Sunday, December 27, 2009

Scenes from Home

My family has a membership to the YMCA in Chicago, which I frequent when I'm home. Our YMCA is one of the last left in Chicago that actually fulfills its original purpose as a "Young Men's Christian Association;" originally, YMCAs were built to provide inexpensive living communities for men in big cities. As such, my gym is also home to many (mostly elderly) single men who cannot afford to live elsewhere (or choose to live frugally). Because of this fact, my YMCA is not so popular with the general public; not to incriminate as I have no place to judge, but just sayin, most mothers do not want little Timmy playing Basketball in a gym he shares with men who fit the pedophile stereotype to a T.
Nonetheless, the creep-factor and pervading scent of Musk was not a deal breaker for my parents, who place practicality above all other virtues. This YMCA is close to our house, and much cheaper than any other gym near us. Therefore we've been members for as long as I can remember. Furthermore, I can say with all honesty that I've never felt threatened or more than slightly uncomfortable there- at least not enough to make me think twice about going there almost every day to get my sweat on.
However, this does not mean that my tall, blonde, running-short clad presence goes completely unnoticed when I'm there; sad, lonely eyes tend to linger a little too long, and comments are muttered that fortunately my headphones prevent me from hearing (or allow me to pretend I did not hear).
As with most things in life, I prefer color over black and white. Given a choice, I'd probably choose to work out at this YMCA over the clean, crisp, fashionable new gyms around my house. Human beings grow in the face of things that are outside of their comfort zone (notice, said thing will eventually cease to be uncomfortable, indicating that growth has indeed occurred). Also, along with color tends to come lots of great stories.
For instance, last night I found myself the only female in the weight room, being subject to several skeezy comments and the Y's poor music selection after my ipod died. I had to laugh at the delightful irony when one 70+ year old man asked me if I "come here often," and before I could answer, crackling through the speakers, I hear the seductive electric guitar intro to Shania Twain's "Man, I Feel Like a Woman."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Year's Resolution(s)

If I could...

1.) Have a job and be successful at it
2.) Get 8 hours of sleep a night
3.) Keep in touch with friends
4.) Stay "current" (pertaining to news, music & other arts, politics, etc.)
5.) Eat healthy
6.) Work-out regularly
7.) Keep my apartment clean
8.) Go to the dentist every three months
9.) Talk to my parents once a week
10.) Show up on-time, to anything
11.) Show up anywhere with dry hair
12.) Actually style my hair
13.) Read all the books I say I want to read
14.) Write more often
15.) Not get so many parking tickets
16.) AND manage to find a significant other

...then I would be as close to perfect as humanly possible (or as close to perfect as I deem acceptable for my current lot in life).

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I've recently made my life a lot better by the addition of a coffee grinder to my counter-top appliance roster. Freshly ground coffee really is superior to the pre-ground stuff. I used to deny it, but seriously people, face the music; go out, buy yourself a coffee grinder, and live better.
So while I was grinding my coffee this morning (Seattle's Best "Bright," which is surprisingly tasty), I recalled a conversation I had last night in which I had to contradict a friend who was saying that on mornings when he's really dragging, he brews darker roast coffee for the additional caffeine it holds. I informed him, much to his surprise that dark roast coffees actually have less caffeine than lighter roasts. I learned this from a man who roasts coffee for a living and owns a coffee shop in downtown St. Louis, where I worked for a few months. The roasting process actually releases the caffeine from the bean; thus, the darker the roast, the less the caffeine.
This is a conversation that I've actually had several times before, not surprisingly. The fact is counter-intuitive- darker coffees boast a bolder, richer taste- but don't be fooled friends, there's a reason "Breakfast" blends are always light roasts.

Monday, December 7, 2009


It's Winter.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

For the meager but (somewhat) refined palate:

In the past few days I have found myself purchasing a lot of wine. Mostly because everywhere I go seems to have one of my favorite bottles on sale for some remarkable price that I just can't pass up, but also because wine is more than just my drink of choice; it is an obsession. All the varieties of grapes and blends- each possessing it's own distinct flavor and style, its own shade of deep red, smell and texture. The intoxication begins before it even hits my tongue.
Anyone who knows me knows that there are always at least five unopened bottles of wine on my shelves (currently 9) and one open on the counter. I'm not a wino, however, not by any means. In order to properly appreciate anything you have to sustain from it occasionally, and with my ridiculously time consuming job I have to restrain myself Sunday - Thursday night (with occasional exceptions, of course). Thus for the vast majority of the week I wait, with almost unbearable anticipation for that first glass on Friday night.
Because of this, I have become more and more picky about just what kind of wine I get to enjoy. However, with my meager salary I cannot afford much more than $10 bottles. Luckily this is not a problem; I have found many bottles for $13 and under that not only meet the higher standards I try to uphold, but even surpass them. Here's a sampling of some of my favorite steals:

1. Dancing Bull- Cabernet Sauvignon
2. Alamos- Malbec
3. Avalon- Cabernet Sauvignon
4. Pinot Evil- Pinot Noir
5. Chateau Auguste- Bourdeaux
6. Albero- Tempranillo
7. Cycles Gladiator- Syrah
8. Luzon- Jumilla


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Can Shakira Conquer the World?

...Asked Rolling Stone magazine this week- Issue 1091, to be exact. And in response, I'm not sure...but probably.

It makes me wonder, however, what exactly is going on in the world of music these days? And where do you even begin?! For example, as I'm writing this I'm listening to lastfm, which has compiled a "station" of music for me based on the fact that I typed in Cut Copy when the site asked me who I like to listen to. So (for those of you who are not familiar with lastfm)this website then scours over tons of music in seconds and finds songs that are similar to Cut Copy's and plays them. I probably have already heard of one-third of the bands lastfm will select, but I can't help but wonder, where do the other two-thirds come from? I consider myself to be someone who keeps up with new music- almost obsessively in fact- and yet there is SO MUCH music out there that I am completely oblivious to. It's absolutely overwhelming. And the ease with which such music is made available makes it worse. If as if the fact that websites like lastfm and pandora exist, and make music so easily available, holds me even more accountable for keeping up with the jones'. If its right there at my fingertips, and free, then shouldn't I (we) be keeping up?

In my (our) defense, perhaps there's just too much music out there.
There are also not enough hours in the day... but that's a complaint for another day.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More college, please.

As I drive through and around my college campus(one of the drawbacks of working in the same city you went to school in), I cannot help but stare longingly at the hooded (sweatshirts, that is) masses- whose greatest concern to date is Midterms week- and think, "you all are so damn lucky."
College was the easiest thing I've ever done; midterms were a breeze, and 6 page papers? I ate them for lunch.

The real world however- not so easy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

LCD Soundsystem poses life's most profound query:

(and I do not mean in the romantic sense, mind you)

so where's the love where's the love where's the love where's the love where's the love tonight?
but there's no love man there's no love and the kids are uptight.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Adventures in Teacherland

1) Yesterday as I was leaving my classroom, already late for a meeting downtown, I found myself frantically unable to find my room keys. Then suddenly it hit me, much like- and accompanied by- a wave a of nausea: I gave my keys to one of my students at the end of the day to go to the bathroom, since the doors are always locked to try and prevent the vandalism, drug-dealing, and abuse that still manages to find its way inside. Luckily, I have this special child's mother on speeddial so I was able to call her and ask if he had come home with the keys. Her response, said with much warranted shock, was "Why would you give ______ your keys?!" My response, after a pause: "I don't know."

2) So, all teachers at my school are required to have "Word Walls" with words taped up that are pertinent to the classroom. Being a Science teacher, I have words like "carbon," "hypothesis," "element," etc. However, the amount of disrespect and verbal abuse that my students give to each other on a daily basis has really started to wear on me. I cannot believe the language that these 13 and 14 year use around each other. In an effort to counteract this foul movement, I started a "Forbidden Word Wall" next to the regular one. I wasn't sure how my students would take it, but they really bought into it and even contributed words to it that they themselves do not want said in the classroom.
Now, point blank, I am probably the worst teacher in the world. However, even I was pleased with how my first two classes went today. My students really grasped the concept I was teaching, enjoyed the activity I had planned for them, and behaved relatively well. My last class of the day however, was just out of control. Their behavior was awful, and to make matters worse, nothing I said was getting through to them. The only part of class that went well was when they were adding their contributions to the Forbidden word wall, as I allowed several students to get up and add some words while I was teaching the others, and not taking the time to notice what they were putting up. So of course, out of all three of my classes, my Principle chooses to come observe this one. She happened to walk in just as my students had reached their peak of bad behavior. Luckily she stayed for only five terrible minutes during which I just basically begged students to pay attention. BEfore leaving she dropped a note on my desk which I immediately read as soon as my class was finished. It said "Kennelly- I like the 'forbidden word wall' idea, but having some of those words posted in your classroom is actually much WORSE than allowing your students to say them. Please fix this."
With horror I looked to the wall, on which was boldly posted "bitch," "fag," "cunt," and several other doozies which I cannot write in this blog.
Its days like this that I really wonder just what the hell I am doing with my life...

Monday, September 7, 2009

What I’d really like to do with my life is this:

I’d like to wander aimlessly around the Central West End, stopping at stores with no particular purpose, picking up trinkets and just wondering what it would be like to own such a thing.

I’d like to kill hours in the basement of Rothschild’s, digging through antiques that were not nice enough to be sold upstairs.

I’d like to look through recipe books and coffee table photo albums at Left Bank Books and consider making something I found for dinner and dream about the apartment I will one day have in which I will have a coffee tables with lots of books on it.

I’d like to walk to Café Osage and have a cappuccino and read the New York Times and then go next-door to BoWood farms and pretend I have a garden that I need perennials for.

I’d like to stop in at Mezzanine and chat with the owner about how her business is doing and try on lots of things. I’d like to smell all of the Tocca perfumes and buy the perfect one after spending hours deliberating over what my new scent will be.

I’d like to walk down McPherson and the other gated streets and step on leaves to hear them crunch. I’d like for there to be a slight breeze and I’d like to be wearing a sweater and boots.

I’d like to walk past Kopperman’s and Duff’s and look at the people eating outside. I’d like to always eat meals outside for that matter and I’d like to have no other preoccupations and think only about dinner and the people I’m eating with while we're eating.

I’d like to walk past Brennan’s and wave at David and maybe sometimes stop in for a glass of wine. I’d like for the music at Brennan’s to be the soundtrack for my life.

I’d like for there to be no 3 o’clock to 6 o’clock because nothing ever happens during those three hours.

I’d like to have someone else to walk with, but only part of the time.

I’d like for life to slow down so I have time to appreciate the change in the season. Did you know- this is the most beautiful time of year? I almost forgot.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009


My whiskey is
a tough way of life:

The wild cherry
continually pressing back
peach orchards.

I am a penniless

Where shall I have that solidity
which trees find
in the ground?

My stuff
is the feel of good legs
and a broad pelvis
under the gold hair ornaments
of skyscrapers.

-William Carlos Williams

Monday, March 23, 2009

in the vein of Marianne Moore

Sharks have a covering of dermal dentricals

that protect their skin from damage and parasites and

improve fluid dynamics. Fluid,

their movements, through pools of ocean dew

standing still on sea plants- plants that are really animals

with murky names like zooxanthellae,

which “live inside the

translucent fleshy tissue of many marine animals

including types of giant clams, nudibranchs and even jellyfish,”

and which, for this, are considered to be


“For that matter, I’d call a baby a parasite,”

he said, referring to the fusion of gametes

to produce a new organism-

an organism which grows in-

side the “translucent fleshy tissue” of mommies

for many months,

only to plop out one day, slimy and red-

a perturbed little body that screams

hello to the world.

“You have been deceived into thinking that you have progressed,”

into the world of man, into the world of morals and dignity-

but we who hail from the family hominidae,

we who call ourselves

Homo Sapiens are, really, just bipedal primates-

zooxanthellae with lungs.

-Julia Kennelly

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Monster Owl

A monster owl
out on the fence
flew away. What
is it the sign
of? The sign of
an owl.


-Lorine Niedecker

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Somewhere in East St. Louis

an old man walks

with no concern for
where he is going for he is going
nowhere. He walks

with no concern for his
fellow man for
this man has no fellows.

He walks
past buildings and houses and stores which
remind him of a distant past and

he could swear

that his old pal Bill
used to live right here
right here in this house

in this

broken down falling down
old house.

People shove by him and he wonders
where they are going
in such a hurry.

The streets scare him
the noise and movement and
the feeling that he’s missing

something scares him.

He walks
faster now hoping to get away
away from the sirens, away from the blank
stares on blank faces

he walks towards

something familiar
something he knows but

he just can’t remember where
he is going.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Things that make me happy

"Still Life with Apples," Cezanne

"Dancers in Pink," Degas

"Le chaîne Simpson," Toulouse-Lautrec

"Empire of Light," Magritte

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Food poetry

Five Course Meal
(As Prepared by one Kristian Marlow)

Tickles the taste buds,
And stimulates saliva;
Made of diced green apples,
Sautéed in olive oil,
Mixed with fried, minced pancetta
And just enough cinnamon
For the nostrils to notice.

First plate,
Or rather a bowl;
Potato and Leek soup,
Topped with a dollup
Of red jalepeno infused oil-
A blindingly hot contrast
To the warm potato mush
Surrounding it.

Second plate,
Sea Scallops Veracruz;
Blanched scallops,
Minced garlic,
Fresh cilantro, chopped.
A pinch of cumin,
One small tomato,
All drizzled with olive oil-
Extra virgin, of course.

Next comes Beef Tenderloin,
Dripping with blood,
Rare as I like it,
With red wine reduction.
And nestled nearby is carrot puree,
Whose sweetness meets
Savory meat
And kisses it hello.

Top it all off
With Tiramisu;
Delicate lady fingers
And Mascarpone cheese.
Italian for “pick me up,”
But bogged down with Brandy.*

All washed down
With elegant Pinot Noir,
Aged just three years
In an old oak barrel.

*Disclaimer: Tiramisu was on the original menu, but not actually served.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The unrevolutionary "Revolutionary Road"

Yesterday afternoon I went to see "Revolutionary Road" at the Chase. For those of you who have seen it, you know this film packs quite a punch, but I left the theater feeling absolutely stunned. I heard some others walking out mumbling things like "well that was depressing," but I honestly just did not know what to say about it...I had no words to express how it made me feel.

I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure it out, and I came to the conclusion that the best way to describe this film's message is by using the phrase which the two main characters coin to describe their lives; they say their existence is filled with "hopeless emptiness." And when those credits started to roll across the screen, I was overcome, and I walked slowly back to my car feeling hopelessly empty. Even though this movie is set in the 50s, it loses absolutely no relevance in today's society.

There was a lot to appreciate in this film; the acting was very good- Kate might even win an Oscar- and the supporting cast was full of memorable characters. The cinematography was also very fine. It was fun to see Leo and Kate together again in a movie. But overall, I would hesitate to recommend this film to anyone. In my opinion, America is already full of enough "hopeless emptiness."
I read an article the other day by Mark Edmundson, a professor at the University of Virginia, entitled "On the Uses of a Liberal Education As Lite Entertainment for Bored College Students." In it, Edmundson describes the current generation (my generation) of students as having a predominantly cynical outlook on life, and I will tell you that one of the ties that holds my group of friends together is our cynicism. We are part of a society in which it's not cool to be happy. It's not cool to be in love anymore. It's cool to be dysfunctional and "depressed," and to pop pills.
As testament to this fact, last year my single friends and I threw an "Anti-Valentine's Day" Party, and to make matters worse, the only friend I have who was in a stable, long-term relationship at the time preferred to spend the night at our Anti-Valentine's Day party rather than with her boyfriend, who happily went out to bars with his other single friends.
When we see PDA we glare and scoff. "Sex and the City," the young, single female's bible, has an episode called "The Ick-Factor," a phrase that the girls come up with to describe romantic gestures made by male suitors, and I will whole-heartedly align myself with all of these sentiments; there's nothing that will get my eyes rollin faster than a googly couple. But I'm starting to think that this is a problem because I genuinely have no interest in being in a serious, committed relationship. I am the product of one disastrous relationship- my parents have a failed marriage- I have too many friends with divorced parents, and too many jaded girlfriends. Then, as bitter icing on the lemon cake, movies like "Revolutionary Road" come along and validate all of my fears. I can't get over my cynicism by thinking that the situations that made me like I am are personal and unlikely when society is telling me that they are common to many.

This movie might win best picture, or score some Oscars for its actors, but I for one could do without it. I have enough "hopeless emptiness," thank you, and it's called real life.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Something slightly legitimate that I wrote for a class.

Living Jazz

My mother is a painter. As a young girl, I frequently crept down the stairs to my basement where she had her studio, and I would perch on the stairs watching her work. I remember watching her hands, the smell of the wood she carved, and the heat from the tiny iron stove. Most of all however, I remember the smooth sounds of jazz music hanging lazily about, lingering in the air. My mother always painted to music, and it was almost always jazz. I remember the sense of calm I felt listening to it, and the feeling of depth it carried. My mother loved Miles Davis. His melancholy, heartfelt jazz was the perfect backdrop for the scene before me. In recent years, I have found jazz to be the perfect soundtrack for many other scenarios in my life. When I think of jazz I picture wine bars with dim lighting and deep conversation in clouds of swirling cigar smoke; I picture leather chairs and mahogany floors. I think of maturation, and heartache, and Marian McPartland’s “Piano Jazz” on NPR. Jazz is a type of music so versatile that it can unobtrusively provide the background music for dinner parties while simultaneously elevating the level of the party to what some might consider “intellectual”. Jazz is that strange guest at the party who no one really knows, but everyone wants to get to know. He leans on the fireplace looking deep in thought, and though he only speaks when spoken to, he has the most interesting things to say.
Jazz arrived on the scene in the early nineteen hundreds. One can hear its influences in the folk songs of England, Scotland, France and Germany. However, it was born under the sign of race, and it is deeply entwined with the history of the African-American people. It is directly linked to the sad beat of the slave ships brought to America from West Africa, to the rhythmic accompaniments of field workers, the spiritual blues of Southern church choirs and chain gangs, and the “gandy-dancers” laying down railroad lines. Obviously these bleak origins help one understand the blues, that heart-wrenching form of jazz where oppression and lost dreams seep out of saxophones and hold pianos in the minor keys. This is the music of rainy days and bad moods and isolation. Blues-jazz is a shoulder to cry on. Knowing its origins helps explain why I get the feeling while listening to the blues that it is actually listening to me. I once had an interaction with a friend where, upon entering my apartment, she remarked “why are you listening to this depressing music?” She was referring to a song off of the John Coltrane Quartet CD I was playing. I explained to her that I was having a bad day. I was feeling lonely and misunderstood. She asked why that would make me want to listen to sad music. “Won’t that just make you feel worse?” She asked. No, it did not. Blues has a remarkably sympathetic quality. It knows your troubles. Blues doesn’t over-power its listener with its own sadness. It accompanies them perfectly. Blues-jazz understands.
There is also the other side of jazz which developed out of the same sad circumstances as the blues, but which was meant to lift people’s spirits instead of sympathize with them. In the late nineteenth century, rag-like rhythms and melodies could be heard in banjo tunes, quadrilles, minstrel songs and marches- dance music with “ragged rhythm”. This style was popularized and made mainstream by musicians like Scott Joplin with his “Maple Leaf Rag”, written in 1899. Ragtime jazz morphed into forms known as stride, be-bop, Dixieland, and perhaps the best known form, swing. This is the jazz I think of when I hear the phrase “The Roaring Twenties”. This era is characterized by musicians like Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong (the man known as “Satchmo”) and “The King”, Duke Ellington. The vocalists of this period had voices like saxophones- women like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. During the twenties, jazz fully emerged in the form of swing and big-band jazz, and it took the country by storm. The music also had a profound influence on radio, movies, literature, and the way people lived their lives. The term “The Jazz Age” implies not just a revolution in music, but also a revolution in the way people acted and thought. By listening to jazz, America started to live jazz; it is a way of life more free from conventions, more upbeat and invigorating.
All of the jazz concerts I have been to have been more like a musical conversation than a show. The band becomes an extension of the singer. The instruments emit human emotions. Together, the musical components create not just a sound but a force to be reckoned with. Jazz performers are more laid back, or so it seems to me. If they sense that the crowd is more into a particular song, they lengthen it out, improvise more, deciding the direction the song will take beat by beat. By playing on the crowd’s emotions, the crowd grows much more invested in what they are witnessing; they are no longer just an audience, they are part of the music. Even if the band is playing a song that the listeners know and like, there is improvising going on, so the crowd can’t really know what to expect. It is in this way that jazz fans throw caution to the wind and just go along with the flow of the music, wherever it might run to. This is the spirit of jazz that I believe caught America by storm during “The Roaring Twenties,” which caused women to hike up their skirts, and made the whole country dance like beings possessed.
When describing jazz, one must speak to the effect jazz has on those around it, which includes not just the audience, but also the performers. My first “jam session” happened several years ago. A musician friend of mine owned a not-so-chic loft in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. The loft was on the top floor of a very old building right next to the EL tracks. His roommates were musicians as well, and due to the overpowering noise generated by the trains passing by day and night, they had to create a room in their apartment insulated from the chaos. They called it “The Womb”. For dramatic effect, the light in this room was generated by a single red bulb. Somehow, in this tiny, closet-sized space, they fit an old upright piano, a full drum set, several electric and acoustic guitars, a few amplifiers, and two standing microphones. As musicians tend to do, we all migrated towards the instruments after dinner. I took my seat at the piano, and we had among us a skilled drummer, a guitarist and a bassist. We all started messing around on our respective instruments, creating a cacophony of sound. I suggested that we try and play a song together, but coming from all different musical backgrounds, we couldn’t come up with any one tune that we all knew how to play, so we decided to just “jam” in the key of G.
I was not as comfortable with the concept of “jamming” as my friends. My training in piano had been almost entirely classical. My musical training involved sitting up straight, playing exactly the right note at the exact second it was supposed to be played. It was very hard for me to wrap my brain around the concepts which are the heart and soul of jamming, like syncopation and improvisation. I knew the notes within each scale by heart, but I had never played them in any form dissimilar to Bach’s “Variations”, as warm-ups before practicing my pieces. Jamming was like teaching my fingers how to move for the first time. I had to take my hands back to the beginning, say good-bye to convention and tradition, and figure out how to play with my instincts instead of my mind. The sounds that I created in the womb were spontaneous and free. This was the first time I had ever just gone nuts on a keyboard. My brain shut off and all that existed were my ears and my hands. The music came pouring out of my finger tips, flying up and down the keyboard, mixing trills and chords and rhythms, and playing off of the other musicians. My notes danced with the notes from the other instruments, and somehow they all came together, and the music was jazz. We switched out of G and into C, F and D, in messy transitions that somehow sounded just fine. I discovered a side of me I didn’t even know existed. When the guitarist suggested we take a break, I looked up to find that three hours had passed, it was one in the morning, and I was covered with sweat and out of breath.
When I left the loft shortly after, ears still buzzing, I stepped out into a changed world. The night was alive around me; the street lights were brighter, and the city was warmly inviting me out into the evening. It was then that I realized for the first time what “The Jazz Age” really meant. It was a revolution in sound that couldn’t help but forge a revolution in thought. Jazz is the most human form of music. It is music anthropomorphized. Jazz musicians give their songs life by playing them and this human life force is so strong that people cannot help but be shaken by it. Jazz shakes us to dance and it shakes us to think, but mostly, it shakes us to feel alive.