Archive | April, 2010

Adventures in Haircutting

23 Apr

I had the day off on Wednesday and Nathan was home with Ida so I decided that it was now or never – I needed a haircut.  What’s that you say?  An appointment?  Pft, you’re obviously not familiar with a place that I like to call “Lil’ Lithuania”.

But first, some background.  I have a serious relationship with haircuts and am involved in a nearly constant pursuit for a new, better hairstyle.  I’ve had faux-hawks, pixie cuts, asymmetrical ditties, multi-hued masterpieces, hot-pink locks, bangs, layers, and an array of hilarious childhood haircuts that would make sprite come out of your nose.

Speaking of childhood, I think that’s where my coif-quest began.  My mother had a firm belief that we, her children, should be enabled to express our burgeoning creativity through our appearances (readers may recall my “hooker-chic” phase – my mother’s belief in creativity met it’s match there….).  I went to kindergarten on a regular basis with a note pinned to my shirt saying something to the effect of:  “Liz is very much loved and well taken care of at home.  We are encouraging her to express herself through her clothing choices.  If the water wings become a hinderance at any point, feel free to ask her to take them off.”  The idea of choosing between snow pants and a tutu seemed like a false dichotomy to me.  Both!  Why not both?!  I had a pretty liberal perspective as to what qualified as “clothing.”  Needless to say, many of my outfits were boundary pushing.

As part of this initiative, my mother also allowed us to choose our own hairstyles.  I wish she’d have had the good sense to record the conversations that must have taken place between us and the stylists who were tasked with administering these haircuts.  I believe at one point, I came in with a picture I had drawn…….  Obviously, I had some fantastic cuts as a kid.  I remember one in particular that made me look like a lion.  The front was a tuft of curls, the back a tangled mane and the sides were shaved with steps.  It was like a mullet to the 10th power.  I also looked exactly like Richard Simmons for a number of years, but to be fair, I think this was my mother’s design, born out of a fierce hatred for combing my curly mess (and my subsequent screaming).

Fast forward to now.  For a number of years, I’ve been cutting my own hair periodically.  I discovered in college that due to my hair’s curly texture, it’s quite forgiving of my hedge-trimmer approach to hair styling, and will pretty much shape itself into a stylish situation no matter what I do to it.  Every 6 months or so, I go someplace and have a professional assess the damage, and then I work from that general template with my home haircuts.  I even have a fantastic lie all worked out for when I need to deal with the inevitable looks of horror and confusion that the hairstylist adopts.  I just say that I’m an artist and for the past 6 months, I’ve been participating in a performance art piece where I let members of the audience cut my hair.  I later learned about Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece.  Great minds think alike (never mind the fact that her mind was generating an amazing art piece for the edification of humanity and my mind was inventing a lie to avoid the scorn of a hairdresser….).

Yoko Ono, being a badass artist in Cut Piece

So anyway, this brings us to Lil’ Lithuania.  I was having coffee one day at The Grind in Lincoln Square, when I saw a sign for $18 walk-in haircuts at the place next door.  Attracted by this unbeatable price, I ventured in to Studio 4 Hair.  Studio 4 Hair does not make a good first impression.  It is pretty filthy, everyone is speaking (yelling?) in Lithuanian and there are some mysterious folks that seem to be mostly just sitting around and drinking coffee (I use the present tense here because I’m pretty sure they’re doing this RIGHT NOW).  Driven by my sense of adventure and my desire to continue to have the funds to pay $4 for coffee (“I saved so much on my bi-annual cut!”), I forged ahead.  I have patronized this fine establishment 3 times since, and here are some things that I have experienced at Lil’ Lithuania/Studio 4 Hair:

If a stylist washes your hair, there is no towel or drying involved – it just sops all over your shirt.  I have learned to dress accordingly.  I say “if” because on my last visit, the stylist just sprayed my dirty hair with a bottle full of water (I hope?) and ran a comb full of someone else’s hair through it.

Blowdrying at the end of the cut is not included for your $18.  I always opt to leave with soaking-wet hair.

I went for haircut number 2 when I was 8 months pregnant with Ida.  I described the style I was seeking, showed a few pics (not hand drawn this time) of a sort-of hipster wedge cut and the stylist-woman started cutting away.  About half-way through the haircut, it became clear to me that things were not going according to plan, but not being one to make a fuss about such things, I just decided that I could always fix it up with my trusty school scissors at home.  At the end of the haircut, the stylist said “Don’t worry.  I make more conservative.  You are will to be mother soon.”  I got mom-cutted.  I think this is the closest I’ve come to being mugged while in Chicago.  I swore I’d never go back.

Last but not least, when I went in yesterday, a woman was cutting an older gentleman’s hair and a humongous, 50ish year old Lithuanian was lounging in one of the salon chairs, eating a donut and texting.  The coffee-drinkers were at their posts on the sofa.  I announced (to no one in particular) that I would like a haircut please and a frenzied exchange took place, resulting in me being directed to Mr. Donut’s chair.  I was thinking “Okay, so there must be another gal in the back and she’ll come out and cut my hair…. Maybe that’s what the screaming was about, maybe they were like “Tina!!!  Come out here!  You have a customer!”  But then, Mr. Donut wipes his hands on his pants and picks up the spray bottle and starts wetting down my hair.  I’m thinking “wow, Tina must be hot shit, she has a humongous assistant.”  THEN Mr. Donut picks up some scissors.  Oh God.  I started to panic.  I was thinking “Liz!  You’ve taken this crap too far!  Just cough up the $50 that everyone else pays for a semi-decent haircut in this city and be done with this madness!  Mr. Donut is about to cut your hair for christsakes!”  MD gets a phone call, and, of course, answers it.  He takes it in the back on the off-chance that I am fluent in Lithuanian and give two shits about his lunch plans.  I use this time to evaluate.  I think about bolting, but my purse is on a hook on the other side of the room and my wind-sprint out of there would be made more awkward by the zig-zag I would have to do to grab it.  This would also mean that I could never show my face at Lil’ Lithuania again and even though I was having a seriously dicey experience, so strong is my love for $18 haircuts that I was ALREADY thinking about coming back.  It’s a sickness I tell you.  So I decided that I was just going to ride this adventure to its inevitable head-shaving end.  There were hardly any words (I have yet to tell my performance art story at Lil’ Lithuania – I think the language barrier might be insurmountable and to be honest, I don’t think they’re phased by butchered locks) and there were some instruments of very questionable cleanliness.

Tell me that fat donut-eater didn’t give me a fantastic haircut!

Oh, Lil’ Lithuania.  I know I’ll be back, but I’m afraid of the next escalation.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Dancing at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

22 Apr

I remember visiting the MCA for the first time many years ago.  I think Nathan took me there for a very cool date.  I loved it so much.  In fact, it may have been the beginning of my infatuation with Chicago.  Contemporary art explodes my concept of what is possible (and then other times, it bores me into a zen-like meditation on what I’m going to eat once we leave and when that might be…..).  I love how open art can be – totally comfortable with it’s own processes and demands.  Materials:  yarn, paper, plastic bags.  I love the way that seeing materials in a new context shifts my view of those materials in other contexts.  More than anything, I love how brave it is/can be.

Anyway.  The MCA is a hulking shrine of legitimacy and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would perform there.  But it happened, dear readers!  And just like everything else, it was totally different than I thought it would be.  It did not make me feel like I had finally “made it” (whatever that might mean).  I think I have (finally) come to the conclusion that this feeling is a chimera.  Success?  Whatever.

I was invited to participate in the Cabinet of Curiosities series, curated by InCUBATE.  My job was to create a 7 minute “un-lecture” on pragmatism.  So I wrote some stuff, Nathan recorded me reading it, and then I performed improvised movement.  I was really happy with the way the text/audio turned out.  I didn’t feel great about the dancing (I still haven’t figured out my post-pregnant body – there used to be a lot more muscles and my improv practice is different to say the least).  Full disclosure – I never feel good about any dancing I do.  It is a truly cursed thing to love making dances and to hate performing.

Anyway, here’s what I made.  I danced at the MCA – I still sort-of can’t believe it happened.

Musical Stylings

18 Apr

Here’s what we were up to this fine Sunday morning.  I especially like the “looks away from camera”. I feel that they add considerable mystique. Which, as we all know, is very important if you’re going to perform improvised musics on the toy piano. …

Sir Mix-A-Lot busts my gut on NPR

17 Apr

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d say:

“Man, Sir Mix-A-Lot sure was smart and witty on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me today.”

For a taste of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s other work (when not making guest appearances on NPR):

Look out, Mo Rocca.

America’s Next Top Model

17 Apr

As you might imagine, my wildly exciting life as the mother of a 7 month old and wife to a graduate student involves lots of leisurely dinners out and stimulating conversation.  Oh, wait, no – what I meant to say was television – my life involves lots of television.

Many of you may know that Nathan and I have nearly polar opposite tastes in television programs.  He tends toward animated stuff, comedies, the discovery channel and anything where people have to survive in the wild (aka programs based on my worst nightmare).  I tend toward dramas (anything Aaron Sorkin’s coke-dusted fingers have touched is a safe bet), cheese (FAME!), HBO/Showtime (How can anyone NOT like Weeds?), and all things reality on Bravo.  Our tastes align in a few magical places – The Office, Arrested Development, Top Chef, and (wait for it) America’s Next Top Model.

Now, let me say right here and now that there are a number of things – I mean, arguably the premise alone, that make this show anti-feminist/anti-women.  Tyra has done some inexcusable stuff.  For me, it’s like knowing you should not crane your neck to look at the traffic accident – that doing so makes you part of the problem – and then doing it anyway.  Oh, and also, that accident somehow makes you crack up and bond with your spouse.  Okay, so maybe this analogy isn’t rock-solid, but you get what I’m saying.  ANTM is no good, but it’s awesomely bad.

How we got hooked on Tyra’s crazy antics is unclear – but we both LOVE to watch the outworkings of her totally oblivious and unchecked narcissism.  For me, I think watching Nathan watch ANTM is where the magic happens.  I truly wish that I could (in good conscience) secretly tape him while he watches this show and share that footage with you.  Since that’s not a viable option, I’ll just say that there are many gestures, many comments (most of which are heartfelt, and directed at the contestants), and an inevitable point during each episode where Nate will sit for a period of about 30 seconds with both hands clasped over his mouth/eyes and shake his head back and forth in disbelief.  He also says a variation on the following each week:  “How many times does she have to say it?!  Black tank top and jeans to panel!  They never listen!!”

In case you missed it (and believe me, if you didn’t see it, you MISSED it), here are some quotations from the latest installment of  America’s Next Top Model:

Contestant:  “I’m smart, but no one believes that about me because of the way that I am.”

(Nate saying “Jay Manuel” in different voices, accents)

Contestant:  “Some people are, like, thinkin’ about it too much.  I’m, like, not thinkin’ about it enough.  Hardly at all.”

(Nate:  “You know, this show is good for me to watch, because it’s just like hollywood.”  (to be fair, I think he was mostly kidding).)

(Nate:  “Pausies for Pizzas”  – hits pause and runs with leaps from the living room to the kitchen to get more pizza – presses play – sings “pausies for pizzas” throughout.)

Contestant:  “It’s really hard.  Like, you try posing on a subway.  It was MOVING!”

One of the Jays:  “No more thinking.”

Contestant:  “I actually thought it looked really well.”

Tyra:  “When we come back, we’ll announce which one of your subway stops is now approaching.”  Tyra loves a theme and will carry it through to the end regardless of how frayed the thread becomes.  She is nothing if not committed.

(Nate:  (when asked what one of the contestant’s name is)  “Beatbox McGillicuty.”)

Tyra:  “We like your pictures, but when you talk at panel, you always have something to say.  This attitude of always having to defend yourself is not the attitude of a top model.  People won’t like you if you’re always talking.”

And a weekly personal favorite of mine – Tyra:  “Congratulations.  You are still in the running towards becoming America’s Next Top Model.”  Is there a more awkward way to say that?  Because if you can find one, you should email Tyra – I’m sure she’s interested.

Fucked up?  Absolutely.  Fantasticly bad television?  Yes, indeed.

Minutia/Civility, Chicago Style

16 Apr

It’s easy to think that people are jerkwads.  I do it often.  I hardly ever give folks the benefit of the doubt.  If someone screams something at me from a car, my middle finger goes up before I even register what they said – they could be asking directions for all I know (and then I’d be the jerkwad – TWIST!!!!).  I’m a little concerned that this will be the “baby sign language” that Ida picks up (rather than, say, the cow-milking gesture we’ve been practicing to signify “nursing”).  Baby’s first bird.  Nice.

Anyway, something tiny happened to me today and it really got me thinking – it shifted the way I looked at other people for a while.  I found it to be valuable, so I thought I’d share.

I was walking home with Ida from a lovely thrifting adventure at the Brown Elephant (banana yellow a-line skirt, birthday gift for my brother, and a great stack of books).  We were halfway through a cross walk when a car started coming through the intersection.  I saw the car and pulled Ida’s stroller out of the way and stood in the middle of the street, waiting for the car to go through.  This happens all the time and is no big deal.  Headline news:  drivers often don’t give a shit about pedestrians.  But the car saw me and stopped (even as I’m typing this, I’m thinking, “good grief – are you really telling this story?”  Yes.  Yes I am.  Riveting.).

Ok, here’s the good part.  So the car stopped and Ida and I hustled across.  I was a little PO’d.  That asshole almost hit my kid (okay, not really, but if I hadn’t seen the car, it looked like it was going to speed on through the intersection, and you know, I have a flair for the dramatic).  Once we were on the other side of the car, the driver rolled down her window and said “I’m really sorry.  Do you forgive me?”  Now, I’ve been walking in Chicago for a few years, and this sort of thing is really pretty unprecedented.  Usually in situations like this, everyone just takes the opportunity to get pissed off and yell something (as an aside, this sort of “out loud” living is one of the things I love about Chicago – no need to demure – just say something foul and move on with your day – everything is someone else’s fault and we all just sort-of agree to blow off our steam from these fracas’ and move on with our lives).  “Do you forgive me?”  That was just really beautiful to me.  The woman looked right at me, admitted a mistake and asked me to forgive her.  I did and then I cried a little on my way home (because, again, flair for the dramatic).  It just moved me.

So, as a result, I think I’m going to spend the next few days looking for opportunities to use Spacey McDriverson’s simple phrase:  “I’m really sorry.  Do you forgive me?”.  I’m sort-of a jerk (Spacey McDriverson, heh), so I bet I’ll have no trouble……

A Brief History of (My) Time, Volume 3

15 Apr

Ages 19-28:  Pseudo-Adult – I went to college at Central Michigan University (which is sort-of a miracle considering my shitty grades and lack of concern for all things academic.  I think my ACT score indicated that I had a 3rd grade math level, which makes sense considering that 3rd grade was when I had my, um, awakening).  I was awarded a full ride as long as I studied Vocal Performance.  Sweet.  So what do you suppose I did?  I diddled around in the music department for a year and a half and when it became apparent to me and CMU’s estimable faculty that I had no interest in studying music and was only mildly interested in singing, I ditched the music program for philosophy.  God only knows why philosophy.  I took a couple of classes on a whim and, to be honest, I kicked ass (which is really pretty easy so don’t get too excited – you’d kick ass too if your classmates weren’t able to wrap their minds around a syllogism*).  I have no idea why, but CMU’s faculty in the Philosophy department were so kind to me and took me under their wings and listened patiently while I fell in love with the bombastic ideas of great thinkers (and maybe even more in love with the sound of my own voice).  I also have no idea what accounts for my quick academic turn-around, but somehow I got it together and managed to be a pretty decent student all of a sudden.  Studying philosophy at CMU remains one of my favorite adventures of all time and I get nostalgic when I think about how truly wonderful all of the professors there were to me.  That experience changed my life in all of the best ways and rehabilitated my brain (to the extent that this sort of thing was possible considering the raw materials).  I sometimes think that if I didn’t have any responsibilities I’d like nothing more than to just sit in on philosophy classes at CMU forever.  I’d drink coffee, stroke my imaginary beard, and read the assignments.  I’d write the papers and ask thoughtful, probing, questions and know that I was meeting someone’s expectations for once in my little life.  That’s the great thing about college – someone hands you a paper at the beginning of each course telling you how to be successful.  Man, I really miss that part.  If I could just get my hands on one of those papers for my life now, I’d be in business.

I did a bunch of neat stuff while in college.  I went to China and taught English/evangelized (which I now feel pretty weird about – colonialist much?), I continued to run my little fiefdom, er, dance company, I tutored (and have the brain-damage from explaining Pascal’s Wager 15 times a week to prove it), I taught dance, I married Nathan, I worked at a coffee shop, I worked in an office, I lived in the world’s tiniest apartment with a sage and forest green splatter painted bathroom, I lived in the international dorm with a wonderfully crazy Japanese roommate, I traveled and studied in England, I gave a paper at a little philosophy conference, I got my first cell phone, I learned how to send email attachments – oh wait, no, that was after college.  Yes, I remember now, I learned how to send email attachments in 2005.   As an aside, I still have no idea how to use a “flash drive” – or as I call it, a computer stick.  If you post a comment below detailing this process, I will cut you (I’m looking at you, Nathan).  Anyway…..

Graduation loomed, and so with no idea how to go about getting a job and becoming a bona-fide adult, I took matters into my own hands.  One morning I woke up and decided to buy the dance studio in town.  It was “maybe” for sale, so I decided I could do it.  Run a business?  No sweat.  Just like that. I owned Vision for 4 years and mostly loved it (after I hired someone fabulous to do all of the business-y crap, obviously).  I whole-heartedly loved my students and the families who were part of that community.  I worked insane hours, teaching at CMU, Alma College, Mt. Pleasant High School, Vision and Academy of Performing Arts in Alma – sometimes all at the same time.  I don’t mind telling you that I had a body like whoa during this phase of my life.  You would too if you jumped up and down for 10 hours a day.  I studied dance history and fell in love with Merce Cunningham. I also got serious about making dances and expanded the dance company I’d started to become a more professional(ish) outfit.  think/dance collective is another adventure that I loved whole-heartedly – mostly because I was so fortunate to attract such smart, talented and genuinely wonderful dancers and we had so many fabulous art-capades together.  During this time, I also met my BFF/hetrolifemate Megan.  We’ve been talking each other into our bad decisions and laughing/crying through our adventures ever since.  And lastly, I acquired Maude the dog (who has been shitting on my rugs and eating my garbage ever since).

And then, on another morning, I decided that I should move to Chicago.  Luckily, Nathan was on board and, in fact, already had his eye on a graduate program at Colombia College.  My brother Matt had moved there a few years earlier and after several visits, I decided that Chicago was calling my name with it’s avant garde dance scene, it’s vibrant guts, it’s ramshackle transit system and it’s promise of new possibilities.  I love it here.  I love Chicago so much it would be impossible to say.  I can’t read on the train because I have to watch it.  I whisper “I love you” to the street when I close my curtains at night.  I’m getting a little choked up right now if you want to know the truth.

If I’m being honest, Chicago has knocked me around quite a lot since I arrived here.  I’ve had several jobs that were stinkers (administrative/creative assistant for a furniture designer who was channeling Meryl Streep’s characterization of Anna Wintour, Barista, and my most recent position as a semi-aimless, gestating, vagrant), I’ve experienced artistic rejection (or perhaps more accurately, critical apathy), and I’ve had a big wallop of a surprise in the form of an unplanned pregnancy and subsequent (totally awesome) baby.  But there is some kind of Nelson Algren-esque feeling deep within my soul that loves Chicago with an ache and a fire.  Like all of the best things, I can’t explain it.  It may have something to do with the hot dogs.

And this brings us to the present.  I’m living in a fabulous (albeit semi-crumbling in places) apartment in a dreamy neighborhood where I can walk 2 blocks and hear 4 languages being spoken/screamed. I have a wonderfully weird and loving family, a job that I adore teaching dance in Chicago Public Schools, and all of the adventures in urban living that I can handle.  When I’m not busy freaking out, I feel so lucky/whatever-word-you-might-use-without-baggage-for blessed that I could explode with the possibility and delight of it all.

Not a bad run, all things considered.  I’ll keep you posted on developments.

This ends the series.  Crap.  Now what are we going to talk about?  I’m taking suggestions.  Maybe current events?  As long as it’s printed in the redeye, I’m totally up to speed.

* I really need footnotes.  So here is the funny story of my first day of Logic.  At the very beginning of the class, our professor told us that some students just wouldn’t be able to understand some of the things in this class – essentially he told us that some of our brains are just broken – that this stuff would just never make sense to us.  I was thinking “SHIT!  That’s definitely going to be me!  Disaster right out of the gate!”  Kind of a bummer, but whatever, moving on.  He then started explaining how a syllogism works (you know:  if all As are Bs and C is an A, what do we know for sure about C?  Not to ruin the suspense for our slower readers, but C is a B, right?  Right).  So anyway, he was saying that it doesn’t matter what information you use – you can say if all bleeps are blurps and blerg is a bleep…. you get the picture – it’s all about the form.  So then he writes this on the board:

All Sorority girls are dumb

Susie is a Sorority girl

What do we know about Susie?

Wouldn’t you know it, a hand SHOT up.  “I just really don’t think it’s fair for you to label people like that.  I mean, I just think that everyone is different and we shouldn’t stereotype.”  I thought, oh thank God – it’s her and not me.  Whew…….