The prairie hasn't yet killed my need for self-promotion

If you’re in Chicago (or want to listen in from elsewhere), you’ll be able to hear me on WBEZ Monday morning sometime around 9:45 am CST. It’ll be on this show, where they’ll be airing a short piece I recorded for Writer’s Block Party.

At some point, it’ll be archived online, in case you forget to listen in or have lined your hat with tinfoil to avoid radio waves.

It’s rainy today, which means I should be working, right? RIGHT? Okay then.

Postcard from Ragdale

Yellow meadow. Uploaded by Wendy Mc.

I’ve been here for a week now. I’ve been going for long hikes every day and doing ridiculously wholesome things, like eating kale for lunch (get used to it, it’s the new spinach), smelling fresh applesauce cook, and taking in deep breaths of nature with all its spores and whatnot. My room used to be a hayloft. I saw a blue heron out here. I know that just saying that makes me sound like L.L. Bean. But really, there is this big fucking bird about the size of a Vespa hopping around the bonfire clearing, and I’m told that’s what it is.

There is wireless here now, unlike the last time I was here, and so that’s a little weird, though I try to be connected for only a couple hours a day and then I go out and walk on the prairie for an hour and scrub my brain with nature. (Did you know that big bluestem is the official prairie grass of Illinois?! I found this out, and now I will be sure to ask for it by name.) And then I come back to my room and write.

I’m working on at least three different things here. I quite don’t know what a couple of them are yet. I’m sure I’ll figure it out, sooner or later. My companion Lenny will help me. Sometimes I call Jami, who is also stuck at a heartlandish rural outpost doing a artists residency (and taking better pictures) and we wander our respective plains on our cell phones. Here at Ragdale you’re not allowed to make or take calls inside, though I think they should make an exception for when you want to drunk dial or prank call other arts colonies.

Having a great time, wish you were here. But you’re not, and I’m procrastinating today, so that’s it for now. More on the weekend, maybe.

Everything old is old again

One morning before work a couple of weeks ago I was sitting here typing when I bumped the desk slightly and the monitor went out with a soft pop. I hit the on/off button to no avail, and in fact the comforting little light behind the on/off button was, well, off, so I concluded that the monitor was dead. It’s a very old monitor, and because of its age I doubted it could be fixed or revived (insert horrible “Christian Science Monitor” joke here). So a couple nights later I went to the big computer superstore and very thoughtfully chose a fancy flat-screened model and brought it home. I was very pleased with myself because these new-fangled LCD thingies are light and sleek compared to my old monitor, which is basically an anvil block encased in plastic. I couldn’t wait to get the stupid hulking thing off my desk.

So I brought the new monitor home and crawled under my desk to unplug the big old dead monitor. But when I tugged the cord at the outlet end, the other end plunked down to the floor, as if it had been loose all along, and not plugged in to the back of the monitor. Hmm, I thought, and I tried, just for the hell of it, to re-connect the cord. And the old monitor went ping and came to life. Evidently the plug had been loose and the cord had slipped, and ha ha ha, it was all a little misunderstanding. I could’ve just returned the new monitor unopened the next day, but I resented the old monitor for messing with me, and after more than a week of deliberation I decided that yes, I would open up this fine new sleek monitor, because it was fancy, and surely it would hurl pixels at my eyeballs even faster than the old monitor. So last night I set up the new monitor. And after about ten minutes I hated the new monitor. I don’t know what it is–both monitors are the same brand but on the old one things clear and smooth and lovely and on the new one, every letter is rendered crudely, like an Atari asteroid, and the screen looks like it’s smeared with Vaseline. And then I couldn’t find a brilliant autistic child who could navigate the picture control buttons for me. So I’m returning the new monitor tonight, and I’ll stick with the old monitor and not care that it’s the size of a trailer and has cathode tubes and is powered by coal. Moral of the story: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and if it looks broke, maybe it ain’t, so don’t fix, ’cause it ain’t broke. Got it?

I forgot to mention that I visited my high school last week. I spoke to a classroom of seniors who were born sometime around the year I graduated, and of course that fact wigged me out, because you never stop thinking that you’ve only been gone five years. But the kids were very nice, and I wonder if any of them read the site last week, when the most recent entry consisted mostly of butt jokes. One of the students asked what the school was like when I was there, and it was both comforting and alarming to say it wasn’t very different. I mean, it’s a really old building and it’s full of things that remind you of how old it is, so nothing’s changed except the oldest reminders, which, in my day, were the wooden and iron desks bolted to the floor in some of the classrooms. I mean, they were old then, and now they’re gone. And now I sound really fucking old to say I remember them, which is a cruel, cruel trick. But I’m young enough that a few of my teachers are still there. One of them definitely recognized me, and then another–well, he said he remembered me but I’m not convinced he did, but then again, that might be for the best.

The weekend and beyond

You have better things to do than stalk me, but I’ll make it easy and let you know that I’ll be at the Touch and Go Fest for most of this weekend, especially Saturday, when I’ll be a volunteer beer-ticket-seller. The volunteering is on behalf of Literacy Works, a fine organization which believes in the power of learning. Learning and beer. While I work I may be wearing my Fuck Macy’s T-shirt, since Saturday is the day the Marshall Field’s name dies. (And yes, I know it’s just a department store and I almost never shop there anyway, but at least half of my earliest memories of Chicago are set in the State Street store, so do not underestimate my hoary nostalgia for this stuff.) Anyway, I’ll be volunteering at the fest until about 3 PM, at which time Chris will insist that we go see The Ex perform. (Which is a band, not a person. And not, you know, a band I used to date, or a band made up of people I used to date, which would be a nightmare, since they’d probably write songs called “She Always Interrupts Herself (And Goes Off On Some Weird Tangent)” and “Too Much Diet Coke.”)

And hey, I’m doing a Ragdale Residency again. As of next weekend I’ll be there until the end of the month, writing some new stuff. I wrote part of INTNM there in 2004, which was helpful because I was trying to finish the book, but this time, I don’t have any kind of deadline. To be honest, I’m sort of terrified. I want to work on new things, but I also want to play house with my boyfriend and watch Robot Chicken. But it’s only two weeks, and I have nothing to be afraid of except the contents of my head, right?