s just stupid.
*No, seriously. My father has freakishly large calves, and even when I was a wee little mini thing I had a hell of a time finding boots to fit. They are bigger now, in accordance with my overall increased size, but still proportionally, they’re some wide calves. I would like to be body positive about this but it’s raining and cold out and my new boots don’t fit and this means I have to stand in line for ten hours at the post office on Monday morning to return them and if somebody was going door to door offering back alley calf-ectomies right now, I would have a hard time turning that down. Even harder if they came with a free pair of these lovelies.
**Sorry, couldn’t resist.
***Although the last time I was this size, around the turn of the century (that is weird to say), the prevailing plus size look was “fundamentalist Christian kindergarten teacher” so I suppose I ought to be grateful for the strides we’ve made.
Chicago’s hilarious local WGN News aired a clip in support of this study about how fat people are destroying the environment by being all fat and gross and stuff. I really have to thank Gina Kolata and the fat blogs (is that a band? Gina and the Fat Blogs?) exposing the ridiculousness of the old “if fat people just did X, they would lose Y number of pounds every year!” trope. That was the sort of non-info that just kind of rolled right off my brain, leaving maybe an ooze of self loathing behind, but no real cognitive understanding of what it even meant to lose 13 pounds every year because I parked at the ass-end of the Shop Rite* parking lot.
Over video footage of the headless fatties (Gina and the Fat Blogs is playing a double bill at the Empty Bottle with Teh Headless Fatties next week, I hear – no cover and there will be snacks!), the WGN news anchor encouraged fat folks to get out of their cars, and stop eating hamburgers! Also, walk instead of drive. And I had to laugh into my beer at that one because this fatty walks at least a half hour every day (unless it’s one of those housework-focused days when I just putter around the casa, in which case I get all the cancer-fighting, slimming, gender-essentializing benefits of housework so I figure it evens out) and doesn’t even own a car, much less sit in one and eat hamburgers. So where is my 13 pounds of annual weight loss? Where do I write a letter of complaint? I have been walking at least a mile a day for the last three and a half years, so I should be showing a net loss of 45 pounds. I have been cheated and I demand to know who is responsible! Preferably before next Sunday when I attend a clothing swap and dump all my size 8 – 12 clothes, which, according to Dr. Georges Benjamin should fit me just fine, thanks, since I walk so fucking much.
This also made me think about the similar conundrum I faced while living in Atlanta. Against (white people’s) social custom and despite some serious inconvenience, when I lived in Atlanta, I took MARTA to work every day. At least until I joined a gym in my office building. Because, see, if I wanted to go to the gym, I had to schlep way to much stuff with me to take MARTA, since the gym had no lockers, so I had to drive. Plus, since I went at lunch, I had to shower before going back to work, which meant two showers a day. Plus I created extra laundry in the form of towels and gym clothes. I actually wrote on the blog I had at the time about how I was torn between being environmentally conscious by taking public transportation, or being environmentally conscious by exercising so I wouldn’t be such an over-consuming Fatty McFatpants. Given that Atlanta is about a week from completely drying up and blowing away, I wonder which course of action good Dr. Benjamin would advocate for me were I in the same situation now?
All of which just serves as more anecdotal evidence on how damn dumb, not to mention demonizing, that study and its attendant news coverage really is.
* What’s up, Delaware!
My husband and I moved to Lakeview East/Boystown a little more than a year ago from Andersonville, which is the first place we lived in Chicago. Since moving here, one of my favorite neighborhood rituals has been to scuff down to Samuel’s Deli on the corner of Broadway and Cornelia on a Sunday morning to pick up six bagels (two poppy, two sesame, and two onion (used to be two everything until my blood pressure decided to get stupid and I had to start watching the salt again)) and some lox for a leisurely weekend breakfast.
I went a day early this week only to discover, as I stood in the unusually long line (Happy New Year, friends!) that Sam’s is closing as of tomorrow. Tomorrow! And do you know what is going to take its place? A sports bar!!!
This puts me in the unfamiliar position of being unhappy about the opening of a new bar. Usually I am all for more bars. But seriously? The last thing that Lakeview East needs is another fucking sports bar. Plus Sam’s had delicious bagels and matzo ball soup. Is this news sports bar going to have delicious bagels and matzo ball soup? Somehow I doubt it.
So farewell, long-standing neighborhood business and Sunday morning breakfast ritual. I can’t say I won’t drop into your replacement business for a pint some afternoon, but I can say that it just won’t be the same.
Retraction! The Beer Guy about whom I posted after the cut was kind enough to comment to correct what I had written about him and his beer back story. I apologized in the comments, but I will do it up here, too: John, I am sorry for misunderstanding what you said regarding the role of Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware’s annual Punkin Chunkin contest. I also deleted the offending part of the post. If it’s any consolation, we have at least $75 worth of Dogfish Head beer in our refrigerator right now, so you are clearly doing something right.
Last night the husband and I went to a beer and cheese tasting at West Lakeview Liquors. If there are four words that will motivate me to sit in a hot cab in rush hour traffic for an hour to get from the Loop to Roscoe Village/West Lakeview, they are: “free beer and cheese.” The beer was courtesy of Dogfish Head, which was born in my hometown and is brewed in the hometown of stepfather’s gigantic family, so I always get excited when there’s something Dogfish Head related going on outside the Mid-Atlantic seaboard.
We tasted their Midas Touch and Chateau Jiahu, both of which are reproductions of ancient beer/mead recipes. I thought those were a little sweet, but I have a pretty serious distaste for sweetish beers. The next was their Black and Blue which is a “Belgian Strong Ale fermented with blackberries and blueberries.” That was good, if a little high alcohol for me at 10% ABV. My favorite by far was their Punkin’ Ale, which is my favorite pumpkin beer in the world. Actually possibly the only pumpkin beer I really like, since it’s brewed with pumpkin and has a delicious spicy, warm flavor as opposed to having pumpkin syrup squirted in there at bottling time and tasting like pumpkin bubble gum. Finally we tasted the Raison D’Extra, which at 18% ABV (for comparison, Bud Light is 4.2% ABV) is more like drinking port than beer. As far as Dogfish’s high alcohol beers go, I prefer their World Wide Stout, again because Raison D’Extra (and it’s lower alcohol little sister Raison D’Etre) are really sweet.
All the cheese was courtesy of The Cheese Stands Alone, where I have never been but plan to make a serious pilgrimage to one of these days. We were so inspired by beer and cheese that we decided to have beer and cheese (and crackers and grapes and apples) for dinner, and so that is exactly what we did: