August 27, 2008

city upon the lake

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 5:06 pm by marinagrey

What is it about water that draws us?  Certainly we as humans (and in the greater scheme- living things) need water to survive.  But its more than that-  all my life I have lived near a great body of water, and being near or on or in it refreshes me, enthralls me, excites me.

I was born and grew up in Niagara Falls, NY. My mother is from the harbor city of Baltimore.  We vacationed at Ocean City, MD, Martha’s Vineyard, and Lake Chautauqua in NY state.  I rowed on a crew team. I lived in Cleveland, on Lake Erie, and now I am in Chicago, with Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. So I know what water can do to a town and its people- it is powerful, mesmorizing, and sometimes contains an unimaginable force.

Frederic Edwin Churchs Niagara, courtesy of UIC

Frederic Edwin Church's Niagara, courtesy of UIC

 I went running this morning along Lake Michigan, along a couple of the 29 miles of lakeshore that the City of Chicago has been blessed to have and must be commended for making use of.  The sun was just rising over the waves, and the breeze caused the water to occasionally spray up over the breakwall.  As I ran, a sense of calm came over me.  I looked up ahead and to my left- people were biking, running, walking, all out enjoying the beauty of the lake and the fresh morning sun.

I was struck by the diversity of folks I saw this morning- young, old, pushing baby carriages and tugging on dog leashes.  They were with friends, on cell phones, listening to iPods and meditating silently.  There were some people in designer sneakers and athletic gear and some homeless just enjoying a seat on a bench and the beautiful view.  Granted at 7:30 am I was seeing a lot of retired people, stay-at-home-moms, and students– not too many business people or second-shifters were able to make it.  But I was so enveloped by a feeling of community.  I felt I was truly a part of this city where I have lived only briefly.  For one hour, no one knew that I am a recent transplant.  I owned Chicago as much as any native.

Perhaps this is what I most cherish about water- it brings us together and strips away our differences.  It is a great equalizer.  It washes us clean of any prestige and brings us to the realization that we are all together, in awe of this lake and this city.

Its not just Chicago, but I must give credit to the city for its bold plan.  Waterfront property (and having lived on the Niagara River for most of my life, I can attest to this) is fantastic to own.  However, it is even better to share amongst the population.  And Chicago has done just that.  The city has opened the beaches and Lakefront Trail and parks to everyone.  It has created greenspace along the city rivers, so that buildings are not built along the water- instead there are paths and parks and everyone is welcome to take ownership of the water, to keep it clean, to cherish it because it is ours.

It got me to thinking about Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY.  We, too, are on bodies of water- Buffalo on Lake Erie and Niagara Falls directly at the point where the strait between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the Niagara River, tumbles over a cliff and roils down into the Niagara Gorge.

Sure, people own some of the waterfront in these cities, and there are some views and paths, but much of the waterfront is cluttered by extinct industrial vestiges.  There are abandoned warehouses, crumbling grain elevators, and menacing electrical plants where there could be paths, beaches, and people.  Industry has left us robbed of jobs, income, and the enjoyment of a natural resource that, by all rights, belongs to the people.

I hope that Buffalo-Niagara cleans up its waterfront, does away with the industrial water treatment plants and litter, and opens the waterfront to its citizens.  By creating a bond between people and water, the government could create an emotional bond to the region, attract more tourism, and draw business.

We could focus on our contributions to the environment as well- Buffalo businesspeople and politicians are touting Buffalo as a potential green energy market- let’s make our city green, embrace nature and the Lake that gives us beautiful, clear summer days and incredibly snowy winters.

The water is ours to appreciate and use.  It is perhaps our greatest strength. The Erie Canal created the wealthy Buffalo that few remember, and the lake is our key to plugging into that memory and making it a modern reality.

August 26, 2008

bosom buddies

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:30 pm by marinagrey

“Beige and giant, like you could parachute out of a plane with [it]“

“Its attempts at coy femininity — an off-pink shade, a wee bow — are utterly unconvincing. I’ve seen less fabric in a sweater.”

“a flesh-colored medieval torture device”

Are you wondering, yet, what on earth I’m talking about? I’m quoting three wonderful women who wrote very personal, touching, frank and completely hilarious articles about shopping for large, large bras and the realities of having huge hooters.  They wrote, essentially, of every joy, sorrow, embarassment, and shame women of my..um…stature have experienced. All links to these great articles are found in this post.

At 5 foot 3, I wear medium-sized clothes and have a size 7 foot– normal. 

Petite, even.

But the boobs? I’ll quote from writer Sarah Hepola: “Well, I could hazard a guess. I was something bigger than double D. I was a 34 ridiculous. A 34 pain in the ass.” 

While my bra size has shrunk to a more manageable size due to daily 3-mile runs (and fantastic, amazing, wonderful sports bras from Title Nine), there have been times in my life–times I’m not proud of– where I quite honestly haven’t had the guts to know my true bra size.

So where did the knockers come from?  I’m blaming my Italian paternal grandmother, and weight gained (and, mostly, lost) in college. But really, there’s no way of knowing. There’s just the everyday existence of being known as Tits McGee and Chesty McChesterson, of guys being either turned on or put off by them, of eternal back (and shoulder, and knee, and ankle) pain and the embarassment of having to change in front of anyone.  There are the charges, not from men alone but a fair number of my fellow women, that occur anytime I’m wearing something more fitting than a muumuu: slut, skank, attention-whore.  There are stares while walking down the street, and angry looks from girlfriends if I so much as talk to their boyfriends. 

The attention, to me, is not positive.  It is not thrilling, nor is it desired or sought out.  But I haven’t lost much sleep over it, either.  Honestly, I have better things to worry about.

Like how to find a bra created for women who <gasp!> actually have breasts.  Or a dress that doesn’t make me look like I work on a street corner, nor in a convent. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I realize that the pain and stigma goes both ways.  One of my very best friends, with whom I grew up, is pretty much entirely flat-chested.  She dreads having to buy “almost-A” cups at 23 years old. And with the huge numbers of women paying lots of money for bigger breasts, it is evident that society has little place for “mosquito bites”.  However, I must remind Flat Frida and her friends that in 20 years, when we Mammoth Marinas are hoisting our chests into said “torture devices”, they will be picking out cutsie, feather-light training bras with their granddaughters.

 There are probably very few women out there who feel entirely at peace with their bra size, and that is a very sad thing.

We can point fingers, lecture, and hypothesize all day long about what America’s mania over mammaries stems from, and I encourage your comments along those lines! But starting today, I’m proclaiming myself a Bosom Buddy.  I will not make disparaging remarks about breasts- neither mine nor anyone else’s.  I will buy top quality bras, regardless of how much they set me back, because I deserve cuteness and bows and SUPPORT alongside my smaller-chested sisters. I will be sure to keep fit and eat well, because in truth, they only start to become unmanageable when I’m over my healthy weight. 

And maybe one day, I will decide to have a reduction.  And a lift.  But for now, I’m happy just the way I am:

Boobalicious. Boobtastic. Boobarific.

me :)

August 22, 2008

reflections on the quarterlife

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 5:15 pm by marinagrey

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of a very good friend of mine who we’ll refer to as “Pouf”. Pouf and I went to high school together and have managed to continue our friendship through college and grad school and into the working world (for her- I worked for one year and now it’s my turn for grad school!).

It is days like birthdays that get me to thinking…and reflecting…on this phenomenon that thanks in large part to John Mayer we refer to as the “quarterlife”  Here we all are, well-educated, well-travelled, and well-groomed, making our way into the world.  For the past 20+ years we’ve been taken care of, challenged, and, frankly, coddled.  And now, its our turn to take action.  Will we succeed? Well, doesn’t that depend on our definition of success?

Therein, I believe, lies the problem.  We may have been taught to define success as closely tied with money or power or fame.  This causes real existential angst when we are also challenged to “make a difference”.  How can we reconcile our need to pay the (hefty) student loan bills with our need to find something fulfilling and worthwhile?

Did we really go through 20+ years of schooling, cello practice, and Cotillion dance lessons just to sit behind a desk all day?

After 25-some years of seeking proper training and molding, I propose that we spend the next 25 years seeking meaning.  Lets try and make the world better- not necessarily by giving away all our worldly possessions or foregoing career for family or vice-versa.  Let’s take stock of what we own and realize that another cashmere cardigan won’t make us a better person.  Let’s value all the friendships we built over evenings of Physics homework and sorority chapter meetings, and let’s make sure we continue to support each other through job changes, failed relationships, and childbirth (or puppy adoption :) ). At the end, we’ll be happier because of it.  We’ll be 50ish, and content.  Maybe not rich or retired, but content.

And that will make all those student loans well worth it.

August 21, 2008

ode to the semicolon

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:54 am by marinagrey

I read an article in Salon today about my most favorite punctuation mark of all time: the semicolon.

Basically, the gist of the article is that the semicolon is perceived by some as a feminine punctuation mark, with all the caprice of a young girl and nuance of a mature and experienced woman.

Here here, I say! The semicolon and I have been through good times and bad, short stories and term papers. Sure, I may have flirted with the exclamation point (!) in grammar school. And there was a fling with the comma in high school, but like all things in high school, it came to an overly emotional and dramatic ending.

The semicolon and I are lifelong partners in crime. We are soulmates; the semicolon anticipates my every need. We are womanly, curvy, and hesitant. We are thoughtful, organized, and resolute.

So, here’s to you, semicolon; you certainly deserve my praise!

much love and fondness,

the grammar goddess (aka marinagrey)

August 12, 2008

self-portrait

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:18 pm by marinagrey

Meez 3D avatar avatars games

Blogger friend Margtini got me suckered into making one of these- this is the closest it’ll come to me putting up a picture on my blog, so enjoy! Its supposed to be me in Lincoln Park :) A little fun on a Tuesday afternoon.

link library

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:02 am by marinagrey

Hola my friendlies- just wanted to take a moment to direct you to the new-and-being-improved Link Library.  Its right there under “pages”.  I’ll continue to add links- I have about 50 more- but there’s a few there to keep you occupied during dull workdays and commutes.  Check it out!

August 11, 2008

olympic prep pride

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:18 pm by marinagrey

Be still my heart.

Due to an unfortunate and freak accident (not fully understood at the time of this writing), Fabulous Roomie’s TV monitor died shortly before the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I will try and recount that story later. So, we missed the Opening Ceremony. I am just catching up on it now, and I had to share my thoughts on the U.S.A. outfits, created by Ralph Lauren.

If you remember the warmup suits worn previously, this is a huge improvement. (Here are the 2002 suits):

2002 US Team

2002 US Team

We’re supposed to be representing our nation, not hanging out at the gym. Lauren’s classic American style was preppy, sharp, and avoided looking stuffy. Here are some pictures for you to drool over:

US Team Group Shot

US Team Group Shot

Womens Softball and Pres. Bush

Women's Softball and Pres. Bush

The look is timeless, and evokes an earlier period- maybe the 20′s and 30′s- in sports, where athletes dressed like gentlemen and -women, and where formality was dignified. Navy blazers, ivory plain-front pants, and red, white, and blue ties give the competitors a distinctly American look. Yet, the outfits also have some attitude- note LeBron and Kobe rocking the attire:

Kobe and LeBron

Kobe and LeBron

Overall, I am really really impressed with Lauren’s collection (he’s doing the Closing Ceremony outfits as well as some competition pieces.) Clearly, the U.S. can win the gold AND look great while doing so! Isn’t that the true spirit of the U.S. anyway? What are your thoughts on the designs? Like it or Loathe it? Do share!

adventures in chicagoland: bus 151

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 3:45 pm by marinagrey

I’m a simple girl.

I don’t ask for much.

I just wanted to meet my Fabulous Roommate downtown. Is that so difficult?

“It’s easy”, FR said. “Just hop on bus 151 heading south to Michigan Ave. Get off at Pearson or Delaware.” Easy. It was supposed to take 15 minutes, but I was new to this “bus” experience, so I got to the bus stop 10 minutes early. Here is a Chicago bus stop:

a Chicago bus

a Chicago bus stop

So, I waited for the 151. The schedule said it would come every 5-12 minutes, so I didn’t freak out after 10.

or 15.

or 25… (I should have given up at this point- it would have saved much trouble.)

After 30 minutes, a really pretty young blonde girl in a cute bikini walked with her friend past the bus stop. She was “like, totally flipping out”. And then I heard what she was saying: “What the F$%#! I F$#%ing HATE those (insert horrible racial epithet here)!!”

Now, I was standing with about 4 other people. 1 was a young professional white guy. 1 was a middle-aged black woman. and 2 were a young British couple. When we all figured out what angry blonde chick was yelling, we all turned red, stared in anger and awe at her, and debated our possible reactions. I was pretty much set on pushing her in front of the bus, but alas, NO BUS WAS ANYWHERE NEAR US.

Blonde racist girl (BRG) and her friend walked away, and the black woman standing at the stop climbed into a cab, wiping tears from her eyes. I was about ready to apologize for this girls actions when the cab sped away. Now I am 35 minutes behind schedule, flustered, anxious, and embarrassed on behalf of the BRG and her ignorance. As I debated heading home in miserable defeat, the bus came into view. It looked pretty much like this:

A Chicago Bus

A Chicago Bus

except it had an advertisement for Dirty Dancing (the Musical) on it which read, in huge pink letters,

NOBODY PUTS BABY IN A CORNER

which I found really amusing. The bus was packed full of people, but the remaining 4 of us crammed on. This put me directly into contact with about 55 of Chicago’s finest citizens, all of them tired, cranky, and warm.

As the bus continued on its path, more people crammed on and NO ONE got off the bus. We reached an old folks’ home where at least 5 senior citizens hurled their tiny fragile and brittle bodies into the bus, bitching about how there were no seats for them and asking why the bus was so late. Their fearless leader looked exactly like this:

leader of the angry senior citizens

leader of the angry senior citizens

The bus driver, who had up until this point been very calm and reassuring, must have had the patience of a SAINT. She responded, “Ma’am, the bus in front of us broke down, so we took on all of their riders. That is why we are late and why there are no seats”. Angry Old Lady continued her bitching, but lowered her voice. The ride from hell continued on.

At the next stop, the doors barely opened because there were so many of us on there. One woman shoved herself on, even though the bus driver pleaded with her not to board. We’ll call this woman Bitchy Brenda (B. B.) for ease of narration. B.B. and Angry Old Lady were now face-to-face, and Angry Old Lady lost no time in yelling at B.B. for boarding. “Can’t you see the bus is full?! Why did you have to get on! We’re full and we’re late!” B. B. snarled, and I prepared for the throw-down of the century. I was amazed I could see them, but the elderly gentleman standing in front of me (literally on my feet) was all of 4ft. 9, so I could peer over his white hair at the multi-generational catfight brewing near the door.

At the next stop (I had only 3 more to go at this point) a bunch of people got off the bus, so there was just enough room to let on a very nice British family (Mum, Dad, Teenage Daughter and Middle-School Son). They stood at the front of the bus being cute and British. B.B. resumed her position at the door. As the driver closed the doors, B.B. let out a stream of curse words that rivaled the outburst I’d heard earlier in the day from Blonde Racist Girl. “My foot! Oh my god you’ve got my foot! The door! Open the #$%#$% door!”

The door opened. I looked at her foot- it was a little red. The bus driver apologized and asked if B.B. needed medical attention. “No, I’m fine- let me off this bus!” B.B. snarled (she was good at snarling). So the doors opened and B.B. stomped off the bus. A second later I saw her sprinting (this is with a lame foot, remember) up to the penultimate (look it up) bus stop on my route.

At this point the day devolved into a farce, so I will continue writing it in a farcical manner in the great traditions of Shakespeare and Tom Stoppard:

Bus Door Opens Again

B.B.: (to bus driver) I don’t want to file a report. I just need your name, your bus number, and your Driver Number.

Bus Driver: Alright, everyone! I need everyone to get off the bus! We have to file a report, and its going to take 25 minutes! Please, depart this bus!

B.B.: Well, you shouldn’t need to get everyone off…its just that my foot is mangled…

EVERYONE ELSE: <grumble grumble> hate that B.B. lady!

You’d be amazed how slowly 900 tired, hot, angry people climb off a bus.

So, one stop from my FR, I got off the bus. I started walking toward her work, when I noticed the adorable Brits were now befuddled. This being my second week in Chicago,and having used the bus transit system exactly one time, I deemed myself ready to help them out. After about a quarter mile of talking and walking with them, I had helped them find a restaurant, reassured them that not all Americans were angry and bitter, and gotten them a map to Union Station.

As I FINALLY crossed the street to meet my FR, I spotted Angry Old Lady yelling at her friend to hurry up and get on the bus home- it was packed.

May the Lord have mercy on those bus passengers’ souls.

numbers

Posted in observations/musings tagged , at 2:03 am by marinagrey

How do you feel about numbers?

I was in the car the other day with Fabulous Roomie and two other friends, and for some reason we got to discussing our favorite (and least favorite) numbers.

For Example:

The Number Seven

The Number Seven

I very much enjoy the number 7. I think it is the prettiest number. It is a lucky number. It is part of my birthday (December 7th), and to me it is a strong number. I even love the way it is spelled.

I hate the number 6. I don’t know why- I like even numbers generally but something about the number 6 ticks me off. Also 5 always struck me as an annoying number- perhaps a bully?

Is it normal to attribute personalities to numerals? meh…

FR’s favorite number is nine. she also likes 2s- she usually sets her alarm clock to something ending in a 2. She thinks it may be because “I’m the kind of person who follows something sweet with something salty”- AKA she likes balance in her life. Not sure where the nine comes in though- its an odd number and it takes an odd number of odd numbers (3 3s) to make it. She does have two 9s in her birthday… September 9th. Hmmm…

Friend AJB likes the number 5. He’s the kind of person who likes order, and always sets his alarm to an even or rounded interval (no 9:02 am for him!). He says, “Its so important. It is the foundation of our number system. It can be both an odd and is involved in forming multiples of ten. And it was my baseball number as a kid”. Maybe that’s the best explanation- a bit of logic combined with a bit of nostalgia.

Tell me about your favorite number or those that you couldn’t stand!

August 10, 2008

in praise of les femmes

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 11:20 pm by marinagrey

note: this post was written in June of 2008, one month before my move to Chicago and in the midst of the release of Sex and the City and the end (and aftermath) of Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency. -MG

For whatever reason- maybe because I’m moving into womanhood, or maybe because I’m just moving, again, I’ve become acutely aware of the women in my life. Its not that I was ever without a strong female presence, just that for the past few months I’ve really noticed how vital female companionship and love is. One theory is that with the strong presence of women in the media these past few weeks, I cannot help but think of those present in my own life. Indeed, between Carrie Bradshaw and Hillary Clinton, how could I help but reflect?

I am twenty-three. I am recently out of a long-term relationship. I am leaving my first “real” job and returning to school. I am moving to a big city with a girlfriend, and it seems like lately, everyone is either getting engaged, getting pregnant, or getting a life of their very own. So there are many reasons why I’ve noticed the women in my life; the important part is what, exactly, I have noticed.

It began with the breakup. After the end, I called two girlfriends and talked with a third, my housemate. The girls were available immediately, telling me just what I needed to hear and making plans to keep me occupied for the next few days. They sent cards, took me out to dinner, offered a glass of wine. They knew, instinctively, what I needed. I didn’t have to ask; I simply informed them of what had happened and they were there.

That female bonding came into play at a bridal shower I attended (actually, I helped throw it) this past weekend. My family is close with the groom and his parents, not the bride. Yet my mother and the other (female) neighbors spent an entire Saturday ensuring that this young woman had a proper shower. She had food, and family, and beautiful decorations. She even had cake and a goofy tiara to wear. Why? Why did a group of women decide to do this?

That’s the thing about women. We don’t decide to do the things we do. We simply act. Men and women both joke about how much thought females put into things, but the truth is that when it comes to acting on instinct, we can make snap decisions alongside the most primal of men. Women are nurturers. We do not think about consoling a friend through the end of a relationship; it simply must be done. We do not ponder whether we know a fiancée well enough to buy her kitchen appliances; we simply check out the registry.

Perhaps that’s why, as my move-in date draws near, I am increasingly grateful for the women in my life. I know, deep down, that Chicago is not the last city I will live in. After 5 moves in as many years, this is something I sense and know to be true. And I believe also that I will take many missteps and learn some tough lessons in the future, as I have in the past. Most importantly, I know that the women who lived with me, taught me, listened to me, and helped to cushion my falls are also the women who will support me, laugh with me, and be by my side, through our quarterlife and well beyond.

Many thanks, and cheers, to the gals!

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