Notes of a Chronic Negress: Spring Training

February 28, 2014

By the way, much of this is based on truth.

“I love you.”

Oh shit. If the Negress hadn’t been perched on those stairs with that guy right in front of me,  she could have gotten away clean.  The railing had her pinned on one side; the wall on the other. As it stood, she was going to have to respond to this tequila-fueled declaration. The truth was not an option. She can’t say to someone who is furry drunk that she only slept with them because she was out of batteries for the vibrator. Or that, every once in a while, she needed to feel someone else’s skin to remind you that you’re alive. He was still there, nut brown and swaying, hair sweaty with some other bad trouble who made him think a trip to the clinic might be in order.  She doesn’t know the other one,  but she worked at Centerfolds. This guy wasn’t the brightest in the world — read Dean Koontz, had van seats as permanent furniture — but who was she to talk since the Negress woke up bare-assed on a waterbed in his house on Mother’s  Day? The mother of his kid came by to drop off Junior and, at first opportunity, the Negress bailed.

The Negress’ wasn’t always like this or else there would be not story to tell. You wouldn’t always find her perched on the stairs of this bar listening to some coke fiend talk about interstate trucking. She does come here a lot, but she’s run out of reasons why. It was good trouble once, a place where a girl could go when she needed to be kissed but didn’t want to make breakfast for some jerk. Lately everyone was getting married, going to rehab or smoking so much dope that the mere thought of sex makes them tired and cranky. Why did marijuana have to make a comeback right at the time when sleazing around has been deemed fatal? What happened to the seller’s market she was used to?

Crueler friends might say 30 pounds happened, but her arms don’t keep moving when the Negress stops. Also, this baggy grunge rap fashion thing was a godsend to us women of substance. Real women eat and that’s all there is to it.

Which may also explain why she gave that restaurant  goof so much of her valuable time. In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the guy the Negress was looking at when this story started, although this joint played a  role in her running into him repeatedly. The Negress was bored, he kissed well and knew a thing or two about what she considered the finest of dining. When he came over, she would end up with rug burns and odd marks on the couch. His good trouble turned to bad when the Negress found out about the woman with the gun and the toddlers. And half the teachers at this one elementary school. And five other women she knew, one of whom confided that she was relieved when her clinic run turned out to be just a non-specific infection.

At this point, high mileage was not a good thing even though it did seem to improve technique. The Negress usually put latex where it belonged, but not always. You gave blood and lost some sleep watching the mail for a week or two.

 Oh yeah. Back to the guy in front of her. He was still swaying there, expecting The Negress to say something like, “Honey, I love you so much I’d go your bail before I’d pay my rent” or some other declaration that indicated permanent brain damage on her part. She thought she’d gotten away clean. We kissed one night after the Mother’s Day thing, but it felt like a Pekingese was trying to pick her nose. The Negress had seen him up here a couple of times since then, but he had been cool. No excessive mooning, no pining. He hung with this coke dealer who was a a total bore. The Negress finally shut him up with a reasonably coherent discussion of the economics of the baseball strike. One of the bartenders bought her a drinkfor her  trouble, saying that was the longest ol ‘Dillweed had gone without speaking. The Negress considered it a public service.

All right. The Negress has hatched an escape strategy. “Uh, Dick, can we talk about this some other time?”

“No,” he bleated. Dammit.

“Well, will you excuse me for sec? I’ll be right back.”

Thank God there was a side door out of there. She was down the steps and in her truck in no time. He wasn’t there the next time she came back so the Negress hoped he got the message.

Although it may be hard to believe from what the Negress is telling you here,  she can do celibacy with panache. She’s talking years, kids. Some 21-year old goober tried to pick her up with that tired old line about how she needed to relax. The Negress replied that she wasn’t going to end a two-year string of doing without for him. He looked ashen. “How could you go two years without having sex?”

“It’s easy. You get up one morning, brush your teeth, get dressed, do your hair,  go to work, go out clubbing, come home and what do you know? You didn’t have sex. A day becomes a week, weeks months, you get the picture.”

He asked her to leave his apartment  (The Negress was stuck there after some ill-advised drinking).  She thinks he thought it was some elaborate con. Sometimes the truth does work very well.

One of these days the Negress will find a man (or woman, but we’re getting to that) who will last from spring training to the World Series. She’s not lonely exactly, but sometimes an arm around you at night would be great. Or a phone call when Frank Thomas jacked one past the Russian space station (she’s waiting on this feeling from Adam Dunn). Or someone who would get the picture when you said something about sticking around for winter ball and hockey season. She was tired of explaining her jokes to people who were supposed to care about her (her tribe is out there and she will find it later).

Or maybe she’ll just settle for a good kisser who didn’t piss on her bedroom floor during an alcoholic blackout. That was bad trouble. She kissed so much during that day and a half, the Negress felt like the lower half of her face was smeared and runny. If  she could have attached those lips to someone who knew where the bathroom was, half the battle would have been won. He knew baseball but often forgot which league the Astros are in. He lost his scholarship on that basis alone (though, now that might not be a deal breaker. The pissing, yes.).

The problem is there’s a fine line between good and bad trouble. If you hang with someone and it gets too boring, it may be good for you. But it won’t make you drive across town with a raincoat thrown over your nightgown because your phone rang at 2 a.m. with a highly improper (not to mention potentially painful) suggestion. Good trouble can talk you into it because of some deep mystical connection or just plain madness. Bad trouble makes you get a restraining order and change your number.

Most people the Negress  talks to think the distinction is a massive rationalization. “You shouldn’t try to justify this trashing around you by palming it off on something nearly mystical in its incoherence,” said one 12-step veteran pal of mine. The Negress drank another bourbon and told her to shut up.

The Negress has had jobs and everything (though lately not so much), but that’s of minimal consequence. The hours were flexible enough back in the day that arriving in the office at noon wearing sunglasses made little difference in my performance reviews. Most of the Negress’  co-workers at the time had settled for something calm. She sometimes got the sense they viewed her as a mascot of some kind;  still weird enough to drive a pickup trick and not have day-care problems. Their lives make the Negress cringe so back to the bars she went.

Frankly, the baseball strike nearly made the Negress into a nun. She had found most of her trouble by arguing about ball in a variety of joints. The restaurant guy was a Tigers fan. Mr. I Love You went to the Dome with the coke dealer, but had a hard time following the game. He thought it was too slow and there was nothing to watch, which almost matched her assessment of him for a long-term contract.

One night, another friend told the Negress her standards were too high. She had brought the restaurant guy into the picture, and had sampled Mr. I Love You back before she fell hard for a good friend of hers. The Negress was at the point in the bourbon here belligerent muttering was about the best she could do. The Negress couldn’t explain the good trouble-bad trouble distinction because all distinctions were pretty blurry. So was the road driving home(please note, this is stupid and don’t do it).

That was during a brief period where everyone the Negress knew was giving her advice even though she hadn’t asked for any. Did she look that troubled? At one point, the Negress decided it was a weird mix of envy and concern and just decided to smile a lot and forget every word.

Anyway, the Negress had to hit the road. Minor-league ball was calling. There was a prospect in Tucson that might have made it to the majors if he kept his sense of humor and continued to remember my phone number. Like most minor leaguers, he wasn’t a prospect.


In which the Negress makes another excuse for her absence

February 25, 2014

The Negress realizes she has been remiss in her promise to post more frequently. Given the recent weather and Buffalo-like snowfall, she could always offer the excuse that her brain and fingers were frostbitten past the point of no return.

However, that’s not it. She’s been high on stress lately. She’s trying to get the rent paid (an uphill battle given the lowliness of her position at the Cube Farm). Therefore, she has not been thinking too much about the important things that are going on, whatever they may be. She kind of knows that Ukraine is on fire. She kind of knows that the Olympics hockey didn’t go the way she thought it would.

In the meantime, she’s hoping to get back to weekly flashback postings. She’s hoping at some point to publish a book where they appear in some kind of order. For now, you can read them here. If you like what you see, you can drop a coin in the virtual cup she’s set up. Thanks again for your patience.

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Notes of a Chronic Negress: The Early Years

December 31, 2013

If you want to know where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been. So every week at this time, the Negress is going to share a bit of her past with you. She has mentioned on occasion her love of baseball, but the biggest shift in her consciousness was caused by hockey. Here’s how it happened (present tense since adolescence is still very much with her).

I volunteer for the black and white set upstairs. Since it’s a Sunday, the family has split like an amoeba to their separate pursuits. My sister starts the foundation of the  air castle of her future funk. Mom and Dad watch the NBA Game of the Week. I can live with the NBA, but I am not in the mood for my parents. It happens.

In the days of three networks, gerbil races and Captain Tugboat, Sunday is a harsh TV day. I want something faster than basketball; something almost as fast as I think. I fiddle with the antenna and click the dial. Suddenly it’s on me. There are skaters, hair flying. Goalies fling themselves at the little black thing, looking electric and spastic but lovely. The reassuring voice of Dan Kelly breathlessly chases the action.

The rules fall into place. Any pass across two lines in illegal (This is well before the red line at center ice becomes decorative). Any scrum that ties up the puck for more than five seconds results in a whistle. There’s a box where you go if you’re deemed bad. This is school, but with more speed and faster retaliation (I haven’t made the last day of class in years, thus ducking every bully who believed in delayed gratification). I am hopelessly enthralled. This is the game for me. This is hockey.

A lot of the Boston Bruins are very cute. I like Derek Sanderson, who is chippy and has a mustache. I don’t really notice the lack of variety of skin colors. This is a foreign legion, but I am willing to sign on.

I draw pictures of my favorites on my notebooks. I hurl myself around a sixth-grade classroom playing all five of my favorite players, who live together and get into trouble (No girls. Ick.) I am a fool among my classmates more than usual, but I don’t care. They are often wrong – about Vietnam, me and the order of the universe. I have hockey now and I really don’t care what anyone else thinks.


The Negress shamefully forgot about Whitehorse

December 30, 2013

The Negress has gone on and one about her love of all things Canadian. But she was going over some old posts and realized she had not given the band Whitehorse its due (OK, one picture a few posts back). The duo are husband and wife (she admits she flees his side for a while once a tour ends) and there’s something to do with telephones. As Strunk and White or someone else who’s writes good once said, “Show, don’t tell.”

The line about being finer than sand just slays the Negress every time, so she kept looking and found this:

Please note that Canadian awards shows may have multinistrumental mayhem, but no twerking.

These guys opened for the Barenaked Ladies on their last tour. The Negress cannot imagine. Come South please. Alone.

YouTube tells me an ad may pop up if you take a gander at these. Just ignore it. You know how. Oh, and there’s a cat.


In which the Negress rises from hibernation

December 20, 2013

The Negress  tries to be more regular about her musings about this, that, and the other. She’s vowing to make 2014 a better year for such things.  Much of 2013 was taken up by a job search and trying to keep her head in the game with various pharmaceutical adjustments. Things are still a little bit weird in terms of health insurance, rent etc., but soldiering on is really the only response. Since starting work three weeks ago, some of that has receded into the background.

However, this seems like the best time discuss certain rituals she does not miss from her old career. The Negress did not have to make a list of 10 or so records she liked better than thousands of other records. In short, she’s aware that Jay-Z and Beyonce did some stuff, but she doesn’t have to care. She remains slightly curious about Kanye West, mostly because she likes overblown beats and self-aggrandizement. Some of us forget that was the basis for a lot of early hip-hop. The Negress also suspects that West is just funnin’ with some of this. She has also avoided paying attention to his non-musical life, so that may make more for easier listening.

For the most part, her tastes in hip-hop are old school, but occasionally she does feel a compulsion tugging at her to find out about the new stuff (Chicago is home to some interesting rappers, and she knows she needs to catch up). This same feeling holds for Americana and other genres. Since she is now doing a review or two for one of the local daily newspapers, more mainstream country and various iterations of pop are on her radar. The Negress doesn’t mind Miley Cyrus since she can actually sing (Taylor Swift actually can’t but, that’s another post for another day). However, she’s a little weary of the producing hotshots who can level every performer’s idiosyncrasies into a muck of overly familiar beats. This is wearying stuff even if you’re not listening all the time.

What’s kind of annoying her out is how some of her contemporaries just get livid about the new stuff.  Granted, Facebook is not a medium of measured reason, but really, guys (and almost 90 percent of these people are guys). The Negress has said this before, but do you really want to come down on the side of your parents in this? Did anybody think  Dylan and Elvis would be touchstones of the musical conversation some 40 years on? As the Negress can attest based on recent developments in her own life: no one knows what the future holds.


In which the Negress goes medieval on a bitch

October 22, 2013

Before you think the Negress has lost her cotton picking mind, she’s about to ask some hard questions of Samantha Irby, author of the blog Bitches Gotta Eat. Irby is not the only rotund Negress with Crohn’s on the North Side of Chicago, so as one Crohnie to another, the Negress has to say some things. Irby’s blog generated a book deal for a tome called “Meaty.” According to the Chicago Tribune, her publisher, Curbside wants her to tour, starting with the East Coast. She doesn’t want to do that. The same publisher is hinting that they want a second book, which Irby has said she doesn’t want to do.

Her concern?

“I don’t want every story about me to be how I am hobbling into every reading,” Irby told the Tribune. “The truth is, I have no aspirations for my writing! And I still don’t. I like that people can read this book but I have a job and I can’t leave for two weeks to tour. Plus, health issues. I would never have written a book if I knew I would have to take a box of books and sell them to people! “

cover of Samantha Irby's book

Samantha Irby’s book


Miss Thing, the Negress has one question: Are you flat out of your mind? Getting a book published by an actual publisher who wants the author to support said book with a tour and is already talking about a follow up almost sounds like an Internet scam. You’ve worn diapers and you can’t walk so well? Have you ever had an ostomy bag blow off in a theater? Didn’t think so.

You have slain people at Paper Machete and other spots in Chicago where writers dazzle live audiences. So why are you so afraid of a book tour? Don’t say you can’t get time off work unless you’ve used up all your sick days with Crohn’s. Surely, the same skills that have made you a sought-after writer can be applied to negotiating with your day gig. Also, most book companies give you money against royalties, aka an advance. You don’t sell books, you owe them cash. Perhaps that happy fact will give you some incentive.

The Negress wants to root for you, Miss Irby. But you are making it damn hard.


The Negress puts her hat in hand

August 30, 2013

At some point recently, the Negress ran out of options. The kindness of friends and strangers was exhausted, and the social services gang had nothing to offer but food stamps. There ‘s rent to be paid and job searches to continue via the Internet. She has acquired a roommate, a charming medical student named Nafees, but that’s not enough. Besides being too broke to pay attention, she is too broke to make a down payment on filing for bankruptcy (no excuses but there are reasons). If you can help, click on either of the “Go Fund Me” on this page. There may be knitting or pie in your future if you can help. Also, feel free to pass the word, all 60 of you who read this regularly.


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