in which witness is borne: birds, politics, fiction and critical art theory


Tuesday, August 30, 2005
My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Biloxi, Mississippi, New Orleans and the surrounding areas devastated today by Hurricane Katrina.
Oh, and the New York Times reports today that the Ivory Billed sighting may be inconclusive. Thanks, guys. We get it, 'k? We're just a little amusing tidbit for you to consume with your morning triple mocha soy frappalatte. Birders are like the last people on earth to learn that the media is only your friend when you look like a hero, not when the story is complex and filled with uncertainty, as this one has been since February 27. I don't know of any birder who isn't aware that there's still a chance the Ivory Billed isn't out there. These party crashers are just rubbing it in.
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failing better

Sunday, August 28, 2005
and did i go to that bird walk on Saturday, ladies and gents? no, the drumroll peters out to a stutter, i did not. Did i drink instead and hang out with friends till late evening on friday? yes i gloriously did. it felt nice.
another thing i'm super embarrassed about: several weeks ago, at a bar, I made a point. Emphatically. So emphatically did i make this point (and you can be sure that said point is long, long since forgotten, probably even since the moment i uttered it) that I slammed the edge of my left hand perpendicularly against the flat of my right palm. Bam. And felt something...go.
A moment later, eyes watering with pain, I was holding my left hand under the table, waiting for the pain to subside and hoping no one had noticed. No one had. This was several weeks ago. The hand hasn't healed. I'm fairly certain I did something at bone-level, like some sort of hairline fracture or pinched nerve or some such. When I turn my hand just so, or try to lift anything heavy, I feel as if my hand is snapping in two. I feel like such an ASS. It's as if my protector spirits are smacking me awake from my delusion that being right is the most important thing. NO, YOU MORON, they are saying, COMPASSION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. ARE YOU NEW TO THE WORLD OF HUMAN INTERACTION? FIGURE IT OUT, YOU BATSHIT FREAKO. HERE, WHY DON'T YOU TAKE HOME A HAIRLINE FRACTURE OF YOUR METACARPAL AS A REMINDER THAT WE HAD THIS LITTLE CONVERSATION?
ah well. maybe i'm being pessimistic. maybe it's only a sprain. but lucky for me (and for you as well, dear reader), i'm enough of a hypochondriac that
we will soon get to find out.
which reminds me: i saw a BAT tonight at Humboldt Park. Yay!
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i mean saturday

Thursday, August 25, 2005
um, the LaBagh bird walk is this Saturday. At 7am.
sorry for the omission.

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Humboldt Pie

Tuesday, August 23, 2005
... okay, I stole that from the name of a cafe in my new 'hood i'm hoping to visit soon. but it is in Humboldt Park, the Jens Jensen-designed glorious greenspace after which the 'hood is named, that I glimpsed the unmistakable orange-and-black of an ORIOLE this morning on my first run in the Park.

An auspicious sign, it has to be, despite the dark clouds dripping rain overhead and the financial woes that seem equally menacing.

...speaking of birding, does anyone in the Chicago area wish to join me on the LaBagh Woods Bird Walk at 7:00am at the Forest Preserve off the Edens Expressway? Go to this linkfor details. Leave a comment here if you want to go, especially if you have a car!! Carpooling = good, right?
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tree roots leave an impression

Monday, August 22, 2005
...in my BACK! we went camping this weekend, our first 3 day weekend getaway since a year ago this month. the buildup of expectations caused by job changes, money stress, and moving had almost annihilated any possibility for enjoying the trip--but we managed to really breathe easier anyway. Together we spotted not too many birds, since we mainly only had eyes for each other (i know--ew.), but we did see
several sparrows I couldn't ID, and a village of angry chipmunks. Don't get 'em mad! Sheesh!
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i of the tyger

Friday, August 12, 2005
what a summer. a certain unrest has definitely been burning bright in the shadows of the night, not enough for me to talk about here, but still--I haven't been sleeping well.
Everyone should read Jonathan Franzen's Reflections piece in this week's New Yorker, called My Bird Problem. It gives a surprisingly sensitive and painfully accurate treatment of how birding can turn a self-centered, blase urbanite into a vulnerable, earnest Conservationist. The parts about feeling joy at the mere existence of birds resonated with me: "The California towhee generally, the whole species, reliably uniform in its plumage and habits, was like a friend whose energy and optimism had escaped the confines of a single body to animate roadsides and back yards across thousands of square miles. And there were six hundred and fifty other species that bred in the United States and Canada, a population so varied in look and habitat and behavior--kites, hummingbirds, shearwaters, snipe--that, taken as a whole, they were like a companion with an inexhaustibly rich personality."
Anyway, I can't provide a link here because the New Yorker won't let you see it on their site. But go get it. It's also funny. That is all.
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Leaving Logan Square

Saturday, August 06, 2005
winding down the move this past week, i glimpsed a pair of AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES feeding on the sunflowers in the back yard of the old place. Our move takes us not far to the south, and a bit west of where we were--and i'd like to take a moment to appreciate Logan Square, palm over my heart.
Even though we were in the borderlands of the neighborhood, in an isolated house that has sat hauntedly on its corner for 130 years, we managed to extract some of the pith from this rapidly gentrifying place: Las Asadas, the taco shack with its new orange menu sign and tiny barstool counter. S. sang its praises whenever I left town, reverting in a flash to ordering chicken tortas and taquitos with salsa verde rather than cooking on the stove himself. Why not, it was damn cheap. And there was Cafe Lula, as Ira Glass writes, arguably the best neighborhood restaurant in the city. I'm a cheap date, so I liked the reasonably priced yet consistently yummy items on the menu, plus the fact that you get a free mini-appetizer consisting of whatever the chef is experimenting with that week.
Never mind that these usually resemble a fried cricket with some sort of spicy mayo, I appreciate the gesture.
Osco Drug. What can I say. You were like my reluctant yet reliable childhood friend, the one who never really got who I was, but was there for me anyway. You had limitations, but these were clear and well-marked, so no surprises: stocking Monistat, but locking it in a plexiglas case so I had to suffer the humiliation of having a male employee open it and walk me to the front counter; a produce section consisting of seven avocados and a box of pallid tomatoes; and a reliably bad computer system, which always misses the sale items, requiring the cashier to call for a price check even when i KNOW i am, like, the eighth person that day to purchase that particular sale item. It got so that I would get the sale item, bring it to the front, and let everyone in the line go ahead of me because i knew it wouldn't show up correctly in the computer.
And finally, the Blue Line train at Western and Milwaukee. As long as I have memory, this will be my favorite CTA station. I got to know its particulars so well: the elevator that takes you to a bridge above the train platform, where, if you are trying to take the train on the other side of the platform, you must get off the elevator and walk across the bridge, where a second, secret elevator operates between the bridge and the platform but doesn't descend to street level; the kiosk on the west side of Western, which allows riders to use their passes to get on without going into the station, but at their own risk(several times I had the misfortune of getting my card stuck or otherwise malfunctioning at this location, causing me to enter the byzantine system of CTA pass rescue); and on and on. They even now have a Dunkin Donuts inside the station, a mystifying development given the CTA's injunction against eating and drinking on the train. Maybe they expect people to simply hold their donuts?
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women weighing in

Wednesday, August 03, 2005
And now for a break in our regular programming to bring you a bit of socially motivated theater. Those by-now-familiar Dove ads are generating a lot of controversy here in the Windy City. Some of the best commentary has come from Wendy McClure, a writer whose views on the subject I highly respect. She's also very, very funny. And the Sun-Times published her piece! awesome. Read it here.
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movin on up

Tuesday, August 02, 2005
life is happening to me now, almost too quickly to record here. So instead i will report that i saw several AMERICAN CROWS, a few WHITE THROATED SPARROWS and what I believe was an EASTERN PHOEBE on the campus of Northwestern U. this week.

Evanston turns out to be ok, though it's a little like the rich stepson Chicago acquired by marrying above its station. The whole city seems...entitled. Exaggeratedly so. This can be a good thing--for example, i witnessed a scene on Wednesday morning that would have been unthinkable anywhere else , except maybe Canada or Singapore: an entire city block of parked cars being towed, all at once, by a fleet of tow trucks, to make way for the street sweepers, which, if the parking sign fine print is to be believed, only pass through there four days a year. We're talking about at least 15 cars being towed simultaneously from a single block, in a city of 55,000 people. My point is, they have that many tow trucks! Anyway, there is a fair amount of the snootery one might expect from such a place. But hey, all the public restrooms are really nice, and the Dunkin Donuts has WiFi internet. So who's complaining?
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