I spent the morning doing errands. We cleaned out the guest room before Pam and Sean arrived, and we found some old sofa covers we weren't using. The Animal Care League said they can use them as bedding, so I took them over. 

When I did some walking around Oak Park, I saw a cat walking on the sidewalk. I've seen her (or him) outside a lot. I walked by, but then I did what I often do when I see a cat - I made kissy noises and baby talk. The cat trotted towards me and lay in front of me so I could pet her. She loved it and purred. Awww.

In the afternoon, I visited the Wicker Park neighborhood. That one was super-cool. It's my favorite after my own Oak Park. 

Oooh, and a bit of good news. I'd asked the restaurant where I held the anniversary party at to donate a gift card for Poised for Success's fundraiser. Today they emailed to say they agree! Also, Sean sent me a really nice FB message today.

I might not post much during the next couple days - Doris and I are off to Northampton, MA for the weekend!
The weather is so nice lately! Looks like the next couple of days will be good too, such perfect fall weather with warmish days and cool nights.

Yesterday (after I posted), I took the el to downtown Oak Park to get a frame from Ten Thousand Villages for the print that Pam and Sean gave me. So now it's framed and displayed.

Today Ann and I had a tea and Scrabble date, and it was wonderful as always! I went out early and visited Lyman Woods (finally got to do an almost-complete walk through of the place) and the smaller Mayslake. I wanted to eat lunch at the Indian veg place I haven't been to for a while, Shree. They were supposed to open at 11:30 but the door was locked. Around 11:38, a guy pops his head out and says it'll be at least another 10 minutes before they open. I asked if we (me and 2 others who were waiting) could at least sit inside since there was no bench or anything out there. But he said no. Maybe because I was hungry, but I really loved the dish I ate at the nearby Thai restaurant instead! 

That's been pretty much it for today except my usual things. Just sitting around waiting for Doris to come home from work now. Tomorrow my fun activity will likely be a trip to Wicker Park (though I might change it to the Lincoln Park zoo). If I'm up for it tomorrow evening, it's my last chance to see a local theater's production of "Fair Maid of the West" - or I can hit up Hamburger Mary's comedy show too.

My rating system:

10 – life-changing, an all-time favorite

5 - average for what I read

1 – terrible; why did I finish it?


Pantsuit Nation edited by Libby Chamberlain – I must confess that this book is mostly pictures with a bit of text, but I’m going to include it here anyway because it’s good. The secret FB page, Pantsuit Nation, published this compilation of members’ stories and pictures. The first section features contributions from election day – such great images of hope and excitement. The second section shows us after election day. I found hope and comfort in here. One sample: the day after the election, someone wrote about being called an anti-gay slur and how she decided to pay for the breakfast of the person who called her the name. I thought that was the perfect picture of where this country is today, the challenges of living in it, and some hints of where we need to go. Grade: 8


The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida – This was a very unusual novel. I listened to it on audio. Our protagonist is on her way to Morocco traveling solo; we’re not really sure at the start why she’s heading there. Shortly after arriving, her backpack that contains her passport, money, and other important things goes missing. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, so I’ll leave it at that. The book always had me guessing and wondering, and it easily held my interest. Grade: 7


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarity – A coworker gave me this novel, and it became a good reminder to me to not finish books that I don’t enjoy. The book is basically phluff, about a group of parents living in a beachside town in Australia where a murder has taken place. I really didn’t get into it and have no idea why I made myself finish it. Grade: 2


The New Better Off by Courtney E. Martin – In this book, the author suggests that many Americans are redefining the term “better off” and living their lives the way they want to. She provides examples in the categories of different career choices Americans are making, unconventional living situations, eschewing the traditional American trappings of success such as huge houses and multiple cars, redefining rituals, and more. It was a good premise and it’s always good to read about people making their own choices. Martin’s writing was really clunky and awkward though. Like compared to Samantha Irby (“We Are Never Meeting in Real Life”) and Jennifer Wright (“It Ended Badly”), Martin’s prose doesn’t come anywhere near to being witty or even pleasant to read. Grade: 5


The Optimistic Leftist by Ruy Teixeira – When I started reading this book, I decided to grab a little notebook and take notes on it. The premise of the book seemed so ridiculous to me that I wanted to understand the author’s argument. The book was published soon after Trump’s election, and I didn’t see that the left has much to be optimistic about. We have a right-wing nutjob as a president, and Republicans in charge of both the House and Senate as well as about 33 of the 50 states. Not just like the pro-business Republicans of yesteryear but Tea-party extremists who want to dismantle government and just have us living in a police state while global climate change destroys our lives. With these thoughts in mind, I picked up the book and wrote down the author’s thoughts since I sure don’t see a whole lot to look forward to now! I’ll provide bullet points on them; these are just my random attempts to capture the most relevant points. Before I do that, I should add that the book isn’t the most readable or fun tome I’ve picked up in a while. Although it’s short, it can be pretty dense and bland. In any case, the key bullets are:

-       - Pessimism undermines the appeal of any movement and thus isn’t helpful

-       - Progressive coalitions that include knowledge workers are replacing the traditional Democratic blue collar coalition. These coalitions are growing

-       - Only the left can confront and fix the problems created by capitalism such as the wealth-gap

-       - Democrats have embraced policies that will help the middle class rise (such as free education child care, family leave)

-       - Once the ACA and things like it are put in place, it’s hard to dismantle them

-       - The pro-science left will advocate for technological advances

-       - The rise of educated, white-collar workers

-       - Demographics: the rise of people of color, women who are single and educated, the decline of the traditional family, and the rise of millenials should bode well for Dems. Of course I then asked why are Republicans in charge, given all this? Demographics has not been winning elections. The author answered that too: the electoral college, gerrymandering, voter suppression, the fact that each state gets two senators regardless of population, and Dems have been unable to get the working class what they need so far.

-       - The green economy is growing

-       - Globally standards of living are growing up, and it’s largely due to things the left has advanced such as an 8 hour workday, workers’ comp, the right to unionize, bans on bad banking practices, protections of food and medicine, minimum wage, equal pay for women, and many more.

-       - Despite the fact that he usually had a Republican congress, Obama was still able to get a lot done such as the ACA and mitigating the 2008 financial crisis

-       - The Right’s demographics are largely aging, un-educated whites which are shrinking in size. (Although again, you just can’t rely on demographics to win elections!)

-       - The book ends with a good section on making the case that humans are mostly not motivated by greed but rather by altruism

Putting it all together, does it really point to a rosy future for the left? I’m not totally convinced, but it was a thought-provoking read. Grade: 8


So let's see, what have I been up to the last day or so?

I ticked off one of the items on my "fun" list - I went to Madison Street in Forest Park and walked around. It's nice. They have an Escape Room so maybe Ann will want to do it someday. Nothing else there grabbed me, although it is nice that they have a bookstore. (It was closed when I got there, though).

I also wanted to check out podcasts. I listened to two of "Bitch" magazine's episodes of Popaganda. It was pretty good. Maybe when I switch to commuting via train next year I will listen to more. (Or maybe next time I have a long el train ride too). I'm not like dying to listen to any more right now - but this will be nice when I don't feel like bringing a book to read on the train (but I'd better remember my earbuds....)

Another item off the list I pulled was to visit a vegetarian/vegan restaurant I hadn't been to before. I went to happycow.net to search. Basically, all the ones that are anywhere near me, I've been to already. The ones I haven't been to before are either in neighborhoods I prefer not to visit or are more like small cafes with pretty limited menus. So I think I might pass on going out of my way for any of these, but I do plan to re-hit a few of my old favorites like Amitabul or Ground Control. (Not today though....we still have leftovers from this weekend!)

I donated all my frequent flyer miles at Southwest to Team Rubicon, an organization of vets who do disaster relief. I'm so sad by what's happening in Texas! I also randomly selected a second non-profit to donate to, to help with Texas. The one i landed on is one that rescues animals. I know some people might say "You should help people, not animals!" but I believe that helping animals does help people. If there was a disaster here and we were separated from our cat, it would mean the world to me if someone had sheltered her in and taken care of her. 

Completed a few tasks - shipped some honey off to Sean that he couldn't take on the plane, got ear buds, picked up or weekly produce from the CSA. I went to the library to see if they had a zoo pass (they sometimes have free passes for zoos and museums) but their computers were down so they couldn't help me. 

What else? I have a food rescue later today at Fruitful Yield. In addition to whatever I pick up from there, I will donate some of our own produce to the pantry. We're leaving on a 4-day weekend trip on Friday, and we have more fruit than I think we can use - so off to the pantry it will go. 

On Mondays, Doris gets home relatively early so we watched 2 episodes of Orphan Black. Haven't been able to watch it since Wednesday. We're done with Season 2 now. We still like it a lot. And speaking of TV, I'm still watching The Expanse and I like it. 

Oh, and although I put my "3 things" gratitude lists on hold, Illinois just signed into law 3 pro-LGBTQ bills. A good reminder that as horrible as Washington is, it's good to stay involved on the state and local level.

The last 3 days were great! There's really not that much to post about. It was fun to host Pam and Sean; they are great guests. We did basically exactly what we laid out in the last post. (We also sat out and enjoyed our new lawn furniture and drank!)

The anniversary dinner on Saturday was so nice! I think we ended up with 21 of our closest friends and family. It all went so smooth and easy. The food and the room were great. (We had it inside an Italian restaurant). People seemed to have a lot of fun. We had a ton of leftovers, some of which we brought to Doris's dad and some of which Pam, Sean, Doris and I ate the next day!

The boat tour was a lot of fun too. I've actually done it 2 times before but was not at all bored. The weather was good. Pam, Sean, and Eric liked it a lot. (Doris had to go to her mom's to visit with her sister and celebrate her mom's b-day). When we went to Wrigley Field, there was an art show. Someone was selling a painting that had the Chicago Diner in it, and I mentioned to Pam and Sean the good times I had there especially how it was one of the first times I saw Justin outside of a drag show. When my back was turned, they bought me a small print of it! After the boat tour we enjoyed the view at the John Hancock building and a drink at the Signature Lounge. 

So that was basically it; I just dropped them off at the airport. I think the rest of today will be just relaxing, and doing errands like bank, groceries, cooking, I also need to pick up some items from Trends. And maybe plan something fun for tomorrow!

I might not have as much time to post the next few days, but here is the plan:

- Pam and Sean arrive. I pick them up. They wanted to leave the rest of the day open, other than dinner reservations at House of Blues

- Our 15 year anniversary party! 
- Again, Pam and Sean wanted to leave the day open but some ideas they had were to go to the John Hancock Center and/or Wrigley Field

- We have tickets for the architectural boat tour on the lake

- Pam and Sean return home
Another day with gorgeous weather. Partly sunny, high of 75, my windows are open to capture the coolness at night - oh this is perfect! And fortunately it looks like good weather for when Pam and Sean will be here too.

Today was the day that my coworker Jenny and I had our spa day planned. It was great. A place I'd never been to before. The massages were excellent; the guy who did mine was so good that I'd actually travel out to Lombard for him again. The only downside was that they did our nails one after the other (like first they did Jenny's pedicure and then my manicure) - I wish they'd done us concurrently. We weren't done till 1:30 which meant a very late lunch for me! But I survived. They had tea and almonds for us to snack on.

I got to Lombard early enough that I could take a quick walk around Lyman Woods before the spa.

Got my car washed and detailed in prep for Pam and Sean tomorrow. 

Other than that, pretty much the usual, and I hit the library.....I might go see a play at a local theater today, or I might stay home and watch The Expanse. I feel like I've hardly been home today so I wouldn't mind an evening in. (Especially since I'll be out and real busy the next 3 days!) 

Awesome, gorgeous weather today. In fact the forecast for the next several days is great!

I walked to the el station and rode the red line to meet Eric for lunch. That was fun, it was a Mexican place I'd never been to before. Walked home from the el too.

Went grocery shopping, getting stuff we need for Pam and Sean's visit. 

Listened to Kate Bush's "Cathy's Home Demos", some of my favorite music ever. 

Worked out, read, meditated. It's weird, I truly am never bored and the time just goes by. I looked up and it was almost dinnertime.

But first I went for a quick hike through our local forest preserve, Thatcher Woods. It's beautiful. I wish it were bigger; you can hike the whole trail and back in 30 minutes. 

Watching 4th episode of "The Expanse" now. I wish I had a fandom that I was crazy over. I just don't, and I miss it. 
Did a food rescue at the health food store Fruitful Yield. They were super-nice, nicer than any other place yet. Two of their people helped me take all the stuff to my car. 

Took Darra to the vet for vaccinations and an annual check up. The vet and the tech commented on how beautiful she is.

Other than that, I worked out, cooked, took a walk to the gas station to get Lotto tickets (don't judge! I do this every now and then, plus it's a good excuse to take a walk), called Southwest to get a question answered, watched the documentary He Named Me Malala, watched an episode of The Expanse (it's pretty good, I think I will stick with it). That's about it. Lunch with Eric tomorrow! Weather permitting I'll walk in a local forest preserve tomorrow too. 
This will definitely be one of the least exciting days to record. So here's what I've done so far today. My tire kept leaking, so I brought my car in to this place that Doris's employee's husband works at to get it fixed. They said it wouldn't be ready till early afternoon ( was there by 8am - they must have a busy day). They did give me a friends and family discount which was awesome. I took a Lyft home. I knew this would mean missing my BFF's father's funeral, but we were at the wake yesterday and she said she understood that we likely couldn't make it. 

While at home, I ticked off some items from my sabbatical to do list. I made a You Tube playlist and listed some aerobics moves that I like - so I can assemble my own cardio routine. I'm going to let this one simmer for a bit since I know there are more moves I want to add. Although I have many cookbooks, I've noticed that I tend to make the same 8-9 recipes over and over again, so I finally just slapped them onto a list so at least now I can rotate through my favorites. I researched both local (live) theaters here - pretty much their seasons are ending, but one of them has improv that Doris and I will see early in September and the other has a show that I might catch Thursday evening. After that, looks like neither has shows for a while. I did some research on North Hampton, MA which is where Doris and I will be Labor Day weekend. Did my Daily Action (called the Secretary of the Interior to urge them not to cut the budget for national parks). I researched zip lining near me. There's one place nearby but it doesn't look awesome. There's a better place that's further away...I pretty much decided to leave this for the "only if bored" pile. I looked at the museum pass from my local library, and it looks like they have zoo passes on a "first come first serve' basis that are good for 7 days. I will try to get one next time I'm at the library (you have to go in in person to get one).

I randomly selected one of the 25 shows from my "to watch" list. It landed on The Expanse. I watched the first episode. Not sure - maybe I'll watch another episode or two before deciding whether or not to continue with this. The cat spent a lot of time sitting on me, purring, which is awesome.

My tires were finally ready, so I got a Lyft back to the place. Then went to Whole Foods to get some of the frozen meals that Doris likes for lunch.

So yeah, didn't get to anything from my "fun" list today. But there are fun things coming up - Jenny and I have a spa day Thursday, and then Pam and Sean arrive on Friday and the big anniversary party is Saturday. 

I left off at Friday evening. Of course weekends feel less like sabbatical and more like regular weekends, which is cool.

Friday evening I joined Doris at her mom's for dinner. They're having a birthday party for her next Sunday but I can't go because Pam and Sean will be in town, so I just went to hang out with her and give her early b-day regards.

Saturday had beautiful weather. Started the day staffing the Dems' booth at the farmers' market. Then I shopped at the farmers' market, which I don't think I've been able to do for the past 3-4 weekends. 

Then - game night! It was so much fun! Ann and Rollin have a fire pit which we enjoyed, with smores, after the games. 

Sadly, Ann's father has passed away. We're getting ready to go to the wake now.

And one of my tires is leaking; Chris says just get all new tires now, so that's what I'll do tomorrow. One of Doris's employee's husbands is a mechanic.

I should mention how adorable the cat has been, sleeping on top of me, next to me, and multiple times during the day sitting on my lap and purring.
It was a great day today. It started with me scheduled to do a food rescue at Brueger's Bagel Bakery in downtown Oak Park at 8:30am. I got there and they apologized and said they didn't have anything. But it was actually no problem. I had a good parking spot, the weather was awesome at last, and one of my sabbatical "to do" items was to walk around downtown Oak Park, to see if there were any cool shops or places I hadn't seen before. So that's exactly what I did. It was lovely. I especially liked Scoville Park. 

And since the weather was so good, I decided to go on to Lindberg Park. Definitely I think forest preserves are better than parks, but walking around Lindberg was as good as I'd thought it would be when I glanced at it from the road. It's full of gorgeous flowers and greenery. The sky was bright blue with white puffy clouds. It was a nice walk, and then it was topped off by the fact that the park had one of those little free libraries inside it. And guess what was inside there? A book that I had donated to another little free library. I know it's the same one because it was stamped to indicate that it was withdrawn from the Downers Grover Public Library in 1994. That was the one! 

Then I decided to follow through with something I'd messaged someone on FB about. Oak Park is going to levy a tax for anyone who doesn't bring their own bag to the store. I think it's a great idea - we're drawing in plastic! Some activists are taking up bag donations for folks who don't have them. I have so many bags in my trunk. I pulled out like 6 that I haven't been using (I mean, in addition to those 6, I have about 5 favorites that I regularly use.) So I drove my donations to her drop off spot.

Then my friend John messages me. He's driving near me and he can come over to help get my music from my MP3 onto my phone. He does!! John is awesome! 

My afternoon's been pretty low-key but I did walk to Pete's Fresh Market to get avocados for tomorrow (and to get more exercise before my weekly weigh-in). Unfortunately by that time the weather had turned pretty hot and humid, but I still did it. 

Oh, and yesterday I did indeed go to the comedy show at Hamburger Mary's. It was nice to get home at the same time Doris typically gets home on a Thursday (10pm)! They have a $10 minimum order plus they charge a $2.50 fee for the show; I don't know why they don't just call it a cover fee. There were 4 different comedians, none were in drag or were LGBT as far as I can tell. One was fantastic, two were pretty good, and one was just awful. They each did brief individual stand ups, plus a few improv scenes as well. I'd go again, though I'd rather see Hamburger Mary's drag show.
My rating system:

10 – life-changing, an all-time favorite

5 - average for what I read

1 – terrible; why did I finish it?

How To Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell – Just to get this out of the way first: the author is an asshole. She’s a drug addicted party girl whose life has been spent caring about no one but herself, and sometimes I wish everyone like her would vanish from the planet. Anyway, but her memoir is really good. Her writing is sharp and funny, she tells us how she got into this mess, what her life was like as a beauty editor at various major magazines and how she tried to function despite being addicted to multiple different drugs. I will also give her credit for owning all her flaws and basically admitting she’s a clueless asshole. Grade: 6

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg – This was a great, short novel about a woman living in New York City and trying to determine who she is and where she wants her life to go. The story is told in a series of vignettes about her life; the chapters aren’t chronological but that’s okay, it all pulls together well anyway. The writing is immediate, wry, and moving. Each character is fully developed and feels like a real person. Grade: 8

Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg by Michael Perry – So the subtitle basically tells you what the book is about. Perry and his wife are farmers in Wisconsin, and he tells you the day to day about their life. They seem like lovely people, it’s just that the book dragged on. It was a series of nice enough anecdotes about their life but it just wasn’t very compelling. Grade: 3

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai – This audiobook has been on my “to read” list for a long time, and it finally came up! The book was exactly what I thought it would be, and I have nothing critical to say of it. We hear of Malala’s (brief) life before she was shot, a bit about her awesome dad and his upbringing (her dad really is amazing), the shooting, and the aftermath. Go Malala!! Grade: 8

It Ended Badly by Jennifer Wright – This is only the second book of Wright’s that I’ve read, and I will read literally anything she publishes. I first read her “Get Well Soon”, about plagues throughout history – she writes in an utterly hilarious and engaging way. Her earlier book, “It Ended Badly” is just as amazing. Funny, sharp, completely compelling. The topic here is 13 bad breakups in history, though I truly believe Wright could write well about any subject. Grade: 9

Okay, so today I didn’t do much more than my usual things like working out, cooking, meditating, reading, watching TV, playing Scrabble, and making my calls with Daily Action. I called House of Blues to make a reservation for Pam, Sean, Doris and me next week. I grocery shopped. I hoped John will get back to me and help me with the MP3/iphone help I need. It rained in the morning, and then was pretty hot and humid after that; I just wasn’t up for anything ambitious or anything outdoors today. 

(Re-reading the above, I didn't do that badly today though. I mean it's not like I lay on the sofa eating brownies all day). 

Tonight though I’ll go to the comedy show at Hamburger Mary’s, and this time will give myself enough time to park in the garage and get there! 

- Finished up the great fridge cleaning. Made a bit of progress on the whole "how do I get music from my old MP3 onto my phone?" question. Well, by progress I mean I asked my friend John and it sounds like he'll help.

- Did a food rescue today from Prairie Bread. Their donation was 3 huge sacks of bread. I said to them that I'll need to make 3 trips as I can only carry one at a time, so I'll be right back. A customer, a butch lesbian, watched the interaction and said she'd be glad to help me. She picks up the 2 sacks and walks with me to my car. My goodness, if I were single I'd be buying her a drink! (I thanked her profusely and said that if I wasn't due back at the food pantry, I'd love to buy her a cup of coffee. She smiled but didn't pursue anything. But hey, if she and I were single, this could've been a great "how we met" story).

- My random fun activity today was a trip to the Roscoe Village neighborhood. As anyone who reads this will be unsurprised to hear, I put it on the places-to-visit list because it has an indie bookstore and a veg restaurant, and both of course were lovely. I visited a few other shops in the area, bought some hand lotion. You know what I thought? I think I really love where I live! Roscoe Village was nice, as was Evanston and Logan Square, but I honestly think Oak Park has more...stuff. More landmarks, small shops, etc. So far the only place in Chicagoland that I think I like as much as Oak Park is Andersonville. (Which I've read is getting gentrified and a lot of the lesbians there are moving out). 

- Pam called today and we chatted, talked more about plans for when she visits.

- Selected my fun activity for tomorrow. It will be a forest preserve visit. I need to decide if I'm going to do the ones in DuPage County (further away from me, but they're better) or the ones that are closer but less pretty.  
- Yesterday I didn't actually make it to Lyman Woods. The entrance was closed by police; not sure what happened there. So instead I went to the mall to get a quick chair massage before dropping suits off to Gail and then water aerobics with the awesome Ann!

- Today I went to the bank, library, and picked up the CSA veggies and fruit. Later in the day I had laser hair removal. I also drove by a park in Oak Park that looks like it'd be fun to explore, contrary to what I wrote yesterday about parks being boring. 

- The random fun activity I had selected was a trip to Evanston. On the 'pro' side, I got to eat at the wonderful Blind Faith cafe and I visited an indie bookstore that I hadn't been to before. On the con side - in addition to the fact that it takes almost an hour to make the 15 mile journey there - the weather was hot and parking was terrible. I'd planned to visit a garden and an art museum - and I could not get a parking spot anywhere near either. I decided to try Evanston again either when the weather is better and I'm up for more walking, or I can just find 1 parking spot and then use Lyft to get to the attractions. (Also on the plus side, I found a place there that does "floating", where they put you in an isolation tank. I kinda want to try it though I kinda worry I'd get bored and want out. But another "con", downtown Evanston isn't as cool as I'd thought - like it has tons of chain stores).

- Selected my fun activity for tomorrow:  a trip to Chicago's Roscoe Village neighborhood. One great thing is that I've been there before and it doesn't take too long to get there. Well, at least nowhere near as long as it takes to get to Evanston!  
- I crossed another item off the list: i walked around several parks in my city of Oak Park. I did this last sabbatical (visited several parks in the town where I lived at the time). I guess parks are kinda boring, and forest preserves are more of where it's at in my book. At least the weather was nice when I went, which was early-ish today.

- Got NPR on my phone and found an app where it looks like I can listen to audio books for free on my phone too. 

- Planned out my fun activity for tomorrow: a trip to the city of Evanston! 

- Started to clean out the fridge which was disappointingly more gross than I would've wanted.

- Made appointment for Darra's annual checkup and did my usual activities of cooking, meditating, reading, did an errand to Walgreens as I need a new pair of cheap sunglasses (I never buy expensive ones), etc. 

- Plans for the rest of today: Drive out west to visit Lyman Woods again. Hand over the business suits that I decided I don't want to Poised for Success. Then water aerobics with Ann!

- I forget if I mentioned this, but Doris and I are watching Orphan Black. We're almost done with season 1 and we love it!
- Didn't make it to Hamburger Mary's on Thursday. I couldn't get a parking spot. I will try again and either take Lyft or allow enough time to park at the parking garage. The joys of city living. 

- Doris and I went to the Raj in Fairfield, Iowa. We left Friday and returned today (Sunday). We agreed that we liked it and had a good time but likely will not go back there. The drive was 4.5 hours; if it was maybe half that time then I'd probably think about a return trip someday. Perhaps I will do a longer post on it but here I'll write out a few highlights of the trip in pros and cons:


- The place was quaint and pretty, with a nice walking trail out back

- We ate 3 meals there: dinner the first night, then breakfast and lunch the next day. Dinner and lunch were excellent. I'd describe it as healthy, Indian-influenced vegetarian food; not really like the food at most Indian restaurants in the US but along those lines. (Definitely much less oily than what you usually get).

- Everyone was very nice, meaning the staff and the other people staying at the Raj. Though interestingly, the fellow guests were more of a highlight than the staff. They came from all over the country to stay here - we talked to people from New Jersey, DC, Houston, and Baton Rouge. And they were quiet at nighttime. The place has just 15 rooms and is quiet and peaceful. (The last hotel I slept at, after the Alaska show in NYC, had noisy people at 3am in the hallway. None of that here! The Raj's literature even says that bedtime is at 9:30)  :)  

- We liked what we did there. Saturday we had yoga, then our 'treatments', then lunch, then a tour of Vedic city, and then dinner at an Italian place in town. The dinner at the Italian place was a highlight! I had been craving wine and pasta, and it hit the spot. The tortellini Doris ordered was especially awesome. 

- So what is Vedic city? Okay, so long story short - an Indian guru dude has a bunch of followers, they move to this place in Iowa like 40 years ago, they start a university, meditation centers, The Raj where we stayed and where you get Ayervedic treatments, and more. It's in Fairfield, Iowa and I gotta say the town of Fairfield seems fairly awesome. For a place in the middle of Iowa, it's diverse, it has a theater which has plays and ballets, tons of good restaurants, tons of people who meditate, walking trails, small organic restaurants, an art museum, and a big focus on sustainability. So basically they attracted a cool crowd of people. Heck, if it weren't so dang far from Chicago I might even consider retiring there some day! I said to the tour guide that it feels like "the Santa Fe of the Midwest", and she laughed and agreed. It was kinda like a small town with some big city amenities.  

- Given that the place was built up by followers of a person, you might worry that you're walking into a cult or something, but everyone is very 'live and let live'. Our tour guide Saturday told us about the meditation method they use but she didn't try to convert us. The whole place and all the people had a very easy-going vibe.

- Our Ayervedic treatments on Saturday were nice but mostly consisted of people rubbing oil into our hair and bodies. My hair is silky soft now, but their massaging method is much more of a light touch than I like! Oh, and this has nothing to do with the Raj but they told me in advance that you can't have your period during their treatment. (I understand why - you're nude!  - but they did provide disposable panties which I could've worn with a tampon in. In any case, I was relieved....I knew my period was due to start any time. And it started literally 3 hours after the treatments as over! Whew!) 

- This could go under pro or con, but I'll be generous. The yoga room had a few pieces of cardio equipment too. Two ellipticals, 1 treadmill, and 1 bike. They had like 3 sets of light weights. It was nice and it was open 24/7 but on the con side, it was awfully slim-pickings for someone who exercises every day and it made me glad we were only there for 2 nights.


- They warned us in advance that breakfast would be just oatmeal and fruit basically. The second morning I drove into the town to get something more substantial. I like savory breakfasts, not sweet ones. 

- Because of the Ayervedic focus, there were a lot of things missing that I would've liked. No caffeine, for example. Another example, if they really want to be a destination spa, you need things like a hot tub or pool. But they don't have that.  

- Although the Raj was pretty, its decor and rooms were nothing to knock your socks off either. A lot of it looked old. Not bad in anyway but the Raj definitely isn't a stunner looks-wise. Perhaps something more modern or gorgeous would've looked out of place smack in the middle of Iowa? 

- We liked the 'live and let live' feel of the place, but their front desk is only staffed from 9:30am-4pm. That's just weird to me. 

- Given Vedic City's emphasis on meditation, I was surprised that there were no group meditation activities. We liked the free daily yoga but I think a place like this also needs a free daily meditation session. 

- The last 2-3 hours of the trip are through farm land on one-lane highways. Thank goodness we only saw 2 pro-Trump signs. (They were nowhere near Vedic City, where thankfully where we saw Bernie and Obama signs. No Hillary signs, but she's just a woman so she can't be president obvs.) 

- Took the el to Chicago to do 2 things:
- One was to try a vegetarian restaurant I hadn't been to before, The Loving Heart. It was awesome and I definitely will ask Doris to go with me again someday.
- Then two, the LGBT Center (which is not far from the restaurant) has meditation every Thursday at 1pm. It was excellent. It was 45 minutes long and I had a hard time being physically comfortable (even though they had mats and blankets) and a hard time focussing - so pretty much like any meditation. But I liked it and I might do it again.
- Other than that, just did my usual things. Cooked a recipe from Veg News magazine and it was excellent (although it was much like many other recipes I've made before). Worked out, read, watched Mario Bros 3 videos (I'm done with that last one, I swear). Then I packed for our trip tomorrow.
- Since Doris works late on Thursdays, I plan to go to the drag comedy show at the Hamburger Mary's near me. Hamburger Mary's opens one up just 7 minutes from my house and I've only been there once so far! I intend to remedy this during sabbatical. 
I might not post the next couple days - Doris and I are off to a destination spa in Iowa (yes, Iowa)! Very grateful to Doris for taking a day off so we can do this.
Oh, and on the gratitude front, also glad to have gotten a very nice review for one of my X-men fics. It's one that I consider my weakest ("Election Day"), so that made the review extra nice. The reviewer was glad that someone writes the characters as they appear in X-men: The Animated Series. I'm happiest to hear from another XTAS fan!
- Dialed into a weekly meeting with my team at work but they told me to get off. :) 
- Food rescue: took stuff from Prairie Bread and brought it to the food pantry
- Then hopped the el train to Chicago. Went to a vegetarian restaurant I've never been to before, Kramer's. It was very good.
- Then took a Lyft to a Handmaid's Tale style protest to tell our governor to sign the pro choice bill. I got my courage up and stood next to the handmaids in solidarity for a bit, and then even donned the outfit myself when one became available.
- Other: scheduled laser hair removal appointment. Grocery shopped since we're out of greens and lettuce. Cooked beet greens.
- And then? Spent the rest of the afternoon watching Super Mario Bros. 3 on You Tube. The memories! 
Oh, and what the heck, since i had some great stuff happen, let's do some gratitude too:
1. My boss said she misses me
2. Pam did a nice FB post yesterday, saying she wants me and Doris to visit them in Erie again
3. Phone banking that I didn't want to do yesterday was cancelled
4. And a Dem won a special election in Iowa, in an area that Trump won handily
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