Norwegian Wood (This Blog Has Flown)

It’s moving day!

Point your browsers to www.southoftheloop.com. See you there!


Trading Spaces

I am attempting to move this blog to Dream Host and do a little remodeling at the same time. I’m generally pretty tech-savvy, but I’ve discovered that I am a total klutz when it comes to words like MySQL and CSS and SEO. Hopefully very soon you will be able to reach this blog by pointing your browsers to www.southoftheloop.com, and hopefully I will not break the internets in the meantime. See you soon!
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current book: I just started Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird last night. I’m supposed to start a quasi-synchronized reading of Gilead with my friend Ryan, and I’m still fully prepared to do that, it’s just that I got stuck on the CTA for two-and-a-half hours during a snowstorm, and Bird by Bird is what I had with me.

current music: I have Sleater-Kinney’s “One More Hour” stuck in my head on repeat.

current socks: Knee-high blue stripey SmartWools. Did I mention how cold it is outside? And that there’s five inches of snow on the ground?

Close Encounters

I got a racist email this weekend.

I’m blogging about this with some trepidation—I haven’t asked the sender’s permission to reprint any of her comments here, and I’m not comfortable going into very much detail. But the incident is really bothering me, and I can’t seem to let go of it, which is why I’m handing part of it off to you. Sorry about that.

The email showed a photograph of the White House Rose Garden with a watermelon patch photoshopped in. The ‘joke,’ is, of course, that a black man will soon move into the White House, and watermelon has a derogatory connotation when connected to black people. Except that this isn’t a joke at all.

I’m not sure where you draw the line between off-color humor and outright racism.  And I certainly find some politically incorrect humor worthy of a good laugh—you can’t avoid offending everybody all the time. But wherever that line is, this photo is pretty far on the other side of it. A few emails exchanged between the sender and myself only made me angrier—the implication was that I was overreacting to a ‘silly joke’ and that I shouldn’t let it upset me. The sender and I are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, so perhaps she thought that my bleeding heart was too sensitive, or that I was offended that Obama was made the butt of a joke. But I don’t think so.

I’m about the whitest white girl ever. I fit into almost every other majority: white, straight, raised in a Christian faith. I’ve lived almost entirely in big cities with relatively large minority populations. When I was kid growing up in Dallas and Indianapolis, I went to school, church, soccer practice, and ballet class with white kids and non-white kids. Which is to say that I have been, perhaps more than I realized, incredibly sheltered from racism. I know it exists, that it’s not just a toxic memory from the 1960s and earlier. Friends have even shared personal stories. But I’ve certainly never experienced it, never really witnessed it first-hand.

Perhaps it’s strange, then, that I had such a strong reaction to this photo. Although I tried not to, I almost certainly offended the sender with my reply, in which I pointed out that it did upset me, and that it should upset both of us. Our nation has an ugly history in slavery and Jim Crow laws. We don’t need to repeat that, especially for the benefit of—of what? A cheap laugh? I don’t know what pleasure people get from racism, or why people choose to propagate it. I don’t understand the close encounter I had with racism, and I can’t imagine how a black person would have felt seeing that photoshopped image. Maybe because I’ve gone 30 years without intimate knowledge of racism that seeing it exposed so close to me is so shocking, so hard to understand. Maybe because I’ve always been able to look at racism academically, removed from its emotional force.

Condoleezza Rice made some extraordinary remarks on November 5 of this year. She said, “But one of the great things about representing this country is it continues to surprise; it continues to renew itself; it continues to beat all odds and expectations… As an African American, I am especially proud because this is a country that’s been through a long journey in terms of overcoming wounds and making race not the factor in our lives. That work is not done, but yesterday was obviously an extraordinary step forward.”

I guess that whatever our color or experience, we’re all still part of that long journey, falling backward, plodding forward.

My, What Big Paws You Have!



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current book: Finished Dark Water. I think Gilead is up next. Ryan, are you up for some synchronized reading?

current music: “When U Love Somebody” by Fruit Bats

current socks: Snowflake SmartWools. It’s negative fucking miserable out there. I don’t know where early December got the idea to masquerade as late January.

Entering Winter Hibernation Mode


Shoe Junkies: I Need Your Help

Dear Internet,

I need to replace a pair of shoes. I’ve been looking for months (and months!), and I just can’t find anything that does it for me, and I need your help! I know I could just get the old shoes resoled (and maybe clean them up a bit), but I think I can do better. I love these shoes, but they aren’t the most comfortable—there’s very little support, and the leather across the toes starts to pinch after awhile. The brand is Tabarca, but all I can find online in that brand are sandals.

I’m looking for an everyday shoe that’s mostly black. It doesn’t have to be dressy, but I should be able to fake it if I wear them with a pair of black pants. (I work in a pretty casual office). I love love love the red straps on these—enough to make the shoes fun, but not enough that I worry about them not matching. Here are my other requirements:

– Must have at least reasonable support. I live in Chicago and walk a lot—I don’t need to be able to walk all day in them, but I need to be able to walk a couple miles at a time.

– Must be flat or very low-heeled. I have enough knee problems already, thank you.

– No loafers.

– No ballet slippers (I have lots already, including a particularly beloved turquoise patent pair), and no Mary Janes (I have lots and LOTS).

– I thought about something like these, but they are just so dreadfully boring.

– I wear size 10 shoes but am only 5’6″. Things that look cute and dainty in a size 7 often look like boats on me. I’m not overly concerned about this, but really chunky shoes and shoes with long pointy toes (that extend the size of my foot by several inches) are usually no-gos.

– Reasonably priced. I’m going to leave that definition open-ended, but no $400 Taryn Rose shoes.

Okay, internets, whaddaya got for me? Leave links/suggestions in the comments. Photos of my poor beat-up shoes below.


Whoomp! There it is.

When I told my friend John that I might have whooping cough, he listed all the things whooping cough reminded him of. “Reminds me of whooping cranes. And Whoppers, both the Burger King hamburgers and the chalky malt balls. And the 1993 Tag Team classic, ‘Whoomp! There It Is.’ All right, I’ll stop.”

My diagnosis is unconfirmed—my doctor is treating me for whooping cough (pertussis), but said that the antibiotics would kill whatever bacterial infection I’ve got, and that “if you’re still coughing in a month, we’ll know it was pertussis.” Super! I’ve been on antibiotics for four days and feel much better, but I’m still coughing, especially at night. (And in case you were wondering, my coughs lack the characteristic “whoop” sound, but according to the internets, adults may have milder symptoms than children do).

I’m not sure yet how this is going to affect my winter running schedule; presumably I’ll have to modify it to accommodate my reduced lung capacity, but I’m still hoping I can do the Austin 3M Half-Marathon (although I may have to let Mark beat me this year).

And I never did like those chalky malt balls.

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current book: Dark Water: Flood and Redemption in the City of Masterpieces by Robert Clark (and with much thanks to Harriett for the tip)

current music: The last few days have been spent in codeine-induced slumber. Not so much with the music. I fear it would just give me weird dreams.

current socks: Black with multi-colored kitties on them.