Surviving the Polar Vortex: The Dos and Don’ts

I’m sure it’s not news to anybody: it’s freakishly cold outside.  In Chicago we’ve had record snow fall and low temperatures.  Everyone told me that last winter was mild, but I can honestly say that I didn’t understand until now.  This storm has been a rude awakening for this Mississippi girl.  Here’s how I’ve handled the worst cold front in 20 years.

Do:  Be thankful you have a job where people understand the difficulties the winter storm can cause commuters.  (Or that you work in an old building where the reliability of the heating system is often questioned)  Either way, I’ve been working from home the past two days.

Don’t Wait until the storm hits before purchasing a snow shovel. I thought only people with sidewalks needed snow shovels but I was wrong.  SO WRONG.  Half of my car is currently covered with snow – I can’t see two of the tires.  So now, I am going to have to buy a shovel and bring it home via public transportation.  I’m still psyching myself up for that trip.  (PLUS, I’ve never shoveled snow before.  Is there some sort of trick to it?)

Do:  Remember to go to the grocery store before the extreme cold hits.  My grocery essentials: Diet Coke, frozen pizza, milk, and Ben & Jerry’s.

Don’t: Wait until the night that the temperatures drop to go grocery shopping.  Transit will be slow and you will spend a fair amount of time waiting for the bus to and from your grocery adventures.  The whole ordeal reminded me of scene from The Day After Tomorrow.  (Remember when Dennis Quaid and his partner had to walk to New York in their arctic gear to save Jake Gyllenhaal from the library?  In this scenario, I am Dennis Quaid and my ice cream was Jake Gyllenhaal.)

Don’t forget the ice cream!

Do: Be thankful that you purchased an Official Chicago Women’s Coat last winter.  That thing certainly keeps you warm!  Another bonus: if you should happen to fall down the icy stairs at the El station, your puffy coat will provide your bum with some extra padding.  However, the coat will not shield you from the embarrassment of sliding down 6 steps before having a stranger stop you on your way down.  Luckily everyone was so bundled up, I couldn’t see anyone’s face and I assume they couldn’t see mine.

Don’t: Hesitate to call to call your landlord if you notice murky water in your kitchen sink.  It is sewage water!!  Gah-ross.  I am the lowest apartment level, so when a pipe froze I was the first apartment to notice the water backing up.  I’m so lucky.  For the past two afternoons, I have had multiple Polish gentlemen in and out of my apartment attempting to fix the problem.  Every once in a while I will hear an “Oh boy…” from the kitchen followed by Polish and clanging of pipes.  The problem is still not fixed.

Do: Make sure you have enough tv shows and/or movies in your Netflix queue to entertain you.  You will not be getting much human interaction (except with your Polish property manager) so you are going to need some entertainment.  I made the mistake of watching lots of t.v. over the weekend, which left me with slim pickins’ for Monday and Tuesday.

Don’t: Be surprised when you do go outside for a quick errand.  Your nose hairs might freeze, but you will survive.

Do: Remember to call your mom.  She is probably worried about you and will require multiple updates.

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Stay Warm everyone!  Don’t forget your hat and mittens.


Ok, Cupid, Where are you hiding the normal guys?

Welcome to Part 2 of my online dating adventures.  As I stated in Part 1, I went on a few dates with guys from OkCupid when I first moved here, but after some dates varying from mediocre to not-so-great I had to take a break for a while.  The break ended about a month ago, when I actually started browsing OKC’s website again.  I decided I needed to put myself ‘out there’ again, and I promised myself that I was actually going to go out with someone (as opposed to clicking through tons of profiles haphazardly and accepting my impending spinsterhood).

John sent me a message.  It said:

  • I think you are cute wow, and when I read you very a bubbly personality, that’s adorable, and then you might have an accident (he means accent). I’m hoping you message me. Sorry I never actually said hi, lol Hinthere. I’m John. I’m very much the creative type to, I’m out there doing stand up and have a side job to pay the bills as well. So tell me more about you…what’s your name?

Since I was trying not to be too judgmental, I decided to  let the spelling errors slide.  He seemed pretty normal, so I messaged him back.  We exchanged phone numbers and sent a few texts back and forth.  Mostly we talked about tv shows we liked.  A few days later, John asked if I wanted to get together for a drink over the weekend.

He wanted to meet in Bucktown (a neighborhood a bit south of me).  I chose a bar around the corner from a friend’s house and told John to meet me at 1:30 on Saturday.  I spent most of the morning running errands, so by the time I got to the bar I was starving.

John seemed nice enough.  Not great looking but very friendly.  I ordered food which meant I was committed to sitting with this guy long enough for a meal.  That’s when the fun really started.  Some fun highlights included: a story about how he got kicked out of Canada, he wants to be a stand up comedian but he doesn’t want to make people laugh, and he’s written a book (just for himself, not published) about his previous jobs dressing as an elf or bunny.  But here’s what really stood out:

Red flag #1:  He referred to his sister as ‘evil spawn’.  The first time he mentioned this, I thought it was just a joke.  But he continued to talk about how much he hated his sister. Even if you have the most dysfunctional of families, please don’t share this information on a first date.  PLUS, if your sister once tried to convince your family that you were beating up your mom (whether it was true or not), don’t tell anybody, EVER!

Red flag #2:  He is 30 and works at a deli.  Ok, I know the job market is in the toilet these days BUT it wasn’t just the fact that he works in a deli.  He has only been working there for a month, and he told me a story about calling in sick to work and having his boss chew him out about.  I think I responded by saying something like, “Yeah, sometimes you get sick.”  He made a face that made me think ‘sick’ was code for ‘hung over’ or ‘just don’t feel like it’.  He didn’t say it outright, but I am sensing that this guy has been fired a time or two before.

  •  Can I just say that we are at 2 Red Flags and my food has JUST arrived.  I knew at this point that John and I would not be sharing a lasting connection.  However, I could tell that the club sandwich and I were meant for each other.

Red flag #3:  Trying to maintain to most basic of conversation I asked “Where did you go to school?” His answer was about high school…and high school only.  This would have been bad enough, but then he went on to explain that he went to the alternative school (for kids with behavior problems, I think?) and didn’t even finish.  He got his G.E.D.

  • I tried to focus on my sandwich.  But I must have an amazing poker face, because he just kept on sharing.  Which brings us to…

Red flag #4:  Towards the end of the meal, he said he needed to be honest with me.  (Oh no, this can not be good.)  His announcement was (drum roll please)  He still lives with his ex-girlfriend.  SAY WHAT!?!  They broke up in October and he’s too nice to kick her out because she’s uneployed and blah, blah, blah.  At this point my face could no longer stay disconnected from my brain and my face must have given everything away.  “You’re judging, aren’t you.”  I responded truthfully saying something about this being a surprise and a complicated situation.

Here’s what I should have said, “Of COURSE, I’m judging.  You just told me that you hate your sister, you never graduated high school, and even though you are living with your ex-girlfriend you are looking for dates online!”  But I didn’t say this.  I’m too nice.  Finally, it was time to pay and leave this disaster behind.  John mentioned maybe wanting to go out again, and I smiled and said maybe and then practically ran to my friend’s house.

If you ever have a bad date, you should definitely immediately take your gay friend to see Catching Fire and forget about ending up like a cat lady.  That’s what I did, and it turned out to be a splendid afternoon.

Thank you, Peeta and Katniss. You saved my Saturday.

A few days after the date, John sent me a text that said something like this:

  • Kate, you’re really sweet and a great girl.  I don’t think this is a good time for me to be dating anyone.  I hope you find what you’re looking for.

That’s right – he’s the one who officially broke it off.  I was relieved but at the same time a little ticked that he was the one to do it first.  The lesson here: Never excuse spelling errors and bad grammar.  You will regret it.

I’m kind of on another break from OkCupid.

when theatre people watch the Sound of Music Live

I know I’m late to the party, but I have some opinions and what’s the point of a blog if I don’t share them!

I learned about the Sound of Music Live a little over a week ago.  I heard a conversation how the whole nation was anxiously anticipating the ‘live musical’.  Since I work in a theatre office, we were all a little outraged at this comment.  I don’t know if you are aware, but every time (every SINGLE time) you go to see a musical at a theatre (or a play for that matter) it’s live.  I realize it’s not usually broadcast to the entire nation, but every actor in the theatre is doing live performances every night!!

Friday morning in the office, the first priority was letting everyone share their opinions about what they had seen the night before.  Unfortunately, I do not have cable and I had a baby-sitting job on Thursday.  But through the magic of facebook, I was able to keep up with all my friends’ opinions in real time.  And then, tonight, I discovered the entire broadcast (and the making of special) was on Hulu!!  And I didn’t have to sit through the strange Wal-Mart commercials.  Below, are my thoughts on the show, and I’ve included some of my friends facebook comments from the live broadcast.

The most brilliant decision of this entire spectacle: Audra McDonald as Mother Abbess.  She is perfection.  I can’t wait to here her sing Climb Every Mountain!  After we meet the nuns, we move to Carrie and THE SONG.

  • opening song transposed down at least a fourth – ohhhhh Carrie!!!!!!!!! – Kate’s facebook friend

Now, we’re back to the nuns and Ms. McDonald.  Even I don’t deserve to call her by her first name.  America is shown the first difference between the stage show and the iconic movie: My Favorite Things happens in the abbey.  Mr. Ashford, why would ask Carrie to continuously circle the desk during My Favorite Things?  Are we playing musical chairs?  Oh no, now Ms. McDonald is circling the desk?  No, NO!  I’m starting to notice a lack of emotion from Carrie.  She’s begging to stay at the abbey, but I’m looking at her face and thinking, “Do you really want to stay, Carrie?  DO YOU?”  I’m not buying it and neither is Mother Abbess. So, we move to Von Trapp household.

  • Supporting roles such as Butler 1 and Housekeeper stealing the show! – Kate’s facebook friend

It’s becoming very obvious to me that this classic musical just doesn’t play well on a sound stage.  Vampire Bill (aka Capt. Von Trapp) and Carrie are letting any chance to show us any emotion just fly by!  Maria wins these kids over WAY too fast.  It’s just so unrealistic.  The cameras are too close for these cheesy lines and (at moments) petrified actors.

  • Carrie keeps looking at us. Ever so briefly. It’s like she’s asking for help. – Kate’s facebook friend

Let’s skip ahead to Liesel’s big moment (and my personal favorite from childhood): Sixteen Going on Seventeen.  Liesel is cute, but Rolf looks so old.  (I watched the making of special, and I know they say he’s a senior in college.  But compared to Liesel, he looks like a creeper).  Plus, I’m getting a little seasick from the camera moving back and forth to follow all of this frolicking in the hills.  And his little short pants?  He looks ridiculous!  And the roll down the hill at the end!  My friends say it best:

  • He is thirty …she is 16. But, I don’t think he likes girls, so it’s cool.  There is a murder weapon. There is rolling. He’s trying to kill her why doesn’t somebody TRY AND HELP HER!!!! – Kate’s facebook friend

Now Carrie is praying.  No, not for the end of this experiment, it’s part of the show.  It’s her first night at the Von Trapp’s, and she must pray for all the children.  It’s at this precise moment that I remember Julie Andrews in the original movie.  I LOVED this movie as a kid (along with much of the nation, I’m sure).  As I watch Carrie’s version of this moment, I really miss the great Julie Andrews.  She really was wonderful, wasn’t she.  Voice of an angel and a splendid actress to boot.  Time for the goatherd song.  Kids under the bed during the yodeling – ok, I’ll give you that one, Rob.  Super cute.

The pros are here!  Laura Benanti.  I love you.  (I actually kind of liked Go On.)  Christian Borle.  I love you.  (And I really miss Smash.)  I guess this was NBC’s way of apologizing to both of them for cancelling their television shows.  Now we have actors with some timing, and faces that move. Wait, did she say smoke a big cigar?  I don’t remember the kind of innuendo from the movie.  And even though I love the two of you as Max and Ilsa, I’m not really going to pay attention to your song.  Sorry.  At this point in the show, it’s hard for me to give any part of this my full attention.

Time for Vampire Bill to show us the Captain’s big turn around from cold, unfeeling navy man to warm, loving father.  Oh wait, there’s no difference.  I know your dad just started singing for the first time in who knows how long, but that hug from Marta and Greta in the background is a bit much even for me.

Party time.  Why are all of Carrie’s dresses SO unflattering?  C’mon costume designer, the Captain is supposed to find Maria desirable.  This is the moment – they are falling in love.  Here’s my review of Carrie’s acting so far.

I love the hills, and I’m very happy:

I don’t want to leave the abbey.  I’m very upset:

The Captain is singing with his children.  I am very moved:

I think I might love the Captain:

No really, I LOVE the Captain:

  • The doorknobs are giving me more than Carrie is. – Kate’s facebook friend

Yes, that is the same face.  Every time.  And we are only at the half-way point.  Luckily, we get to go back to the abbey and listen to Ms. McDonald again.  Dear lord, she is perfection.  And only her beautiful rendition of Climb Every Mountain gets Carrie Underwood to show a glimpse (although slight) of true emotion for the first time during this telecast.  She’s crying.  Oh wait, she stopped.

The children are sad because Carrie is gone.  We could just end the show there, but alas, we must soldier on.  Laura Benanti you are beautiful, and I love this pink top red/pants ensemble.   Another song for the pros (with Vampire Bill).  Why is this song is so upbeat? Aren’t we talking about the inevitability of the Nazis invading?

Carrie’s back.  Laura is leaving (why?!?).  I’m actually rooting for the Baroness at this point because she’s showing some real emotion about being left for the nanny.  Now that Laura is gone, time for a ‘love’ song between our leading lady and man.  All I can think of is how I wish the Baroness was still in the show.

  • Is this that thing where Carrie is the pretty girl in high school and it’s her senior year so she had to be the lead, and the actual girl who can act is playing the governess and smoking cigarettes behind the field house saying, “…I’m gonna get so much work when I’m forty…goddamnit.” – Kate’s facebook friend

Back from the honeymoon, but the Von Trapps are in trouble!!  Better think fast, Carrie.  It’s a good thing you had those matching outfits lying around to go so you can fool those Nazis and escape!  Oh my there are a lot of swastikas at this concert.  Luckily your costumes match the flags.  And thank you Christian Borle for showing us some real emotion about the family taking a risk to escape the Third Reich.

It’s the last scene of the play!  Back in the abbey.  Wait, I didn’t realize that Rolf DIDN’T rat the family out in the stage play.  It makes me like him a little more – but kudos to the film for making a more interesting choice.  I know it’s night…but it’s really dark.  I could barely see Rolf’s gun.  This doesn’t feel dangerous at all…but maybe it’s better this way.  I also can’t see Carrie and Vampire Bill’s dead faces.  Oh lord, Thank Goodness it’s Audra and the nuns that sing the last number of the show.  Ok, I’ll admit, I may be getting a few chills watching the family climb the foothill to freedom.

Overall, not completely horrible, but it definitely had it’s problems.  I’ll let my friends wrap it up:

  • It’s a creepy intersection of not-theater, not-television and it’s a deep pit of hollow. I love every second of it. – Kate’s facebook friend
  • Her bra’s all cattywompus and she can’t fix it cuz she’s on the television! – Kate’s facebook friend (also from the South.  See cattywompus.)
  • …dammit, it needed a little more fore-thought. So, NEXT TIME, let’s agree to hire a real costume designer and give the pop star an acting coach. SUPPORT OUR PLAYERS. – yet another facebook friend
  • From henceforth, let all situations where an artist signs up for a project only to realize it’s out of their league but it’s too late to back out, be known as getting “Von Trapped”. Example: “It’s only the first day of my Cirque training, and I’m already feeling Von Trapped.” – arguably Kate’s most clever facebook friend


Ok, Cupid, I’ll Give It a Try

Let’s talk about dating – a topic that I have managed to avoid on the blog so far.  It’s probably related to the fact that I am barely dating at all.  But I have tried (a little) and have come to the conclusion that there are no normal, single men in Chicago.  None!

I did have a crush on someone quite a while back, but of course that went nowhere because he was kind of dating (and later officially dating) someone else.  I made it very clear I was interested.  This means, I told everyone in my office that I had a crush on him, and we would all giggle when his name came up in conversation.  Isn’t that what normal 28 year olds do?  Wait, only 7th grade girls?  Damn.  I’m totally out of moves.

Since I wasn’t meeting many single guys on my own, I turned to online dating.  A part of me finds sites like OkCupid and absolutely terrifying, but I felt like I didn’t have much choice.  I did peruse OkCupid for a short time when I was living in Mississippi.  Almost every profile I read professed a deep love of ‘huntin’ and ‘muddin’, and although I love a pick up truck as much as the next girl, I felt that the available pool of men were not really for me.


Fast forward to last fall.  I updated my OkCupid location and started window shopping for a boyfriend. I was actually excited.  I was reading profiles of guys who liked art and theater and other creative pursuits.  They had interesting movie and music preferences and were able to sound witty and charming in their profile – I think an online dating profile is the most difficult medium a writer can tackle.  And only a handful mentioned killing animals for fun!  I was so, very optimistic.

It took me only a few dates to become as jaded and cynical as everyone else.  Here’s why:

Guy # 1:   We planned to meet for drinks, but the time kept getting pushed back because of his other plans.  By the time we met, it was 11 p.m.  (I had literally lived in Chicago for only a few weeks at this point, and I was more than a little nervous about setting out by myself so late.)  I texted a few friends to let them know I was going on a blind date, and what this guy’s profile name was in case I disappeared suddenly.  (I have done this on all subsequent dates.  If I go missing, I want to make sure the police will have a good lead – DUH!)

Conversation with this guy was going ok UNTIL the guy asked me if I did any improv

ME:  No, I prefer working on full length plays.

HIM:  Well, you will. This is Chicago.

Excuse me, but please don’t tell me what I will or won’t like.  Once the improv door was open, he admitted that he had a sketch comedy show with some his of friends all about their experiences with online dating.  We started talking about the bad dates he had gone on (I, of course, had none to speak of since this was my first ‘online’ date ever).  If you are ever on a first date and this subject comes up, CHANGE THE SUBJECT IMMEDIATELY.  I promise, you will learn nothing but horrifying things about this other person.  The date was so-so, but the guy kinda went a little cuckoo when I told him texted him that I wasn’t interested in a second date.  He sent a few more dramatic texts saying I should have told him I didn’t find him attractive instead of saying I might be up for a second date.  Kind of a drama queen.  I can’t help but wonder if our date has made it into his sketch show.

Guy #2:  We met for drinks.  We had plans, then he cancelled the plans because ‘a friend of his was really bummed and needed him’ only to text me an hour later asking if I was still up for meeting.  Those sketchy circumstances aside, I actually had a good time.  Conversation wasn’t awkward (the drinks helped) and the guy seemed to be pretty normal.  Attractive, funny, and he seemed to like me.  There was even a goodnight kiss involved.  Then, I experienced the fade away.  He just disappeared, never to text or message again.   (You should follow the link to a very funny dating blog called Stupid Cupid.  These ladies are hilarious and understand the pitfalls of OKcupid)  If you’re keeping score, I’m 0 for 2.

Guy #3:  This time I met the guy for dinner.  We messaged a few times before our date and realized that we lived on the same street.  He literally lived four houses down from my apartment building.  I almost cancelled when I found this out.  What if it was absolutely terrible and I kept running into him in the neighborhood?!?  But I got over that anxiety and went anyway.

The date wasn’t so bad, and it really helped that this guy was tall and very cute.  He was a little strange, but his good looks were making up for it.  The strangest part of the evening was when he admitted to taking classes at Second City NOT because he was interested in improv but to improve his social skills.  (huh?)  Then, he wanted to play improv games at the dinner table.  (I actually agreed to attempt this with him.  In case you couldn’t guess, the game was a disaster.)  That WAS the strangest part UNTIL…

When the meal was over, Guy 3 reaches in his pocket and says, “I brought something for the occasion.”  I was petrified.  What is in his pocket?  Why is he making sudden movements?  Is this guy the OKcupid killer?  Then, he pulled out a Chat Pack.  What’s a Chat Pack, you say?

It is a deck of conversation starters.  Ideal for car trips and classroom activities.  Here are a few sample questions from the manufacturer:

* If you could have any book instantly memorized cover to cover, which book would you choose?
* Of all the movie characters you have seen, which one do you believe is most like you?
* Which of the 12 months do you think would best describe your personality?

Basically, this guy needed a cheat sheet to have a conversation.  I was so relieved that nothing illegal came out of his pocket, I agreed to ‘chat pack’ conversation.  It wasn’t SO bad, but the conversation had been going fine!  Why did we need help?

I actually ended up going out with this guy a few more times (did I mention that he was really tall and good looking and lived just down the street?).  But of course, we had hardly anything in common and he was just as strange on later dates (but without the chat pack).  I haven’t seen him in months because he moved to go to medical school.

After these and few other OKC dates, I swore it off for a while.  I kept logging on and looking at profiles, but I didn’t actually want to read any of them.  It was so much work.  Not to mention, it was a little depressing signing on to receive boring, disgusting or no messages at all.  So, I took a break.

Until recently… please stay tuned for part 2 of online dating adventures.

I Know My Chicago Geography

So, I’m watching an episode of Criminal Minds (don’t get me started on my obsession with Dr. Spencer Reid), and this week the BAU find themselves in Chicago.  Hey!  This should be fun.  (If by fun you mean the episode will scare me even more than normal because it is supposedly taking place in my backyard.)

One of the scenes takes place at an intersection.  A crazy, brain-washed teenager barricades himself in his car in the middle of traffic (because that’s the kind of thing that happens on Criminal Minds).  A police officer then radios for assistance and gives his location at ‘Ashland and Division’.  I know that intersection!!  I used to live one block from there.  I know what it looks like.  And that intersection does not look like this.  I took notice of some of the shops when the BAU showed up at the crime scene (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the kid blows up the car he’s in).  I definitely saw a fancy bistro.  You can’t fool me you fancy television show!  The fanciest thing at that intersection would be a toss up between the crappy Mexican restaurant or the identical mexican restaurant across the street.  (Literally across the street and have the same name.)


Mexican restaurant number 1

It’s so nice to feel like I know an area.  It’s only taken me a year!  I also recently found myself in a restaurant that where I ate on my first day in Chicago.  I was with my dear friend (who had strep throat and felt awful) and I had no idea where we were.  It wasn’t until I walked in that I realized it was the same place.  I got oddly excited about it and told my friends:

“Hey, I’ve eaten here before.  It was my first day in Chicago and I had just taken my friend to a walk-in clinic because she was sick as a dog.  It took us forever to find parking!”

My friends didn’t really understand why I was so excited.  I didn’t really know why I was so excited.  But I think it’s because places are becoming more familiar.  Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve ever recognized a place (I’ve been here over a year after all) – just maybe the first time I was so aware of it.  Or maybe it was because I had been so completely lost and turned around the first time I visited.  Either way, it feels really nice knowing my way around (kinda sorta).