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Cornelia McNamara

35, East Village 

Real-life role: Self-employed floral designer and event planner 
Starring in: An Officer and a Gentleman

Which wins: New York or Chicago? “There’s a richer lifestyle here; my existence in New York was kind of narrow,” says the head of Cornelia McNamara Flowers. Following a childhood in Chicago, high school at Francis Parker, and a B.A. from the School of the Art Institute, McNamara was itching to get out of town. But ten years and several apprenticeships later, she was homesick. “I came back [in December 2005] in pursuit of the good life,” says McNamara, who spends her summers working at a children’s art school in Wisconsin. “I have time to recycle my extra materials, and I belong to a community garden. There’s so much more space and time here to live your life in a decent way.”

Send Cornelia an e-mail

In a dream world, who would you write like? Carolyn Chute. Dance like? My Georgian folk-dance teacher. And sing like? Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

What did you think you’d be when you grew up? A fabulous bohemian.

What’s your remedy for a tough day? Netflix.

What’s in your pockets right now? A Jerusalem artichoke, from gardening.

Fill in the blanks: I’d rather have a significant other who could tell a good story than speak another language.

What do you do every day? Eat well and often, and imagine a rosy future.

Favorite movie hero? Geoffrey Jellineck, the art teacher from Strangers with Candy, hands down.

Most quotable movie line? “Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in,” from The Godfather: Part III.

Last movie that made you cry? Stomp the Yard.

Most recommended book? The Good Life, by Helen and Scott Nearing.

Name one thing that’s overrated: Reality. There is a lot of fun in exaggeration.

Who are you a secret groupie for? Amy Sedaris.

When you’re alone, who do you play air guitar to? Melissa Etheridge.

What songs will be played at your wedding? Still the Same, by Bob Seger, and lots of seriously embarrassing songs for dancing, like Rob Thomas and Santana’s Smooth.

What’s your go-to homemade meal? BLTs with tomatoes from the garden.

Fill in the blanks: Vacations are for adventure, not resting.

You pull a Ferris Bueller and call in sick on a beautiful July day. What do you do? Go outdoor picnicking and thrifting.

What Chicago neighborhoods have you lived in? South Loop, Humboldt Park, Old Town, Austin Island, and now East Village. I loved the South Loop, but that was in the nineties, when it was totally empty. I lived in a big loft that was an old Oldsmobile factory, and I used to have roller-skating parties.

How long is too long to spend looking for a parking spot? Twenty minutes.

Teacher’s pet or class clown? Class clown.

Childhood nickname? Nelly.

Name one thing you have in your house from your childhood: I love to throw stuff out. My mom is the big hoarder.

And one embarrassing thing you hide when guests are coming over: My weird hippie house shoes.

Describe the state of your closet: It’s in flux.

What’s your power outfit? My power color is fuchsia: piqué, dotted silk, suede, burlap—it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s fuchsia.

How much is too much to pay for jeans? More than $150; that’s the cap.

Last time you jumped up and cheered? Yesterday [in April], my birthday. I went to the zoo and the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

Last time you told a lie? A week ago.

Last time you Googled yourself? This morning. I don’t have the link to my own Web site.

Worst advice you’ve been given? How does that poem go? “Work like you don’t need the money, / love like you’ve never been hurt, / dance like no one is watching . . .”

If you could give someone a talking-to, who would it be? Parents who ride bikes with kids who aren’t wearing helmets.

What do you do when a server at a restaurant brings you a horrible dish? Gently send it back.

Gutsiest thing you’ve ever done? I made a successful citizen’s arrest on the 4 train in Manhattan.

Do you have any tattoos? No.

But if you did? An egg salad sandwich on my arm.

What time is your alarm clock set for? Seven-thirty a.m.

And how many times do you hit the snooze button? Recently, like, three times.

Dive bar or nightclub? Dive bar.

Drinks before 5 p.m.: always, sometimes, never? Never.

How do you show someone you’re not interested? [Employ] the urban do-not-engage: cheerfully ignore.

What did you do on your best date? Rode bikes in New Orleans.

Where would you like to get engaged? I wouldn’t want to be proposed to in a restaurant. It just doesn’t seem like it would be romantic to have people eating around me; it seems too public. I’d rather it be some place dramatic, like on a cliff somewhere, some place natural. Some place wild and unusual outdoors.

What makes someone a Chicagoan? A subtle blend of worldliness and authenticity.

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