Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The auto mechanic mystery

Despite my ever-present intentions of learning how the hell cars work (and yes, I do have them)--like what oil is for and why it needs to be changed, how to change a tire, and what that embarassing green puddle is that my car leaves wherever it's parked for more than a few hours--they've kind of stayed in the 'intentions' phase without ever moving on to the 'no really' phase or the 'so how the hell do I actually accomplish this' phase. Hopefully, I'll sell my car in a few months and they can languish there forever, but until then, it's going to be a constant battle between my bitterness over the accruing repair bills and my dogged determination to not fix anything else. I've had that determination for awhile, actually, but it turns out that if I need the car to do anything beyond shade the area immediately under it, I have to buy it a new battery. I have to fix a gushing oil leak. I have to get new brake pads (and while, admittedly, those are more for discouraging the car's operations, I have personal experience with what happens when they give out, and doubt I'll be so lucky next time). If I want to drive 2500 miles in it, I need all of the above, plus that new stereo, which I'm totally taking with me when I get rid of the car. Pioneer kicks ass.

However, with every additional car-related expenditure, I have an increasing desire to nod knowingly when the mechanic tells me what's wrong and what needs to be done to fix it. I could make brilliant, insightful suggestions that turn a $500 bill for parts and labor into a $10 trip to the hardware store for a few bolts and some duct tape. In short, I need to become friggin' MacGyver. Because then, when I get a call from the shop telling me that my car won't be ready for another day even when I was told just this morning that it would be done this afternoon, I would know why. Even better than that, I could shoot the messenger with a biting, well-informed bitchfest that makes them sit up and take notice. And rather than hanging up with a "well if you're so smart, why don't you fix it", they would be cowed into doing my bidding and call everyone there to get to work on the car immediately and actually have it done when they said they would.

In the meantime, I'll just keep hanging out here in Park City. I'm not actually inconvenienced by these repairs, because I kind of wanted to spend another day here anyway, but man, the day I am, then I'll really be mad. Plus, with the Onion's always-timely news and information, I've already begun my education on how to care for my car.

Monday, December 20, 2004

I heart Park City

This is the third time I've rerouted a road trip in order to stop here, and it's probably not the last. I have family friends who live here, who are the nicest people I've ever met (to illustrate, I always quote my friend Catherine, who visited with me the first time: "I feel bad breathing, because I'm taking up their oxygen"). No matter what we do, it seems to make them happy. Need coffee in the morning? Get a choice of several different coffees, sugars and cream, and this from a woman who never drinks coffee. Car trouble (again)? Escorted trip to the mechanic and then to the other mechanic, plus use of their Mercedes while the other car is incapacitated. This would be the most stress-free vacation in the world if it weren't for the guilt of feeling so undeserving of it.

Then there's where we are. Park City is lovely town, set against the backdrop of gorgeous mountains that are clearly visible through all the clean air. There's no traffic or crowds to speak of (though I'm sure that changes in the week between Christmas and New Year's and during the Sundance Film Festival), at least not by my citified standards. And the skiing is great. Yesterday was an absolute dream: no wind, not a cloud in the sky, 35 degree weather, and slopes free of ice, rocks, slush, and hordes of skiers. I could be a speed demon with impunity (dude I own those blue squares), and avoided injury due only to a mild self-preservation instinct and the fact that it took me a lot longer to get to the top of the mountain than it did to get to the bottom. Surely that broken leg (or neck) is waiting for me somewhere off the Motherlode chair tomorrow afternoon. But the highlight of skiing yesterday: sending a lift attendant into a fit of laughter at the sight of my skis, which are straight, a style that seems to have declined in popularity somewhat since the last time I went skiing... and by "declined in popularity," I mean "have passed out of cultural consciousness entirely, thus labeling anyone who actually uses such antiques an amusing novelty." Whatever. I'm just glad I still fit into my ski clothes. Style is something I can't really hope to achieve here.

And then there's the free time. I watched "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" on TCM last night (hilarious, but damn that's a long movie). I've caught up on my emails. I've caught up on my news. I've read about a third of Naked and I love it. Thus far it's even better than Holidays on Ice (where the first story raised my expectations to a level the rest of the book never quite reached) and Me Talk Pretty One Day (the quality of the different stories seems to be more consistent), though I suppose I should wait and render judgment when I've actually read all of it. Thus far the major difference I've noticed is that he tries to make his stories have a point or fit into some larger context, which he kind of gives up on in Me Talk Pretty One Day, which is a good thing--they're hilarious and speak for themselves. But even if the rest of the book totally sucks, just read those first few stories. Today's moment of zen: "The Greeks had invented democracy, built the Acropolis, and then called it a day."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

And so it begins...

...the great vacation of my life. Well, again... summer '03 was a helluva vacation. It's just that I actually knew when that one was going to end. Also, this one hasn't really felt like a vacation yet, despite the memories I have of family roadtrips being dredged up by hours on the road in a car with my brother headed to a ski resort. First of all, those roadtrips never felt like vacations, the vacation was when we got the hell out of the car at wherever our destination was (usually Lake Tahoe). Also, it's a little different when a. I'm driving, b. there are iPods, and c. my brother and I actually get along. None of this "that's my side" crap--it's all my side, cuz it's my damn car. And we figured out a music compromise, too: while I could pull rank and listen to whatever crappy pop music I want (I should really get the play counts up on those Britney Spears and Spice Girls mp3s), my brother and I spent about 5 hours just switching off whose iPod was playing after every song (I have a cord coming out of my stereo that can be plugged into anything you can plug headphones into). That way, we get to listen to whatever we want, and learn about other music, too. I've learned that I need to steal everything he has by Jimmy Eat World, Dispatch, and RKD2, to name a few. I've also learned that he hasn't heard nearly enough Guster or Aimee Mann. ...I don't really know what he's learned. Probably that I like Better Than Ezra way more than is healthy and that my remaining 2400 mp3s are total crap. But hey, it's my car. I'll make us listen to BTE all the way to LA, don't think I won't.

Thankfully, now it's Saturday night (and I'm doing my ultra cool blogging-on-a-Saturday-night thing) and I'm in Park City, and will get up at 7:30 a.m. to going skiing tomorrow. It's about time I had some friggin' R&R... um, well, relaxation, anyway. That last entry was the calm before the storm (feels like I've had a lot of storms lately). Tuesday I began the process of actually moving out of my apartment by getting a storage space, boxes, and tying up a few other loose ends. Remember how I had a lease? I needed to get rid of that. Thankfully, Tuesday night I got a call from a girl interested in taking it over, and that same night I drove a rental application over to her and faxed it to my landlord. She signed the lease Wednesday and gave me a check for the deposit, and I was free! My brother got in late Tuesday night, then slept all day Wednesday while I packed and took care of getting a music-playing device put back into my car (you can't drive 2500 miles with no music and stay sane. Or awake. And when you're driving, sane + awake = alive.) We did the tourist thing Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, then threw my stuff into storage that night. I pulled an all-nighter (again... why is it that I've pulled three all-nighters since September and none of them was even during school?! Hmm, let's revisit my list of priorities...) cleaning the apartment and actually packing the stuff I planned to take with me, and then we left at 5 a.m. Friday morning--there was already traffic going from the city to the suburbs, wtf?!--to drive a total of 967 miles to Cheyenne, Wyoming. The crazy thing in addition to that is, I drove all but 200 miles of it. I slept for about an hour and a half in the middle and then picked up again a little ways into Nebraska. You can tell the vacation mentality hasn't really kicked in yet.

The nice thing about driving all that way the first day: we got to Park City tonight in time for dinner. I'll go to sleep soon and get my eight hours in. I'm looking forward to three days of skiing, not just one or two. I can spend my evenings walking up and down Main Street and reading David Sedaris.

Dude, it's about frickin' time.

Monday, December 13, 2004

A master's candidate no longer

So now that school is over, am I whiling away the daylight hours with fruitless but entertaining pursuits? Yes. I am. I've rented 5 movies in the past 36 hours and I actually watched all of them. 3 were known quantities (Love Actually, Mean Girls, Mask of Zorro), and the other 2 were not the pieces of total crap they were made out to be (Day After Tomorrow, Stepford Wives). They were totally predictable, but they were also very entertaining: for Day After Tomorrow, ya gotta respect a guy who manages to make weather look dramatic, even if the story was a somewhat self-righteous clone of Independence Day. And for Stepford Wives, Nicole Kidman's hot. And Christopher Walken is Christopher Walken.

Actually I've been watching these at night, because I've spent the majority of recent daylight hours asleep. But contrary to whatever it might look like (namely, that I'm super lazy), in fact, I'd be far more given to productivity if it weren't for two things: 1. The high today was 25 degrees. With wind. Shudder. (At least it was sunny.) But that kind of weather still wouldn't make me do much more than flinch if it weren't for the fact that 2. I'm sick again. I'm totally blaming the last six months of illness on the flu vaccine shortage, despite the fact that what I have now is the first thing I've had that looks like the flu. Whatever. The point is, my immune system has it in for me. I don't even know how to write the sound of frustration I emit when I think of that... it's garbled by the cough drops anyway.

I have to admit, though, that I haven't yet settled the debate with myself on whether or not I would be doing stuff if I weren't sick. I'm pretty sure I would have made it to the gym, but the getting up early idea probably doesn't hold much water. (I totally messed up my sleep schedule with that all-nighter on Friday... the irony of pulling an all-nighter for the first time this quarter at a time when I didn't even have to still gets to me.) But see, this is how I'm coping with not being in school anymore. My life is a to do list (and at times a to avoid list), and not having any more group projects simply means that the stuff on the list has changed. Now it's all things to do with packing up and leaving Chicago. The prospect of arriving in LA in February looms because there will be no to do list--"get a job" is not a list. It's an order. I'm better at it now, but knowing where to begin on a task that big and important is kind of frightening. I have leads now, but what if I have none then? No direction, save geographic preference, to guide my search? I'll be living with my parents, broke, and in denial about not being on vacation anymore.

...Yeah, I'm not actually that negative. I'm not really concerned about my ability to find a place I like in white collar society. The prospect of looking is scary, but I have this absurd sense of confidence that everything will be fine. I'll find a job, I'll find an apartment, and I'll experience self-sufficient financial solvency for the first time. It's a challenge that I'm looking forward to, actually.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Warning: it's the middle of the night and this post is totally loopy

It's 3:30 a.m. and I'm awake. I graduate in T minus seven and a half hours. One might think I was up due to the stress of graduation (I just can't... let... go...! Must stress over something!). Like some sort of preparation is required to show up, put on a costume, sit quietly for awhile, and then walk up to shake a hand and retrieve a piece of paper, or whatever it is we're being given. (No, I'm not really that cynical, and am in fact looking forward to graduation, but I just wanted to set the record straight.) I have no frickin' clue why I'm still awake four and a half hours after getting into bed. I just got carried away finishing and then burning digital photo albums for my class--have no idea how I got roped into that one, or what compelled me to actually follow through--and then writing (not sending... how weird is the person that emails people at 3 in the morning on a Friday night?) emails to contacts at companies where I'd like to work. What to say in said emails had been escaping me all week, but apparently the mental stimulation of burning cds provided me with inspiration. And all of a sudden it's close to 3 and I realize that my alarm is going to go off in just over two hours (for some incomprehensible reason I suggested having breakfast with my parents prior to my required 8:45 a.m. arrival for the graduation ceremony, and based on long experience I build a lot of padding into my schedules). So I can sleep for less than two hours or (which is more likely) sleep for two hours, then ignore my alarm to sleep for another four, and justify winning the superlative category I did: Most Likely to Be Late to Graduation.

All-nighter it is.

Since I'm killing time here, I'll give a quick update on what I've been up to and what I'm going to be up to, since life is such that I doubt much blogging will get done for awhile:

It appears that I recovered from being sick just in time for the really stressful part of the quarter to kick in, which is about when I moved into the Panera in Evanston and began subsisting entirely on soup, salad, and chai tea lattes (Panera makes the best chais... very spicy). I finished my final project for one class right before Thanksgiving, and spent my entire trip home doing work or, um, watching The O.C. Social life? Nah, social lives are for pussies. They teach us better than that at Northwestern.

I got back and spent five exhausting days working on my remaining three final projects. I averaged 4 hours of sleep per night. My memory of that time is kind of blurry, but whatever the hell I came up with for those projects, I think people bought it. I proceeded to go out and get very drunk on both Friday and Saturday night, and call everyone in my class multiple times for no apparent reason (my memory of that is even blurrier, some might even say nonexistent). Very embarassing.

This past week was spent going to one, and then missing another, final class, and then preparing for Thursday night's graduation party by collecting pictures from students and dropping them into the most massive powerpoint file ever, collecting money for the party, determining winners of our superlatives, buying prizes for said winners, deciding what to wear, and ultimately eating lots and lots of chocolate. The party was Thursday night and seemed be a success, with lots of people showing up and drinking up. Was kind of hung over today, but did get to see my friend Meredith before I left Chicago, bought my car a new cd player, braved the horrible traffic to pick my parents up at O'Hare, saw Ocean's 12 with my mom (ok, very different from the first one, not nearly as slick and fun... 3 1/2 out of 5 stars), nice dinner, and then came home and experienced the above-mentioned productivity.

Upcoming schedule:
Tomorrow... um, that is, today: graduate.
Sunday: nurse hangover.
Monday and Tuesday: pack (no really)... and hopefully find someone to take over my lease! Please cross your fingers for me on this one!
Wednesday: give my brother a tour of Chicago (he gets in Tuesday night)
Thursday: make my brother help me move out the last of my furniture; possibly reward with opportunity to see more of Chicago
Friday and Saturday: drive to Park City, Utah
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday: Ski!
Wednesday: head to LA
Thursday: arrive in LA
Friday: Christmas tree decoration; lots of sleeping
Saturday: Christmas (can't believe it's that soon!) Mmm, Christmas dinner.
Sunday: Sleep, possibly see friends
Monday - Friday: work the Media Center at the Tournament of Roses (yay, money!) Party my ass off on Friday night.
Saturday: nurse hangover
Sunday and Monday: Uh, dunno. Email me.
Tuesday: Watch USC kick Oklahoma's ass in the Orange Bowl; pack
Wednesday: actually pack; leave that night for Hong Kong and my trip

Seriously, when does the relaxing start?

Ok, it's almost 4:30... guess I'll take advantage of my membership at that 24-hour gym.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Too much of a good thing

I knew this day would come. The day where I can sleep in as late as I want to (10:15 am) after a big night out (home by 1) and then just laze around my apartment all day (went to the gym and made to do lists... dear God, I'm getting old). I'm at a loss. Surely there's something that requires my immediate attention or can stress me out enough to return my outlook to that of the previous post. Right?

After the constant deadline stress of this past week, I am now paralyzed by wealth of options of how to spend my time. And there are a lot (I wasn't kidding about that to do list). I could start trying to put together my class's digital yearbook. I could clean my apartment so that the next person I show it to in an effort to get them to take over my lease won't run away screaming (that was kind of embarassing). I could Feng Shui the damn place. I could start writing the laughably short papers that are now all that stand between me and a master's degree. I could go to Best Buy and see about getting myself a satellite radio or something for my car. Or I could post about how I can't decide on what to do and as a result have been staring blankly at my computer screen for the last half hour (no email?! inconceivable!).

Or I could go watch the end of Ocean's Eleven and finally get some closure on that (have passed out in the middle of it after coming home the past two nights). I'm kinda hungry too.

I think we have a winner.

Whole27: Seven (Eight?) Months Later

Breakfast this morning was cinnamon rolls. In fairness, I'm sick right now with something resembling that monster flu--hopefully it...