The Purple of Life

She told me to hold on to the purple in my life.

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Location: Chicago, United States

I'm a 37-year-old editor and city dweller, wife and mother, moderately liberal and radically optimistic. I would fill my perfect day with a cup of coffee and the Op Ed section, a flea market and the playground, a run along Lake Michigan, a walk through the neighborhood with my son and my greyhound, a Cuban dinner and a bottle of red with my husband, and an evening flight to some European city. I wouldn't be picky about which one.

March 28, 2006

What I've been doing lately

I know, with such a scintillating entry title, you can barely tear your eyes away. But here's the list:

Looking at photos of sea otters. Sweet, fuzzy little sea otters. On Sunday I went to the Shedd Aquarium, because the day was stretching in front of me with nothing to fill it besides puttering around the condo and petting the dog. John was at the office, his second home during tax season, and suddenly I was overcome with a strong urge to see otters and penguins. So I took the el down to Roosevelt and walked the 10 minutes to the aquarium, where I was confronted with a looong line of families with squealing children, waiting for entry. Ugh—spring break! Luckily I’d brought our iPod along, so I passed the time listening to Sarah Harmer and Tom Petty and Sufjan Stevens, trying to imagine what it would be like to bring three children under the age of five on an aquarium outing. Answer: Damn hard.

After a 30-minute wait, I was finally inside and past the turnstile. I headed straight for the otter area and spent awhile watching the little guys swim, scratch their fur, and play with a plastic ball. I watched the penguins getting fed, and then I visited the stingrays, an assortment of eels, dolphins, various African fish, seahorses, poisonous frogs, and a hideous giant crab. I ended the day with another stop at the otter area. I really, really wish I could have my own otter.

Watching Big Love. Tuning in to this show is like watching a trainwreck. I simply cannot look away. After reading Under the Banner of Heaven, I’ve been fascinated by Mormons, and the fundamentalists are even more intriguing because they practice polygamy. The very idea of sharing John with another woman makes me want to throw a plate across the room. I just can’t comprehend how these women do it… to know that your spouse has an equally intimate relationship with someone else, that your spouse looks at someone else the same way he looks at you… it’s just mind-boggling, and such a radically different view of marriage. Thanks, HBO!

Hanging out with Moose. During tax season, I am Moose’s single parent, the one who feeds him dinner every night and takes him on most of his walks. Of course, this also means I have ample opportunities to meet the assorted odd people who live in, or simply pass through, our neighborhood. Some people don’t even seem to register my existence and instead speak directly to Moose. Two recent examples:

1. A shabby man leaning against a storefront and smoking a cigarette says to Moose, “Do you smoke?” Since Moose doesn’t actually know how to talk, I answer for him: “No, he’s not a smoker.” The man pauses, still looking at the dog. “Well, you do have a smoking jacket.” (He’s referring to Moose’s fleece coat—since greyhounds have next to no body fat and very short fur, they need protection in the winter.) I smile politely and move on.

2. An older woman sitting on the curb and wrapped in a sort of plaid cape asks Moose, “Do you like McDonald’s hamburgers? Because I sure do.” She is not eating a McDonald’s hamburger when she says this. I answer for Moose that yes, he likes meat very much, and she smiles at him in return.

Planning the summer. In true Chicago form, the weather is still cold, in the 40s. We’ll have spring for a month or so, and then we’ll be broiling. While I generally despise the heat and humidity, I’m looking forward to everything that goes along with summer—green trees, ice cream cones, baseball games, flip-flops, eating dinner outside. We have tickets to three Cubs games and reservations for two camping trips to Wisconsin. In July, we’re taking a trip out East to spend a few days in New York City with John’s brother and a few days in the Pocono Mountains with my family, in the big cabin where we used to vacation when I was little. It should be a good combination—just when the familial closeness of it all becomes a bit too stifling, we’ll be off to the Big Apple! I haven’t been to New York since I was 18, and that was just a daytrip to see “The Phantom of the Opera.” My brother-in-law lives in Queens, and I’m excited to explore his neighborhood, in addition to visiting Central Park and Greenwich Village and the World Trade Center site and various restaurants and bars. But the Poconos will be enjoyable, too, in its own way… hiking in the woods, clean blue mountain air, pine trees and simple homemade food… a time to sleep in and breathe deeply and reach back to remember my ten-year-old self. I very seldom get to visit the places of my childhood, so I intend to savor this.

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