Monday, December 23, 2013

Fuck It, Dude, Let's Go Bowling.

Having not had a job in the U.S. for over a decade, the entire prospect of a company party amused me. Having spent some time watching The Office, I figured I had a vague sense of what might happen, but really, no ideas. Then of course there was an emailed announcement for which an RSVP was required. Bowling.

This was somehow not expected.

Fortunately I liked bowling. I was familiar with the apparatus of bowling and was aware that bowling, unlike Nam, had rules. Also, if you crossed the line you must mark it zero.

Bowling would suffice, so to prepare I did heavy-weighted kettlebell swings, thinking that would keep me from having a sore arm the next day, and otherwise mostly forgot about the event until it was upon us.

The holidays in the states bothered me for some reason. Aside from the impending sense of dread that I always felt around the holidays related to all that deep family trauma, I rather enjoyed living in a country where you could see a mechanical Santa Claus acting as a pork restaurant mascot in the middle of July and no one thought anything of it. It would always amused me when I worked in the coffee shop to hear some battered Korean rendition of a holiday classic until it dawned on me (six songs later) that someone had put on the Christmas C.D. in the middle of August.

It was as if, while abroad, there was no threat to it because, well at least Korea did not take Christmas very seriously. I was okay with that. It helped me to take it less seriously. The Irish and his ridiculous Christmas parties didn’t hurt. Being able to sling food to a bunch of strangers while drinking the “good” booze was always a lot of fun. I also found his joy for the season to be infectious.

The building I worked in had a forty-foot tree in the lobby. The thing was massively huge, and on my way to the office on Friday there was a man dressed in a Santa suit at the top of the escalator, handing out candy to all the commuters on their way in. There were bells and lights and jingles and what not. It was all very cheerful and festive.

I didn't care for it.

On the day of the holiday party I prepared for bowling. I packed my gym gloves, put my "Pins Falling Down" track on my CD player, and walked over with the rest of the office crowd. For the most part I had worked in this office now for close to four months. I knew four people total out of a group of roughly thirty. I was hoping to meet and talk to and learn more about others while bowling.

At the lanes, I looked around and tried to figure out how it would work. Once drinks and a touch of food had been secured I went over and talked to the very cute chick behind the counter and figured out how to get shoes. The cute chick behind the counter made me wish life was more like the L Word, as I would have liked nothing more than to ask for her number without it being creepy. (As I was in that building every now and again I still might, but we shall see.) Either way I tried some non-creepy flirting while getting my shoes, which was well received.

After that, it was on with the shoes and on with the game. My team consisted of me and a Shimer student that I worked with against three people on the other side. My partner in crime bowled straight into the gutter for the first three passes.

“It’s cool. At least it’s getting to the end,” I remarked.

“Um, you don’t have to try to make me feel better. I don’t care.”

“I’m mean...look I’m an educator; I’m used to providing positive feedback and encouragement.”

“You can stop.”

So I did, and mostly focused on my own bowling. Which was going fairly well. I picked up one split, had two strikes and overall did not gutterball unless I was trying to pick up a spare.

Of course, what I should have possibly considered more was the fact that not less than two months ago I had sprained my wrist pretty fiercely while doing push-ups. Apparently doing 200 push-ups a day for four days in a row on top of benching a lot of weight could cause things to go awry. While the wrist had healed, I had not expected it to suddenly start throbbing during bowling. I mean, I had been swinging 35lb weights to prepare for this.

It was not enough. By the end of one game my wrist was snapping back and forth and my entire hand had swollen up. I took a break from bowling, returned shoes, flirted some more, put my Docs back on and then tried to mingle with the office.

I met two people. We mingled awkwardly. I could usually talk to almost anyone. Having a vast capacity for remembering random tidbits of information from all over meant I could usually lock onto something to talk about with people; however, to no avail, I was simply not able to engage.

My wrist swelled up more.

Finally it was 4:30 and we were allowed to go home.

I grabbed a taxi, driven by a nice Ukrainian, and we discussed the holidays while I wended my way to the train. The lights buzzed and sparkled as we drove around downtown Chicago. Tis the season.

I still didn't care for it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The More They Pass This Way

Another friend died.

This created an overwhelming stir of feelings, but the strongest feeling I had was nothing.

There was just nothing there. I’d had a lot of loss this year and I thought at this point I simply couldn't deal with loss anymore, or maybe my psyche had decided that there had been enough loss and so it was just going to schedule something else, a certain kind of pervasive numbness.

So many people were so suddenly gone from my life this year, whether through untimely deaths, timely deaths, or because I longer occupied their same space. It seemed like I no longer existed.

That was part of it too. I felt like I had performed my own sort of dying trick this year that made me simply nothing to so many people that I cared about. A sense of being missing that could not be filled, a void that became palpable because without constant maintenance there was no way to exist for another. Perhaps I felt that without the maintenance I just no longer existed for myself.

I was doing all the right things. Working to make friends, going out, trying to meet people. Attending munches in Chicago, going to the local dungeon, talking to people, meeting up, going to quizzes, doing all the things I felt I should be doing in order to meet people and make friends. Yet, still, I felt rather disconnected, despondent, and isolated.

There was an extreme terror of isolation within me.

Or perhaps not isolation, but restriction of movement. I liked feeling free, to go, to do, to participate when I wanted, without being isolated either geographically or mentally. I knew that sometimes I isolated myself mentally; I had a unique ability to make myself the loneliest person in a room full of people. Awareness forced me to work to understand and manage; awareness itself, though, was not enough to make it go away. Just a stopgap measure at best.

Some days it was all fine and I felt perfectly grounded. Other days I swam in a sea of loss. I missed them all, all of them, everyone I’d lost. There was kind of a bone-weary emptiness where they all had once existed that I could not fill. Perhaps the death overlaid everything else with a sense of foreboding. How many of these people that I love will I ever truly see again? Is there a possibility that there will not be an again, not matter how hard I try?

Will I give up?

My friend who died last week, I had invited her to stay with me not less than a month ago. We talked for an hour trying to arrange it. Eventually she decided it was too much trouble. Did I encourage her enough? Could I have reached out to her harder? Should I focus on the fact that I at least had a chance to speak with her two weeks ago? Should I feel guilty for carrying on with my life?


So many people there. Would I ever see them again? Was I trying hard enough? The world. So many countries, so many people, places, faces, and names, and all of them special to me in a way that was difficult for me to make others understand. I collected people, and the memories that I collected with them were the fabric that held me together.

These moments of life when I am together with any of you, with all of you, they make me feel more real than I feel when I am alone.

I didn't want to lose anyone else, and I knew logically that through either death, time, or space, eventually I would lose everyone.

And when that happened what would I be at the end? Without my collected remembrance in the mind of a thousand people, was I anything at all?

Another friend died, I went on. I would go on.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Taxi and the Crash

After that it was a hop skip and jump to downstairs to get sorted, so I walked into the regular downstairs venue where the live band was doing horrible covers of Blink-182. At the bar I ended up standing next to a gentleman in a gray suit, with huge hands and a mustache curled up at the sides. He looked every inch like he had just walked out of a Coen brother’s movie set in New York in the fifties. He collected his drinks, nodded at me, and disappeared.

I ordered one for the road while I started layering up for the outside.

As I turned suddenly he was back again.

“That was fast!” I commented.


“You just left with those drinks.”

“Oh. It’s the Latvians. I’ve been drinking with Latvians. I’m almost positive it is going to be the absolute death of me.”

“Latvians. I get it. I’ve had the luxury of drinking with Russians and Ukrainians. It’s impossible to drink with anyone from that part of Europe and Asia, really.”

“I swear it's like vodka is water and they are fish who cannot live without it.”

“I sympathize.”

“And now, madame, if you will excuse me, I must deliver another round of drinks to them and then, I shall dance.” He bowed and walked off and I smiled and watched him go. Back to his table of Latvians to drop off the drinks and then, walking every so delicately considering his size, over to a table of Korean ladies (I could hear them talking) and held out a hand which was, surprisingly, accepted. They began to swirl around the room and I bounced for a taxi.

My night of international randomness was not quite done, as the cabbie was listening to the BBC World Service when I entered. He went to change it to American rock, but I asked him to please leave the news on.

“Most people want music.”

“I prefer information.”

“You're not from around here then.” He smiled.

“Neither are you.”

We spent most of the drive to the apartment discussing news, the most recent developments in the Philippines (which was his home), and eventually politics in general and the lack of interest in the world by Americans in particular. I left a nice tip.

At the house I slid the couch out, did my own Suicide Girls strip show, and passed outcold, hard, and fast, with dancing storm troopers and spinning vortexes winding me to my bed.

My Swag Bag

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another Naked Chick Interlude

From the Kill Bill set. 

Man, naked chicks with swords and swirly light things, yes please!

Boz and Razzie. I'm in love. 

And of course, Star Wars

Okay, honestly, she was a little short for a storm trooper. 

Oh Razzie. I will always love you. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The End, the After

Following the cake, the show more whiskey and more dancing. There was an amusing audience participation set that included the woman standing next to me (not Yoko), who was clearly drunk and even though the announcer told her five times there was no way she was going to win a prize because she only had three prizes, she insisted on getting up on stage and staggering around to the music while taking off her top.

Amusingly, Chicago has some pretty strident laws on nudity, although you can get away with toplessness in the citywhich was good for the show cause I think otherwise we might have been in trouble, as the staggering princess stood on stage topless for so long that security actually had to come and move her off the stage for the next set to start.

In the end the music was good, the show was awesome, and the finalewhich was a Star Wars setwas a lot of fun. I waited for the crowd to clear out behind me and tried to figure out what I wanted to do next. Go and get my coat and swag bag or head up to the afterparty that I had a VIP pass to get into? I figured coat, until I walked over and saw the line wrapped most of the way around the venue.

Yeah, no.

So I walked up to a stage handler, showed my VIP badge, and asked if I could come get my swag after the afterparty.

“Uh, no, we will be closed down by then.”


I decided the best course of action was going to be a drink while the coat line cleared up enough to get my stuff, and then go back to the afterparty. I took the stairs down to get to the afterparty venue, where I found yet another line of people who were going to pay special to get upstairs. I walked over to another handler.

“Is there a faster way in?”

I showed him my badge.

“If you don’t mind walking up the stairs you just keep going up and show your badge to anyone that asks.”

“That I can do,” I smiled and walked my way up the stairs to the second floor, where at the top I was stopped by yet another bounce.

“And where do you think you are going young lady?”

“Well, according to this, and that guy downstairs,” I pointed downstairs and waved the VIP badge, “I can just keep going up to the party this way."

“Well, indeed you can.” And he gave me some additional directions to get up to the afterparty venue. The House of Blues really is like a maze and I made a wrong turn at the box seat section, but eventually, after much climbing, I found the right door and was able to get in.

The room was already pretty packed.



By hipsters.

I really don’t enjoy hipsters that much, but I found a seat at the bar and ordered a drink, which turned out to be much more expensive than I wanted to pay for a drink.

The guy next to me at the bar (hipster with weird mustache) stared at his drink. I made a valiant effort to engage him in conversation, but was quickly bored to tears with the vapid discussion of his job. We just finished watching a girly burlesque show, did we really need to talk about your job? I did try to engage him in a conversations of aberrant sexuality, but he seemed scared to death so I excused myself to do something more interesting.

I checked my clock and it had taken roughly twenty minutes to find the place and have a drink; I figured by now my luck was good enough that I might be able to get my stuff. The girls had not shown up to the afterparty yet, although they were theoretically coming. My guess was they weren’t actually going to make it until closer to midnight, possibly one a.m. and I was starting to feel tired and annoyed. Additionally the afterparty seemed mostly to be an expensive mating ritual for twenty-three year old hipsters. Being that I was not a twenty-three year old hipster (and being that I was cranky), I decided to just grab my stuff and go home.

I managed to escape back down the stairs, although someone almost tried to force me to wait for an elevator, and using charm and my very short skirt, managed to get to the coat check in time to grab my coat and swag bag.

Monday, December 16, 2013

You're Not My Yoko Ono!

I think the girl on the left, the little Asian chick, got confused about all the attention over my face. She seemed to think they were paying attention to her, which eventually got really annoying. It got the most annoying when she said in a voice that only Yoko Ono could love “I should be up there! I should be up there!” and started trying to get her male companion to hoist her on to stage. I whispered in his ear that getting on the stage would get her immediately kicked out of the venue so he managed to restrain her, but as the intermission came up and the curtain came down she hopped onto the stage and started screeching at the couple behind me.

The couple behind mewho I had noticed when the show startedwas an older couple in their late fifties/early sixties who were celebrating an anniversary. When asked how they ended up at a burlesque show, apparently it had just came up on Facebook and seemed like a good idea.

“The best part was telling my son when he dropped us off at the train. He asked  ‘Dad, what are you doing for you anniversary in Chicago?’ and I said ‘Your mother and I are going to the Suicide Girls Burlesque Show.’” I could imagine the look on said son's face. I was amused, I might have been more amused had Yoko not started screeching about how amazing it was. And she continued to screech for the next fifteen minutes. In my ear. Fortunately for her, I had my earplugs in. Unfortunately for me, even with the earplugs, I could still hear her damn screeching.

Finally she seemed to notice I was there and decided to try to engage me.

“Isn’t it WOOONderfFULLL???? Don’t you LOOOOVE their story? Isn’t that the MOOOOOST amaZZZZZing love STORY!!!!!”

“Honey, you have the most annoying voice I have ever heard and all I really want is for you to shut the fuck up now.”


“No, seriously, just stop talking. Please, shut THE FUCK up.”

“But their love story.”

“Really. The fuck up.”

She just stared at me, unbelieving (it seemed) that anyone could not enjoy the amazing love story that she had been retelling for the last fifteen minutes at the top of her annoying Yoko Ono into my ear.


“Look, I paid good money to be here and be entertained and you are really fucking annoying, so please, just stop.”

“I paid a lot of money too!”

“Since I didn’t see you upstairs with the girls earlier, I’m going to say, no, no you didn’t.”

That seemed to be the final straw for her, because she hopped off the stage and stopped screeching in my ear and before long she moved away from me and back into the crowd to enjoy the show from somewhere else. That was just fine with me.

The second part of the act opened with our redhead announcing on stage with cake. Cake which she made sure to throw in my mouth, into my hair, and at the audience. This was followed by Boz again, with the whiskey bottle completing the effect of me being entirely covered in whisky and cake on my birthday.

I was amused, thinking It’s been awhile since I’ve been covered in whiskey and cake. And yet, it was somehow very appropriate to be covered in whiskey and cake once again.

Friday, December 13, 2013

We Now Interrupt This Story for Naked Chicks

I was distracted by dancing naked chicks, so did not get as many pictures as you'd think. 

However, I did catch some from their Fifth Element set. 

A few from their forced stripping of audience members. Trust me, the audience was into it.

And, this anyone? Anyone?

The Vortex.