Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It's official: My hometown is a shit hole

When I was a sophomore at Illinois State, a roommate was dating an Environmental Health major. One afternoon, he was over our place talking about how he went on a field trip to LaSalle that day, a small town about an hour’s drive north of ISU.

“You went to LaSalle? That’s my hometown. Why did you go there?” I asked.

“You’re from there?” he asked in amazement. “That’s a Superfund Cleanup Site! Did you know that?”

Yeah dude, I knew that. How couldn’t I? Growing up there you knew that Superfund Cleanup Site meant guys in weird space suits walked around the area of an old factory trying to get rid of these nasty buggers called PCBs. And they dug up the earth within a one mile radius of the defunct plant and burned it right there; a process that took about 10 years. No one seemed too troubled that our junior high school, public park and pool wasn’t all that far outside the mile boundary.

A few years back, yet another dead industrial site in LaSalle caught the eye of the EPA again. An old zinc plant in operation from the mid-1800s into the 1970s left the ground polluted with toxic metals, ground that is uncomfortably close to LaSalle’s wells from where the town’s disgusting water supply is drawn.

Friends from high school who had worked for one branch of the wealthy, eccentric descendants of the original polluters told me one night late at a bar that their boss warned them the EPA was coming, and ordered them to dump barrels of chemicals over the fence onto the land of their cousin. “I want this place to look like Disneyland,” boss man said.

So why this little tale? Am I an Erin Brockovich wannabe? Not so much.  But I’ll tell you that each time I spend a weekend there (damn those holidays!) I leave a little sadder.

The newspaper over the weekend reported that the area leads the state in job growth in bars and restaurants (jobs which yield an annual salary of about $13,000) with some local yokels (I mean officials) saying that’s indicative of the area’s growing tourism industry.

Tourism? What in the hell is worth seeing there? The kids are strung out on heroin (at least a few that I’m related to) so maybe there’s some sort of IV drug user walking tour that I’m not aware of.

“And on the left we have one of our latest crack houses to open in LaSalle,” the guide will boast as the tourists stare in amazement.

Anyway, I’m sure what’s happening there is indicative of thousands of small blue collar towns where people could once get decent jobs and have a decent life.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

And speaking of talentless, anorexic whores. . .

Anyone up for throwing Lindsay Lohan and Hillary Duff into the mouth of an active volcano?

I caught their shameless performances last night on the American Music Awards. I was hoping for Lohan’s sake she was just drunk, wandered on stage thinking she was in a karaoke bar.

In a word, brutal.

Maybe I’m just out of touch considering I’m old enough to have been either of the girls’ unwed teenaged mother. I think if I asked though, my 14-year-old niece would gladly kick their scrawny asses. I asked her father what she would do if she heard a Lohan or Duff song. He said she wouldn’t be very happy.

On a related note, God appeared to me last night and said he wished celebrities would stop invoking his name in their acceptance speeches. I asked why. He said obviously he has a lot on his plate now and hasn’t the time nor the interest to steward the careers of these freaks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Jesus Shmeezus

I’m wondering if my friends and family would have me committed if I said I wanted to sit this holiday season out. A one-woman boycott, if you will.

This year I feel more aggravated than ever. It’s not depressing, but it’s certainly vexing.
The Christmas shit is out sooner (can I get over my Halloween hangover on Novemember 1st please?), we just got a holiday card in the mail yesterday at work, and I accidentally stumbled upon “It’s Beginning to Look A lot like Christmas,” on the radio about five minutes ago.

This morning I couldn’t ignore a co-worker enough when she kept pressing me about organizing a holiday gift exchange and dinner. I tried everything, but then had to engage her.

“When are we going to do it?”

“I don’t care, you guys decide.”

“But when?

“Really, just figure it out and let me know.”

Somebody kill me.

Now I’m not a Scrooge, by any means. I’m capable of warm and fuzzy feelings and I don’t need Bob Marley (or was it Jacob) to visit me in my sleep to show me the beauty of the holiday.

It’s old boy  J.C.’s birthday for Godsakes! And doesn’t the crazy spending orgy fuel our economy? Or at least it used to when some of the stuff was actually made here. (We give our jobs to China wrapped in a big holiday bow and in return all we get are a lot of bad drivers and the annual threat of an apocalyptic plague. Don’t they know how this Christmas thing works?)

I just need to ease into this. Does anyone else feel like there’s a 3-ton Santa standing on their chest, jamming candy canes into their eyes?

Just curious.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Only you can prevent becoming a degenerate alcoholic

The following is the actual text of an email I just sent to Coors.

Dear Coors,

You clever bastards. So you're the ones responsible for that devil's brew, or excuse me Blue Moon, eh? Well that beer fooled me for the final time last night.

Blue Moon is dead to me.

Its delicate flavor and deceptive light color set off by a delicious orange slice repeatedly tricks me into thinking I could drink them like one would drink, say Miller Light or even water.

I couldn't be more wrong. And now I'm beside myself with guilt because I've been pushing this poison on my friends. All of our lives are now on the brink of ruin.

I demand answers from Coors! Or at the very least a committment to post the following warnings on your labels:

Warning: Consumption of Blue Moon may cause women to fall lips first into strange men. Any demons or inner-maniacs will be unleashed if Blue Moon is consumed in excess. Do not operate light machinery with keypads and the capability for two way voice communication while drinking Blue Moon. Blue Moon will most likely render the consumer useless for 16-18 hours after drinking. Do not attempt to dance, especially alone, after drinking Blue Moon.
Deliberately concentrating and inhaling Blue Moon can be harmful or fatal.

OK, so the last one is unlikely but I think Coors needs to cover its bases.

Thanks for nothing. And as they say, fool me once shame on you. . . fool me twice, shame on . . . whatever. It's your fault.


Angie T.

Coors responds. . . a full 48 hours later with a form letter. They're damn lucky I'm not litigious!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Angela Marie . . . Fitzgerald?

Can I call it or can I call it?

People magazine named Patrick Fitzgerald one of the sexiest men alive.

Supposedly he’s dating some lawyer chick from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.

Whatever. We will meet again, fall madly in love, and rule the world!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Little aluminum house on the prairie

Oscar winner Hillary Swank grew up in a trailer. Country star Gretchen Wilson did too.

Big deal ladies.

At any given time, roughly 30 percent of my extended family is living in a trailer in some godforsaken corner of America. As a cousin or an aunt leaves one, inevitably there’s another crawling in.

Our little part for balance in the universe, I guess.

I spent the first 10 years of my life in one. From 1972 to 1982 me, my brother, sister, and mother kept it real in the Valley View Trailer Court in downstate Illinois. My grandma and youngest aunt lived in the neighboring trailer.

Over that decade, our two trailers were the anchor for what was to become a sort of Kennedy compound without the money, servants, and spirited political debates. We remained as my six aunts and uncles and their families would move in and out of other trailers as they were down on their luck. That was pretty often.

Now trailer life obviously isn’t glamorous as one would suspect. But as kids you really didn’t know much better. There were always cousins to play with; to say we had the run of the place would be an understatement. There were hills to climb, little patches of woods where the boy cousins could shoot each other point-blank with BB guns, and taverns that would sell cigarettes to a six-year-old. My grandma had like 40 stray cats that she fed, which became a stable of sorts for my ill-behaved cousins to torment. (There was never any actual torture; one would grab the front paws, the other would grab the hind legs and they would swing them higher and higher and then let ‘em go.)

It was like a white trash Disneyland.

Crazy uncles would regale us with tales of their childhood. Never did we hear about walking uphill both ways to school in the snow. They were much too creative for that.

“We were sooo poor,” said one uncle.

How poor were you Uncle John?

“We were sooo poor that we didn’t have blankets. We had to cover up with the cockroaches.”

The other  uncle who took an unexpected leave from the Marines in the late 70s--that I’m pretty sure Uncle Sam didn’t O.K.--would take us on hikes and hunting trips. He would have six or seven of us with him and have us walk ahead, and before we’d know it he’d be out of sight. A couple of the wee ones would start crying thinking we were all alone and lost, but us bigger kids knew he was just a freak and would show up soon enough laughing like he’d heard the greatest joke on Earth. When you think about it, being left in a clearing while an armed, AWOL marine is lurking in the woods uncle or not, probably isn’t the best place for kids to be.

Anyway, I’ve barely scratched the surface on this one. Growing up without a lot of stuff sucked, sure.

But man did we laugh our asses off.          

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Love in the time of Avian Flu

Just saw Pride and Prejudice (loved it!) and now I'm wondering if being a hopeless romantic dooms you to a lifetime of hopelessness in romance.

With the fantastically active imagination that is my own, I've allowed the powerful love stories from books and films I've consumed over the years to have a role in how I think relationships should play out. Now I haven’t thwarted suitors because the gentleman couldn’t or wouldn’t offer his undying love to me at dawn, in an English meadow, wearing rumpled early 19th century clothing, and looking hotter than hot could ever be. That would be nice, to be sure. Usually it was because they were stupid jerks who couldn't hold a conversation, or maybe make an attempt to get their asses off the couch once in awhile. But I digress. . .

I had said in an earlier posting, that I wasn't going to go the route of the Bridget Jones-esque writers. The female need to constantly brood over the opposite sex just doesn't seem appealing to me. When we're in relationships we're dissecting and analyzing the state of the match. When we're not in relationships, we're wondering why we're not in one. Mighty tedious indeed.

That’s not to say I don't step back and wonder what the hell is going on from time to time. What am I doing wrong? What are they doing wrong? Is the universe against me? Can Oprah help?

And yet each time I come to pretty much the same conclusion. . . . Fuck if I know.

I'm still not convinced that there anything wrong with thinking the one, great and ultimate love of your life will cause the rest of the world to fall away, will see you as you should be seen, and ignore wealthy aunts if she thinks he's marrying below his station to be with you.

Married folks will probably say there's plenty wrong. Because real life is where relationships live. Rational Angie would agree, and knows this is true.

But crazy Angie (who's bigger and stronger and usually wins out) is still holding on to her dreams. She's sorry and asks all you practical people to leave her alone.     


Friday, November 11, 2005

The dumbasses at Fox kill Arrested Development

You know how once in a while a really funny, smart, and original T.V. show comes on and immediately hooks you? You try not to get attached though, because you know good shows always die. Especially on the network that brings you the O.C. and Bill O'Reilly.

Goodbye Arrested Development! It was fun while it lasted.

And Fox? Go scratch.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What I did on my two day vacation

With the year winding down, and no where to go to use the rest of my vacation, I decided to take a couple of days off and execute a little holiday without leaving town. While Loop workers slaved away up in their offices, all I had to share the city with was retirees, bored field trippers, and the homeless.

Yesterday I went to the Art Institute. I love looking at art, though I will never pretend I understand it. At least on the level of some super-arty-snobby person. I actually don't think I have to, and I'm quite content with looking at a piece and thinking, "Hey, that's nice," or "Wowza, what was that guy smoking?" It's kind of funny to think the latter; when you're sizing up something that maybe that zany Renoir whipped up on a good buzz.

Art can capture the inner melancholy of man in the face of ultimate destruction or some such nonsense, but when I see countless shots of 18th century boobies, I'm thinking it's possible that one or two of these guys might have been feeling a little frisky. In paintings where women were happy their goods were hanging out. When they were being raped or kidnapped by centaurs their goods were hanging out. When they were just relaxing--yep ya guessed it--their goods were hanging out.

And I, like many other casual observers of art, can't really get into the modern stuff. The Art Institute had a small installation of some Cuban guy's work that I walked through for a kick. One piece was a strand of Christmas lights plugged in and laying on the floor. I wasn’t sure what to take away from that.

Next to the lights was a layer of hard candy wrapped in bright, multi-colored foil wrappers lying on the floor in a perfect rectangle. I walked past it and saw someone take a piece, unwrap it, and put it in their mouth. I was shocked, but of course it took me about two minutes before I did the same. Thankfully it was cool when a volunteer came in and started to explain how the number of candies correspond with the weight of the artist and by us eating the art, the piece is organic like he is. This guy standing there said to his companion, "Whatever, this is art? To me it's a snack," and grabbed another piece. Again, cool. We could have up to four pieces each the volunteer said. One was enough for me. It was the crappy stuff cheap neighbors used to give out at Halloween.

Today was Hyde Park day, home of the University of Chicago. Although my friends thought I was going museum hopping, I was actually on a quest to find a hot, single, Nobel Laureate under the age of 40.

No such luck.

However I did see 5,000-year-old human remains of an Egyptian, the Rockefeller Chapel, a Frank Lloyd Wright house, yet even more art, and I dined at the Medici--a place where the Chicago Seven hung out. From the graffitti on the walls there you can tell the University of Chicago is an Ivy-League caliber school. There were things written in what I think was Latin, and some nerd actually scribbled the question, "Dare I disturb the Universe?"

But the highlight had to be standing on the spot where WMD was born (where U of C scientists pulled off the first nuclear chain reaction). And after asking a couple of students coming out of the Fermi Institute where I could find the Doomsday Clock (started by Manhattan Project scientists who move us closer to Midnight as the world gets crazier) I was trekking to the southern edge of campus to this ramshackle building that houses the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The door was locked, so I rang the bell. This very unassuming young lady named Joy answered the door.

"Um, I want to see the Doomsday Clock," I said. I was going to make a case for bringing it a couple more minutes closer to midnight.

"You can't. It's in D.C. for our 60th anniversary," she responded very nicely. She then went on to tell me that it's normally up in a third floor conference room, and if it was there I could see it no problem.

She did show me a picture of it. I was anticipating some hulking, gothic looking thing. But it looks like some piece of crap the Bradys would have had in their living room. What a letdown.

Joy sent me on my way with a copy of their magazine (not nearly as boring as I thought it would be) and get this, an Atomic fire ball. Who knew smarties could have a sense of humor?

I popped it in my mouth, thanked Joy for her hospitality and headed out, but not before asking her if they had to set the clock back for daylight savings.              

Friday, November 04, 2005

There has got to be a code violation in there somewhere

A Chicago restaurant is now offering body sushi to diners.

You have got to be fucking kidding me. Eating raw fish off of a someone's body is never a good idea, I'll venture to say. And besides, this is Chicago afterall. To truly capture the market she should have pizzas and italian beefs placed in her strategic areas.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Motivational Man

It’s usually a bad idea for people to write about their jobs on blogs, but it’s hard to resist when your bosses bring in a motivational speaker for a sales meeting. I had the pleasure of sitting through a performance the other night.

Now this guy wasn’t on par with a Tony Robbins but he was brutal just the same. The grandiose gestures, the cutesy anecdotes, and the urging for our sales guys to be lions or tigers or bears (I don’t remember what was the good or bad animal) was too much. Overly energetic and happy people bother the shit out of me as a rule, but when people make a living out if it, I kind of feel sorry for them.

Mr. Motivational had a demure little assistant with him who held his water bottle and paged through his PowerPoint presentation while he spoke. The whole scenario was frightening, and me being the amateur comedienne that I am, leaned over to the guy next to me and whispered, “Hey, I think she’s here under duress. She’s like kidnapped or something don’t you think?”

My co-worker brushed me off. He was paying attention, and didn’t want to get in trouble apparently. Honestly though, I couldn’t believe Assistant to the Traveling Effeminate Motivational Speaker was a real job. Something had to be up. Do I call 911? Do I slip her a note and tell her I’ll help her escape?

Whatever, I thought. Not my problem. But I’ll tell ya not having to be a motivational speaker for a living is enough motivation for me to work a little harder. So I guess he succeeded with this woman.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Politics certainly is Hollywood for the ugly

Well color me happy (and skeptical). The Dems appear to be gearing up for a fight.

The looks on the faces of Schumer, Reid, and Durbin are priceless. Who do these guys think they are?