Tag Archives: satire

What you don’t know about this Chicago suburb will in no way surprise you.

You might be familiar with the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” A lesser known version of that phrase is, “When life throws you a Chicago hurricane that strands you in Evanston, IL for an evening, you might as well stay there the next day and judge / be jealous of everyone.” This is the version that happened to me.

Evanston is a Chicago suburb exclusively populated by people without any problems, beautiful churches made from white stone, homes that look like English cottages, and a creepy amount of trees. With a population of 74,000 (as of 2010), and a leaf count of just over 3 billion, Evanston is the home of Northwestern University (also the city’s largest employer), and the Grosse Point Lighthouse (on the National Register of Historic Places.)

I had the whole day to prowl around and figure out this wild suburb. You will not be surprised by what I found.

Here’s the low down on Evanston and its people:

dog-walking

People walk their dogs.

People leave their stuff outside when they go inside Brothers K Coffee to get something to drink.

They leave their stuff unattended.

They trust strangers. Even me.

They trust strangers.

They play badminton with their kids on the front lawn. (See lower left corner. Disregard my face. It's hard to take pictures behind you with an iPad.)

They play badminton with their kids on the front lawn. (See lower left corner. Disregard my face. It’s hard to take pictures behind you with an iPad while you’re trying to not look like a creep.)

They still use the word ethnic. I didn't know that was allowed.

They still use the word ethnic.

They have breakfast with their high school aged son and some of his engineering friends who are in a summer camp at Northwestern while a woman (me) sitting alone behind them eavesdrops on their entire conversation.

They have breakfast with their high school aged son and some of his engineering friends who are in a summer camp at Northwestern while a woman (me) sitting alone behind them eavesdrops on their entire conversation.

They enjoy a good font, especially this one that is popular with Northwestern University and Ye Olde English Pubs.

They enjoy a good font, especially this one that is popular with Northwestern University and Ye Olde English Pubs.

Even the street rodents are adorable and picturesque.

Even the street rodents are adorable and picturesque. (Those are rabbits.)

They have housing to spare.

They have housing to spare.

Which is shocking considering the world-famous board game night at the wine shoppe just around the corner.

Which is shocking considering the free board game night at the wine shoppe just around the corner.

All in all, Evanston seems like a pretty swell place to be. Especially if you like ethnic festivals, trusting strangers, and rabbit meat.

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We Worship Thee Oh Coffee, Sustainer of Life

A coffee cup I drew

A coffee cup I drew

Our Lord and Savior coffee hath provided us with much. Whether it is harsh and bitter, too weak, or absent, it rules our life with a brown fist. We don’t control coffee or where it comes from or where it goes. We accept whatever is in the pot in the kitchen and we drink it down dutifully, faithfully, knowing it will give us magic that will make us successful.

It hath given us many things. Oh coffee, how can I count your blessings. Praise thee, oh coffee, sustainer of my office and personal life.

You are a reason to get up in the morning and sweet relief from my office desk prison. You are proof that I am a grown-up, suffering in rages the caffeine-induced angst that driveth me down the fair I-35 in Edmond, OK.

You bequeath-eth me with the power to leave any conversation, providing I seek only you, and you offereth me omnipotence in claiming incompetence for work done poorly as I cry upon your name, saying, “Wherefore were there only coffee in my blood, this email wouldst not have had the typo.”

You are an eternal and everlasting measure of all things, a way to cast judgement upon others through their tastes in your many shades of brown. Should I speak to one who loveth only Peets, I know they haveth not any taste buds. Were I to happen upon one who claimeth Starbucks to be the fairest in all the land, I knoweth then they are capitalists with a bucket of oil for a heart. And should they only partake of Philz, I know them to be of the wisest and most discerning of all your admirers.

Contained within you is the key to my self-realization and my self-destruction, oh addiction of my heart. How many pictures of you have been posted to Instagram! How many statuses updated with your acidic yet endearing flavors! How many people have met and fallen in love over your warm cup, their hearts quickening as they drink down your everlasting spirit!

You are perfect with milk, a calcium chew, and the darkest of chocolates. Whiskey and biscuits are lucky to call you their friend. Were you to be a bath water alternative, that would be weird but not all together disdained.

In the spring I drink of thee. In the summer, I dance in your libations. The autumn calleth me nearer to you, and in the winter, my breath the very clouds of a steamy train, you fill me with your hope.

Oh coffee, oh you berry (delicious drink), oh you natural laxative, you fuelant of revolutionaries and capitalists, of artists and tyrants, you brew not recommended for infants lest their hair curl, oh coffee you are my sustainer and my drink of choice always and always.

You have given us much, and much you have taken away. Your ways are just and your law is a higher law. Though I don’t understand your taste or price, I have faith. I believe that you are perfect and that it is I that must change.  To you, o coffee, be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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Why the Office is a Teeming Cesspool of Miracles

BrightTALK hqAre you familiar with the term the built environment? It’s not the mountains or the ocean or the forest or a rocky outcropping. It’s the places that humans have built for themselves to spend tons of time inside. An office, for example.

An office is a teeming cesspool of people operating according to three things: their innate animal nature, the needs of the business, and their levels of coffee intake. The office, as a human creation, is kind of disgusting and kind of a miracle. On the one hand, you’re stuck in the same room or building as a group of essentially random people.

These people may or not make you laugh or care about you. Not only that, there are millions of other beings out there in the world that you could be interacting with but instead you’re stuck with the bozos that HR hired.

On the other hand, it’s miraculous. No where else in modern life are we able to interact with the same group of people so continuously and together-ly. In Western culture, the extended family has pretty much broken down. Both parents work and are 50% divorced, and the rest of the family is dispersed. In many ways and due to sheer time spent together, the office has become a family replacement. And as depressing as that is, after a while you start to notice things like hey, Aaron is attractive and wow, Sunita really loves nuts. But mostly you notice that everyone is a freak in their own special way. I mean this only in a positive way.

Everyone’s a freak with incredibly distinct gaits and styles of talking and weird food habits. Even a complete lack of personality is awesome, because cool! They have the personality of a cabinet. That’s so….interesting. How did they lose their ability to have a point of view or add anything useful to a conversation?

It’s fascinating! And so you might walk into an office (or any other built environment) on your first day thinking, “wow, everyone here is normal.” But by month 6, you realize that not only is everyone incredibly normal, but they’re also wildly bizarre beyond your imagining and you’re part of it too.

You’re all freaks and awesome together and you get over it and work with your pseudo family, bound together by a non-human entity known as the business. The office is also an actual cesspool in that you share everyone’s germs and weird anger outbursts and acts of kindness until you or the business leaves. And that’s what an office is. It’s a built environment teeming with freak miracles. Unless you don’t like where you work, in which case everyone is an idiot except you.

P.S. If you’re in the Bay Area, you absolutely MUST check out the Femprov fest coming up April 24th – 27th because Women + Improv + Comedy = Awesome Sauce. Yours truly will be performing with True Medusa on Thursday, April 24th and you can check out the whole line up for Femprov fest here, and read more about Leela here.

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Hey, My Weekend was Great. Thanks for Asking.

Ask about my weekend. I dare you.

Ask about my weekend. I dare you.

Hey, thanks for asking how my weekend was. I appreciate you thinking of me on a Monday morning when we’re all desperately crowding around the coffee like bison around a watering hole in a dusty, dry summer. I’m going to choose to believe that your question was sincere and not just a way to distract me so you could take the second-to-last cup of coffee and avoid having to make another pot. So, thanks again. It was great.

Oh, you want to hear about something cool that I did. Oh great. I did tons of cool stuff that I can tell you about and I’d love to do that right now. I’d love for you to know every single thing that I did this weekend just so you can know how cool and relaxing and fulfilling my life is and how it completely validates everything I do at this office for 50 hours a week.

Oh, what did I do? Great. I’m so glad you asked for details. I’d love to tell you all the things that I did, so I’ll go ahead and do that now I guess.

On Friday I went home at 8:30 after going to happy hour where I tried a drink that was hot pink and tasted like a scream. I got home and tried to watch an episode of Arrested Development but IT WOULDN’T LOAD. So like a baller I wrote in my journal by candlelight for a little bit before going to bed at 9:20.

But get this, on Saturday I woke up before dawn and did a whole morning of vision-casting, trying to figure out what to do with my life. I created mad google docs and made sure to update my mint.com account with my recent cash purchase of coffee ($2.00) and answer any personal emails from the week. I pounded down some peanut butter oatmeal and a calcium chew and futzed around before taking a leisurely walk around Stowe Lake where I saw a couple making out.

But wait, it gets better. On Saturday night, I did things with my friends – like eat food and see a show. And on Sunday, I slept in until 8 am and took a freaking walk in the park and talked to my sister who I love and then I went to West Oakland where I bought 8 candles and did improv and then came back and made a mother flipping lentil dish before going to eat dinner with a friend.

So are you happy now? Are you happy now that you know every detail of my weekend? Do you feel like you know me better? Do you think what I did was cool? Because it wasn’t. Nothing of what I did was cool, and it never will be. BECAUSE MY WEEKEND WAS JUST LIKE YOURS. WE DID THE EXACT SAME STUFF AND WE HUNG OUT WITH FRIENDS AND ATE FOOD AND OUR LIVES ARE NOT INTERESTING.

So thanks for asking how my weekend was. How was yours?

P.S. What’s the deal with mayonnaise. Why does everyone hate it?

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The Weird, Offbeat and Wonderful Breakfasts in San Francisco

I ate breakfast at 78 different places in the Bay Area last year.* I’ve written about the best of them and the worst of them, but there are some that deserve to be mentioned for other reasons, ones with some special sauce. Check it out.

Wolfe's Lunch

Wolfe’s Lunch

Most Surreal

Wolfe’s Lunch – Portrero Hill – $

I ate at Wolfe’s Lunch – a name that sounds like something out of a Grimm fairy tale – on a day when the sky was a gunmetal gray and the restaurant was completely empty. I got my coffee, pancakes, eggs, meat and potatoes for less than $10. When my food was ready, the woman at the counter used a microphone to call me to the counter which was about 10 feet away. I obeyed the voice and retrieved my breakfast, which I ate while staring at the sky and noting that this part of town is very boxy. It was one of those days where reality seemed a little thinner than others.

Best Hidden Treasure
Bechelli’s Flower Market – $$ – SoMa

In this part of SoMa, the streets are lined with old warehouses and car shops. It’s not especially beautiful unless you’re into that sort of thing. I thought Bechelli’s Flower Market was just a cute name to attract patrons in this industrial area of town, but sure enough fresh flowers adorned every table. The food was good and right on par with expectations. On a whim, I exited out the back way and discovered an alley lined with flower shops – pinks and reds and oranges bursting into the street – and the name of the cafe made more sense.

Oldest Head Cook
Olympic Flame Cafe – Tenderloin – $ 

The day I ate here was the day a 90-yr-old Greek man made my breakfast. Despite the terrible reviews on Yelp, I loved this place, which goes to show that most people on the internet don’t know what I like.

Credit: Afar Media

It’s Tops

Most Dream-Like
It’s Tops Coffee Shop – Mission – $$ 

I wandered here in a dense angst haze after barely making it through the Upper Market area alive, assaulted on all sides by the worst of what people can become due to illness, abuse, and life on the streets. I walked into It’s Tops and felt like I was back in a perfect version of my childhood, wood walls and cozy booths and I sat down and ordered a breakfast feast to take away the pain of not knowing what I was doing or where I was going in life or how to get what I wanted. I ordered everything to help that pain go away and sat in a time capsule for a little bit while the world raged on outside. It was delicious.

Best Breakfast for a Sailor
Red’s Java House – Embarcadero / SoMa – $ 

An outpost of a time gone by, built out of cinderblocks and plywood and clinging to the pier while glassy office buildings rise up around it – Red’s is somewhere you can let your hair down and talk shop about how to get them ropes on your ship working properly. I got pancakes and other stuff and sat and looked out at the street and the water. They said I could come back for refills of coffee all day if I wanted to. I didn’t take them up on it, but maybe next time. Maybe next time.

Best story
Toast Eatery – Noe Valley – $ 

The food here was average, but as I was walking to BART after eating I saw two men carrying a mattress. One of them was very tall and this information was filed somewhere in my brain. But mostly I forgot all about this and months later, I’m going to get a drink at an event called Nerd Nite, and I see someone who’s very tall and we make eye contact and he says “You look familiar…” and I say “You look familiar!” And so we dig through our activities and where we live and our connections and he mentions he lives in Noe Valley and then it hits me, “Wait, were you recently moving a mattress on the street?

As it turns out, we didn’t know each other at all but had merely seen one another on the street early on a Friday morning. San Francisco is so small.

bashful-bull-tooMost heart and soul

The Bashful Bull Too – Parkside – $ 

This place is run by people who are not of midwestern descent, but they have made this restaurant into a veritable paragon of everything most midwestern eateries wish they could be. The amount of love they have for Americana of old is enough to grant them the Heart and Soul award plus the fact they have a dish that includes: hashbrowns, eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, biscuits + gravy and pancakes. Amen, hallelujah and praise the Lord.

*Full list here: Breakfasts in the Bay Area

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