This Dress Makes Me Look Confused

This is a commercial I ran across lately, and the remarkable thing about it, in my opinion, is that it doesn't work. I mean companies put a lot of money into commercials, and I assume somebody watches them before they go on air. All it would have taken is one person reviewing it to say, "Wait, this woman isn't fat." There's no question, and she's also not skinny enough for her not-fatness to be funny. I keep hearing all this news about the rise in obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. It's not like we're short on fat people. Why pick one of the, like, twelve skinny people left to do your commercial? Now, there are other commercials that I don't like, can't relate to, that I wish would stop propagating stereotypes that are true to experience but probably just because they keep getting propagated, etc. but all those have a coherent message! It's like Tecate took two of the formulas used to target men -- 1. Sex-appeal, and 2. Depict women as insecure and foolish. -- mashed them together, and decided it didn't matter whether it made sense. Instead of making it seem like Tecate is the beer for regular guys, successful at navigating girlfriend politics, it seems that Tecate is the beer for projectional anorexics. I mean, it's bad enough to be disparaging towards women without, on top of it all, offending my marketing sensibilities. Come on! What happened to all the proper sexist ads?

Sorry, Tecate. Try again.


Are We in the Middle Class?

3:43 A.M.

I’m awake and outside. It’s drizzling. I don’t see anyone until I get to the Loyola red line stop where the attendant is outside smoking. He tells me good morning. It is a good morning. I was a little afraid to be walking by myself at this time of night, but now that I’m out here I feel alright. I had to, anyway. Mitch bought me a plane ticket for 6 o’clock in the morning from Midway, which is on the way other side of town. I’m cutting it close, not leaving myself a lot of wiggle room in order to get there on time. I had to do it this way, though. Off the red line I’ll transfer to the orange line, taking the earliest train south.

Gosh, I thought I had more money on my card. $2. I’m short by twenty five cents. Attention customers, an inbound train, towards the loop, will be arriving shortly. I probably have time to refill it. I take it over to the machine that takes credit cards… my pass won’t go in. Maybe if I turn it… no… what? I consider jumping the turnstiles, but I have a big backpack on and have you seen me try to jump generally? I decide against it. Okay, I didn’t want to use my cash up, but I can take it to the machine that adds cash. Attention customers… It takes my pass. Have to unfold the corner of my twenty – shit. I don’t have time for this. It spits the twenty back out at me. If I miss this train, I don’t know when the next one is coming.

The attendant hollers at me, “Is this your train?” Yes! Yes, it is. He lets me go through, telling me something. I think it was something like hurry. I run up the escalator and step through the train doors as they’re closing. They shut on my backpack and for a few seconds have me pinned. Stand clear of the doors. The doors are closing. Yeah, I know. I’m trying.

A man with four filled trash bags and a grocery cart watches me struggle to enter his temporary bed room. The doors spasm a bit and let me inside. I’ve heard about this, people who sleep on the red line. It’s the only one that runs all night. In my head, I had associated these people with the smell of piss that sometimes inhabits the train cars. This car smells fine, though.

There are a couple of guys talking and carrying on in the back; there’s also a white guy wearing a sweater and jeans. He looks back at me. I’m glad I made it.

4:00 A.M.

The guy with the grocery bags is getting off the train. I can’t imagine why. I didn’t think he was using the train to actually go anywhere. He’s got the shopping cart wedged between the doors; they’re doing the same number they did on my backpack earlier. He’s trying to get all that stuff off – And this on a train where the driver’s anxious to get a move-on. We were barreling down the tracks this morning – it’s taking a long freaking time. The guys in back have started to heckle him.

                “Hey man, hurry up! Some of us got jobs to go to.”

The man finally makes it off with all his stuff. I’m starting to feel a little safer – the men in the back of the train have jobs.

4:20 A.M.

The white guy gets off the train at Chicago. He’s got two text books in his hand, and this is the stop for Northwestern and Loyola. I think this guy may actually be going to the library. That is crazy.

4:25 A.M.

A guy walks into the car, singing. I can’t understand him. I think it’s something about strippers; he’s using pretty heavy ebonics and that’s the one word I can pick out. Da duh Da duh Da strippers! He’s also putting up flyers for a strip club; the guys in the back seem to love him. He’s making them laugh:

                “My buddy was up on stage with them, and he was all [something something] strippers! Had a booty up in his face, but he didn’t know. He was black out drunk.”

He gets off at the next stop to, I assume, spread his marketing campaign to the other cars.

4:37 A.M.

Transfer. The guys in the back of the train get off at the same stop as me. I keep pretty close to them as I ascend to the orange line platform. (They have jobs.) This is my favorite stop, Roosevelt. It’s the southernmost one of the loop and it’s high up with a wide platform; you can see all the way out to museum campus. There are suddenly signs of travelers. I see at least three petite women with rolling suitcases; they’re wearing boots and skinny jeans. They have their hair straightened and make-up done.

5:10 A.M.

Security, Midway Airport. I can’t find my I.D. What happens now? I don’t really have time to get out of line and ask somebody.

Phew, the guy checking licenses and boarding tickets for our line seems nice. He saw that the person in front of me was going to Atlanta and he gave her some restaurant suggestions. The women checking I.D.s in the line next to ours looks tired and she has a man’s voice… It could be worse.

“I can’t find my I.D.” He asks me what else I got. Student I.D.: Amanda Carver. Debit Card: Amanda Brown. Costco Card: Amy Carver. He stamps my boarding pass anyway, but I don’t get any restaurant suggestions.

6:00 A.M.

There’s a family in front of me on the causeway. I have an instinctive aversion to children when I travel. One of the little girls asks, “Mom, are we in the middle class?” The parents chuckle self-consciously knowing that what she wants to know is whether or not they’re sitting in coach, but that she’s also asking a very good question.

                “You mean, are we flying in coach. Yes, no first class this time.”

                “Will we ever be in first class?”

More chuckling. Also a good question. When the politicians talk about the shrinking middle class, I don’t think they mean an exodus upwards.

6:05 A.M.

Everyone, please make sure your seat belts are fastened…. Turn off your electronic devises and uh… Make sure your seatbelts and tray tables are… fastened and … put in the upright position.

Oh man, if this plane crashes into the Hudson, we are screwed.

7:00 A.M.

I read an article about a man from the East side of Detroit, “the rougher part of a rough city,” who despite being a nice guy and former honor student, became a hit man. I also read a fiction piece about Americans stringing up girls in white dresses by silken micro-thread through their temples and hanging them as lawn ornaments. The girls, still living and able to live like this, are from distressed communities in places like Moldova, Laos, and the Philippines. The Americans pay good money (even money they don’t have) in order to put them out there; it’s a sign of financial prosperity.

I’m sitting on the plane feeling guilty for my relative affluence and for my whiteness. So many people from this morning – the train attendant, the man with the garbage bags, the guys in the back of the train, the strip-club publicity agent, the man who stamped my boarding pass – black. But as soon as I step on the plane, there’s hardly any.

7:43 A.M.

I get to be in Denver briefly for a flight transfer. I can see a bit of the mountains out the windows, and for as much flying back and forth between here and college that I’ve done, DIA might as well be part of home. I feel like buying Colorado tourist paraphernalia.

8:18 A.M.

I’m on the causeway again. The men in front of me are Caucasian and look to be in their late forties. They’re chatting, having realized that they’re both going to Spokane for the Gonzaga reunion. They talk shop.

                “My wife’s the clinical psychiatrist at Denver Seminary.”

                “Oh really, I’m on their financial board.”

                “So does that mean you know [something something]?”

                “Yeah, he’s my skiing/golfing buddy.”

(That’s right, skiing/golfing buddy. It makes me think of this joke I heard about dressage being some kids’ only way out of the ghetto.) They talk some more.  (“You should give me your business card.”)

My seat is next to the guy whose wife is at the seminary. So I think I’m going to have to be sneaky about writing this. But then the flight attendant asks him to move to the exit row. She shows a black woman to his seat, explaining that she can’t speak English and therefore can’t sit in the exit row.

The woman shyly sits down and starts to talk quietly on her phone – in English. I cannot account for this.


Call Me Maybe

I've been thinking ahead about which albums I want to put on my list of "The Top Ten Best Albums of 2012." Of course, I am not an expert on music, I aggressively listen to new albums only some of the time, and I really just pick what I like. But in thinking about this, I got so excited to defend and elaborate on one of my choices, I decided to do it early.

Introducing a sneak preview to the Westovar(ian)'s top ten! Drum roll...

I'm not even sure if Carly Rae actually made a whole album to go with this song. It doesn't matter, it doesn't need one.

I find myself listening to it over and over. It's the one song at the gym that I actually like.

For a while part of its charm for me was associating it with Arrested Development - as in, call me Maeby:

But while Arrested Development tends to be considered good television, I don't know... Call Me Maybe doesn't seem to have what it takes to be considered properly good music. It's not complex, it's not saying a lot, it's very accessible, and it's not sung by a thin man wearing black pants and some beard stubble. It just doesn't smack of great genius, great art. I almost feel ashamed to be listening to it so much. (Except I tell myself, "Amy, you can like whatever you want. You stick by your preferences!" until I don't feel bad any more, mostly... maybe.)

Distinctions about what makes something good and what makes art ART are tricky. People have a general sense about it, for the most part, but when it comes down to specific standards, to laying down rules, it gets murky and stressful, especially since I put stake in my ability to recognize beauty and to be able to dismiss some or most of what's out there. The prospect of having to take every piece of music, visual art, or literature seriously makes my brain feel like it might explode.

From my painful forays into this territory, I've only come up with one distinction I'm fairly comfortable with. I think art begets more art. Really quality stuff is that which inspires other people to also create. And this song has clearly done that.


Western Ink

So... I've thought about getting a tattoo for a long time. It's something that interests me -- an option in the number of things to experience in life, and, as I am interested in art and in edginess (truly), I've considered getting one. I keep running into problems, though.

First, I've noticed that one reason people get tattoos is to signify something very meaningful to them, namely crosses. The problem that I have with getting a tattoo that represents something that means a lot to me is that it strikes me as sentimental. Plus, what if I change my mind later on in life? I want the freedom to do that. Furthermore, I'm at a point in life where showing that level of sincerity would be embarrassing. And so that leaves me...

Aesthetic reasons for getting a tattoo. I would want an image that had value in its own right. It would be something that wouldn't need explanation. Everyone would just immediately say, "That is awesome." The issue with this approach is that I can see a really beautiful image (like one of Annie Dugas's photographs) and not be emotionally compelled to put it on my body. Thus I have gone tattoo-less through my teenage years and into my mid twenties.

But I think I might finally have found it. It is possible that I have merged beauty and meaning so perfectly into one idea... I could finally have my tattoo.

It also started with a conversation...

I forget most of the conversation, but it included Mikey talking about getting a tattoo of the state of Oregon, he being from Oregon. Something like:

And then Mitch, being from Washington, said that he'd like to get the state of Washington.

I will get Colorado.


I posted something new on The Westovar(iant). Come take a bloggy field trip!


Adventures on the 7:20

Mitch and I have been living in Chicagoland for a little over a year now, in Chicago proper for about eight months. It's been difficult to make friends; whereas in college, we were practically thrust upon like-minded people from similar backgrounds and age-brackets and socio-cultural-economic standing. We came to rely so much on this for our happiness that we've been moaning in our Rogers Park apartment, tears staining our increasingly parched and weathered skin -- we need friends! Etc.

But the winds are changing....

I've been going on long runs with a coworker on Thursday evenings. After I finish, I shower, buy something from 7-eleven and go wait on the cement steps in front of my job for the shuttle to take me home. My least favorite driver drives the shuttle for this particular time slot, 7:20. He gets me home at least ten minutes slower than the other drivers; he wildly slams on the brakes for no apparent reason - standing passengers almost falling over. Someone yelled at him once about it, and instead of changing this practice, he's decided to just shout at everyone before we embark that they need to "hold on." (He also refuses to go around CTA buses, which is crazy.)

Two weeks ago, by the time he was running twenty minutes late, a woman who looked to be about my age sat down and started talking to me. I found out that she had just started a PhD program in sociology. She explained that she was downtown for a grant-writing seminar, and that her classes are usually up in Evanston. As we continued to talk, I enjoyed her company. It made me feel less annoyed when the shuttle arrived a full hour late.

The next week, my co-worker asked if we could change our long-run day to Wednesday. Fine by me. We ran, I showered, I went to 7-eleven and then went to catch the shuttle. Same time slot, same driver. The girl I met before was back! She said she hadn't come downtown since our last adventure the Thursday before, and I hadn't had any reason to catch the late shuttle since that either. We could only guess if the bus-running-an-hour-late issue had been resolved. We agreed that if the shuttle was more than 20 minutes late we would take the train.

This time it was not so late, but the traffic on Lake Shore Drive was horrendous because of construction. It looked like it was going to be a long trip home anyway. This new person and I sat next to each other and continued to talk. (Quite nice -- I need friends!) It was the last trip she was going to have to make down to the Chicago campus for a while.

We were at the bend in Lake Shore just north of Chicago Ave where there are four lanes crammed into the space of three, and there are cement barriers on either side of the road, no shoulders. We heard a crunch and then a plastic dragging noise down the length of the side of the shuttle. The driver stopped and a pick-up truck stopped next to us. He opened the shuttle doors and the driver of the pick-up yelled out his window, "What the fuck, man! You broke my window." By which he clearly meant driver's-side mirror, which is not a window. Our driver said, "You were over the line [sparky. Mark it zero.]." They agued. The shuttle's front right window had large radial cracks and splinters.

Meanwhile, we were blocking the middle two lanes of Lake Shore Drive, one of the busiest roads in Chicago. People behind us were honking wildly. The owner of the truck kept talking to our driver; he'd calmed down some and is clearly too shy to step on the bus and have all of us looking at him. (By the way, the 7:20 crowd is really congenial. This was at least the second major set-back in as many weeks, and still people are sitting nicely, chatting with each other, even smiling. An outstanding group of commuters.) He eventually said not to worry about it, and pulled the truck to in front of the bus.

They swapped insurance, but our driver refused to move. He said he needed to make a police report and that it was illegal to leave the scene of a crash. The police were called. More honking from passers-by, several obscenities. The Soc. student and I were having another nice talk, which it seemed, would be able to continue indefinitely; we hadn't moved for half an hour. It turned out that she lived close to me, only one street over. Eventually, a plan was made for us to get on another shuttle, making the swap in the middle of packed Lake Shore.

"You'll be able to get on the other bus, but I will just have to sit here." Said the bus driver, sulkily. I wondered if he thought we'd feel sorry for him. Then the police showed up. An officer stepped on the bus and asked him what the hell he was doing. "Traffic is backed up to 56th street." Which seemed impossibly far south for that to be true. "You have 72 hours to file a police report. Is there any reason your bus can't move?" There wasn't, so we left.

I got home an hour and forty minutes later than I should have. I excitedly told Mitch about my new friend (we exchanged facebook info), and I thought about the coincidence involved in my meeting her on her two trips to down town (on different days of the week) and getting stuck for an hour-plus with nothing better to do than hang out both times. I'm not one to credit divine interference to the little lucky strokes in life, but this coincidence seemed rather elaborate and so needed and.... Mitch exclaimed that it must have sucked so bad for the people in traffic. He bet that thousands of parents had had to miss their children's sports games because of it. Maybe I wouldn't tell the divine interference thing to Mitch...