Stop in Nevada

It’s looking more and more like I will be taking a trip to Chicago in September. There’s a wedding on Tim’s side, and this will probably be my only excuse to go to the Midwest for many years.

I am conflicted about going. I won’t be attending the wedding, as it will be attended by most of Tim’s family, and right now, that’s a bunch of people with whom I’d rather not spend my time. I considered not going on the trip at all, because why spend money to fly to the Midwest only to sit in a hotel room while Tim goes to a party, but there are other reasons to go.

My sister lives there. And her kids. Well, the ones who haven’t grown up and moved out. I want to see her. I want to measure how I’ve changed in the two years since I left. We talk every couple of days on the phone, but it’s different to see someone in person, someone with whom I am so strongly bonded.

There are friends in Chicagoland too, women who stayed in my life despite the fact that we had no day-to-day reason to be in contact. It’s easy to maintain friendships when you see each other every day in the school lobby, but it’s harder to do when you have to work at it. I have friends like that in St. Charles, and I would like to see them. Bring them something from my new home, something to maintain that connection.

Chicago is an incredible city, one I will always consider the best city on earth–because it’s *my* city (unlike the equally incredible but mystifying New York), it’s my family’s heritage, it’s part of my childhood, it’s a player in my life story.

So I will go. And I’ll visit my sister. And I’ll visit the city. I may even drive around the town I grew up in, and visit my old garden. Walk the paths in the woods where I fell in love with nature, where I discovered my need to be alone.

But I know it’s going to hurt. I know that going back and seeing a place that I left in such a rush of emotion is going to feel like probing scar tissue. The pavilion where Tim and I got married, the neighborhood I grew up in, the places I lived; they’re all part of a fingerprint that marks me, a unique pattern that left a permanent impression. I have changed since I left, in ways I can see very clearly. But there will also be changes I can’t see as well, things I won’t see until I measure myself against the perspective of where I used to be, of who I used to be, and that promises a whole different set of thoughts.

In between my childhood in Chicagoland and my adulthood in the same suburb, I lived in southern Illinois for 12 years. I became an adult there, created my life with my children there. But I knew I wouldn’t stay there forever. I planned to leave and create my own life as soon as I could put the money together to do it. Oddly enough, one of the places I researched for creating that life was right where I am now: Portland. I had a folder full of materials to peruse when the time came. Life interfered, took me back to Chicagoland, to another 13 years in the suburbs.

I visited southern Illinois after leaving. The changes that occurred since I had left made the place nearly unrecognizable, and my memories were washed away. The physical sense of having been in a place was destroyed, and I strained for glimpses of my former life.

I expect this visit will be different. I haven’t been gone that long, and from what I can tell, not much has changed. That’s part of why I needed to leave: nothing ever changes there. The sameness — which is not the same thing as stability and comfort — was stultifying. Sameness from one person to the next, from one building to the next, cars and scenery and thoughts and jobs; sameness from year to year.

So I expect that this visit will cause some thoughts. Probably some feelings. Tim and I have been working together on handling feelings, because we finally have time and bandwidth to address such things. Feelings tell us something, they give us information, and I know I’ll be given a whole bunch of information when I see that place again.

This is one of my longtime favorites, early Billy Joel. Keeps going through my head as I think about this trip.

“And she doesn’t know what’s comin’
But she sure knows what she’s leavin’ behind”

Band Wagon

All hockey season long, I’ve been trying to recruit fans to NHL hockey. Whenever a friend expresses boredom, or is fed up with the politics in their favorite sport, or fed up with the paucity of winning games among the professional teams in their city (mostly Chicago), I suggest they try watching hockey. For 82 games, since the beginning of October, I’ve been saying “try watching a Blackhawks game! We’ll watch together, and I’ll explain it to you!”

No takers.

Not one.

But tonight, somehow all those people who fawned over the Bears and Cubs (only in April), arguing for their team or their sport despite evidence that they suck, somehow all those people are Blackhawks fans.

Tell ya what, guys.

When you have watched a whole season of the Chicago Blackhawks THEN you can say “we won.” Hell, when you’ve watched even HALF a season (still more than an NFL season, I know, but you can do it!), you can say “we won.”

But now?

Now you’re just bandwagoners.

My family bleeds hockey. My tiny fragile daughter is the loudest hockey fan on her whole campus. She explains the sport to her guy friends. She wears her Blackhawks hat and screams and cheers the anthem and watches every game she can find. No TV? No big. She’ll find a way, a sports bar or streaming on her laptop.

She never played hockey. She’s never played a single sport. She hasn’t even been to a Blackhawks game. She went with us to prospect camp a couple of years ago, but hasn’t even seen a game in person. And yet she manages to understand this sport. And she’s devoted to them.

And maybe that’s what irritates me tonight. All these people I know not just congratulating the Blackhawks, but acting as if they’ve been fans all along. Yeah, but no. They haven’t watched the Playoffs. Some haven’t watched a single tame until tonight.

This is a long and brutal season, with ups and downs and injuries and trades and heart-attack games. It’s not easy to be a hockey fan. It’s a lot of work, much more than being a fan of other sports.

I was raised in a sports household, watching season after season of football, basketball, track and field, and swimming. I was a baseball stats freak for years. Yes, MLB plays more games, but even a three-game home stand isn’t as taxing as a single tight hockey game. Basketball comes close, but nothing beats the pure intensity of hockey.

So on some level, the fans who have been with the team all along have earned the right to say this is “our” team. The fans whose hearts dropped to their stomach when Kaner got injured earlier this year, the ones who watched in dismay as Carcillo was brought back to the fold, who had a little leap of excitement to hear that Versteeg had returned. Those of us who know the players’ kids’ names, and which player’s wife is about to give birth, and which player is likely to be traded in the post season. The ones who carefully observed every game-day good-luck charm, who read all the playoffs previews and kept track of every starting lineup, who argued Corsi scores and +/- long into the night. They’re the ones who get first crack at this, the ones who should get some acknowledgement of their devotion. They’re the ones who have even a slim claim to the phrase “we” won.

So yes, enjoy the fact that Chicago has won another Cup. Applaud the effort the team made to get to this point, because it wasn’t easy. But for crap’s sake, don’t say “WE” won.

No you didn’t.


I’m a Bitch

My mom was quite a looker. Not just the run-of-the-mill pleasant-looking woman in the 50s, but a tiny, blazing-blue-eyed fiery redhead who made her own perfectly fitted suits (no pants for that lady, strictly skirts) and wore 4″ spectator pumps to work in the city every day. She worked at the Daily News, one of the big papers in Chicago, as the secretary to an editor (on this my memory is cloudy). In those days before computers, when everything was hand delivered, her job entailed lots and lots of walking.

One of her daily routes took her through an overpass over Canal Street, between the old Daily News Building and the train station, the one now known as Ogilvie Transportation Center.

tiny bit of Meg trivia: My parents met in the second window to the right of the overpass. True story.

tiny bit of Meg trivia: My parents met in the second window to the right of the overpass. Tilt your head to the left to see it straight on. Every time I was in the city, I would stop and look at the window where my family began.










When she was working in the Daily News Building, that overpass was lined with benches where the men in the building would sit and eat their sack lunches and comment loudly on the women passing by. My mother, never an admitted feminist, but I suspect a defiant and independent enough individual to have qualified, despite her protests about the movement, did not suffer this insult gladly. One day, walking through the overpass with her arms full of files, she heard the catcalls from the men lining the halls, and she’d had enough. Stopping dead in her tracks, she set –probably slammed, if I know my mother — down the stack of folders, spun on her 4″ heels, crossed her arms (God, I remember that pose) and glared directly at the crotches of the guilty parties. She didn’t say a word, just stared them down, eyeball to balls, until they were squirming in their seats. Once she was satisfied that they got the message, she picked up her folders and went on her way.

I’ve been thinking about this story a lot these days, ever since the video of the woman walking around New York started getting passed around. It’s frustrating to hear people respond with such disdain to evidence of the distressing amount of unsolicited and unwanted remarks made to women largely about their appearance. Most of the time, the complaints are framed this way, “Can’t you take a compliment?” or “I was just trying to be nice!”

There has been plenty of discussion about the video, but for me, what it comes down to is this: every one of us is dealing with *something* every minute of the day. What catcalling apologists don’t understand is that most women they are “complimenting” are dealing with the fact that the moment we leave our houses, we feel like targets, bombarded by comments and judgement and stares from strangers (and sometimes, worse). We can’t simply BE, we also have to field distracting and sometimes demeaning input from people we’ve never met, from people we don’t know and, therefore, don’t know if we can trust to be kind and not harmful.

Some days, taking shots peppered our direction is no big deal, but some days, when we’re ALSO dealing with other things — sick child in the hospital, bad feedback from a boss, wondering how to afford the next car payment — it’s untenable. To be human is to be burdened with worry, but street harassment puts women in a different category; in addition to our human concerns, we also have to be constantly on guard for the potentially dangerous, threatening malcontent among those offering “compliments”. And let’s be frank; some men wouldn’t think twice about aggressively pursuing and threatening some women on the street. Some men wouldn’t think twice about much, much worse.

In the same way *you* have no idea whether we are dealing with something oppressive, WE have no idea whether you are a danger. So every day, every time we leave the house, we have to be prepared for that particular battle. Every single damned day. On TOP of the rest of the stuff we’re dealing with. And we don’t have a choice; this barrage takes place simply because we exist in a public space, because we are a collection of body parts men find attractive, because men can’t marshal their desires enough to keep their own mouths shut.

So the next time you open your mouth to say “oh, what’s the big deal?” think about what you’re fighting for. Is it so important that you have the right to shout “hey, baby! looking good mama!” at a woman you’ve never met? Is that so incredibly important to you?

If it is, if you have really looked deep within yourself and think that your catcalling right is more important than building a society in which every single person feels safe when they’re just walking from A to B, then…well, then you are a gormless, pathetic knuckle-dragger whose ignorance is an affront to humanity. My only hope is  in the fact that your stupidity will be defeated by evolution, and your kind will soon die out.

I’d rather that death take place as a public stoning, with stilettos taking the place of the stones. And I wish my mother could cast the first shoe.


Things I Miss About Chicago

That I have fallen in love with Portland is a well-established fact. The weather is gorgeous, the scenery and hills and trees and rivers and RAIN all make me happy. The people are funny and welcoming and kind and creative. The opportunities for doing stuff I love are limitless.

But there are moments when I long for some familiar things I can’t find out here, things that only happened or existed in Chicago. As follows…

Heat: this summer got plenty hot in PDX, but it was a very, very dry heat. For a place that earned a reputation for being damp and lush, Oregon becomes a tinder box in the summer; dry, crispy grass, leaves brown in August, the smoke from forest fires dimming the sun even hundreds of miles away. Chicago has a delicious humidity that I miss.

Storms: Yes, it rains in Portland, though not much in summer, and it hardly ever *storms*. My California friend Tonya spent an entire evening gazing at lightning when she visited Chicago, because the West Coast just doesn’t get storms like we did in the Midwest. The way the earth would swell before a storm, readying for the violent explosion of sky, hail or thunder and lightning, water coming down in sheets, the wonderful relief once the system had passed through, Midwest storms have a potent appeal. And boy, do I miss them.

Being in Blackhawks Country: It was quite a shock to see many people wearing this emblem on hats and t-shirts.




Unfortunately, that’s the emblem for the Portland Winterhawks, a Western Hockey League team with no NHL affiliation. It looks a lot like the true Indianhead from my beloved Chicago Blackhawks



So while there are hockey fans here, and a true hockey team (Winterhawks have won the Western Conference Championship four years in a row, and several of their players have ended up in the NHL), they aren’t Blackhawks fans. In fact, most Portlanders seem to be soccer fans, a trend about which I am flabbergasted. One main road in the city is regularly clogged with soccer fans wearing (of all things) scarves, even in the heat of summer, to demonstrate their team loyalty.

It’s so weird. I mean, who would wear a fuzzy acrylic scarf in the summer? Crazy. I’ll stick to wearing my Blackhawks jersey.

I miss being in the epicenter of hockey fandom. Chicago is an amazing place during hockey season. No one here gets that. Sigh.

Being Alone in Nature: It seems that EVERYONE in Oregon loves to be outside. I can’t find a quiet place to be alone with my thoughts even when I drive 45 minutes into the Gorge, climb the side of a mini-mountain, and carve my own path through the brush. No matter where I go, some Columbia-sandaled-eco-warrior has already sussed out the same spot and is settling in with binoculars to catch a glimpse of the rare Northern Pygmy-Owl. I used to be able to go to my trail in Leroy Oaks and not see another person for miles. I miss that.

Snow: yeah, I said it.

Pizza: Oh, how I miss pizza. Sure, Portland has pizza, and they make a wonderful game of it, too. All the pizza joints, save the most tony, have cute names obviously concocted by Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen. Sizzle Pie. Hot Lips. Pizza Schmizza. Mod Pizza. Come on, guys. Not a single, reliable Italian name you could use?

But the important part is the pies. They’re just so disappointing. From the crust — which is mostly just fluffy bread — to the sauce — can you say Prego, everyone? — none of Portland has cracked the Decent Pizza Code. Typically, when I want pizza, I make it myself from scratch, including the crust, but I don’t always want to do all that work. Sometimes, like yesterday, I just want to go and sit somewhere with my pizza-loving husband and have a satisfying slice. Nothing doing in PDX.

Art Institute of Chicago: I loved wandering the cool halls and drinking in the masterpieces on the walls.

Chicago Symphony: Sigh.

Portillos: my family’s chiming in here to make me add this, but I am content without Portillos. Still, it bears mention; Portillos made wonderful chocolate malts that Sophia and I would get whenever we drove home from a Shriner’s visit.

The list of things I miss is short, and comprises things without which I can happily live. Every once in a while, I jones for one of these, and then I look around and see a Douglas fir or a waterfall or hear an owl just outside my deck, and I forget all about it.