We'll Take a Cup of Kindness Yet

Trying to come up with the last thing I will write this year feels incredibly daunting. My instinct is that it should be epic, encapsulate the last 12 months perfectly, and set forth some sort of hope or premonition for the coming year. If I have learned one thing in 2010, and luckily I have learned more than one thing, it's to stop putting undue pressure on myself. If there's one person in the world who should take it easy on me, it's myself. Duh. 

I do know that this last week of this month, last of the year, has been been a whirlwind of somehow talking to or seeing many of my favorite people and doing many of my favorite things. Either 2010 is really trying to turn it around, or 2011 is going to be so incredible that it is leaking into the past year. I like the latter. It is a courteous question leading up the December 31st, to ask people what their plans for New Year's Eve will entail. In doing so I am reminded that I might be the only person I know who considers this their favorite holiday. I love it for three reasons: the countdown fills me with such anticipation that when everyone yells, "Happy New Year!" I tear up with joy. This has been my reaction since childhood and I'm so grateful I haven't lost it yet. Also, the song, "Auld Lang Syne," to hear everyone sing, or at least listen to, a Robert Burns poem set to music is almost too much for my nerdy self to bear. Third, but probably most importantly, is that it feels momentous if you let it, and I always let it. Try it, you'll like it. 

Happy New Year! 


Year On Fire

I used to think that my number one choice for a time travel make-out session would be Al Pacino from Godfather I or II (never III, don't even mention that it exists that's how terrible it was). But I've changed my mind and this video proves it. I realize that I have been mentioning Springsteen with what is now absurd frequency. But what's a girl to do, he has been slaying me lately, just absolutely killing it. 

On Tuesday I went to a party at my friend Sarah's house for the winter solstice. It was less hippie then it sounds, just a house full of ladies, sensible snacks, and bonfire at midnight to rid ourselves of the burdens that 2010 laid at our feet...actually that sounds incredibly hippie. Calling the party Burning Plan probably doesn't help de-hippie it either. Most people I know (definitely the women who showed up) have felt that 2010 was nothing to sneeze at. Burning Plan was a chance for us to purge all the shit we don't want to follow us into 2011, a chance to say our best intentions for the new year out loud to friends who will hold us accountable to a better self, a chance to drink a lot of tequila and laugh really, really hard. I grew up in a household of strong, funny, smart, amazing women and I am so thankful to keep discovering new communities of ladies who are impressive as hell. 


Putting the Ass in Class

My lesson about writing daily was not learned, clearly. New Year's resolution? I blame December! It's really snowing! I have a paper cut on a my space bar thumb!

A couple of weeks ago two of my friends were supposed to DJ at a bar near my house. I showed up like a trooper but due to some technical glitches they weren't going to go on for a while. The real cruncher was that I had just purchased a can of Tecate...but I did not open it. You get were I was going with this? I returned a can of Tecate to the bartender for a refund of $4. As I was walking home I sent a text to another friend who was going to meet me and that message ended with me speaking in the third person (something Meredith never does) "She keeps it classy." It of course cracked me up since I am retelling it, but since then it's been cropping up in my mind again and again because it really points out how unclassy I can keep it. 

Let me first disclaimer that I can keep it genuinely classy with some effort. I am excellent at getting dressed up for fancy things, I am super polite, parents love me, I have this French woman hang up about never letting anyone see me brush my hair or apply lipstick. Which brings me to another old French lady rule, I don't leave the house without lipstick, earrings, and Chanel perfume. I'm goddamn Edith Piaf when I want to be. But I also made fisting jokes at two separate, work-related, Hanukkah parties. I also called a fifty-something, widow from the suburbs, who might be my new interim boss "Dude." Then I told Dude a funny story about neck tattoos. I had a conversation about how choking on a piece of good salami wouldn't be the worst way to die, in fact it might be ideal. I instituted a rule at my ladies only Bloody Mary event that we can only listen to classic rock (predominately Bruce Springsteen). I was trying on new glasses and I said to the salesperson, "These make me look like Bruce Valanch." These are just the things I can remember, these are just from the last week. 

I don't know if there is a lesson to learn from all of this. Maybe the title of my blog really relates more to the fine line between being quirky and charming, and being a weird ladydude. 


How Do You Spell That?

It is a very slippery slope to take one day off from writing, suddenly four have gone by. Lesson learned maybe.

In my workplace right now approximately everyone except me is pregnant. The upside is the snacking, oh the ceaseless snacking. The downside is everything else. When someone rushes into your office and says, “I have amazing news!” I wouldn’t ask what that news is if I ever considered the answer would pertain to a mucus plug. The only appropriate response to that good tiding was to gag and promptly walk away. The other downside (again there are countless) is listening to horrifying details about pregnancy and birth while trying to eat lunch. I had to work hard to enjoy my Polish dill pickle soup from Kasia’s while hearing about clogged milk ducts. I will say that the lunch time discussion I have enjoyed has been about what to name all of these babies, even though no one ever likes my suggestions. I like old Jewish people names. I still maintain that Ida is lovely and I secretly wish that my nephew Isaac was Ira instead, I pushed really hard for that one, no pun intended.

It’s such a tricky thing to think of a name for a little human, and so important. Before I was born my parents were convinced that I was a boy. They had one boy name picked out, Evan, and strangely no back-up plan given the odds. It took them three days to think of a name which they did about two hours before they brought me home. I have heard some of these names and feel incredibly lucky to have left Bronson Hospital with Meredith Jane. Contenders were: Marijane (yes, really and spelled just like that), Daisy, Lucy, Dulcinea (from Don Quixote fame), and the real wild card was Kristen. I can only imagine how my life could potentially be different if I was Daisy or for god’s sake Dulcinea. People have a hard enough time understanding or spelling Meredith, it runs the gamut from Marydeth, to Beredith, to Matilda, to my personal favorite, Mames.

Another dilemma my co-workers are having when trying to think of names is that working at the JCC we become acquainted with 184 names a year and 184 little associations both good and bad. You might have loved the name Leo* for years and then he turns out to be the grossest kid in the school, game changer. It adds another twist to an already complicated decision. It is the name you will likely say the most out of any others, the name that will be associated with the most important person in your life. Make it good, and rethink your decision to name a child Wolfgang.

*I have actually had three Leos in classes and they have each been such a mensch. The truth is I have an Uncle Leo so that's why the name is off the table.


Roll Call

Winter in Chicago became a much more tolerable beast once I gave up good looking outerwear. I said it, my life improved markedly once I got a puffy coat, hunting hat, and sensible boots. Sure I miss my wearing my beautiful coats from France that don't look like a sleeping bag. Would I prefer to wear my Rachel Comey boots for four months instead of my faux fur lined Tretorns that make my feet look like they were transplanted from a Disney character? Indeed I would. For most of my life I have made fun of my practical, Midwestern mother for always choosing comfort over fashion and I still will, except when it's cold because I'm a real nanny goat about the cold. 

I don't like winter at all but what I do like is wintertime projects. So far for this winter I have this blog and soon I will have a podcast with two of the sassiest ladies I have met. There will banter and talk of music so I don't know how much better that could get. Last week I invited one of my oldest friends and his wife to dinner. His email response was one of the funniest, strangest, things I have ever read in a while. He clearly needs to be writing and so I proposed starting some new projects with him. I would like to extend that invitation to anyone I know, or don't know, looking for collaboration. Let's do something other than be outside for a while, the outfits and hot toddies are so much better indoors anyway. 


Good Thing He's Got That Face

Recently, as in a few hours ago, I thought that I really liked James Franco. This began with his role (mustache) in Milk. Then there was a great piece in the The New Yorker profiling his project with the MOCA and oddly "General Hospital."  He's a writer, good actor, his face is pretty, and he's a total weirdo. The theme of the day, nay, theme of my life is don't be surprised when a weirdo turns out to be weird. So I expected Franco to really bring some entertainment tonight when I watched his episode of "Inside the Actors' Studio." I was surprised to find that when he wasn't boring he was annoying. Even his answers to the ten Bernard Pivot questions asked by James Lipton were lame.* With every uninteresting answer he gave I thought about what would have been a better answer, and by that I mean mine. 

  1. What is your favorite word? Squishy
  2. What is your least favorite word? Pantyhose 
  3. What turns you on?  A sense of humor
  4. What turns you off? Insecurity and pessimism  
  5. What sound or noise do you love? Accordion music (yes, really)
  6. What sound or noise do you hate? Fingernails on denim
  7. What is your favorite curse word? Ass ___(I fill in the blank liberally i.e. clown, hat, face)
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Scandinavian fisherman, this may be due mostly to a love of the sea and bulky sweaters. 
  9. What profession would you not like to do? Taxidermist 
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?  Nicely played Adams! Then we would high five and go bowling with my grandmother. Apparently, in my mind God is The Dude. 
*He did give one, mildly funny answer to his favorite swear which was "shit burger." 


Animal Style

I found out this weekend that the creator of The Museum of Jurassic Technology (and MacArthur fellow) is an alumni at Kalamazoo College, my alma mater. This is interesting to me because a) K College is very small, around 1,200 students, and b) the Museum quickly became one of my favorite places in L.A. the last time I was there. I once heard it described as David Lynch in a box and that is the most accurate review I have heard. It is strange, beautiful, confusing, and easily a vacuum for hours and hours of your day. Also, it is next door to an In-N-Out Burger, a required stop every time I am in L.A. which is with some frequency since my oldest sister has lived there for more than a decade with her husband who is a native to the city. 

I have a very Sam and Diane relationship with the fair city of Los Angeles. I reluctantly love it but I also love to hate it. There's the architecture (it's generous to call it that) of strip malls and stucco. But then there is also the amazing weather. But ugh, the traffic and nothing can be done without hours in a car.  Oh, but the produce, seafood, the avocados alone could convert a Midwestern girl.  Let's not forget though that it is a sea of casual wear for a lady who doesn't own a sweatshirt: tank tops, Juicy sweat suits, and Jesus the amount of flip-flops. I increasingly love Chicago and each day it feels more and more like my city. That doesn't stop me from entertaining the idea of escaping my icy, 12 degree metropolis, to suck it up in L.A. for the number one reasons as seen below. 


Plus It Keeps Me Off the Bread Nachos

I had such good intentions about writing a post last night about how I've rekindled a romance with classic rock, instead I went to town on some bourbon at Big Star. There are some places that I visit religiously (see VFW) and Big Star over the last year has been a nearly weekly stop. Under special circumstances I was there five times in a week, it wasn't my fault but it also didn't trouble me. They have pork belly tacos that you can't get tired of, it's impossible. 

Here's the thing, I love avec, it can do no wrong. An English pea crostini once made my sister and me well up and that was just peas so you can imagine all the ways they can work meat. When The Publican opened with the general focus on the holy trinity (pork, oysters, and beer) I knew I would be spending some quality time in a wooden pen with Kumamoto oysters. As an added bonus they make the best Bloody Mary in city for Sunday brunch. But when I heard rumblings that Paul Kahan was going to add to his entourage with a taco and whiskey joint in my neighborhood all I could say was, "That's all I want in life." I might have even whispered it. If you know me at all then you know that isn't an exaggeration. If we are ranking top three best food categories, tacos, sandwiches, and pizza, they line up in that order for my affection. I would also like to clarify that I don't count hot dogs as a sandwich, if I did they would be in a dead heat with tacos.  Speaking of which you should have seen my reaction when Big Star added a hot dog to their menu, actually you should have seen me mashing my face into it, just boldly mashing.

A year has gone by since I first fell for Big Star. Sure we've had some rough nights together, nights were you wake up the next morning and you have cat food in your tights and beer in one cowboy boot, but we are still going strong fueled by a steady supply of bourbon and pork like an good love affair.


For the Record, Cathy Had a Dog

I have a cat named Birdie. If you don't know her then you will just have to trust me when I say that she is such a love, a real peach, and kind of magical. I will toot her horn and say that several times I have had people say that they don't like cats but they love Birdie. She's a heart breaker. She crawls under the covers to spoon with me before I get up in the morning. I could go on and on but there are certain lady stereotypes that I am trying to avoid, though clearly not trying very hard. 

Knock on wood twice but Birdie hasn't had any major illnesses, just some minor weird ones. There was a time when one eye would swell, then the next week the other eye would swell. This happened only on the weekend when her regular vet was closed of course. To this day my best guess is that she was napping with some spiders. Then she had to get some teeth taken out. The day after her surgery she was in the window, when I pulled back the curtain it was like she turned to face me in slow motion, revealing a weirdly swollen cheek and eye. I swear I heard organ music at that moment, it was very Phantom of the Opera. Most recently she had a bladder infection which while uncomfortable for her, it also cost an uncomfortable amount to treat. Two things about Birdie getting sick: I fear it constantly. I am a keen observer of her quirks and become very worried at any inconsistency. Thing two is that when it does happen or I think it's happening, I cry constantly. I cry when I realize she doesn't feel well, in the car on the way to the vet, in the exam room, and on the way home even after she's fine. It's super unhelpful. 

This morning I thought she was getting another bladder infection. Without going into detail just trust that I had my reasons to believe that was the case. I called the vet from work and then cried in my cubicle. I also cried a little while in my pilates class while doing some leg lifts. Hopefully no one noticed. When I got home from work I was still suspicious that she was ill. Finally, hours after I got home she peed normally and I cheered, I actually cheered. Which really illustrated how truly strange pet ownership can be. People (me) are wacky about their animals. Also, how would I ever manage having a child? I would probably have a minor stroke every time it barfed.