march 27th, 2014

Went for the first run in a long time on Tuesday. Got to thinking about past races and race paces. Here is some sweet tabular data:

Date Race Time Pace
2006 James Joyce Ramble (10k) 57:14 9:12 link
2009 SF Marathon (2nd half) 2:31:35 11:34 link
2009 Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon 1:55:54 8:51 link
2011 Chicago marathon (full) 5:14:38 12:00 link
2013 Chicago marathon (full) 4:25:41 10:08 link

The James Joyce Ramble features actors in period costume reading passages from Joyce along the route. The outlier zippity zip pace for the Healdsburg is because I ran it with my friend Dan VanderKam, who was an excellent male pacesetter. Both marathons were run mostly untrained, although I was at a fitness level where I could knock out 12 miles without much trouble.

I can imagine a future marathon time below 4 hours, but probably not much faster. Haven't had a regular running buddy since moving away from San Francisco. Running buddies greatly improve my pace. I get so excited! with someone to talk to! and I run faster!


march 26th, 2014

Behaviors currently indulged:

  1. answering “right?” to any question I don't want to answer, or don't know the answer to
  2. muttering “murr murr murr” like a space kitten

Two Three nights now at my place with no bugs spotted, no blood spotting the sheets, and nothing in the traps. There are a couple one-bedrooms that just opened up few doors down on my block. They look nice. In the descriptions, both say that “two annual k-9 bed bug inspections” are included in the rent.

“This is smart,” Vlad said. “They're marketing to people scared of bed bugs. 'Move in, and the dogs will come, and you can have a clean start. And any time you get afraid, just call in the dogs. And you don't have to be afraid anymore'.”

“Sure, but this is like offering two free cancer screenings with the lease,” I said. “Kinda eeeeee ... Sounds to me like they've had a lot of bed bugs.”

“That's the logical explanation. I was thinking that it would be like in Romania and they just take the extra money, and then they bring in the 'inspector dogs', but really they're just dogs they found in the trash.”

And on my horror, “what? That's where you find the dogs! That's where they live! ... I don't mean in the trash.”

Have yet to hear from the city inspector about a city inspection as promised by my alderman's office. The building department didn't pick up the phone today, and their voicemailbox is full. I just want that clean bill of inspection. Want those dogs to come in! Somebody hire the dogs! Clean start! Get my life out of bags!


Scene: Light It Up.

march 24th, 2014

VLAD and ERICA cruising to snooze land.


The gimmick had to do with Thomas Edison.



Tommy canya hear me ...


Yes. Little known fact: the musical Tommy was originally written about Thomas Edison.


Yes, I've heard that.


They had all these rich producers involved who insisted on creative control and made them change it to pinball. But just imagine if it were a rock opera about Thomas Edison instead.


It would have been electrifying.

Erica dives under the covers, GROANS.

VLAD (cont'd)



That was rather inventive.


It was like a light bulb went on.

Today It Got to Me.

march 19th, 2014

This orange juice is 12 oz. and costs $4 and change. I resisted, I resisted, I resisted buying this orange juice, but every time I go to Metropolis for breakfast I really want some orange juice and this is the only kind they sell. Today I stopped resisting. I got the orange juice. It was good. If it was $0.38 per precious ounce good, I could not tell.

Expensive orange juice from Metropolis.

Today it got to me. I cried and cried to Vlad that I've been strong but I don't feel strong anymore. The bed bugs won. I've been hunting apartments, but everything I've looked at so far has been much smaller, not as nice, and more expensive than my current place. If these new apartments were nicer and bigger and more expensive, ok cool. If they were smaller and crappier and cheaper, ok cool.

There was one place I looked at that IS nicer, bigger, and comparable in expense to my current place. Downsides are:

  1. the management company has a terrible reputation on Yelp
  2. it's off a kindof zoom-zoom traffick section of Clark, and also a full mile from the train
  3. it's currently occupied by a messy male who's off to India next week. The toilet was filled with old pee, with a white bloom of toilet paper floating at the top. I took this as a bad omen (the lotus of dread).

In my current building, my neighbor to the east is an older woman who expressed a discouragingly relaxed attitude when I talked to her about our mutual problem. “Yeah, my bed bugs came back, too. But, what are you gonna do?” she said, as I Wilhelm-screamed inside. She also wouldn't shake my hand. My neighbor to the west, who'd been staying with his girlfriend for the previous five weeks, came home the other day and found bed bugs crawling toward him on top of his covers. Bed bugs normally shun the daylight. They must have been hungry.

I'm surrounded.

Vlad and I slept safely at my place the other night (no bites, no bugs spotted. First time that's happened since this mess started five weeks ago). But it's only a matter of time before the bugs are back. And still I hold out hope that I could stay. I love my apartment. I love the gas range. I love the layout (excellent feng shui). I love the hardwood and the tile. I love the location next to the train and a block and a half from my sweetie. It's perfect, except for the bugs.

Watched a horrifying video with Vlad, Marcel, and Colleen about a family with a bad infestation. Bed bugs can crawl into the electrical outlets, a “Did you know?” that I wish I did not know. They can travel between units freely that way. The family in the video steam-cleaned their house, sprayed chemicals into every outlet, and brought in trained beagles to sniff out any remaining infestation. We can guess whether these measures are in the offing from Landlord Sam.

That apartment I mentioned that's right around the corner from Vlad is quite small, and has a funny feng shui where the door opens right onto where the bed would be (“the death position”). My lease is up at the end of this month, but Landlord Sam hasn't been in touch about renewing and I haven't clarified what's going to happen because I'm weak and weary, cf I'm not strong anymore. If you're looking for Strong Erica, she's not here. Come back next year.

Vlad said, “I'm so proud of you, baby,” as I cried through smiles. “You've got your apartment locked down and clean like a German submarine. Some real Das Boot stuff goin on there.”

Yes, I am also pre-menstrual. Yes, you cracked the code.

The new plan is to call Landlord Sam. Explain that I love my apartment, and I'd love to stay, but I don't want to commit to a year of potentially constant battle against the bugs. That I'd like to renew on a trial basis. That if I find another bug, I'm gone. That small apartment hasn't rented in months, because of the small and the expensive. It'll probably still be on the market when I'm ready for last resorts.

I've also brought government into the mix. Called my alderman's office. They're sending a city inspector in the next week. I secretly hope that this could result in a team of grownups and beagles to the rescue, finding and killing every last bug, and in me staying at my apartment at a greatly discounted rate.

Am also currently running through my old checklist for dealing with local depression (the minute-to-minute blues). Have I: had a glass of water recently? Have I had at least 30 minutes of good cardiovascular exercise recently? Do I need some sleep? A cookie? Have I talked to a friend, preferably a good friend, especially preferably a good and funny friend? Have I sent air to my brain? How about some more air? ... There. Yes.

Letter from Romania.

march 14th, 2014

Letter from Romania:

Letter from Tata Mihai

For the last several months I've corresponded with Vlad's grandpa, Tata Mihai (Grandpa Michael). Last fall I complained to Vlad that I love to write letters, but very few people have an appetite for writing back.

I make this complaint a lot, and when I do almost always someone will insist that that's a tragedy. “Give me your snail mail address, Erica. I will write to you,” the someone says courageously. I say ok. This results in one volley, maybe two.

“You know who would *love* to be your penpal? My grandpa,” Vlad said. I sent a first letter to Romania last September, the address on the envelope seeming like a wizard's incantation (even more than usual). Three weeks later, a return letter arrived from Romania. And thus began correspondance with my most enthusiastic penpal to date, the poet Mihai Doroftei.

Tata Mihai does not speak English, and I don't speak Romanian. We both know a smattering of German. So Vlad has had to do all the heavy lifting in translation. But Tata Mihai and I also speak the same language of poetic extroversion.

I'm one of 20 grandchildren on my dad's side, and one of nine on my mom's. My grandfathers have passed away, and my grandmothers, their affection spread thin amongst dozens of cousins, rarely write back. There's been fresh magic for me in adopting Vlad's grandfather as my own. “Ah, so this is what it is!”

Tata Mihai wrote his most recent letter in honor of Mărțișor. The little March. Spring! Life! The butterfly! A season that reminds us: change is possible. “Change is inevitable,” say the Buddhists. Hush, Buddhists. Some of us need to start with possible.

Assorted Nuts.

march 13th, 2014

Waiting on the exposed extreme north end of the Lawrence el platform for the red line. A woman nearby heavily bundled in winter drag. Train pulls up, but the doors are reluctant to open. I daddle my fingers at them, like a wizard. The doors open. The woman says, “it worked!”

I give her the eye, say, “it always works.”

Say it ain't snow

Chicago had a few glorious days of spring. It was 40F, felt emotionally like 60F. People were in shirtsleeves. Walking freely in the sunshine was deep-tissue relaxing like a full body massage.

Yesterday morning we woke up in Icetown. Between bed bugs, this relentless winter, and an uncertain longterm geographic future dependent/contingent on where Vlad finds a job, it's difficult not to feel a crisistic myopia.

Went to The Moth on Monday. Didn't get picked to read on stage, but a dream came true that night. I was posted up on a low windowsill, drawing lions and talking through my story to myself. A guy I'd met before the show came over to tell me he'd signed up (hooray!). And another dude asked me if he knew me from somewhere (he didn't). And a woman recognized me from the Green Mill, so through the intermission we talked shop about the Chicago arts scene.

And then one of the dudes sitting downsill from me asked, “excuse me, but: who are you?” And then a little bashful, “we keep seeing people come up to you.”

“I'm Chicago's Erica Dreisbach!” I said, and gave them my card.


Next Wednesday I'm featuring on WBEZ's Vocalo. Pilsen on a school night! Tell your NPR-loving friends. See you there :)

Vocalo | Weds, Mar 19 | 600 W Cermak


march 11th, 2014

VICTOR, middle-aged real estate agent, speaks both English and Spanish with the same delivery as Tony Clifton. He also looks like Tony Clifton.

Camera MATCH CUTS interior and exterior shots of him showing ERICA studio apartments in the neighborhood.


I got rear-ended the same week my house burned down and my father died. This was in Denver. And they gave me the ticket! They just put it on the out of state guy!


Sounds like you were Illinoyed.


And listen to this, then the cop's like, I wanna tell you something about driving safely. I said, are we done here? He said, I just want to talk to you. I said, stop invading my fourth fucking amendment rights. We're done, I'm gone. Guy was a fucking asshole.

CARLOS, the building maintenance man, unlocks the lobby door for them.

VICTOR (cont'd)

Gracias, senor. I speak three languages. German, Spanish, and, uh, English.

My mother is Spanish. She grew up in Guadalajara. We're not Mexican. Mexicans are Spaniards who mixed with the Indians. We didn't mix. We're Spanish.

In this one part of Mexico, my last name is like Smith. I can tell, when someone says my last name, what state in Mexico they're from.

Let me tell you, that apartment you called about? You don't want that apartment. It's small. That's the reason it hasn't rented. Every woman who sees it is like, ai. No closets. You don't want to see it. That's why I'm showing you these ones first. So you can get some bang for your buck.

A block away from your boyfriend? You don't want to be that close. Trust me, I've been married fifteen years. A block away would be too close. Sometimes.

I'm almost 50. You know how I maintain my youthful appearance? No kids. I used to, that used to be my test. Tell a girl, I want five or six kids. If she said, oh yeah, me too, I'd say, ope! Get outta here, crazy!

Sometimes my wife wishes we'd had. But then I name three or four things and she's like, ope! Nuh-oh. I told her, she's got enough trouble with just the dogs. I always told her, if you get pregnant, that's fine, and if you don't, even better.


VICTOR (cont'd)

You know, I'm just gonna

He makes an illegal u-turn on Broadway.

Night Lion: Pt. 7.

march 10th, 2014

Lion Roar | Night Lion Pt. 7

Haven't done a roar befoar. I like this guy!

To every Dear Reader who's reached out with condolences on abandoning the apartment infestation: thank you so much. This will end. Either the bed bugs will die or I will die.

I'm seeing a place this afternoon that's around the corner from Vlad's. This would shorten my Vlad commute from a block and a half to a half block. So, obv, it's my first choice. If it works out then this sad little saga might wrap up rather nicely!

Fuck it, I'm moving.

march 9th, 2014

Vlad found a live bug on the underside of a shelf by the bed yesterday morning. Fuck it, I'm moving. Let the culling of stuff begin!

We brought five bags of heat-sanitized clothes and books to the local thrift store, and a first round of furniture to the alley. Attached signs. Fair warning. Humane approach.

Stuff in the alley, far Bed bugs, pick up at your own risk

Cellar's Mrkt.

march 8th, 2014

In which I Learn of a Direct-to-Video Movie within the Beauty and the Beast'iverse and Great Excitement Ensues Forthwith — In which Further Research as to the Plot Specifics of Film Causes Greater Excitement — Such Details Revealed Here — In which Attempts to Purchase Film at a Potentially Outrageous Discount from the Electronic Bay are Thwarted by the Heretofore Unknown Radically Inflated Market for It — Speculation as to the Depth and Variety of Such Hypervalued Cultural Currencies

Sometimes when I have trouble falling asleep or even when I don't, the bedtime story I tell myself is a re'imagined Disney film with my voice in one of the roles. My favorite is Beauty and the Beast. At first I focused on the heroine role, as usual, but later the re-telling focused on the Beast.

Beauty and the Beast | via darrilasylum at DeviantArt

Image courtesy DarrilAsylum.

The beginning sticks pretty closely to the first third of the original movie. But then at the part when Belle attempts a daring escape and the Beast saves her from the wolves, it diverges. The Beast has a crisis of conscience. “What am I doing?” he says to Belle. “I'm so sorry. This is so fucked up. At dawn I'll call the carriage, it'll take you home.”

And Belle is chill. “Hey it's cool, also thanks for saving my life, also why were you being so aggro and paranoid?”

And the Beast is like, “it's been a long time since I've interacted with people. All the people I know are objects.” [cut to Lumiere and Cogsworth sharing a LOOK] And he says, “best I can explain it, there was a stranger in the house, and I was filled with a primal need to defend my territory.”

And Belle is like, “so what's the deal here with the living objects and, uh, you* ... ?” And then in my re-imagining, one of the explicit terms of the curse is that none of the enchanteds at the castle can straight out reveal to an outsider what happened to them, nor what would break the curse. Whenever they try, they go into a brief, painless-but-annoying catatonia, like DeNiro in Sleepers.

*from this conversation forward she gets really awkward around calling him a beast

This awakens a sleuthing side of Belle. “I love riddles!” she says. So then she's hanging out at the castle all the time, poking around in the library, talk-talk-talking with the Beast, and she slowly pieces the mystery together right in sync with the two of them falling in love but without the Stockholm Syndrome angle that makes the original Beauty and the Beast skeevy.

Then last fall, I found out that there's a direct-to-video Beauty and the Beast movie that takes place during Belle's winter at the castle: Beauty and the Beast: An Enchanted Christmas. I don't like Christmas, but listen to the plot of this movie! An enchanted organ at the castle is upset about the love potential between the Beast and Belle because he doesn't want the curse broken, because he likes being an organ, I assume because he can create perfect music. No gap between thought and sound. So he's actively trying to stop their love. Ooh! Such a fresh take!

Wait. You haven't heard the best part. The best part is: the organ is voiced by: TIM CURRY.

A couple months ago my friend Jesse, probably the most literate man I know, brought up that he'd been thinking about Beauty and the Beast and I was like omg, I think about Beauty and the Beast all the time, want to watch the direct-to-video Christmas movie? And he was like omg, yes of course.

Now the tricky part: obtaining this movie. Sweet Vlad and many other excellent friends versed in the dark web could certainly find me a free version of it, but this project seemed worthy of tracking down a physical copy on/of my own. Plus, it's prolly like $2 + $2 shipping on eBay, right?

Wrong. The market for this film is outta controh. Check out the Buy It Now price for this one, on Blu-Ray: $69.95. I can get a Criterion Collection double-disk set of Paris, Texas for $23 on eBay. That's what I paid for the complete Jane Campion transcendent miniseries Top of the Lake. And the original movie runs cheap. But this one? Even off-season, Christmas long past? Sellers' market. Name your price, sellers.

Outrageous 'Buy It Now' prices for Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas'

So what is it about Beauty and the Beast: An Enchanted Christmas? Is it a collectibles market causing a Disney DVD bubble? Is it that Jesse and I are not flukes, and the original movie resonates in an active, daily way with many people? All of us trawling eBay, searching for more?

And are there other steep markets that would surprise me? Beach Boys tapes. Certain crayons. Software. Ideas. I'm riffing now. Welcome to my riff track.

Also, I refuse to discard or sincerely examine an operating premise behind the surprise, which is that no direct-to-DVD Disney movie could possibly be worth $70. Even if there are only a dozen copies left in the world. That if the market bears such price, it's a perversity and abomination.


march 6th, 2014

ERICA and VLAD after work. Both wearing sweatpants.


I quoted you to Jerry about the Chicago cold versus Vermont cold. Like how Vermont cold is just point to point from the house to the car, but Chicago cold is standing on an el platform, the wind slapping you from the lake. Slap! Slap slap!


And the wind whispers, 'why are you doing this to yourself, why are you doing this to yourself?'

Feece Your Far.

march 5th, 2014

Night before a full-day on-site interview for a new gig. Re-filled the CO2 trap. Slept alone at home. No Sweet Vlad as bait. Just me.

Left the closet light on. Didn't sleep well. The sheets felt extremely rough, maybe from all the heat treatment. Every readjustment on the pillow rough to the cheek. Every brush of the blankets the imagined scamperings of a bug. And, I have also grown accustomed to a certain level of cuddles. I know. Gross. Well. It's true. The poet does not avert her eyes, sheeple!!

Around 3am stared in horror at a long black ribbon of bug-sized poo. Fresh from the feed. Picked it up with a corner of paper towel. On close inspection, it was black fuzz. People keep telling me not to let the bed bugs get to me. Wake up, sheeple!! Wake up, it's time to examine the fuzz, and the Tups full of diatomaceous earth at the bed corners. Wake up, it's 4am and you're looking for the shiniest brass bed on Google Shopping. Did you know: the brass bed was invented to combat bed bugs? That's what my alderman's website says. No citation, but other sites say same. Thus Alderman Osterman, too, joins the Internet bed bug story mill.

In the morning: no new bugs in the trap, no bites on my body. Many people aren't reactive to the bug bites, so, inconclusive there. Powered through the interview on coffee.

A lie that I currently entertain: that there was only one bug left. That we got him. That it's over now.


march 4th, 2014.



What's with all these weird cuts?


Yeah, they keep mentioning people in the audience then not showing them, or cutting to people checking their phones.


They must be letting the intern do it.


No, they had someone good, but she went into labor just before the show. And the intern was like, 'this is a man's job anyway!'


'It's a man's world.'


And she's watching in the hospital right now with the baby like, 'NOoOooOOOOOO!!!'

New Strategy.

march 3rd, 2014.

Back to what worked before: diatomaceous earth. This time: less mess. Purchased shallow, wide-mouthed Tupperwares. The short white ceramic tubeys that Longhair John sold me for to make bed risers are only a little taller than the Tups, so I cut down the inside corners to prevent the more gymnastic bugs from stretching up and on.

Leg Full bed

For under the bed: Vlad's trap.

Teh trap!

The whole while rigging this up, versions of Brad Pitt's opening monologue in Inglorious Basterds playing in mind. “The bed bug will fear us! The bed bug will hate us!

“You are in debt to me for one hundred bed bug scalps! And lady: I want my scalps.”

UPDATE: Vlad's trap has caught a bug.

The trap works.

Landlord Sam, now fully up to a 10 on my personal sleeze-ometer, said he'll call the exterminator next week. “Let's wait to see how it's working,” he said.

“I've caught a bug. So, it's not working,” I said.


More Bed Bugs (Morbid Bugs).

march 2nd, 2014.

Tried out what Longhair John at Kim's Hardware suggested: raise the bed, and Vaseline around the risers. Bed bugs aren't good climbers.

Vaseline around bed risers | bed bug home remedy

Either this home remedy is bullshit, or I don't understand how to apply Vaseline. Vlad was bitten all over last night, and the sheet was left speckled with telltale blood.

Blood on sheet: bed bug calling card

Next steps: bed bug trap underneath the bed, bed risers submerged in Tupperware filled with diatomaceous earth, and probably (g0ddammit) another spraying. Two or three sprayings is the standard anyway: first time to get the adults, and second and third times for when larvae hatch. Landlord Sam is just cheap and hoping to get away with the single spray. But then, I would also like to get away with such. So.

I feel so guilty that last night's attack targeted Vlad. “Yeah, but you take more showers than I do,” he said. The bed bug trap is something Vlad found on the Internet. It uses CO2 to trick bugs into climbing up a jar wrapped in easy-to-climb paper towel. They fall inside the smooth glass jar. They can't get out.

I look to my talismans: tiny gorilla, rabbit, Buddha, Ganesh. “Be strong,” they say.



march 1st, 2014.

VLAD and ERICA bundled up, walking.


Whoa, it snowed more last night?


If you thought this winter was over ... THINK AGAIN! Because there's three more months of this shit!


It's March! This won't go til June.


I prefer to keep expectations low, and be pleasantly surprised.


What you call 'low expectations' I call a 'bad attitude.'


I'm beyond bad attitude. I'm beyond denial, beyond anger, I'm in acceptance.


But this negative Cassandra prophesizing--that's the bad attitude.


Wait ... but Cassandra was RIGHT!

Vladdy in the snow
February 2014 April 2014