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Open Heart Chicago [Okt. 15., 2018|04:31 pm]
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Today was a profoundly stupid day. I didn't prepare training materials for my student and thought I'd just wing it. So of course they were shot through with problems. After I put him on a different project, I thought I'd ask a colleague about one of them. In asking another colleague where she sat, I confused her name with that of my boss and it was minutes of confusion before I figured out what I'd done. She wasn't there anyway and neither was anyone else who could've helped me.

Whatever, it's almost over. And Postillero is texting me again. The radio silence made me a bit melancholy but it turns out he was in Ireland. He's away in Mexico for half this week and into next so no tryst for ten days and it's making me so horny I actually tried to get in touch with Clueless Furball again, which went exactly as well as you would think. He really is spectacularly bad at basic communication, to a degree that makes me wonder how he made it this far.

Fortunately I anticipated that and took responsibility for my happiness entirely into my own hands yesterday. I did make it to Open House Chicago, though only after taking all Saturday off to recuperate from life. And I scowled the whole way down on the el, telling myself this had better be worth getting out of bed before noon for. Long story short, it was. I didn't see the most interesting sites (not without a membership or the sense to RSVP), but every place I went had something interesting about it.

Sometimes the most interesting bit was who I ended up talking to, like the earnest preservationist at the Cliff Dwellers or the hip young architect at Eastlake Studio or the guide-in-training at the Driehaus Museum. But the best--and least expected--conversation was the one I had at Tee Gschwender between 4 and 6 in the p.m. when, feeling achy and a bit dumb, I stopped in to refresh myself and ended up blathering away with a retired veteran, an aspiring social worker, and a baby dyke about to fly to Amsterdam.

So what did it matter ultimately that CF missed every hint I hurled at him to invite me over afterwards for bouncy fun times? I had a bemused waitress at Matsuya and my online posse to banter with instead. There was a lot of Monshu in my thoughts, of course, but also glimpses of the glittering potential of this city and my place in it.
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Blah [Okt. 12., 2018|10:36 am]
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Ugh. I just want to go home and curl up in a ball.

Normally that wouldn't be a problem. It's Friday, we don't have game tonight, I can push through the rest of the day and then retreat. Except that this weekend is Open House Chicago. Plus a guy I know in Madison wants to come down for a visit.

OHC is important enough to me that I scheduled my visit home around it. This year I vowed I'd buy a membership in order to use the express lines but I balked at the price yesterday when I finally got around to looking at the webpage and haven't joined even though Big Red is willing to go halfsies on a "dual" membership that would save us each 30%. I'd talked to the cute Egyptian architect I met in a bar about it months ago but now he seems less than enthusiastic about coordinating. Or am I just projecting? When I get like this, it's hard to tell.

The guy from Madison is a dowdy accountant who's a very sweet man but a bit of a drag. We ended up palling around a lot at HiBearNation last year because he came alone, too, and by the end of the weekend his low-key neediness was beginning to wear on me. I even ended up having sex with him the last night for the same dumb reason I always end up having sex with guys I'm not really interested in: because at the time it seems easier than not having sex.

So he'll want to do that again and if I'm not on guard I'll say yes--or rather, I won't say "no" because I hate making people feel bad. Which is exactly why I didn't say, "Don't come." I don't know why he chose this weekend; I don't think he's particularly interested in OHC but he'll do it if I am because he wants to spend time with me. I tried to dissuade him from coming down by being honest about my ennui but that didn't work. Maybe he just needs to experience me at my worst to learn when to stay away.
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Baggage [Okt. 11., 2018|02:26 pm]
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A couple more musings on the family visit:
  • I still wish I hadn't lost my shit with Crazy Brother for pestering me about coming to his ill-conceived game night. It did have one potential side benefit in that it happened in the car with Dad and Stepmom, so when I ranted about how stressful it is for me to come down and have to try to conform to everyone else's agenda without ever being allowed one of my own, even when my husband has just died, she heard every word. It's the closest I've ever gotten to letting her know how disappointed I was in her two years ago.
  • I'm still ambivalent about coming for Christmas. Being able to do exactly whatever the fuck I wanted to do on the 25th for pretty much the first time ever was so amazing that it's going to be hard to squeeze myself back into that box. But OGI asked me point blank "Are you coming for Christmas?" and since I'd already kinda decided to I said, "Yes" and now if I back out I'll be lying to my favourite nephew who's only 10 and that is just not my brand.
  • Speaking of the niblings, I was so shocked with how chunky AWI's gotten that I mentioned it to my mom and she dropped the bomb that he's now prediabetic. Sis brought it up, too, in the midst of cataloging her troubles, because of course she feels like a rotten mother and I'm not sure why that made me feel more of a stab of empathy for her than the other things. When I told Mom I was puzzled because that family eats pretty healthy she pointed out it's not what he eats but how much he eats. I confided in her that one of the main things keeping me fit is trying to make the boys happy but AWI shows all the interest in romance of a Weeping Angel, so that's probably out as a motivator.
  • United Provisions has gotten annoying. Since I was feeling punk on Sunday, I told Stepmom I just wanted some soup from the Bread Co. in the Loop. Except there's no Bread Co. in the Loop any more, so when pressed for an alternative, I ended up picking UP. They did have soup, but (a) you had to microwave it yourself and (b) there's no place in the store to sit and eat, so Dad and I ended up crouching in the entryway like bums to slurp our ramen. It was decent quality and their selection of foreign groceries is still ace but it's odd to see a high-end grocery move away from encouraging people to dine in and I hope it doesn't bode ill.
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The air underneath [Okt. 10., 2018|04:13 pm]

The visit home wasn't great and it wasn't terrible. The highlights were modest: chatting with Dad and Stepmom, helping AWI make profiteroles. So were the rough spots: losing my cool with Crazy Brother, feeling cruddy and getting stuck at the airport on my last day.

And then there's my conversation with my sister, which I'm not sure how to categorise.

She's never felt like our relationship has recovered from our big falling out around this time last year. I suppose she's right. The only way we could find time alone from the demands of her family to mend it was to "take a walk", but it was raining so we ended up sitting together on her front porch instead.

I felt oddly removed from the entire exchange. Not that I was emotionless but even my emotions occurred at a remove. I cried more than once but without any corresponding feeling of helplessness. It was like when you ejaculate without an orgasm. I felt relief afterwards but not profound relief, only reassurance in the knowledge of a task completed.

Maybe this is my psyche protecting itself by refusing to take the stakes seriously. I don't even remember most of what I said and I always remember what I said in exchanges like these. Last year's attempt was shot through with righteous fury, the cruel things I came out with are still clear in my mind. This time I only got angry once and it faded quickly.

It's a tough time for her. She longs to coast from crisis to crisis like she's been able to do before but this year it's just been one hit after another and she's trying to resign herself to that just being the way it is for a while. I don't know what it would to do to her if she discovered it wasn't temporary. I told her I'd support her as much as I can and hoped those words didn't ring hollow.
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Off we go [Okt. 4., 2018|01:34 pm]
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I wish I knew why my body hated traveling so much. I understand that hurtling through the atmosphere is unnatural and stressful but I've literally been doing it since I was an infant and you'd think I would have adapted to the point where I didn't suffer like this. But it still does and I feel awful on a day I should be feeling good.

After all, Postillero came over for fun times last night and everything went well. He wanted to try some light S&M so I tied him down; when I brought him off, he hit the wall. I'd call that a success, though I would like to chat a bit more about it later. I thought about mentioning to him beforehand that this would be the first time I'd be using the restraints with anyone but Monshu but I thought that might be offputting and if it did trigger an emotional overreaction then I could always explain at the time.

A lot of people seems to get a sounder night's sleep after sex. I typically don't. I usually ascribe that to having some weirdo in the bed, but Postillero never stays the night (pet allergies) and yet I still wake up at 3:15 in the goddamn a.m. so something else is going on. I didn't finish packing or preparing the house after he left so I did this morning, which made me late.

I also forgot something. I told myself that, worst case scenario, I could always leave work early and swing by the house instead of going directly to Midway. Then I told myself that, no, what would happen is that I'd forget something useful but not essential that wouldn't justify the detour. That thing ended up being zinc lozenges. I also forgot to check in for my damn flight until 5:30 in the morning so I'm in the last boarding group on a fairly full flight.

Whine, whine, whine. In short, it's been a string of small things that make me just want this day over with already. I'm really looking forward to being back in a proper bed reminiscing about last night and thinking about what else we might be able to try. It's interesting (and useful!) to already have such a trust level with someone I'm not crushed out on.
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Three decades by the Lake [Okt. 1., 2018|11:59 am]
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I wasn't able to determine the exact date of the 30th anniversary of my arrival in Chicago but today is a terminus ante quem making last weekend a very convincing candidate for Anniversary Observed. How did I celebrate? By doing some favourite things I could only do in Chicago with some favourite people who probably can't imagine living anywhere else.

[profile] princeofcairo and [profile] mollpeartree rescheduled our lunch date on Devon for Saturday. Accomplishing a single simple task at the post office took me half as long as expected (i.e. 20 minutes rather than 40) giving me a little time to kill at the resale shop while I waited for them to arrive from the South Side. They let me pick so I'd settled on Ghareed Nawaz, a 24-hour takeout place with minimal concessions to in-house dining.

I can't say what was the first restaurant I ever visited on Devon (probably an old standard like Tiffin or Viceroy) and I didn't eat at Ghareeb Nawaz until graduating. I remember that trip well: Brahman Bear brought me up to have a kurta made and this greasy spoon is where he demonstrated how to properly eat with your hands. Named after a prophet of Islam, it was whitewashed with green trim and a prayer room in the back. Samosas sat stacked on a paper plate on the counter and the clientele was overwhelmingly Pakistani cabbies.

The cabbies are still there, but they've been joined by Desi families and white gentrifiers like me. The samosas are in a proper glass display case but the chai is still self-serve from decanters next to the register. Menu choices have exploded but their prices made [profile] mollpeartree profess astonishment. And the white walls have given way to stone mosaic but I'm willing to bet there's still a prayer room in back.

After that, we made our usual circuit, stopping for cookies at Mughal Bakery and groceries at Patel Brothers. Sadly, one important stop is gone: India House Books is now a shuttered storefront and the doubling of Islamic bookstores can't begin to compensate for it. Viceroy is closed now, too, though the expanded building around it still bears its name. I disregarded my longstanding loyalty to King Sweets and went to corner rival Pak Sweets for habshi halwa and Kashmiri tea. (Sorry, King, but I'll be back.)

That night was my 30th high school reunion, but rather than spend it eating horrendously overpriced hors-d'œuvres in some suburban roadhouse I passed it 600 miles away joking around with my new neighbours on the back porch. They'd been burgled the day before but were already able to joke about it. With all that spice in my belly, I didn't dare drink, but I had a sip of Amaro Nonnino along with them just to be cordial. I begged off visiting Jackhammer afterwards.

As I was preparing to leave the house Saturday, Scruffy got in touch regarding an extra pass for the Chicago Expo at Navy Pier. He wasn't willing to put off going until I was finished playing the flâneur or to make a return trip, but he was gracious enough to stop by on Sunday morning and hand over his three-day passes. I couldn't find anyone to go with but I didn't try that hard. Honestly, after watching an LCD Soundsystem video which made me sob like a Supreme Court candidate, I wasn't sure I wanted to go.

But I pulled myself together and made the trek down. I suppose the rain showers kept tourists at bay because Navy Pier was much quieter than I remembered it--and the exhibition space was further from the entrance. It was well-attended but I was still able to move through the broad aisles fairly rapidly, following Monshu's methodology of making one quick complete pass and then returning to booths of particular interest.

In the end, one quick pass was enough. My pain medication was making me woozy and I was conscious of having to make it back home before the Cubs game ended. It's not that there wasn't plenty of good stuff to look at, but after an hour-and-a-half it was beginning to run together. I photographed a half-dozen pieces of particular interest for later posting and called it a day.

My most rewarding interaction came after being ambushed by Welsh. There was a booth in the middle of the north wall with a large sign displaying "YN YCHWANEGOL" in letters as large as "IN ADDITION" surrounded by the names of contemporary artists, one or two of which I sort of recognised. I went up to the staffer and said, "Ŷch chi'n siarad Cymraeg?"

He didn't; he was a Trentino who'd been hired to direct a publicly-funded gallery in Llandudno and he was happy to talk about it. I enjoyed listening to him present all of the pieces in turn even though none of them particularly interested me. When he asked about me, he offered me the option of being a collector or someone associated with the expo, so I chose collector; he gave me his card and tips on some other galleries to check out, none of which I remembered thirty seconds after leaving his booth.

Could dorky 18-year old me have conceived of one day being a confident settled urbanite offhandedly taxonomising Indian sweets and looking at $650 prints with something more than just casual interest? I think he could have. Prep school had already left me a completely different creature than I'd been at 14. Still there's a thrill to watching my oldest nephew (who I'll see this weekend) anxiously consider his college prospects and thinking, "You've come a long way, baby."
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Mój cyrk [Sep. 28., 2018|03:36 pm]
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I unwisely let myself get dragged into some family drama yesterday. My stepmom is out of town until tomorrow evening so Sis wanted Dad to come stay with her for two nights. He balked, so she went and stayed with him instead and then asked me to try to convince him to change his mind. That went about as well as any attempt to change Dad's mind has ever gone, viz. he told me I was pissing him off and ended the call. If I'd been a little less tired, maybe I'd've been able to softsoap him more, but I just don't have much patience for his shit. You can't remember what day it is and when your wife is getting back, but you'll know the day and hour when you can no longer take care of yourself without assistance. Okay, sure.

The thing is, I can understand his viewpoint: He would literally rather die than sacrifice an ounce of autonomy before it's absolutely necessary (and perhaps not even then). When Monshu was dying, it was of utmost importance to me that we did everything we could to respect his dignity and that meant leaving all important decisions to him. Of course, the difference there was that he was completely lucid literally until he drew his last breath whereas Dad has dementia. He hates it when we point that out (which is why the call ended how it did), but it complicates everything.

But as stubborn as Dad is, Sis matches him with her bossiness. It really is immovable object meets irresistible force. Both accuse of the other of ruining what time they have left together; both of them have a point. I'm content to let Dad enjoy his last days on his own terms; if that means he dies months before he would have otherwise, so be it. But Sis can't do that. It occurs to me now that when we were kids and we resented her for being his favourite, maybe what was really going on was that he was her favourite and he treated her so favourably because she was willing to go above and beyond what me and my brothers would to please him.

This may be my circus, but they are not my monkeys. Next time there's a clash, they can work it out without me; I don't think the ultimate result will be any different. I already wasn't looking forward to visiting next weekend, so much so that I was about to try putting it off for several more weeks. Instead I just want to get it over with. I promise I'd visit, so I'll visit, but then it's back to my real life here.
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Hump day [Sep. 27., 2018|12:05 pm]

There was an awkward moment in bed with Postillero last night. I'd been resting my head on his chest for a while, pondering at least three different conversational gambits before leading with "So, you want to make this a regular thing?"

His face turned worried and I thought I'd stepped in it again. "You know about S., right?"

I almost laughed. After all, I met him and his boyfriend as a couple and wasn't even sure initially if they played around. But I reassured him that I just meant meeting up every or ever other week for sex.

"Don't worry," I told him, "I won't make you put a label on this."

We're somewhere in the uncertain territory between fuckbuddies and FWBs. As I said, our first meeting was social. Since my attempts to add a social dimension to our trysts by having dinner together have failed (I've teased him about being a robot since he's never consumed more than a mouthful of food in front of me) I tried a different tack and invited him along to the Full Moon Fire Jam on Monday.

I was hoping his boyfriend would come, too, so I could get a better read on their relationship and because it would make Mozhu less of a third wheel, but he didn't. (Last night I learned that he's a flight attendant, which helps explain why Postillero has so many free evenings.) He was warm and agreeable but not especially flirty or cuddly, which was fine but a bit puzzling given how steamy our texts tend to be. Despite a moon that stayed well-hidden and an uncompromising onslaught of mosquitoes, he talked up the time he had to me later.

Honestly, he's so mellow and accommodating that it activates my insecurities. It's hard for me to tell what he really wants to do and what he goes along with just to please me--on the sheets and off. In the midst of his dogged attempts to bring me off, he finally cried out, "You're inhuman!" (When I brought it up later he claimed to be complimenting my endurance. "Nice save!" I shot back.) So if I didn't already have a complex about how long it takes me to finish, it's there now.

In any case, his reaction to my suggestion confirms the wisdom of not going with one of my other gambits, which was, "Do you think you might be polyamorous?" Because he's really down with making love as opposed to just getting off together. However he might have taken it as "We should have a relationship!" which isn't where I'm at and that could have spoiled everything.

(The third possible gambit was "We need to talk about health and safety." Which of course should have been hashed out earlier, but I'm still terrible about initiating these sorts of conversations. Maybe it will be easier via text? Or at some encountre that wasn't built around getting damp and sweaty?)
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Falling in [Sep. 24., 2018|12:22 pm]
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Saturday was just about the most perfect kickoff for fall that I could have imagined, but that was hardly obvious in the morning when my attempts to sleep in were frustrated by a dumptruck circling the block looking for spots to dump roll-offs. By the time I stumbled to the window, I saw one already in place in front of the house across the street. Thinking someone was renovating, I was baffled why it was already full and blocking a fireplug.

Then the truck returned with another roll-off that it attempted to leave in front of our building. The ex-prez beat me outside and had words with the driver which resulted in him moving on. Since I'd already thrown on pants, I crossed the street to photograph the dumpster by the hydrant and a resident called down to me from her apartment to say that she'd already called it in to the city but encouraged me to do the same.

I rang the non-emergency number but the operator said, "Do you want a police officer?" and I was like, "Sure!" After all, this wasn't a vulnerable individual, this was a for-profit company flagrantly violating the law. She said they'd send a cop, but I never saw one, just an SUV labeled "Finance Department". Coincidentally or not, the dumptruck returned shortly after to take away the offending slag.

At this point, I still had a couple hours before the organisers of the evening's outing were due to arrive but I was too wound up for sleep. They picked me up in the parking lot of the hardware store, collected three more bears from Rogers Park, and then struck out for the wilds of Lake County.

Despite growing up in the Midwest, I'd never been in a corn maze before. I thought it would be dull; it was not. It also wasn't much of a maze. I expected paths that were barely enough for two people to walk abreast but some were wider than a country road. We returned after sunset, but there was a nearly-full moon beneath a clear sky and it proved almost as easy as navigating in daylight.

The best part of the evening was the cookout. We hit a "Jewel's" on the edge of the city and loaded up with chips, dogs, and booze. I found out that Lily-of-the-Valley used to help out at his uncle's campground so we collaborated on keeping the fire going. Little Moose had a technique for making impromptu pigs-in-a-blanket using crescent roll dough that worked surprisingly well. And apple pie moonshine isn't at all gross.

The weather was perfect, but what really warmed me was the camaraderie. I felt like I was performing the best version of myself: amusing edging on entertainingly goofy without being obnoxious. In the conversation on the way home I was erudite without being overbearing and the day gave me chances to be supportive, cynical, and flirtatious in turn.

I can't wait to do it again next year.
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Swings and roundabouts [Sep. 21., 2018|10:53 am]
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All in all, prepping for the colonoscopy wasn't as bad as I expected. I started to worry a bit when felt heartburny drinking the polyethylene glycol because my antacids were contraindicated, but that went away on its own. If I had to do one thing different, I'd start drinking the PEG earlier because it took about five hours for it to really kick in, which kept me up well past midnight. I slept more than I thought I would which unfortunately meant a late start and getting stuck in traffic on Ashland. At least my Hyderabadi driver was fun to talk to, if a little conservative in his views.

It wasn't until I was on the gurney that I found out it wasn't either member of the Swedish Colon Mafia who would be performing the procedure but some associate of theirs I didn't know existed. I went ahead with it anyhow because I really didn't want to have to take another day off work, do the prep, and drag my ass clear across town, but it left me kind of pissed. I felt bad for the doc, but as I told him, if I was fine with any random qualified dude, I would have saved both money and trouble by taking my PCP's recommendation and staying in network.

I may have to do it again anyway, as it turns out, because he couldn't even make it to the ascending colon. Apparently there's a sharp turn from my descending to the transverse that he was having trouble getting the scope past; all I know is that I was experiencing considerable pain despite being hoped up on 5 mg of midazolam and 50 mcg of fentanyl. The staff was great for the most part (the nurse who prepped me said she could always tell what kind of day it would be from the first patient so after me she knew it would be a good one) but I could've done without the pushiness of the nurse in recovery.

Nuphy was there to help me collect myself. When we got back to his place, I crashed hard on his couch and he kept himself mouse-quiet until I woke up. My first meal was toasted English muffins with French butter and it was absolutely heavenly. I spent the next several hours battling falling back asleep (so as not to destroy my sleep schedule). My original plan had been to drag him to Chinatown with me for lunch/dinner and mooncakes but it was 33°C out and he couldn't be budged.

It's good that he couldn't be, because when I finally did reach Chinatown around 6 p.m., I learned to my unending dismay that Feida has stopped making mooncakes. I didn't quite understand the owner's explanation, but I think he said the margins didn't really justify it because of the array of competing imports. I consoled myself with a custard bun, which was as tasty as I remembered, and a "big bun", which was not. I remembered it being an amazing meal in a bun, but this was just a lump of meat with a morsel of hard-boiled egg; I threw out the half-stale bun and saved the rest for Kitty's dinner.

All the old places are changing or disappearing. On the way to Ichiban, I was startled to see a vacant lot where Three Happiness used to be. It's true (as Nuphy said when I messaged him) that its quality had been declining for ages; we hadn't been there for dim sum in a decade. But somehow I still expected the building to persist. I can't even imagine what's going to replace it. I was parched so I thought I'd swing by Saint's Alp for a refreshing drink only to find that it's gone, too.

At least Ichiban is still as I remember, even if it took me a while to find the candied olives and the kumquat is less tasty than I recall it being. There were a slew of colour-coded nougats, including one labeled "maca and almond", so I asked, "What's 'maca,?" and sent the staff scurrying to their phones. Apparently this is Lepidium meyenii a.k.a. "Peruvian ginseng" (also known to the Chinese as 印加蘿蔔 "Inca radish"). It wasn't unpleasant-tasting, thought I'm not sure I could pick it out again. I had them fill up a little bag for me, got a sugary freeze from Joy Yee, which I took to the top of one of the towers to watch the sunset. That was something of a bust (the sightlines just aren't that great from there) so I caught the train home and fixed some noodles for myself when I arrived.

Tiredness was catching up with me, but I wanted to push myself to stay up until at least 10 p.m. I got help from an unexpected quarter when one of the new neighbours knocked on the window so he could introduce me to his friend's cat. I'm really taking to them. In the course of conversation, I made some offhand mention of needing a plastic bin to keep the cat from ripping into his food sack and he's like, "We have an extra; here you go." And as I went home he said, "You're so nice!" with a genuineness that took me aback.
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