Saturday, April 29, 2006


The nicest things happen to me.

A few years ago I ran into a familiar face in an antique store. I'd seen him around downtown. He asked me "what do YOU collect?" and we were off chatting about furnishings and decorations. I told him where I hoped to steer my home decor: colorful and retro. And cheap. I've referred to my "style" here before as "Retro-Garrish."

We still run into one another now and again. I've introduced him to several friends, and we always enjoy capturing his attention and listening to his wise ramblings. And, occasionally arguing or debating. And watching him do magic tricks.

What nice thing happened to me then? Last weekend while I yuk-yukked the evening away with friends at the coffee shop, Mr. Familiar Face (whom I have not gotten permission to use his name, hence the mystery) approached my table with a plastic bag in his hand. He said only, "here's a little something for you."

Wasn't I surprised to see the vintage, cherry red, rotary-dial telephone pictured above. God, how do you say thank you?!! I sputtered and gushed, and offered to reimburse him for the find. He waved me off and walked into the sunset, podnah.

I'm still shocked and touched and...grateful. Sometimes I just feel like I live in this little make-a-wish world, and I can only shake my head.

Marcy loaned me her Mike today, who acted as telephone installer for me, and just LOOK at how darned adorable this phone looks in my space! Don't you just LOVE it? It makes me downright giggly!

I have to go now. I gotta go make some cookies or something, and then wander around downtown, looking for A Familiar Face.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

My Mom's Son Too

I've been so busy the last few weeks, I haven't even had time to notify you all that Brian and I DID get a chance to speak on the phone last weekend.

4 whole minutes. We said a LOT in 4 minutes, speaking as fast as auctioneers. He's doing ok. Tired of cafeteria food. Working out a lot. Misses home. Looking forward to more privileges, which will come every 2 weeks or so. He's made some friends. Can I send him his checkbook? And a picture of his car? Shit, one minute! I love you, I'm proud of you, and know that you have no idea how many people here care, ask about you and wish you well, I love you...bye....bye...

More people than you know....

Excerpts from an email correspondence I had, this week, with Brian's friend, Chris.

Me: [all mail] must now be addressed "Jolley [comma], Brian"

Chris: I will make sure I make the changes every time I mail Brian, after all nobody wants to make him do more push-ups than he alreadys has to. ;)

Me: He told me they gas'd him last week! I may have to kick some army ass. No one gases my babies! [...] Is that what's the lesson about...teaching you to identify when to put the mask on...?

I'll wollop them with my pocketbook.

Chris: Yea, that drill is supposed to make you realize the importance of reacting quickly when it comes to biological weapons.

I would LOVE to go see you kick some Army Ass! They should be more afraid of you than they should their commanding officer. You better but a brick in your pocketbook!

Me: I don't really say pocketbook, but does sound like a cooler thing to beat the shit out of a drill sargeant with. Maybe your mom could help me out. Bricks for everyone!

Chris: Oh yea, Brian is my mom's son too and I KNOW she will kick some ass with ya!
Hm. "Brian is my Mom's son too." These words comfort me more than this kid knows. Because I know he speaks the truth.

Brian "ran" with a circle of 5, loyal. These 5 boys with different personalities, different interests, different lifestyles and backgrounds and home lives, and yet this in common: fierce mothers. Trying to save our own and offering what we could to each other's, knowing that there aren't too many teenage boys that want to confide in their own parents. And we hung on like hell and sometimes had to let go, and be thankful for this: What he doesn't want to hear from me, She will tell him.

Chris's Mom, Beth. God Bless her, I say! She helped me drag my kid across the graduation stage 2 years ago. She offered him a neutral environment to do his homework, and he was never offended when she didn't cut him slack. The last semester of Brian's high school was ROUGH, baby, and I don't know what I'd have done without her. I take some solace in knowing that while she nurtured mine, I was in my home, busy telling another to stay the night, cool off, and then rise above the conflicts in his own home.

And now, I hear " Mom's son too." and I love her all over again. And I recognize something more:

That you ALL are Brian's Mom too. That so many of you, reading this, commenting, and sending e-mails on the side, that you care for my kid's future, and his welfare. As I do you and yours. And there are those who stop me downtown, and my girlfriends send him notes and cards. And my male friends are to be recognized also, they ask about him, they ask about me, they ask to see the letter I'm passing around (hi Mike!)...

And I am doing fine. I am "coping" with missing my kid. And it so much easier because you care.

About him.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Portrait of a Starving Artist

$1 Pair Of Shoes

With $1 I bought
My pair of shoes.
No more than $1;
But still,
They are my shoes.

Atef Ayadi

I have blogged about him before, our friend Atef Ayadi. He is a poet, yes. And a painter. A painter with a blue-eyed frog in his head. We don't know what that means. We often don't know the meaning of anything Atef says. But we listen. And we love him.

Atef. How can I possibly make you understand? He's a bobblehead doll, only every joint of his being is bobbled.

He's our own, lovable, Tunisian Kramer-from-Seinfeld. The entrance. The exit. The cel phone falling into pieces as he answers it, and yet he keeps talking, while we recover bits from the sidewalk. Whose glass is this? No matter, he'll drink from it; it's a free-for-all; the closest glass is his. He once showed up for a dinner party at my house driving on a tire so flat that it was nothing but a rim. We pointed it out, and he admitted he was aware of the flat, but needed to get to the party. "What I can do?" he said. What indeed, as long as he was in attendance.

He lives a crazy, romantic, bohemian, fly-by-the-seat-of-yer-pants lifestyle. He's a genius, I'd wager, but cares little about all that. He needs only to make next month's rent, and enough dough for coffee and cigarettes. Food? Worry not! Food will come.

This Friday night: An art show. A fundraiser. Spotlight: Atef.

Atef's been "missing in action" lately. Working like a madman, awake for days, forgetting to eat. Deadlines to be met, he intends to enter 200+ pieces in this year's show. We are fascinated, as he shows up to our Cafe table with a stack of painted backgrounds, and begins whipping out oil pastel drawings, one after another.

Deadlines for the artshow were last weekend. He was in and out. Those among us ran errands. We do what we can. We research a medium to dry oil paint FAST. A meal. A sweatshirt, when he's too busy to know a cold front's coming in. And in return, he picks us up right off the ground when he hugs us. What could be better than that?!

I gave him a ride home Saturday night, and was invited into his humble abode, to check out what's going on. Want to see? Want to see what the apartment of a guy who is going to make enough money this weekend to get him through til next October?

There are paintings stacked EVERYWHERE. Paintings on top of paintings; you can barely move around them. This is the living room:

There are some on easels, still in progress:

They line the hallway:

You step over tools and supplies:

There is one room just for framing:

It is...even more amazing in person. I wished him the best and assure him "you're going to do SO great next weekend." He gave a shrug: "it doesn't matter, really. I only care that my friends are around me next Friday night."

You see, why we love him.

And you know where we'll be Friday night.

Dear U.S. Army:

Please excuse my son, Brian Jolley, from any further training that involves removing one's gas mask in a chamber filled with gas.

Thank you very much.
Laura Stewart
Think it'll fly?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

50.4 miles

I have a new friend, neighbor, walking partner. Dana. It seems hard to believe that I met her only 2 weeks ago today, as we have covered a LOT of territory in the last 2 weeks, both topographical and conversational.

Dana was a guest at Rani's going-away party, and, it so happens, a neighbor. We hit it off right away, which, if you meet her, would be no big surprise, as Dana seems to hit it off with everyone right away. That's JUST the kind of person she is.

I was thrilled to have met someone interested in walking, I needed the motivation; I wasn't sure if I would actually crank out TWO WHOLE MILES a day on my own; I'd probably find excuses...

We laced up and hit the street for the first time 11 days ago. We walked clear to the next town, but I admit we live on "the border." An hour-and-45 minutes later, we were wrapping up about 5 miles, by our estimate. We agreed to meet the next day....and every day after that. We've missed 1 or 2, but are determined to keep going.

After a week, I finally mapped out our path. 5.8 miles from the starting point! And we walk to the starting point. Yeesh! No wonder getting out of a chair was so excruciating for the first 3 days of last week.

It got easier by day 4, and it's been a cake-walk since then, save a few rough spots after her personal trainer cracked the whip, and both of our shins (that is, all 4 of our shins) screamed bloody murder after we decided that shiny new shoes would be a good investment.

It's been so fun! We meet up and start yakking our fool female heads off, talking and venting and clucking away until we're home already! We're not even done talking!

Dana is a brilliant conversationalist. She's a African Art History Professor at the university, and has amazing tales of traveling and living in Africa. Not to be outdone, I am wow'ing her with stories of becoming a local celebrity for photographing roadkill. We are quite a match.

She has also taught me a few other very important things, things that all female walkers, runners, and worker-outer's should know. Invaluable tidibits: German women have a term for that chafing that occurs when your thighs rub together while walking or running. (If you have no idea what we're talking about, then you just shut up.) "It's called Wolf," she told me.

Not wanting to risk grammatical faux pas, I asked her please to use it in a sentence. "I've got the wolf," she said. Ohhhh. THE wolf. My mind is a sponge. I pushed on: what's it called if the rash is under your arms? Because it so happens that my t-shirt sleeves have rubbed a wolf on my inner arm, from swinging my arms while I walk.

"That's a coyote," she said, all knowingly. She TOTALLY made that up, but I'm using it anyway. "I have the coyote."

Anyway, we're walking and walking, and we celebrated the 50-mile mark with glasses of cool ice-tea at the snooty wine-shop in our neighborhood, once we determined that they'd let 2 sweaty women frequent their sidewalk cafe.

We've plans to celebrate the 100-mile mark with real live wine. Then we'll be sweaty and drunk, and I imagine it won't be long before Sunsinger Wines incorporates a dress code: No gym shorts, no tennis coyotes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Old Kimchee

This, yesterday, at one of my favorite Asian stores.

Me don't think so.

Monday, April 17, 2006


We saw Rani off, at O'Hare airport, last Saturday. It's difficult to tell you about someone that emanates pure serenity, at the same time touching and changing lives with whirlwind energy.

Daily, we discussed the differences in our lives, in women's lives. Here vs. India. We covered everything we could think of, from arranged marriages to funerals. We accepted and celebrated our differences.

We both cried each other's presence, while she was here: she upon finding that she would not be able to visit her sister in Canada, me over Brian's "shipping out." Cultural differences disappear where boundaries girlfriends, sisters, and mothers are concerned. We "there-there'd" each other and cheered up.

We laughed. A LOT. She taught us "Laughter Therapy": Hold your hand on your diaphragm and laugh heartily. Good for inner organs, good for soul. It really works, she had me, Marcy, and my mother nearly falling off the couch with laughter. Try it in a group. It works.

Try it alone, and you'll feel kooky but definitely better! Go do it. I'm not kidding. Try it, I say!

We cooked. Oh, baby, I have eaten biryanis and curries, idly's and dosas and dahls and upmas, and potatoes this and that, and murka and rices. She could make millions here. We fed her lasagna, jambalaya, spaghetti, pizza, crab chili, apple crisp, and more.

She happily cooked for my friends, at my shy request.

She introduced me and Marcy-Momo to her friends here. We gathered together at my place for a little going away party the Thursday before she left. Her friend, and now ours, Shanti, showed up with a gorgeous silk sari in hand.

The women whisked me off and dressed me in this stunning fabric. Have you ever seen a sari, unwrapped?

It's LONG! And there is tucking and accordion folding, and wrapping and swooping and pinning to be done! I felt QUITE the princess as they dressed me. They do this by themselves! "Oh, you get used to it" they assure me.

I gave it a shot: I tried to continue cooking for a few minutes: if they can do it, I can do it, yes?

No, I am clumsy and trippy and afraid of setting myself afire while I rotate lasagnas. Having your hostess go up in flames almost always ruins the party. I tackled my way out of the sari to continue cooking.

A vegetarian dinner was marvelous, and afterwards, Shanti sang for us. I wish I had a photo, I wish I had a recording, I wish you were there, as her voice rose strong and loud while we sat listening in candlelight. Marcy and I both teared up.

Once we dried our eyes, Mike was "on deck" for dessert. He makes a killer caramelized banana something that Rani dubbed "Banana Delight" and she wanted it one more time before heading home. Served over vanilla ice cream, it comes to about 4000 calories per serving, but you don't even care.

Sigh. Well, I miss her. We ALL miss her. She may return with her husband in August, though, so I guess I can wait that long to see her again.

In the meantime, I'll keep laughing. I promised her I would.

For the record...


The U.S. Army does NOT let boot-camp babies phone their Momma's on Easter Sunday.

Those dirty rats.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Drive-By Lickity Lick

I hint of silk sari's. Of Greek Food. Of Chicago. And still everyone wants to hear of The Licking.

Let's call her Shirley, shall we?

Shirley's in her mid-50s. Relatively well put-together, if I'm being fair. A little on the garrish side, if I'm being truthful. And D-cup breasts. I know this, as anyone within earshot knows this. She likes to announce "they're boughten!"

I don't usually care, these things. You want green eye shadow? Knock yourself out, I respect you for expressing yourself. Larger breasts make you feel better? Go for it.

I'd "heard things" about Shirley, before I met her. She's a real pistol. Shirley looooooves those new D-cups, and she encourages you to take a look. Cop a feel. Shirl is getting her money's worth!

She's married to a pleasant enough guy, and as far as I know, scrutiny is for Ladies Only. Shirl also loves to touch and kiss other girls. Whether she's truly attracted to other women, or if it's a cute little game between her and her husband, I do not know.

So, I'd heard THANGS before I first encountered Shirley-and-The-Pips for the first time, a few months ago. She joined a large table of friends I was sitting with. True to form, Shirley was bawdy. Rowdy. Outrageous.

I guess. I suppose it's a matter of personal preference, when "life of the party" crosses over to "a bit tiresome." I know nothing about her besides her boobs, and though there must be more than that, she didn't have anything else to say. Surely there's more Shirley?


I ran downtown to get Rani a going-away gift, and then found myself waiting with Momo at an outdoor cafe, for her hubby Mikey to get off work. We were then to run off for dinner and final good-byes. The temperature dropped, and we went inside, entering the bar with another couple, "Sharon" and "Dan."

Sharon and Dan made a beeline to friendly faces, and we followed. Said faces:

Shirl & Mr. Shirl!

I frantically whisper-warned to Momo, "THAT's Shirley! Watch out."

Shirley greeted Sharon by moving in behind her, and humping her like a dog. I was only pleased because I could then say to Momo, "See?"

It was standing room only, and Momo and I moved off to wait for Mike, and get out of Shirley's hump-line-of-fire.

But wait! I remembered that the last time I saw Sharon, I had been contemplating a tattoo, and NOW I have one! I had to show her how it turned out.

I called her over, "Look, I did it! I got it!" Unfortunately I was wearing a plain ol' black t-shirt, not conducive to viewing shoulder tattoos. Marcy and Sharon yanked down the back of my t-shirt, causing the front collar to tighten around my windpipe so that much gagging and choking ensued. But they got a peek.

A moment later, Shirley sidled up behind me out of the blue, and shimmied her breasts across my back.

GAAaaack! I moved away from her, and, through my teeth, seethed to Marcy, "she just rubbed those fake breasts all over my back."

Marcy responded, "Yeah I know. And I can't believe she licked your tattoo."




Sharon confirmed it: Shirley had snuck in and executed a drive-by-licking.

I had no idea! Had she slipped a date-lick drug into my drink?!! I guess I was too busy trying to get my breath from the t-shirt choking to have been aware of it.

How did this make me feel?

For the record: Not aroused. I'm no prude, dearies; there is a long list of ya's—all genders, races, and sexual preferences—that would be ALLOWED to lick my tattoo. In fact, I would be honored.

But Shirley was not on the list. In fact, I was *tuh-OTALLY,* shiveringly, creeped out, and I left feeling like I needed a shower, and wondering why on earth that woman acts like that: who she is besides a Double-D, if she has a job, if she's good at it, if she has kids, if she has any or all of those things and thinks it's fun to lick strangers, if her husband thinks it's adorable, at what age will she stop groping other women, if she really thinks it's cute, if she'd stop if she knew what people are *really* saying about her.

If a man had done the same thing, how would the incident have differed? I'd have felt the same way, but I imagine there would have been a little more interference and protection from those around me, both male and female. Isn't that interesting?

Well. Damn.

I've always wanted to throw my drink in someone's face, and this would have been a perfect, justifiable opportunity! I'm upset that I lost my chance, but not so upset that I'll hang out with old Shirl ever again: My entire shoulder broke out the next day; I'm not making it up.

I consider this a public service warning, then: watch out for little 'ol large-breasted red-heads with satan saliva.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Dances with Momo

I've been crazy-busy for the last 5-6 days. There have been dinner parties and sari's, and trips to Chicago, and Indian food, Italian food, Mandarin food and Greek food, my son's new address is en route via U.S. mail, a strange woman walked up and licked my tattoo when I was showing it to a friend, and this is the first time I've sat down in dayz and dayz.

I have so many new blog-worthy stories, but am numb with exhaustion, I'm copping out, asking you to turn your monitor on its side, and watch this video, taken on some snowy Saturday night at my house.

This is what we do after dinner "and a few" at my house. This was dinner for 3; imagine how much fun it would have been if you all had joined us. It's Marcy (Momo) dancing, and Ilaiy singing along with "My Best Friend's Wedding." I am, conveniently, running the camera, which wasn't really designed for video.

Catch ya latah!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Change Is Good...

Today is the one-week anniversary of Brian's sayonara. Bri-o-nara. I'm holding up well, thanks. Here are a few things that have thrown me for a loop in the last week:

I do not know what to do in a grocery store: What do I want? I have no idea; I've walked in, and left empty-handed twice.

I went to Chicago over the weekend. What did I want? No looking at clothes, snacks, or housewares for Brian while we shopped. Me, me, me.

No checking in. No telling him where I am, where I'll be, when I'll be home. (Yes, we filled each other in on such things.)

Almost no laundry to do after a week.

Ran the dishwasher only once in the last week. It was full of coffee cups and water glasses.

I don't have to wear a robe, or granny-nighties around the house anymore. I can walk right out into the living room any time I please, wearing anything I please. Or nothing.

No closing the bedroom door when I head off to bed.

I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.

And I am paralyzed with the SELF-ishness of it. It's very bizarre.

I think the one thing I'm most surprised to discover is how much I considered him in my daily decision making, even though we both basically led separate lives.

It's all right, although the awareness of it sometimes make me feel a tiny bit like I've been punched in the stomach. I keep forgetting that I don't have to consider him.

I imagine it will grow on me. When I get used to this, I'm planning to run out and buy myself a cute lil something that is NOT made of flannel.

It's good to have a plan.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

You're It, Baggy Eyes

I've been tagged, by Boston Pobble. My first tagging. I'm no longer a tag-virgin. [blush]

Four jobs I've had
1. Fast Food clerk
2. Bindery clerk, printing factory
3. Press camera operator
4. Textbook Compositor

Four movies I can watch over and over
1. Grosse Pointe Blank
2. A Bronx Tale
3. Under the Tuscan Sun
4. Room with a View

Four places I have lived
1. San Diego, CA
2. Urbana, IL
3. Champaign, IL
4. There is no #4; I'm a townie.

Four TV shows I love
1. Any stand-up comedy
2. CSI
3. Survivor
4. Reno 911

Four places I've vacationed
1. South Dakota
2. Disney World, Florida
3. Cancun, Mexico
4. San Diego, Ca

Four of my favorite dishes
1. sushi
2. basil fried rice
3. ceviche
4. briyani

Four sites I visit daily

Four places I would rather be right now
1. New York
2. Tucson
3. Los Angeles
4. Bangalore

Four people I am tagging
1. Tangental C
2. Momo
3. Ilaiy
4. Neurotransition

Monday, April 03, 2006

I'll get you, my pretty...

Aurgh! Our favorite bar's outdoor cafe!
(Photo by Jim Dixon, News Gazette)

LA Lori called me last night. 5 minutes into the conversation, I heard an odd musical noise. "oh yeah," she said, "I just talked to Jim. You guys are getting tornadoes. I guess I'll let you go."

I had no ideer. If you've lived in the midwest forever, you take tornado warnings with a grain of salt. When you hear the sirens, you go to the window or step outside to see how much attention you should pay to them.

Eh. It seemed pretty still.


Wind hit the back of my house, BAM, like a vertical belly-flop! It SLAMMED the place and the power went out and I decided that cover was something I should take.

I ran into the bathroom.

It's dark.

Snuck back out for flashlight.

I'm cold.

Back to Brian's room to grab an old comforter.

I'm bored. Where's my book?

Can I make it? I try to determine if I hear anything like a freight train, as that's what they say a tornado sounds like. I'd hate to win a Darwin award just for running for reading material due to boredom during a tornado. See my shelter below:

Wouldn't a glass of wine have been nice? I considered it, but passed, that's just how serious the storm was.

Once it was clear that it had blown over, I moved out, and lit the house with candles, of which I am well-stocked. How quiet it is, without electricity. How...boring. No wonder they were "Healthy and Wealthy and Wise" back in the day.

I awoke this morning by cell-phone alarm, still with no electricity. There are no windows in the immediate vicinity of my bathrooms. I skipped a shower, put on minimal makeup-by-flashlight, cursed this Monday morning without coffee, and ran out into the garage to be on my way to work.

Garage door opener.

No electricity.

And WHERE is the manual release? I don't see any source, ANYWHERE to get this freakin door open. Where is the rip-cord hangy-downy thingy? There is none!! Kids, I'm relatively manually inclined, and I could not for the life of me figure out how to get my damned door open. I was trapped in my own house.
See? Nothin!

Lot of chaos ensued, in which I called into work, called for rides, waited around panicking--still in the dark, mind you. FINALLY my ride arrived; and as I headed out the door, the lights came on; surge protectors, stoves and smoke alarms started beeping, and the phone began ringing: the bossman, checking back in, what's going on.

I was answering phones, trying to hit cancel buttons, telling my designated driver to move on, and trying to get out the door; LORD! I was in a mood when I got to work this morning. Grumbly and tired and RAWRRRrrrrr...

And then I got a grip. No one got hurt. No one died. I didn't even suffer damage to my home, hence, no financial damage. I have coworkers who stayed home today, to arrange having trees removed from their properties, and home repairs. This is the main intersection near my house, 24 hours later:

Sigh. That I take my shower after work instead of before today is not such a burden.