The Negress. The 10. Snow in Chicago.

Howdy all. it’s the Negress. She’s checking a little late because it took some time for her fingers to thaw out after this week’s blizzard. To paraphrase Sylvia Plath, blizzards are an art and we do them exceptionally well. Except for some exceptions. If you live here, you had better not be blizzard-challenged. It’s never a question of “if.” It’s a question of “when.”

1. Usually the answer to the “when” question is “the month of February.” Regardless of what the damn groundhogs indicate, Chicago will usually get at least one significant snowfall by President’s Day. On President’s Day is also a good bet.

2. While many other cities are paralyzed by six inches or less of the white stuff, Chicagoans just shrug. The Negress has taken to referring to these minor snowfalls as “tourist snow.” It exists so that tourists can take pictures and tell them friends back home how awful it was.

3. Apparently there is an ordinance in the city of Chicago exempting churches and schools from sidewalk clearance. This doesn’t leave much territory that is cleared.

4. Also, many Chicagoans will clear a path that is one shoe wide. You should yield the right of way when someone is coming to the person who gets to the impasse first.

5. Now that the Negress no longer owns a car, she does not have to engage in the practice of “dibs.” This means you have a claim to any parking space you shovel out. You mark it by placing lawn furniture, trash barrels, saw horses, old couches etc. in the space so no one else can park there. Wars have been fought for less.

6. Do not dump the snow from getting your car out where it will keep others from removing their cars. The Negress once parked her car in a garage, which alleviated her need to clean off her car. Imagine her horror when she opened the garage door to find that the neighbor had blocked said garage with the snow he had removed to unblock his own.

7. It is courteous, if you have a snow blower, to clear your neighbor’s sidewalks. If you are feeling really generous, you can do driveways as well. Neighbors, if this is done for you, baked goods (kids and the sober) are a nice reward. Bourbon is also good.

8. As we all here know, side streets and alleys are something of a no-go when it comes to snow removal here. Side streets get cleared eventually, which leads to cars being plowed in, which leads to shoveling out, which leads to dibs. Call it the circle of winter life. Nothing happens to the alleys, as the woman with a grocery cart festooned with flashing bicycle lights and an incoherent sign barked loudly at the passersby near the Panda Express on Madison near Wabash.

9. The Negress isn’t crazy about the aftermath of a snowfall of any magnitude since the snow gets dirty and streaked with yellow. Also, as it melts, dog poo emerges since the lazy owners seem to the think that snow relieves them of their responsibility to clean up after their dog. Guess what people? Your dog may be relieved. You are not.

10. That big hank of snow on top of your car? No one wants it flying into their windshield, especially on the Dan Ryan at close to full speed. Use a broom people.

The Negress. The 10. Oldness.

With Martin Brodeur’s retirement (she asked for this a bit ago as you can read here), the Negress has been thinking about getting old. She loathes the word “aging” as it connotes diapers, debilitation and drooling. So she’d like to propose the term “oldness.” It rhymes with “boldness.” So herewith some observations and tips.

1. The Negress thinks that excessive use of Google will lead to increased amounts of Alzheimer’s. She likes to remember things, even if they float into her mind days after she needs them. You will never see her whip out her phone to look something up in the middle of a conversation.

2. As a veteran nerd, she wonders when being nerdy became a competitive cash cow. She works with some kids who don’t seem to know how to have conversations. They play can-you-top-this in whatever fiefdom they enjoy. This really doesn’t seem like much fun.

3. Just because the Negress has an AARP card doesn’t mean she is suddenly going to forget how to use her smartphone. She also does not need craptastic life insurance but she will take movie and food discounts as long as she can.

4. The Negress is fine with her mind wandering as long as she doesn’t follow it into traffic.

5. Occasionally the Negress has to bite back on a comment when she realizes that the person she’s talking to wasn’t born when the event she was about to reference happened. This doesn’t make her angry or anything, but it does show the upside of hanging out with people your own age. Who read. Books.

6. Whether she likes it or not, song lyrics will occasionally float into her head like clouds. Three days later, the Negress will say to herself, “Oh, Soul Asylum” or “The Posies.” Then she will remember some of the shows she used to go to when she had stamina.

7. As for shows, you can tell if someone has embraced oldness if the statement “the band plays for three hours” is met with, “You have gots to be kidding” or the question, “general admission or seated?” The Negress gave the body up for the start of the Tragically Hip tour  here a couple of weeks ago. She paid for it several days afterwards. See the oldness/boldness thing.

8. Giving up hair dye is inevitable and it will be good. Also, long grey hair with a center part, especially if accompanied by fair-trade brightly colored South American stuff, is the first step to crazy cat-lady land. You do not have to go all chi-chi, but make an effort please.

9. Say goodbye to feisty cute shoes since your feet are paying for when you did that decades ago. You are allowed to leave drool marks on store windows however.

10. Remember to cherish your past, laugh at the really stupid stuff you did back then and look forward to whatever’s next, even if it’s a colonoscopy.

The Negress. The 10. Cars.

The Negress loves cars. Carbon footprint, greenhouse gases and all that aside, she loves them. She loves them all (well, except maybe goofy hybrids). So herewith a history in cars: family, coveted and owned.

1. The first family car the Negress was aware of may or may not have still been with the family when she was born. It was a ’57 or ’58 Chevy BelAir that was awash in chrome, was green and white and had fins. The Negress misses fins and not in the Jimmy Buffett sense.

2. The first family car the Negress remembers riding in was a green Rambler station wagon that had a hole in the floor. This gave new meaning to the old drivers’ ed instruction about “seeing the road.”

3. The best family car ever was a Dodge Coronet 440 with metal flake deep blue-green paint and a push button transmission.

4. The best family car ever own by a relative belonged to the Negress’ aunt. It was a powder blue 1965 or so Mercury Montclair with a sliding back window, which made for easy snow removal except that the snow got in the car.

5. Grooviest family car way out of context was the sky-blue 1973 Dodge Charger the Negress’ family owned in Ethiopia. Her mother refused to learn how to drive a stick so the car was acquired from a young Army guy headed Stateside. What made it even more conspicuous were the UN license plates. When Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974, those license plates were a much better deal than the ones identifying you as a part of the American diplomatic mission.

6. Most craptastic family car was the Plymouth Caravelle that her mother owned until she went off the nursing home. What it lacked in horsepower it made up for in sheer, unadulterated ugliness.

7. The Negress’ favorite vehicle, truck division: 1981 Isuzu diesel pickup aka Bonky; grey with blue and silver stripe package. It encountered a deer on the way back from a Primitons show in Baltimore. Some rednecks shot the deer. At close range. Five times. Then they took it, presumably for some feast. The Negress then got another Isuzu diesel truck than ran for 223,000 miles before beginning to die by inches.

8. The Negress’ favorite vehicle, nonspecific division: 2008 Mazda 5 five-speed mica grey metal flake with various bike racks. She was known as Mazzy Star (the Negress’ other vehicles were not gendered, thus making her slightly ahead of her time) The Negress took that car everywhere until it got sold when she realized that owning a car in Chicago was not essential. Plus, she needed the money.

9. One of the Negress’ fellow church members just got a new Madza 3. The Negress admits to the sin of covetousness. Especially the heated seats.

10. It is unlikely that the Negress will ever own another car, but if that ever happens, the Mazda 5 she dreams of will be the one. And it will have a stick shift because, as all thinking people know, there is no other way to drive.

The Negress. The 10. Wine.

At one point, the Negress was trying to become a sommelier, which is a fancy word for a lot of hard work and more wine knowledge than most people can cram into their heads even if there’s nothing else there. She still has a good nose, which doesn’t always serve her well on other occasions (she thinks someone released the Dorm Room Funk cologne at the Cube Farm and no one else seems to have noticed). She loves the history and, well, temperament of wine. But getting away from sommeliers and sommelier wannabes was a good decision. So, let’s talk about wine. And the elderberry notes you can’t smell either.

1. Thanks to many tricks, there’s very little completely undrinkable wine around these days except for cheap port. Little teabags of oak, added sugar and color are all used to plump up some weak wines. Plus, a lot of high-end vintners selling their excess juice to budget producers, which means you start from a  better quality point that cheap producers used to. And most of the public doesn’t care and will happily drink away.

2. The wine business attracts some alcoholics. Most of them would deny this, but the Negress has observed otherwise. If you’re at a tasting and you’re finishing all eight glasses put in front of you, and then knock people over trying to get to the dessert wines, there’s an issue whether you wish to admit it or not.

3. Leaving aside no. 2 for a minute, gang tastings are the worst. Even if it’s just one varietal (say, Chenin Blanc as opposed to palate stompers like Zinfandel or California flabby Cabs), your mouth cannot keep a bunch of wine straight even if you are diligently drinking water and spitting. Fifty wines at a tasting? Are you nuts? After wine no. 5, the Negress would be like, “it’s very wine-y in its winelike wine-ness.” This is of no help to you or the Negress.

4. Box wine doesn’t have to be terrible. If you’re having a party and your guests are not wine-obsessed, it’s a better value than Three Buck (or however many bucks it is now) Chuck, which may be the exception to No. 1.

5. Sparkling wine goes with everything. Some of the best value sparkling wine in the US comes from New Mexico.

6. All 50 states make wine. Some of them shouldn’t. The Negress is talking to you, Mississippi.

7. Yes, Pinotage smells like tires, but put it with pork roast and joy reigns.

8. The worst Merlot tastes like a balsamic baby blanket. The Negress isn’t crazy about “soft tannins” but this is ridiculous. Merlot can be vinified to something more complex. When that happens, delight abounds. Forget “Sideways.” The problem isn’t the grape. It’s the company it keeps.

9. The word “Meritage” doesn’t mean anything except that “We are overcharging you for this wine because we think you’re stupid.”

10. The best dessert wines can replace dessert. the Negress once had the pleasure of tasting a Royal Tokaji (pronounced Toe-KI) 6 putttonyos (the wine equivalent of going to 11) wine that you could file under “Gods, nectar.”

The Negress. The 10. Vinyl.

With the holidaze behind us, the Negress accomplished something she had been meaning to do. After a thruple of moves, she needed to be able to find things in her collection of vinyl. Be advised that the Negress is not some newly minted hipster asshole with a $1,000 turntable on a Carrera marble base with zero gram tracking. She has a regular crappy Sony, which does the job just fine. So, herewith, some thoughts.

1. There’s something about the crackle that happens when the needle finds the groove that’s like the beginning of a small hymn.

2. Unlike CDs, vinyl marks your history with the scratchiest tracks being the ones you loved most.

3. The Negress doesn’t entirely understand this idea of albums being reissued in some specific vinyl weight by grams. It makes it all sound like a drug deal.

4. When first Bobby Keys, then Joe Cocker died, the Negress pulled out her copy (her third or so) of Mad Dogs and Englishmen and played it a lot. Not as much as she did when she was a teenager, but a lot.

5. The Negress appears to have all three albums by Human Sexual Response. One is autographed.

6. The Negress inherited her Dad’s Miles Davis records. She will binge listen and feel smarter about music and a bunch of things after doing so.

7. The Negress still has her mother’s operas, which are too scratched to be played at all. But she’s keeping them no matter what.

8. Thanks to a hilarious error at the plant, the Negress has a copy of the Smiths’ “Meat is Murder”  cover that contains Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” album.

9. For every piece of vinyl there is a story. The Negress has several jazz albums by saxman Buck Hill aka “The Wailin’ Mailman.” Hill worked at the Post Office and then used his leave to play events like the North Sea Jazz Festival. One of his records is autographed to her father, who went to said festival to hear Hill and others. Hill is still with us at age 87.

10. There were some really bad Lou Reed records. The Negress owns quite a few of them (The Bells? Really?) But she’s not going to let them go.

The Negress. The 10. Name calling

With the New Year upon us much of the horror of the previous year not receding quickly enough, the Negress has been thinking about names. Some of her thoughts are about given names, but she’s also thinking what certain behaviors end up being called. So, let’s get started.

1.  “Racial (or racialist if you’re British) and homosexual slurs.”  Don’t you really mean “racist and homophobic slurs?”

2. “Gay marriage?” “Marriage equality” is more to the point because, as others have said, no one eats “gay lunch” or “gay parks” their car. After all, we all know “gay lunch” is brunch.

3. Are there any white women named Latisha? The Negress has some curiosity about this.

4. Ditto Trayquan for guys.

5. Why do people at various companies talk about “next steps” as though they are not what you’re supposed to do next on whatever project you’re working on?

6. Can we stop talking about “disrupting?” The Negress was at a gathering recently where someone said he wanted to “disrupt” the “water space.” She figured he was going to go to the bathroom shortly.

7. The Negress also does not need to hear the phrase “down in the weeds” ever again. It sounds like a nightmarish fairy tale.

8. Same with “deeper dive” unless it’s being disrupted by leveling off.

9. The Negress does not ever need to be “pinged.” Conversation still exists. So does email more or less.

10. Do not ever ask anyone named Luke  to use the Force. Trust the Negress on this one.

The Negress. The 10. Menopause.

Yes, as the old menstrual product commercial used to say, it is that time or just before. The Negress is hurtling through menopause . At least, she hopes she is because this cannot go on indefinitely. While she nurses her aching head (long story), she’ll share some fun facts and observations about this special time. If you’re not here yet, just you wait. If you’re in it already, get your fan and read along.

1. There is something called “menopause belly.” As far as the Negress knows, this is not like “wheat belly.” No word on what you call the belly that came into menopause with you.

2. What was that again? No, implanting a tracking device in your head will not bring back that really important thought you just had.

3. Sweating is the new black. Call them hot flashes, power surges or private summers, you’ll be stuck with them for a while. Or so said the Negress’ 90-something great aunt.

4. Yes, you did get clumsier. You can pad corners of tables in the privacy of your home, but best not to do it at work.

5. Some of you will also enjoy chippy chills, which are the opposite of hot flashes. These do not come often enough.

6. Anxious? The Negress is not anxious. Grinding her teeth and listening to her heart race are her new hobbies.

7. Irritable? If you laugh one more time, The Negress is going to slap you upside your head.

8. Suddenly having migraines and never had them before? Another menopause gift.

9. It’s been suggested hormones can ameliorate all of this. Since the Negress comes from a family whose maternal side is awash in cancer, she can’t go that route.

10. You would have been reading this earlier, but the Negress forgot today wasn’t Friday.