The Tale of the Missing Tennis Ball

 

Once upon a time there was a pink tennis ball purchased from Petco for the sole purpose of massaging the lower back muscles of this here fair maiden. It did it’s job day in and day out with no complaints. Only 2-5 minutes of work each day made for a life of leisure but sadly, boredom. After all, the life a a tennis ball is meant for action! So one day this ball found itself tossed into a suitcase heading for Costa Rica! Wow. T.B. quivered with delight and anticipation of rolling around on the wooden floor of a foreign land.

After a long suffocating journey smushed between yoga pants and sports bras, Pink t.b. emerged for it’s first few minutes of work. Delighted to be rolling around in a tropical climate, TB’s spirits soared, only to be left alone in the new room. ūüė¶ TB thought, there has to be more to life…..

Last seen laying atop the freshly made bed after the maidens returned to their bungalow from Yoga and then gone. No note. ¬†Nothing. The suitcase was emptied and patted down in search of the missing ball. Furniture moved. Every possible hiding place inspected. No pink tennis ball. For the maiden, this proved a serious problem as the T.B.’s work needed to happen before any exercise could be performed safely.

But then, Serendipity introduced neighbors, Matthew and Amy, on vacation to do yoga, surfing and TENNIS! When told of the tale, they generously offered the gift of, not one, but three tennis balls!!! Unbelievable. Our kind neighbors left one day before us. That same day when re-packing the suitcase, six days after the disappearance, there sat in plain view, the pink ball gone AWOL.

Yah, I know what your thinking: It was in there all along….It could have been the monkeys, the maid, the repairman but I tell you, it definitely, absolutely and positively was not in the suitcase until that morning. But then the plot thickens! Upon returning home to the land of reality and snow, no longer a maiden, I decided to do my laundry. Upon emptying the dryer, out rolled a yellow tennis ball and I thought, “Hah! How did you get in there?” I was sure I had separated laundry from balls. And so I had, yet somehow a new friend had entered the story!

 

And they lived happily ever after!

 

She Lost Control of her Escargot

 

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As mentioned in my last post, 1999 was the year Teryl, alias Inga, traveled with me through France, ending in Italy, for 3 weeks. We packed our suitcases full of our newly acquired clothing from my fashion designer friend. We were styling in long flowing linen dresses and jackets. France and Italy looked at us like we were aliens from another planet. Nobody knew where the hell we came from so at least we could not be stereotyped. In Florence, on the famous Ponte Vecchio, there was a young punk girl who looked at us and said “Baaaaah, baaaaah”. I was oblivious, in all my fashion confidence, and asked what THAT was supposed to mean? Teryl, clearly the sharper pencil, said without hesitation, “She thinks we look like sheep herders.” Oh. You mean we don’t look cool? Hmmm. Kind of ironically hypocritical to be judged on appearance by a Goth girl with a mohawk.

But that was in Italy! While Paris was probably not digging our style, some of France seemed to embrace us and our confidence still soared. One of our stops was in the beautiful city of Nancy. It was May 1 and there was a festival in their giant park, of performance and art. We snapped pictures as we modeled for each other in our beloved frocks among the trees and flowers. There was no judgement in Nancy. Everyone was smiling, having a good time and we maintained our dignity.

 

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Eventually we made our way to the town of Orlèans, to learn a little bit about Joan of Arc and have a nice dinner. We found an outdoor cafe and were seated at a small table in close proximity to another table. There sat a very elegant and supremely cool French couple. So much so, that I was a little afraid of them. This was not the time to let fly my famous burst of loud laughter. No way. Teryl and I were going to quietly enjoy our dinner but then Fate, snickered and threw me curve ball. Laughter was not to be my crime.

Teryl ordered prawns and when they arrived she was tickled to see them staring back at her! “Look Felice! Isn’t that cute the way they are decorated with those fake eyes?” This was her first trip to Europe so we have to cut her some slack. I have never seen a prawn gazing at me from a plate in Chicago. But still, I was pleased, this time to be the sharper more experienced pencil! I broke the news to her: Those eyes, my friend, are the real deal! ¬†She handled it with grace and calmly dissected her meal.

I ordered the escargot and although I have a pretty good grasp of menu french, didn’t realize I had ordered a salad with cold escargot. No big deal. It was my first encounter with these creatures of the shell. There’s the little fork and how hard could it be? Yah, right! ¬†No past life skill came forth to rescue me. There was a quiet struggle and I was really hoping the beautiful people did not notice. And then the unthinkable. Digging in a shell with the fork, the slippery little dude, exited and went kamikaze airborne, smacking the gorgeous frenchman in the face. His cheek to be exact. There was an elongated moment of silent shock and the look of sheer terror on my face. The man made an exaggerated gesture of scornfully wiping the slime off his cheek and then burst into laughter along with his lady friend. I still wanted to die but was crazy grateful for his kindness and sense of humor.

I image that I am famous in Orl√©ans for that bonehead move. I’ll bet even Sainte Jeanne was rolling her eyes and ¬†laughing from the heavens. Am I that guys favorite dumb ass tourist story? Or was I instead, the “charming” American sheep herder who lost control?

 

 

Imagining Felice, the Unmet Friend

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In 1999 I am traveling all over France with my friend Teryl. Meanwhile there is a 3 1/2 month old baby named Ivar, dreaming of music, singing, writing, drawing and travel, if he could only escape his damn crib! As our train heads south from Paris, this baby gets the vague image of some woman dressed like a stylish sheep herder, who’s name starts with an F. Never mind that he has not yet learned A B C D or E. Truth be told, this baby has definitely ¬†been here before. There is a soundtrack to his imaginings and it’s some kind of symphonic metal. I, on the other hand, having no interest in imagining babies and never hearing a name like Ivar, snap another picture and dream about my next coffee, beer, or soon to be legendary dinner of escargot.

In 2010 at age 11, Ivar imagines himself a friend, and her name is Felice. He keeps a journal in which all he writes is addressed to her. At the same time, Felice is in Chicago trying to reinvent her life, with no clue there is a little boy writing to her. When Ivar finishes his Felice diary, he makes up a new friend for the next book. But for some reason the name stays with him. Is it because Felice is again in France, in 2011 staying in Toulouse, 1 1/2 hours away? He writes a story, together with his twin brother Saffiro about a “strange” girl named Felice. (Thanks Ivar! Strange as in cool or as in weird? Unique or psycho?) The story is titled “Felice, daughter of Freedom”.

 

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On January 22, 2017, Ivar, a member of Postcrossing, requests an address from the site. The universe spins the magic address wheel and with a smirk, then a giggle, my name appears. Holy merde! It’s Felice! Ivar is 17, soon to be 18 before the card will arrive. He chooses a beautiful black and white image from his trip to Portugal. He doodles around the address, the message and his signature, in an ironically similar fashion to myself. He mentions briefly the story he wrote with my name. He says that he loves to explore old cemeteries, just like me! He tells me about his band called Dr. Dragonfly and explains that he loves dragonflies, moths and insects in general. More irony, is that my 17-18 year old self was obsessed with dragonflies. I drew them, made a wood block print and wore a dragonfly neckless. I imagine my 17 year old self, joining the band. In this fantasy I can actually sing and play violin and speak fluent French because…..I’m French ūüôā Ha! But seriously…..

This postal encounter is another example of the true cosmic workings of the universe. Our life with all it’s twisty turning paths that at some point intersect and the psychic sense of these others we have not yet met. We that are members of the same tribe of cemetery exploring, dragonfly loving writers and artists. That is what I ¬†believe of this strange story. It is beautiful that there is a town in France, that lives a young man, 40 years younger, and we are connected. ¬†The point being we are all connected. ¬†And yes, I have always been the daughter of freedom. Sometimes I forget, so the postcard is a reminder, a message to be true to myself and my nature. Thank you, Ivar, for this precious gift.

 

 

 

After the Election

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World Peace Ghosties…help us!

The day after. I am sitting in my kitchen, shoulders slumped in front of my laptop, trying to get up and do something, anything. I decide the best plan is to ride my bike to a midday yoga class. I arrive and find myself among 7 other traumatized souls and one teacher that aims to lead us out of despair and into the calm. One hour later, despite an eyes locked tearful moment with another yogi, we all float on out of there having shed some toxic weight.

It’s a beautiful day. I decide to ride to The Middle Eastern Bakery in Andersonville to get some of their delicious lentil soup and bread. While in the store, I see a guy on a bike and a woman standing on the sidewalk yelling at each other. It’s going on for about 5 minutes before I come out of the store and catch the tail end. I hear the woman, calling the bike rider a faggot several times before she jumps in her SUV and screeches away. The story goes, this woman, driving inconsiderately, double parked on Foster, and compromised this bicyclist’s safety. He said something, she gave him the finger, he told her she was being childish, she pulled out a knife and threatened him, then thought better of it and put it away, saying proudly “I hope Trump takes care of your faggot ass”. ¬†Wow. Really? I tell him, I am so sorry this happened and hope he has a better day, but he replies that he is having a great day and enjoyed the confrontation.

Now the bike rider, who was the victim, becomes part of the problem. Nobody walks away from that feeling good. And I, who had never witnessed such a thing, ¬†felt terrified that this was some kind of Trump ripple effect: Permission to publicly act out hatefully. I rode home, got in bed and went to sleep for two hours. When I awoke, all I wanted was to be with friends, or tell someone what happened that day. I couldn’t bear to be alone with my story. It felt disproportionately end of the world-like. Sometimes it just sucks to be alone and this was one of those times! Nobody answered their phones and finally I had to barge in on my downstairs neighbors. I talked, they listened, they talked, I felt better and I left them to eat their dinner.

The next day, I came to know that everyone was licking their wounds. I thought  I was being overly dramatic and tragic but no. Others were weeping and fearing too.  But now, something different is happening. Nobody wants to feel helpless and they are done crying. Instead I am being pummeled with inspirational Facebook posts and emails. We are drawn away from despair towards the light.

Yesterday, ¬†I went to two stores: Trader Joe’s and Aldi. There was an unbelievable contrast in vibe. T.J.’s with all it’s super friendly employees and their happy music and general holiday cheer, ¬†felt like an alternative universe. Like nothing had happened and if I just stayed in that store I might still be able to afford health insurance, and long will live pro-choice. Aldi, on the other hand, is a no frills reality. I’m in line and the guy behind me is talking to his friend and the bit I hear is “It feels so weird to be living in a time like this”. I turned my head slowly nodding, just naturally barging into his conversation. He said something else. Then the woman in line behind him joined in. At this point it didn’t matter what anyone was saying. I was struck by our solidarity. We strangers in this grocery store bonding. It felt comforting, beautiful and hopeful. Then again I have been walking around with the assumption that everyone I know agrees with me….until I got a message from a Facebook friend telling me otherwise. Whoops!

Today, ¬†I went to Aldi again, because I needed to buy some medicine (chocolate!) When I arrived, I was greeted by a new security guard who graciously handed me a basket. He didn’t speak but he looked at me with a peaceful kindness. There was something in his manner that projected love and grace unlike his crabby pants predecessor. ¬†Something told me he was not from this country…maybe an angel in disguise? He told me with his eyes, that I need to be nice to strangers. We all need to be especially, monumentally nice. It’s our new job. We must kill hatred with kindness and try to understand those that are different than us, even if the “difference” is, ¬†they voted for Trump.

Gifts and lessons of love from the Universe

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It was early morning and I took off on my morning bike ride, with a recently massaged body relaxed and free from any alcohol residue, for days. And a mind, tossing about ideas of creative visualization and magical thinking. Giving myself a cerebral break instead of  hemorrhaging with relentless self criticism.

One of my favorite bike path moments is crossing the bridge over Diversey harbor and taking a left off the path, the down hill “whoosh”, then a sharp right and I’m riding next to the big beautiful lake that pretends to be the Sea. I prepare to avoid any random glass shards or firework fallout, ¬†but instead I pass a bouquet of flowers, placed lovingly next to a blue and green chalk heart. Wow. U turn!!!

What is the story here? I considered different romantic scenarios involving an anonymous declaration of love from stranger to oblivious runner, rider, or walker. In the end I’d like to think it’s a gift of love to all of us that pass it by. It makes me so happy. Like a message from the Universe that I’m on the right path. An enthusiastic thumbs up!

Energized and inspired I ride further than usual, around the museum campus, stopping to rest behind the planetarium. With only the occasional runner, it is a very peaceful and private place to sit. I do some yoga poses to relieve my shoulders and neck, then head back north for the journey home.

I pass a woman dressed monochromatically in burgundy dress, TOP HAT (?!?) and umbrella. I almost turn around to ask if I can take her picture but I don’t and now I wish I had, because it feels unreal… like a dream.

Past Oak street beach, I see a young woman running with one leg and a prosthetic. I watch her pass another runner with two real legs. I am in awe. ¬†It makes me want to try harder at everything. Slap that “Oh poor me” whining part, silly. Embrace my personal best. Try to do all those things, that pesky little subconscious voice claims I can’t do.

As I approach the scene of heart and flowers, I kind of expect that someone has taken the bouquet. I think some selfish little punk will have snatched it for his girlfriend. Happily, I am wrong and it is still there, renewing my faith in humankind! Or possibly it is surrounded by some sacred force field of protection. It is intuitive to all that this must be shared.

The next morning when I get to Diversey it is beyond gone, with not even a trace of the heart. Washed away by the lake or a temporary exhibition that has moved on to another location? So happy I took the picture to preserve the memory and the notion that we are all loved.

Wu

f3604303-309f-4a2a-8573-d4d4ed4cc104In October of 2015, I hosted a young man from China who was here to run the Chicago Marathon. His name was Wu and he signed his first message to me as “Wu from ancient China”. ¬†Well actually, that is his last name which he offered to those of us with zero Mandarin skills. When he told me his actual first name, Xintong, I tried to pronounce it but then fell back into the lazy ease of saying Wu. In addition, his profile user name on Airbnb was Zinc Copper. For the longest time, I thought it had something to do with his work. In my imagination, he worked for a company that manufactured zinc and copper products, but no. He chose that name because of a fascination with high school chemistry and the periodic table of elements. Oh, and in his message to me explaining this, he phrased it as “You must know the periodic table of elements, found by the Russian chemist Mendeleev.” Hmmmm. Honestly, my all time LEAST favorite class in high school was “Science” and the closest I came to loving chemistry, was kissing a boy with long eye lashes and the various chemicals I had swallowed along the way.¬†But please, ¬†pay no attention to the teenage bad behavior of this currently upstanding citizen with the “Super Host” badge!

Wu had never been out of China and here he was, first stop Chicago at my apartment. He arrived bearing gifts of postcards and chicken. Chicken?  The idea of chicken flying all the way from China in a suitcase, kind of freaked me out, despite the shrink wrap. Still it was a specialty from his home town and proved to be delicious! I had made mention on my profile that I loved postcards so he brought me a big pile of images from China. It struck me as so kind to bring all those gifts even though he was paying a bunch of money to stay at my place. It was clear to me before Wu even arrived, that this trip was going to be a big deal for him.  I thought it would be nice to offer him a bike tour. Something to make him feel comfortable and welcome. He was very receptive to the idea and so a couple days after he arrived, I borrowed a bike for him and we road the Lake front path, cut over to Lincoln park and did a little detour through the zoo. Unfortunately, I got a flat tire which stopped that adventure short but luckily he still got to see some of this beautiful city by the best choice for transportation! I could tell he was happy.

The next day, serendipity strikes with a simple hallway encounter. Wu meets my second floor neighbor Maggie as he’s leaving the building. He introduces himself and mentions the marathon. Maggie tells him that her friend, a priest from the neighborhood church, St. Gertrude, has been running the Marathon for 25 years. ¬†She says she will mention Wu to the priest. Next thing you know, father Mike wants to meet Wu. He arranges for them to meet up ¬†pre-marathon and Wu is introduced to other runners. Then he is invited to attend a special mass where Father Mike blesses the runners. I’m pretty sure, Wu doesn’t have any experience with Catholic rituals but he is so touched by the whole thing. He absolutely loved it!

During Wu’s stay we talked a lot of cultural differences. For instance, in the beginning he told me that I had “a typical American home”. ¬†My reaction to this was “Huh?” In my mind, the only thing typical in my place is maybe the toilet. I thought he was talking about my aesthetic. When I questioned this, he explained that he was referring to things like my fireplace or the lawn in front of the building. He said in China, you don’t see fireplaces, or lawns for that matter, except in the movies or on television.

He wasn’t overly impressed with our food. Wu clearly had great love and pride for Chinese cuisine, beginning with the shrink wrapped chicken he brought and extending to the many pictures he sent to me of local dishes I had to try when I came to China. Seriously, for a couple of weeks after he went home I received texts with photos documenting his favorite foods. ¬†As if to say, if there is only one reason to visit China, it’s to eat some real food!

During Wu’s visit, I had a guest from Singapore staying in my third bedroom. Sinyee, a lawyer and adventurer, is one of the most independent souls I’ve ever met. The three of us did a little bit of hanging out. Here comes another cultural difference. One night in the kitchen Sinyee expressed her distaste for shopping. Wu, replied that he thought all women loved to shop. Apparently the only two women in the world who did not love to shop were standing in the kitchen! In addition, Wu had the opinion, that driving and parking were not on the list of female skills. He couldn’t believe that I drove a manual transmission and also couldn’t believe that I knew how to park it without any help. I was like Wonder Woman. Cool!¬†It’s true that for a moment, the defensive feminist within got a little pissed. Then I realized this guy is so kind, innocent and well meaning. It’s what he knows in his world. ¬†I relaxed and it was just funny. I was proud to be the parking Wonder Woman that hates to shop!

Wu came from China with a bunch of pre conceived ideas about the U.S. and Americans,  just like we all do when we go someplace very different than what we know. He was surprised that Chicagoans were so friendly and did not expect to feel so welcome. It was a joy to witness his wide eyed wonder at all that was new and different. He could have stayed downtown in a hotel or anywhere closer to the Marathon than Edgewater. Because he chose to use Airbnb and stay with a host, he had a completely different experience. These kinds of encounters, on a very simple level are what will take us down the path towards world peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Airbnb: Remembering my guests

It’s been almost four years since I began hosting guests at my apartment through Airbnb! Now amidst all the controversy with the city and their mission to control home sharing, there is a chance I won’t be able to continue hosting. The Mayor wants to pass a law that would require all hosts to have a business license. Since most residential neighborhoods are not zoned for business, only a tiny percentage of hosts could obtain this license. I could go on and on about how silly this is in regards to people like me, sharing my kitchen bathroom etc. with these people. They are my roommates, it’s not big business and I’m not making a million dollars.

That said, I’ve been reminiscing about all the amazing people that have stayed with me these past years and I think it’s time to tell their stories. Most of my guests have stayed with me for between 1 and 3 months so I had the chance to get to know many of them quite well. Still, some of the shorter visits of 2-7 days led to some very special connections. These people walk into my house as strangers and they leave as friends. Some of them invite me to come stay with them at their homes. It’s been amazing and I wish I had documented each person from the beginning but better late than never. So here it goes. My next posts will be devoted to their stories!