Death, Turkey, and Fathers

Thanksgiving is a time when families come together and drink enough wine to take the edge off. The edge of what they normally wouldn’t talk about when getting together, but my family drinks every time we are together anyway so who knows what we normally talk about. I guess that accounts for the silence when any of them come, but that is for another post. This year was our first year with a car during the holidays so we weren’t so crunched for time. We left early, helped my mother (and grandmother) to finish up the meal. It was nice.

I went upstairs to get away from the shuttled conversations and piles of cooling food, built some legos with my nephew, and got feeling guilty so eventually went back downstairs. Apparently at the wrong time. I sat down and heard my sister say that my nearly non-existent father was going to surprise us on Christmas. Oh joy. This stirred the pot, and once again everyone complained and shared stories about him. I only listened and peppered in my snide comments. I’ve said my peace to those at the table about it all (another post). This put my ripe mood, grumpy, into a wonderful bouquet of worried and stressed. I’d had enough suprise gifts from my father on christmas, last year I was sent a massive clock from Target that had ‘LIVE LAUGH LOVE’ cut out of a ring around the edge of the clock in faux brass, a few years had gotten christmas themed bunker-style-buckets of stale popcorn in three terrible flavors – because nothings says “Merry Christmas, I don’t know anything about you” like a steel drum packed with popcorn. I guess a gift card to a place I don’t shop would have said that equally as well. Conversation at the tabled moved to my grandfather’s disdain for my father, then spread to mini-chats of other garbage. I got board and went back to Legos. I chatted with my ever smarter nephew again, got frustrated by not finding a five block to fit my house, and tried to join the crowed again. I help liz clean, drew pictures, and mulled about until it was time to go.

The two of us drove to her father’s in near silence because of my wonderful mood. While eating pie there we came across talk of last wishes. Liz’s father has planned to be in a twisted spiral of a acid induced muddle, then “an hour or so” later drowned out with a bottle of sleeping pills. I, for one, applaud this sort of gusto when it comes to one’s death. Liz wasn’t happy to hear about this of course, but I think her fear lies in it being in the not-to-distant future.

Author’s note: I wrote most of this the day after and was going to extend and edit this, but hey.

English Major – Second draft, more structure

In the vast swaths of time that make up the tiny space between finishing up college, graduating with a degree, and getting a job you float. No doubt, you might be one of the lucky ones who had a carrier in mind and walk into a carrier doing this or that. Though, I’m sure if you are reading this, let alone this particular inspiration, you are adrift like I was.

I moved from Undeclared to Business to Math and finally English. I wasn’t so much as tasting as stumbling across the spectrum at Western. But there was something special about the literature classes that made me stick with it. I wasn’t sitting in long rows scrawling every single word or worse powerpoint slide in my notebook. I was engaging with classmates and professors. They weren’t standing at the head of the class lecturing, browsing for those who aren’t awake. No, they are mixed in with the rest of us. A peer, a guiding hand, a voice in darkness of confusion to light the way of understanding. We’d pull pages and find miniscule details that we floated over and try to conclude overarching arguments that would puzzle those who couldn’t keep up. It was exciting, almost every class. For once in my known life, I looked forward to class.

I was never headed to English for the glamor. I loved the hunt of tropes. I was a lad on horse back touting my horn to the recesses of my mind to pull connections and links that couldn’t be unseen. The book and sonnets and chapters were questions that needed answers and I had to fine them. This was also true with some of the most rewarding work I did as my minor in Creative Writing.

It pulled the teeth of the wolf howling at my door – filling something so necessary to me that I couldn’t stop. The two programs layered themselves so well I wondered most of my career if they were in cahoots. The writing would inform a part I felt was missing from my reading and the reading would push me somewhere I had never thought in my writing. The two spun a perfect web to a point where I knew I wanted to write for a living. I had to.

But sometimes life isn’t so forgiving. I worked for a year and half a tiny restaurant and grocery in the city of chicago – waiting tables and trying to figure out what to do next – when the owner dropped a golden ticket like no other into my lap. She wanted me to be, do, develop the marketing for it. I was elated because it involved writing, tech, everything I love and am passionate about balled into a perfect little job for me. I get to write, something I thought I’d never do for a living. I get to hangout on facebook, post and read twitter. I have two hour conversations with coffee roasters, candy makers, wine mongers, about the things they love to do and get free samples. I’ve flown to New York City to eat food, drink wine, and eat food – all the while getting payed and on someone else’s dime. My opinion not only matters but is always taken into consideration. So I get to eat things I’ve never heard of, go places I’ve never been, write – something I’ve never thought I’d be doing – and getting payed to do so.

If I didn’t have my English degree, there would be no way I’d be where I am today. It is the reason for my love of writing, literature, and my entire frame of mind was formed and shaped as a student of literature at Western. Like a squirrel who buried an acorn and stumbles upon it in it’s search for food, my life crossed the path of WIU’s English program. Feeding my mind, shaping my carrier and pushing me in directions I had never even fathomed. Change your mind and define yourself in new ways with an English degree at Western.

What I’ve been up to 11/5

I haven’t gotten around to updating in a while. Maybe I’ll just do a quick run down of shit that’s been going on. From most recent back.

I had yogurt this morning, the ever delicious WholeSoy & Co brand. If you are living the annoying life of lactose free-ness like me – then you’ve tried all sorts of yogurt. This is by-far the best soy yogurt on the market. Liz made some crazy meat loaf stuffed flaky pop-over thingies for breakfast. They were amazing, as is most of her cookery.

A cold has befallen me. Flu? I don’t think so, but my body feels fine where as my head feels as if it may explode at any moment. I’m getting over it though, the worst of it was a couple days ago – and sleeping through most of it helped.

Working full time now in marketing at SPG. So far so good. Menu rolled out yesterday – a touch of worry came over me when I realized what changing the menu really means and how my work is not even close to being done now that the physical paper menu is out. Update the website, for me. But what about the take out menu? Is the paper menu worth it? We’ll soon find out. A couple people think the 50 or so menus I printed out wont last longer than the weekend, but I’m shooting for them being wrong.

Went to the Jonsi concert and loved every bit of it. It was moving in a few ways 1) I’ve loved his music for a long while and finally seeing him/them preform was special, 2) it was a heart-felt show, you could tell he puts himself into each concert, 3) I was on medicine for my illness. Junip is tomorrow and should lend itself to being completely awesome as well.

Saw a pretty interesting movie called ‘Collapse.’ Sort of harped and summarized my fears about where the world is headed.

Went to ‘Acre’, what was once ‘Charlie’s Ale House’ is now a pretty decent dinner place and pub.

I’m board already with this list. Hope you enjoyed.

English Major – sloppy draft

I’m not going to read through this before it’s posted, I just thought I might put out a few ideas for this thing I said I’d write for my Alumnus (is it capitalized?).

I chose to be an english major because while in high school I was the guy who would sit in chemistry and have my face buried in Chuck Palahniuk’s prose. I wasn’t all that interested in the English courses in high school either, but at least I had things to contribute unlike most of my peers. I came to Western Illinois because my uncle did – simple as that. I didn’t even think of going until April before I graduated. I was convinced I couldn’t get in anywhere. I’ve got to go a bit cliche and say that college changed my life. Undeclared, supply chain management, math, English Ed, then finally just English – this was my first two years.

A lot of people joke that English is a “would you like fries” sort of BA. I had thought that before, during, and after getting it myself. Reflecting, now that I’ve been working for two years: no degree matter – just that you have one. You want to work in a cubical? Just apply to the corporate world – trust me the only thing they learn that you won’t is expense reports and the wonders of Excel. What do they miss out on? Discovery, a deeper love for the arts, and shouting at professors about phalic metaphors.

Right now I am the marketing department at a small, but well known restaurant in the city of Chicago. We’re fairly ahead of other businesses because of the work I do. For perspective, how many 40 seat restaurants with three grocery shelves do you know of that has a full time marketing person on staff? I consider myself immensely lucky, sure. Things fall into your lap and you are unsure, but you learn to absolutely love them. This is the same experience I had joining the English Department at Western.

Full disclosure – I had to take English 102, yes, the low level freshmen entry course and English 202, twice, because I failed the first time. Just because you suck at sentence structure, spelling, and usage doesn’t mean you don’t belong in English. It’s more than sitting around talking about MLA vs Chicago and if email should have a hyphen or not. It’s about literature, delving deep into authors that upset you, confuse the shit out of entire classes of 19 year olds, and professors that make you grin because they flip the right switches. For me, English was about the people too; the cool cute girls that were kinda nerdy and brainy that you’d try to empress with your lexicon and stretch to an over arching metaphor of the color red in a book, and the cool guys that would tell you about their weekend soirees or joke with them about a teacher’s boots but still be humbled by their intelligence, and the infinitly wise and ever exciting professors that pushed all of us to see things in writing that would be impossible to explain to people outside the class let alone the department.

There was just something that clicks with English students. You get passed the ‘weeding out course’ and come out through the other side like the band of brothers, only with your head buried in stinky used books instead of sand and a lot less bombs.

I guess my message to incoming English majors to Western would be to not give up when it’s tough and to not think about how you won’t get a ‘real job,’ because they are over rated anyway. Do what you love and eventually something will find you.

So this came out a bit more like a high school graduation speech, but it’s a good ground-work i-beam frame out of what I was thinking. They want more about how I use my degree in a day to day type thing – it’ll get there.

Strongest Storm in 70 Years

Yesterday evening I was riding down the lake front listening to NPR. They had said that in the early morning hours of what is now today a huge storm like no other is going to hit Chicago. Now, once you’ve lived in the midwest for the entirety of your life, and have watched as funnel clouds float above your house and rain come pouring down from the sky as if from an overturned bathtub, you kind of get used to awful storms. I even moved to the grand ol’ open farmland of middle Illinois, where weather and wind didn’t have buildings go bunch up against. So when the news had said the storm was, in a way, going to knock down my door tie me up, murder my family, and force me to watch while it rips apart my brick apartment building it make me second guess my sanity on riding to work the next morning. I even sent a text to my boss saying that I wasn’t going to come into the store to work because of the explosiveness of the storm, and my worry for my safety when riding. The morning comes and the sky is angry, churning. A low buzzing plane and the trees rocking back and forth made me worry even worse. I ran to get doughnuts and came back to hunker down. Then the rain came, it was sort of pathetic at first and wasn’t much of a storm. I huffed and took a soak. After about half an hour I stood out of the tub and heard the rush of water against our south facing window. I dried off and look a look. Yup, it was raining. Pretty hard sure, but 70 years rain? Definitely not.

Quite the dud. They had even said the wind was going to steal babies from their cribs and drown puppies by forcing all the tears out and back down their throats. Sure, it’s windy, but I’m not going to go and worry that a political sign might come unearthed and sent forthwith through my window, breaking all my collectable porcelain dolls. Maybe farther north it’s worse. But this storm, and more accurately ‘change in barometric pressure’ is a real let down, lack-luster at best.

The Stress & Two Days of Chocolate

Yesterday a box came in addressed to my boss was dropped off at my desk. It was full of dark brown crinkle cut paper and a whole host of items. From 80% Dark Chocolate bars to a glass bottle with three lowly vanilla beans inside. The company imports all their wares from Madagascar, the chunky island off the south eastern coast of Africa and well known for their renegade zoo animals. It was decent;  got a bottle of vanilla extract out of it. I think one of the best things they produced was the chocolate chip bar with nibs and sea salt. Now, I put that backwards from what they had on their bar – for a reason- because there was no where near enough sea salt for it to be on the even package. When putting sea salt in dark chocolate put those chunky, crunch-when-you-bite-into-the-bar pieces of sea salt. I want to feel the sea salt. Neat packaging, not overly done and fitting, but the price wasn’t really there and we have a boat load of chocolate on our shelves.

Today, more chocolate came in, these people were “local” producers from Indiana. Meh. I feasted on nearly everything and most of it was just mediocre. They had a couple pretty awesome looking chocolates which will sell like hot-cakes for Christmas. But the candy overall was just decent. Most of this packaging was aimed at my mom or grandmother – not exactly our style. Again, too much candy and not really our speed, but we’ll be picking up a couple things.

I’m also pretty stressed but eh – I’m going to get into now. I’ll just say I ate enough chocolate the past couple days to deal. Also, I’ve been tasked with designing the new menu. I’ll be sharing ideas here, looking for input.