In the Blink of a Year

March 7, 2011

Remember when a year sounded like a lifetime?

Vaguely.

I recall being a child lamenting the eternity I had to endure until summer vacation. The teacher laughed and said, “Just wait until you’re grown and a whole year passes in a flash.”

Since I’ve understood her sentiment for a while now, I thought I had a better handle on the disappearance of time.

And then I saw this:

Hi Dorothy!

Ah #HaimUp.

For those of you not versed in the language of Twitter, the # is a hashtag and the “Up” is a play on the word TweetUp.

The Haim is for the one and only Corey Haim, whose death brought together a ragtag group of friends for a very unusual evening.

Corey Haim died on March 10, 2010.

On March 11th, this happened:

Justine and I had decided that tribute needed to be paid.

In the span of less than a day, we wrangled a venue, delicious eats from the one and only Ramon De Leon, and the bevy of everyone’s favorite Chicago Twitter personalities.

What we didn’t plan was the traveling Roshambo tournament, which sauntered into the pub and hypnotized us all.

Who knew there existed traveling roshambo tournaments?

Who knew that Rock/Paper/Scissors was called roshambo? Of course you did. Congratulations. Know-it-all.

I shall never forget the sight of Laser Fists, Danimal, and the Blazin Asian competing with fury or the sound of the roaring crowd chanting “One-Two-Three-THROW!”

Sami took this and should've been in it.

Laser Fists!

I think it tipped the event from fun and silly to legendary. To me, anyway.

And that’s what I was doing a year ago.

I had no idea that in the blink of a year, I would move away from my beloved Andersonville, commit to launching Push m3dia full-time, buy a house in the suburbs, gain a bunch of weight (pffft), and be ten weeks away from the most meaningful accomplishment of my life. So far.

I’m eager to see what the next year will bring.

I’ve made a lot of plans, but the unexpected is the stuff of legends.

I’m ready for it.

“One-Two-Three-THROW!”

Good Business

February 25, 2011

I received this lovely message today from a relatively new friend whose business I support:

“I’m busy responding to emails and dealing with remarkably less garbage than usual … and it got me to thinking about people I like. You’re cool because you do what you say and you follow up with things. You have no idea how refreshing it is when someone does that.

I just wanted to send a note. Positive feedback FTW.”

I began supporting his modest start-up because he had a solid, focused idea and buckets of enthusiasm.

I loosened up my traditionally padlocked purse strings because I genuinely like his product.

I was already a fan and a customer. This note elevated my commitment to his work.

Every dollar we spend is an investment in someone’s work. And starting a business is cultivating relationships, because initially we work with those we like.  Of course, then it’s up to them to keep us coming back for more.

That’s just good business.

Today = Black Coffee

February 16, 2011

Thank you Tom, for reminding me to add a little sugar.

The Mood Queue

February 15, 2011

Favorite movie lists are meaningless.

Sure, we all have favorites. Cool Hand Luke is near the top of my ever-changing list, but today I am just not in the mood.

Lately, I crave comfort and familiarity so I’m not watching anything new. My reruns are on in the background as I write for clients or for pleasure, to activate the part of my brain that operates best when I’m safe and warm and fed. I’m pretty sure it’s called the Hippocamygdala.

It’s not slacking because I’m not really watching.

I know these films by heart. They do not ask for my undivided attention. They hum in the air around me like a space heater at my feet or the crackle of bacon frying in a cast-iron skillet. They massage my skin like cashmere pajamas.

They seep into me.

I’m not procrastinating, writing this blog post.

I’m simply acknowledging what Mame Dennis just elicited from my brain: “Live! Live! Live!”

It’s just a break. I needed a break.

Wait a sec. Was I in the mood for Auntie Mame or did it create my mood?

I propose an experiment. I’ll list movies I’d love to watch, off the top of my head, to determine which mood is a’comin.

Mood Queue:

Arthur, Camelot, Poolhall Junkies, All About Eve, The Graduate, Ladyhawke, The Descent, Imitation of Life, Twice Upon a Yesterday, Serenity, Lovelife, The Princess Bride, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Two For the Road, Barefoot in the Park, Butterflies are Free.

?

 

Nope. No idea.

OK yes, I am procrastinating. That’s enough for now. Besides, Arthur is starting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What’s in your mood queue?

More on the Ranking System

January 21, 2011

I had a conversation with Heidi a couple of days ago that has been on my mind since.

Among other things, I was thanking her for her recent comment on this here blog and was reminded of Alicia.

Alicia provided tremendous encouragement when I first started blogging. She requested and published my rumination on booze and what our choices might say about us.

That day, Alicia wrote this to me:

“Today you will find out who your real friends are in the Twitterverse. They will retweet you and/or publicly celebrate the fact that you have the gift of words.

The ones who remain conspicuously silent will disappoint. Take it as a backhanded compliment: Your success today highlights some real or imagined inadequacy that they have.

Either way, you win.”

At the time, I thought it was lovely and generous. A year later, it’s so much more.

It occurs to me that it’s a continuation of the ranking system I introduced as rationale for leaving Facebook. In it, I wrote,

“There are one hundred thousand reasons why some fall off the radar but only one reason why others don’t.

Because you don’t let them.”

We can spout what great friends we are all day long, but our actions define us. How do you evidence your friendship?

It’s wonderful to always take their call and be available and supportive. Invaluable even. But what do you proactively do? You call them, of course. You make the time to reach out, to feel around in some mounting darkness to grasp their hand and hold it tight. You make an effort.

In bloggerverse terms, I have a suggestion.

Comment.

Post a comment on blogs written by your friends.

They labor over theirs just like you labor over yours and feedback is incredibly gratifying and encouraging. A comment shows your friends that you support them and want them to succeed.  Granted we only have so many hours in the day and can’t feasibly read everyone’s every post. No one should blame you for not doing that, but everyone will value you for trying.

Also, subscribe. I am giddy when I receive an email that Dorothy has published a new post. I can’t wait to read it and offer even a simple acknowledgement of her work. I’m not so good at checking Google Reader every day. Admittedly, the email option makes it much easier for me to prioritize my time to ensure that I let her know how much her friendship means to me.

Ranking system.

I’m so grateful to my friends who take the time to share their wisdom on FeliciaCago Land. I plan to practice what I’m preaching here much more in 2011.

Because you’re worth it.

Am I Racist?

January 20, 2011

To preface, no one has called me a racist.

I was involved in a benign discussion on Twitter that got me thinking about the ever expanding usage and application of the word. To reiterate, I was not called a racist and no one was wrong or right in this scenario, in my opinion.

It was simply a conversation that I wish to share here.

Cast:

Me – Ordinary joe. A nobody with an overdeveloped sense of justice, a wicked love jones for the power of words, and a big mouth.

Guy entitled to his opinion – A smart, civically-engaged man.

Innocent – Poor guy whose tweet I found amusing and retweeted. Related: from Alabama, as am I. NOT to imply that anyone is guilty, only that Innocent did not engage further.

It begins with me giggling at Innocent’s tweet:

Guy responds with this:

I prickle, but attempt to diffuse:

Yes, I could have simply ignored it, potentially avoiding more Twitter Fatigue. But I didn’t. Neither did Guy:

I find the generalization of generalizations a bit unnerving. I believe that context should always be considered. So I push, as I am wont to do:

Now, of course I don’t believe Guy hates Alabamians and I’m 100% sure he had no idea that Innocent and I are from Alabama. I offered this unfair accusation to equate with his. And to be funny. Guy does not seem amused:

Guy is absolutely correct. Unfounded claims add nothing to discourse.

But the other part of this really gets to me. No one chooses to believe anything? They just believe? Um.

Our beliefs are informed by experience, education, cultural and environmental influences, and myriad other outside forces.

One isn’t born believing in or doubting God or rooting for the Detroit Lions. Our parents, friends, teachers, clergy, or even strangers serve to form our beliefs until we, hopefully, choose to research and explore the foundation of those beliefs in order to strengthen them or to create new ones.

All by choice.

But by now it’s late, it’s bedtime for me as well, and I’m trying to embrace the notion that I initially ascribed to him in my mind: “Dude, lighten up.”  So I attempt to diffuse again:

Guy kindly tolerated my silliness:

To Guy’s credit, he hasn’t yet blocked me, which I greatly appreciate because I hope this leads to the discourse he referred to and surely values as much as I.

Racism is evil. Identifying and ending racism is everybody’s job.

First, I get it.  Generalizing about any race as superior or inferior is, at the basest level, just plain incorrect.   Generalizing about any demographic as any one charactistic is probably incorrect.  Case in point, an earlier tweet by Guy:

Should someone reprimand him for generalizing about vegetarian girls? Of course not.  Also, blind people do go to movies. But whatever word might be used to connote discrimination about vegetarian girls and blind people probably does not have the immense power of the word racism.

The accusation of racism can destroy careers and reputations in an instant. To bandy about this term is to diminish its meaning. Paul Wachtel posits that “for some people it has lost its impact, lost its power to shock, to evoke guilt or revulsion. A term that once referred to the most deplorable and shameful of traits and actions has been extended to include virtually universal human characteristics and to include within its purview practically everyone in our society.”

I believe it is prudent to apply the term carefully and responsibly.

Second, it was a fucking joke. On Twitter. Jokes can absolutely reflect racism and be hurtful. This one seems pretty harmless to me.

I hope Guy will see this and not be offended. Perhaps he will choose to weigh in. I welcome his feedback and yours.

And yes, I clearly have way too much time on my hands.

Twitter Fatigue

January 17, 2011

The phases of Twitter are well documented.

Whether there are Six phases or Forty-Six, the extremes are what I like to call Attrition to Addiction.

First, they tell you, you’ll dismiss Twitter as far too overwhelming. You’ll abandon, possibly for months and return only reluctantly because people you respect keep telling you it’s not what you think.

And then you’re hooked.

The fun, for research nerds like myself, is discovering what people respond to and how to effectively be heard over the din of millions. It’s watching a personality emerge in 140 characters until you just can’t wait to meet this brilliant, hilarious, ravenous, succinct, and simpatico-in-every-way gadabout behind the quip.

I do not recall my first real tweet but I believe it was in August 2008.  (A free Wow Bao treat for the first person to sift through all 20,000+ of mine to post the first in the comments.  Must redeem in Chicago.)

It began slowly, as it always does. Testing the waters. Coming to terms with the utter narcissism of it all. Getting into the proverbial groove.

I have blogged about the Phonatics timeline, which marks the beginning of my “Addiction” phase. As I approach the end of 2010, I realize that my entire social and professional life this year has been informed and influenced by Twitter.

Attrition to Addiction.

But what comes next? Because that’s where I am.

I propose that the next in the Twitter timeline of phases is Fatigue.

Fatigue is characterized by, but not limited to, the following:

  • You dread planning tweetups because the people you love say, “Ugh, I won’t come if so-and-so is going.”
  • You dread attending tweetups because so-and-so will be there.
  • You were giddy at the rollout of Mute functionality.
  • You make a new acquaintance with someone who informs you of your bitter rivalry/disagreement/argument with someone you’ve never met or even heard of.

Fatigue differs from Attrition in that you don’t want to walk away from the platform altogether because you’ve seen how powerful it can be. You haven’t lost interest. You’ve lost tolerance.

I’ve met more incredible people and made more lasting friendships in 2010 than in all my prior years on the Earth combined. I’ve grown professionally and cultivated clients and referrals all from Twitter. I wish to continue to do so.

But the honeymoon is over.

Much like that unceremonious but crucial point in a romantic relationship when the shit gets real, Twitter Fatigue sets in when the gloss fades. And in a romantic relationship, I generally love this part. I’d choose First Year over First Date any day because that’s when it gets good. And deep. And dirty. That kind of intimacy will decide whether you want more or no more.

So what have I learned after a year of Twitter?

I’ve learned that you people are fucking mean.

Perhaps it’s the assumption of intimacy that is bothering me. The ease with which people will take offense, lash out, or diminish another’s reputation or point of view. In real life, it’s simple to avoid toxic people. We just avoid them. Remember the ranking system? On Twitter, you simply can’t without being mean.

I’m not perfect. I’m quite often considered rude. But I won’t be mean.

Is there a difference, you ask? I think there is. Rudeness is often unintentional because it is defined by an individual. Meanness is always intentional.

A gal once told me I was rude because when asked my opinion about a restaurant she loved, I replied, “I went twice and didn’t enjoy it.  I should try it again.”

She then told me that I must have no taste.

Which was rude and which was mean? And wouldn’t it have made more sense if she were my sister or my best friend as opposed to someone I was just meeting at a tweetup?

So my cowardly solution has been to close ranks, develop a thicker skin, and manage my expectations of Twitter a bit.

On the flip side of this argument is my obsession with an Abe Lincoln quote that AnnMarie shared over dinner: “I don’t like that man.  I must get to know him better.”

Perhaps I have it all wrong.

Inspiration

December 21, 2010

The Gift Room

December 18, 2010

I’m missing my friend Julie this Christmas.

To be fair, I miss Julie and her wonderful husband Steve every single day, but this Christmas especially for some reason.

Julie and I worked together for many years although in different cities in Texas.  When I travelled to Austin from my Houston for work, I was welcomed into their home and spared from a lonely, impersonal, jizz-stained hotel room.

Julie and Steve had two grown children who had long since moved out into the world, having been raised in warm love and prepared for greatness.  One of their rooms had been converted into a guest bedroom and the other into…

The Gift Room.

What the hell is a Gift Room?

Obviously, a gift room is a place to store gifts.  For this delightful woman, The Gift Room is a place to store all of her lovely intentions and her generosity.

You see, throughout the year, Julie thinks of all the people she loves.  And when she comes across a ribbon, a bow, a card, a trinket, or any gift that might appeal to one of these lucky people, she pounces right then and there.  She seizes the thought and the opportunity to make a friend smile and she saves it for just the right occasion in The Gift Room.

You can imagine how fun this room is.

Shelves lined with boxes and bows, figurines, colors, and packages of all shapes and sizes.

She is prepared for birthdays, holidays, and thinking-of-you days.  I’ll bet she’s even prepared for surprise babies.

I’ve received cards for every birthday and holiday since I’ve known Julie.  I often wear the silver friendship bracelet she gave me.  I have Longhorns napkins still from our lunch years ago at the University of Texas alumni club.

When I lost my beautiful mother, Julie’s was the first call I received.  And thereafter, she became the woman I turn to for guidance.  That was her ultimate gift to me.  It wasn’t in a box and it was wrapped with no bow, but it’s in that room nonetheless.  It’s her intent to bring comfort and love at any moment.

That’s what The Gift Room is. Not just a room full of things.  It’s a room filled with thoughts.  Of us.

My mother died ten years ago.  And Julie lives way down yonder in Austin.

So yes, I am missing my mother this Christmas.  Both of them.

Avenues

December 12, 2010

I was the giddy recipient of an invitation to enjoy a chef’s tasting at Avenues, the renowned Peninsula Hotel restaurant extraordinaire featuring the culinary stylings of Chef Curtis Duffy.

Now, I am not a “foodie” per se.

My taste is utilitarian with a pinch of adventure and a healthy handful of curiosity, informed by immigrant sensibilities.  That is not to say that my palate is anything short of acute.  I will soon host a soiree that features a blind taste test of varied ingredients and spices made popular by myriad cooking shows.

I will ask my guests to bring five ingredients for the competition and I will confidently compete.  Perhaps against you.

But I digress.

The thing is, I would rather cook than eat.  Gasp!

I love the experimental nature of combining flavors to create anew.  And I derive intense pleasure from feeding people as my bio adequately conveys.  This, coupled with limited resources and a disdain for style-over-substance hot spots has prevented me from truly exploring the rich Chicago culinary landscape.

Thankfully, and inexplicably, the real deal came to me.

Twitter has once again brought me much more than I deserve.  I can only assume that Avenues wanted an average joe to balance out the “Twitterati” I joined for dinner one recent snowy evening.

Tatiana, who I am fortunate to count as a dear friend in real life, is known across Chicago for her impeccable taste and restaurant savvy and who I take this opportunity to challenge in the aforementioned palate test.  I won’t mind losing to her.

Kara, Candyce, Mike, and Chao are Twitter idols whose acquaintance I had not made until this night.  Each hosts delectable food blogs boasting mouth-watering content and dedicated followings.

And then there was me.

But enough about me.

Let’s get to the food.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I cannot begin to author a sufficient description of each dish so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.  Ask Tati for the particulars since she took copious notes, as a good foodie should.  I just ate and savored, for a change, a feast of such robust yet delicate alchemy made sweeter by perfect pairing.

Thanks to Susan Ellefson and Katie for the photos and for making this evening happen, and to Chef Duffy for choosing Chicago.

I won’t be able to replicate these dishes.  But I will have fun trying.

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