Friday, April 30, 2010

CCPA Jazz Fest on Sunday, May 2

After thoroughly enjoying the talent displayed by the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Vivid '10, I wanted to recommend this program to all of my readers who are interested in great jazz. CCPA will present a FREE Jazz Fest this Sunday, May 2, from 2-6:30 p.m. at Martyrs'. It's an all-ages show, so bring the family, your friends, or just bring yourself.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Solution to Parking Woes in the City?

If you’ve read even a few of my blog posts, then you know that Chicago parking is a contemptuous issue for me. As if paying for public transportation ($86/month and always rising), and dealing with long commutes if you choose to bypass the public option weren’t enough, the city constantly steals your money through ludicrous parking tickets and towing regulations, in addition to an overabundance of metered parking. We all know what a fiasco the privatization of the city’s parking meters has been: the city took a nice chunk of cash to the bank (where it made a tiny little dent in Chicago’s deficit), and citizens, quite simply, got screwed. Even now, after most of the initial kinks have been remedied, the appearance of meters on streets that once allowed parking (particularly on streets where we reside) continues to add insult to injury.

While parking meters frustrate me, I am not nearly as infuriated with them as I am with the street sweeping procedures (which aren't all posted on the street—you better be familiar with your alderman’s website), where, if you forget to move your car, you’ll be towed away. After navigating to the fourth level of hell, I mean, Wacker, to retrieve your car, you’ll be greeted with a minimum $160 fine when you get there. Then, as you walk over to your car with lighter pockets, another sneaky little invoice, slipped under your windshield wiper, awaits you--50 more bucks that you owe to the city. When I saw mine last summer, I started wondering if maybe removing my windshield wipers would be a good strategy to avoid tickets. Hmmm, maybe not.

So, it should come as no surprise that when a friend of mine brought this to my attention, I nearly wept at the ingenuity of it (okay, now I’m just exaggerating). Now you can hire Stop Parking Tickets to remind you to move your car. Oh, oh, and, here’s the even better part, they also notify you when the city decides to tie one of its infamous temporary “No Parking: Tow Zone” signs to a tree or a pole (yes, non-Chicagoans, the city can decide, on a whim, that your parking space is not going to be a parking space tomorrow)! You have to agree that paying a mere $9.99/year beats the $200+ you pay if you’re towed. According to the Stop Parking Tickets website, the average Chicagoan pays over $100 per year on parking tickets (unsurprising, as that’s only two tickets).

Now, I haven’t tried this, because I’m stubborn and like to believe I’ve got the parking situation under the control with my now-wise eagle eyes, but I’d love to know if it’s as great as it seems. Is this the answer to all of our Chicago parking woes?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lazy Day Rambling & Grappling

Right now, I’m supposed to be working on a feature piece for Clef Notes and some Web content (all due Friday), but it’s just not flowing. It was so beautiful outside today, not to mention it was my second vacation Monday in a row, that I could barely confine myself to the indoors, let alone concentrate on writing. And I find that my procrastination continues on now, into the evening, where I sit writing purely for pleasure.

Today the sunshine and mild-ish temps called for a run by the Lake Michigan. While the lake was beautiful with that springtime pale green tint as it crashed against the concrete, the wind retained a nasty winter bite. By the time I reached North Ave. beach, I had to turn around, because the sand was blowing harshly about, threatening to assail my mouth and eyes. I ran myself home, then went for a walk and enjoyed my soon-to-be-old neighborhood.

I just can’t deny that it seemed appropriate for me to be here, in a neighborhood so celebratory of literary figures. There’s the Dickens House, the Eliot House, Schiller and Goethe streets… Still so funny to me that my window should look down on Goethe, and a portrait of Shakespeare hangs in the lobby. Plus, I’ll probably always miss this apartment—my very first little place in downtown Chicago.

But I’m not so nostalgic that I regret moving. I’ll still have the lake, and she’ll be even closer to me in my new place. And, well, you don’t need streets named after literary icons to feel inspired to write. It’s exciting that I’ve lived in a different Chicago neighborhood each year that I’ve been here. I’m hoping to do a better job of getting to know my neighborhood this time, and not become so comfortable in habit that I forget to explore (for instance, I didn’t even know there was a supplement store on Maple until last week).

Today, I just enjoyed the convenience of my present location. Took the train two stops to get my groceries at Trader Joe’s. Walked about ten minutes from home to do my banking, then stopped at Anthropologie on the way back to buy those vintage green glasses. Now, I’m watching the sun paint the sky all shades of pink above the western rooftops and I have to admit: this view almost makes the move regrettable.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Chicago History Museum

The Chicago History Museum is free on Mondays, which is something I've always known, but was never never able to take advantage of. I've been wanting to check it out for ages, seeing as I adore Chicago, and cannot get enough of books like Devil in the White City and Sin in the Second City and any other literature that immerses me in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Chi-town history. Last Monday, Mom and I dropped in before she headed back to Ohio.

Honestly, I had expected the museum to be much, much larger. Along the lines of the Science and Industry museum, for instance. So, I was a tad disappointed at its size (to be fair, a large chunk of the museum is currently under construction). For a city with such a rich history, I guess I just expected more. However, they make use of the small space by rotating exhibits out fairly frequently. From their website, it seems like their exhibits are rotating every few months, which is cool, because if you go back, there will be new things to see.

I liked this picture hanging in the museum, so I took a picture of it.

Dodging all the schoolkids, we made our way up to the various dioramas. These were probably my favorite part of the museum, showing models of the city at various points in time. Additionally, I appreciated the history of Chicago's turbulent past, such as the Haymarket affair, race riots, and mobster culture. I felt the exhibits really only scratched the surface, though. I don't recall seeing anything about Cabrini Green, for instance, which surprised me, but maybe I was just missing something? All of the historical information was a bit lacking in details, not really delving into anything too deeply. And I felt as though the artifacts from major events like the World's Columbian Exhibition were quite sparse for a museum. Definitely more of a place to take young kids who are just starting to learn about the city's history.

For tourists, the museum is probably a great option. However, I think I will keep getting my Chicago history from books and the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Here are a few additional pictures from the museum:

Treasure-Hunting in Edgewater

Aside from our obligatory cheesecake, the weekend was ours to do as we pleased. Mom asked me not to book up our weekend with all kinds of plans, as I usually tend to do. So, we let our whims lead us, and a lovely weekend fell into place.

For instance, on Sunday morning after brunch, while browsing in Anthropologie, I fell in love with these green vintage glasses, which I pointed out to my mom. It started with the glasses, then it was the antique-looking drawer pulls, and pretty soon our game plan was born. A swift procession of dialogue, a few taps on my phone, and a lengthy Redline ride led the two of us up to the antique malls in Edgewater. It had been ages since either of us had gone antique-hunting, and I’d never done so in Chicago, let alone venture as far north as Edgewater, so it was a new adventure for the both of us.

Our first stop was Broadway Antique Market. We were immediately greeted by cases of wildly expensive vintage jewelry and bags. I became temporarily lost in the racks of vintage dresses, inspecting hats and old purses along the way (I love vintage purses!). The southern part of the shop had much more affordable treasures, but so many of them were jailed behind glass cases. I was scouring for glasses along the lines of those I had seen in Anthropologie, to no avail. We spent about thirty minutes wandering about, looking at everything, before heading upstairs to check out the retro furniture, which was exceptionally fun for me. Of course, none of these pieces touch the nineteenth-century furnishings housed at the Art Institute, which I love so much, but how can you not have fun viewing the space-cadet lines and crazy colors from the 1950s and 60s? After weaving in and out of bright yellow and orange couches, and dodging some particularly uncomfortable-looking chairs and bar stools, we felt we’d seen enough and were off to the next place.

It took only a few minutes to become completely lost in the Edgewater Antique Mall, and we both agreed that, of the two, we liked this store much better. It was comfy and chock full of treasures that you could touch, as most of their goods are set out on accessible shelves, or tables. The best part was walking down the same aisle ten times and seeing new things each time—it was that kind of place. I always walk into stores like this one thinking that I’m going to find something amazing—that I’m going to dig through everything and find a gem. Only occasionally, however, do I actually walk out the door with something, and I decided to save my cash this time, too. After about an hour in the shop, still feeling that we’d only seen a fraction of the merchandise in the building, mom and I decided to call it a day for Edgewater, and headed back downtown.

"Obligatory" Cheesecake

Last weekend, I spent a lovely three days with one of my favorite Chicago visitors—my mom. We started the weekend just as we always do: with avocado egg rolls and cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. I have now come to expect that when I escape the office on the Friday of mom’s arrival, we head to the John Hancock for dinner. Of course, this time we squeezed in a little shopping at Macy’s (the one on State Street—the cabbie got it right this time) beforehand, as I managed to leave the office shortly after the lunch hour. There’s just something about catching up over our favorite, un-Chicago, but highly delicious, calorie-filled meal that feels so fantastic after some time apart (Olive Garden is our Toledo version of this, primarily thanks to their peach sangria). We don’t care if it’s “just a chain,” or if it’s completely touristy to eat there. It’s our thing and we love it.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cheesecake w/ Caramel Sauce!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Neighborhood, New Notions

Apartment-hunting is such an adventure! I love winding up in neighborhoods I’ve never visited before, or re-visiting places that I had confined to a particularly small box, and discovering that there’s much more beyond my pre-conceived notions.

Chicago Neighborhoods Map at the Chicago History Museum

Being the somewhat stubborn and sometimes silly person that I am, I had envisioned myself in Ravenswood without actually spending much time there. My friend Liz’s place is so adorable (and huge!) and the times I’ve spent with her in Ravenswood, along with the scenery I viewed when driving through the area when I used to live in Uptown, had convinced me that it was the perfect place for me. Ravenswood is a charming, quiet neighborhood, and I had envisioned myself on a summer evening, writing by a window thrown open to a quiet, tree-lined street.

So, I was a bit shocked when I started viewing studios there. The first potential dwelling places were sorely disappointing, both dingy and small. I traveled the 40 minutes back home exhausted and wishing I hadn't wasted my time.

But I wasn't ready to give up on Ravenswood just yet, and headed back up that way again two days later. This commute took even longer, and when I got off in the “charming neighborhood,” I was a bit dismayed at how stark and industrial it was (I’d gotten off at the Damen Brown line stop this time). Even then I wasn’t throwing in the towel, though, because I was headed to a Victorian home with a top-floor studio. As you can imagine (if you know me), I saw this listing on Craigslist and my Victorianist heart skipped a beat. And when I arrived, my visions of Victorian bliss were quite met. The owner has her portion of the home fixed up beautifully, with period furnishings. It was ideal--complete with white picket fence. The studio above was large, updated, and overlooked a lovely yard.

Yet, as she showed me the place, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy about how far from the heart of the city I’d be if I moved there. And when she told me how much the security deposit would be (ludicrous), I was actually relieved. If the price had been right, I’m not sure I would have been able to say no. Curling up with Dickens and a cup of tea in that apartment? It was undoubtedly very me.

At this point, I was prematurely starting to feel a little worried that I might not find a studio that would meet this ideal that I’d created in my mind. After all, it didn’t seem like Ravenswood was working out, and that was part of the ideal.

"Stop paying rent" and purchase a lot. Haha, I wish! Also from the Chicago History Museum.

Afterward, however, I spent a Tuesday evening in Lakeview. I’ll admit, I had stereotyped Lakeview. I had shoved the entire neighborhood into a box containing only Wrigley field and the surrounding bar scene. I envisioned insane parking during Cubs games, loud drunk people, and, well, that’s pretty much it. But then I checked it out after finding a couple of studios in my price range on Craigslist. Isaac, a managed properties agent, planned out about five places for us to view (actually, he had originally planned quite a few more, but those places are going like hotcakes).

I wasn’t impressed by the first studio, which was dingy, smaller than where I live now, and not enough cheaper to justify not living downtown. Isaac assured me that for my price range, in the neighborhood, I wouldn’t find much bigger. I hoped he was wrong. The studios in the second building were better, but I still wasn’t feeling it. I was looking for that feeling I’d gotten when I walked into the building where I live now (I knew in the pit of my stomach that this place was for me the second I walked in, and I’m going to miss it, sorely). Finally, we went to an apartment complex even closer to the lake. When we went up to the floor where my studio is located, I felt inexplicably excited as we walked down the hall (you should see how cute it is decorated). I figured that the goose bumps were a pretty good sign. We proceeded to the end of the hall, where I was ushered into a pretty large studio with six--yes six--closets. I was veritably giddy at the sight of all those closets, but I was hesitant. The place was kind of dingy, desperately needing new carpet and a paint job. I had trouble envisioning it with me in there. When I found out that the whole thing is being rehabbed and viewed a similar studio ready for move in, with beautiful new carpet, countertops, faucets, etc., I was nearly sold.

But I didn’t apply. I was torn. I hadn’t completely given up on Ravenswood. In particular, there was a beautiful studio advertised on Craigslist all April that I just kept seeing week after week. My emails had gone unanswered, until, finally, I had inquired again and received a response. I had been scheduled to see that studio the next day, and I was sure that it was going to be the place for me. So, I held off. Over the course of Tuesday evening, however, I decided I would at least apply for the place in Lakeview to take it off the market for a few days, and keep that option open. That way, if Ravenswood still didn’t work out, I would have a fall-back.

And, you guessed it, the beautiful Ravenswood studio wasn’t so beautiful; plus, the leasing agent barely gave me the time of day and I just felt like Ravenswood, as cute and quaint as some areas of it may be, was dead. If I were settling down with a family, I definitely could see living there. But now? No. It just wasn’t going to work.

And thus, I find myself two days away from signing my lease, after which, I will become an official Lakeview resident. My two most important needs are met—better parking (you cannot get worse than the Gold Coast) and close to the lake. And the six closets thing? Not a bad bonus.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Running Days are Here Again!

Today was the first day of 2010 that I ran on the Lake Shore. The clouds deserted the sky for the day, allowing the sunshine to bathe the city with abandon. The run was so liberating that it felt as though I were busting through the confines of air-tight cellophane that choked my body all winter. The adrenaline kicked in immediately. So much so, that I completely forgot about pacing. I just ran my heart out until just past North Ave. beach, when I realized that I was out of breath (and out of shape). But the air was great, and on the way back, when I finally regained enough energy to start jogging again, the wind felt glorious. There’s something to be said for wind resistance—you just can’t get that on a treadmill. Plus, the people-watching on the lake shore never fails to keep the eyes happily occupied.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Summer Feet

If you’ve ever been a dancer, you pay extreme attention to your feet. You just can’t help it. You watch them go through all kinds of mistreatment, disfigurement, and fun problems I won’t begin to describe here. But when your feet feel awesome, so do you. So, it's worth taking note that yesterday was a red-letter day for my feet. It was a freedom fest for my toes: yesterday was the day I pulled out the flip-flops for 2010!

As I walked the twelve or so blocks home from work, heels shoved into my bag, I felt that thrill of naked toes exposed to the fresh summery air, and even the dirt of the city. As I wove in and out of tourists on Michigan Ave., I could feel the early-season blisters forming underneath my brand new Old Navy flip-flops. But I welcomed them—the sooner I get them and they heal, the sooner my feet will be prepared for months of summer weather.

Woo-hoo, summer in Chicago! Feet—and hell, everything else—rejoice!

Rooftop Reverie

I’m sitting up on the rooftop deck (and yes, that song “Up on the Roof” is running through my head). It’s April 1, 83 degrees outside, and no, that’s no April Fool’s joke. It’s the first true taste of summer, and as soon as I was home from work, I was up on the deck.

The wind is a bit awful up here, though. I thought I’d try to capture a little Vitamin D before the sun went down, to try and blast out the rest of this throat infection (strep, how I loathe you). But the sunshine that beckoned all day through the windows of the 64th floor, and bathed my arms as Christina and I made a cupcake run at 1:30 (yes, that’s right, we made a Sugar Bliss run—mmm), has since retreated behind the clouds.

It’s still warm, though—luxuriously warm—and the views are amazing. Here I sit, smack dab in the middle of a cityscape. (How I will miss this when I move.) In the pockets between high rises, I can see quainter neighborhoods off to the west. And the beautiful lake to the east—she’s all shades of green, aqua, and blue today.

[Here's Bill disturbing my thoughts. It’s always a bit awkward when you’re a thousand miles away in your reverie, just writing, and someone you know snaps you back to reality with a simple hello. I always wonder if I look like I’m a thousand miles away, as I imagine I do, which should be your cue to just keep moving. Anyhow, Bill never fails to say hello when he sees me. So, we chat for a few minutes. He’s on spring break and I can tell that he’s been outside all day—the early spring sunshine having tinged his shaved head a light shade of pink. Bill’s a nice guy, but I’m relieved when he heads back inside without his usual invitation to grab a drink later.]

It’s on days like this, up on the rooftop in downtown Chicago feeling like I’m where I’ve always wanted to be that I start to wonder where, exactly, I will end up. Right now, I want nothing more than to be right here. Even as I struggle the constant struggle to find myself, and wonder where my life will take me, and what may be waiting beyond Chicago, I can’t help but sense opportunity here. And to feel that it’s the place for me, despite my struggle to keep up with the rat race (how often I feel trapped in the spinning wheel), and to enjoy the city on a strict budget. My conscience keeps telling me to relax and be patient, that I need to give it time. I have such big plans for myself, and somehow, I want it all to happen for me right now. I guess all I can know is that Chicago is right for me in this time and space. I really do feel that I belong here now. I hope that I will belong here for much, much longer, but sometimes it seems so impractical, so expensive...

Anyhow, weird where the mind goes during an hour on up on the roof. The wind is dying down now. My freshly cut bangs aren’t flailing quite so helplessly in the breeze.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Clef Notes Pick Lists

In case you're wondering what arts events to check out this spring, Clef Notes added their Pick Lists to the Web site today. Here's what we think you should see (just keep an eye on dates--some of them have already passed.)