July 30, 2008

Final Destination

I carried the last of my things to my new home tonight. The Salvation Army men came Monday and moved most everything I had not yet taken over to Mike’s place. I went back to my apartment tonight knowing after a quick sweep of my floors and a quick sweep of the items left in my fridge I would be done with life in my crappy, old apartment. From there, it was a hop, skip and a jump down the street to permanent shacking up with my man.

Unfortunately, the sweep turned out to be more of a gathering. As I pulled my front door shut, I stared at what I was about to juggle down the street: a banker’s box full of food, a purse with hangars jutting out of it, a shoulder bag filled with mugs, files and frozen food items, a bucket of various cleaning supplies and a broom. It was a lot. More than I could handle.

My first clue it was too much for one person should have been my tripping down the front stairs of my building. I was so focused on how I was going to open the door that I missed the bottom step. Don’t worry, my knees caught the brunt of my fall. My second clue that I was carrying too much should have been the homeless lady in the ally. As I passed her, me holding more than she probably owned, she commented, “Man, that’s a lot of stuff to be carrying.”

Yes, homeless lady, it was.

I stopped four times to readjust my load during the short walk down the street. By the time I made it to my official new home, Mike witnessed the woman he loves enter his home, the one he will be sharing it with - the one covered in sweat with mascara running down her cheeks, the one with scraped, bloody knees. He asked how moving went, and I snapped back “terrible” as I slammed the door to grab the second half of my load waiting at the bottom on the stairs. When I reached the third floor landing for the second time he asked, “You carried this here all by yourself?” Yes, Mike, I did. Just ask the homeless lady in my alley.

I grabbed the few frozen food items I brought (including the bag of lima beans that made the trip wedged under my left armpit), put them in the freezer and then headed back down the stairs. In my frustration of finally reaching Mike’s place, I slammed my box o’ food in the foyer. It contained powdered creamer which was now covering a portion of the entryway. I again headed down the three flights of stairs to sweep it up.

As I came up the stairs for the third and final time that night, I was greeted by Mike again. This time, he had a cold beer in hand. He said, “Here. I thought you might need this.”

Looks like this shacking up thing is working out pretty well already.

July 22, 2008

Weekend Activities

My nephews came to visit me this past weekend. As usually happens when they come into town, my sister had their schedule packed full of activities before they even hit the streets of Chicago.

The boys did a lot in one weekend, but I think I know one thing that they might talk about more than others. Was it their afternoon at the Shedd Aquarium? No. Was it their trip to Buckingham Fountain? Don't think so. Was is the slam dunk, double header of the Lego and Hershey stores downtown followed by a local deep dish pizza joint? Maybe, but probably not. On Saturday they went bowling, played in the park near my house and went to Navy Pier for the weekly Saturday night fireworks. I am sure they enjoyed all of these things, but I don't think they'll quite measure up to seeing my neighbor passed out in the stair well.

That's right. When they arrived back at my apartment Saturday night, sleeping on the landing between my second and his third floor apartment was my neighbor... snoring.

When the nephews went down to Navy Pier Saturday night, I opted for some quiet time at Mike's place. My sister and the boys beat me back to my apartment. As I walked up the stairs, I could hear the hushed excitement of the boys when they told me, "Aunt Amy! Your neighbor is asleep on the stairs!" The boys were quieter than usual, careful not to wake my intoxicated neighbor, but their laughter erupted when they got inside my apartment. Although, I don't think their noise level would have mattered. Clearly if he couldn't make it the extra 10 steps to his apartment, noise wasn't a factor in his sleeping location. (For those of you concerned yes, he was back in his place by the morning. The nephews checked.)

Now I hope this won't be the only thing they remember from their Chicago weekend, but something tells me this is the kind of thing a six- and eight-year-old boy would be more than happy to tell many a person. Maybe, just maybe, though they'll tell grandma and grandpa about their fun time at the park making Aunt Amy run their ninja warrior courses on the jungle gym.

July 14, 2008

Street Walking

When I moved into my apartment last year, I did so for many reasons: proximity to public transportation, a bedroom, a balcony, hot and cold water that came out of the same bathroom faucet, etc. However, there was one reason overshadowing all others. My new apartment is a five minute walk from Mike’s condo. That distance (or lack thereof) was a blessing compared to the $20 cab or 45 minute public transportation ride that came with my old crappy, cramped studio. I could not have been happier when I signed my lease knowing I could walk to Mike’s place in a matter of minutes.

Now my new place was not without flaws. It didn’t have the dishwasher I had hoped for and it showed obvious signs of wear and tear from what I estimate is its 350 year history. (Yes, I do think my apartment building is older than the United States) There also was no laundry room in the building. The landlords advertised the building as having laundry “RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!!!!!” I took that to mean free laundry at Mike’s place. He has a washer and dryer in his condo, so about every two weeks or so, I’d walk down to his place with laundry basket in hand and laundry bag slung over my shoulder. He also has in the wireless Internet at his place. I successfully stole the Internet at my apartment up until a few months ago. At that point, Mike’s place served as my own personal Wi-Fi hot zone. In case you can’t tell, Mike’s place is much nicer than mine. Oh, he also has a dishwasher.

We have been dating for more than a year and a half now. When I moved to his neighborhood we had been dating for about 8 months - granted we had worked together more than a year at that point. Moving up here was a bit of a test for our relationship. He and I were both pretty sure living closer to one another would be a good thing. It has been good - so good I think that I’ve earned a reputation in this community.

You see, for the past year, I think I’ve been known as the crazy bag lady of Wolcott Ave.

As is apparent from the paragraphs above, Mike’s place is far nicer than mine, so consequently we spent much more time at his place than mine. About mid-way through my year lease, I began spending most weekends there. And it was a rarity when I wouldn’t bring something with me - a change of clothes, my laundry, my laptop and occasionally my cat. So on most Fridays, more often than not I’d be walking down the street carrying something. Usually not just one something though. I’d have the laptop/cat combo, knowing I could manage both. Or the laptop/laundry combo. Or on a rare occasion, the laundry/cat combo. Never all three though. I’m not that strong. Or perhaps, I never wanted to be perceived as that crazy.

Channeling my inner Sherpa, I would walk down the street Friday night carrying whatever I was to live with that weekend. Mike and I would spend the weekend doing whatever it is that we do that makes our weekends pass so quickly. But as always Sunday night rolled back around and I’d start thinking about my long, five minute walk home. I found myself staying later and later on Sundays, until it was too late to walk home. So then I’d stay another night and walk home in the morning. I can’t begin to guess how many people I passed those early Monday mornings - they on their way to the train, in their nice work clothes with coffee in hand, and me doing my modified version of the walk of shame, in need of a shower and with cat in hand.

The good news is my crazy bag lady days are coming to a close. I am moving again. Not too surprising I am sure, but I’m moving into Mike’s place! It was the path we thought we were heading down when I moved last August, so it makes me incredibly happy to think that in a year we’ve grown close enough to believe that a five minute walk is too far.

Although I guess that bad news is I actually have to move, so my crazy bag lady status will stay intact until August 1. If anything, I’m ramping it up a bit. Why yesterday night I carried a backpack, purse, shoulder bag bursting with dresses and hangars, and a tub of cat litter to Mike‘s place. And tonight, well tonight it was two purses, an armful of winter coats and hoodies and a plastic bag with shoes, a cook book and a hair dryer. My goal for this move is to have it go as smoothly as possible, which means as gradually as possible. I figure if I take a little at a time it won’t seem so bad. With any luck (and a lot of arms muscle) all my things will successfully be moved down the street and into Mike‘s home in a little over two weeks. At that point I’ll have a new goal - to walk down the street with two free hands.

July 8, 2008

Moroccan Lessons

Here are a few things I learned while in Morocco (with visual aids!):

I learned that Snoop Dog is popular in Morocco. Too bad his Moroccan fans can't spell this name. We later saw more graffiti that said "Snop Dog."

I laerned that cats are everywhere in Morocco. Most of them have fleas and are approximately one-eighth the size of Oscar.

I learned that doing laundry in the sink is a decent alternative to a washing machine and dryer. This photo was taken on day seven of the trip, about half way through and about time to clean my undies.

I learned that Morocco has Roman ruins.

I learned that no matter how hard I knock, the king will not answer his palace door.
I learned that without the aid of a skilled guide, I could have never found my way out of the souks of Marrakesh.

And lastly, I learned that Morocco has some pretty amazing sunsets.

July 1, 2008

Hassan II Mosque

The first sightseeing, tourist thing we did in Morocco was visit the Hassan II Mosque. Everything in Morocco is named after Hassan II - the airport in Casablanca, every major thorofare in every city and this mosque. Hassan II is the grandfather of the current king.
This mosque is the only one we entered while in Morocco because it is the only one non-Muslims can enter. But if we were going to see one, this was the one to see. We had a wonderful guide who showed us the mosque, it's many rooms and told us all about the traditions of the Muslim faith.

Construction on the mosque began in 1987 and was completed in 1993. The mosque is open 7 days a week and at capacity it can hold about 25,000 people. It has a giant retractable roof that can open in under three minutes. Given the sheer magnitude of the structure, that is amazing.

Oh, and you also can't wear shoes in it.

Like I said, this was the first place we went, so I was a little camera happy. I've got a lot of photos of the mosque. Like this one:
And these:

As beautiful as the exterior was, no detail was spared in the interior - granite, marble, ornate woodworking, you name it. As our guide pointed out, everything in the mosque was constructed of materials made in Morocco. There was only one exception - the huge, sparkling chandeliers were from Venice.
See the mosque, how pretty....

Our tour of the mosque included the bathing areas. There were separate areas for the men and women to wash. Muslims have a very strict ritual of washing. The hands, the feet, the face are all washed in a certain order and repeated three times... just to make sure they are really clean.
The men's wash area:

The women's room was really just like a giant spa tub. It also was pretty dark, so I only got this one photo.

So yeah, I may have documented every square inch of this mosque, but I couldn't help it. It was out first stop, and I was giddy to be in Morocco. But I mean, can you really blame me - look how pretty!