C’mon, Chicago. I’s Only Kidding.

A friend in Chicago, Alan, left a good comment on the last post that got me to thinking that my diatribe on Chicago may convey a feeling of anger and resentment for the city. As if the monstrous metropolis offers nothing of beauty or enjoyment. Where everyday is a struggle to survive and every night one of fear due to the high rate of violence. Chicago is not at all scary or needed to be avoided. I love that City as if I had grown up there.

I took a drive tonight through the countryside of nighttime Hill Country. I thought about Chicago and I felt the first day I moved there in 1998 and the energy I felt throughout my being. I was out of the small town and in a place where things really happened; History itself is a citizen and by god I know he rides the Red Line. It was in Chicago that I learned about the scope of music, the inherent anger of people, and the potential gentleness of a friendship. Simply put, Chicago is the wonderful City and it will reign supreme as probably the most memorable place I have lived.

There are so many places that became my temporary Chicago homes: a few bars, the lakefront, various graveyards, train lines and bus routes, homes and apartments of close friends, certain streets and nooks dark and cold to passers-by.

After breaking my lease in Logan Square (for safety reasons and nothing else) I moved in with Johnny and his ex- in the Swedish neighborhood of Andersonville. Within walking distance were my two bars in the city, the Hopleaf and Simon’s. Hopleaf was for weeknights and early in the evening for dinner and catching up. Simon’s could be the same (as it later turned into for Johnny and I as all we did there was play Scrabble) but was utilized for purposes such as getting drunk and having sex with a stranger. Sure, the majority of the nights were spent debating music or simply unwinding after a week of numbing work. There were those nights, though, where the scope of the events took a few days to unfold and piece together. There was the girl that I encountered twice, and only twice, and each time ruined her birthday (exactly a year apart and under completely different circumstances). Then there was the extremely tall girl that demanded a make-out session on the smoking deck, hopped in a cab with me, and then got left by said cab after she asked to stop to pee and then stumbled down an alley, presumably towards her home. There was the (few) time(s) I got kicked out.  Then the times of getting other people kicked out. The late night, after close talks with the guys. The amazing jukebox. The annual Glogg and Thanksgiving dinner. When I went there for what I knew would be the last time was both sweet and sour; each of us, my regular Simon’s group, got older. Drifted, I guess is the easy term. I just didn’t think it would be that easy to drift from someone…yet the memories retained in those bar stools will always be grin-worthy (it was, after all, the first bar I had ever drank at at the age of 19).

Sure, the winters are brutal, but it is these same deadly days that quiets the city, albeit for a moment or two. When the afternoon is bright with virgin snow, a walk down to the lakeshore is not only a good idea, it is a must-do. The silence of the library hushes the city for a short time and one’s own footsteps rhythmically drive you deeper into the cold and out of the streets to breath deep and cough out the frigid, clean air. Cars are scarce, screaming kids unheard, trapped inside to punish those that brought them to this place.

There are so many other things that make Chicago special. Instead of ruminating and coloring my keyboard with sappy old-story-vomit about me and my friends, I went through and dug out some pictures from my episodic time in Chicago.

Scoot in close and share this afghan with Emma and I and take a gander:

 

Ah, the car crash. No period in my life would be complete without one. Luckily no one was hurt and I didn't get dropped from my insurance for this one.

 

I deejayed a few parties in Bloomington, Indiana and Indianapolis. Chicago is where I started doing it professionally. And by professionally I mean pissing people off with my lack of "dancable" selection and my penchant for wanting to chase those dancers away.

Music is a lifeblood in Chicago. It is both home to a slew of amazing bands and amazing clubs to host touring bands from the ends of the weird ass Earth. I've stood next to Jeff Mangum, served Sleater Kinney coffee, and HEARD a story about DMX coming in after hours to a friend's work to buy champagne.

A cold winter's night and Nico has a lovely bouquet of flowers. They are neither from me nor for her. Touching, nonetheless.

Booze is essential for flying comfortably. How else can one put up with the hell that is O'Hare? Midway's fine, by the way.

Rooftops are both fun and habitable for short periods of time in Chicago. Grab a beer, get some sun, and invariably spit on various things below.

Old apartments are a great find in Chicago. The rooms are large and sometimes deemed "clean enough" to be graced by now ex-girlfriends.

I'm confused on whether or not I should eat that snow.

The plantlife that lives through the winters are truly spectacular. This is a true storyteller's cue to go, "This here tree has many stories, but I'm gonna tell you just one..."

Brooklyn is known for its brownstones and Chicago is known for its three-flats. Although very alike in nature, some are nicer than others.

Dad Joke #412: I don't know what turns me on more...the picture of the couple fucking or the light switch.

The Mannequin Men live in the dead of winter at some bar off of Irving that I forgot the name of. Chicago's music has a sour, maligned taste to it. I mean that in the best of ways. There is absolutely nothing that sounds like music from Chicago. Dig the Jesus Lizard and you will know.

The street fests in Chicago are legendary for drunkeness, excellent music (this was taken at the Walkmen performance), and free entry (you have to argue, but it is the law because it is a public street). Summer is short and fucking sweet.

On the contrary, the winter time lakefront is notoriously frigid and not enjoyable. A 750mL bottle of good beer, though, can make every situation awesome.

I did not do this nor was this mine. A friend and I just happened upon it one night and had to laugh in disbelief. For what reason, I don't know. Chicago is notoriously rough, only if you're affiliated. For the most part. I guess. Hell, how should I know? There were business cards strewn about and I called the number on it. No one picked up (as it was 2:00am) so I left the message no one wants to leave, "This is the coroner of the pedestrian division of the Streets and Sanitation of Chicago. I'm sorry to inform you but your vehicle has been broken the fuck into."

 

As I stated before the street festivals are a wonderful addition to the mild Chicago summers. I broke my foot after this fantastic show.

My much-written about neighbor, Ugly Building East, aka Crisco Tower. It both haunted me and intrigued me. Just HOW MUCH male prostitution was going on in there (hence 'Crisco Tower')?

I was lucky enough to live a few blocks east of the famed Graceland Cemetery. I made it a habit to walk by everytime I headed west.

If there is one thing that Chicagoans are proud of it's those few days a year that the cops don't care if you drink outside. At the Pride Parade it is nearly encouraged.

The power of a pillow and the safety of a sheet of paper. Ladies and gentlemen, the printed-at-home mask.

The benefit of the Chicago three-flat is the nearly universal back porch/fire escape. Contructed of wood and large enough to house chairs, tables, plants, arguements, board games, party spill-overs, and landlord/tenant spats, these utilitarian spaces are home to great stories.

Balloons for surprise welcome: Stolen. Sign for surprise welcome: Homemade. Hosting long lost best friend Mad Jack for a weekend: Priceless.

A hot, sunny day inside a mosaic skull. Chicago never ceases to wonder.

Johnny inside the Hopleaf. The only place I've found where 11% beer, sweet breads, and hilarious encounters intersect peacefully.

Though previously posted a while ago, this is needed only as a nice ending to this post on Chicago and everything about it. Here are two examples of the best part, the people; Johnny, my best friend, and his girlfriend, Nora, have been arguing about what to do with her old couch. Johnny and I decide that, obviously, you throw it off the porch. You know, for the hell of it. She kept saying that it would hit the downstairs neighbor’s railing but Johnny insisted that that would be impossible. You can hear her final plea, “Jonathan, it’s gonna hit the neighbor’s thing.” He argues and then hilarity ensues. The landlord fixed the railing after Nora deemed it an accident.

The landlord fixed the railing after Nora deemed it an accident.

Well, I can’t resist. Here is another aspect of Chicago: crackheads. You know ’em and part of you wants to love ’em, but, man…hand jamming a dumpster? Best line: “Hey, man? What’re you trying to grab?”

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Comments
4 Responses to “C’mon, Chicago. I’s Only Kidding.”
  1. chicken bone. says:

    aaaahhhhhh… the couch. thank you for a retrospective. chicago was something else before you came and something less since you’ve left. I hope you know the void you created when you drove that mutt out of our fine city…

  2. I’m sorry but I don’t know who Chicken Bone is. Thanks for the kind word, though.

  3. DMyers says:

    1) Stopped by to say hi. I hope you’re well.
    2) I miss the early days of MillPark. When I was walking the line of naive and sassy, and we listened to metal during opening while still slightly high or drunk.
    3) Chicago will hold a similar place for you, I’m sure…

    • Hello, Dee. Are we close enough so as to have nicknames? If so, you can call me Viper.
      Those days were something else, man. I was overworked, over saturated in booze, and loving every minute. The metal is a constant, though.
      I do miss Chicago…mostly for the people and the few places that I frequented. I also feel that my move was a great thing. Austin holds secrets and nooks that I have yet to discover…

      Hope you’re doing well, DEE.

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