June 30, 2010

Jobs, Indians, economics, Amish, independence, Homeland Terrorists, The West

We're nearing Independence Day weekend, and I've been hanging around small Michigan towns for a few days. It's different here. Hillsdale County has had the second-worst unemployment rate in the State of Michigan, ratcheting up over 20 percent--and that in a state that already bumps around the bottom of the other 49 in terms of economic frailty.*
The Amish seem not to have noticed.

We stopped at a farmhouse pretending to want to buy food, but were actually positioning for a close-up of the Amish lifestyle. Spotted this hand-printed sign on the door: Noodles $2; Quart maple syrup $10; brown eggs... Their gardens looked full and prospering.
Is it a coincidence--this unemployment crisis in the same county where three months ago today, a few locals calling themselves the Hutaree were arrested in an international headlining FBI sting operation earlier this year, charged with plotting to overthrow the United States government via some homeland terrorism tactics... Anyway, next we came upon this ominous sign on a quiet country road: "Lost Nations Gun Vault," and, "Hrs Tue - Fri 9 - 5, Sat 8 - 12."

I wonder Why does a group self-titled "Lost Nations" advertise the location of their gun vault? Ah, and a closer look tells us: they take Visa and MasterCard! Well, 'least there will be an easy track-back of who purchased what and when after the Lost Nations people are Found.

Meanwhile, we spotted a few historical markers. Chief  Baw Beese was the last of the Potawatami Tribe to inhabit the area before moving westward to Iowa. An historical marker at a bridge constructed in 1871 in Hudson, Michigan explains it is the location where pioneers cozily set up camp adjacent to the Wigwam of the Red-Man [sic] led by Chief Baw Beese in 1828. Then in 1871 came the arched stone* railroad bridge, paving fast transit for people, coal and ore from Buffalo, New York direct to Chicago.

Actually, we only noticed the unique all-sandstone arched bridge and its historical marker because it was right next to the parking lot of Bobbye's Pizza, where we specifically came for the Red Indian [sic] (hot cinnamon-flavored) ice cream.

Ran into a hometown mom we know. Her husband was, at that moment, packing up his brother's family for their own move westward. Unemployed for all too long and desperate to support his family of five, he is next week leaving the area that has been home forever, to their great-great-grandparents and before. Going west for the promise of employment as prison guard in Wyoming.

*Good news reported last week by Michigan's Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth: Hillsdale County Michigan unemployment dropped from 16.2 percent in April 2010 to 15.5 percent in May 2010. 

*Sandstone imported from Berea, Ohio.

For more on the history of the gregarious and generous Chief Baw Beese who originally welcomed and aided the Euro-Americans:
"...It was a sad day when Baw Beese left. Schools were let out to bid the old chief and his people farewell. With Baw Beese driving a horse-drawn buggy in the lead, the Federals took the Indians from the camp at Squawfield, through Jonesville and Litchfield to Marshall [Michigan]. From Marshall they went west, then down the Mississippi, up the Missouri River and eventually to a reservation at Council Bluffs, Iowa where Baw Beese feared his mortal enemy, the Sioux."

June 28, 2010

O'Keefe painting, LIVE, on the Indiana Toll Road

Road trip with a couple of teen girls from the West Coast:  Took this Georgia O'Keefe photo whilst driving east. View: free.

Stopped at Indiana Toll road rest stop where there appeared to be an ice shortage. The McDonald's branded sign read, We now sell Bags of Ice! 10 lbs. for $179.

A much closer look told us it was a shortage of decimals, or maybe ink.

Sky-blue summer dress makes a comeback

Broke Girl here. So pleased with herself, she should be embarrassed. Which is why she is (I am) talking about herself third person.

Went to church this morning. Noticed a cute hot mama with her big shot lawyer hubby and two elementary / middle school daughters. Liked the sky blue hue and frolick-y print shift she wore layered over white cuffed clam-diggers (no, capris--trouser shorts...? Fashion lingusts /grammarians, please help me out).

I instantly launched a compliment on the dress, but before it was even out of my mouth, I had an inkling of a recognition.

"Is that...?"

"Yes," she said. "This the the mini dress you bought for me at a thrift store about eight years ago."

It was 2002, the summer I was living half in a Michigan farmhouse, half in my various Chicago friends' vacant apartments, spare rooms, or built-out basements. "Jenna" and her husband came to me and asked, "Would you like to rent a two-bedroom apartment in our North Center three-flat for the next four months, ending 1 October?"

Well, sure; I would be interested. ...Since I'd been living peripatetically and the big old farmhouse was just a bit lonely for my liking. What is the rent?"

"No rent. Our house is for sale and you'd stay free. Just pay electric. Do you wanna come take a look at it?"

"Of course not!" I said. "At that rental rate, what--am I going to say I don't like the layout...the view isn't to my liking? I love it already. I'll take it." And so I did.

So began another wonderfully fun summer, living just downstairs from the darndest, funnest, couple--one of my most admired families.There's so much more I could say about that fun footloose summer, but I'll leave it there.

I got into this thing that summer where I only wore dresses (you know, the stage /fixation three-year old girls often get themselves into). Maybe because it was a hot summer and I bought just a small window air conditioner for my bedroom and certain dresses can be just the coolest most comfortable thing to wear. (A shout-out to Todd Lemmon and that supposedly Scottish skirt he wore to his own wedding.) Whatever it was, I projected my fashion choice on Jenna. Because when I happened by a designer consignment shop--McShane's Exchange--on Webster, I spotted this little shift that I thought would look so cute on her. So I bought it for her. As it turned out, it was a bit shorter than she preferred to wear. But she thanked me, and I think wore it out a time or two.

I can't believe she kept the little dress--vintage even in 2002. And I was so pleased with myself--or was I pleased with her--just for wearing it--eight years later!--and looking so great in it today.

June 26, 2010

iPhone 4 me

My new iPhone 4 isn't here yet. On launch day last week even my 60+ mbps connection couldn't make the connection to the Apple store. 36 hours later, I locked in a July 2, 6 or 8 delivery date.

At this moment, I have confirmation in hand that my new orange iPhone bumper, born in Shenzhen, China, has since been shipped to the beautiful Island of Lantau in Hong Kong, delivery scheduled for a 1 July appearance in Chicago.

I hope my new phone is right behind it, because I cracked the screen on the first iteration iPhone I'm using now (given up from my sis-in-law, since the first one I bought crashed within the year). The cracked screen is letting in some moisture, I fear, and the phone is acting goofy.

In fact, on its own volition, in an odd sort of escape attempt, it took this photo recently, from the inside of my purse. Only discovered later.

I should be a little bit concerned. For the hour my phone had crashed today, before I figured out to turn it off and re-boot, I got a bit distressed and depressed wondering how I would manage my life, leisure and business--balance it all and keep it on track until my iPhone 4 appears at my doorstep sometime next week.

June 25, 2010

Happy Cycling, Singing, Fishing

Ladies who lunch are now bicycling off into early evening dinner. Got to love these women who are out on a hot June night, self-transporting on bicycles. So cool, so green, so Amsterdamish. This woman's friend is just behind her (see passenger rearview mirror.) Try not to observe that I took a pic while driving my car north on Lincoln Avenue, of this woman texting while bicycling. A whole lot of "don'ts" going on in this scenario. But cute, eh?

My current houseguests and I had earlier started the mile walk to our dinner destination, but forgot something and by the time we returned to my home to retrieve it, decided to hop in my car after all, missing out on much needed exercise; missing out on just a better, fuller and happier way to live. Our bad. I was heartened by the looks of these women.

After dinner, we drove north on Sheridan to discover a group of teens bussed in for a week from a Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama to an Uptown mission. Fifty-plus blond, Caucasian teenagers descended upon the Uptown neighborhood for a week in what their lime-green Tees described as the "Somebody to love" Mission Tour 2010. Luke 10:27. We braked, parked and joined the two dozen bystanders enjoying their music and dance moves. Then the teens broke into a skit in which kids took posters bearing the words alcoholism, violence, guilt, drugs, and hung them on Jesus, a handsome young boy who accepted the signage around his neck. A thickly-accented Alabaman chaperone offered us a big slice of watermelon.

Teens from Birmingham, Alabama descend on Chicago's Uptown neighborhood
Moving along to Montrose Harbor for a scenic city view, we happened upon this happy fisherman who was snagging perch and giving them to the a couple a few yards east of him. He fished for fun, he said. Didn't know the couple (see woman in pink garden hat) to whom he was giving all the larger perch. Said he'd seen them there before and he always gave the larger fish to them, and tossed the smaller catch back.

Nice way to eat--free--if you don't think about whatever the perch might be swimming in and ingesting along this north Lincoln Park / Montrose Harbor City of Chicago shoreline. Another way to be happy or generous or eat cheap! This guy fished for the fun of it; the pink-hatted lady told me she was going to go home and fry it up for her family!

This guy did not know who his taker was, but said he has given perch to this woman and her husband before

Bypassing Shaw's Crab House for fresh perch at Chicago's shoreline

My current houseguests from the West Coast, sporting T-shirts of their favorite new team: The Chicago White Sox

June 24, 2010

Grocer's Clearance Counters

ALDI's on Clybourn Avenue
Who else goes to the cheapest grocer in the universe... and when there-- heads straightaway to the clearance counter at said grocer? I do.

I have house guests for a few weeks. These teen girls did not travel east of the Mississippi River expecting to be Broke Girls in Training, but that's what they were today. So we picked up some marked-down Hawaiian Punch freezer pops at ALDI's on Clybourn. Can't have enough icy old snacks during a fabulously hot summer Chicago season, we say.

The other thing about shopping at grocery store clearance racks is that you find out interesting stuff about the neighborhood demographic. Take this Jewel. With real estate at a shortage, it was built not on actual land, but is like "fake" new real estate, apparently with air rights -- this gleaming urban store built over train tracks in Chicago's Fulton River district.

Swanky Jewel store: they're not eating beef jerky here
Don't need an anthropologists' degree to learn about this neighborhood. Nobody here buying up beef jerky. Also, neighborhood women must be on that FDA-approved oral contraceptive that reduces periods to three to four times per year. Nobody's buying the hygiene products. I don't pretend to be a Freak-economist (some of their conclusions I find quite bogus), but anyway, must be a highly male-populated neighborhood, or the women are older, post-menopausal; or they're all pregnant. Whatever. I loaded up on some deeply discounted, but not near expiration, Ghiradelli dark chocolate, strawberry pancake syrup and cereal. You do know: grocers and pharmacies often slash prices on products they decide no longer to carry. So the items may not be at all aged or nearing expiration; prices dropped to below cost, just because grocers want to clear the shelves. And that's when I show up.

Beef Jerky, anyone? Load up at the Jewel at 370 N Des Plaines Ave

Likewise, when shopping for a new bathtub earlier this week, I of course, was distracted by the clearance counter at this location of the largest home-improvement store in the world! I checked it out because was in the market for a new showerhead, yet not highly particular about the styling. None there; worth the two-minute survey.

Lesson learned in this ALDI-Jewel-Menards pictorial: notice major orange signage posted well above eye level.

June 22, 2010

Responsible fathering starts at (the White) Home

One day after Father's Day, President Barack Obama rolled out a responsible fatherhood and mentoring initiative.

And in other news leaked today was the report that White House Budget Director Peter Orszag plans to resign--the first member of President Obama's Cabinet to depart the administration.

*Orszag has two children by his first wife, whom he since divorced. He then made a baby mama of a Greek shipping heiress but not before leaving her (three months into that pregnancy) to move into a relationship with his current fiancée. No word on whether his now-seven-month old love child (born one month prior to his formal engagement to the next girl in queue) appeared at the President's Father's Day mentoring barbecue held Monday at the White House.

I met a Wise Man at Menards

I've spent much of the last three days in two Menards and three Home Depot stores in various Chicago neighborhoods. Bought a new bathtub at what the store associate informed me was the single largest home improvement store in the world! Smack in a western Chicago neighborhood, not convenient to any expressway, apparently was serving the average neighbor do-it-yourself-er, one of which I am.

I first noticed the three little brothers behind me in the checkout line when the littlest spun out in front of me and then looked straight up with his oversized dark eyes. Cute, clean-cut, frolicking about, in no way annoying, I paid little more attention until a serious four-way negotiation broke out. Seems the youngest child had realized his desperate need for a bag of candy that was positioned--of course--smack at his eye level. And he wanted that candy. Had to have it, he told his dad who accompanied him and the older two, about ages six and eight.

It was one of the most beautiful day-before-Father's Day interchanges I've heard between a father and his three sons. The dad said, "Sure, you can have that candy. But then you can't have the pool. You can only choose one. Candy or the pool." The other boys jerked to attention.

"You mean if he gets that candy, we cannot get the pool?"

"That's right. He gets to choose for the three of you and he can choose the candy or the pool." The father was carrying some kind of pool filter pump, and the boys were tossing about their purchase, a single neon-green noodle-shaped floater thing for use in a swimming pool.

I was intrigued. And the older brothers were worried. "Hector," they cried, voices nearing panic, "if you get that candy now, that means we can't get the pool."

But Hector was set on the candy. It looked so good, and the package made a little rustling sound as he held it with both hands. The dad repeated, "Hector gets to choose."

The older boys tried to explain to little bro just how much they wanted that pool, and how much Hector's candy choice was going to ruin all the fun for later. Nobody whined at the dad (a buff and good-looking guy who, upon my ask, said his name was Ozzie.) The older boys were focused on Hector and getting him motivated to make what was to them, the clear and obvious decision.

Finally, Hector relented as the brothers told him if he held off on the candy now, they sure would have a lot more fun in the pool later.

I was impressed. That's when I asked the man his name. "Ozzie," I said, "You have to be one of the most brilliant dads I have ever met." And where is the pool you are going to buy?

"It's at Walmart." Like me, he's not a one-stop shopper; probably a good sale happening over at the Walmart pool showroom. I imagine the boys and Ozzie had a marvelous Father's Day together.  To think--those boys don't yet realize that they've got a Solomon of a dad.

June 20, 2010

Today's Craigslist find: vintage fan

Who else would drive 15 miles one way in summer city traffic to get her hands on a cool vintage table fan, sold by a couple in Berwyn? Here is today's twenty-dollar find. I broke the Craigslist code of bargaining and didn't even bid my seller back, paying him the entire amount he asked--it was so sweet and summer-wonderful.
Command Air, Model DF, Tennalite Mfg. Co., Chicago, $20

The petal-shaped blades barely move on low, slower than a waddling duck's webbed foot on a hot June afternoon, just batting at the air.

So cool.

I wish it were a little noiser like the super-vintage fan I found in the attic above my parents' garage a few years ago, probably from the 40s. It once belonged to our spinster great-aunt. This cast-iron thing whirrs loudly, weighing in at 11 pounds (I just checked my bathroom scale), and could instantly sever the tip of a wayward finger. I once seriously injured my forearm by getting it too near the totally unprotected sharp metal blades. Friends, be warned, my house is so NOT child-proof, and actually not very adult-proof, either. Lawyers, gather 'round.

Once belonged to my Auntie Ila Mae "Babe" Gourley, may she rest in peace; Perfect working condition, BTW

Yes, I have central air conditioning, but these fans add so much awesome ambiance, plus I had to have the two-speed "Command Air," manufactured some 40 years ago by Tennalite Mfg. Co., Chicago.

Meantime, waiting for me to take out to the garbage: this trendy table fan I bought less than two years ago that was not built to last. The Bionaire was fit for a Pottery Barn lifestyle and unlike the others, rotated graciously. In spite of the style, safety features and glass base, it just wasn't meant to last. C.H.E.A.P.

In other Craigslist news, I bought a homelier (not pictured), less stylin' floor-standing rotating fan last week for $10, brought it home, wasn't working, emailed the seller, and he kindly dropped $10 into my PayPal account. Which, if you do not have one, start PayPaling today. It's an easy way to repay money. Or conversely, collect debts. I like their new campaign:
Split lunch. No ATM? Send money. Save face and pay your share instantly with PayPal.

June 19, 2010

Juneteenth: The greatest day that no one celebrates

Today is my favorite day of the year. It used to be New Year's Day, because of the possibilities, freshness and how serene the city presented itself (folks home sleeping it off), and my tradition of ice skating with friends in Grant Park. My birthday and Thanksgiving Day rank high, too.

Juneteenth celebrants, Austin Texas, June 19, 1900
Juneteenth, a day to celebrate emancipation, dates to 19 June, 1865 when a Union soldier regiment led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston Texas with news that the enslaved were just that, but no more. Although President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on my other favorite day 2.5 years earlier--New Year's Day 1863--perhaps it was the lack of high-tech communication devices that caused the news delay. Well, the President's authority was in question; what is not in question is Galvestonian slaveholders defied the statue.

With no Katie Couric to recite the news, Granger was there to read General Order Number 3 himself:
"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer."
Thank you, General Granger
Apparently the reaction was pure shock and then jubilation, thus touching off the first Juneteenth celebration. (I wonder if the date was blurred in the naming of the event because slaves didn't have a calendar to know the exact date, as one day simply bled into the next, working for the man?) Anyway, Juneteenth became a time for reassuring one another, praying and gathering remaining family members.

I'm a little confused how the Chicago celebration was co-opted to become a specifically Muslim festival: Takin’ It to the Streets-- "where artistic expression, spirituality and urban creativity inspire social change." The only other Chicago celebration I uncovered is at the Bronzeville Children's Museum, today featuring Fernando Jones teaching children to play blues on their harmonicas. Today, from 2-4 p.m. $5.00 entry

As America's first and only Debt Abolitionist, I, Broke Girl, like all things emancipatory. I like tax freedom day, which came and passed with little fanfare on April 9, following the UK's Tax Freedom Day on May 30. (Posted the link just just for the live animation of the bite chomping the twenty-pound note.)

As for now, from my perspective as a white American girl, I hope Juneteenth still commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes family togetherness, education and achievement. A time for reflection and rejoicing. A time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning our future.

Juneteenth seems to have lost its caché as holiday of choice for those embracing freedom. Most default to the big one stemming from the American Revolution, July 4, 1776, but it is nice to mark other moments, and to think of what it was like to have been in Galveston 145 years ago today--what hearing the news was like to the slaves as well as the slaveholders. I like to think it echoed years later on May 1, 1992 in the words of Rodney King, "People, can we all get along?  I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out."

On New Year's Day 1980, Texas state legislators passed a bill marking Juneteenth an official state holiday, the lone state to do so.

June 18, 2010

Living La Vida con Amorelinda, on uno peso

the awesome and brilliant (just IMO) DJ Jeff Craven
After leaving the lunch (for which I paid the City of Chicago metered parking in the amount of--what--is it now 25 cents for fifteen seconds of parking? Seriously, I paid $7.00 for one hour and 43 minutes of metered parking), I rushed home for an appointment, later met a tenant for lease signing in the Gold Coast, then drove to Streeterville where I parked my car and walked a block to the North Pier terminal to board a boat for an evening of fun, frolic, food, friends, and dancing to the machine--the sounds--of legendary DJs Jeff Craven, Lego, and Phatman. My shout-outs are coming hard and fast these days, but Jeff Craven and the lovely Marla are one couple I have admired and adored since the day I met them--at their wedding ~ ten years ago!

Little better place to be in the world than a cruise on Lake Michigan on a hot June night, especially when it is a benefit event for a worthy charity and lots of great friends, new and old, are on board.

Laura Donnelly Schmidt and Marla Craven (in rainbow sequins)
How does a broke girl swing this? First, anything that's for charity is an easier spend than just doling fifty bucks outright for an evening cruise. So that's done. But what about the $25 parking fare in that upscale part of the city--huge tourist center?

I originally planned to bicycle to the event, or take public transportation. But then I happened upon a website where, just serendipitously, I could sign for a mystery shopping assignment at a parking lot just one block from North Pier terminal, where the boat was boarding. How awesome was that? Sometimes being Broke but Happy is about being in the right place and at the right time. I am actually willing to take occasional very-low-paying mystery shopping gigs when it suits my schedule and needs. Rather than paying $25 for parking, I snagged free parking, plus will get a $10 check in the mail in about two months (worth the wait), for having completed an online report tonight about how the parking lot, signage, pay station and parking booth cashier experience played out.

Best part of the night: Fun is really truly priceless. Wind in your hair, sun in your eyes, and later moon, skyline of Chicago, fine conversation with great people, a few of whom I have known north of 20 years, some of whom I just met --like a woman whose name I thought was so cool. She introduced herself as Amore-Linda--"pretty love" in Spanish.

Thus wrapped another wonderful day in the life of this Broke Girl who left her corporate working-for-the-man days long behind. Stay tuned for more tips and crazy antics. (Like sending a check deposit in the amount of $1,000 toward a bath renovation I've decided to start next week, but mailing it to the contractor in a recycled envelope--how's that for broke-y craziness?) Ah, but if I didn't recycle an envelope here or there, or do three more parking garage mystery shops tomorrow in my spare time (to net another fifty bucks' pay), I'd be back there working for the man, or unable to afford the new bathtub I'm looking forward to getting installed.

Pretty love to you, my dear reader.

Pretty City / Cuidad Linda, si?

A handsome square jawline ya showing there, Dave Hollar

Backview of the Lyric Opera Building
Emily Kiang

Going Rogue at Charles Schwab

Another good day for Broke Girl. Invited to a luncheon at the Swisshotel for a presentation by SVP, Head of Portfolio Consulting for Charles Schwab, the company where I've parked my regular IRA and Roth IRA retirement money for many years. (Shout out to Uncle Sam--thanks again, for the free money--for never charging me a single red, white, or blue cent in taxes on the capital gains, dividends and interest earned in my Roth IRA retirement savings accounts.)

I had hoped to get some scoop from Mr. Big on his Firm's economic investing outlook, maybe a tidbit to share with you tonight. So disappointed was I that I left 30 minutes into the presentation--and without touching the crème brulée with fresh raspberries on the plate before me! The executive who introduced the keynoter first regaled the audience of one hundred with stories of her youth in Oklahoma's tornado belt, and not-so-smoothly segued into happy chat about risk, fear and tolerance within context of current markets. Fine. However, this executive spoke with possibly the worst grammar I have heard from any speaker, ever--I mean, she had trouble with basic verb tenses, adverbs and more, and made no attempt to correct herself. (I'm still embarrassed that I once made an awful gaffe on live international television when I said, "...the products retailers have lain out for you to purchase." Awful, it sounded. I admit it, but it was a one-off thing, uncommon for me.)

I soon grimaced and lost track of the storyline as her grammar made like fingernails across chalkboard. I exchanged looks with the businessman on my right and whispered, "The tornado analogy is a bit ingenuous, but it is almost impossible to take from one so grammatically challenged." He sighed and nodded in agreement. Then the keynoter rose to the dais. With no mention of current market and economic indicators he launched into the old and tired: diversification is good, yada yada. I left.

I totally would have sat it out; hopeful he'd have concluded with some sharp observation re: a segment of the economy or markets, but as I sat in the wake of Miss-Grammatical, I began to wonder about the risk management practices within the entity that is Charles Schwab.

Surely, no one can give a presentation to a few hundred of the Firm's clients at a swanky luncheon (no rubber chicken; I detected a pungent bit of thyme) without first being thoroughly vetted. Without having given practice presentations, been observed and critiqued on prior speeches, or worked with an in-house communications strategy coach.

I left this luncheon thinking that things are out of control at Schwab. If that sort of rogue thing can happen at a lunch for investors (and I have to be at the bottom of the list of invitees, with my small bit o' investments), I truly wonder what else is going on. What sort of risk management practices are in place throughout the firm. Like IT controls, practices and procedures around confidential client information. Policies about when, what and how employees, temp workers, or external consultants can access information. Checks on compliance with laws or SEC, Fed regulations. Quality control; product research, development and launch; crises preparedness, systems firewalls and who is on first.

I mean, if the executive of a world-wide investment service provider cannot speak in a manner that would get her no better than a "C" grade from Mrs. Newcomer's high school English class (a shout-out to Waldron High School's stern but awesome English teacher, now aged 90), then what in the world are we in for, folks?

Tell me, am I over-reacting, or am I, more likely, on to something--an teeny indicator of an enormous lack. Absence of check-points; a top-down poor- or mismanagement. Lack of protocols such that high-level, face-of-the-firm employees have no minimum standards of doing, speaking and striving to achieve and deliver the best and finest they can. This is one of the world's largest providers of investment services. I may take my little bits of money and go packing. I now worry; what other basic business protocols are in lack at this worldwide global-thon of a company?

June 17, 2010

People R Funny about Money: Modern Family, ABC

Dialogue from finale of season one, "Modern Family," on the ABC television network:

The gay couple, Cameron and Mitchell, arrives at the home of Mitchell’s sister for a family barbeque. We hear Cameron’s voice, “Since Mitchell is between jobs, I’ve taken a part-time job at a greeting card store. Which. I. Love. Plus with my discount, we’re saving a fortune!

Mitchell, “How is spending a ton of money on greeting cards saving us a fortune?”

Cameron replies, “It’s math.”

“It’s really not,” Mitchell retorts.

“Look it up.”

Mitchell lets out a long sigh, then flipping through the cards, reads off the prices, “Two ninety-five, two ninety-five, four ninety-five, two ninety-five...”

Durling which time Cameron talks over him, “Forty percent off, forty percent off, forty percent off, forty percent off…”

June 16, 2010

Diary of a Broke Girl + Broke Girl Meets Her Avatar at entrance to Target store parking lot!

I like the clear white glass, 3" x 6"
It's been a busy day over here at House of Broke Girl. Started mildly enough with a bicycle ride to a tile outlet on California Ave at Diversey where I shopped for glass tile to install in my bathtub surround next week. Ended with an interaction with Chicago Police Tactical Officers Bermudas and Gillespie after I I.D.'d four young teens smoking weed whilst trespassing in a triangular spot between my neighbor's house and the alley. Only a big deal because that little tract is busier than a mall food court after school (do teens do that anymore?) and there is almost a waiting line in the alley. Time to stop it.

How many frugal acts can you spot in Today's "Broke Girl Daily Diary?"

I doubled up by $aving gas, car wear and fitness center dues by cycling the six miles r/t to the discount tile outlet. Collected $15 at my front door when I sold an old 2Wire modem I no longer use to Avi via Craigslist. (I misheard on the phone, and called him "Javier" when he came to the door. "Nope, it's Avi; Not Mexican; I'm from Israel," he said.)

1-hr photo shoot in my kitchen nets $150 "location rental fee"
 Collected $150 from a production company who used my kitchen for one hour to take still shots for an ad for a major pharmaceutical company. Then went off to collect data from a neighboring apartment, since I was the last person hired to enumerate for the U.S. Census, and had been assigned one case. (The apartment was vacant and for sale on Census Day, 1 April 2010--check.) Collected $18.25/hour for the period of time was doing that.

Highlight? As I cycled on Logan Boulevard past the Target store, I spotted a woman holding a sign, "Hungry + Broke" who had a stack of luggage and a dog with her. I couldn't brake quickly enough, so circled back to ask her gingerly--not wanting to be intrusive--whether I could take a picture of her sign. She had no problem with that, and said I could take a picture of her and her dog as well: Lena and Shaaka (I thought at first she said the dog's name was "shotgun" given my poor hearing).

I think Lena's my Broke Girl Avatar. She was nice.
Lena was friendly enough, and didn't mind my asking where she was traveling from and to. "I'm from Canada," she said, "and have been traveling for months. My boyfriend--he's just down the street there getting something to eat--and I are traveling together with plans to go to Oregon--Portland and Eugene." I didn't wish to intrude too much, but asked her if she'd ever been interviewed by a journalist. "No, I don't like all the questions. I'm rather shy, although someone once interviewed me for a school project." She never saw the story.

I didn't stay long, feeling a wee bit like I was intruding in her living room--which I was. After given Lena the entire contents of my wallet (nah, not that generous--I only had three one-dollar bills), I asked her, if she wouldn't mind, telling me her average day's take. "Money, you mean?" I'm not sure what else she thought I was asking.


"Well, we get maybe $20 or $30 a day."

Lena with her protector Shaaka (that's my bicycle, lower left)
I asked what was her biggest take, like, did anyone ever pull over and just hand her a couple of twenties or even a C-note, recalling I've given as much as $20 to a homeless person on the el at O'Hare Airport. She demurred.

BTW--as much as I bring it up, I almost never give money to homeless people. For example, I've never given coin to the guys who stand sentry at the door to the Post Office, nor those who intone at the entrance of a CVS or Walgreens, "Maybe on your way out?"

Lena and I talked a bit about hitchiking, and what sort of driver will pick up a a twosome with a dog. At which point, I said, "Were I ever to hitchhike, even though I'm afraid of guns, I'd be sure to pack one."

"Yeah," she said, "well that's the dog."

Shaaka, the Happy Continent-Trotter

June 15, 2010

Retailers love your dad

Retailers (copywriters) truly care about your dad. This is what they have been saying this week:
"Give Dad what he really wants this Father's Day" -- Home Depot
"Don't forget Dad" -- Sharper Image
"Celebrate Dad" -- Kohl's
"Make Dad's Day" -- Walmart
"Take Dad to a place that will make him feel as important as he is; show your dad how much you really love him" -- Ted's Montana Grill
"Everything for the guy who has everything" -- Dollar General

And my personal favorite of the Father's Day taglines, just plain and simple:
"Up with dad" -- Kmart

2 + 2 = sorta 5

You're going to find out just how much I admire Dennis Miller, because of DMZ creepage into my content. He has it going on at the Dennis Miller Zone.

So this morning Miller says if there is anything that really discomforts him, that forebodes we're at the point of no return, that it is near time to switch off the lights and head for the cellar (my words, not his), it is partial credit for wrong answers. (I'll 'spain more tomorrow.)

A well-spoken, brilliant-minded contemporary on the opposite end of the political spectrum is in full agreement. Miller self-identifies as Republican and on the right; James T. Meeks is all Democrat, all day.

What Miller said today immediately brought to mind a sermon heard roughly seven years ago at Chicago's largest church (and also non-integrated--an all-black church). Riff alert: Illinois State Senator Rev. James T. Meeks (D), buddy (or used to be, cause there are no longer any buddies) of ousted Governor Rod Blagojevich; known Democrat, pro-Obama, pro-Clinton, pro-Gore, and anti- anything Republican or of the Family Bush. Yeah, that separation of church and state thing just hasn't caught on at the Salem Baptist Church of Chicago.*

But anyway, a beautiful thing it was from the mouth of James T. Meeks. And it was about absolutes. He said two plus two will always equal four. Ain't three-and-a-half, not five, couldn't be seven. Much as you want, wish and weep, it won't never be eleven. It will forever be exactly four; no less, no more.

What's my point? I just think that for a broke, or not -broke person to achieve happiness it is critical to accept and embrace the reality of certain absolutes. It gets real unhealthy when it is suggested in the broader society that 2+2 could be massaged just a bit.

And yes, let's bring it on home. This refers also to your bank account, credit card purchases, that wad of money that just fell out in the wash. [I found a full size Scotch® tape dispenser in my washer today. Oops, haven't taken today's ADD meds.]

You cannot experience fiscal freedom and peace of mind when you are not plugged in to what is real about you, your life, the money you have, the money you do not have, and the money you wish were yours but isn't. So it is a bit of a political and personal finance rant today, my dear friends here at the School of Broke. Smooches to all three of my devoted readers. (Shout out to mom!)

Oh, and I kindly challenge you to give a full two bucks to the very next homeless person you cross paths. Okay, so there is just one time when $2 is really more than it is. What is $2 for you might be like $20 for them. You know?

* Disclosure. I formally joined SBCOC as member in June 2001. I have huge respect and admiration for Rev Meeks. And I am in strong disagreement with him on numerous political ideologies. But I repeat: Meeks has earned my enormous respect and admiration.

June 13, 2010

Even Broke Guys got game!

My doorbell rang at 12:45 a.m. No one should be making house calls at that hour, and I haven't a child serving in Iraq or Afghanistan...I actually haven't a child anywhere, so what gives?

I was still up at that hour--of course! so immediately went to the door where I saw my homeless neighbor descending my front stairs. (I say "neighbor" because he lives around here--wherever. Plus I'm pretty sure Jesus said everyone you run into or pass by is your neighbor.)

William, I called out, Don't ring my doorbell after 10 o'clock! Then I noticed he had left a basket on my porch.

"I brought you something; I rang the bell so you would find it, and no one would steal it," he said.

When I spotted him crossing the street later the next day, I reminded him to please never ring the door past 10 p.m. But also thanked him for what was his first gift to me.

Turns out broke guys--even really broke and homeless guys--have game, too. Somewhere in his travels William had come across this white basket with one dead plant, a nice live one, some ripped up ribbon and other florist shop makings. On the envelope that once held a card for the original recipient of this lovely gift, he had scrawled:
From "W"    To: "S"     LOVE
And it's not easy for a homeless guy to find a pen handy, you know?

William has a real girlfriend, I think (and I hope). He introduced me once as I passed by the rear of a nearby building where she cleans offices on the night shift. He meets her at the back door when she empties the building's trash. I also know William gets gigs cleaning the floors and taking out garbage at bars near Wrigley Field. And I also know that, like me, the guy is really resourceful.

June 11, 2010

Be Broke, but with a decent lunch

Driving south on State Street in Chicago today (en route to my Craigslist purchase of a $10 vintage- look floor fan from someone moving out of 899 S Plymouth Court), I spotted what appeared to be the velvet-rope line for a hot new club. But even better--it was a line of smart savvy lunchers taking advantage of Jimmy John's "$1.00 SUBS: Customer Appreciation Day."

There is a lot of this going on lately--you can probably find a sub shop special in your neighborhood. For a $2.99 Quizno's lunch of a small sub sandwich, chips and a beverage, go here to print the coupon, good today through 18 June 2010. Far as I can tell, you can print an unlimited number of coupons. Take your friends, take the fam.

Think of it as lunch on Broke Girl. Invite me to go with, and I'll pay the $2.99 for your lunch.

June 8, 2010

MoneyMoneyMoney, the ultimate peacemaker

Happened to flip on the Dennis Miller radio show whilst working at my desk a few minutes ago.

LOVE his perspective, as it is often through a lens I've never before seen. Today, 'twas a riff on Elton John's appearance at Rush Limbaugh's weekend wedding.

"Yeah, Elton John is all about building bridges," Miller said, "and that one just cost a million dollars."

'Bout fell off my chair, I laughed so hard. Despite what I say, write and believe to be true, here I am again proven wrong: Money does buy everything, yes?  ...and other thoughts on prostitution.

Defined, figurative usage: The unworthy or corrupt use of one's talents for the sake of personal or financial gain.

Who isn't guilty? I mean, name one person.

Signage, on the Offense

Was just reminded why so rare it is that I go into retail stores--that don't sell groceries or produce. Here's a photo journal of my stop in a favorite store (because it's all cute cheapy discounted stuff, that looks / appears swanky designer-y quality stuff, enough for my discriminating tastes, anyway). Soon I'd had enough of this sort of mental jangling -- the signage and sort of guerrilla marketing tactics employed.

Who wants to be a loser (which is what you'll be if you don't buy these beach themed hand towels for your bath). If your are at all competitive--I for sure am-- you'll want to achieve shopping VICTORY.

Nor do I want to miss out on a HOT TREND for my closet. Plain old wire hangers, nothing! My closets have "trended" over the years, up to plastic tube hangers, but apparently that's all 80s.

I'm going to have to get these new velvety hangers...and in EVERY color, since I don't want to be left OUT of the trend of having the latest fashion colors in my closet (none of which will show with clothing covering them.)
Exhausting, it is. Hope I choose the "right" color hangers to decorate my closet properly.
I left the store soon after, apparently in defeat (Alamo-me, I didn't wave the white truce hand-towel flag), and decidedly untrendy, staying with the plastic tubular hangers that keep my clothes off the floor just fine, thank you. Anyone else just done with this sort of in-your-face store messaging?