Lisa’s comments


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I read a blog in the NY Times yesterday that posed the question – Is it better to raise kids in the city or in the suburbs. The city offers much diversity, culture and easy transit. The suburbs have green space, nature, traffic but a slower pace of life. Basically more sophisticated kids vs. more sheltered kids. But there was one right of passage that this writer had to endure raising her urban teenage son; not the first shave, concert or kiss but his first mugging. She preached to him and warned him to be careful. He understood but didn’t think it would happen to him. He was invincible as most teenagers are. He was mugged at age 14 when he got off the bus with his friends one Saturday evening. No one was hurt. The mother’s first thought was to get out of the city . . . move somewhere safe! But she maintained her calm and knew that there would only be so much she could do to protect her son. If they moved to the suburbs there were cases of crazy teenage drivers or ticks with lime disease! When I think about all the drinking and driving that went on in the rural area that I grew up in – yikes!

Really, in my opinion, neither place is better it’s just personal preference. Stacy and I own a 2-flat in Chicago, in a neighborhood north of downtown. It’s a very nice neighborhood with lots of families and feels safe. But I’ve lived in the city for many years and know that anything is possible. You might think that when I heard banging and pounding downstairs in the middle of the day, a couple of days ago, a red flag would have gone up. It didn’t. Our downstairs neighbors are around on week days and they make a lot of noise, moving things or the 3-year old runs across the apartment or bangs on drums. Our big heavy door in front makes a big thunk when it shuts. No big deal, that’s part of living on top of each other. Sirens run up and down our street at all hours of the day . . .you learn to tune out the noise.

Then Stacy said, “I think the apartment downstairs was just broken into.” No way. I went downstairs and sure enough it looked like their door had been hacked at but it was closed and the bottom lock still secure. She said that two young Mexican guys went out the gate and then took off in their old SUV. “Were they carrying anything?” No. Just moments before, she had been in the basement doing laundry and heard them above in the apartment, normal noises and then came upstairs. After accidentally dropping a shoe, she heard scurrying downstairs. Her gut told her that something was wrong.

Various thoughts went through my head. Maybe they didn’t get in? Maybe the neighbors scuffed the door taking something in or out? The door didn’t look that bad. Maybe it really didn’t happen? I didn’t want to call the police with a false alarm. So, we went down the back and into the apartment to check it out. I know, I know, it’s like a horror movie when you’re yelling at the character not to go down to the dark basement. I quietly opened the door and listened. No one was there so we walked through. All the lights were on and everything looked fine – the TV was still there! But then we got to the front door and the dead bolt was on the ground. Okay, let’s get out of here and call the police. It’s weird, like slow motion when you’re trying to take in what has happened but yet not knowing what really happened.

Years ago, when I lived out in the suburbs with my parents, they had a break-in. Stacy and Arloa were sleeping downstairs and I had just gotten home from my part-time job as a waitress. I was in the upstairs bathroom getting ready for bed, all the lights were out and I heard Stacy saying something. I peaked out and she said that a guy had just walked out the sliding glass door! I thought, you’re crazy, but then I saw that my purse with my hundred bucks I had just made that night was gone! That’s a story within itself. And don’t even get me started on living in Wicker Park in the late 90s.

The police arrived got all the info and unfortunately the thieves did get a couple of laptop computers and other things. They think that these two hooligans must have heard us upstairs, otherwise the apartment would have been wiped clean. A neighbor came over and said that right before they broke in, a guy had knocked on her window to see if anyone was home. They saw her in her apartment, so on to our building.

The rest of the day, I felt icky but kept telling myself that no one was hurt and shit happens. I made a decision right then that I wasn’t going to let those two idiots sway me into living in fear. Fear breeds more things to be afraid of. Focus on the positive. The next day, our neighbor told me that he had tracked his credit card to a gas station in town – a few hundred dollars charged right away. He investigated further and found that they had charged fifteen bucks in gas but then a couple hundred dollars in lottery tickets! What? Don’t they know about karma?

Stacy and I took the bus a couple of weeks ago and headed to Damen Ave. and Chicago Ave. to meet up with some friends. We sat in front of an old man riding the bus with no destination, as far as I could tell. When he laughed (and he laughed often at what he was saying), his voice would cackle like a wicked witch. He didn’t have a broom, but a few six packs of beer in plastic grocery bags placed on the floor and next to him on the seat. No one sat by him. He looked a little crazy with his shaggy gray hair and beard, but he was probably just lost in a beer haze. I was wary of him and really didn’t want to sit in front of him but there were no other spots on the bus. What if he, god forbid, tried to talk to us? What if he hurled a beer can at us? What if he urinated or barfed on the floor? Or threw insults at us like the lady in the park one day years ago? (She walked past Stacy and I and said, “You think you look pretty, don’t you? You slut, you whore!” She pointed and spat those words at us and I thought, oh my god, she can totally read my mind. But then she said it to the next people, also.)

Turned out he was harmless. I hadn’t been paying attention to him, but Stacy later told me that he had been saying random things like, “I used to be good-looking, you should’ve seen me”. I tuned out his babbling until he blurted out,”how now brown cow!” Stacy and I peaked at each other and started giggling, trying to be quiet, not to draw attention, our shoulders bouncing up and down. Either he really cracked himself up or he saw us giggling and so he started to laugh, cackling loud and then said it again. “How now brown cow!”

over Chicago last night. Everything melted this weekend – our back yard sidewalk is no longer an ice skating rink.

Last October, I quit my job, packed up my car and hit the road. I left a mortgage, two cats and my family and friends in Chicago. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. I first went to Seattle for a couple of months. Beautiful city, fun things to do but I found it to be bone-chilling damp cold and gloomy. So I took off to Helena, Montana to hang with my mom for a little over a week. Now I’m in Chicago for a month, but at the end of February, I’ll fly back to Helena and then hit the road to Southern California. Certain reactions to what I’m doing are so funny to me. Most of my friends and my family know me well enough to not be bothered by my decision, and they sent me away with, “have fun” and “I wish I could do that.”

A couple others have trouble with what I’m doing. What? What are you running away from? Obviously, you don’t know what you want. A place won’t make you happy. Aren’t you supposed to do that after college? At first I was taken aback by some of the comments (or furrowed eyebrows) and would get defensive because they would label me – “soul searching” – in a negative way. Where has spontaneity gone? Who’s rules do you think I have to live by?

I spoke with my cousin’s wife on Saturday because I’m going to stay with them in March – they live north of LA. She was refreshing to talk to because she laughed and in a positive way, replied “oh, you’re soul searching.” For the first time, I got a kick out of it and said “yes, I am!” I know what I want in life, just not sure where I want to live. So, I’m traveling a bit.

Who knows where I’ll end up – I’m just very lucky to be able to fly by the seat of my pants at this time in my life. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past couple of months. The trip has taught me to not be so concerned about what others think. And given me the freedom to “soul search.”

Last Saturday night, Larissa, Michelle and I went over to Larissa’s friends’ house for a holiday theme party. So much fun – a lot of people dressed in the 1950s-60s eras. It started snowing that evening, so it was very pretty outside. Although the house was on a steep hill so I had to pray that I wouldn’t fall on my ass in those boots. In the photo (from left to right) is Cindy (the host – love the dress, I’d wear it out to any party), Michelle, me (I bought that dress at a second hand store for about 5 bucks – score!) and Larissa. My dress was so tight that it fit me like a rubber glove. Good thing it fit, can’t be picky when you go to a second hand store. Excuse me please, do you have this dress in a size bigger and perhaps in navy blue? Forget it. In the photo below is Larissa, so cute! I don’t think she’s smoked a day in her life, but she’s a good actress. The only cancer she’d get from that cigarette would be from the high fructose corn syrup. She’s drinking a Harvey Wallbanger, yummy. Nice glasses!

I don’t need a designer puppy or a kick-ass iPhone or a phat SUV or my own reality TV show. I try not to fall into the consumerism trap that Christmas has become for some people. I do prefer gifts that bring family and friends together, such as a theater performance or a nice dinner out. But this year is a little different and I really didn’t think that I’d have to make this request, Saint Nicholas. All I want for Christmas is to have a temperate, warmish to agreeable climate with no inclement weather. I’d be cool with it in the 50s. I should have written to you sooner and we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in right now. It’s only 20 degrees in Seattle – a low that hasn’t been reached since 1990 from what the blurbs on the news report. And there is snow and ice on the ground that is sticking around which is very uncommon for this area. Folks are crashing up their cars. Car batteries are dying. Pipes are freezing in houses. From what they say, the cold is here to stay for a couple weeks. If not for me, please listen, for the sake of the people out here.

Now, I don’t mind snow but it’s frigid temperatures that I could do without. As you know, I moved out of Chicago to get away from this kind of weather, Mr. Kringle. Sitting in my apartment for half the year, wearing layers of clothing is not my idea of refreshing. Making one snowman and snow angel a year is plenty for me, if necessary at all. I don’t like taking time out for two showers a day, just to warm up. And my coffee addiction is completely out of control – it’s like chicken soup for my soul but with MSG. If this is some kind of joke, Mr. Ho Ho Ho, I get it, now can we please go back to the way the weather should be, pretty please?

Let me change my request, can I have a hot tub?

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