Thursday, July 21, 2011

Can't Beat the Heat

Ten minutes ago, there were two firetrucks and an ambulance in front of my place. Not for me, but for an elderly woman who'd collapsed across the street. She collapsed because it's too damn hot outside. There's an "Excessive Heat Warning" in effect, and according to Accuweather's "RealFeel" reading, the temperature here right now is 108 degrees. Which begs the question, Why is anyone outside at all? Stay out of the sun, fools!

Before the paramedics arrived, three people—in addition to a worker from ComEd (Chicago's electricity company) who just happened to be driving by—were assisting the woman. I think at least one member of the group had been with her when she fell. She was down on the ground and they helped her sit up and drink some water. They put what I assumed were wet washcloths on her neck, and eventually a bag of ice (the ComEd guy ran down to the diner on the corner to get that stuff, I think). Later a security guard from a nearby building came out to see what was going on. You could tell this lady was totally out of it—she kept looking around in a daze and then trying to stand up. (And yes, I certainly would have gone out there if there hadn't already been a ton of people on the scene. But they had it under control. If there's one thing I'll say about my neighborhood, it's that there's always someone on the street, at all hours night and day, and almost everyone is friendly and helpful.)

The whole debacle was scary to watch... but what was even scarier was seeing ambulances pass by on their way to help other folks who must have called in earlier for help elsewhere. But soon enough the woman in question had more medical services at her disposal than any one person would ever need, and was promptly whisked away. She looked coherent and was able to stand on her own before they left, so I'm sure she'll be OK. But still, why was she walking around in the blazing sun in the first place?

Even my dog is like, "No, thank you." Normally he loves his midday walk and tries to stretch it out as long as possible by waiting to take care of business until we're as far away from my condo as he knows I'll take him. But not this week. This week he did his thing as soon as we hit a patch of dirt-grass. He is smart enough to know that this weather is no joke. He's even trying to seek out the coolest place possible in our air-conditioned condo, despite the fact that it means going against the rules he's been obeying since 2003. See, normally he is not allowed in our lower level because it has white carpeting... and black dogs who shed a lot don't mix well with white carpeting. He's never had an issue staying upstairs on the hardwood floors...

...But this past week he's been sneaking downstairs to chill on the cold-to-the-touch tiles in our bathroom. Yesterday alone I found him down there ten separate times. It's funny how he just instinctively knows where to go (and it is admittedly SIGNIFICANTLY cooler down there). So for the time being I've decided to just let him stay down there when he wants. And I'm staying where I want, too, which is inside. If you're also in one of the heat-stricken areas of the world, I suggest you do the same, lest you find yourself in the hospital bed next to the woman who went down on my block!

- e

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Now That's a Good Neighbor

This past weekend my husband and I were on the road yet again—this time we went to my hometown in Michigan for my cousin's fiancĂ©e's wedding shower. It's a five-hour drive from Chicago, and we arrived at my parents' place around 5:30 PM Saturday evening. The shower was set for 2 PM on Sunday. Alas, I was almost back home in the Windy City by that point.

What happened was that I woke up Sunday morning with a nasty case of food poisoning (I guess I was due after avoiding the worst of it when my husband got so sick last month). Although I was really annoyed/upset/disappointed to have come all that way for nothing, ultimately I decided that it wouldn't be cool if I was running out of the room every five minutes while the guest of honor was opening her gifts. We decided to cut our losses and head back immediately—figuring that it would be better to drive during the daytime hours, especially if I got worse and we had to find a hospital.

Thankfully, I didn't get worse, and slept it off after we got home. I spent most of Monday lying low as well, and then finally felt back to 100% yesterday evening, at which point I decided I needed some fresh air.

Like everywhere else in the country, Chicago's been in the midst of a miserable heat wave, and so I thought that since I've been slacking on helping out around my condo building, I would spend some time watering all of our plants and front "lawn" (read: small patch of already mostly dead grass).

So I am spraying the hose around our plants for about fifteen minutes and was feeling very peaceful. The sun was going down, and since I actually like to be hot, I considered the ninety-degree evening pretty perfect.

But then out of the corner of my eye I saw a small gray mass move from the sidewalk in front of our place, through our front gate, and onto our lawn. At first I thought it was a bunny, because 1) it was that big, 2) they usually come out at dusk, and 3) I'd seen one chilling among our plants in the recent past. But as this thing darted across our lawn and into our bushes, I noticed its long tail. That's right, a huge-ass RAT had run past me, within inches of my flip-flop-wearing feet, in what was still pretty much broad daylight. After rustling through our plants, it emerged seconds later to run for cover into the stairwell next to our building.

I must have shrieked (although I don't remember doing so) because a bunch of people walking in front of our place stopped and gave me a look like "Are you OK?"

Now, we're no stranger to rats in Chicago. I will spare any weak-hearted readers the gory details of some of my previous run-ins, but I will say that there's only been a few times in my fifteen years of living here that I've been in really close proximity to one of these guys. Usually I see them from afar, in the alley, and in the dead of night when I'm walking my dog. So I was a bit stunned—and yes, perhaps even slightly impressed—by the boldness of this rat last night. (On a related note, when I was trying to find rat pictures for this post, I realized that Chicago rats are way, WAY bigger than normal rats. I really, really, really wish our rats looked like this cute little guy.)

But back to my front-yard drama. The problem was this: there's no way out of the stairwell that the rat ran into. It's a dead-end. I knew that the rat must eventually come out the same way it ran in. And that would be OK... except that the water valve was also in that enclosed area and the water hose was still running.

Normally I am a semi-brave person. (Really, I am. REALLY!) But last night I was like, "You know what... after this food poisoning debacle and driving ten hours to Michigan and back within a day, I am just not in the mood to be bitten by a rat." Or maybe what went through my head was something more like, "Aww, HELLS NO am I going to get bitten by this #*$%ing rat and come down with some deadly rodent disease! That is not how I'm going to go out!"

My husband had just left to go meet friends for a drink and wasn't going to be back for about three hours. I figured that everything was so dry out front that it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to leave the water hose running in the grass and make my husband face the Rat Cave when he returned. But I didn't want my upstairs neighbor to think I'd just abandoned the task randomly. So I called him, explained the situation, and ended with, "I'm sorry, but I've spent the last 24 hours recovering from food poisoning and the last thing I need at this point is to get rabies or some strange rodent disease." Clearly I envisioned the rat not only running out at me, but also actually stopping to bite me.

Now, what you need to know about my neighbor (I will call him "A") is that he is ALWAYS coming to my rescue. It's kind of ridiculous. Since 2003, every time something has gone wrong with our building or inside of my condo, my husband has been gone and I've had to call A to come help me. (My husband swears he doesn't have any sort of sixth sense about this stuff, but I'm beginning to wonder!)

So A confirms that the rat has to run out the way it came in, and that he, too, has had encounters with the little guys back in that same area. But he said that we didn't need to wait for my husband to return—he would come out and face the Rat Cave in order to turn off the water.

Now picture this: A walks slowly into the cubby, reaches the water valve, and turns it off. Then he comes back out, gathers up the hose, and goes back into the cave with it in order to get the coil out of our yard. AND I AM STANDING BEHIND HIM, ARMED WITH TWO SWIFFERS.

In retrospect, I really have no idea what I thought I was going to achieve by having the Swiffers on hand. Did I plan to hit the rat with them? Was I going to throw them? Most likely if I saw the ran run out I would've screamed, dropped the Swiffers, and busted up the steps to our building. But I think the whole debacle provided some entertainment for passersby on our street, that's for sure.

I texted my friend Nerdy P about all of this once I was safely inside, and she wrote back, "You were going to BEAT A RAT, gangsta style!"

And so I would like to thank my neighbor A for helping me out yet again. I'm positive that if *I* would have gone in to turn off the water, the rat WOULD have charged me. Because that's just the kind of luck I've been having lately.

Rest assured I will be buying a little token of appreciation for A very soon.

- e

Monday, July 11, 2011

Close Enough for Now

This past weekend I remembered something that had been tucked away in the back of my mind for a few weeks: An Einstein Bros. Bagels shop had opened just a couple of blocks away from my condo. Longtime readers might recall me mentioning Einstein's before (in the fall of 2007!) because they're the place that sells the pumpkin cream cheese that I stock up on around Halloween each year.

Those same loyal "According to e" visitors might also remember this post from the spring of 2008 in which I professed my love for "Whole Wheat Everything" bagels and complained on and on about how they only seemed to be available in New York.

Unfortunately that's still the case... BUT I'm happy to report that Chicago is inching closer to having a bagel option of the same delicious caliber. When I finally made my way down to the new Einstein's this weekend, I was beyond thrilled to discover that they offer a "Good Grains" bagel which is awfully similar to a "Whole Wheat Everything" bagel. It doesn't have as many types of seeds and salt and whatnot on top, but I was seriously smiling ear to ear nonetheless. This discovery made my day... my weekend... my month! You can bet that I bought a bunch to take home and will be back approximately every 3 days to restock. I am going to keep that place in business, no doubt. They will soon know me on a first-name basis, I am sure of it. (Particularly because you need to tell them your first name with every order.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: See how little it takes to make me happy?

- e

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Long time, no write!

I've been running around like a madwoman, but things are finally getting back to normal (for a little while, at least... the summer is always crazy-busy -- why is that?). This past holiday weekend was spent NOT going to the Taste of Chicago with my visiting friend Nerdy P. It was just too hot out, and we weren't feelin' it. It sounds like we weren't the only ones: 2011 marked a 25-year low (2.35 million food-lovers) in Taste attendance, and now its future is a little bit up in the air. Yikes!

But rest assured that we did continue our annual tradition of enjoying the Sea Dog speedboat ride that leaves from Navy Pier and zooms up and down the coast of Lake Michigan. I think Nerdy P's son liked it. Would you agree?

OK, now on to the real subject of this post! The weekend before last (as in, the final weekend of June), my husband and I drove from Chicago to Pittsburgh for a charity event, and on the way we stopped in Cleveland to check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When we moved back from Boston in 2003, my poor husband drove a huge truck halfway across the country with all our crap in it (while I flew home) and attempted to visit the HoF then... but it was closed. I still remember how annoyed and disappointed he was. And so I was a little bit nervous about this place living up to his expectations.

The good news is that we both really liked it. We spent about five hours there and could've stayed a lot longer, but needed to get back on the road. The first thing we did was watch an hour-and-fifteen-minute-long presentation that covered all of the 296 inductees since the museum opened in 1986. But somehow we missed the big wall with everyone's signatures?!? D'oh.

I had figured that the majority of the building would be filled with rock memorabilia and outfits and props and whatnot, but in addition to all of that stuff, there were a ton of interactive exhibits and films and video clips. Much more than would be present in a "normal" museum. The one I found most interesting featured The Beatles (no surprise), as well as some members of their production team, talking about each of their albums and what they liked and didn't like about it.

Speaking of The Beatles, you may have heard that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame boasts the world's largest collection of items from The Fab Four. So I was kind of expecting A LOT of Beatles stuff... but it was really just one wall of about 70 things -- from jackets, to John's glasses, to handwritten lyric sheets, to Ringo's drum head. Don't get me wrong, it was cool and I loved it, but I guess I'd envisioned some huge room or display space that would take an hour to get through. When I started thinking about it, though, I realized that I can't recall ever having seen any authentic "Beatles stuff," so maybe it's just so spread out all over the globe that it simply doesn't take as much as I would've guessed to be considered "the world's largest collection."

One thing I found kind of funny was that in the special "Women Who Rock" exhibit, there was security guard dedicated to watching over Lady Gaga's infamous "meat dress." Which, by the way, absolutely (obviously) had something done to it to preserve it... but unfortunately it was to the point that it didn't really even look like meat anymore, but rather just a weirdly textured spray-painted-red, plaster-filled dress. On top of that, it was in a fully enclosed glass case. So I thought to myself, "They have a security guard for this, yet no one dedicated to, say, Michael Jackson's sequined glove or Elvis's jumpsuit or any of the other awesome items in the building?" Weird. Maybe Gaga made having a guard a condition of loaning out the dress. Who knows.

I would've included pictures of all the neat stuff that was there, except that -- as in many museums -- you weren't allowed to take any photos. The restriction was lifted in the atrium, though, which was where I snapped the Moby/Gwen props to the right, which were used in Gwen Stefani's Southside video (you can see them here from the 43-second mark on).

One last highlight that's worth mentioning before I wrap up: A wall dedicated to Rolling Stone magazine and its co-founder Jann Wenner. This display has tons of letters that famous rock stars sent to Wenner (as well as his replies), and there are also fascinating correspondences between Wenner and photographer Annie Leibovitz, as well as journalist/author Hunter S. Thompson (who wrote for the magazine in the early '70s).

When I was preparing to write this post and wanted to make sure I was getting my facts straight, I came across this section in Wenner's Wikipedia entry about how he's supposedly kept a lot of groups from being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame... groups including my beloved Monkees! Damn that snob!

Despite that "who gets inducted" controversy, I would still highly recommend a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should you ever find yourself in Cleveland. Musicians (like my husband) will probably appreciate all the museum has to offer a little more than plain old music-lovers like myself, but I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't find most of the major exhibits worth seeing.

Rock on,
- e