What the kids are reading these days….

Because I have yet to find one job that completely covers all of my living expenses, I baby-sit. You might be thinking, “Don’t you teach elementary school?” To that I answer, yes, I teach (part-time) AND I get to spend my days off with the tots of Chicago’s upper middle class. How did I get so lucky?

In all seriousness, I do like kids. We have fun… usually. Because of my jobs, I have been reading lots of children’s books lately – and I have to tell you, I have found a few upsetting things. My findings:

EXHIBIT A: This Barbie Wedding book.

ImageThe plot: Kristen asks Barbie and her sisters to be bridesmaids at her wedding. Barbie realizes this is going to be a lot of work.

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First, you have to choose the bride’s dress…..and then the bridesmaids’ dresses. Heaven forbid we have to wear ugly dresses – because it’s all about looking pretty, right?

ImageAnd of course you have to help choose the wedding band, but with a name like Glitter Girlz, how can you go wrong?

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Time to get ready for the big day! More getting pretty time. At least on this page we have the gay hair stylist demographic represented! And if you squint you can see the Asian and African American workers help make the young white girls pretty.

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Uh oh, band is stuck in traffic (worst excuse ever – the Glitter Girlz are meth heads and can’t even make it to their one wedding gig. Time for rehab!) Lucky for Kristen Barbie and her sisters can perform. The girl with the purple streaks in her hair knows how to spin.

ImageWedding is over, and from this pic we can tell just how important the groom is. Almost every page of this book is dedicated to the girls becoming beautiful decorations for one big party. Am I wrong in being offended by this book? Pretty anti-feminist, wouldn’t you say?

EXHIBIT B: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The story of little boy with a rotten attitude.

So, Alexander is having some bad luck. Gum in his hair, no prize in his cereal, the shoe store is sold out of his new sneakers. And yes, Paul said he was only his third best friend. I admit not the makings of a wonderful day…

 Top 100 Picture Books #8: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray CruzI know this one’s a classic, but most of the things Alexander is upset about are really just because of his poor attitude. He didn’t even try to color his picture in class and he called Australia on his dad’s office phone. And he pouts when he doesn’t get a window seat – maybe he just had the window seat yesterday! And crying over no dessert! Think of those starving children who don’t even have lunch. Is this what we want to be teaching the youth of America? Alexander, you need to buck up. Life is hard, time to man up.

EXHIBIT C: The Story of Babar

Possibly the worst offender. Let’s see what adventures Babar will take us on, shall we?

The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant - Vintage 1960Beginning of the book, Babar’s mother is shot – RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM. And I am not lying when I say the very next illustration is of HER DEAD BODY! Say what? This is literally on page three of the book, as if Bambi hadn’t scarred us for life! So, now that Babar is an orphan, he runs away to the city. He seems to forget his mother immediately and he befriends an old woman on the street.

She gives Babar money to buy new clothes, let’s him move in with her, and gives him her car. Excuse me? Babar is now a kept man. What does the old woman want in return? Then, Babar’s cousins, Celeste and Arthur, find Babar in the city. First thing, Babar buys them new clothes (with his sugar mama’s money, no doubt). But soon, their mothers find them and they insist that Babar and the young elephants return to forest and live with the other elephants.

Meanwhile, the King of the Elephants eats some bad mushrooms and dies. DIES! One death wasn’t enough for this children’s book; we had to have two.

The elephants need a new king and Babar drives up at this very moment. Because everyone cheers for his return, they decide he is the logical choice for king (does he have any king experience? I think not). But wait, Babar is engaged to Celeste. You may have forgotten but Celeste is his cousin. Babar will not be king unless Celeste can be queen. Everyone agrees, they order some fancy new wedding clothes, and leave for their honeymoon in a hot air balloon. (Pretty irresponsible since he was just appointed king)

There is some major Hamlet-esque shit going down I’m Babar. Death, high class prostitution, political espionage, and marrying younger cousins. Shakespeare couldn’t have written it better himself. I ask, do kids enjoy this?

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Happy Anniversary!

One year ago today (right around this time actually), I was entering the city of Chicago.  My dear friend who rode with me was clutching to her door handle for dear life as we drove on I-90 pulling a small U-Haul behind us.  Although that first parking experience was traumatic, I stuck it out.  One winter, two apartments, 364 days with too many side jobs to count – Here I am!  I feel as though I should impart some great wisdom that the big city has taught me…but here’s all I can come up with:

  • When getting on a train or bus, make sure you are traveling in the right direction.  Actually, this also applies to walking.
  • If you ever find you are walking in the wrong direction: 1. Stop.  2.  Stare at your phone.  3.  If you are positive that the blue dot was moving the wrong way, pretend to type a text message.  4. Stare at your screen for five more seconds. 5. Turn around and walk in the opposite direction.
  • When the taxi light is on, it means they are available to pick someone up.  Unless they just don’t give a shit and pass you by with an empty backseat.
  • It’s probably not a good idea to let strange men into your apartment.  Especially if the man in question wants to climb through your window.
  • If you live in apartment, get used to hearing every movement of your upstairs neighbor.  More than likely, you will also smell every meal of every tenant on your hall.
  • When cars are exiting an alley, protocol is to honk their horn to warn oncoming traffic of their presence.  If you happen to be standing near the alley, they are not honking at you.  You are not as hot as you think you are.
  • Most people take their shoes off when entering someone else’s apartment/house.  If you don’t know this rule, your friends will have no problem asking you to take off your shoes that have been defiled with dirt/urine/god knows what from the city streets and sidewalks.
  • It will probably snow in April.  Prepare yourself.  Crying is a totally appropriate response.
  • Places people expect you to know in Chicago: The Art Institute, The ‘Bean’ in Millenium Park, Hancock Building, Willis Tower (sometimes Sears Tower, name varies depending on who you ask but it’s the same place!), Navy Pier, and Wrigley Field.
  • People are busy – and they live more than five minutes away from you.  Planning a social outing usually involves way more preparation than ‘Hey what are you doing tonight?’  Get a calendar so you can keep up with your obligations.
  • Repeat after me: Bears, Blackhawks, and Cubs.  For extra credit you might need to know White Sox, but this is usually not on the exam.
  • They play hockey here.  It’s kind of a big deal.
  • Remember, it’s the Midwest.  So most people (not all), are actually pretty nice….well, at least decent.

I have probably learned way more than that, but that’s all I’ve got at the moment.  I can’t believe it’s been one year.  I guess time flies when you work a billion jobs, have an unpaid apprenticeship, make new friends, assistant stage manage a show, direct three different projects (all only 10 minute plays – but still), keep in touch with old friends, schedule time to see new friends, try to see as many plays as you can afford, and every so often binge watch an entire television series on Netflix.

So I leave you with these timeless words from the prophet Ferris Bueller (ashamed to say I didn’t realize that movie took place in Chicago until after I moved here):

The question isn’t “what are we going to do,” the question is “what aren’t we going to do?”

Ok, I couldn’t just pick one quote, so here’s one more:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

This most certainly is not the end of my Chicago Adventures.  More to come.

Bed Bugs and Breaking Bad

Well, it’s Saturday night, but – as you’ve probably guessed from the title of this post – not a party night for me.  I have two problems.  Let me assure you, one of them is not bed bugs…I’m almost positive I don’t have them.  But the fear of bed bugs has become very real.

Last night, I received a letter (under my door) from a tenant in my building.  This letter was to inform the residents that someone in the building has bed bugs.  I guess the management of our building is not dealing with the entire building but only with the affected apartments….and this isn’t the appropriate protocol.  Now I am super paranoid.  (I’m also going to be contacting the apartment manager to look into this situation.)

After reading the entire wikipedia page about bed bugs (plus skimming three other sites), I’m convinced that my apartment is infested.  I don’t actually have any evidence like bites or bug sightings or even the slightly sweet smell that bed bug nest might have (raspberries apparently) – I just feel itchy.  The more I think about the possibility, the more I itch (in fact writing this post is making me a little itchy).  So after all of my learning and itching, I decided I needed to completely clean my apartment.  Sheets and clothes are currently being washed and I even sprayed Febreeze on the mattress.  I realize this won’t do anything to protect me against bed bugs – it just made me feel better plus my bedroom smells nicer.  I’m making plans to do some more cleaning tomorrow – bugs or no bugs my apartment is a little gross.

Eek, I’m itchy again.  I need to change the subject.  My second problem is my new addiction for binge watching television series.  (Is there a plural form of the word series?  Serii?)  Anywho, the series of the night is Breaking Bad.  I know I’m super late to this party, but this show is hella good.  I’m already on season 2 and I’ve only been watching today.  This is a serious problem.  I am watching too much Netflix.  Is there treatment for television binging?  I need to find some other ways to fill my time.  Maybe the answer is to solve a problem with a problem?  Let bed bug watch 2013 begin!  Right after this next episode…