Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/.

Otherwise, hello, and welcome.
Mail Trillian here<





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Women, The Internet and You: Tips for Men Who Use Online Dating Sites
Part I, Your Profile and Email

Part II, Selecting a Potential Date

Part III, Your First Date!

Part IV, After the First Date. Now What?


"50 First Dates"






Don't just sit there angry and ranting, do something constructive.
In the words of Patti Smith (all hail Sister Patti): People have the power.
Contact your elected officials.

Don't be passive = get involved = make a difference.
Find Federal Officials
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or Search by State

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Contact The Media
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Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)

Quasar
Hyperbole
Amenable
Taciturn
Ennui
Prophetic
Tawdry
Hubris
Ethereal
Syzygy
Umbrageous
Twerp
Sluice
Omnipotent
Sanctuary
Malevolent
Maelstrom
Luddite
Subterfuge
Akimbo
Hoosegow
Dodecahedron
Visceral
Soupçon
Truculent
Vitriol
Mercurial
Kerfuffle
Sangfroid




























 







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Highlights from the Archives. Some favorite Trillian moments.

Void, Of Course: Eliminating Expectations and Emotions for a Better Way of Life

200i: iPodyssey

Macs Are from Venus, Windows is from Mars Can a relationship survive across platform barriers?
Jerking Off

Get A Job

Office Church Ladies: A Fieldguide

'Cause I'm a Blonde

True? Honestly? I think not.

A Good Day AND Funyuns?

The Easter Boy

Relationship in the Dumpster

Wedding Dress 4 Sale, Never Worn

Got Friends? Are You Sure? Take This Test

What About Class? Take This Test

A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away, There Was a Really Bad Movie

May Your Alchemical Process be Complete. Rob Roy Recipe

Good Thing She's Not in a Good Mood Very Often (We Knew it Wouldn't Last)

What Do I Have to Do to Put You in this Car Today?

Of Mice and Me (Killer Cat Strikes in Local Woman's Apartment)

Trillian: The Musical (The Holiday Special)

LA Woman (I Love (Hate) LA)

It is my Cultureth
...and it would suit-eth me kindly to speak-eth in such mannered tongue

Slanglish

It's a Little Bit Me, It's a Little Bit You
Blogging a Legacy for Future Generations


Parents Visiting? Use Trillian's Mantra!

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Mod Hair Ken

Caught Blogging by Mom, Boss or Other

2003 Holiday Sho-Lo/Mullet Awards

Crullers, The Beer Store and Other Saintly Places

Come on Out of that Doghouse! It's a Sunshine Day!

"...I had no idea our CEO is actually Paula Abdul in disguise."

Lap Dance of the Cripple

Of Muppets and American Idols
"I said happier place, not crappier place!"

Finally Off Crutches, Trillian is Emancipated

Payless? Trillian? Shoe Confessions

Reality Wednesday: Extremely Local Pub

Reality Wednesday: Backstage Staging Zone (The Sweater Blog)

The Night Secret Agent Man Shot My Dad

To Dream the Impossible Dream: The Office Karaoke Party

Trillian Flies Economy Class (Prisoner, Cell Block H)

Trillian Visits the Village of the Damned, Takes Drugs, Becomes Delusional and Blogs Her Brains Out

Trillian's Parents are Powerless

Striptease for Spiders: A PETA Charity Event (People for the Ethical Treatment of Arachnids)

What's Up with Trillian and the Richard Branson Worship?

"Screw the French and their politics, give me their cheese!"


















 
Mail Trillian here





Trillian's Guide to the Galaxy gives 5 stars to these places in the Universe:
So much more than fun with fonts, this is a daily dose of visual poetry set against a backdrop of historical trivia. (C'mon, how can you not love a site that notes Wolfman Jack's birthday?!)

CellStories

Alliance for the Great Lakes


Hot, so cool, so cool we're hot.

Ig Nobel Awards

And you think YOU have the worst bridesmaid dress?

Coolest Jewelry in the Universe here (trust Trillian, she knows)

Red Tango

If your boss is an idiot, click here.

Evil Cat Full of Loathing.

Wildlife Works

Detroit Cobras


The Beachwood Reporter is better than not all, but most sex.



Hey! Why not check out some great art and illustration while you're here? Please? It won't hurt and it's free.

Shag

Kii Arens

Tim Biskup

Jeff Soto

Jotto




Get Fuzzy Now!
If you're not getting fuzzy, you should be. All hail Darby Conley. Yes, he's part of the Syndicate. But he's cool.





Who or what is HWNMNBS: (He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken) Trillian's ex-fiancé. "Issues? What issues?"







Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


< chicago blogs >





Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains





























Life(?) of Trillian
Single/Zero

 
Tuesday, September 29, 2009  
Hey! Did you hear? Chicago is the unhappiest city in the US!!

We’re number one! We’re number one!!

Typically I find “those” surveys tedious and inaccurate. Appleton, Wisconsin, and Naperville, Illinois, for instance, often rank in the top 10 places to live. Shiny happy people living shiny happy lives in those allegedly Utopian suburbs. I’ve spent time – repeatedly – in both Naperville and Appleton. The people I know there don’t live in a perpetual state of euphoric Stepford Wifian bliss.

In fact the people I know who lived in Appleton moved last year because they hated it there. Naperville…well…I have friends who live there. I’ve been to countless barbecues and shopping trips in Naperville. I’ve met my friends’ neighbors and friends. In short, I’ve walked among them. And let’s just leave it at this: Naperville is in one of my personal circles of Hell.

So much for “those” surveys.

But then, I don’t have children, go to church on Sunday and I’m vegetarian. I’m sure there are other childless heathen veggies in Naperville. (We’re everywhere but we keep low profiles.) But I haven’t met them. My guess is that their opinions are not counted in those quality of life index surveys. My guess is those surveys are taken by stay-at-home church-on-Sunday, carnivorous moms. Who think Naperville, with its great schools, many churches and meat-a-plenty for the barbecue, is the bee’s knees, their idea of Utopia.

Different strokes, different folks.

But this Chicago unhappiness survey…yeah…I concur. We’re a miserable bunch.

I say this as an outsider, of course. I am not native. Far, far from it. Not native and proud of it.

I was not at all surprised at Chicago’s number one ranking on the misery index. There are plenty of reasons for the unhappiness in Chicago. It's everywhere, all pervasive. There is happiness to be had, positive aspects, but, Chicagoans are a really unhappy lot. Some will blame the harsh winter weather for our morose condition but I think it goes a lot deeper than that. I think the winter weather is a scapegoat. I, for one, like the harsh winter weather and think Lake Michigan performs some of it's most visually interesting tricks in the bleakest, coldest months. An ever changing canvas on display for all who bother to notice it. And besides, we're a tough lot. Ask anyone who lives in Chicago about the weather and they'll complain but then chortle and jovially say, "eh, whaddaya gonna do? It's Chicago in winter. We can take it."

It's also easy to point a finger at the large Irish population of Chicago. There's an adage that the Irish own the rights on misery. I'm not sure I agree with that. I've met some happy Irish people, I know they exist, I've seen them drinking and having a good time...but...then again...

Have you read Eric Weiner’s Geography of Bliss? If not, I recommend it. Mr. Weiner did something I have long wanted to do. He studied the study of happiness and wrote about it. Yes, he beat me to my idea for a book. But the subject was in good, more capable hands than mine so no hard feelings.

And my idea was less ambitious. I’ve been intrigued by Iceland since I was a kid. At first it was due to my Viking heritage. My ancestors are Norwegian, but much of my family had nomadic Vikings who fell off the family tree after setting off for parts unknown, a little raping and pillaging presumably, and never returned. (It’s surprising my family survived all these centuries and that I’m even here to tell the genetic tale.) Some of my dad’s people didn’t tend to stay put in one place long enough to put down any real roots, much less a family tree. Many of my Norwegian grandmother’s ancestors found their way to Iceland. I have family – cousins many times removed, I suppose – in Iceland.

This is a strange and rarely spoken aspect of my family that has been a lifelong source of awe, confusion and wonder to me. Ever since I found out my grandmother had relatives in Iceland I’ve felt sort of, well, connected to Iceland. When someone says Iceland I smile, raising a metaphoric toast to "my" people. I've always presumed that had I been been born a few generations earlier I would have been one of the quirky ones who set off for Iceland rather than keeping the home fires of the Fjord village burning or off raping and pillaging around the globe. In my imagination Iceland was/is a sort of artist's colony for all the Vikings who didn't ascribe to the raping and pillaging. The reverse of Australia - a non-penal colony.

Out there, up there, somewhere in that odd, folkloric, quiet, quirky, cold country, I have relatives. Actual people related to me. Just a few generations separate me from the land of ice and snow.

Which, I suspect, explains a heck of a lot about me. It’s either the reason or the excuse. Either way I devour any tidbit of information about Iceland and/or its people. And one factoid that is repeated over and over, year after year, survey after survey, is that Icelanders are content, happy people.

I find this endlessly fascinating. They’re not particularly wealthy, religious, populous, prosperous or healthy and they spend most of the year either without sunlight or with no darkness. I cannot even imagine how messed up their circadian clocks must be. And of course there’s the ice and snow.

And yet, survey after survey, year after year, they rank tops in the happiness index. They’re content. My research project, my book, would have been more limited in scope than Eric Weiner’s. My book would have explored Iceland and what the heck is going on up there that makes those people so darned happy. I’m certain Geography of Bliss is a far more interesting and thorough discourse on the global pursuit of happiness than my musings on Iceland.

Eric Weiner traveled around the world to the reputedly happiest and unhappiest countries of the world, met the natives, walked among them and reported his findings in his book. It’s a humorous, insightful and interesting read.

But.

He missed a crucial stop on his pursuit of unhappiness. Oh sure, he went to Moldova, the unhappiest country on the planet and, which, by his account, is as bleak and horrendous as we all assume it is.

Thanks, Eric, for traveling to Moldova so we don’t have to.

But dude, if you want a taste of misery right here in America come spend some time in Chicago. Much of the misery of Moldova without the soviet-based history of repression! And the special and unique joys of O'Hare, to boot!!!

To quote Eric Weiner on his initial reaction to Moldova “…the city looks pleasant enough. The streets are tree lined and while the cars—and the people—look like they could use a good scrubbing, I see no overt signs of misery.”

Moldova, Chicago. Tomato, tomahto.

We do have pretty tree-lined streets in Chicago. And generally we look pleasant if not a little, well, rough around the edges. Most visitors assume our scraggly edges have something to do with the long, cold winters, the wind off the Lake and the history of industry and stockyards. Visitors think it makes us “real.” Grit equals real. And, to be fair, that is one of the things that attracted me to Chicago. Rough-edged. Industrial. Gritty. Real. Not phony and plastic like LA. Not uptight and pretentious like New York. But a place where a girl can see a decent live band any night of the week, take in a gallery opening and get a decent meal. And enjoy the Lake.

Eric Weiner soon scratched the surface of Moldova and found Moldova to be rough deeper than just around the edges.

Horrendously crowded buses full crammed with sweaty passengers and no window ventilation. Moldova: Check. Chicago: Check. Mr. Weiner’s report on a ventilation-less bus trip to the country on a Moldova bus resonated with me.

Ironically, I read Weiner's bus trip account (when I was still employed) on my morning commute to work on an “express” bus. It was a hot July morning. Even though I boarded the bus near the start of the route, I (and other commuters) waited so long for a bus that even at the fourth stop on the route it was already so crowded that there were no seats and standing room was limited. The air conditioning was, as usual, not working and the windows were stuck shut. I think you can imagine the sweat and stench. Eric Weiner’s bus trip put him face to chest with a sweaty exposed breast. My morning commute put my butt smack in the crotch of a man. As the bus jerked and bounced along I got a pretty good assessment of the man’s family jewels. Normally I wait several dates for that kind of information but on my daily commutes I was privy to some very, very intimate physical details of complete strangers thanks to being wedged, sardine like, on overcrowded unventilated buses.

Breast? Pffft, if it’s sweaty boobs you want I’ve seen more sweaty boobs on my bus commutes than most regulars at Florida strip clubs see in a lifetime. If overcrowded, hot unventilated buses with exposed sweaty boobs (and penises! We have penises and casual accidental anal foreplay!) makes for unhappiness, Chicago’s got the unhappiness thing in the bag.

In talking about the pervading beaten-down attitude in Moldova, Weiner cites Martin Seligman’s research in positive reinforcement. Weiner analogizes that Moldovans have been beaten down so badly, like dogs in Seligman’s research, that they have learned to be helpless.

This is exactly, and I mean exactly, Seligman citation and all, how I explain to non-Chicagoans why and how Daley et all get re-elected. “We” know they’re corrupt, we know there are alternatives, and sadly, we know it doesn’t have to be this way. And yet…here we are. Daley is in his 20th year as Mayor.

Moldova is unhappy due in large part to a serious economic downturn brought on by treacherous politics. Treacherous politics: Moldova: Check. Chicago: Check. Eric Weiner, I’ll see your post-Khrushchev Soviet unrest and economic decline and raise you a deeply entrenched legacy of power, corruption, lies and taxation without representation. Khrushchev? Gorbachev? Pfft. Thay ain’t got nothin’ on Daley. Rostenkowski. (George) Ryan. Blagojevich. I can go on, if you like. But you can just pick up any random copy of a newspaper from the past 100 years to read about what passes for democracy in Chicago.

Religion. Ahhh. Now. See. Here’s where I think Chicago sets itself apart from Moldova. And where Eric Weiner missed the boat on misery. Moldova is a new country. They have freedom of religion. And…they don’t really have religion.

To me that’s true religious freedom. Think what you want, believe what you want, anything, everything, nothing, whatever. Sort it out between yourself and the universe, a god or gods or nothing at all. Personal spirituality, or lack thereof, and a lack of recognized organized religion is true religious freedom. You like the Pope? Okay, go along and get together with other papalites. Not big on Jesus but dig that crazy Red Sea scene? Go ahead and get together with other Jews. Got a thing for acceptance and zen states? Rub the Buddha’s belly.

Whatever. But don’t expect a tax shelter, preferential treatment or exception because you have a group of spiritually like-minded friends and a house of worship.

Okay. Here we go. This is gonna take a while. I have issues. Experiences. Opinions. Some resentment. A feminist streak and a high horse.

I am not Irish, Polish or Catholic. And yes, yes there are plenty of native Chicagoans who are not Irish, Polish or Catholic.

But. My experience since moving here, really living here, in the city, walking among the natives, working side-by-side with them, is that, if, at the very least, you are not Catholic and a member of a parish you will always be “apart.” An outsider.

I’ve made serious and real effort to befriend native Chicagoans. I know and socialize with a few. But. The good friends I’ve made here, the people I’ve really clicked with and formed solid, substantial relationships with are not from here.

Yes. None of my best friends are native Chicagoans. In fact I’d be hard-pressed to name a true friend who is a Chicago native.

I didn’t realize this until someone (from North Carolina) pointed it out to me. “If you’re not from here, native, and not Catholic, all the Cubs and Bears games, all the Vienna Beef hot dogs and Goose Island beers, all the Polaski Day parades and Venetian Nights will never change that,” he exclaimed to me.

“Nah, that’s not true. Not really. I mean, well, it can’t be true, right?” I said, trailing, realizing he might be onto something.

“Think about your friends and coworkers. Who among them are from here and among those how many are you on terms beyond polite conversation?”

I did a quick real and searching inventory of the people I know in Chicago.

Crap.

He was right. I had coworkers and work associates from Chicago but our relationships were confined to work and conversations rarely extended beyond that cordial confine. The people I considered friends, the people with whom I shared common interests and outlooks, morals and expectations, were, without exception, not originally from Chicago.

To punctuate his point my North Carolina friend took a survey at the bar where we happened to be enjoying libations and live music. “Where are you from originally?” he asked our fellow bar stool and booze compadres. I expected the “North Side/West Side” responses along with a Midwestern stew of Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio, the typical locales of origin of many of the people I meet in Chicago. (Hoosiers, for some reason, sometimes cross the border to work in Chicago, but I seldom meet them out and about, socializing, doing things other than work, in Chicago. I have theories and opinions about this but that’s a blog for another day.) The answers to my friend’s query were varied: “Dallas.” “Minneapolis area.” “Upstate New York” “Green Bay” “Alexandria, Virginia.” “Barcelona, Spain” “Oakland, California.” “Lansing, Michigan.” “Grand Rapids, Michigan” (they were a couple, a Michigan couple) “Tampa, Florida” “Akron, Ohio” And so it went. As the night progressed he asked other patrons around the bar about their place of origin. Coast-to-coast and everywhere in-between plus a few Canadians and Europeans and three university students from Tokyo. The bartenders? Detroit and Fargo. There were three bands playing that night. Hailing from Boston, Phoenix and Newcastle, England.

There we were, a random night in a random small neighborhood bar in the city of Chicago and not a native Chicagoan among us. Sure, the data is skewed to the draw of that particular bar in that particular neighborhood. Down in a bar in Bridgeport the responses to that question would have undoubtedly been different. There, the more pertinent question would not be where you’re from originally, but what parish you call yours.

This is either the really great thing about Chicago or a telling indication of the divisiveness, the line of demarcation between natives and non-natives. Chicagoans, natives, are friendly to a point but if you want real acceptance it will help, greatly, if you are Irish, Polish and/or Catholic.

When I first moved to Chicago and started my first job in Chicago, my department manager, in an effort to help me “adjust” offered to help me “get situated” in a church. The assumption was that I was a) religious and b) Catholic. I politely declined her offers, not mentioning my religious beliefs, or non-beliefs, wanting to keep a solid, clear line between work and religion.

She pressed this issue.

After a few weeks of conversations in the break room it became clear I was going to have to give up at least some personal religious information to my work superior or deal with these endless offers of church-related events.

When I told her I wasn’t Catholic she was visibly surprised, flustered. She seemed confused. An educated white girl from a good home who’s not Catholic? How can this be? After a few moments of firing synapses and new information processing she had a “Eureka” look. “Oh! Trillian, I didn't know you're Jewish!!!”

She whispergasped the word Jewish. The implication was four-fold. a) Being Jewish is shock and whisper worthy; b) she viewed being Jewish as only slightly less troublesome than Leprosy; c) if you’re a white educated professional and you’re not Catholic then you must be Jewish; d) I was an anomaly and suspect.

My beliefs, my spirituality, weren’t like hers, I dared to pray to a God without a Papal conduit. (The concept of not praying to any supreme deity was and is way, way, way beyond her realm of comprehension – at least in regards to people with whom I worked. There may be non-believers, heathens, out there, but not in here, not in my office.)

After that I discovered that many of my coworkers were chummy with people who prayed together in the same parish. They played on sports leagues, competing against each other in friendly parish competitions. They attended beer and bingo nights in the rec centers of their churches.

I’m not knocking this, coming together with like-minded individuals for worship and fellowship is cool. Religious beliefs notwithstanding I think it’s a great thing, fellowship. I have warm fuzzy memories and feelings about the fellowship of friends in the church in which I was raised.

But what I’ve learned about Chicago is that religious fellowship in and among Catholic parishes is what passes for “community” to Chicago natives.

I’ve learned to speak Chicago like a native so I’ll translate for you. When those of us not from Chicago hear the phrase “upstanding member of the community” or “deeply involved in community work” we think about the lady who teaches reading to dyslexic kids at the library and the people at the Elks Club who clean up the park every Spring, or maybe the school’s athletic boosters or the people who organize the annual Toys for Tots charity drive.

Not so in Chicago. “Community” means something entirely different in Chicago.

In Chicago the phrases “In the community” or “service to the community” or “an upstanding member of the community” means: A member of a Catholic parish.

I hear people talk about others with reverence, “Oh, he’s a great guy, very active in the community.” “She’s very involved, a real asset to the community,” these phrases often translate to: Beer and bingo night regular or K of C pancake supper worker. “Being ostracized from the community” often translates thusly: Someone did something to someone or didn’t help someone, do a “favor” for someone, from their parish. If you are not a member of a local parish, or, gasp, not even Catholic, you are, quite simply, not a member of the community.

Yes, I’m of course generalizing. Not all Chicago natives have this mentality. Not all Chicago natives are Catholic.

But. I beseech thee: Spend a few months in Chicago, ask a few questions, and get back to me on this.

During my residence in Chicago I have frequented a number of drinking establishments, most of them locally owned neighborhood joints. I have borne witness many, many times to representatives, men of the local parish cloth, coming into the bar and passing around a can for donations to the church.

On the one hand this is quaint, kind of cute in a “throwback to the 18th century” kind of way.

On the other hand, what the…???

Worse than the fact that this happens is that the fact that the father (priest, sub-priest, priest in training, minion, whatever) greets the patrons he knows – presumably from his parish church around the corner – smiles beatifically, shakes hands, tells a joke or two, and gets these people to part with cash – cold, hard cash. Guilts them into it.

Freedom of religion isn’t free. And, then, then, he is always, without fail, given a free beer, or two.

Yes. A priest walks into a bar… targets his parishioners, guilts them into a donation and then he gets a free beer or two. I’m sure this seems bizarre to me because I’m not only not Catholic, not even religious, but also because I am not a native Chicagoan. People, natives of Chicago, tell me this is normal to them and they’ve never given it any thought. Further, they think it’s weird that I think it’s weird. Seligman’s dogs. Learned helplessness. And a heavy dose of Catholic guilt.

I don’t think my lack of “community” involvement (re: Catholic parish membership) had anything to do with my being laid-off, but, I do think it would have helped if I was part of my department manager’s parish, or any parish for that matter. When making The List, the decisions about who would go and who would remain employed, I have no doubt that an employee who kneels a few pews away from the boss has a greater chance of remaining employed. If for no other reason than social comfort. It would be awkward, to say the least, to have to attend mass with a person you’ve just laid-off. There might even have to be some sort of confession. I don’t how that works, what constitutes a sin in the social game of a parish. Better to just avoid the whole thing altogether and lay off the employees who have nothing to do with your church, or, better still, your religion. If your parish priest would frown upon not doing a favor for a fellow parishioner certainly the Pope would be against it, too.

I would be remiss to not mention the other "issue" in Chicago. It goes hand-in-hand with the religious issue. It's not PC to discuss this. I don't like to admit it because it embarrasses me. And there's nothing I can do about it. I have tried. But. I have been told, repeatedly, that the mere tone of my skin negates my well-intentioned attempts.

Wait.

Did she just allude to racial discord? Really? Oh no she din't.

Oh yes, she did.

I was warned. Some of my friends told me of some hard-to-swallow realities of life in Chicago before I moved here. It went deeper than friendly North-side South-side rivalry.

Chicago is one of, if not the most, racially segregated cities I know of. It's disturbing, weird and uncomfortable for me. I wasn't raised like this. I'm not that kind of person. I don't like to associate with that kind of people - people who assign barriers and borders.

I live my life looking at others in a state of color blindness. I have been told my view is unrealistic, ignorant and even offensive. I was never told that until I moved to Chicago. I have been shocked, appalled and confused by a lot of what happens in this city, especially politically. But. Worse than Daley's dictatorial regime is the unfortunately unspoken issue which is clearly the source of many of the problems and unhappiness. Unspoken "rules" about who lives where, who drinks where, who goes to church where.

Rules based on skin color. I didn't fully understand the rules when I moved here. I went to some neighborhoods and a few bars which were against the rules for me. I didn't realize I was such a renegade rule breaker until after the fact when I mentioned my forays to other people.

"Oh. My. God. You went there??? Down there??? Trillian, you should never go there."

"Why? Have you been there? They have a great house band."

"No, I've never been there. I don't go there. 'We' don't belong there, Trillian, you need to be more careful. Something will happen to you if you keep hanging out there."

Ironically, something did happen to me - four times, in fact - but in every case "something bad" happened to me in "my" part of town.

The religious issue is dovetailed into the segregation issue. That Catholic parish thing I was talking about? Yeah. Well. I've never been a black Baptist or Islamic, so I can't speak with any authority. But. My observation is that those who worship in those churches face even more suspicion and confusion than I do when it comes to this branding and socializing-by-religion in Chicago.

One of my non-native Chicago friends summed it up succinctly: "Trillian, at least you're white, to the casual observer you could pass for Irish Catholic. (My Scottish Protestant grandparents rolled in their grave over that comment.) Unless you start spouting off about the Catholic church no one would ever know you aren't part of the Chicago Papal Brigade." That friend happens to be black. And raised in the Catholic church. Even went to Catholic schools. But after she transferred to Chicago for a job she had difficulty finding a Catholic church where she felt welcomed. She felt judged the second she walked in the door. Oh. And. She dared to live on the North side. I know. She's as rebellious as me. That's why we got along so well. She left Chicago, though, after three years because of another job transfer. But she was ready to leave. She said she never fit in here and didn't like the racial tension. The only friends she made were people who, you guessed it, weren't from here.

United Center is the embodiment of a city trying very hard to assuage guilt and come together in harmony. It's used for basketball and hockey games. Ebony and ivory. Oh, wipe that look of incredulity off your face. Yes, I said it. Out loud. I've been to Bulls games and I've been to Blackhawks games. The racial demographic split is exactly what you probably expect. I'm not condoning the racial split - in athletics or fans. It bothers me. A lot. Seeing the demographic differences at events at United Center is a harsh slap in the face with racial reality. But I choose to look upon United Center as ebony and ivory. It's named for its corporate sponsor, United Airlines, but I like the double entendre of it's name. United center. United. Center. A center united. Two sports with very different fans can coexist in harmony under the same roof. But it disturbs and confuses me that it doesn't extend beyond the United Center. Why isn't Chicago, the whole city, a united center?

It makes me very, very, very unhappy.

And that music scene? Very telling.

The rule of thumb is that you can learn everything you need to know about a people by listening to their music and eating their food. Chicago is home to some good local music. And there are great bars and clubs aplenty to see touring acts of any music genre that strikes your fancy.

But what sort of music is spawned by Chicago people? The gag worthy smarmy lameness of Styx, Earth, Wind and Fire, Chicago and REO Speedwagon in the '70s gave surprising way to a flicker of interesting but angry industrialism in the '80s with Ministry, Jesus Lizard, Urge Overkill and Thrill Kill Kult...and then the '90s with Smashing Pumpkins out there giving Chicago some rock cred ("we have hardcore drugs and musicians who use them here in the Midwest, too!"), and now we have Kanye West juxtaposed against the sweet earnestness of Plain White Ts and those cheeky boys of OK Go are loads of fun here in the new millennium. (Which epitomizes the divide in Chicago. Kanye and Plain White Ts would be an, un, interesting double bill.)

And let's talk about Wilco, shall we? They keep plodding along, giving us interesting, albeit somber music to salve our unhappy hearts. The Wilco boys aren't native Chicagoans, which, I think, is why so many people in Chicago don't seem to realize or care about the great talent right in front of their ears in the form of Wilco. They keep writing great music and no one in their own backyards seems to notice. There's a sense of yearning and longing in a lot (all?) of their songs. They sing about struggling with relationships but to my ears they could be singing about the city, outsiders trying to fit in. "We're Just Friends" sums up my feelings about Chicago. Sad, melancholy longing for more but accepting that, well, we're just friends. And Wilco tries, oh how they try, to make the relationship with Chicago work - listen to "How to Fight Loneliness" all the way through. If you can manage to do it without prozac, booze or a suicide attempt you are sad enough to be strong enough to be a Chicagoan. I love Wilco, I truly do, I highly endorse seeing them live if you have the chance, but, they're not exactly churning out chirpy feel good hits. Even their uptempo songs are laden with sadly poetic lyrics - music to slit your wrists by...They provide a thoughtful, introspective, beaten-down-but-dealing-with-it soundtrack for an unhappy city. And the only people in the city who seem to notice are those of us who aren't native.

But what music consistently churns out of Chicago? Blues. Oh sure, Memphis, Detroit and New Orleans do a bang up job at giving us great blues. But. Chicago has blues because Chicago has the blues. Because we're blue, unhappy. Music as catharsis spawns blues here in Chicago. The Blues Brothers is set in Chicago, for crying out loud. Which also illustrates the weird juxtaposition of sadness and humor. Laughing through the sadness. Beaten down but coping with humor. That's so Chicago.

I don’t hate Chicago. I don’t blame Chicago for my lack of contentment. Mine is a love-hate relationship. First and foremost I have to be near water, and lots of it. Lake Michigan, check. Then, I was lured by a job opportunity, a couple friends who moved here, a decent live music scene, a relatively inexpensive cost of living and some pleasant childhood memories of visits to Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago was where I first fell in love with Henry Moore and Chagall and stood slack jawed and awed by Seraut. The wonders of King Tut and mysteries of Native Americans were first revealed to me in Chicago. Were it not for the Museum of Science Industry I would still be clueless about what it’s like down in a coal mine. (And every time there’s a trapped coal miner situation or tragedy I think about that coal mine exhibit, shudder and shed some tears.)

One of my earliest memories is riding to the top of the Sears Tower, zooming Heavenward on an elevator, my little toddler hand firmly, safely in my dad’s strong hand. “Here we go, scout, half way to the moon!” he said excitedly.

When we got off the elevator and made our way to the windows, all 110 stories above the ground, I got my first sense of just how the big the world really is. I vividly remember being simultaneously curious and petrified. I stood in front of the window, my dad pointing to a spot on the horizon he claimed was Michigan. My grandfather had recently died. We were returning home from his funeral in Minnesota. Death was a new concept to me. While peering out of the Sears Tower window I asked my dad if we were close enough to Heaven to say hi to Grandpa and wondered if he could introduce us to Jesus. (I was still devoutly religious back then. Like, seriously religious. I was a disturbingly precociously religious kid. Blog for another day.) My dad said he didn’t know.

Back then I thought my dad knew everything. He was the font of all scientific knowledge. He could fix anything. He knew about all kinds of music. And yet, there we were, perched on the precipice of the Universe and didn’t know if we were close enough to Heaven to meet Jesus.

I was confused. I wasn’t sure if he didn’t know if we were close enough to Heaven or if my grandfather would be able to introduce us to Jesus. Somehow I instinctively knew to not push the issue. Instead of pressing him for information like I usually did I let the subject drop.

I remember this because it was the first time I remember my dad not being able to explain something to me.

I was scared of the enormity of the world right there in front of me with nothing but a piece of glass separating me from it. I wouldn’t let go of my dad’s hand for hours after we made our descent back to the streets of Chicago. I didn’t understand gravity, but I understood the gravity of the situation of life. Overtaken by the enormity of the Universe on display out the windows of the Sears Tower, I suddenly realized my dad wouldn’t be able to answer all my questions about the world.

But he was big and strong enough to keep me from falling off it.

Yep. That all happened in Chicago.

As a young creative professional there were opportunities here in Chicago. And there was the Lake and architecture.

I stayed for the Lake. My job has now ended, the live music scene ain’t what it used to be, and I triple dog dare you to find a safe, non-roach infested apartment in the city limits where you can actually fit a bed and a couch and cook a meal in a real kitchen and then eat it on a table for less than $900. Much of the architecture I loved is still standing but since I moved here the new architecture lacks…something. A bite. The world class “oh wow”ness of the the past. If that darned spiral ever gets built I’ll rescind my opinion, but with each demolished Sullivan building replaced by a generic condo 6 flat I weep for Chicago’s former architectural cred.

Ditto the restaurants. Okay. Yes. We still have some good eats. No doubt about that. Name a cuisine, any cuisine, and not only will you find it in Chicago, but you’ll probably find some of the best tasting examples of that cuisine you’ve ever had. It is quite meat-centric, but, in the years I’ve lived here I’ve found most restaurants, from top tier to hole-in-the-wall, very accommodating, amicably so, to my non-animal preference. Chicago is a meat-and-potatoes (and foie gras) kind of place, to be sure, and I worried about that when I contemplated the move here. Meat, and the meat trade, are entrenched here with a long history. The stockyards, for crying out loud. Foi-grasgate, for crying out loud. But Most of us who live here can’t afford to eat at the renowned restaurants*.

Eric Weiner quotes his Moldovan visit coordinator when he attempts to explain the unhappiness in Moldova: “We have no money for the life,” she said, alluding to the poverty of the citizens of Moldova. Guess what? Many, most, of us who live in Chicago have no money for the life. We cannot afford the nifty aspects of the city that attract and impress tourists. Those museums I mentioned? Ha. $18 for entry into the Art Institute, another $10 - $20 if you want to see a special exhibit. Science and Industry? $13 but bring an extra $20 - $30 if you want to see anything other than the permanent exhibits. (though $7 gets you a tour of the U505 Nazi sub, no discount for seniors) I love the Shedd Aquarium and the new Oceanarium rocks, but save your sand dollars because you’ll need to cough up $24.95 to get in the front door. Sure, there are discount passes and free days, but they’re during the work-week so you have to take a day off work to enjoy a discounted ticket price. Let’s face it, most of us who live here have no money for the life. I’m “lucky.” I’m unemployed, now, so I have all the week-days in the world to enjoy free admission days. Rock on, an actual benefit to being unemployed!!!

Speaking of unemployment, Chicago’s unemployment figure is reported at 10.4%. As a frame of reference, Detroit’s is 15.2%. The national rate is 7.5% - 8.7% depending on what you read and who you believe. Chicago isn’t as bad as Detroit in terms of unemployment, but it’s above the national average. And that’s all I need to say about that. You’re smart, you can do the math and draw conclusions.

And then there’s the matter of tax. Income tax, property tax and the highest sales tax in the country. Oh. And. Bottled water tax. And take-out food container tax.

Crime. Lots and lots and lots of crime. I’m a smart, savvy, world traveled and street smart woman with 5’11” of height on my side and yet I’ve been mugged four times in Chicago. In daylight, in “safe” neighborhoods. I’ve been in Detroit, at night, on numerous occasions and never, ever been mugged there. I have to mention this because I get a lot of ribbing about the crime in Detroit. And Devil’s Night. I know I’m “lucky” nothing has ever happened to me in Detroit. But. I do find it interesting that I’ve been mugged, assaulted, beaten in good neighborhoods in Chicago, in daylight, but never had anything happen to me late at night in Detroit. I’m just sayin’…

You may have heard about the recent beating of a high school student on his way home from school. Deplorable. Shudderific tragedy. And gangs? Oh do we have gangs. The big ones, the violent, shoot to kill kinds of gangs. Oh. And. Drew Peterson. We have Drew Peterson. Though Drew is suburbanite so, you know, he doesn’t really count in the Chicago unhappiness rating.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Geesh, Trill, it sounds like you’re miserable in Chicago, really unhappy, and now that you’ve lost your job there’s nothing keeping you there. You should just leave.”

You’re right. I should, I guess. And that is something I’m contemplating, seriously contemplating. The problem is that I don’t know where to go. I don’t know where I belong. (A pondering that Eric Weiner addresses in his book. Where do we go to be happy?) But I do know that my beloved Lake is right smack in front of me, right there, rightthere, day and night, glorious sunrise to glorious sunrise, it’s there. And the little dive bars with friendly bartenders and great live music are perched there on the shores, and, even though I can’t afford to attend on a regular basis, the museums are there. And the rough, gritty, weary, edge borne of corrupt politics, high taxes and long, cold winters is, well, comforting to me. I’m tough enough to take it, mad and miserable about it, but so is everyone else, here.

I don’t fit in, I don’t really belong here, and yet, that fact makes me fit in, helps me belong to the non-Catholic, non-native tax-paying Chicago resident contingent.

Being an outsider helps me fit in. I love the perverse irony in that. Based on Weiner’s experiences, that seems very Moldovan. Not that I aspire to be like the people in the unhappiest country in the world, but, I am unhappy so why not be in the unhappiest city in America? At least I fit in. Until I can make my way to Iceland or discover where I belong, I can be miserable in Chicago with all the other unhappy people in Chicago with Wilco crooning our melancholy soundtrack.

Oh. And. I think you can guess where I stand on the 2016 Olympics. The deficit ticker on Chicagoansforrio.com says all that needs to be said. Love, love, love this site for how most of the people in Chicago I know really feel about 2016. Viva Rio!!! Here's hoping.



*notable exception: Sombreros off to Rick Bayliss who does a swell job of offering affordable top tier cuisine. I like Rick. Rick rocks. More often than not he’s behind the grill or out talking to the patrons in his restaurants – and not just the fancy schmancy Topolobompo diners. The few times I’ve Rick he seemed like a sincere, unassuming regular guy, a nice guy. Pretty much like he is on TV. I like him. You would, too.)

11:25 PM

 
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