Our reflection in Cloud Gate (the Bean) in Millennium Park.
Our reflection in Cloud Gate (the Bean) in Millennium Park.

My friend Mindy came to town from Portland for a visit this past week. Though we talk and text regularly, I hadn’t seen her since she came to town to support me and attend Ken’s soiree in June of 2011. We met in 2003 when I got a job at a chamber of commerce where she was already working. It was a friendship that was so easy to slip into–like a comfortable pair of slippers. She’s fits into the category of women who are intelligent, kind and caring. And she holds a place in my esteem next to a select few.

Because of the two-hour time difference, Mindy was often my go-to resource during Ken’s illness–and after. When he was sleeping and I was struggling, texts would sometimes lead to conversations where she patiently listened as I rambled or blubbered, releasing my deepest fears of what I felt the future so grimly held for me. It was occasions like this where friendships, usually created under “normal” circumstances are somehow tempered to be even stronger after enduring one of life’s cruelest jokes.

One of the hallmarks of our friendship is Mindy’s ability to read me and situations, and how they affect me. Throughout our friendship in moments of stress she found ways to simply situations and make things easier for me, somehow relieving the pressure. Her ability to distill situations in a way I find elusive has never ceased to be a great source of comfort for me. On the more light-hearted side, another hallmark is our addiction to arguing and proving each other wrong in any given argument which inevitably ends in uproarious laughter.

Then there is the “language.”

Hamming it up.
Hamming it up.

What we couldn’t possibly have foreseen was somewhere along the way, a frenetic speech pattern developed between us that neither of us were completely aware of–including particular manic hand gestures and squinted faced expressions. From my point of view, I was just mimicking the way she talked. It wasn’t until our husbands pointed out that after spending time with each other–or even talking on the phone–we had an accent–of sorts–that they found altogether annoying. It at my 40th birthday party in 2008–where Mindy herself was the first of many surprises Ken had in store for me–that it was revealed to her by Ken that I didn’t normally talk “that way.” Both of us were in utter shock that the other didn’t normally speak the way we do when we’re together. Once we had a chance to talk about it, we both swore (and still do) we learned our “speak” from the other. All these years while I thought I was mimicking her, she thought she was mimicking me.

On her previous visits we haven’t done much Chicago stuff. So on this one, I planned to get her out and about to show her the city I love so much–without feeling too rushed about it. One afternoon was lunch, some meandering around the shops of Lincoln Square followed by a movie. Another day I wanted to show her one of Ken’s favorite destinations–and one he first introduced me to–Garfield Park Conservatory. As he taught me, it’s especially fun to go there with the ground is covered with snow, to venture into the steamy palm room or arid desert room. It’s like a micro-vacation, and it was fun to share with her.

@ the Garfield Park Conservatory
@ the Garfield Park Conservatory

A few years ago, she coordinated a visit to coincide for the AIDS Walk I had assembled a team for. We had a gorgeous walk along the downtown lake front, but didn’t take the time to see anything else. So this trip we headed back downtown to visit “The Bean” in Millennium Park. I think I’d only seen “Cloud Gate” from a distance. After taking our photo in the reflection, we walked under it. It was my first time, and was surprised by the funhouse-mirrorishness of its underbelly. It made Mindy dizzy, so we had to move on–not before I laughed my ass off at her. I know. I know. I’m a good friend.

On her last evening we talked about our weird speech pattern and gesticulations, and what an observer might think if they saw our heated, rapid-fire exchange, pointing and gesturing followed by unmistakable laughter. While they might be confused by what we were saying, our affection and connection would be unmistakable.

Thanks for coming to visit, Min!



0 thoughts on “A Little Portlandia Weirdness Comes to the Windy City

  1. OMG first I can’t believe you posted that picture… Wait, I can. Second, as always I had a blast with you. Thank you for having me. And just to share the robot tears around, ya B. You are my true sound advice and I’m so lucky to have you in my life. Your ass always knows how to put things to make me think. And that makes me a better person, which is a true gift. Also, there’s no one else that gets my brand of wrong like you do. 🙂

  2. This is so both YOU. So glad that you have remained fast friends/family. Friendships like that are special. Funny.. I never noticed the weird speech patterns, etc. Doesn’t everyone talk that way and gesticulate that way?

    Hugs and love to you both.

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