Living the American Dream

Thursday, August 11, 2011

American Graffiti Naperville Style

From the time we first arrived in Naperville, I would wander around downtown admiring all the art works we have here. As I became more involved in the community I decided what I really needed was a statue to myself on the Riverwalk. What I will say is "be careful what you wish for". I don't think I'll ever get one of those, but this summer Grumpy and I are making our mark by appearing in the latest piece of Century Art Walk art, Naperville Loves a Parade. The photo above could be a collector's item in years to come. It was the artist's first attempt at me, but now painted over.

This is very cool. It's Naperville artist Dick Locher with his alter ego Dick Tracy. Love it!

Grumpy and I wanted to be known forever more as that eccentric British couple, hence the pose.
I'd also like to be remembered as that cute blonde who never looked a day over 21 but even artists aren't that creative.

Here we are with some of our newest closest 'friends'. Who says you need Facebook to have friends posted on your wall?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The New Oprah

I'm going to let you into a little secret. I have a new project. I'm to be the new Oprah! Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating just a little. Actually even that's an exaggeration. The only thing Oprah and I have in common is we both have H, A and R in our names, although not necessarily in the same order.

The truth of the matter is I'm working on a program that maybe aired on our local TV station, NCTV. Another exaggeration. It will be aired but they have to approve a few episodes first so technically they may hate it. But they won't.

I've been working on this since last September. The only reason I'm mentioning it now is because we're going to begin filming within the next few weeks.

So, I hear you ask, what's it all about? Thanks for asking.

It's called The Ladies Room. Overall myself and any other local women I can find will be examining the topic "can Naperville women have it all?" To do this I'll be focusing on different topics that the average woman thinks is necessary to complete her life.

Now reading this back it actually looks pretty boring, but it won't be. First of all in the world of local TV I have overall control, as long as we don't talk about anything you'd actually want to hear about, like sex and wife swapping. (Still working on that).

Fortunately I do have an ace producer to keep me under control, who unlike myself, knows exactly what he's doing.

I believe the show will be good for Naperville women, because they deserve their own TV show, by which I do not mean some reality claptrap. It'll be good for my six fans, in which I include my dog, because they'll be able to watch me on TV and on the internet around the world.

The Ladies Room should allow me to present much of what I've done over the past four years in a new medium. (Or extra large). I aim to be a sounding block for local women, presenting their stories in a caring and gentle way.

But most of all it will give me the chance to be bloody hilarious, totally self deprecating and a fine example of British eccentrity at it's best.

Please 'like' The Ladies Room Naperville' on facebook so you can keep up with what's happening. The show will be interactive, so I need viewers to post and communicate on there.

Finally an insight into why I am doing this.

In January I will no longer have the right to work in this country. My new project is actually extremely hard work - a full time job in fact. But it is a voluntary position. Not one person on the show gets paid. To the contrary I've already invested quite a good proportion of my pitifully low salary on it.

I could sit in a heap and cry about how terrible life is, how I can live in the U.S. but not work. I could spend my day baking and alas eating cookies. I could, and probably will, volunteer all over town. Since I've been here, I've let my work define me. So just because I will not 'technically' be working, I'm not going to let it stop me from achieving my dreams.

I quite fancy being a TV star, so I'm going to be. It won't be paid, no one will watch it, it won't make me famous. But it will be a service to the women of Naperville and by golly am I going to have fun with it!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Something To Get Her Teeth Into

Daisy has a new leash on life now we've bought a 20' line to tether her in the front yard. But sometimes even the cutest dog allows her halo to slip....

"All the better to bite you with, my dear."

"With a bit of luck I can get this right over my head." (She did too).

"Is this what they mean by being in the inner circle?"

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Home Sweet Home?

I can’t fail to notice that of all the reporters the Naperville Sun could have chosen to cover Naperville’s Independence Day celebrations, they chose a Brit. I like to think it is because you are not quite as free from us as you would like, but the reality is that every American would rather be at home celebrating with their families than working.
I’ve been observing Americans at work and play for more than four years since moving here from London. I particularly love 4th July. It’s not just that it celebrates your freedom from the British, for which you’re very welcome by the way. It’s the way you celebrate. Some countries mark their independence with military parades. Here in Naperville you celebrate as only Midwesterners can - with outdoor cook outs, barrels of beer, loud music and fireworks.
Even at a giant four day party for 250,000 of your closest friends, the only crime is irritation for those who live within a two mile radius of Knoch Knolls Park and a couple of vegetarians.
No one does patriotism like the Americans. From the Central Park Municipal Band Concert on Thursday night to the fireworks on 4th July, it makes me feel proud to be an American when I’m actually English. I chant the Pledge of Allegiance and applaud war veterans. Looking at such displays from across the ocean I thought it was all rather corny, and singularly unBritish, but when you’re in the center of it you cannot fail to be moved.
So I’m actually delighted to have covered two years of Ribfest now. I don’t have family here for a back yard cook out. It gives me somewhere to be where I am right in the thick of things. Much as like my position as observer, sometimes it’s good to get caught up a little too.
It also reminds me, as if I needed reminding, that being part of these celebrations is not my right as it is yours. At this time of year I know you all remember those who died for the freedom of this country and those who are serving still. I am fighting a different battle. One of visas and red tape that I hope to eventually win, but not without some huge personal sacrifices.
So while I still can, I’m happy to share your celebrations and shed a tear through those oh so patriotic moments. Because one day I’ll be able to sing God Bless America knowing it is my permanent home sweet home.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Happy 5th July!

Here's Grumpy and me at Ribfest. Thanks to my friend Gill for photo. If she'd have got it to me earlier it would have been Happy 4th July!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Their Big Fat Gay Jewish Wedding

The advantage of being an independent synagogue means you can pretty much make up your own rules. We've seen a lot of different things at Congregation Beth Shalom, but none more special than the wedding we attended yesterday. It had all the trappings of a traditional Jewish wedding, except with two grooms. The beautiful ceremony began with some beautiful harp music from Annette Bjorling.

Here come the page boys....

Long time blog readers will be interested to know that Scott was Moses in Holy Neuteronomy! Fortunately this time he appeared without the beard!

Here's his husband to be Josh, with his parents Jeff and Eileen.

In orthodox Jewish weddings the bride circles the groom seven times. This time each groom circled the other three times.

Under the chupah the grooms hold up their rings before exchanging them.
At the end of the ceremony they both trod on glasses. Traditionally this symbolizes remembering the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and all that is broken in the world. For this couple, they remembered that life for many other same gender couples is not so easy.

"Hey, give me a hand up before you eat all the cake!"

Hava Nagilah, don't mind if I do. After the ceremony traditional dancing with the newlyweds carried aloft on chairs with a handkerchief between them.

Blogger's Note: This was a religious ceremony only. Scott and Josh are not having a civil union although they have recently become legal in Illinois. Instead they plan to get married in New York State where they live and gay marriage has just become legalized.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

A Cool Job for Hot Weather - America's Chefs

Being a newspaper reporter means I work when no one else wants on a sweltering 4th July weekend. Not that I'm complaining. Just occasionally I get to meet some really cool people - like these chefs from Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
Even better my interview was videoed by America's Chefs for publicity on You Tube. Anyone would think I was preparing for my own TV show or something...
Read my report for the Naperville Sun below.

In the 1940s comedian Bob Hope famously entertained the troops with comedy and music. Today’s military are just as like to be entertained by a new brand of traveling show – America’s Chefs. The non profit travels the world bringing a tasty recipe of home cooking served hot from a barrel of laughs. This weekend America’s Chefs are bringing stars from Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to add to the menu at Ribfest.
America’s Chefs was cooked up three years ago by Christian Vaughan. His own particular tour of duty has included Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as military bases in Europe and the U.S.
“Diners, Drive-ins and Dives has visited between four and 500 locations so far so we have a large pool of chefs to choose from,” he said at Knoch Park Saturday. “These guys are real characters and they are all donating their time to support the troops. They understand the hardship of servicemen who have to go for months at a time without seeing their families. So they are prepared to give up seeing their own families for a little while. They know it is important to give back.”
Vaughan described this weekend’s crew as “ready to go chefs in a box”.
“It’s fantastic to have ribbers here working, but how cool is it to have celebrity chefs too?” he said.
Among the demonstrations at the specially constructed arena in the north side of the park will be a hands on experiences for families. Sarah Simington will be showing children and parents how to make safe healthy snacks without the use of hot stoves or sharp knives.
Darwell Yeager, of Darwell’s Caf in Long Beach, Mississippi, will be giving visitors a taste of the South with his crawfish etouffee.
“We had difficulties finding crawfish in this area,” he admitted, “so we had it brought in from New Orleans.”
Yeager opened his family business just 28 days before Hurricane Katrina struck.
“We were the only restaurant in the area that survived,” he said. “For six to eight months we provided food for free and used a backroom as a refugee camp. I had to drive ten miles north to pick up supplies.”
Yeager said appearing with Guy Fieri on Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives had a ‘ripple effect.’
“It’s given us credibility,” he said. “We call ourselves the only family friendly honky tonk on the coast.”
For Mike Hardin, it’s all about the burgers. The owner of Hodad’s in San Diego even has a burger tattooed on his leg.
“We started out as a little hole in the wall,” he said. “Now we have 60 employees and people line up half an hour before we open. For us it’s all about service. Our employees have to work up towards being waiters. Everyone has to start not as a bus boy but by cooking the burgers.”
Hardin will be demonstrating his bacon cheeseburgers.
“I never liked those two little strips of bacon on a burger,” he confessed. “I let 15lbs of bacon boil for an hour and a half. Then I make strips into patties to lie on top of the burger and the cheese. I tell customers they are not here for their health they are here for a greasy run down your arm hamburger. It’s not life or death, its lunch or dinner.”