Things I have put in my mouth lately: Butterfly, the Mariah Carey drink

This past week and a half has been a rough cross-section of adulthood for me. The sewage system in my apartment complex decided to back up spontaneously, with the nearest point of exit being the bathroom in my garden apartment. This required me to evacuate first to a motel where I could swear I heard violins in the shower, then out to the suburbs to stay with endlessly patient friends and spend all week panicking about landing more writing jobs and not being broke.

It was in this frame of mind, unknowingly longing for a bit of childhood regression, that I stumbled into Walgreens to buy wine they didn’t have (because Naperville), and found this treasure in the refrigerated beverage case.

it is not

Is it just a sweet, sweet fantasy?

Yes, Mariah Carey has launched her own beverage, described as “interactive” and “melodic.” The latter adjective in particular concerned me, but apparently it means you can scan the bottle with your smartphone to get access to bonus content. I didn’t bother, because the anachronism whiplash was already hurting my neck.

You see, despite its trappings of modernity, I can only describe this drink as tasting like 1998, the year I listened to its namesake album on cassette until it started to wear out. How can a drink taste like a year, you ask? As it turns out, 1998 was also a banner year for marketing perfumes and cosmetics to preteen girls, and as I turned 11 that year, I was deeply familiar with that aisle of Rite Aid. Those of you who remember, say, the Bottled Emotion perfumes Bonne Bell made will find yourselves thrown back into your awkward stage at warp speed.

To come at this with more food-appropriate vocabulary, Butterfly tastes strongly of grape and melon, but in an offputting, artificial way. Those of you who have ever eaten those lychee jelly cups that pose a delicious choking hazard may also notice a resemblance.

The commentary from the friends I roped into tasting it with me (or, in one case, didn’t) backed me up:
“It tastes like perfume! It’s so sweet.”
“It tastes like a Victoria’s Secret in 1998, yeah.” (We may have been in slightly different demographics.)
The sole man in our group, in response to being asked “Doesn’t it smell like 13-year-old girl?”: “I don’t make a habit of smelling 13-year-old girls, but sure?”

As an olfactory sensation, it brings back intense memories of a time when things were more carefree and potential seemed limitless.
As something to actually consume? Honey, I can’t describe how good it feels inside, because… it really doesn’t. I felt vaguely sick and found myself wondering if I would wake up in a cocoon the next morning. (I did not.)

And yes, I have been listening to the Butterfly album for the first time in probably 15 years while writing this post. Thank you, Spotify.


“I don’t want the world. I just want your half.”

Today I came across the word “frangipani” and was reminded of a dream I had a few years back.

I was wandering the greenbelts of my hometown as filtered through my subconscious, meaning that over the years they’ve swollen to an endless labyrinth completely divorced from real life, as tends to happen. I saw flowers begin to show up along the side of the path and stumbled out of a patch of woods into your average suburban cul-de-sac, where a man was standing by his house, staring holes through me.

He gestured to one of the flowers. “Tuberose.”

Then another. “Frangipani.”

Behind him, I saw his house rear up like some hungry beast. The second story was a greenhouse, and it was full to bursting with butterflies of every color, dancing and dashing themselves against the walls.

“Would you like to come upstairs and see?”

I said no.

And there’s no way back there.

Behind doors

Spring has finally come to Chicago.

…All right, summer has come to Chicago. Spring was not a thing that happened this year. Still, the leaves are coming out and the flowers and trees are blooming, so I’m going to go ahead and call “close enough.”

This time of year always gets my thoughts racing and dumb adolescent emotions high. (One might call it spring fever, if one were so inclined.) Between that, a major upcoming change in my life, and the return of weather that doesn’t make me want to ugly-cry, I’ve been doing a lot of my old friend aimless wandering. I’m quickly realizing that while I’ve lived in my neighborhood for a year and a half, I’ve never noticed the sheer variety of houses and apartments here.

It seems like a strange thing to single out, sure, but this area’s an architectural hodgepodge in a fascinating way. Huge mock-Tudor complexes with manicured grounds sit next to boxy, glum ’80s relics. Stone cottages stand near small palaces with sweeping entry staircases and ornate bas relief decorations. Mid-century buildings that look more commercial than residential are just up the street from brick apartments with charming porticos. Every residence seems to tell its own story, both in its inherent design and the little details that surround it: the yard full of wheelbarrows and what looks like abstract sculpture, the porch post painted like a barber pole, the doll head on the sidewalk, the piled newspapers, the neglected swing between sidewalk and street, the laughter heard from halfway down the block, the woman pacing in the window.

This got a little creepy, maybe? I didn’t, like, watch the pacing woman; I just saw her. In general, I am of a demographic that people tend not to be threatened by, so I tend to get away with scrutinizing things others might not, but still.

I don’t want to pry. I just want a window (not necessarily literal) into lives I’ll never live, or likely come into. I think that’s a natural curiosity to have, especially for a writer, and it seems to have been helpful to me lately. Results pending.

Roses and bullets

I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability over the last few weeks, namely how horrible I am at it and how that affects my quality of life.

My boundaries are wildly out of place. I’ll walk alone around dangerous neighborhoods at 2 am, but the thought of reaching out for emotional support when I need it is like chewing tinfoil; it’s an imposition I can’t bring myself to make. I try very hard to play the game of being tough enough and funny enough and entertaining enough (because these are the defense mechanisms that you learn, exhausting as they get), but it’s rare for a day to go by where I don’t end up paralyzed for an unreasonably long time over something that needs to be said, for fear of some backlash that never comes.

Even my therapist seems baffled by some of my choices, LARPing in particular. “But you don’t seem anxious at this game, even with the conflict,” she told me at one point. I had to explain that it’s a character, not me. People can yell horrific things, can take swings at me, and it doesn’t matter. When my group discussed our limits for physical roleplay, I found myself a bit surprised by how little would bother me. Because it’s not me, there’s a distance there that shelters me. It’s the same as using fiction writing as a shield, a way to deflect.

Even that’s been a losing game lately, though. My creative output is mostly stagnant. I feel like I have very little to draw on because even putting myself out in the middle of things is a struggle. Nothing gets written in a vacuum. Also, vulnerability comes into play again. I’m no shrinking violet; I’ve been through my share of critiques and rejections for my writing. I can handle that. Giving air to some of the ideas clogging up my head, and having others know they were there? That’s the hard part.

Now that I’ve finally put a name to the problem, it’s gotten easier to identify, if not always deal with. There are days where a long, drowsy, sunlit car ride and a sympathetic ear will get me to unpack secrets I’ve carefully avoided talking about for years. There are nights where I lie next to someone who could be more than a stranger but never will be, because I feel a bottomless pit of loneliness in my stomach when I’m around them and realize “this is probably not how it’s supposed to work, right?”

I keep thinking of Rhythm 0, a 1974 performance art piece by Marina Abramović (who I inevitably bring up as a counterpoint to any argument that all performance art sucks). She arranged 72 items ranging from roses to a gun and bullet on a table, then made herself a passive recipient of whatever bystanders wanted to do with them.

(warning: partial nudity)

Even thinking about it puts my heart in my throat, mostly from terror, but also with a bit of envy for such… bravery? Belief?

Is it possible to create without giving something or someone the power to destroy you?

Destination unknown

I’ve got a serious case of wanderlust. It’d be easy enough to blame it on a rough winter, but I think it goes deeper than that (not that -20F windchills aren’t a ringing endorsement for being Elsewhere). I haven’t even been home to California to visit my family in almost a year, to say nothing of any other travel. I’ve been half-planning a trip to New Orleans since 2012 and I’m no closer to actually taking it. I’m not sure I’ve been farther than freakin’ Naperville in the past six months.

There are reasons for this, of course, largely financial. I’m buried under a pile of medical bills from last year, compounded by snowballing debt from a bout of manic overspending that preceded the incurring of those bills. If I still had all the money I’ve lost to bank overdraft fees since the summer, I could be on a goddamn beach somewhere at this very moment. But now, at a time when I most want to escape my surroundings and myself, to stare out a window at the scenery passing me by while someone else does the driving, I’m least able to.


I was walking to CVS earlier this evening and noticed a bar two blocks from my apartment that I’d never seen before. I’ve lived here for well over a year. The bar was obviously not new; it looked like one of those dives that have been sitting inconspicuously on the same corner for thirty years or more. I realize the blotting out of familiar surroundings is a common misfire of the brainmeats, but it’s still something that I find fascinating, especially given all the other misfires I run into every day. Sometimes I find myself wondering if these things pop into existence from nothing when I look in their direction, and if they’ll still be there tomorrow.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I should be spending more time exploring Chicago. I’ve spent seven years of my life here (and another year prior to that in the suburbs making frequent visits), but there’s no way you could ever know everything about a city that continually sheds its skin piece by piece. Really, if I can get out of my head and into something I didn’t know before, maybe that will be enough.


I’ve been listening to a lot of Cocteau Twins lately. It seems to gel with my current mental state. This song seems fitting to add here.

Things I have put in my mouth lately: Glazed & Infused and The Orbit Room

I’m still gathering my thoughts on B-Fest 2014, which was this past weekend. (“Fever dreams tinged with PTSD” might be a more accurate descriptor than “thoughts,” granted.) In the meantime, I’ve got a backlog of food-related scribblings I’ve been meaning to put to pixels.

Various doughnuts, Glazed & Infused (multiple locations around Chicago, @GoGlazed)

Much has been made of the recent doughnut revival, as if doughnuts had been gasping on their deathbed. (I think we were all just tired of trying to make cupcakes happen.) That said, these ones are pretty frickin’ awesome. We had them twice at work recently, once thanks to a thoughtful co-worker and once through a pop-up restaurant program, and I was able to try pieces of five kinds. I’ll go from my least favorite to most favorite.

Caramel Apple: This was the only one I didn’t like. The doughnut was lacking in apple flavor and the topping had an off, burnt taste, whether from the caramel or the peanuts. I don’t see this flavor on their website now. Coincidence?
Old Fashioned: I love old fashioned doughnuts, so I’m particular about what I want out of one. In particular, this means lots of craggy, crusty, crunchy edges, and Glazed & Infused goes a bit restrained on this front. This is really a personal quibble, though. The doughnut has a nice, tender crumb and a vanilla bean glaze that actually provides some flavor beyond “noncommittally sweet.”
Maple Bacon Long John: lololol BACON DOUGHNUT. Now that we’ve got the hipster giggles out of the way, this was tasty, though my admiration may have more to do with the “maple long john” part than the “bacon” part. I’m a sucker for maple doughnuts. It runs in the family. Anyway, the raised doughnut dough is light, the glaze has a true maple flavor, and the bacon is front and center rather than an afterthought.
Fruit Fritter: I think this one took all the fruit flavor from the caramel apple and ran. Where that one was bland and slightly dry, this was lush and oozing with apple. Really, in my opinion, it’s hard to screw up a fritter.
Crème Brûlée: A winner. That great raised dough, intensely flavored vanilla-bean-flecked custard filling, and a torched sugar crust? Deliver directly to face. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200, unless that money is going immediately toward more doughnuts.

Le Bourjois Pig, The Orbit Room (2959 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618)

[sic] on that burger name, for the record. Written as printed on the menu. (Possibly a conflict with this Bourgeois Pig, or is that just idle speculation?)

I’d had my eye on LBP for several visits before taking the plunge. It’s a behemoth of a burger topped with bacon, caramelized onions, roasted pears, and Brie. I’m at a loss for adjectives that don’t make me sound like Hedonism Bot.

How wonderfully decadent!

No chocolate icing here. Not that you’d be able to tell, because Instagram.

If you’re a stickler for burger construction, be forewarned; this shit is going to fall apart on you constantly. I found myself taking bites of the burger, then popping the fallen pieces of pear in behind them.

How does it taste, though? Good, in the way that makes you feel bad about yourself afterwards. There’s a lot going on. The pears, in addition to having a desire to escape, ended up overpowered by the other toppings (especially the Brie rind); I wonder how thinner slices of raw pear would fare in the mix. Also, with so many other flavors going on, the beef ended up playing second fiddle, which was a shame because it was a great juicy medium-rare. I’ve had simpler burgers here and I know they’re not hiding anything.

Verdict? I’d eat it again, but there are other things on Orbit Room’s menu that I’m overdue to try first. If you end up there to drink, be advised, their food isn’t just stomach insulation. They put thought into it, and even if you’re not drunk yet, you will eat too much.

Also, their onion rings are awesome. But that’s for another day.

Watch out, Etsy.

Oh, hi everyone. Welcome to 2014. I have had a year and now I am having another year. Consider yourselves updated.

Here in Chicago, we’re deep into that part of winter where my life becomes a pageant of grandpa sweaters, deranged circadian rhythms, and choking back tears at YA books/ABBA songs/unexpected conversation. In short, it’s becoming clear that I need a seasonal hobby to keep myself from going off the deep end. The usual suspects of reading, writing, and way too much Internet require too much thinking for them to do me any good here. It has to be something concrete, physical, repetitive, and kind of ridiculous.

Is it legal to sell yarn made of cat fur online? Someone needs to start earning her damn keep around the house.


This came from a very cursory brushing. And yes, you DID need to see it.

Someone please talk me out of this. There has to be a more dignified way of subsidizing my junk food and magazine habits plans for ongoing self-development.