Monday, August 31, 2015

Make Your Own Bacon!

Why not just make your own bacon, instead of bringing it home?

There's been lots to think about lately. I'm in the midst of a sort of chrysalis moment. Everything's suspended while I try to re-steer my life. Into freelance work. 
Typing that is scary. Trying to do it is scarier. 

The thing is, it's more rewarding. I hit my 2 year anniversary at Chicagoist last week. I took a trip through the archives to look at my first article and ended up perusing my journey thus far for a bit longer than expected. 

It's been amazing. I remember when I went to Station to Station, a "happening" at Union Station, and I was listed as "press" for the first time. I probably seemed way too giddy in a line full of tired and impatient writers and photographers, but I was beaming. I was on a list, I was getting access to something I'd already been interested in, and I'd be able to see it differently than a lot of people will have the chance to. 

I've talked to some of my favorite musicians, authors and comics and attended and photographed amazing events I'd always wanted to be a part of.  I've gotten to bring friends, loved ones and dates to things I couldn't actually afford to take them to without this opportunity. And I've made so many friends of the writers and editors at Chicagoist. It's been fantastic. There's not one second of that I'd want to change, even with spiked posts, misunderstandings, weird problems at events, broken down cars and forgotten cameras...

I can't say that about any 9 to 5 I've had, except maybe the bakery. 

Which is why I have to start "Actually Doing The Things." 

That picture was taken from the first story I had published for Chicagoist, "Come On, See Happy!" about an exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center which centered around an artist's investigation of what it is and how to find it. 

The first story was born of me loosing some of my insecurity chains thanks to GISHWHES, which was borne of some heartbreak and a desire to do the things that "always sounded kinda neat" like a kayak trip or a giant scavenger hunt. 

Where, in the two years, have I left that behind? 
This post popped into my head today, after I'd spent about two hours sending pitches to places I'd procrastinated sending them for months. After I'd applied for some amazing jobs after doing just a little bit more research than I'd done prior. 

All of that in one day made me feel pretty good. 

Why don't we just move on the things we want, then? What's the fear? It's not like we can't try again if we fail the first time. 

In talking to the boyfriend about this, I thought of our recent cooking adventure, and our also recent start of a food blog. 

We made bacon. 
From scratch. Cured and smoked by us. About 9 lbs of glorious, thick cut bacon. 
It was part of our 52 weeks of cooking challenge on Reddit, and if you'd have told me before I'd be doing that...I wouldn't have thought so. Doing things from scratch always carries this connotation of difficulty, crazy amounts of time-sinkage and the distinct possibility of it turning out to be a Pinterest fail. 

But so what? Fail and learn. Fail and do it better next time. Make your own damn bacon!
In the end, it wasn't that hard. A little research, a little hands on time, some contraption constructing...and a week of waiting, and we've got 9 lbs of bacon for the price of 4. Good deal. 

I guess what I'm saying is...get out there. All of us just...need to toss those chains off and do the things we say we're going to. 

Make your own damn bacon!

And, if you'd like, check out how we did ours over on that aforementioned new food blog, Our Blue Plate Special. We hope to be updating it with new cooking adventures fairly regularly. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Here Comes The Regular...

The other night, I found myself at one of those bar/restaurant/arcade places. I was picking up a press badge for the con I'll be covering this weekend, and I'd never been to this particular one before. In fact, I haven't really been at those sorts of places much, if I'm being honest, though I do like to game.

Part of the night's festivities included us being given a card worth a free hour of play time. Quick scan on any machine and you get to play. Pretty simple, and I had a great time with Mario Kart, pinball, Galaga and Pac-Man. I didn't even expect it.

An hour's a pretty good amount of time, actually. At some point though, with about 15 minutes left my card kept coming up "Play time temporarily suspended."

For whatever reason I wondered what unknowable rule I'd broken first. Catholic guilt? I don't know. I tried switching games and it worked for me. In any case, I was able to continue my adventures with Night Moves pinball and go home feeling like a pinball wizard.

I'm feeling like something else tonight.
My brain kind of likes metaphors and similes, extended or not. Right now it seems like a way to talk about something I want to talk about without being more specific than I want to be.

I got to thinking about how without knowing why, my playing time got suspended. I kinda feel like that now.

There's plenty of reasons I can make up for why that would happen. Maybe I scanned my card too fast? Too much? Maybe I wore some part of the useful part of it off? Totally random glitch? To be honest, most of what I came up with had to do with me and what I could have done to cause it, even for something that small. Now I'm told that's a problem, and that it bleeds into other things and other places. I've been thinking about that a lot.

But I'm still thinking about what's happening in my life now that's suspending things. I feel like things were good, but they can't be as good again. I feel like I wore holes in things, or scratched off the most important bits. Maybe I swiped the card too much, insisting on keeping going, when I shouldn't have done that. I know I can be bull-headed and forgetful, either not doing things I should or blasting through a wall I shouldn'tve oughta.

Even worse, I'm wondering if it's really temporary. This thing, this rejected card I'm referring to, it feels bigger and worse than a temporary glitch. It feels like maybe I need to start again.

And at least with the cards, you can add more time. I don't know if I have that luxury. On top of that, the history is still there. Maybe the card says 0 minutes, but somewhere there's a record of where I went and what I did.

My habits are known, traceable.

I could start again as someone else, but maybe I like some of that history. Maybe I liked being a regular. Maybe I wanted to be known as a pinball wizard.

I could go somewhere else, start all over, be an unknown. But...I'm the sort who wants to settle in, who likes familiar places and faces.

I don't know if this solves anything, writing this, but at least, in a manner, it explains how I feel.
At a certain point, does time just run out permanently?
Can I really add time? Will the history hurt me? Will my scratching away ruin my own fun, or my ability to function here?
Has it already? Game over?
I really hope not. This is the last thing I want to lose.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

When the sky goes dark...

It's funny how things come full circle sometimes. This particular post was sidelined for a while, due to weddings downstate, laziness on my part, and whatever other nonsense there is in the world. Perhaps a little bit of Chicagoist stuff too, which is neither nonsense nor laziness, but there you have it.

I took this picture from my dear love's house one night. If you don't already follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you may not know that I'm a huge storm nerd. It grew out of a severe fear of storms and tornadoes when I was younger. I used to mostly hide under tables or in closets when storms rolled in, but eventually, maybe around high school, I started to get into what made storms tick, and became more than a little obsessed with thunderstorms and tornadoes.

So it was not at all unusual on this summer night for me to be watching stormclouds gather in the distance from the window in our living room. It was around sunset, and the clouds were a purpley gray that I found rather neat. This particular storm was taking its time building. I was happily breathing in charged air, thinking a good storm was just what my garden needed.

Then it changed. It was churning. The purple was getting a bit jaundiced. Instead of the clouds billowing in neat vertical stacks or along the line of a wall cloud, they started to twist. Yellow and pink and grey mixed like a palette had been tipped over.  The wind picked up. It wasn't time for it to be dark, but it was getting that way.

Sometimes there's a change that happens and you can't explain it. The sky can be purple, pink and yellow all at once and we're sipping margaritas under a palm tree on the beach commenting on how beautiful nature is. This wasn't that though. This was a muddy sky, a sudden stillness and a sick spiral.  I felt the fear clawing a bit, so I drew the curtains and consulted my sweetheart.  He's not exactly the weather nerd I am, and not as quick to worry, but he opened the curtains, had a look, and put his warm, familiar hand on my back and gave it a few soft rubs.  Immediately, the fear fell back, and I felt like I could safely weather the storm. He may not have seen what I saw, and he may not have felt what I felt, but he was behind me, and he would be there.

On this particular night, not much happened. There was a severe storm, a lot of lightning and thunder, and a soaking rain.

I say things come full circle, because just three days ago, I sat on the basement stairs watching a different storm. The kitten sat with me and we watched it blow in quickly. The lightning was seemingly non stop, and the wind was already bending branches. I was waiting for the rain.

Things changed again. Clouds moving in one direction started spiraling in. Not only that, they began collecting into a wedge. I felt uneasy, and the wind died again.  The wedge grew larger, then began descending. And kept descending. The kitten jumped out of her window perch, and I ran into the living room, and said..."I don't like that's really not right."

He took a look and agreed. The only comfort was that it looked to be past us, but that was short-lived, as the tornado siren roared to life not two minutes after. We ferried the cats and humans down to the basement, waited it out and resurfaced. It didn't miss this time. In fact, what I'd seen was an EF-1 tornado striking the southern part of our town and barreling head first into the neighboring towns. It levelled a pizza place my friend's dad worked at that I frequented in high school and after. It tore parts of the roof off of the high school there. In three separate cases, it was a block away from hitting the houses of loved ones.

Places I drive through every day were undriveable. Live wires sparked over houses whose lawns I ran barefoot through on some summer nights.  Giant trees that shaded town forever were ripped from the earth and snapped in half. It's frightening. It's amazing at the same time. I think the thing that's most interesting about tornadoes is the combination of their massive power and complete randomness.

You can't see it coming for days. It might jump one house and hit the next.  Yet it's this massive, destructive, insane force. Its winds are the most powerful on Earth, but it's there and it's gone. Sometimes, you get a few minutes of warning. Unfortunately, our warning came too late. You had to be watching the skies. I'm glad I was, and I'm glad those who may not have been made it out. It could have been so, so much worse.  Joplin. Moore. El Reno.

It's so weird. It's
You don't get warning.
One minute you're drinking a cocktail on a sunny lakeside patio, the next?
Who knows?
Maybe the ICU.
Maybe an accident.
Maybe a book deal.

It's hard to know what to expect. It's hard when the storm hits, the power goes out, and trees block your way out of town.

Honestly? It's hard for me, right now. I don't have a job. I'm trying to steer the ship in the right direction, but it means taking some chances, it means it's taking longer than expected. It means money and time are running out and I don't have a solution.

But the same hand that was at my back when the sky got dark is still there. He's encouraging me, helping me grow, helping me forge a path.  My mother is standing behind me too, and my friends.
It's scary. I almost hoped someone would say "Just take any job, make money, stop dreaming."

But nobody is saying that. They're telling me they're going to help me through this storm a different way. They're telling me they're going to support me when it makes life harder for them. It's amazing, and when I think the sky's getting dark again, and I think of that, it chases that fear out of my belly all over again.