Notes from a Chicago Saturday morning

I take the long route to the bus stop to stretch my legs and simply be outside. The brick house on the corner has its windows open, jazz puncturing the screen. The helicopter seeds dance in the early morning breeze. The music sounds how waking up before 9 a.m. makes me feel. Adult, aware, kinda sad, mostly hopeful, prone to chaos.

**

Apartment for rent. They’ve bumped the price down from $1,400 to $1,100 a month and put up a black and white computer drawing of the floor plan. They call it a “loft” but it’s just your garden variety studio garden apartment with one cool window. And two exits. All apartments here are supposed to have two of those. Just in case. Chicago is also adult, aware, kinda sad, mostly hopeful, prone to chaos.

**

I wait for the bus to pick me up, determined not to check my phone again to see how long my wait will be. It was six minutes, like, five minutes ago. I stand with my bookbag at my feet, craning my neck down the street like a child waiting for a beloved parent to pick her up from school.

**

The Chicago public transportation system is my favorite thing about this city, occasional pee smell, long waits, and deranged passenger aside. I sold my car as soon as I got to this city. In a place like nowhere-but-everywhere-at-once, a place like Chicago, independence takes new forms foreign to me before now.

I go to the back of the bus, where the seats are elevated and I can watch everyone inside and everything that passes by. In grade school, the cool kids, which meant the older kids, always got first dibs on the seats in the back. You could share secrets and candy and/or/sometimes kisses better back there. I used to ride home from elementary school with high schoolers. I was always in the front but would try little ploys to reveal my maturity to them, with a subtlety that belied my desperation to be like them.

In third grade I became proficient at writing in cursive, which seemed so elegant and adulty to me. So adulty, in fact, I would sit on the edge of my bouncing, hot plastic seat and write in my notebook little stories using cursive’s curly cues. The story I was writing didn’t matter. What mattered was that the older kids who got off the bus before me, with their perfume trail and confident stomps, would take note of my writing and think, “Oh she knows cursive! That means she must be of a certain age! Shall I invite her to the back of the bus tomorrow to tell her all my magical secrets?”

Imagine feeling like you can’t wait to grow up. Try to remember how far away where you are now once seemed.

**

The library smells like books and coffee. The air tastes like poster tape and the back of a stamp. It just opened and is yet to fill with the heavy exhaust of exhausted humans. Libraries are the last real place you can be indoors as long as you want and use the restroom one/two/five times without someone asking you to leave or pay for something. Well, except maybe now Starbucks.

As I walk to the bookshelf of holds, where tomes peer toward the entrance like kids waiting for a beloved parent to pick them up, I pass a little boy who is sitting at the public computer. I catch him staring at me and I smile. He is dressed in red gym shorts and a black tee loose around his belly that’s the shape of childhood, a malleable shape of something arrived too early waiting for its moment to stretch out and settle in.  

He reminds me of my husband, what my husband may have looked like as a boy, and I recall a quote from a documentary we watched together once. “Adults are just children who survived.” Maurice Sendak said that, I think.

I pass the boy again as I leave and wonder if he’s pulled up the news site he’s looking at in hopes someone like me, maybe me specifically, the cool old woman in the halter top who smiled at him, will notice… Will notice and will think, “That gentleman must be older than I thought, what with his well-curated morning news perusal?! Perhaps I shall invite him to the back of the bus and teach him cursive.”

**

I take the 80 bus three neighborhoods east and get out one mile from my next destination. I start to walk.

A man passes me and says, “Beautiful girl on a beautiful day,” and I don’t hate it, despite the “Everybody Dance Now” blaring from the phone in his pocket. That’s not a euphemism.

Another man passes me talking on his phone. “Is it diaper time?” he says to the person on the other end. I pretend he’s not talking about a kid and giggle.

Women in sundresses.

Dogs with dopey grins.

Breezes with a lick of lakeshore’s chill.

Sweat softening every place where my skin melts into fabric.

Summer has officially begun.

**

I was reading recently about lobsters fighting for dominance and how, when one loses very badly, his brain basically dissolves, unable to cope with what has happened to him and adjust to the new state of things. I think of this passage as I watch a woman wearing a trashbag push a shopping cart down the sidewalk. The neighborhood I currently live in has a man like this who’s always hanging around a particular intersection, usually screaming indecipherable things. Justin and I call him Yelling Guy and we and the other neighbors generally let him go about his business of scaring people who haven’t been there before and walking harmlessly up and down the street. I wonder what monster melted their brains, who or what hurt them.

**

The first fews months of college, which marked my first extended stay away from a place I spent 18 years of my life, I kept seeing people I thought I knew walking around campus. On the quad, in the dorm, right outside class. “Oh it’s so-and-so! What are they doing here?”

My mind connected these strangers’ facial similarities to people I’d seen all year long, every year until now. It was like seeing ghosts.

I used to live in this neighborhood where the 80 bus has deposited me. I see some of the same people: the woman who lives in the brownstone walk-up doing her daily walk, a family herding its toddler sheep to temple, the cashiers at Walgreen’s. I keep an eye out for the weiner dog in the weiner dog-sized Cubs hat, a staple of these sidewalks.

**

And there! Right as I’m about to head to the bus back home, through the windows surrounding the bar stool where I’m finishing up lunch, I see him. The neighborhood weiner dog who wears the Cubs hat. A fan favorite. A happy boy. A good boy. Tongue out, saying hi with a waddle-wobble strut that teeter-totters his little body left to right like a puppy pendulum: Same. Old. Same. Old. Different. Older.

**

My time spent watching the hatted weiner dog and sitting in the good feelings of my good fortune of having spotted him in this neighborhood overrun by regulars and tourists alike, I remember I packed some shoes to take to the cobbler up the street.

I hand over my heels and sign my name on the receipt. It’s the only time I write in cursive anymore.

Words on the Street: May 19, 2018

Ad coming soon.

Find the dick!

You do you, wall.

Black Velvet, White Jesus is the name of my new fake band. 

As seen at the AIC. 

As seen waiting in the dressing room line at Forever 21. I’m a creep.

So hot, in fact, we can’t waste any time doing spell check! To be fair, it makes sense to think extremely would start with “extra.”

This building is a physical manifestation of me in relationships in my early 20s. “YES. NO. YES. NO.”

I just love this for some reason…

As seen at the SafeHouse restaurant in Milwaukee. Everyone picks their own agent name. I keep giggling at this one.

Rudy Not For Sale.

To do: Lavender Cola at The Gage in Chicago

Like most wonderful surprises, I found The Gage by chance. Well, by Google keyword, which counts for chance in the 21st century.

A friend was visiting Chicago to run a race and she wanted to meet up for brunch while in town. I quickly Googled “restaurant + downtown Chicago.” Ha! And a star was born.

The Gage is a lovely contemporary white tablecloth restaurant that’s my go-to for elegant but accessible fine dining. It’s right across from Millennium Park, and all the various attractions located within, and walking distance from the Art Institute, which is my other sure bet for giving visitors a fun taste of the town without boring myself to death.

Example: We took our Cleveland cousin Maria to The Gage, where she unknowingly ordered a very carnivorous breakfast. She didn’t need to eat again until dinner.
We worked off the meat sweats by heading across the street for the Chicago visitor must-have: A photo at The Bean.
Then we walked the skybridge to the Art Institute.

My favorite thing about The Gage, other than the location and the food, is that I can make reservations on Open Table. The place is cavernous, so I never have trouble saving a seat, but they’re super busy during peak hours and it’s worth it to make a reservation just in case.

Since moving to Chicago I’ve become a reservation queen! I don’t always need them, but it brings me peace of mind that I won’t have to wait for a long time or waste my time commuting to a place that can’t serve me.

But for all my visits to The Gage (I went there for my bachelorette party and they gave me free dessert! WITH a candle! Not all heroes wear capes—some wear aprons!) and all my complaining that not enough restaurants and bars offer cool alcohol-free drinks on their adults menus, I didn’t try their specialty sodas until recently.

Among The Gage’s zero proof options: Organic Seasonal Cordial, House-Made Ginger Beer, Abita Root Beer, and Lavender Cola.

The Gage’s Lavender Cola

The Lavender Cola is a clear (surprise!) favorite. Not too sweet, with the lavender smoothing its way in more as an aftertaste to the citrusy carbonated treat. They serve it in a bar glass with a garnish, which helps me feel like I’m still getting all the fun of an alcoholic brunch but without the hangover, wasted day, and status updates to delete later. 😉

Art you should know: “Heart of the Matter” by Otis Kaye

So this guy, Otis Kaye, lost all his savings in the stock market crash of 1929. This loss had to have pissed him off or at least left him a little numb to and/or disillusioned by the financial world’s proclamations of glory, right? Right. He began making more and more forms of currency—coins, bills, etc.—the focus of his incredibly detailed paintings.

Decades later, in 1963, he created this oil on canvas masterpiece, “Heart of the Matter.” It “represents Rembrandt’s ‘Aristotle with a Bust of Home’ (1653)—which had been purchased two years earlier by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, for a record-breaking price—torn into pieces and surrounded by and even interlaced with money,” according to the Art Institute of Chicago’s placard by the painting. “At the very center appears a suspended stack of bills; the ‘heart of the matter’ is thus the close connection between art and commerce.”

Now, before you go judging the irony of an artwork with these anti-capitalist undertones now living in an art museum itself, consider this: It was given to the AIC as a gift by Anonymous.

Me + “Heart of the Matter” + my heart… of all matters.

 

Killing Your Darlings debuts at The Den Theatre on Friday!

William Faulkner’s advice to writers that “you must kill your darlings” is so true it hurts.

Come watch comedians share in our misery at the new monthly Den Theatre showcase named after this famous Faulkner truism. At this stand-up comedy series, once a comedian has told a joke on the Killing Your Darlings stage, they can never tell that joke on the stage again.

It guarantees you’ll never see the same show twice! And it challenges the comedians to flex their writing muscles. (And I’m running sound!)

Come check out the first installment on Friday. See you soon. B-Y-O-Red-Pen.

Killing Your Darlings

10 p.m. Thursday, March 16

The Den Theatre

$10 in advance here, $12 at the door

 

Lessons in body positivity from an unexpected source

Last week I was very sick courtesy some cute lil germies in my tum courtesy my cute lil nieces and nephews who had the same lil germies in their tums the week before.

It sucked. Especially since I had spent the week before that with a head cold. Sick and tired of being sick and tired, or something like that.

As I lay nausea-stricken on a bed of applesauce-soaked crackers and a mountainous pile of unread emails, I considered how sick I’ve gotten this past year. It feels like it’s been more frequent than ever before? Is that right? Is my immune system caving? Or am I just paying more attention to my body than ever before? Both?

That, of course, rendered me helpless to do nothing but steer down a rabbit hole toward the dimly lit Hall of Fame Of All My Other Major Sicknesses. My 32nd birthday is this week and, with that time marker in sight, I remembered the stomach flu I had had a week before my 29th birthday.

Aw, poor poopy birthday girl!

Between bathroom bouts I made promises to my body to take better care of it as soon as it felt better. I acknowledged my sins against it and recognized that though I don’t put it through the ringer anymore with alcohol, I still fall into some traps that are the opposite of that totally-having-a-moment”idea of self-care, which is ultimately all about slowing down to take better care of your mind and, thus, body.

For example, I don’t eat well and sometimes I don’t eat at all. I’ll get so focused on a task I forget to eat. Or I’ll be weird about what to eat — because I’m trying to be either a) healthier, ironically enough, or b) a guilt-ridden veg and not a health-positive one. And when that happens, I don’t get enough calories that a body I’m making go-go-go all the time needs. I follow the same extreme patterns with sleep. It’s a deadly combination. Or, well, one that leaves me, I think, more vulnerable to catching any cool ass looking germs that fly my way.

This meme making the rounds is too real.

 

At one point in my sickness boredom last week (you can only spend so much time on Pinterest), I started combing through body positivity apps, of which there seem to be about two, to download on to my phone.

I’ve never gotten too into the body positivity movements. Not because I don’t care. It’s just that one only has so many hours in a day.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned in sober recovery, it’s that help can come from the strangest sources and you have to just go with it. I used to listen to motivational speeches for weight lifters to get myself in a good headspace to go to a brunch sober. Ha!

All these things are tools and, like a castaway trying to make it on a lonely island, you gotta use that shit in whatever way you need to survive. Start thinking of your phone as your Wilson Volleyball, ya dig?

“Stop crying and take some Pepto, biatch!”

I downloaded the free Rise Up app, which is for self-monitoring eating disorder recovery. I know I don’t have an eating disorder, but Rise Up is more about offering friendly reminders to check in with yourself and how you’re thinking about food. I just want to make sure I eat breakfast more often instead of waiting until 2 pm to finally eat something–and Rise Up’s meal tracking helps me do that. The app’s “911” and stress management tools have actually been super helpful as I get nicotine cravings.

I love how technology has made independent recovery like this possible. You can cobble together tools from all over the place, for whatever it is you’re struggling with, from big problems to tiny-tummy-flu-induced self-awareness about something you’d finally like to address.

And the more you do that hodgepodging of skill sets, the more likely you are to find positive coping techniques in the strangest places.

Like… the wrestling ring…

Swoggle vs. Craig Mitchell!

I love watching Chicago’s Freelance Wrestling matches. It’s like watching sweaty, sophisticated choreography but with a lot of grunting and cool intro music. We went to Saturday’s event in Logan Square Auditorium and it didn’t disappoint.

I’m not naïve enough to think that any industry based in physicality, especially pro wrestling, isn’t without pressures to conform to a certain body standard. But there’s certainly some atypical beauty about something that’s part theater, part sport — it just wouldn’t be as fun if everyone looked the same.

The Freelance lineup last weekend included bodies of all shapes, sizes, abilities and genders. Watching Gregory Allen, AKA Iron Curtain, AKA an awesome wrestler who also has cerebral palsy, dominate in the ring was magic. Cleveland, Ohio, represent!

But the best part is that they’re all running around in their skivvies. And if not their skivvies, super tight pants, brah. It’s excellent eye candy, sure, but I appreciate that so many bodies are on full display, in all their glory, without that being the main issue.

We didn’t have to take a moment to pause about how brave some of them were being for bearing all nearly 300 pounds of themselves. We paused for how brave they were for willingly flippity-belly-flopping onto a hard surface.

The main issue is some made up, stupidly delicious story line. (And, for fair-weathered fans like me, if Stevie Fierce is wearing a shirt or not.)

And that’s it.

In wrestling, the body love doesn’t necessarily rely on what that body looks like. It matters what it can do.

And how strong it can handle the blows thrown at it.

Now there’s a lesson, punks.