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Friday, Sept. 03, 2004 | link
This morning I found a new coffee outlet, the Corner Bakery. It's probably a chain (I just asked, it IS a chain), but it's not Starbucks, which is fundamentally delighting, and its tagline is "you knead it," which of course I LOVE.
As I sat sipping my lesser-chain coffee, I instant messaged with Paul about my reactions to Chicago, which alternate between infatuation (with the art, buildings, people, and cake) and jealousy (based on San Francisco's relative small-townity), while he insisted on sticking to his "unshakable belief that Chicago is ruled by malevolent gods." Maybe I'd agree with him if Jill and I had arrived during Chicago's famous eyeball-freezing weather when trees by the lake get covered in ice "and then branches fall off and kill people." Or during considerably more meltifying weather (we've lucked in to a realtively tame patch of breezy, mid-80s weather). But my verdict, based on my 36-hour tour of Chicago, home of the rotating door, is "yes."
Checkout time was noon, and we used up every last minute of it, dawdling, folding, packing, and generally trying to postpone our return to the car, which we both dreaded just a touch. Not only did we get a late start but it took a long time to get out of the city, so by the time we actually got the show on the ROAD road, the rest of the day was just one long block of driving. We spent the bulk of the time entertaining ourselves from the confines of the car. Some of our self-starter road games from today, and throughout the trip, include:
"Proper Nouns that Are Also Verbs, Used in a Sentence," e.g., Will Bill Sue? (This was harder than it sounds, and Jill was alarmingly good at it. I came up with "Skip Pat." Also "Pat Skip.")
Edible Musicians -- Bread, Smashing Pumpkins, Cake, Meatloaf, Meat Puppets, Red Hot Chili Peppers, H2O (Hall and Oates), Korn, Blind Melon, Lemonheads.
Songs about Explosive Propulsion -- Jump (Van Halen), Jump (Pointer Sisters), Jump Around (House of Pain), Jump, Jive, Wail (Louis Prima).
Songs to Collapse to the Floor to -- Rock Lobster (B52s), You Make Me Want to SHOUT (?), Come on Eileen (Dexy's Midnight Runners), that "Naked Woman, Naked Man" song (The Specials).
Shady Songs -- Future's So Bright (You Gotta Wear Shades) (Timbuk3), I Wear My Sunglasses at Night (Cory Hart), Blinded by the Light (Manfred Mann), anything by Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder.
Define Irony -- we spent a good chunk of time on this one today, fashioning examples and Venn diagrams outlining the differences between irony, sarcasm, coincidence, Murphy's Law, a bummer, a big bummer, a huge bummer, and comedy.
Irony, we agreed, is slippery and sneaky, and overused beyond all sense, often by people who use it incorrectly, which is in itself ironic. Jill, who covers this in some of the classes she teaches, defines it as an unexpected reversal, especially one that's only visible from the outside and/or tragic. Winona Ryder in Reality Bites defines it as "I know it when I see it." I can only define it by example, the classic being O. Henry's man who sells his watch to buy his woman a hair clip only to discover she has cut her hairs and sold them to buy the man a watch chain. Wah-wah. When the Winona character, the valedictorian of her class, was asked to define irony and was unable to, that too is irony. Jill getting a call while we were in Ohio from a friend who lives in Ohio but was at that moment in Massachusetts, which is where we're headed, expressing a desire to meet for lunch -- that, however, is merely comedic coincidence. If you're wondering what to get me for Christmas, a detailed sketch of the family tree that demonstrates the overlaps, evolutions, and examples of all the different distinctions between irony and its offspring, including Drollness and Archness, that would be awesome.
And that's pretty much it. We made no long or significant stops except for lunch (potato pancakes at Perkin's for me, oddly good with syrup), then later for a brief pie-to-go stop in Amish country (a slice of pumpkin for me, cherry for Jill, her fifth of the trip ... today's ranked second behind the slice served up by Eli, Nevada).
At the high, high risk of sounding like a complete boar and cultural simpleton, the Amish people sure are cute! We spotted quite a few of them -- in the cafe, in their buggies along the roadside, running their small bake sales along side the road -- and they were completely visually arresting, like a hole in time had worn through right around them. It kind of reminded me of the few times I've entered a room that contained a movie star, how everyone around the star held their bodies and smiles in a very specific way that said, "I'm not looking but definitely wanting to, oh my god!"
Aside from my first Amish sighting, today I also experienced my first ever summer rain, and I was completely floored, titillated, agape. At first I couldn't believe it. I thought someone had spilled ... tons and tons of water on the roadway and it was ... splashing up onto the windscreen? But then, "Oh my god, it's RAINING!" I yelled. "Oh that's right," Jill said calmly, "you're from California."
And we spotted the best gleefully horrible pun of the day (even better than "you knead it"). Ready? For a coffee shop? "Brewed Awakening."
We didn't roll into Cleveland until ten, which was bad because we were very tired and hungry, but good because we got a great, last-minute deal on a fancy hotel with ROOM SERVICE. I got a roasted vegetable sandwich with goat cheese and then ate my pumpkin pie from earlier and drank one of the Coronas Jill packed from California, and then I took a bath. Deluscious! And now it's 2:01, and I sleep the sleep of the hard driven and well-fed.