These Are The Crazies In Your Neighborhood

Since it’s been about 5000 degrees in the shade here in the upper Midwest, I’ve been spending a lot of time around the house. “The house” is actually our dumpy condo. We’ve lived here for just over 12 years and have seen some…um…things. Things that make me wonder if every place is this weird or if we are just “lucky”. Like the people who hate me, the old lady who thought everyone was a communist or a gypsy, or the lady who was led out in cuffs for being a Craigslist prostitute. Oh, you should know, my husband and I nickname everyone and we are not very creative about it.

When we first moved in, we had a neighbor across the hall, Ann (AKA- The Old Lady Across The Hall). She left Czechoslovakia in the 60’s. I am guessing that is the reason she suspected everyone of being a communist, but I’m not sure why she thought everyone was a gypsy. Seriously, every time someone new would move in, she’d corner us by the mailbox and in a conspiratorial voice whisper, “Have you seen the new people? Communists. Gypsies, too, maybe.”  One time I asked her how she knew a communist on sight. She gave me a knowing look- like this  -and said, “I can tell.”

One evening my husband came in looking slightly traumatized. He said he came up the stairs and saw The Old Lady Across The Hall standing in the middle of the hallway sans top. He said it was like when a naked little kid runs into the room and you have no idea where to look. She said, “Oh, I thought you were my friend, Marie.” She didn’t move, didn’t put her top on. Just stood in the hallway in her bra while my husband fumbled with his keys trying to look every where but at her. A few weeks later, the people kitty corner to us (whose balcony faces our couch) started hanging out on their balcony in their underwear. They were younger, taller and slimmer, but it was like watching an American Apparel ad come to life- very uncomfortable for the viewer.

Underneath the American Apparel People, we have The Dog People. The Dog People hate us because 12 years ago “someone” complained to the office about their dog barking every morning at 5 AM and we got the blame. Okay, it totally was us, but all that happened was the office sent them a letter. They didn’t get a fine or anything. Yet, to this day they hold a grudge about this to the point of going way out of their way to avoid us. If they can’t avoid us, we get death stares, like last week in Target. I won’t lie that it sort of bothers me that people who don’t even know me don’t like me. Once you get to know me, there’s plenty of reasons, but they don’t know any of them. The Dog Man half of Dog People really has a special disdain for me in particular. I ran into him once in the parking area and it was clear he was avoiding me by walking in the grass way out of his way. It started to get to me and I just decided I was going to kill him with kindness. So I yelled, “HI! HOW ARE YOU????” in my loudest, perkiest voice. If there had been a ceiling, Dog Man would have hit it. He mumbled, “Hi…good.” I yelled back, “That’s great!! Merry Christmas!!!” (Ed. note- it actually was Christmas time, I wasn’t shouting random holidays.) He mumbled something and walked very quickly to his door. I giggled about that one for a while. I still do this every so often, but he’s getting a lot faster to the door.

But if you’ve gotten this far, I know you’re really looking for info about the Craigslist prostitute. Okay, she moved in under The Old Lady Across The Hall, who, of course, thought she was a gypsy communist, but we found out she was quite the capitalist (*rimshot* thank you, I’ll be here all week). The first thing I noticed about her, was if I said hello to her, she’d barely acknowledge me, but if my husband said hello she was all smiles. If he said hello and I wasn’t around, she wanted to chat with him all day.

My exact expression after realizing what Dr. Ho was up to

Not. Cool. Since she claimed to be a medical student at Loyola University, I nicknamed her Dr. Ho. Not my most mature nicknaming, but they can’t all be as creative as “Dog Guy”. We started to notice that she was home a lot, even for a student. Her condo faced the parking area and coming in one day, I saw she had moved her bed into her living room right in front of the patio door. “Hmmm…that’s odd,” innocent me thought. But she was weird in other ways, like putting her Halloween decorations up before Labor Day and breaking the washing machine by trying to wash a suitcase in it, so I let it go. It was much harder to ignore the steady stream of sketchy dudes coming and going from her condo. Then one day, the cops came and she was escorted to the county lock up for partaking in the world’s oldest profession. She went to jail for a couple of years and the whole bit.

Last summer we were bringing in groceries and I saw someone a couple of cars down who I thought was our next door neighbor and said hi. The woman said hi back in a, “Why are you talking to me?” kind of way. She started to walk away and whipped back around and said, “I know you! You live upstairs, right?” Then I saw it wasn’t our neighbor, but this woman had bleached blonde hair, super clowny make up (for real, it was some Whatever Happened to Baby Jane stuff) and a too-tight dress. Yep, Dr. Ho was back. She was just visiting apparently. Why did that last sentence conjure up an image of the Monopoly board, “Just Visiting/Jail” corner?

Anyway, I could go on all day with stories. Like how Dog Man flirts with all the older ladies in his building. Or the guys across the hall who look like modern day versions of Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd’s “Two Wild and Crazy Guys”. Or the time I accidentally scared the crap out of the five year old next door. But those are for another day.

Have a great week and thanks for reading!

Dealing With Captain Bringdown and the Buzz Kills

There is someone in my life I will call Captain Bringdown. He doesn’t intentionally try to crush my dreams, yet it happens. Repeatedly. Despite this, Captain Bringdown isn’t a bad guy and I generally like him (don’t worry, if you are reading this, you are definitely not my Captain Bringdown). I think a lot of us might have a Capt. Bringdown in our lives -someone we like, respect  and cannot get away from that doesn’t realize how much their words or actions can sting.

I think the reason we let the Captain Bringdowns of the world effect us so much is because it’s like that voice in our head that tells us we suck and can’t do anything right has suddenly sprouted arms and legs and is walking around in the real world. Because if we didn’t believe that there was at least a sliver of truth to what he’s saying, we’d blow it off completely.

As my readers know (both of them), I’m forever a bundle of anxiety and the Captain Bringdown situation was not helping things any. He’s not going anywhere any time soon, so I  realized I had to figure out a way to deal. I remembered a story in some book (that, of course, I cannot find anywhere) about a small mental health study. In this study, they told a bunch of schizophrenics to pretend to be non-schizophrenics to the best of their abilities. They found that the patients reported that while pretending to be normal, their symptoms didn’t completely go away, but were lessened and, in some cases, lessened a great deal. Granted this brings up a whole host of issues regarding mental illness, but that’s not what we are concerned about here. The important part of the story is that they pretended to be normal and their symptoms were relieved.

So, with this in mind, I asked myself, “What would a normal, non-anxiety prone person do with Capt. Bringdown?” I think they would just ignore him. We make our own paths and most of the time it’s those paths that aren’t perfect or smooth that are the most meaningful.  Maybe Captain Bringdown will be right or maybe he won’t, but he’s got no more or less insight then anyone else in my life.

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is, everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you … the minute that you understand that you can poke life … that you can change it, you can mould it … that’s maybe the most important thing.- Steve Jobs

What I Did On Summer Vacation or “I Like Mustard!!1!!”

Me, around 7 years old, at Great America. I still bite my lip like that when I’m really excited.

I’ve noticed a pattern ever since starting school. Before every break I make a mental list of everything I’m going to do on break. It’s things like clean out the basement, organize the second bedroom we use for storage, donate my old clothes and various DIY projects. Then break comes and I consider it a major achievement if I’m dressed before noon and we don’t run out of forks before I finally do the dishes. And the list remains undone. But, hey, it’s summer break and as an adult, how many times do we actually get to take a break?

One thing I have done is sign up at Tumblr. It’s an awesome place for creatives.  I resisted it for a while, because I figured it was no different then Twitter. The thing that has always bothered me about Twitter is it almost feels competitive. It’s as if people don’t really care about the interaction, they just want followers. Because what’s the use of thinking, “I really DO like mustard!!!” if you can’t share it with 5000 followers, right?  It’s still a good place to connect and get information quickly, but it’s hard not to feel lost in the shuffle.

True there are some “I like mustard” type comments on Tumblr, but right away in searching through the “design” and “illustration” tags, I was inspired. Maybe it’s because, unlike Twitter, with Tumblr the work is right there in your face, unabbreviated? I don’t know. But what I do know is that scrolling through the different posts, I immediately thought of the book, Steal Like An Artist. “Oh, I am going to steal that. OMG I am going to steal that, too. OMG!! STEALING!!!” I don’t even know if I have any followers and I don’t think I care. I’d welcome some, but it’s great just to surround myself with all these things that inspire me to create, laugh, and think that it doesn’t seem to matter if anyone is looking at my work or not. I guess the larger lesson is social media is what you make of it?

Back to school for summer semester on Tuesday. I’m taking typography and I cannot wait. Only one more class after this one and I will be done with all the 100 level design classes. Me a year ago wouldn’t believe that was possible and the little girl in the picture certainly would be shocked to hear that in…um…..more then a few years she’d be voluntarily going to summer school.

If you’d like to follow me on Tumblr, I’m at Beth Brousil Photograph and Design  and my Twitter is gigglybeth_. I promise not to tweet about mustard*. Have a great week!

(*this is a lie)

What I Do When I’m Bored or How to Avoid Housework

As I’ve said over and over, music inspires me. So when I’m “bored” (A.K.A avoiding responsibility) I create imaginary music posters or  album covers. That sounds so much better then “music geek fan girl art”. These are uncritiqued and aren’t my best work, but they were fun to create and it keeps my skills sharp over break.  Of course, the first one had to be for Ray LaMontagne. The base photo is the windmill at the Du Page County fairgrounds in Wheaton, IL. I like how the texture came out, because it sort of looks like leather.

Thank God for Amazon.com’s $5 albums, because if it wasn’t for them, I probably would not have found Trampled by Turtles. They may be a little too bluegrassy for some, but they have these beautifully sad songs that make me want to get in the car for a very long road trip. They also have these instrumentals and the only thing I can say about them is, damn, can these guys play! I did two pieces inspired by them.

The first one (above), is based on what I felt about the song, “Alone.”  This photo was used on a creative commons license from Flickr user, County Lemonade (click for the original) and then I reprocessed it. The song made me think of a long, dusty road trip. Anyone who’s ever been on one of those long road trips knows that the only things you can really do is listen to the radio and contemplate things. My goal was to make it look like a found photograph.  Here is a link to the song: Alone, Trampled by Turtles  You should totally listen to it, because it’s awesome.

The second is based on the song, “Beautiful.” I did take this photo and layered it with some textures. But here’s the weird part. In looking for a full-length version of the song, “Beautiful” to add to this post, I found this 90 second preview for the song. It sort of blew me away, because the first 30 seconds it was wheat stalks and wildflowers. It looked like it was my Flickr photostream come to life. I swear I never saw it before about an hour ago. The song is hauntingly, well…beautiful. Here’s the link to the full length version: Beautiful, Trampled by Turtles. 

There you have it, a small sampling of the things I do while I am avoiding domesticity. I’d love one day to actually do these for a living, but for now they’ll have to be my distraction from real life. Thanks for reading and have a great week!!

***6/3 Update*** I did a version 2.0 of the “Alone” TbT design. I really like the type on this version much better then the previous.