26 August 2007

the first week

i have now completed one week of medical school. that is to say, i am now a medical student, for real. i guess this means i have a career track--i am ON a career track. i will one day, barring lots of persistent failing of exams, be a doctor. i'm not sure if that's scarier for me or for my future patients, but it's not all gloom and despair--it turns out med students know how to party, too.

so on saturday night kim and i went to a party thrown by a fellow m1 here in our neighborhood. there was tasty food and drinks, lots of mixing and getting to know new friends, and discussion of how fast the lectures move, and the homework, and so on. but then, as we all stood on our second floor apartment deck chatting in the evening air, a group of neighborhood kids walked up the back alley armed with water balloons and unloaded on us. one of my classmates tried to catch them to throw them back, but a much more resourceful student began throwing chicken wings and sandwich squares until they ran out of balloons and fled the scene. these events repeated themselves about a half hour later, this time with more words exchanged. a particularly mouthy 11 year old boy responded to some taunting from the students by shouting "don't make me go stone cold steve austin on you!", which left pretty much all of us on the deck speechless--how do you respond to that kind of threat?

a bit later, a kid from the group came alone with a plastic bag and walked away. the bag was full of several filled balloons, a bag of empty ones, and those faucet adaptors that seem great in theory but never really work out--they were inviting us to join in the arms race toward some wonderful kind of mutually assured saturation, and we were more than willing.

it was a pretty good first week, and a pretty great party.

23 August 2007

26 and On Fire

Yesterday was Jeremy Howe's birthday.

And for his birthday, he got hit by lightning.

Well, not so much HE personally, as the apartment in which he resides with his lovely wife.

About 11 pm last night a huge storm was circling our neighborhood, when suddenly it felt like we were inside of a firing gun or the exploding part of a firework. Crazy flashes of light, huge cracks of noise and sizzly sounds, and phantom smokey smells. It made the hair stand up on your arms and your heart skip around inside your ribcage like a wee bunny rabbit. It hit like 5 or 6 times, and all I could think was, "This seems like it should hurt." Like afterwards you ought to check and make sure none of your organs have liquidized.

We have (had) a turret with a weather vane on the roof right above us, which has now been exploded and had its shingles tossed across the street.

But the most interesting part of the whole event is the fact that we have teeming multitudes of insects that happily co-habitate with us, and when the lightning hit, they all simultaneously dropped out of the air, twitching and dead. CRAZY TIMES my friends. Crazy times.

So for Jeremy's birthday, we got our whole apartment building turning into a giant candle, and a free pest extermination.

The end.

17 August 2007

Kim vs. The Produce Manager

Jeremy has requested that for my inaugural blog posting, I tell you all how I was forcibly removed from a local establishment this morning. As you can see, he enjoys a) having an outlaw for a wife, b) her public humiliation.

I've been purchasing my own groceries for some time now, and generally can distinguish an "expensive" grocery store from "my" grocery store ("my" grocery store has at least three aisles completely in Spanish). However, I've never really known what stuff is supposed to cost - just how good of a deal am I really getting? A gallon of milk... $1? $2.50? Tomatoes... $.30/lb? $1.50/lb? It's an uncharted area of financial mystery which I usually just leave in the hands of the sullen smock-wearing employees with pricing guns. But today was the first official shopping trip of Howe, Inc. and having recently married a bottomless pit of a stomach, I anticipated a pretty sizable grocery investment. So I thought, today's the day. I will know what everything costs and darn it all, I will get a good deal. So armed with shopping list, pen, and paper, I set out for some hardcore research.

First stop, my old reliable supermarket. I've shopped there for the last 2 years and even supplied our wedding with mountains of lunch meats from the deli. I was halfway through the veggie section, noting with some suspicion that red peppers cost more than green, when I felt a tap on the shoulder.

Stranger: "Can I help you?"
Me: "Um... no?"
"What are you doing there?"
"I'm writing down prices. Is that a problem?"
"Yes it is. We can't have people writing down prices."
"Um... I don't understand."
"Who do you work for? Why are you doing that?"
(Feeling hot under the interrogation lights...) "So I can get a good deal? How else should I do it?"
"Show me your list."
I was feeling a little flustered at this point, so I handed over my notebook, though this was clearly a violation of some federal grocery-privacy act. He proceeded to rifle through the pages.
"I'm going to have to ask you to leave the store."
"Excuse me?"
"You're writing down everything in the store."
"I am not! I skipped the whole cactus and lentil section!"
"These things are obviously not all for you."
"It's our first shopping trip! We eat a lot!"
"I'm sorry ma'am. If you continue to write down prices, you're going to have to leave."
Me: "(mumble mumble)...unbelievable!...ridiculous!... (mumble mumble)" But I dutifully put my paper away, albeit with much show of grumbling and stomping about. (As is my fashion.)

Fast forward to 20 minutes later, having sneakily carried on in the deli section, and then not so sneakily in canned goods, and downright obviously in dairy.

"Ma'am. I'm going to have to escort you out of the store."
And that was it. And all in the name of fiscal responsibility.

Was it worth it, you ask?
Well, let me pose to you THIS question: Should I buy those pork chops for $1.88/lb? Those blueberry pints at 2 for $4? Well, should I?!

Heck yes! And now I know! And knowledge is power--take THAT, The Man!

13 August 2007

the end of our endless numbered days

this weekend we took our last trip of this summer, this time to maine, to see my friends chris and tarah get married on the ocean shore. it was pretty much as cool as that sounds--maybe i'll show you some pictures in a minute. and it was a great weekend.

since tomorrow is the start of orientation for med school, kim and i had been planning on getting home and falling gratefully into bed, resting up for the first of many long days. but instead, we opened the door of our apartment and were greeted by the rich aroma of natural gas, so i figured i'd write a blog while we wait for the gas people to come and fix the leak. hey, it's a science experiment--let's see if i write more or less coherently under the influence.

the night of the rehearsal dinner, chris and tarah had me sing a song, which i did at the beach. check out this cool blue atmosphere!

here's the wedding itself. here we see tarah ('s veil), chris, brian the pastor, and tarah's sister ashley and friend megan, who we thought was a pretty great person to know and hang out with. i'm representing for the groom on the other side of the beach, but you just saw a picture of me playing guitar, so i figured you'd be ok not seeing that.

the day after the wedding, chris and tarah and megan and kim and i went whale watching. the boat went fast, which blew our hair back and apparently made me squint my face awkwardly. they say the camera adds ten pounds. and the wind, it adds a good fifteen just to your neck. in pure neck fat.

speaking of fat and all, here's a whale. this is the blue fin whale, which is the second largest of the whales. "whale watching" means riding in a boat for a couple hours and never seeing any more than this much of any whale at any one time. so i'm telling you that this whale is really big, but as i never saw more than this 10 feet of it, i've got to tell you i'm relying a little on extrapolation and a lot on the tour guide, who sounded pretty knowledgeable.

in three-part summary, congratulations chris and tarah; maine is cool; and if i think much about it, i'm a little nervous about tomorrow and the beginning of all that. i'll update you with all that fun soon. in the meantime, i'm gonna go get started on the rest of my life!

05 August 2007

overdue update, part 3: our apartment

editor's note: this is the third in a three part series of...overdue updates. gosh, my title was so effective this editor's note feels sort of superfluous. anyway, the other two are directly below this one. don't miss out!

after a lot of painting, hauling, throwing away, and stowing in hidden places, our apartment is finally completed. last night we had an open house so our friends around here could see us and our new place, but just in case you couldn't make it and you don't live close enough to expect you'll be able to stop by in the next couple weeks, here are some photos of our place.

when you first walk into our apartment, this is what you see. it's our kitchen, and we're pretty pleased with it. note the shelves and radical dish arrangement, which we did ourselves, and the excellent yellow ("semolina", the paint can says). also note the fire escape exit out the window, which is how you get to our excellent roof-top views of the city.

here's the other wall of our kitchen. as you can see, there's not a lot of storage space, which leads to such things as dish displays, or (as in this photo) a suspended dish-drying shelf system, which is unanimously referred to (by kim and myself) as "ingenious". hm...also, we have a mat by the sink, which is nice.

if you look to your right when you come in the front door, you see a bathroom. this one, in fact. but i mean, it's just a bathroom, so...let's move on, shall we?

don't just stand there in our front door, come on in! you could walk, for example, into our living room. it has these windows, which is pretty much my favorite part of this place. that, and the tall ceilings. it's really pretty nice. if you come over, you can have dibs on the love seat. kim made the coverings for the cushions you see here, and even though it was her first such endeavor they turned out really great. she's kind of amazing that way.

to the right of those windows is the old music corner. as you can see, i've got some more plywood crates--my dad and i were busy when i got back to nebraska. this is probably my favorite corner of my favorite room in the house. i just think it looks really quite nice. and now there's room for expansion of the collection, which is of course really important. what good is a record collection if you're not always getting more and more and more? exactly.

next wall to the right is the door back to the kitchen. don't you just love how ridiculously detailed this tour is? aren't you glad you're not here in person, and feeling obligated to say "oo, neat!" or "i love what you've done with the color in this room!"? yeah, i thought so.

i'm sure you're wondering, so i'll tell you. the criteria for the selection of records to place on a wall display is complicated, but can be broken into four broad categories: musical quality, artwork, overall value, and context. obviously, if i don't actually like the music, the album has no business being displayed. and, since it's doubling as decor, the artwork had better be pleasing to look at. value refers to a record's worth. this could mean monetary value, as in the case of that death cab album, which is both an original pressing and out of print, or to sentimental value, such as its neighbor the notwist album, which i purchased in barcelona. what a souvenir! finally, context can mean the color of the wall behind the record, or to the records around it, or to any records also being displayed. two records by the same artist just wouldn't do, for example.

fret not, dear reader, our tour is coming to its end. here's our bedroom, and the final room in our apartment. i like the bedspread, and the color, which kim selected and even painted while i fell asleep on the bed, mumbling how i'd be very happy to help her tomorrow if she'd just quit for the night.

here's a very nice piece of furniture, which we bought off the previous tenant of this apartment. not only is it full of books we love (well, mostly), it's also got a ton of character and looks just amazing. plus, we didn't have to move it really at all, since it was already in the apartment when we got here. i wish i could at least pretend to be ironically taking this much pride in the apartment, or at least in the detail to which this pictorial show is going, but...i can't even pretend!

here, for the sake of completeness, is the last walls of our bedroom. and there's our closet door! as you can see, my desk had to sacrifice its amazing paint job for the room, which was kind of sad, but ultimately i suppose the desk and i both knew that one day its wild color scheme would meet its end for some greater, more color coordinated good. all the same, i sleep better at night knowing its bright colors aren't gone forever, they're just resting beneath the olive exterior.

so that's the apartment--believe me, it's even better in person, so come by and see it (us)! we'd love to have you come visit.

and finally, this is my 100th post on this blog. i wish i had something momentous to say, but i feel like the milestone entry being one that droned on endlessly about the boring minutiae of something like home decor feels ironically, beautifully appropriate on its own, and we'll leave things at that.

overdue update, part 2: silly jobs and free things

on friday i worked for the company which had previously employed me as an international man of mystery. but my job this week was to be a street musician. i played songs downtown, and the teams had to find me, give me a dollar (yes!), and then identify the song i played to get points for that mission. this ought to be a pretty straightforward task, but i was pretty stressed the morning of the job because of my inability to identify what qualifies as a well-known song. i spend such an inordinate amount of time listening to music, or finding new music, or reading about it, that i've sort of lost track of what normal, non-music nerd people know about. add to that that the people playing were a generation or two removed from me (but not so old that they grew up on rock in the 60's), and you see why i was wringing my hands, deciding if "rebel rebel" (or any david bowie song, for that matter) is really as famous as i think it is, or as it ought to be, or if people who aren't within 10 years of me know anything by radiohead, or do 40 year olds like kelly clarkson, and so on. it was a tough job, and i hated to be so unoriginal, but i ended up using the beatles. beatles songs are pretty much as universal as oxygen, which probably means it was too easy, but at least people had fun. and gave me money.

it's very interesting to people watch whilst playing guitar in a place with lots of foot traffic. when the first group came, they gave me a cup to put money in so i could collect money from passersby while i waited for other teams. so i was able to note the before and after difference: when you play on the street without a place to put money, people look at you freely, curiously ("where's his money collection place?"). they don't mind when you smile at them and make eye contact, and they smile back, and even sometimes talk to you if you're not singing. after i got the money cup, though, some people tried to look at me without making it obvious that they were looking at me, or even implicitly admitting they knew i was there. and let me just say, most people are pretty bad at doing that. in fact, i'm going to recommend that unless you've been trained in the cia or some other spy institution/ninja school, that you should not try. you're probably not very good, either. i would quit, but like i said, i've been hired as a spy as recently as a month ago, so i'm good to go.

other people (probably people who have seen video footage of themselves trying to look without looking) tried a different sort of covert operation. as they approached, they assessed the situation: "street performer. wants my money. probably desperate. will attack me with guitar or look angrily at me if i don't pay up. DON'T want to pay." so here's the great escape plan. as they come by, they look down at the ground (the first rule is always to avoid eye contact), and then just as they pass, they reach about half the length of their fingers into their pocket as if to reach in for some money, continue by, and then once at a safe distance, remove their hand. it was funny, because it's like they care enough to pretend to want to pay, but not enough to make it convincing. it's the thought that counts, after all. and i'm not complaining at all--in fact i felt sort of guilty when people did throw a buck in my cup, like they imagined i was starving or something, and if they knew i was getting paid like $20/hour they'd feel like i scammed them or something.

speaking of scams, you know those annoying pop-up ads you sometimes find on the internet about getting free electronics? you know, the ones you don't even read, the super annoying ones that mean that epileptics can't ever be on the internet? well, it turns out they're not all evil scams at all--photographed above is the macbook kim got for free just by doing one of those things. she had to sign up for several free trials of various subscription services or credit cards or various other things, and then cancel them before she had to pay anything, and then hassle the business in charge, and they eventually sent her this little beauty, which is so much cooler than my computer that i'm a tiny bit jealous of her. actually, i guess it isn't quite true to say it was free--one of the services charged her $70 because she didn't cancel in time. but, she also got about $80 in gift cards by signing up, so she ended up $10 in the black. $10, plus one free laptop. she's a pretty smart person, even if she is crazy.

overdue update, part 1: adventures with aaron

boy howdy, things have been pretty crazy lately. since getting hitched, kim and i have been racking up the frequent flier miles: trips to colorado springs, california, and nebraska, and this week we're heading to maine to see my friends chris and tarah get married. the day after i get back, med school orientation starts. unfortunately being so busy has meant not having time to update this blog with all the excellent things we've been doing. i think my new year's resolution next year will be seeking that balance: having enough time to write on my blog, but not having so much free time that i never have interesting things to tell about when i write. ah, the zen of the taoist blogger's life. here is a story from recent life...

last weekend my friend aaron came and visited our humble abode so we could all go see sevilla, our hometown team (in spain), play soccer here in chicago. we did, and that was fun, but the next night as we walked around downtown, we came across quite a scene. policemen were running around everywhere, putting up caution tape and herding people along, trying to stop them from taking pictures. we walked a little further on, and saw the burned out body of a crashed helicopter laying on the intersection amongst all the skyscrapers.

we walked a bit further and saw an armored police van, and as we looked closer we saw where someone had shot it several times. we also saw along the side where it said "gotham police department", and then we noticed that all the cars along the street had gotham license plates on them. we had walked right onto the set of the new batman movie while they were still setting up the perimeter tape to keep us out. as we took pictures, some movie people with headsets and walkie talkies ushered us away, but not before kim talked to one of them about being an extra in the movie.

that guy told kim the name of the casting director, so with our taste for movie crashing adventure thus piqued, we walked further along and talked to another official looking person, claiming to be extras and asking where we might find that guy. our use of the name was impressive enough that that official looked us up an address, which made us even more convincing when we got to the next person, asking for an address, a name, and with a plausible movie role. unfortunately, at this point we were back to the people who had first kicked us out, so aaron and i, fearing we'd be recognized (they call it "made" in the business), walked on while kim gained access to the building where the extras go. a security guard there asked for her name, which she supplied, and when he told her she wasn't on the list, she replied "really? i was told to meet (director's name) here at 7:00 with all the extras." so security guard told her where to go, and she made it in where all the extras were waiting to film the movie's big chase scene that night. apparently, there were snacks and assorted free foods, but kim only hung out for a little bit before she left to find us again.

anyway, here's a few other pictures from the weekend:

here's the three of us post-game, after walking from soldier field to the museum campus to enjoy the skyline at night. it's really a very nice skyline--come stay with us and we'll show you!

here's aaron and i enjoying chicago dogs. because i am stuffing my face, you can't tell how happy i am to have found a hot dog eating buddy (kim is apparently biologically or philosophically opposed to "encased meats" as she calls them. see, i told you she's crazy.). plus, these were pretty good dogs.

on saturday we went on an architectural cruise, which was pretty cool. after that (and before batman), we checked out this flamenco show in millennium park. it's a nice view from here, but we mostly watched the show a little closer. like, where you could see what was happening on the stage.

after our batman adventure we grilled out (on my third story fire escape stairway), and had a sing-along time. aaron and i used to play together all the time, so he brought his guitar out with him so we could enjoy that together. hopefully our neighbors enjoyed it as well, even when it got sort of loud singing oh, darling at about 2am. well, we had fun anyway.