Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Transformers" Invade Chicago

One of the (many) exciting aspects of living in a big city is that they are constantly shooting movies and television shows here. And, just as thrilling, when they're complete, you get to see your city--the places you dine, work, live, etc.--on the big screen, or in your favorite television episodes. Like a little kid, the novelty of this just doesn't get old for me. I'm still discovering movies that I knew and loved growing up were shot here. And immediately I have a new perspective on every one of those films.

This week, Transformers 3 has been shooting on the Mag Mile. There is plenty of grumbling from locals, whose commutes have increased two- and three-fold for a few days, but I'm lucky that it doesn't really impact me. It was cool to see no traffic on Michigan Ave., as that doesn't happen too often. I didn't check out the damage of the film shoot (and I do mean damage--you've GOT to check out this photo from the Tribune), but I know that I'm going to see this movie, and solely because it was shot on the Mag Mile.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Jazz Fix

Many days, when I’m sitting there in my office chair, the sweet strains of Ella or Peyroux or Miles funneled into my ears through my ear buds, I start pining for the Green Mill. Live jazz is like my secret elixir. If I’m stressed, I literally crave it the way some people crave a drink or a cigarette (not that jazz, of course, is ever far from either of those things).

This week, it finally became such a necessity for me to de-stress that I made a plea for anyone who wanted to please join me for an evening at the Green Mill. I was completely prepared to go alone if I found no takers. Of course, it was no surprise that my jazz buddy, Vinny, was the first to respond, so we headed up there last evening. I hadn’t even bothered checked the calendar before we arrived, feeling pretty sure that with my Green Mill drought it would have to be some serious jazz organ to disappoint me (no offense, jazz organists, but I just don’t like it—organs are not jazzy). So, we were both pleasantly surprised to find a sixteen-piece ensemble setting up their big band stage. Indeed, Thursdays at the Green Mill are always big band evenings, featuring the Alan Gresik Swing Shift Orchestra. It was going to be a lively evening.

I decided I wanted to treat myself, so I made it a White Russian night. Sipping on sweet cream is a most heavenly accompaniment to jazz, be it bebop or big band. Vinny and I felt transported back in time as the emcee read off the show sponsors and advertisements, as though he were emceeing a radio show in the 1940s. (After checking out the orchestra’s website, I discovered that they do, in fact, broadcast their Green Mill performances on Avenue950.) While some of his jokes weren’t particularly funny, I could feel my laughter growing more enthusiastic as the alcohol and the music settled into my veins.

Once the music was in full swing, Vinny and I realized that we had stumbled upon a huge group of swing dancers. A huge group of twenty-somethings had taken over the dance floor (interspersed with some elderly gentlemen and a few older couples), and they were busting out some impressive swing moves. They all seemed to know one another, despite the fact that the couples were constantly changing partners. Vinny and I hypothesized that it was a group from a swing dance class coming out to practice their moves, but after I tapped on a few shoulders and asked a couple of questions, I learned that they’re just a bunch of swing dance enthusiasts who go out dancing together. Apparently, there’s a pretty sizable swing dance group in Chicago (not that I’m surprised by this—there’s a group for everything here!). As we watched them, I couldn’t help but feel that old pang to learn swing dance resurface (it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but have never had a partner for). It may be time to finally take some classes.

My delight in the entire experience—the setting, the music, the atmosphere—exploded through my smile all night long. It had only taken me mere minutes to feel as though I were in a different world. I suddenly wasn’t in Chicago, not Uptown, not anywhere discernable on a map. With the music of the 30s and 40s swirling around me, soaking into my hair, and drifting into the spaces between my fingers, I was transported to a place that usually only exists for me in books, old movies, and my dreams.

Monday, July 5, 2010

San Francisco Ballet Feature

Per usual, I want to plug Clef Notes Concert Journal for the Arts. For the summer issue, I wrote a feature story on the San Francisco Ballet's production of Little Mermaid in addition to two dance reviews. You can check out the feature story on the website.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Martinis + Manicures = Happy Lady

Thursday evening, Liz and I met up for girls’ night, with martinis and manicures at Beauty Bar in Noble Square. The Chicago location just opened up this spring, in what used to be Sonotheque. One of the women who writes for DJs at Beauty Bar, so she clued me into the venue last weekend. All she had to say was “$10 martinis and manicures” and I was rapt!

Before heading to Noble Square, Liz and I went to Mado up at Devon and Milwaukee to spend her Groupon. I’d never been, but Liz insisted that they have the best desserts in Chicago, and who am I to argue with that? Not to mention the fact that the produce is all locally grown. My most favorite dinner item was the roasted carrots with ras el hanout goat cheese, pistachios and cumin honey. Mouth-watering, even now. We ate only small plates so as to save some space for desserts, but I had no idea that we would actually wind up with a smorgasbord of desserts. When they brought our desserts they gave us an extra one, so we ended up staring this lemon chiffon mousse concoction, rich chocolate lava cake with cherries, and almond cake with jelly all square in the face. Liz was right--they do have the best desserts in Chicago. We simply couldn’t eat every bite, as the dishes were so decadent and rich, but we were feeling a happy kind of sugar-rush food coma as we headed toward Beauty Bar.
As soon as we arrived, I became all teenage-girl gushy about the place. The sparkly, geometric patterned walls, old hair dryer seats, reproduced ads for hair products from the 1950s… It was so adorable that I just wanted to wrap it all up and give it a good squeeze (I’m such a sucker for vintage anything, but particularly when it’s done well). It was so positively the place to spend an evening with your girlfriends that I couldn’t believe I’d never been there before. To top off the ambiance, of course, were the martinis (named fabulous names like “Shampoo”—which I chose—and “Redhead”) and manicures for ten bucks.

My martini was a bit lackluster (despite the cute bartender who mixed it), but my manicure was fabulous. Believe it or not, it was my first manicure ever (I’ve never been able to justify spending 20+ bucks when I can do my nails at home), and the whole experience was relaxing and enjoyable. My manicurist was a cute blonde PR girl, and we had a lovely chat about Chicago, summertime, and the PR world. All the while, she was turning my neglected fingernails into nicely-shaped, shiny purple nails. Even as she filed and painted, I was able to sip on my martini. It was a fabulous pampering!

Some of the art/vintage ads on their walls

And while these manicures were happening within glitzy retro walls, a female DJ spun glitzy retro tunes. As we waited for our nails to finish drying, Liz and I looked at trashy gossip magazines and finished our cocktails. I admit it—it was an utterly frivolous evening! But it was so incredibly inexpensive that I didn’t even have to feel the slightest bit guilty.

If you’re looking for a fun, cheap night out with the girls, go to Beauty Bar. Yes, I realize it’s a chain, and I know how so many of us Chicagoans (wait, did I just call myself a Chicagoan?) love to turn our noses down at anything that’s not uniquely ours, but it’s a seriously great way to de-stress.

Back Online, Itchin' to Write

Wow, have I got some serious catching up to do here, and at! Finally received my new laptop this week, and it’s taking some adjusting. It’s lighter, which is good, but somewhere along the way I came to associate the weight of my old computer with quality. It had substance. I mean, it was my first laptop, and it was there for me all through grad school. Have you ever seen that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie’s computer crashes and she loses everything? Then when Aiden buys her a new one, she has a difficult time accepting it—all she wants is her old one, her baby. Well, that’s sort of how I feel right now. Luckily, I had all my documents backed up (I don’t know how I could go on without them, seriously), but I lost most of my pictures and all of my music.  Oh well. Cest la vie! I’m sure I’ll be crazy about my pretty new purple computer in no time (despite the fact that AFTER I dropped the cash, everyone’s telling me how much Dell sucks)!