Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Come from Mundts

People often ask me where I come from.

It just so happens that I come from a family of stout German farmers in middle America called the Mundts. And it just so happens that the Mundts had a family reunion a week ago -- August 23 to be exact.

As you might imagine from the sound of the name, Mundts (not to be confused with Manns, to whom we're related) are a hardy people. We eat. We sweat. We plant stuff. We have large families. Well, I don't. But they do. Contrary to what you might expect, however, Mundts are unusually creative people. My grandma, Grace Safarik, sings show tunes on command. My uncle, Andy Safarik, engendered in me a longtime fascination with bent wire because of the beautiful twisted wire sculptures that fill my grandfather's basement. My mother, Candy, and her brothers appeared in countless Gilbert and Sullivan musicals when they were young, which is why I still know all the lyrics to HMS Pinafore. My brother, Drew Connery (a.k.a. Drew Beatz), writes music for the rap label, Dungeon Family, out in LA.

And because we all so love to perform, there is always a talent show at the Mundt Family Reunion, and everything counts for talent. This year, the talent show turned into a talent contest. You can check out those sWEEt vidZ on YouTube.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Guess this is Goodbye, Hyde Park

As I'm preparing to leave Hyde Park for greener pastures, or maybe just for pastures, period, since the midway doesn't count, I've been thinking about what's most Hyde Park about Hyde Park.

I lived briefly in Cairo back in the late nineties, and when I think back on that time, what I remember best are things that don't seem particularly memorable. I recall that the hemisphere was upside down (from the one I was used to), that the hot and cold knobs were reversed, and that 7-up came in tiny, glass bottles. For a brief period of time, America meant a certain alignment of the stars and being able to turn the water on without scalding myself. What will make me recall Hyde Park years from now?

Will I miss the library, where, as a friend recently pointed out to me, the same group of people has been congregating in the same room for going on a decade without introducing themselves to one another? Will I miss the Obamacade that once a month makes me curse the president for living in my hood?

I was at the Point yesterday (the one truly great thing about the south side of Chicago is our beloved, rocky beach) and I snorted in a waft of sugar, crisped skin and suntan lotion that shot me back 25 years to the snack bar at the Seward, Nebraska pool where I used to buy Laffy Taffy in my saggy kid bikini. Maybe I'll be strolling down the perfect, manicured sidewalks of Princeton, New Jersey next year and ... not remember Hyde Park's trash-riddled sidewalks covered in broken glass?

I've spent eight years telling people I hate Hyde Park. Not the people, I always say, just the total lack of respectable dining establishments, the terrible coffee, pedestrians who throw themselves into oncoming traffic, the scam artists, the optional stop signs. I've seen guys pissing against beautiful new condos and I go swimming daily in a lake that's filled with millions of tons of sewage. I hate it all. I really do. But can you live somewhere for eight years without becoming that place? A friend introduced me recently, saying, "That's Majel. She goes to the U of C. We never understand a word she's saying." I talk Hyde Park.

The first day I came here, I was walking toward campus with my mother and we were being trailed by an older man who followed behind us for blocks muttering at half volume, "Bitches .... white bitchezzzz..." under his breath. But I go to New York now and it's too safe. I go to the north side and there are too many penny loafers. Where are all the weirdos? Where are the Impalas? Where are the BBQ/drug parties? My friend got his 1991 Camry stolen a few weeks ago. Who would steal a 1991 Camry? Hyde Park would.