The Negress. The 10. Moving

The Negress moved recently to a smaller place and, after thinking other people might want her excess stuff, is donating pretty much all of it to save on storage space rent. She’s moved about 10 times in her life and she’s getting very tired. But some universal truths do attach themselves to the process. Here they are:

1. Don’t.

2. No one is going to want your crap after you’re dead. Behave accordingly. If someone says they want something, consider giving it to them now.

3. You will find as you unpack that 30 percent or more of what you have, you can do without. Especially books.

4. You may find some things in unexpected places, e.g. underwear in with the cookbooks.

5. Avoid using the worst movers on the planet. Furniture as kindling is not a good look.

6. Try not to spend 36 hours straight moving stuff up and down three and a half flights of stairs on one end and  two and a half on the other. The Negress was actually hallucinating at one point.

7. Don’t move. The Negress will say it again, especially if you do not get paid time off.

8. Towels and a suitcase represent an excellent way to transport wine for short distances.

9. If a contractor from a cable and internet provider well known for its shoddy customer service arrives at your door, send them away after complimenting their tattoos. Then wait for the nice, polite actual employee from said entity to address the problem in less than an hour, He also tells you the contractors are idiots.

10. Take a leaf from the Negress’ mother who said, ” I don’t want y’all coming in here after I’m gone and saying, ‘Why in hell did she save this?'” Words to live by. They should ringing in your head as you pack.

The Negress. The 10. Kids just don’t understand.

Thanks to the diversity of her friends, the Negress has received a lot of suggestions for topics for these listicles (yes, somewhere someone is actually using that word for reals), but one that’s trending among her demographic is conversational references about pop culture that various youngsters don’t grok to (that might be one). Take away their smart phones, and watch the gears grind to a halt.

1. Ferrante and Teicher. This duo has not made anyone’s hipster list of so-bad-it’s-good stuff.

2. Marcus Welby. the Negress’ doctor mentioned him to a drug rep to make a point about how primary care physicians live in a whole other world. The drug rep had no idea who that was.

3. Mantovani. See No.1

4. Choosing your long-distance carrier.

The sports model in all its canary glory

The sports model in all its canary glory

5. The sports model. Back in the days of Walkmen and Discmen, there were usually bright or yellow versions with an allegedly waterproof seal. To the Negress’ knowledge, there has never been such a thing for MP3 players.

6. Charo.

7.  Queen For A Day (think a more masochistic version of  “Real Housewives” where women debased themselves for household appliances.)

8. Shopping at Sears for just about everything. Well, maybe Montgomery Ward now and then.

9. Girl Scout shoes in all their un-ironic orthopedic glory.

10.  Who is Art Fleming? If you know, you know.



The Negress. The 10. Advertising

The Negress doesn’t watch “Mad Men” but she loves advertising. She doesn’t really care about the products particularly, but she delights in unseen narratives existing in 15- and 30-second bursts. Thanks to DVRs, you’re seeing a lot more type in ads since words can stay static on the screen while adds are being fast-forwarded. The Negress no longer has a DVR so she watches all the ads. Because for  every “Sons of Anarchy,” there’s another iteration of “Friends,” she’s dividing up this list into five thumps up and five thumbs way down.

The hits:

1. Google. All right, the Negress knows that Google may be more involved in our lives than the NSA, but their ads for Google Work (or whatever they’re calling it) are keepers. The videoconference one is the delight of cube farms everywhere. Also, the Hall and Oates is pretty fab as well. Amusingly enough, the ads are not on YouTube. Maybe the Negress will ping them later.

2. Sprint’s Framily. In the interest of full disclosure, the Negress has been a Sprint customer since you could choose your own long distance. She suspects that, although Sprint probably wasn’t going for this, that the Framily ads reflect how the definition of family has changed in the past few years.

3. Real Men of Genius. The radio versions of these were so funny that the Negress nearly ran off the Pulaski Skyway laughing one morning. Thanks to YouTube, here’s an hour of genius. The beer is crap, but these are funny as all. Also, note that the singer is the “Eye of the Tiger” guy.

4. Although the Negress it tethered to high-speed Internet with a Very Large Company She Refuses to Name, these ads are priceless. Like the aforementioned “Real Men of Genius,” one concept can lend itself to a lot of things.

5. Farmers University. Because you gotta love Perry White/Emil Skoda, a giant blowtorch and dryer lint.


The Misses

1. Any McDonald’s commercial. Until very recently you might have thought eating at McDonald’s required African American customers to, well, coon it up. The company now has a black CEO so perhaps they woke and smelled the cheap coffee.

2. Hooters. Even dragging Jon “Chucky” Gruden into the picture cannot make the concept any more alluring. Especially since the whole premise of the ad is American ignorance of soccer.

3. Victoria’s Secret. The Negress surmises that it isn’t only Red Bull that gives you wings. Huh?

4. Commercials for the egregious summer drama “Black Box.” Being bipolar is not a sexy music video.

5. Jake from State Farm, especially if you have Hulu. Enough said.

The Negress. The 10: Cycling,

Since it’s National Bike to Work Week next week (which is part of National Bike to Work Month in case you weren’t aware), the Negress wants to throw out a few things about her fellow cyclists. Unfortunately most of them are annoying and potentially deadly. With that said, let’s go on:

1. If the Negress cannot drive a car with a cell phone jammed to her ear, you should not steer a bike with one hand in traffic while yammering away.

2. Ditto having earbuds in while riding in traffic. Remember Stop, Look and Listen. Very good ideas all.

The Negress' trusty steed of steel; the car it's attached to is long gone.

The Negress’ trusty steed of steel; the car it’s attached to is long gone.

3. Fixed gear bikes aka fixies should never have left the velodrome. All you hipster assholes riding them here in flat Illinois need to get over yourselves.

4. You are not wearing a helmet. Here in Illinois, you don’t have to. The Negress values what’s in her head so she wears one. Helmets could be designed better, but she can’t do anything about that.

5. Reserve the full European Spandex team kit for a training ride with an actual team. Nothing screams “wannabe” like a beer belly and the whole US Postal mufti. Did you not read the news?

6. Although the Negress loves “Breaking Away,” the correct thing to shout at cyclists when you wish to encourage them is “Allons y.” These days, alas, Italians are to cycling what Silvio Berlusconi is to leadership.

7. Shouting to be mean? “Dope’, Dope’ (can’t do accents here but you get the idea). Think Lance and the late Marco Pantani. However, doping in the Grand Tours has been going on since their inception with amphetamines being the substance of choice in the early19th century. This makes professional cycling resemble professional baseball in the ’70s and ‘

80s (and probably now for that matter).

8. Every cyclist, whether they’ve climbed a three-foot rise on the way to get groceries or have blown through 50 miles of  base building, hears Phil Liggett in their head at some point.

9. Executing an Idaho stop (that is, ignoring a red light due to momentum and a modicum of foolishness) is not uncommon but it is unwise.

10. Ditto riding against traffic unless it’s a very sleepy one way street.

Motorists, you have one to thing to do for the Negress and her fellow gearheads; Don’t open your car door on a busy street without looking to see if a bike is coming. It hurts.

The Negress. The 10: Clothing

The Negress wants to talk about what we wear. This isn’t about fashion, which can be clever, artful and unwearable all at once (not to mention seriously above the Negress’ pay grade). It’s about what we put on our bodies most days when sweatpants and pajamas won’t do. The Negress likes it when people make an effort. It dresses up a place to see a few folks turned out like it matters to them. She occasionally feels like that might work for her, but the thought just makes her want to go lie down.

So, in short, here we go:

1. Why haven’t mullet dresses gone away?

2. The Negress knows it’s Chicago, but boots with minskirts after Memorial Day? Barelegged?

3. There is no such thing as dressy Crocs.

4. Same thing is true for Birkenstocks.

5. If your rear end takes up one and a half seats on public transit, leopard-print leggings are not a good idea, especially without a tunic.

6. Jock chic (baggy shorts and shower shoes with white socks) is only permissible when you are 17 and younger. Gender is not an issue here, nor should it be.

7. No, your mama can’t believe you are planning to leave the house that way.

8. The women on “The Good Wife” are wearing all of the clothing featured in the Negress’ retail fantasies.

9. Just about any man looks good in a well-fitted suit, even those who resemble a mud fence in the rain.

10. No one except those forced by circumstance to wear used clothing should be caught dead in Ed Hardy.


The Negress. The 10: Social Media

The Negress realizes by having a blog that she is contributing to the social media overload that threatens to keep people from reading books and knitting. Well, maybe not since she does both and manages to entertain tens of readers on a weekly basis. She does Facebook (if she’s not already your friend, she’s not going to change that) and Twitter (not often but when she thinks of a 140-character apercu, she fires away). But, with great bandwidth comes great responsibility. So, if you’re taking a break from the net neutrality debate, and are done trying to figure how to live in a world without Maya Angelou and Herb Jeffries, here are some tips.

1. The Negress has experienced some Facebook chronics. These people never post about anything but their constant health crises and their bad moods. Treat your virtual friends like your real friends: Share good news and see how they react. If they keep whining, run.

2. Hiding posts is the first step to un-friending which, in some cases, is the first step to blocking. If blocking doesn’t work, here’s Lucinda Williams with some suggestions:

3. Unless you are this man, no food pictures.

4. Apparently, the Negress found out a closeup pic of her soon-to-be-famous Dr. Pepper-glazed ham was not a good profile picture.

5. She’s aware of things called Pinterest and Instagram, but she’s not sure she needs to do anything about it.

6. Mainstream ad agencies using hashtags as punchlines in TV ads have obviously not actually been on Twitter.

7. Don’t drink and tweet.

8. If you must use your Facebook account for shameless self-promotion, let it be known up front. The Negress uses hers to keep in touch with some fabulous people she’s met and worked with along the way. No fat burner pills here. She does, on occasion, promote her paid writing elsewhere.

9. About every three months or so, ask yourself as you go through your friends or followers,” Have I satisfied my curiosity as to what this person is up to and is it time to move on?” If they answer is yes, unfriend. If they notice and send you another friend request, you may refriend but hide posts if they are annoying.

10. It’s never a good sign if your comment on someone’s timeline contains the dreaded “see more…” Trust the Negress. You’ve made your point. Once her meds were adjusted, her posts got more concise. Don’t be an online gasbag.


The Negress. The 10: Driving and Directions.

The Negress has lived in enough places and visited enough countries to know that you can get there from here, the cab driver usually has no idea how to do that and you will be overcharged. She once was on an airport shuttle in Northern California where the driver stopped at a gas station to ask for directions. The passengers contemplated leaving him there since we all knew where we wanted to go. Now that many of us have GPS on our phones (Google Maps, Crapple Maps, etc.), the need for directions may not be as great as it once was. But if there’s a power failure or your phone dies, you need these native skills. Also, assuming you drive, the Negress has lived in enough metropolitan areas to have some tips to share.

So, here we go. It might help if you know what a Jersey jughandle turn is or the difference between the Circle and the Junction, but those are not necessary.

1. The Negress has been forced to learn compass directions now that she lives in Chicago. Luckily, there is usually a compass set in stone in the sidewalk in front of a lot of  “L” stations. This has not stopped her from walking 10 blocks away from where she is going when she finally breaks down and takes out her phone.

2. If the lake is on your left, you are probably in Michigan.

3. All directions in New Jersey involve at least one Dunkin Donuts and a set of railroad tracks. Jughandle turns, one of the most festive aspects of New Jersey driving, can be featured as well.

4. Texas directions are usually steeped in some sort of cowboy nostalgia. Example; “Go down the road a piece and then turn left where the cattle guard used to be.” This is not helpful but it  is colorful. You drive around long enough and, if you’re in the Hill Country, you may not find your destination, but you may find excellent barbecue.

5. In Boston and environs, there are no directions; just the fervent hope that you will survive the trip.

6. If you have nothing but time, the Negress recommends driving from Richmond, Va. to Washington DC via Route 301. If you drink adult beverages, there’s a great liquor store in Clinton that has spared many a Virginian from the horrors of state-store  system.(Behave responsibly please. The Negress does not wish to lead you astray and she doesn’t want you to kill anyone)

7.If you drive in Manhattan, drive like a cabbie. You can cut off the black-car drivers since they own their cars and they won’t hit you. Thecabbies do not own their cabs but you can move if you follow right behind one. Just hope he’s going where you’re going.

8. The Negress has listened to visitors to her native Washington DC complain about the difficulty of navigating traffic circle so she often gives directions where at least two circles are a part of the journey. Shes likes to think of this as the automotive equivalent of double dutch.

9. When the Negress first arrived in Chicago, she found traffic reports incomprehensible. Who wanted to go from Lake Cook to the Junction? Why was it “45 Lake Cook to the Junction?” Imagine the sense of mastery she felt when driving downtown from a horrible job she worked at near O’Hare when the light finally dawned. This was the time it took to drive on I-94 to where it joins I-90. It only takes 45 minutes right after 6 a.m.

10.If you are driving in Los Angeles, you’ll be able to tackle Rome and Mexico City next. Using surface streets can make LA quite manageable. Also, since the Negress learned to drive in Boston and cut her teeth on the Houston freeways (where traffic actually moves), she loves LA. For driving anyway.

Forgot this song mentions New York and Chicago.