Category Archives: Experiences

Vote Hardcore and All-Awesome-Like

When people think about voting in Chicago, they think corruption. Even the local newspaper’s voting column is called “Early and Often,” referencing the infamous vote early and often statement.

Chicago Voting Ballot 2014What they don’t know is that voting in Chicago is hardcore. Ballots are a foot-long and double sided; there were two this year, e.g. four pages of voting. It starts easy enough, governor, senator, but then it just becomes a muddle. Who did you want for state treasurer? What about county treasurer? (and that doesn’t even touch city treasurer; city elections are in January). How about water reclamation board? (which is a city position) Vote for no more than three choices out of nine for a six year term and a quick google won’t tell you anything about this year’s candidates. This year’s – you vote for water reclamation board every year.

After this warm up, you get the judge page. For some reason, we get to vote on judges, which is cool but also ends up just being overwhelming. An entire foot of “should we retain this judge? What about this one.” Yes/Si vs No/No for a page at least 30 choices.

I don’t have a good understanding of exactly how the judge voting works and I have a friend whose aunt is a judge.

Then there are polling places. There is a polling place in the school across the street from my house, but it’s not my polling place. Mine is, in fact, in a nursing home on the other side of the school.   They send a ton of mail telling you where to vote but it’s still confusing enough that the Democratic party put signs up on everyone’s door letting them know where to vote this year.

where to voteI passed by an apartment building between the school and the nursing home; their sign said they vote at a church three blocks away. The polling place thing, although confusing as all get out, is one of the most awesome factors about Chicago voting. Most places I’ve been, voting happens in a school gymnasium or maybe a public library. Chicago? Not so much

While the locations in my neighborhood are fairly prosaic – as I said my location is a nursing home – some people in Chicago get to vote in bars, bowling alleys, funeral homes, beauty salons, and auto dealerships.

I love voting in Chicago. It feels like a real accomplishment to vote. Even though the judge voting is overwhelming and nigh impossible to keep track of, I have gotten to vote “no” on a few really corrupt people, which always feels good.

I also love that every effort is made to make sure that people can vote. You never have to show a photo ID and a utility bill (or voter card) can be used for proof of residency if you’re not on the rolls. This year we got to vote on amending the constitution to make voter ID rules illegal.   While it’s a little political-machine, it’s great that the Democrats put up signs giving voting information. I love that so many people are willing to work a 14-hour shift for $75 so that we can all vote.

So while I appreciate the fun of talking about Chicago voting as all corruption, there is so much more going on that is bizarre and awesome and is so much more Chicago-y.

I don’t need to tell you to vote, right?

Working On a Story on the Chicago Open House

and looking at a few of my photos from this year! (can you tell I love 1920s’ era pools?)Park Castle Apartments, Chicago Architectural Foundation Open House 2014, featuring the pool Edgewater Beach Hotel OHC 2014

Scottish Elections – No Thanks

I was super lucky to have been in Scotland during their recent independence elections.  While many people commented that it had become quite a vicious argument, I (as an American) was surprised at how pleasant everyone was.  You would never see a display of posters arguing both perspectives hanging out together as I did in Kirkudbright.

A display of Yes and No independence signs in Kirkudbright Scotland

The iconography was also fascinating.  We were mainly in the north so most of the signs and stickers we saw were for Yes, but there was a fair amount of No in Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Since I’m still sorting through my 100+ Yes pictures, here are some of my favorite No options.  (There were several versions of the UK flag/Uncle Sam/Queen sticker below including a Harry Potter one).

Scotland Independence no signs

It’s that time of year again

…where we all take an accounting of what we’ve accomplished and all our faults that can be fixed in the New Years.

I don’t think this works well for just about anyone.  At least half of the posts/updates/tweets/stati that I’ve seen say that 2013 was the worst year ever, that people had thought 2012 was bad until 2013 happened.  I’m sure there’s some people out there who are tucking into their eggnog satisfied with their long list of accomplishments, but mostly people see where they could have been just a little bit better.

This alone disproves the allegory that my generation things that we’re the hottest shit ever and that it’s everyone else’s fault.

Anyhow, while I want, desperately, to focus on my failings,  I’m not going to do that.  I’m going to talk about my (offbeat) successes.  I have to admit, it’s hard to look at them and see them and not just what’s missing, so I’m going to take a break and watch this turtle video instead.

(fyi the cheering section is my husband and I).  Anyhow.

My mom and my sister now talk, nay not just talk but hang out constantly. The constantness is a little creepy since outside of my wedding they haven’t talked to each other in 18 (yep EIGHTEEN) years, despite living in the same small town.  I certainly didn’t make them – I don’t think you can make anyone who remembers you eating jimmies on mashed potatoes do anything – I’m going to give myself a lot of credit for the constant pushing I’ve done over the last 6ish years.  It’s not something I could see happening even six months ago, so that’s a big accomplishment – for all of us.

I drove for the first time since I moved to Chicago.  I don’t have depth perception so city driving is out anyhow, but I managed to really psych myself out about driving at all in the last couple of years.  Except for a minor problem in a parking garage, it went fine even with the weather, dirt roads, and blind curves on tiny roads that are endemic to northern New England.

While all of the new friendships I tried to start this year went bust, I’ve been able to really work on some old friendships.  My closest friends from college and I have gotten into a pattern of the odd Sunday google hangout, with or without Settlers, which has gotten me out of bed during some really difficult weeks.

Route 66 “Ghost town”: Bellemont, AZ

With a morning to kill in Flagstaff, AZ and a strange fascination with mid-20th century kitsch, I ended up on the road out-of-town to see Bellemont AZ, an ostensible Route 66 ghost town.  I say ostensible because while Route 66 has flowers growing through it and there’s a famous abandoned motel, people live there and there’s even a Harley Davidson store and a restaurant (part of Easy Rider was filmed there).

There is also, surprisingly, very little information about Bellemont on the internet.  I have no idea how that can be – shouldn’t the internet know everything? – but I’m excited to be able to add a little bit.  You start by taking I-40 west out of Flagstaff, exit 185, which is a surprisingly short drive.

Bellemont AZ Rt 66 ghost town

Bellemont’s biggest claim to fame is that part of Easy Rider was filmed there.  That history is why there’s a Harley Davidson and the Roadhouse.  They’re to the left after the Navajo military base along with the famous Pine Breeze Inn.

To the right is a really rough road (the last image above) which I’m fairly certain is also part of Route 66, along with the following sign:

Bellemont AZ Rt 66 ghost town primative road

Our stupid little rental car handled driving a bit of the primitive road just fine; you don’t need an SUV to see it.  I think it’s easy to think of Route 66 as this permanent cultural object, a pinnacle of American road engineering and it’s mind-blowing to see flowers growing through it, at least for me.  I think it’s easy to look at someplace like Detroit as this epic ruin porn and unusual, forgetting how much of America was once prosperous and isn’t any more.  Detroit is Bellemont is Claremont NH is the south side of Chicago is new Florida suburbs.

Flagstaff in general is a great way to see a bit of old Route 66.  Several of the old motels and their signs still exist.

Aesthetic Snafu in Progress; or How I turned a trip to the library into a Coke and some fries

This story starts at the library I love the Chicago Library system.  Yes the branches can be a little skuzzy and the librarians a little cranky, but the library is everywhere and has the most amazing collection including, among other weird things, fishing poles.  I pretty much stopped buying books a few years ago and get all my reading material from the library; meanwhile my husband favors random dusty cds of Bach variations played by Hungarian royalists in October.

I love him, but people the music, it confuses me.

Really the story starts by returning some of those cds to the Bezazian branch.  Did I know as a (lover of a) lover of classical music, I could get two free tickets to a classical concert at Ravinia, a fancy music venue/park thingie?  Most of them were gone but a few shows were left and when I came back the next day with a first and second choice, the librarian informed me that the program was for two tickets for two separate concerts – I had to take four (or else? security kicks me out of the building?? they force me take fiction books out from the main branch where they only alphabetize by last name???)  Worried about the unknown potential ramifications, I dutifully took my four tickets.

We went to our first choice concert, an out-of-town event I have yet to write about (see also event #1, the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oak Park, and #3 San Fransisco).  The other tickets we semi forgot about; they were for yesterday but when one of my favorite ex-coworkers invited us to cook out at his house on the same night we were already planning to grill with someone else, we made plans for… last night.

Notably neither party ended up grilling.

But this realization started a lacidasical attempt to give the tickets away that ended at First Slice, an amazing non-profit pie shop conviently around the corner from my therapist.  I asked the barista if she wanted them or would be willing to offer them to anyone who wandered in and she responded “do you know anyone who needs a lunch today?”

Before I really thought about it, I ended up trading my free ticket obligation for an envelope with $15 and a take someone to lunch obligation.


 I am not brave and while I spend a good chunk of my time interacting with people -see librarians, baristas, and working in market research- approaching strangers scares me half to death.  Luckily Derrick approached me first and while he found my suggestion to take him to lunch at 2:30 in the afternoon a little odd, he was a good sport.

We went to McDonald’s, his 2nd favorite after White Castle.  He had a small coffee; a fish fillet; an apple pie; and a sundae, caramel, no nuts.  I had a coke, and we split some fries. We won him a quarter pounder and me two Illinois Aves.

It was really weird, terrifying to think about, but pretty awesome while happening.  I was super nervous about some family events, and it was a perfect distraction while waiting to hear how things went.  A textbook definition, if there was such a thing, of an aesthetic snafu.  Some random stuff happened, I made some questionable choices, but ended up getting exactly what I needed when all was said and done.

I have $5 of obligation left; I’m trying to decide if I’m brave enough to go around offering popsicles to random people in the neighborhood on the next really hot day.

Conditioned to Mansplaining

Mansplaining where men explain things to women without acknowledging their intelligence, knowledge, or familiarity with subject matter with the implied certainty that they must know better than she does.

A lot of modern sexism is difficult and slippery.  So much of it seems innocuous enough in the singular, and is often explained away as something you shouldn’t care that much about.

Oh some guy honked at you?  He was just trying to show that he thought you were attractive and didn’t know any better.  Really you should be flattered.

Oh some guy groped you on a busy bus?  Are you sure?  Well that’s awful and completely inappropriate, but it’s over right?  You need to stop being upset about it.

Oh there aren’t any women in this movie?  Well there is the love interest and hey, there’s that other movie with two female characters in it.

 Oh some guy explained something to you like you were a slow three-year-old or a relatively smart dog?  Don’t take it personally, that guy is a jerk to everyone.  Why are you always so sensitive?

Mansplaining is one of those difficult slippery sexist things. At best everyone thinks it’s a funny story and leaves it at that.  At worst, you’re over-reacting.

The problem is that it’s not.  Being treated like you’re dumb and then told that you care too much about being treated like you’re dumb is infuriating.  Infuriating.  It’s also an example of a couple of different sexist themes:  denying women’s experiences, the expectation that women should remain quiet, and that women are too sensitive.

First your experience is denied when you are mansplained to, and you’re expected to be quiet while you’re mansplained to.

Then your experience is denied when you’re told it’s not a big deal and/or you shouldn’t be upset, and you’re told to shut up about it.  (You could almost argue that you’re almost being mansplained to again).

So women don’t talk about it and then people don’t talk about it and it keeps happening, an insidious little bit of sexist putting women “in their place” that can happen anytime and anywhere about anything.

That’s the brilliance of this tumbler.  Seeing an almost never-ending list clearly shows how this isn’t simply a woman/you being too sensitive.  It shows that it is a systematic sexist trend that does matter and that we should talk about.

Let me tell you where you went wrong

I’ve been mansplained to often, but one of my “favorite” occurrences happened about six months ago.  I wanted to write about it then but then I worried about being petty, and I could never get the tone right so it was just funny and not hurtful.

Because, you know, it was hurtful.  It wasn’t just some random thing that happened to me, some guy who thought he was better than everyone else, but something worth talking about.

I have worked freelance for one company for a very long time.  So I wasn’t all that surprised when I got asked for an informational interview by this guy who found me on LinkedIn.  I know the ins and outs of how they work, I worked with a few of the VPs before they got promoted, I’ve even gotten someone hired there before.

So we meet for coffee.  He mentions that he’s now been hired by the company but is still looking for advice and that he named dropped me in his introduction call.

After asking him a little bit about his background and learning many times that he had advanced schooling, I mention that the most useful thing that I’ve learned is how to take advantage of my smart phone, specifically photos.  Sending a picture of a problem or observation is so much easier than trying to explain it verbally, especially if the fielding manager needs to talk to someone else about it.  A phone makes it a lot easier to take a sly picture if you’re someplace without permission, or are dealing with a respondent who is shy about being photographed.  Instead of making notes for shelf maps, I just take extensive pictures of the section to type out later.

He informs me that not only does he not have a smart phone; he doesn’t even have a normal cell.  You see, you can get conditioned to it, always paying attention to any buzz or beep.  He took expression of shock and confusion as a signal that I didn’t know what conditioning was.

Conditioning, you see, is when you become trained to have a certain reaction to a particular stimulus.  There are very many interesting studies such as teaching rats how to –

I take that opportunity to explain that I did, in fact know what conditioning was and had even done one of those rat studies myself (as has anyone who ever took intro to psych).

…how to press a lever to get food.  It’s really interesting, you should look into it, it would really help you understand consumer behavior.

I explain yet again that I do know about conditioning and, in fact, consumer behavior being that I worked in market research.  And that I was confused how he was going to field without a cell phone.

See if you knew about conditioning and consumer behavior like I do – I learned about it in when I was in grad school, have you thought about going to school – well you’d know what a bad idea a cell phone is.  I bet you always look at it when it makes a noise, which is bad.  That’s conditioning, you’re like a rat….

Sadly I did not walk right out at that point.

I should have walked out at that point.

I should have told him how rude he was at that point.

At that point I should have clearly stated that I had gone to graduate school in social science at a place that had not one but TWO types of social science named after it.

At that point I should have told him that not only did I understand conditioning but probably every single person in America who had gone to college and/or seen a forensic TV show understood the basic concept of conditioning.

At that point I should have emailed my contacts and told them that this guy was an asshole and would therefore suck.

Instead I sat there until he changed the subject.  I sat there while he said: “just between you and me, if people there looked like us, I would still be working there.”  I sat there while he told me that he really understood people because he had nearly gotten a degree in therapy.  I sat there while he told me that he understood business and had suggestions for the company because he had a MBA and everyone at the company were just “academics.”  I sat there when I checked a text message from my husband and got a knowing look and a headshake from him, while he explained that I should try to learn how to ignore my phone.

I sat there, I sat there quietly, I sat there being polite, and I sat there without telling him that he was being an asshole.

And that’s not the only time I’ve sat being quiet, gritting my teeth, because that’s what I’m supposed to do.   I’m supposed to be polite.  I’m not supposed to take it personally.  I’m not supposed to make a fuss.  I’m supposed to laugh it off.  I’m conditioned to be mansplained to.

Much more problematic than a cell phone, don’t you think?