I'm a Stranger Here

The public journal of a Philadelphian in Chicago

That place where the bones of life are piled
I know somethin' has changed
I'm a stranger here and no one sees me
'Cept you, yeah you.

-- "Nobody 'Cept You", Bob Dylan

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Let freedom ring!

Today is "Free Mojtaba and Arash" Day. Mojtaba and Arash are two Iranian bloggers who have been imprisoned for exercising their rights. Spread the word!

Today is also George Washington's birthday. An excellent Powerline essay on our first president here.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

May God bless the courageous Iraqi people on this day! Paint your index finger blue in solidarity! (Photo by Andrew Parsons, NY Times)

Friday, December 10, 2004

Before I head out...

Are you hanging up your stocking on your wall?
It's the time that every Santa has a ball
Does he ride a red nosed reindeer?
Does a ton up on his sleigh
Do the fairies keep him sober for a day?

So here it is merry Christmas, Everybody's having fun
Look to the future now, It's only just begun

--Slade, "Merry Christmas Everybody"

Hey gang,

So so sorry for being...how you say?...ah yes...MIA! It's been a crazy few weeks, but that's really no excuse for not updating you on happenings here and abroad. I mean, how long does it really take to write a five minute post?

Uh, five minutes, I believe.


Well, there's absolutely no possible way I can summarize all that's happened since I last wrote. But I'll give a few highlights:

1.) On Nov 6 (the last day I really posted), my uncle was in town - he is a bigwig at RiteAid and was here for a vendor show. Basically, he was being wined and dined by drug companies who wanted him to stock their wares and I came along for the ride! I met him and two reps from a generic drug company (angling to produce Rite Aid brand tylenol and such) for dinner at Shaw's Crab House, a restaurant par excellence. The mood is distinctly East Coast (i.e. New York) in the Forties. Why not Midwest (i.e. Chicago) in the Forties?, you might ask. Shhh..Big Brother might hear you! Why that's pure crimethink! Anyway, I had the $50 Alaskan King Crab and enjoyed every morsel. And don't get me started on the Oysters Rockefeller! Afterwards, we went to some generic club filled with the standard assortment of vacuous types. It was a very odd experience to be the "wingman" for three gentlemen in their fifties. But that, as they say, is a story for another day and another medium (AOL IM, not, Susie, MSN Messenger!). Highlight of the evening? Being driven home in a white stretch limo - a first for me, since I never went to my junior or senior proms. I was most amazed that a half-drunk beer I'd left in the cupholder was still ice-cold several hours later. The wealthy and powerful have it all: jetliners, servants, perpetually chilled alcoholic beverages....

2.) I went home for Thanksgiving and had a splendid time! A brief synopsis: I flew out Tuesday night, thank God, since Chicago was hit with snow the next day. Colleen met me at the airport and my heart melted as soon as I saw her in the baggage claims section. (Was ever a more romantic sentence put down on paper?) We hung out for a bit, then I went over to Tom's place (where I was staying for the night), but not before stopping for a quart of Yuengling at Kelliann's. Note: they've redone the place to look like a cross between Copabanana and 2 Goodfella's, which was extremely disconcerting! Tom and I split the heavenly lager while catching up and then both of us retired to bed.

The next day, I went to the lab, seeing nearly everyone save Elena and Scott. It was so nice to be back on campus - it felt like I'd been gone for a week at most. I think that wherever I go, University City (and Philadelphia in general) will always seem like home to me. Anu and I then went to New Deck Tavern where Bill and Andrea soon joined us. The old pub has an improved and invigorated menu, with more "Irish" items, including assorted meat pies and beer cocktails like the Snake Bite and Black Velvet! After a drink or two, Billdrea and I went to Bubble House. Then I met up with Colleen and we went to Abyssinia, accompanied by Justin, Ryan and his new girlfriend Shenna ("It rhymes with Jenna.") Ryan, if you don't know, is Justin's friend and roommate from his university days he's now doing Americorps in San José, Ca., which is where he met his girl. Rick then met us as we were leaving, and he, Justin, Colleen and I went to MarBar, the new swanky pad atop Marathon Grill (which, for those who've been off campus for a while, is next to The Bridge, which, for those who've really been off campus for a while, is where the Burger King used to be...) Then Justin drove Col and me back to Lancaster...where I was surprised by the latest addition to our family, Higgens, the loveable Yorkie puppy (pictures to follow). He's four pounds of aggression and child-like fury, a no-nonsense canine with teething issues but a heart of gold. He may be a wild-child, but he's already litter-trained, thank you very much. Seriously, it was really nice to have a pet in the house - 1201 Grants Place has seemed so empty since we lost our Hannah last winter.

Thanksgiving day was nice but a little unusual. Mom didn't want to cook Thanksgiving dinner for it was too much work, so we went to an inn. But, then, we had traditional Thanksgiving dinner anyway that Sunday.
Does not compute! Does not compute! Does not compuuuuuuuuu......Anyway, it was better than I expected (the blazing fire behind us helped), but still, it's rather odd experience to be served one's Thanksgiving dinner and not allowed to pick and choose from among favorites (like, say, stuffing) nor have the option of seconds (the real reason that the Pilgrims fled England for America!)

The next day, Thomas, Carlos and Andrew came over. We went shopping on the maddest day of the year, Black Friday at the Tangier outlet mall. I now am the proud owner of a pair of black pants (yes, I've officially become a
Penn sorority girl), a pair of very cool grey suede Skechers sneakers, a multicolor wool sweater from The Gap and two new pairs of jeans. Much hilarity later ensued when, upon returning home, we watched a video I had made for my sixth grade class ("The Making of Swamp Thing"). Some thoughts: 1.) I'm still amazed at how strong a Philly accent I had - I wonder how, why and when, exactly, I lost it! 2.) It's interesting to note that even at the ripe old age of 11 I had an impressive vocabulary and used it at every opportunity. 3.) Boy, was I a fat-ass! And the too-tight sweatpants really didn't help at all.

Saturday and Sunday were spent lazing about. I watched some episodes from
Ren & Stimpy and Doctor Who, which I had had sent to Lancaster. I spent some QT with my bro and my girl. And I just relaxed. Aunt Carol along with my parents' obnoxious friends joined us for Thanksgiving Dinner v 2.0 Sunday night. The brown bread and oyster-sausage stuffing were, as always, absolutely delicious.
On Monday morning, 4.30 am, poor Justin drove Colleen and me back to Philly. I had the brilliant idea of booking a flight for 6.25 in the morning. Ugh. My sadness at leaving Philly/Lancaster (hereafter referred to as Philcaster...or maybe not...) was tempered by the knowledge that in a scant 11 days, I would return.

3.) Exam week (Fri 3 Dec - Fri 10 Dec). Ugh. That about sums it up. On Tuesday, I had my Immunology final, which, though challenging, wasn't that bad. The Protein Fundamentals exam, which I had this afternoon, was another matter entirely. I hadn't done too well on the midterm, so I was really quite nervous: I had to do well. But I knew, in the back of my mind that all was lost. 2 hours, 13 pages, and 19 questions (with subsections A (i.), A (ii.), A (iii.), B, C, etc....) later, I was left absolutely stupefied. The fact that I'd been running on caffeine (half-a-pot of coffee and an Adrenaline Rush for good measure) and nothing else surely didn't help. Afterwards, I spent an hour or so recuperating at Matt's place, before heading to the store to do last-minute shopping. For, you see, I threw a Christmas party tonight! Hot mulled wine, spiked eggnog and applejack were the stars of the show! It was a relatively small gathering (no more than 7-8 people at a time, 12 total), but very successful. I got to show off my Christmas tree and say farewell to my newfound friends here in Chicago. For I leave for Philly this very day! 1 pm CT take-off, 4.15 ET arrival. Twenty-five days in Lancadelphia! Woooooo-hoooooo!

Ok, I promise to post when I'm in Philly! And I'll take plenty of pictures! So, see youse soon!

Higgens, wonder-pup.

Isn't he the cutest?

This one's for Susie!

Me & my girl!

With Rick and Colleen at MarBar

The gang at Abyssinia

Thanksgiving...at the Inn....

The Black Friday Taskforce!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Phark takes on Philly!

Fark has a photshop contest over an image of Love Park! Check it out!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Getting up-to-date...

I love that special smell
When the sun shines down
After the rain
I remember how I felt
When I closed the files
Where I saved smiles

I made my bed and packed my gear
I don’t know what it’s worth
But I’m still here
I’ll shave my head and volunteer
Am I closer now
What was that
I just couldn’t hear
-"OWC," Kent

I am so behind, people! Not with schoolwork, of course, but with keeping you all up-to-date on my life via this blog.

So here's a very compressed description of the past two weeks (with pictures to follow):

Sunday, 24 Oct

Went to church with Colleen here on campus. The 11 o'clock Mass is held in the very stately Bond Chapel where a student choir performs Gregorian chant. I'm truly struck by the diversity of Catholic life here at UChicago - alongside the almost requisite hippy dippy folk Masses and unfocused belief endemic throughout much of the country are true outlets for traditional belief and practice. The celebrant that morning was a minor celebrity: author and sociologist Andrew Greeley. It was really wonderful to stand beside Colleen then - it may sound odd, but some of my most important memories of us together are connected to church - the first time we ever went out for dinner, for example, was predicated by a Saturday night Mass. We then traveled northeast to Lincoln Park and spent the day at the free zoo and botanical gardens there, followed by a movie (Team America) and dinner. A great day, one that I'll never forget.

Monday, 25 Oct

We went for lunch to Mellow Yellow a cute little restaurant that serves what they label "70's fare". Lots of salads, chili, burgers, etc. These are 70's foods? Who knew? I must admit, though, I half expected Annie Hall to show up with Mork from Orc piggybacking on her shoulders. It must've been the decor. Apparently, the daughter of the owner wrote to Donovan for permission to use the name, which he granted at no charge. I wonder if he's gotten any other restaurant requests through the years. "Poor Cow"? "Season of the Sand-Witch"? "Cosmic Meels"? (How many people will get these references, and then, how many of those will actually find them funny?) I then had class: Pathology, then the weekly Immunology seminar, followed by "Meet the Seminar Speaker", where the first and second-year students sit around and try to fill up an hour asking our poor guest quetion after question. Col and I went to dinner at a very nice Middle Eastern restaurant, Cedar's. The kebobs were almost as good as the Persian Grill's, which is no mean feat! After dinner, we watched "Wag the Dog" for Colleen's film class. And then I got increasingly sad...

Tuesday, 26 Oct

...for this was the day Colleen was to leave me. After class in the morning, we took a teary bus ride back to Midway airport where it had all begun less than a week before. We hung out for about an hour, eating lunch in the airport. And then she was gone. I had a splendid time - I'm never happier than when I'm with my Irish girl.

Wednesday & Thursday, 27-8 Oct

Hell. On Thursday, I had an in-class midterm in Proteins and a take-home midterm for Immunology due. I only began writing the midterm the night before. End result? The paper was done after pulling nearly an all-nighter but I only had an hour to study for the Protein test. Ugh. Coming home Thursday, I realized papers were everywhere. It looked like I had been raided by the IRS (or perhaps the NIH).

Friday, 29 Oct

I purchased James Lileks' new book, Interior Desecrations and I suggest you do the same. It's freakin' hilarious. For a taste of what it's like, check out the book's companion website. That night, Todd threw a Halloween bash. I wore the Egyptian galabiyah Susie had given me the year before. It wasn't as well attended as my party for Justin & Spiros, but nontheless, it was fun. I felt a little freer to drink as I wasn't hosting, not that that stopped Todd. He claims not to remember the second part of the party at all. Oh, and there was karaoke. So imagine a very drunk Todd screaming to the song "My Girl" dressed as a Chippendale dancer. Nicole, asleep two floors below could hear that one. After the party died out (the host passing out is a surprising "party downer"), Ann came downstairs with me and watched the three Simpsons Halloween episodes I had in my collection. Tomorrow (7 Nov), by the way, is the premiere of the 16th season of The Simpsons with Treehouse of Horror XV!!!

Saturday, 30 Oct

Welcome to Hangover City. Population: Me. After a day of taking it easy, I went to Jason and Barb's Halloween party. Jason, in case you don't know, is the brother of my friend and fellow Penn alum, Adam. They live a few miles north of Downtown, near the lake's edge (apparently the gayborhood). It was a lot of fun - though I barely knew a soul, everyone was very talktative and friendly. Most of the guests were either classmates of the hosts (Barb is a psych PhD student at Loyola and Jason is getting a business degree from DePaul). Great costumes: I especially liked the girl dressed as a Bush security mom and the lass who donned a Cartman costume complete with Miss Jennifer Lopez hand puppet; great drinks: British cider made me happy and I loved the aquamarine punch titled "Vampire blood"; great music, which is what I would expect from one of the Kanes; and great atmosphere: having "Killer Clowns from Outer Space" playing in the background was a nice touch and there was so much fake spider webbing that I half-expected to run into Shelob.

Sunday, 31 Oct

Halloween. The only thing I did for the holiday was rent the remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Better than the original - very creepy. Dude, it stars Donald Sutherland, an extremely young Jeff Goldblum (who acts like he's on PCP through much of the movie) and Leonard Nimoy. NIMOOOOOOY!!! See it today! Or not.

Tuesday, 2 Nov

The day of the election. I checked the Internet for news, gossip and opinion 200% more than I normally do. Which comes out to 26 hours out of a 24 hour day. Wait a minute... That night, Nicole and I went to the pub, where they had a results-watching party for the grad students. Two free beers for every grad student. Now that's a campaign motto that I can identify with. I was insane - I kept jumping up from our booth to check out the television, hoping for some word on Florida, Ohio and our fair commonwealth. Oh, and I got into a debate with a girl from Madison. The strangest arguments I've ever heard. Andy, I now know what you mean! I didn't go to bed that night until 3.30 am - after chatting with Andrew and Rick (who reported on the Penn Grad student party at MarBar).

Wednesday, 3 Nov

Caught the concession speech by JFK and the victory speech by GWB. Um, not much else...

Thursday, 4 Nov

Bizarro-Thursday Club coincided with the real T-Club this week. I heard everyone had a good time there in my absence. Thanks again to Rick for organizing my baby and thanks to everyone else for keeping the dream alive! This day was also my dad's 52nd birthday, so I called to wish him well.

Friday, 5 Nov

I went with Emina, Rodney, Ann and Spiros to see "The Incredibles" at an ICE (Inner-City Entertainment) theater in the South Side. Yes, I can't believe they named a theater chain that either. The movie was phenomenal (disclaimer: as a movie whore, I sometimes exaggerate) - my favorite description was from AO Scott's NY Times review: "The intensity with which 'The Incredibles' advances its central idea - it suggests a thorough, feverish immersion in both the history of American comic books and the philosophy of Ayn Rand - is startling." I really think this is the era of the comic book. Sure, the 70's had their Superman in film (and Wonder Woman and the Hulk on the telly) and the 90's had Batman. But they were often pretty empty affairs (at least the sequels). Now we range from the excellent tome "The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay" by Michael Chabon to the elegantly directed X-Men and Spiderman franchises as well as genre-pushers, like "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow", "American Splendor", "Hell-boy", "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" etc. This truly is a great time to be alive - and see my passion for comic books as a kid be validated.

So until next time, dear Readers, in the words of Stan Lee, "Make mine Marvel!" Or, errr, "Goodbye!"

I took a picture of one of those statue guys on the bus heading home from Jason's party. I tried to be discreet, but he kinda caught me. "I HOPE you didn't take a picture of me," he growled. I pretended I didn't understand English.

Two wild and crazy guys!


I'm wearing a Nigerian shirt for this party.

Jay and Barb at their Halloween extravaganza!

I love this photo. If Spiros and I ever start a band this will be on the album cover. I would be the lead singer and he would probably just play the world's smallest violin.

Sayid Scanlon wishes to sell a baqara (cow).

It's TODD!!!

'Ello my droogies...

Nhi brought her own milk.

An orchid!

Colleen with her great nemesis, the Bleeding Heart. Taken at the Lincoln Park Botanical Gardens.

Colleen looks like she's telling God "Sorry, Old Man, but he sold his soul to me. Better luck next time, what?"

My girl at the zoo.

Toucan Sam is serving 25 to life for the murder of Snap, Crackle and Pop.

A tiger poses for us...

Noesis is back up

My political blog, Noesis, has returned from the grave. The first posting is on how the conventional wisdom about the 2004 election is utterly wrong. Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Four more years!

Well, the results are in and W has been reelected. Some of my friends, I'm sure, are quite despondent at the moment. Though I try not to use this blog for political matters, I thought I had to make some sort of comment. I promise to say no more about the election following this post.

I must admit, I'm quite relieved: national security is my deciding factor and I've never really trusted Kerry on this issue. The man voted against the first Gulf War for the Lord's sake and never really offered a compelling worldview.

While on many issues, I diverge greatly from Bush (e.g. prescription drug goodies for the elderly, an inability to curb spending, support of the idiotic Federal Marriage Amendment), I generally have agreed with the outlines of his foreign policy - most notably, the isolation of Arafat, the destruction of the loathsome Taliban, the free elections in Afghanistan, and the capture of the Monster Hussein.

While many have fallen asleep, I have not forgotten that dark day in September. It was then I abandoned my isolationist tendencies and realized that war had been declared on us and that we could no longer stand aside as tyrants and thugs pursued the means to our destruction, while oppressing the free people of the world. Am I an idealist? Sure. But these dreams are not impossible ones. Thanks to Bush, Kurds, Marsh Arabs, Tajiks, Pashtuns, Chaldeans, and Iraqi Sunnis and Shias are free.

I hope this administration will have the courage, foresight and skill to handle the challenges ahead: Iran's race to join the nuclear club; Sudan's continuing disregard for the rights of its African citizens, both Christian and Muslim; N. Korea's continuing attempts to extort the West; the instability and violence that still plague Iraq; the perpetual Palestinian-Israeli problem. These are the vital questions of our day - and I pray that somehow we may get through them with grace and speed. I, the American people and, indeed, the world, will be watching.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Birthday Party

Like other parties of the kind, it was first silent, then talky, then argumentative, then disputatious, then unintelligible, then altogether, then inarticulate, and then drunk. When we had reached the last step of this glorious ladder, it was difficult to get down again without stumbling.

--George Gordon, Lord Byron
Ok, where to begin? Well, my posting last Saturday promised details about the birthday party I threw for Justin and Spiros. It took place on Fri 22 Oct, in case you may've forgotten. So, after a splendid dinner with Justin and my girl at Leona's (no need to make Tigre-Leona jokes...I took care of it for you guys), we purchased some last minute items and held our breaths. Who would come? Would we have a good time? Would there be any major fiascos? (Many of you must surely remember Drunken Jimbosaurus and his 100 Apologies? Hmm...sounds like a perfect name for a psychedelic rock mime troupe from Monterey.)

The first guest to arrive (and last to leave) that evening was Todd, a very aimiable Cancer Bio student from Allentown, Pa who brought a case of Leinenkugel Red. He actually lives two floors above me, right around the corner from Spyridon. A Dartmouth alum, he's quite easygoing and certainly enjoys his tipple. He's the kind of guest that is a Godsend of hosts everywhere: the lugubrious drunk, the one who slows down until finally collapsing into a pill-bug-like haunch. While they may be difficult to expel once the night is thru, at least you don't have to worry about drinks spilled and toilets ruined - for he just sat there throughout the night, grinning and chatting ever more ponderously until he just....stopped.

We had The Office Christmas Special playing on the telly (more on that show in a post to come), while some damn good cds I had pieced together over the years played in the background. Though some may call me "King of the Mix CD", it's really those girls in my life who drove me to such distraction that deserve the lions share of the credit.

Soon, more guests started arriving: Ann and Nhi; Nicole, who brought with her a giant bottle of vodka (a souvenier of our Costco trip the week before); Matt* and his girlfriend Victoria (case of beer in tow); Kevin* (case of beer in tow); Gülüm (4 bags of chips...and a 6 pack of Miller lite in tow); Sarah* with her boyfriend Ken (a bottle of wine in tow) and Diane* (delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies...err...in tow?). My point is everyone was extremely generous - I said food or drink would be appreciated in the invite, and nearly everyone responded. Just like you guys always did in Philly. Special props to Emina & Rodney, a fifth year grad student couple who brought an amazing homemade caramel pecan cheesecake.

Dave* was pretty drunk when he arrived - he and Azusa had been at a free showing of Farenheit 9/11 which provided free alcohol and so arrived spouting nonsense. How much of this was due to the five beers and how much due to the Leni Riefenstahl-lite he had just watched was anyone's guess. Upon being introduced to Colleen, he started with an "Oh...should I...?" And then he just froze for about 30 seconds. He then tried to explain with "Well, sorry, you know when you're in prison and...." Ok, when anyone starts talking about prison, let's just say it's a real party downer. Later bon mots included telling Ken that he resembled Peter Pan, and that they should both fly like ghosts away together to Neverland. Complete with flapping motion.

He was that bane of every party-master: the raucous drunk. He kept spilling his drinks (thanks to jerky movements), drank with impugnity (whiskey disappeared down his gullet as though it were water) and had NO VOLUME CONTROL WHATSOEVER! Sheesh..it was enough to turn my hair grey.

But really, I can't complain. Sure, I foolishly sprinkled powdered sugar all over the gingerbread birthday cake I'd baked. Think Justin blowing out the candles, and Colleen and my carpet suddenly just a bit whiter as a result. But everyone had a good time, especially my brother; I got to introduce my beloved Colleen to my friends and colleagues here. And hell, I got to see what a bunch of lushes these grad students really are.

* indicates 1st year Immunology student

Colleen & I light the candles.

(L-R): Diane, Victoria, Ken and Sara.

The fabulous duo of Nicole and Gülüm


Dave gives his "flying ghost" impression.

Spiros and Justin blow out their cakes!

Poor Todd is robbed of his last shred of dignity.