Monday, February 27, 2012

Twitter: Distracting or Inspirational?

A couple years ago I wrote a post about Twitter; I wrote that the only reason I considered setting up my own Twitter page was to promote my own blog, which didn't seem like enough of a reason to start Tweeting.

So I still don't have a Twitter page, and I don't have a Facebook page either. It just seems to me like joining either Twitter or Facebook (or both) would take up a lot of time. Not only would I have to keep coming up with Tweets, I'd also have to read and respond to other people's Tweets. Seeing as how I am obsessive by nature (not that that's immediately OBVIOUS to people or anything), I figure I would just become addicted to these sites and spend way too much time on them.

But ever since I finally got a smartphone (for free, thanks to a new contract that I signed with my phone company), I have been a little tempted to start Tweeting. It seems like everyone's doing it, but on the other hand a lot of people are planking and I don't see myself doing that anytime soon. (Seriously, what is the point of lying face-down on the ground like that? Or is it the fact that there is no point to it at all that makes it entertaining to some people? Or is it more about the fact that it's completely stupid that makes it entertaining?)

One reason I think Tweeting might be fun is that it could be good writing practice to come up with interesting Tweets on a regular basis. Ever since I started blogging (which admittedly is time-consuming too, but it's worth it because of all the connections I've made with other bloggers), I've found myself to be more dedicated to my fiction writing. I think that developing a habit of updating my blog on a regular basis has made me more inclined to write fiction on a regular basis as well. Blogging has also been inspirational because of what I've read in other people's blogs; their descriptions of their writing experiences have motivated me to keep writing. And I've taken some of the lines that I've written on my own blog that I particularly liked and put them in the manuscript that I'm working on right now. So maybe Twitter could be inspirational too.

So I came up with a few more Tweets that I would put on my own Twitter page, if I had one:

I think that there should be a law that says that everyone has to brush their teeth every morning.

Did you get that, all you people who were breathing on me on the train?

If I start wearing short dresses and hair extensions and start getting drunk and picking fights in nightclubs, will someone give me my own reality show?

I'd call my reality show Lakeshore. Except instead of looking too tan everyone would look really pale from all the days and weeks without sunlight.

Maybe I should call the show Midwestern Vampires.

I've noticed that I haven't been having as many nightmares since I took a break from online dating. Coincidence?

I wish I could actually cook a meal without setting fire to the food/dish towels/my clothes.

I'm going to be thirty-one in a few weeks. How old do I have to be before lying about my age becomes acceptable?

I thought about naming my main character's love interest Justin, but Bieber kind of ruined the name for me.

Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney could be good names for the antagonists in my stories.

How do you deal with people who plagiarize your writing? I guess it's not okay to tar and feather people anymore, right?

Facebook is not an option for me because I'd never want to post any pictures of myself.

I hate the camera. Or maybe I should say that the camera hates ME.

On the other hand, one of these days, I'm going to be famous. I just hope that the paparazzi never photographs me when I'm wearing my night guard.

I wish I was a police officer.

Then when I show up in uniform and ask my neighbors to keep it down, they'll be a lot more likely to listen to me.

The problem with living in an apartment building is that you can't TP the yards of your annoying neighbors, because nobody has their own yard.

What if I just toilet-papered the doors to their apartments? Would that work?

What do you think of Twitter? Do you think it's too much of a distraction for writers, or can it be a good way to practice writing? Or is it both?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Talk Flirty to Me

As you know from my last post, I've been feeling stressed out over graduate school lately because I had hoped to finish my Ph.D. next year. But now it looks like I may have to stay in the Ph.D. program for another year after that. I've been struggling to think of how I'm going to support myself for that extra year and how I'm going to explain myself to my family about why it's taking longer than expected to complete my degree.

I wanted to thank those of you who left really nice, encouraging comments on that post; that definitely made me feel better. I must admit that I'm still worried about what's going to happen; that's one of the problems with being an English Ph.D.: constant uncertainty over the future, because unlike people who graduate from medical school, for example, my chances of getting a decent-paying, full-time teaching job are far fewer. Not to mention it takes more years to get an M.A. and a Ph.D. than an M.D. Honestly, if I could go back ten years and choose a different career, I might have, even though I do like teaching. I'm just so tired of being in grad school and all the b.s. that comes with it, and I'm tired of working all these jobs that barely (and sometimes don't) pay enough to cover my bills.

I've been trying to get my mind off of stressful things like that by thinking of other things that are less stressful and sometimes just plain funny. Pick up lines are one example. I have heard them used by both men and women, and now, with online dating, there are the "pick up e-mails" where they have to make themselves sound engaging and attractive through their writing. (You'd think that the e-mails would be easier for me to do than to just go up to some guy in person, since I am a writer, after all. You'd think, right?)

But here are a few examples of pick-up lines that I've heard from guys (in person):

Want to go back to my place? My mom will be asleep, so we don't have to worry about her walking in on us or anything. (I swear I'm not making this one up. And no, I didn't hear this line when I was in high school.)

Hey, lady! I want to @#$* and @%$#, and then I'm going to @#%*@#! (Several guys I've passed on the street have sworn at me, because apparently they think that curse words are sexy. FYI? They're wrong.)

You looked so lonely sitting by yourself, so I figured that you WANTED me to come over here and keep you company.

My friend's dog has the same name as you. Maybe that's a sign that we should have a drink together.

Why are you wearing so many layers? Take some of them off, it slowly.

I totally think that men and women are equal. That's why I don't think I should ever have to pay for your dinner. In fact, I think you should pay for mine. (I'm not making this one up either. And no, the guy wasn't joking.)

Women do it too, of course. Here are a few examples:

I'm going to let you buy me a drink just because you're so cute.

Quick, my ex-boyfriend's coming this way. Let's make him jealous.

Do you think my top is too low-cut?

Could you bend over and pick up that pen for me?

I've never been good at flirting; in a post I wrote a couple years ago, I wrote about how a friend once described me as "the nonflirt". When I'm around a guy that I'm attracted to, I either start tripping over everything and blurting out embarrassing stuff, or I clam up completely and can't talk to him at all. And I'm not always good at picking up on cues when guys flirt with me (unless they're being totally obvious); a cute guy I used to work with and had a crush on kept flirting with, me and once he indirectly asked me out. But I just brushed him off, because I thought he was joking around. It wasn't until after he left that my coworkers told me he really was asking me out. But by then it was too late, and I felt too shy to tell him that I liked him too.

I'm not condemning anyone who uses pick up lines. I think it actually takes courage to go up to someone (especially someone you really like) like that. On the other hand, I don't like it when guys can't take a hint and won't stop flirting with me. (Of course, except for that guy I mentioned, guys that I'm actually attracted to aren't the ones that flirt with me. No, the guys who have problems controlling their behavior and maintaining their personal hygiene and the ones that look like they should be on one of those reality shows before all the cast members get drastic makeovers are the ones that typically hit on me.) That is, if I've already made it clear that I'm not interested, that does not mean it's okay for them to continue hitting on me. In the movies they often show guys who are very persistent when it comes to pursuing women. But in real life I don't find that to be charming; I think it's creepy, especially if I have already said no.

The truth is, I like it best when a guy can just talk to me without trying too hard to impress me. That is, he doesn't brag about himself or make a big show about what a gentleman he is just because he picked up the check. It's nice when a guy can just be himself, though I can understand that some people (both men and women) are too nervous to be themselves on first dates. I think it's very attractive when a guy is confident and outgoing without being arrogant and aggressive.

The problem with pick up lines, in my opinion, is that it's like you're presenting yourself to be something that you're not. I think that if people just struck up regular conversations with each other without including cheesy come-ons, it would make the dating game a lot less awkward (and also a lot less annoying).

Here's a funny video I watched on Youtube where several celebrities presented their own pick up lines. My favorite is Simon Helberg's (Howard from The Big Bang Theory) seduction attempts. (Side note: A few of the actors make dirty jokes in this video, just so you know.)

What kinds of pick up lines have you heard/used in the past? What do you think of pick up lines in general? If you write fiction, do any of your characters use pick up lines?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sad, Scared, and Screwed

I had a meeting with one of the professors on my dissertation committee. We met to discuss a draft of my dissertation prospectus, which is basically an outline/description of my dissertation. This person is my favorite professor and is the kind of teacher that I want to be someday. He's intelligent, kind, and encouraging, and he genuinely cares for all of his students. He's the only person who's always believed in me and my work.

When we sat down together to discuss my draft, the first thing he said was, "I don't like this." "This" meaning the draft that I had written. He then gave me a very detailed explanation of what was wrong with my draft. He also said that he had spoken to another member of my committee about the problems in my work. He said that I will most likely have to spend an extra year working on my dissertation.

Needless to say, I was (and still am) crushed. Several of my professors have told me that my work is not good enough. It is true that I am not a budding scholar like many of my fellow grad school classmates are. When we go to lectures that are given by visiting scholars, many of my classmates take notes and ask intelligent questions that demonstrate their understanding of the material as well as their own ideas for how the material could be expanded. Meanwhile, I'm sitting there, thinking, Duhhhhhhh.... I always feel like Homer Simpson in a room full of rocket scientists. Then, as soon as the lecture ends, I always sprint out of there because I am just so damn happy to be least until the next lecture.

Even though I have not excelled in graduate school, I kept at it because for so many years I thought this was what I wanted. When I was a freshman in college, many of my classmates had specific plans about what they wanted to be. They'd say stuff like, "I'm going to go to medical school and become a doctor." Or they'd say, "I'm going to get my MBA and be like Donald Trump, except I'll have a better haircut." Several of them, however, shrugged their shoulders and said, "I dunno...I guess I'll figure it out later." Three or four years later, several of them were still saying that, only by then they felt a lot more panicked because they hadn't figured it out earlier.

I, on the other hand, always wanted to be a professor. Once I finally started teaching, I liked it a lot, even though it had its frustrations and made my hair start turning white when I was still in my twenties. Teaching is the one job I've had that I've actually been good at, and I've learned a lot from the work and my students. I knew that I couldn't get a tenure-track job with just an M.A. So after working as an adjunct for a few years, I went into the Ph.D. program. And I've been struggling to stay afloat ever since.

One major problem is that unlike most of my classmates, a lot of my time is occupied by part-time jobs that help pay all the bills and expenses that my tiny stipend does not cover. I chose not to apply for student loans. A lot of my classmates did get loans, but my personal opinion is that if you're pursuing a graduate degree in the liberal arts, it's going to take a lot longer and be a lot harder to pay it off then if you were pursuing a degree in a more lucrative field. Frankly, I just didn't want to have a six-figure debt waiting for me when I graduated.

I also do not have a spouse or other family members to rely on for financial assistance; I only have myself. That's why I have to work, and as a result I have had to sacrifice too much time that should have been spent on my studies. And many of you have read about the experiences that I've had at these awful, low-paying part-time jobs, some of them where I burst into tears in front of coworkers and customers, others where customers treated me like their own emotional punching bags, and one where I was so stressed out that I developed a rash all over my arms.

But I kept working, all these years, because I thought I could still succeed at this. One thing that a workaholic hates is wasted time. Another thing that a workaholic hates even more is failure. And I feel like I have failed by not producing work that satisfies my professors, because deep down I know that they're right when they say that it isn't good enough. I feel like I have failed by needing an extra year to complete my degree. I feel like all these years I've spent toiling away have been a waste, because I might not achieve my goal after all. Maybe I should have dropped out of graduate school years ago, but it's too late to drop out now. And I think I would feel even worse if I did.

So I feel sad because I messed up in graduate school, scared because I don't know what to do, and screwed because I don't know how I'm going to support myself during that extra year when I won't have any funding from my graduate program.

Have you ever been in a situation where you failed at your job? How did you handle it?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I Wish I Could Say to My Students

As the teacher, I always have to be the adult in the classroom, even when my students drive me up the wall. God forbid I should say something that negatively affects their self-esteem, something like "C's are not good grades. You can do better," or "Maybe you should rethink your career plans, because not everyone makes it in Hollywood within the first year of moving there." I don't insult my students or anything like that, but I do think this whole business of making sure that students feel good about themselves all the time is nonsense. Sometimes, what they need to hear is not unearned praise but the truth. The thing is, once they start working and enter the "real world", they're not going to get away with 85% of the stuff that they do. And I sometimes get negative reactions from students when I refuse to let them get away with that stuff while they're still in school.

But here are a few examples of things that I think all students (not just mine) should hear:

I read an article about a 20-something guy who did a project where he lived without texting, e-mail, Facebook, etc. for a long period of time, and everyone viewed it as a major accomplishment and sacrifice. To which I say, "Except for e-mail, I live without that stuff EVERY DAY! Why doesn't someone give ME a medal?"

You complain that authors like William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway are boring, which may be one reason why so many of you don't do the assigned reading on a regular basis. And yet you find your friends' Tweets that say stuff like, "Watching Family Guy. LMAO" and "Partying all night long. A very good night" so FASCINATING.

Speaking of Twitter, Facebook, and texting, I can go through entire DAYS without any of these things. So why can't you sit through an entire class without them? You'll still be alive by the end of class, I promise. And all 200 of your Facebook "friends" will understand.

You know how they say that water in a pot isn't going to automatically boil just because you stare at it? Well, if you keep staring at me without answering any of the questions that I ask during class discussions, then I'm going to start boiling.

If you don't want me to be in a bad mood when I write your recommendation letter, then don't ask me to write one for you less than two days before it's due.

My classes are rarely boring, even when I teach the same subject over and over again. It's because of all of you and how you respond to the material, and that's what makes my job interesting.

Don't tell me that you can't afford to buy the books, because then I'm going to ask who paid for your new iPhone and laptop.

You wouldn't like it if I showed up half an hour late for an appointment to discuss your paper, or if I didn't show up at all. You also wouldn't like it if I sent you an e-mail at the last minute (AFTER you've already shown up for the appointment) to let you know that I won't be there. So why do you people keep DOING these things?

When I see your writing improve, I know that you've actually learned something from me. And that makes me happy.

If you want to see me explode, then tell me, "This isn't the grade I deserve." Then show me your paper and point out all the "mistakes" I made when I graded your paper.

Threatening to go to my boss isn't going to make me change your grade. I will not tolerate such disrespect from anyone, especially not my students. And I will NOT let you force me to change your grade.

Asking me what you can do to improve your grade, taking responsibility for your own mistakes, working harder in class, writing original papers that go above and beyond my expectations and don't just regurgitate my lectures, actively participating in class discussions, and answering the questions correctly are all things that you can do to raise your grade.

Taking responsibility for yourself, rather than blaming other people, is part of what makes you an adult. So if you want me to treat you like an adult, then act like one.

I love it when you all say, "Ohhhh!!" when you finally understand what I've been teaching you. That lets me know that I've finally gotten through to you.

When you told me that you started reading other books by the author that we're studying in class, just because that person's writing interested you so much, you made my day.

If you can show up on time to watch a movie or the latest episode of American Idol, then you can show up on time for class.

Speaking of American Idol, why is it that so many of you can recite all the names of the current finalists without hesitation, but you can't remember all the names of the characters in the chapter that you were supposed to read for today?

"Watching a movie during class" does not equal "nap time".

When you become enthusiastic about the projects that we're working on, and I see that light in your eyes that shows how important the work is to you, you make my year.

Another way to make me explode is to tell me that you are just as qualified (if not more so) to teach this class as I am because you took AP English in high school.

A death in the family, a serious illness, and jury duty are valid reasons for missing class. A bad breakup, the fact that you didn't feel like it, the fact that you stayed out too late the night before and overslept, and the fact that you'd rather focus on work for one of your "fun" classes are not valid reasons for being absent. And also? The "family emergency" excuse is only acceptable if there actually is an emergency in your family. Don't use it just because you're trying to get out of turning in your work on time, because I will figure out the truth.

Why is it that you're able to update your Facebook and Twitter pages on a regular basis, but you can't seem to turn in your work on time?

Even though I happen to be younger than your other instructors, that does not mean that I'm going to be more lenient or your friend. I'm sorry if you dislike the fact that someone who isn't that much older than you has authority over you, but that doesn't mean that you can cite my age as a reason for why you think I shouldn't be teaching this class.

The priests at my church get mad if people try to sneak out of Mass early. Sometimes the priest will actually stop talking and call attention to the impatient people sneaking out. Catholic guilt can be very effective. By a similar token, I get mad when you start packing up your bookbag and standing up to leave the room before I've dismissed the class. Then I'M going to call attention to your sinful actions and make YOU feel guilty. 

You know what would be nice to hear once in a while? "Thank you."

Trust me. You WILL read and write even after you graduate from college, so it's better to strengthen your skills in these areas now.

A college education is about so much more than just getting straight A's and earning a degree. It bothers me when people view me as a degree distributor, not an educator.  If all you care about are your grades and fulfilling your requirements, you're going to miss out on so much. And then you'll end up regretting it later on, because you'll never get these years back.

What do you think of the self-esteem movement? What are other things that you think college students need to hear?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Inspire Me to Write

Writers look for inspiration in all aspects of life. They write about their childhoods, their relationships with other people, their secret dreams for how they would like their lives to be, etc. They also get inspired by other writers, particularly the ones whose books are so good that their readers become invested in the characters' lives and are disappointed when there are no more pages left to read. For me, I find inspiration in all of these things. I also get ideas for stories from my work, particularly from my students, my professors, and even the rude customers I encounter in retail, because in my imagination those customers get punished by being thrown out of the store or have to walk around wearing giant sandwich boards that say, "I have no people skills."

I also get ideas from news articles, such as the one about the woman who was Tasered and then arrested by police because she cut in front of a line of waiting cars in the drive-thru at McDonald's and then refused to move. When I read that story, I wanted to clip that news article and show it to every person who tries to cut in front of me in line, so that I could say, "This could happen to you."

I read somewhere that when you're struggling with writer's block, you should take a break from writing and do something different, like take a walk, go out to eat, visit a museum, or watch a play. When I can scrounge up enough money for a ticket, I like to go to plays, because there are tons of theaters in Chicago that feature amazing actors; a lot of these actors make me think, "You should be starring in TV shows, not the spoiled socialites who make me want to swear off television altogether and move to an isolated cabin in the woods where there is no cable."

On the other hand, once I went to a play that got me pretty steamed; a couple of the actors were saying stuff in one of the scenes that totally misinterpreted Catholic beliefs and made all Catholics look bad. I didn't feel inspired; I wanted to walk out of the theater right then and there. I also wanted to walk right up to the actors and scream, "You're WRONG!"

There are other things that don't make me angry but make me want to grab my journal and start writing, so that I can write something that also makes other people feel happy.

One thing I've always loved to do in Chicago is sit by the lake. I like to go out to Grant Park, find a quiet place by the lake, sit out there for hours and just watch the water move and think about everything or nothing at all. It always calms me to do this, especially on days when everything else in the city drives me nuts, like my neighbors who talk on their cell phones late at night. They open their windows and talk really loudly, so that everyone else can hear their conversations.

Since my building is shaped so that my apartment is in close proximity to and faces several other apartments, I am often awoken from sweet dreams where I find out that Willy Wonka has left his Chocolate Factory to me or George Clooney has decided he does want to get married after all, and hey, it's to me! I wake up because of my neighbors' loud, shrill voices that sometimes make me wonder if they are voiceover actors for cartoons. That prompts me to throw open my window and shriek, "Sleep deprivation does NOT make me want to be your friend or even a good neighbor; it makes me want to throw things at you!"

But when I can go sit by the lake, I'm able to escape from all of that, at least for a little while. It gives me a chance to be alone with my thoughts, and it makes me feel good enough that eventually I want to go home and start writing, or take out my journal and start writing then and there. I can only sit by the lake when it's warm, though; in the winter, staring at the lake covered in ice just isn't as inspirational for me. Not to mention the heavy winter coat and thick gloves I wear make it hard to hold a pen.

Here's another example of something that inspires me. It's a clip from the film Sister Act 2 (if you watch closely, you'll see Professor McGonagall and the Ghost Whisperer - oops, I meant Maggie Smith and Jennifer Love Hewitt). I dare you not to smile when you're watching this. Every time I watch it, I can't help admiring the singers for the passion they put into their music, and it makes me remember the passion that I have for my writing. I can only hope that someday my stories will be as good as their songs.

Funny people also make me want to write, people like Conan o'Brien and Tina Fey, but especially writers like Steve Almond and Jen Lancaster. I think that humor is essential to most stories, because it helps those fictional characters walking around as if they have the weight of the world on their shoulders to just lighten up already. As egotistical as it sounds, I can't help thinking how wonderful it would be if something I wrote made one of those funny people laugh. It would definitely be one of the high points of my life. It would rank right up there with my fantasy that eating chocolate and drinking Frappuccinos can actually make you lose weight. (Oh, if only!)

There's a really funny, young vlogger on Youtube who has more than two million subscribers. (Can you imagine if two million people subscribed to your blog?) His Youtube name is "Kevjumba", and he talks about everything in his videos, such as Asian stereotypes, his hilarious father, college, and dating. I like that he's kind of neurotic (always nice to find a kindred neurotic) and that he vlogs about ordinary things in imaginative ways that make them sound interesting and entertaining. And really, isn't that what writers are supposed to do?

Here's one of my favorite videos by Kevjumba:

I've written manuscripts for two chick lit novels so far (though they still definitely need to be revised). Even though I haven't found true love yet, the hope that I will find it someday makes me express that hope through my main characters as they search for the people that they're meant to be with.

My thirty-first birthday is coming up in a couple months (AAAAHHHH!!! I'm getting OLDER and I can't make it stop!), and I'm still single. It's not like I haven't tried. I went to a speed-dating party, joined a group for people my age at my church, and signed up for four online dating memberships (not all at the same time, though). Sometimes it's hard to keep hoping, because I've started to wonder if there really is someone out there for me. There are times I think that maybe I'm just not meant to be with anyone for the rest of my life, because how do we really know that there's one soul mate for each person? Maybe some people are meant to be alone because they're meant to do other things with their lives.

On the other hand, I'm able to pour all of my doubt, frustrations, and hope into my stories, and I can use  weird online dating profiles that I've seen as writing prompts, such as the one that said, "If you can't get along with my cats, then it's never going to work between us." As several of you have suggested, I can also write about some of the bad dates I've been on, such as the one where the guy obviously couldn't wait to get out of there, to the point that he made up a lame excuse about ending the date early and practically sprinted away from me less than an hour after we met up for the date. It made me wonder if I was just bad at choosing dates or if there was something about me that made most guys (except for the creepy, unattractive ones) run in the opposite direction.

But chick lit novels wouldn't be much fun to read if the main characters didn't have any hope at all that they'll find the right person. So as cheesy as it sounds, sometimes I like to watch this clip from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (and can I just say that Paolo Montalban makes an excellent Prince?) and remind myself that all is not lost just yet, and that maybe there really is a great guy out there for me.

What about you? What are things that inspire you to write?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Stuff Chicagoans Say

I found these videos on Youtube after reading an article about them, and I just had to share them with all of you. I love both of them, especially the part where the girl says, "Just take LSD to get there" (LSD = Lakeshore Drive), and the parts where the people are singing jingles from those annoying commercials for Empire Carpet and Luna. Those commercials bug me almost as much as that Binder & Binder commercial with that guy who always creeps me out, the one where he puts on a cowboy hat and says, "We'll deal with the government. You have enough to worry about." (Why the cowboy hat? Is that supposed to be reassuring? Or is he about to gallop away on a horse and fight the bad guys in a 1950s western movie?)

And I have to say that the people in the video are really not exaggerating the way Chicagoans speak or act. As they say, forty degrees is NOT cold; that's barbecue weather in Chicago! And as far as where the best pizza is made? Giordanos, of course!

But I've never made snow angels in the city. For one thing, the snow's usually too dirty from the mud splashed on it by passing cars as well as hundreds of footprints from people walking over it. I'm also too afraid that I'll either drown in the enormous piles of snow or get trampled by impatient commuters on their way to the train or tourists on their way to Michigan Avenue.

Both videos reminded me of how much Chicago has become home to me since I moved here several years ago, and how I've said several of the things that are said in both videos on more than one occasion. (Except for the stuff about sports, since I like football about as much as Hugh Hefner likes monogamy.)

I do try to remember how much I love Chicago on the days when I am stuck waiting for the El that's twenty minutes late in arriving, only for it to break down after I've only been on it for five minutes. And then I have to take a bus that also happens to be at least twenty minutes late and I end up crammed into a bus with a bunch of angry commuters who look like they're ready to whap someone in the face with their copies of the Red Eye just so they can sit down, while other commuters at the next bus stop see how crowded the bus is and believe that the only rational thing to do is to make the bus even more crowded by squeezing themselves in.

I also try to remember that Chicago really is a great city to live in, despite the days when I see rats scampering along the tracks when I'm waiting for the subway. I have this slightly irrational fear that they'll somehow find their way onto the platform and attack all the commuters before they take over the city and threaten to bite anyone who says, "Da Bears." I remind myself that I am lucky to live here, even when I'm walking down the street and see trash scattered all over the place by people too lazy to just walk less than half a dozen steps to the trash cans that are on practically every corner. It's also important to remind myself of why I haven't yet left the city for a place that doesn't annoy the hell out of me on a regular basis (but really, seeing as how I am completely neurotic, I don't think that place actually exists) on days when it's so windy that it looks like everyone's moving in slow motion, because they actually are. But I digress.

But on the other hand, I chose to move to this beautiful city, and I choose to stay here (at least for now), even though it drives me crazy to be a Chicagoan half the time. I would like to live somewhere else someday, maybe another city like New York or Boston, or maybe a quiet college town halfway across the country. I've also always had this fantasy of living in Europe someday, like one of the American expatriate writers. But for now, I live here because this city really is home to me, and it's hard to imagine what the past several years would have been like or who I would be if I had lived somewhere else.

(Side note: I don't usually swear on this blog, so I should warn you that there are some curse words in one of the videos, though you might have guessed that from the titles of the videos.)

Here's the Facebook page I found on the Youtube page of the first video:

For more info about the people in the second video, check out their links below; I got the links from their Youtube page.

Robert Bacon -!/tastethebacon
Marie Maloney -!/marie_maloney
Tess Borgerding -

I've noticed that there's been a bit of a stir online over the fact that the second video focuses more on the North Side; I don't see what the big deal is, because the North Side is part of Chicago after all, and it's not like they're saying that the North Side is all there is in the city, which it obviously isn't. But then again, a lot of Chicagoans can be very territorial when it comes to their neighborhoods, no matter which side of the city they live on. 

What kinds of stuff do people say where you live? What kinds of beliefs do outsiders have about your hometown that aren't actually accurate? Why do you choose to stay there? Have you ever thought about living anywhere else?

Happy Groundhog Day, everyone! Only six more weeks of winter! (Except in Chicago, winter's going to feel like it lasts a lot longer, like it does every year! But hey, what are you gonna do? It's not like this is L.A.)