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.

The Negress. The 10: Work

Hi, it’s the Negress again. This week’s decagon of delight is related to various workplaces she has known. She suspects all of her readers have experienced one or more these at some form of employment.

1. Motivational meetings. There is a direct correlation between the number of motivational meetings  and the Suckitude Quotient of the job. The SQ is an overlooked metric whose time has come.

2. Co-workers who do not seem to possess indoor voices. The Negress now knows everything about your urinary tract infection, the evil bastards at the charity who keep stealing the knitting needles you bring in, and your husband’s crappy website. Please. Shut. Up.

3. Co-workers who have noisy health issues. You cannot have had a cold for seven months. The Negress has been counting. She doesn’t have much of a choice.

4. While The Negress does not expect to hang out with co-workers who are half her age, she wonders if they missed the day in school where private social plans are just that. See Item 2 since overhearing is impossible to avoid.

5. How do some people become bosses? The Negress has looked on LinkedIn lately and seen some improbable names with fancy titles attached. She takes comfort in the fact that raises probably did not come with those titles.

6. You are not indispensable. The Negress has had at least two conversations with people who bemoan not being able to take all four or five weeks of their vacation. Guess what? If you drop dead tomorrow, the folks at your workplace will step over your rapidly cooling corpse and get those deliverables out with no excuses and very little whining. Also, no one on their deathbed ever said they wished they had worked more. Well, maybe Freddy Mercury (Queen and Adam Lambert? We are to be joking, yes?)

7. If there’s a communal kitchen or break room in your office, don’t assume someone else is going to clean it. At one of the Negress’ workplaces, the microwave had unidentifiable encrustations that dated to the Pleistocene era. Someone broke down and cleaned it. Hint: It was not a guy.

8. Pizza makes the office happy (Make sure there are vegetarian options,  especially on Fridays during Lent.) So do Girl Scout cookies unless you are relentless in your sales pitch to co-workers. Other sweets (well, maybe not king cake) are also usually welcome especially if butter-creme frosting is part of the picture.

This is a symptom of a lousy workplace. Don't let it happen to you

This is a symptom of a lousy workplace. Don’t let it happen to you

9. Any office party that is deemed to be a potluck is not an office party. It’s a food break resulting from unpaid overtime. And don’t tell the Negress she would be cooking anyway. Not for 100 or so people she wouldn’t. She once worked somewhere where the Christmas party was potluck, and you had to bring your offering in two dishes for dayside and nightside. Bastards.

10. Worst office and food story ever: An allegedly reputable daily newspaper issued food coupons for all staffers working Election Night. The coupons were to keep those greedy staffers from coming into work and scarfing up free food on their night off. Yes, you read that correctly.

Any suggestions for topics for the 10? The Negress has lived a rich and full life so she can probably come up with something.

Notes of a Chronic Negress: the journey continues

The Negress hates to make some of her writing sound like a bad movie, but she did promise her 12 or so readers (spread the word people) that she would share some vaguely memoir-ish (memnoir-ish, perhaps?)  writing every now and then. So here’s the latest installment. A little long and kind of gross. So consider yourself warned.


The Negress doesn’t know much about Paterson, NJ. It’s not like she’s Junot Diaz or something. She only knows that she comes here when she is really sick. The first time was in 1998. The Crohn’s was new, and she had just jetted back from her first game show tournament (there will be more, much to her ongoing surprise). She ended up in St. Joseph’s Medical Center with an abscess filled with salmonella on her thyroid. Thanks to prednisone, she was also wildly diabetic. Ketoaciditic diabetic. Cool Rockin’ Doc, her gastroenterologist, enlisted the first new members of Team Negress – the infectious-disease guy and the ear, nose, and throat guy. She worked for a newspaper that wants to milk her game-show tournament appearance. Her ego was in better shape than her body (always the case), so she wrote the story of her semifinal flameout in her hospital bed (She had a room to herself thanks to the salmonella).


So then there was insulin and needles and 19 pills in the morning, and this episode became lore and a published medical paper (The Negress was a 38 year old African-American woman in the paper; she really wanted to be Patient Z) since stuff like that only happens to people who are HIV positive. She balanced work and surgeries pretty well for about six years – a knee replacement, carpal tunnel surgery, rectal pruning etc. but it all fell apart one day when she was at The Alternate Orthopedist. He was not to be confused with the Wizard of Cleveland, who eventually upgraded both knees to titanium (kind of like a credit card, but with added mayhem at airports). The Wizard looked like an accountant around tax time except for the white coat and sneakers. The Alternate Orthopedist inherited her wrists and hands. He was caramel-colored, looked like a two-guard and his mocha wife used to work for the Wizard. Her hip had hurt for a month and she thought it was a bone thing; not a Crohn’s thing. Shet left work early, telling her most recent supervisor that she was likely going to end up in the hospital. “How do you know?” he said. She resisted the temptation to mutter, “The same way I know you’re an idiot.”


She called Cool Rockin’ Doc and explained the story of this particular pain. He sent her to Paterson to be admitted express through the ER. He wrote orders while the Negress drove there from Bayonne. About nine hours or so after arriving, she got a bed. In the ensuing days, the Negress was diagnosed with an intestinal abscess. She got a drain attached to her belly that is called a grenade because of its size and shape. The Negress emptied pink fluid out of it at various intervals during the day. She also had a PIC line installed since her veins, which roll and float, shut down in hospitals. Attached to said PIC line is a backpack filled with a bag of milky nutrition. She got this stuff along with insulin and a bunch of other shit she had to inject into the bag shipped to the house. The Negress was at home on disability and fell into the ritual of Stabbing the Bag and watching a lot of “Law and Order” reruns. This would be temporary, Cool Rockin’ Doc assured her. He and Infectious Disease Guy had a plan. The Negress, while waiting on the plan, looked around the house and wished she was well enough to get rid of some the crap she had accumulated.


Do not try any of these at home.

Do not try any of these at home.

Could the need to de-clutter be related to the fact that the Negress has begun to believe she will die sooner than later? Possibly. It could also be related to paying monthly storage fees on stuff her sister cannot use in mental-health transitional housing (Not harshing on Sis since the Negress will find that her mental health will take a more overwrought turn somewhat later). Ringing in her head as she chilled insulin, reset the timer for the Nutrition in a Bag are her mother’s words, “I don’t want y’all coming in this house after I’m dead and saying, ‘Why in the hell did she save this crap?’” Cool Rockin’ Doc let it slip sometime after the thyroid abscess that the Negress could have died then. She thought she might die now; therefore a plan was needed for the vinyl, CDs, and books. The Negress felt like a bit of a sociopath during this period; going through the motions of human interaction that people expect from sick people.


She kept with the venal nutrition for a while. Then, Team Negress decided it was time to cut out the abscess and connect the colon. Ear, nose, and throat guy exited and Colorectal Surgeon Guy entered. On the day of the surgery, we also added General Surgeon Guy and his wife, Anesthesiologist Babe. The Negress told them before going under she hoped they didn’t have a fight last night.


Might the Negress mention that the surgical area at St. Joseph’s could have been on TV for all of its colorful residents and folks just back from Iraq? Now this could easily have been a family except for the part where you spent the day cutting people open and such. These people laughed a lot and welcomed people in like we shall be old friends once all the cutting is done. This didn’t happen, but The Negress didn’t mind since by the time she was out of their hands, she was so doped up she wasn’t sure she was there or not.


She returned to Seton 5, where she had spent several post-op stays. This group was more like a dysfunctional family, including the pair of trailer-trash patients who were in a car wreck but were pissed that the nurse won’t let them go outside to smoke. The woman, who looked like she should have been named Crystal as in meth, whined equally about smoke denial and how she missed her “babies.” The Negress found out later the “babies” are in their teens. She wondered how exactly you could smoke in a neck brace with one arm a wad of bloody bandages.


The Negress can’t get up, but she can throw up. This was really no fun when she wasn’t eating solid food. She slept the way you sleep in hospitals, an hour here and there highlighted by blood-sugar readings and blood draws. The Negress woke up at one point to find a little old man at the end of her bed telling her he didn’t feel so well and could she call his daughter. She steered him out of the room for a bit. Back he came, repeating his request and grabbing her foot to stress the urgency of the matter. Turned out he was 96, was in a car accident and his 75-year old daughter was coming for him. The Negress squeezed her eyes shut, trying to blot out this vision of her likely future. Except she has no kids.


She went home with staples in her belly, and some sort of tension-loaded spring rubber coils attached to some of the staples. The incision didn’t hurt that much, but every time she moved and one of those rubber things was disturbed, she tried not to scream. She had a high threshold of pain. Proof of this was the time after a wisdom-tooth extraction that she walked around with a dry socket for a couple of days. She took some extra acetaminophen, but only went by the dentist’s office because she was on her way to South by Southwest and wanted to make sure she could drink. He gave The Negress the eye-popping cartoon face, scolded her for not coming in sooner and packed said socket with soothing antibiotic-laced gauze. She said, “People told me sometimes wisdom teeth hurt. I didn’t think it was that bad.” The Negress did not tell him about eating tortellini less than hour after the teeth were removed.


So, the rubber things hurt. The Negress waited about 10 days or so and drove to Colorectal Surgery Guy’s office to get the staples and springs removed. It was noted that there was some fluid coming out of the incision, but the Negress was assured this thing might drain a bit. She stocked up on gauze and tried to flirt with normalcy. She recalled going back to work, still leaking. She saw Cool Rockin’ Doc who thought the leaking was not normal. So he sent her down the street for a CT scan with contrast. The PIC line was gone so finding veins was somewhat tortuous. There was a bald guy with full tattoo sleeves who could hit her veins every time. She laid in the tube and waited. They injected contrast into the leakage. That felt weird. She hung on, awaiting another visit with Infectious Disease Man. It turned out the corrective surgery had abscessed again and the fluid was from a fistula that had popped up out of nowhere. She danced with antibiotics, but nothing doing. She had to be disconnected.

So back to the OR and Seton 5. In order to make sure everything is clean, the Negress got an ostomy. A rosy pucker of her intestine was now protruding through her belly. She placed a wafer on top of it with adhesive, and then attached a bag. You can figure out what went in the bag. The Negress traveled with bags and wafers once she got out of the hospital. She went back to work equipped with her own poo pouch. Work was just that, but she passed the time between stories imagining the list of people she would throw the bag at if she had the chance.


She resumed socializing and it went well for the most part. One night, the Negress went to a revival of an Alan Ayckbourn play, which was wan and not very funny. She ate richly before the show, forgetting her capacity limitations. She started to leak at show’s end. The bag blew off the wafer. She couldn’t aim it at the stage (it would have been apt criticism), but she snagged it and raced to the loo. After much fiddling and wafer failing, she emerged from the loo slightly shitty and disheveled. Her friend took it in stride. She went home.


At one point, the Negress ended up with acid burns on her skin due to series of miscommunications about the size and type of wafers that were needed. She had a home-care aide who looked at her reddened flesh around the stoma and clucked. She was from Eastern Europe so she didn’t flip out, but she did sternly remind the Negress that this stuff is inside your body for a reason. I healed slowly and got more adept at poo management, which was not something I envisioned on a resume. “Photoshop, Flash, Microsoft Office, InDesign, poo management.”


Not a good fit for the organization.


She hung out with the ostomy for about six months. Team Negress decided that, after some antibiotics and dietary modifications, she was clean enough for them to try this again. Back to St. Joseph’s, the OR and Seton 5. She can’t remember where in the cycle the Astros got broomed in the World Series (by her now-beloved White Sox). She watched some of it on the tiny rental TV, but it didn’t exactly dovetail with getting better. The Devils were doing well, so she cleaved to them and hoped she might get to some games before the playoffs.


The Negress didn’t have a lot of visitors, which was fine. However, a couple of her roommates viewed visiting hours as a contest for how many friends and relatives they could cram into the room at a time. She recalled 12 being the record. That family included one very sharp-looking lesbian military vet who boasted, “Once the girls have had me, they never go back.” The hospital actually did a sweep at the end of visiting hours to make sure these people went home. She thought some of them even liked the food.


The belly incision was pretty weary by the time the Negress finally went home. The ostomy was closed so that added another scar to the tableau. I recuperated with “Law and Order”(doesn’t everyone?) and “West Wing” reruns. As she got closer to returning to work, she realized she kind of liked being home with bills paid and not much on the agenda. Little did she know how soon that’s going to come again.


Also, because we simply cannot learn much from some things we do, she tried the sports thing again. She worked on the copy desk 5 to 1 with Wednesday and Thursday off. It was a fail on a lot of levels. She does become a better editor, but she found out once again she’s not exactly a full-immersion sports fan. She did get out after a couple of years, but all of the aforementioned health mayhem came right after working the night shift. She suspected there was a correlation.

Around the end of 2008, these people offered her money to go away and the Negress took it.


The Negress realizes now that all of the elements for the current events had been in place the entire time she was in the business. However, the dips and dives were, at least, unnoticed and, at best, rewarded (write a concert review in 20 minutes against deadline? Clean up a story by a venerated writer who can’t remember how to spell Joe Louis’ name? All night long ‘til the break of dawn).


The ongoing brain betrayal, which has now been tamed by anti-seizure medication followed by anti-depressants, has the Negress kind of on guard. Will the monster wake up at some point and the whirlwind start again? Why does she feel that tossing the meds might be an excellent idea? (note to the Negress: That would be worse than that trip to Tucson where her plane ticket got stolen by an ex-friend’s coked-up acquaintances.) Could the road being a semi-colon have prepared the Negress for this latest twist? Hell fucking no. She feels like a series of chemical titrations and kind of misses that old hypomanic magic. That is, until she goes through “sent items” and looks back on what she left on various social media sites. There will be no more nodding off behind the wheel while trying to get to Andersonville from Evanston and somehow ending up on Cicero and not knowing how that happened (for the record, she no longer owns a car and there was a successful titration that will prevent that from occurring again). Enough with the intermission. She’s ready for Act III.