Planning a busy spring

This week marks two special occasions: On Monday the city of Chicago and I celebrated our six-month anniversary together — Chicago forgot, but it’s okay, because so did I. Additionally, Thursday marks two months at my job, and the conclusion of the fastest two months of my life. I know I’ve accomplished a lot in this time, but I can’t help but sometimes feel like I’m having a hard time fitting in. Not just at work, but here — in a new city after a long and at times lonely winter. That just gives me more hope for the spring, the time of year when Chicago supposedly comes alive and steps out the front door, breathing in deep without its collective lungs aching from the shuddering winds passing by. We’ve had a couple days of Actual Chicago Spring, but I heard yesterday that this has been the rainiest April the city’s seen in years. So, April’s shot. But May! We have high hopes for May, I tell you.

Now that I am employed and relatively settled, I’ve made it my goal to do the kinds of things I did LAST spring, after Brandon and I broke up and I needed distractions, and lots of them. Basically, I am joining a bunch of ambitious crap. I’m also (albeit not completely on purpose) avoiding making the same mistake I made my freshman year of college, and I’m actually taking the time to make lots of girl friends before getting all wrapped up in a boyfriend and HIS group of friends.

Last week, I attended a Team in Training meeting because I’ve spent a long time now thinking, intent on the idea of running a 5K in memory of my mom; but, it turned out Team in Training doesn’t really mess around with silly little running events like 5Ks. I was nearly half-crazed enough to pledge to raise $1,000 and run a 1/2 marathon in September when my well-meaning dad talked me down by reminding me how much I actually despise running. So, I’m starting smaller and going back to the whole initial 5K idea, preferably one that isn’t until July or something so I’ve got time to train.

I’ve signed up for some filmmaking Meet Up groups, and I just signed up to attend a screenwriting workshop in a few weeks. I also joined a co-worker’s book club which means I’d better stop by the library soon to pick up my first monthly selection for the group. The co-worker who invited me was probably the person I got to know and like best at work, and so naturally her last day was Friday. She was my desk mate, who I mentioned in an earlier entry. I’m sad I didn’t get to know her better sooner because despite my almost immediate foot-in-mouth moment with her, we ended up getting along just fine. I’m glad her last day wasn’t some time last month because I might never have known how awesome she is. Plus, now I’ve got a book club full of other interesting people to look forward to meeting.

E-reader Envy

Last week I finished “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and tonight on the way home I’ll finish “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris. Because I’ve been reading a book every week and a half since I started work, I’ve been toying with the idea of buying an e-reader some day. You know, once I’m caught up on rent and all those other pesky expenses I let myself get behind on while unemployed.

It seems like every other person on the train has one, and I’ve been secretly admiring them from behind the cover of a actual, physical book, suddenly feeling all antiquated. E-readers, as opposed to my paperbacks, are so small and easily contained and, most importantly, can be held one-handed while the other hand is busy holding on for dear life, as the train pummels its way between unexpectedly abrupt stops. Don’t even get me started on trying to manage a hard cover book with one hand.

This week I visited Barnes & Noble with a gift card from my sister-in-law burning a hole in my pocket. I almost bought Tina Fey’s new book, “Bossypants,” but it’s not available in paperback yet. I ended up going with the new Hungry Girl cookbook, although that’s not exactly something I’ll be poring over on the bus. If I had an e-reader I could be reading “Bossypants” long before it’s available in paperback, six months from now.

Another concern is my upcoming plan to re-visit David Foster Wallace’s epic novel “Infinite Jest,” which long-time readers might remember I attempted to get through last summer. I made it about a third of the way before packing it up with my belongings and moving to Chicago. Until very recently it was abandoned in a file box, its mandatory two bookmarks still in place. It would be nice to condense those 1,079 pages into one intangible digital file, neatly packed inside a thin e-reader a mere 1/4 the size of the actual book — probably about 1/8 of the weight too, holy crap. But then, with “Infinite Jest” comes those crazy footnotes in the back, and how would THAT work on an e-reader? There’s a lot to look into, but I can’t say I’m not curious.

In my opinion, the biggest drawback to an e-reader is a fairly vain one; I have this image in my head of some terribly well-read boy standing next to me one morning on our commute, and he’ll be so impressed by whatever I’m reading that he can’t keep himself from commenting. We’ll have a witty, banter-filled conversation debating authors whose books I’ll pretend to have already read while making a mental to-read list behind my raptly-attentive eyes. He’ll recommend something and offer to lend me a copy, I’ll give him my number and then we’ll get married below the Chicago Theatre marquee outside the Redline stop at Lake. You know, something like that. But how will this fictional boy know what fiction I’m currently reading if all I’m holding up is a nondescript e-reader identical to everyone else’s? I can’t compete with all the cute brunettes doing the exact same thing on either side of me.

And yet, I’m thinking about rewarding myself with an e-reader at the end of the summer, for doing something like reading 30 books in three months, or meeting a weight goal, or for actually saving up more money than an e-reader costs. We’ll see. Who’s got one or wants one? What do you think of them, and what would you recommend?

So long, Pinky

One of the Pinkies, in less tragic times earlier this week

The other day I mentioned that the week of my birthday culminated in the gift of supplies for some new pets from my roommates. I didn’t end up getting them until this past weekend, and I’m sorry to say that by Tuesday night, we were already short one.

I got two female mice Saturday morning from a chain pet store near the house. I was excited to finally fill the cage Christina and I had constructed the week before but the man at the store was decidedly less enthused. I told him what I wanted and he directed me to a cage full of white mice.

“Oh,” I said, disappointed. “You don’t have any mice that aren’t all white?”

“You want female ones, right?” he said wearily. “These are the female ones.”

I’d wanted mice that were different in color, but it looked like I didn’t have a choice. He unceremoniously plucked two random rodents from the cage and dropped them in a small cardboard box which he handed to me, barely looking up. I hoped at least one of them would have red eyes so I could tell it apart from the other.

When I got home, Christina and I watched them in their cage, which we temporarily set in the living room. They both turned out to have red eyes, so it was impossible to tell them apart, other than the fact that one seemed to be more active than the other; she ran on the plastic wheel inside while the other chose to stay curled up in a ball in one corner.

Christina’s 17-year-old Siamese cat, Kali, ignored them for a good while but once she saw we were not to be distracted from them, she joined us in front of their cage. She pawed lightly at the outside of the cage for a minute or two and then crept away, disinterested.

John came home and asked us what we’d named them. We’d planned on calling them Pinky and The Brain, but with those eyes they were both turning out to be Pinkies. We were at a loss. John suggested we continue our trend of 90s children’s TV references and go the way of “Pete and Pete”. So for the next few days, both mice were named Pinky. Their cage was moved to my room that afternoon.

The second night they were here, Active Pinky had become so adept at running on the wheel that she was managing to ram it into a small platform inside the cage. Groggy, I opened up the top of the cage and removed the platform so I could sleep. Problem solved. However, this small act was a fateful one in the end for one of the Pinkies.

On Tuesday night I went to Niles to help my editor with Election Day coverage and didn’t get home until after 11. I grabbed my laptop charger from my room, sent my editor an email with my part of the story and went into the bathroom to wash my face. I went into my room and saw I’d left the door slightly ajar. I turned on the light, and there was Kali, hunched over one of the Pinkies on my bedroom floor near the cage. I don’t want to get into gory details, but I will just say Pinky was missing a very important half of her body.

I freaked. I grabbed the cat and ran out of the room, slamming the door, with one and a half Pinkies still on the other side. I shouted a long string of obscenities at the cat, who just stared at me, seemingly wondering why I wouldn’t open the door back up for her. I paced up and down the length of the kitchen and living room, panicked. After about ten minutes of this I grabbed a plastic Jewel Osco bag from the pantry and stuffed it with a few paper towels. I armed one hand with the bag and the other with still more paper towels and stood in front of my door. I wanted nothing more than to never, ever go in that room again but after a minute or so of just standing there I strode in, picked up Pinky without looking and tossed her in the bag. I whipped around to leave the room and there was the cat standing right behind me.

“Go upstairs!” I shouted at her and slammed the door again before she could move past my feet. I shook the bag at her furiously and stalked out to the trash cans near our alley.

Despite this being taken care of, I still couldn’t go back in my room for a good while. I went in only once more that night, to make sure the other Pinky was still in the cage and breathing, and also to agonizingly try to determine how the cat had MacGyvered her way into the cage, much less talk a mouse out of it. The other Pinky was still there, her eyes shut, but still breathing. She was clearly traumatized and I was half convinced she wouldn’t make it through the night and would just die of shock.

I knew there was no way I was sleeping in my room that night. Instead I tried to wear myself out enough to pass out on the couch without having to think too much more about what I’d seen. Still shaking, I furiously cleaned the kitchen; I watched the really late re-airings of “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report,” barely paying attention. I read 50 pages of a David Sedaris book. Finally, after around 2:30, I made myself lay down on the couch. I stared at the ceiling for a good while, trying not to think about what it would be like to be chewed to death, and finally fell asleep.

I woke up a little less than four hours later. Christina came downstairs and I immediately told her what happened. She was shocked. Apparently she’s never known Kali to kill anything more than the occasional moth before. She went in my room with me to check on the other Pinky, who, while still shaken, was still kicking. Christina examined the crime scene and noticed what I had not; the lid was just slightly loose. I hadn’t fastened it as tightly as I thought I did a couple nights earlier when I took out the platform. But even with this knowledge, it was baffling to us both how the cat had reached all the way down to the bottom of the cage, probably to its most opposite point, and swiped out a mouse.

Christina was sorry for what I’d been through and could tell I must have taken it hard. She gave me kudos for cleaning up the scene immediately and promised we’d have a memorial service for Pinky after work.

John's condolences

I went to the office on four hours’ sleep and after a horribly long day, I came home around 6 to find flowers, candy and a condolence note from John, who had to work. Our “memorial service” was a little hard pressed for discussion since the dearly departed was a mouse I’d owned for about 72 hours, so we ate peach pie for dinner and turned to season two episodes of “Gilmore Girls” for comfort. It was more than appropriate, I have to say.

I’ll never know for sure which Pinky the cat nabbed; I have a feeling it was Active Pinky and that the turning of that plastic wheel was too much for Kali to handle. All I know is, I have to get a second mouse now because the remaining Pinky, while recovering more and more, just looks too sad all alone in that cage. Christina’s going with me this time, and we’re going elsewhere and picking us out a proper Brain. And I’m never leaving my door partly open ever, ever again.

It’s irrational to be mad at a cat for doing exactly what it’s been hard-wired to do, I know this. Lions takes down gazelles in the wild; the cat is unable to understand that I actually wanted mice in my room. That’s the way it goes. But I’m still going to thwart her efforts to sit on my lap for the next few days.