Far and away, the most fun I’ve had in Chicagoland has been getting to spend my mornings with my grandma Rose. We’ll share a pot of coffee, flick through the newspaper and chit-chat about what’s coming up in the day or what the weekend was like.
This morning Rosie took me and my cousin Jackie out to breakfast to Dimitri’s Cafe, just a few blocks from Colleen and John’s place in Downers Grove. It’s a fairly typical breakfast diner but it’s Greek-owned, so mounted among more familiar diner wall hangings a there’s a big “ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ” poster and the menu offers a “Spartan skillet,” potatoes with asparagus and feta. I ordered a huge No Sweat inspired plate of potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach and cheese, with an egg on top for good measure.
Thanks for breakfast Rosie! That’s not a bad way to start a Friday.
Last night Aunt Colleen brought home this seasonal Chicago treat and suggested Grandma Rosie and I might like to make little dinner cocktails with it. They were the perfect drink to toast St. Patrick’s Day eve.
WHALE OIL BEEF HOOKED!
I had my first bottle of Green River at the old Bear Trap Hot Springs in Montana, outside of Bozeman. As I remember it, Bear Trap’s dingy back-bar was lined with the most exotic pops and beers in existence. My dad spotted a bottle of Green River, ordered a round for my sister and I and told us of the age-old and firmly Ozian tradition of dying the Chicago River in honor of St. Patrick, who is well known for hating all other colors of river.
My dad also told us the literally unbelievable true fact (see also: metaphorical middle finger) that the dye goes into the river a vibrant orange:
If you were watching this for the first time you would think this is a mistake or a bad joke. You see the dye is orange and its initial color on the surface of the river is orange and you would think to yourself what heathen would do something like this. After a moment or two you then see the true color magically appear.
I didn’t see the river go green this year. They dump the dye on parade day, which was this past Saturday. My excuses are boring though. I was apartment hunting, it was cold and I was reluctant to follow the tottering pub crawlers. But getting to taste just holding the bottle more than made up for missing the other real green river.
Sláinte to you, wherever you end up tonight!
Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people about Chicago neighborhoods. I’ve tried to absorb opinions and impressions of these social territories because their names give nothing away: Pilsen, Logan Square, Bucktown, UK Village, Roscoe Village.
I’ve spent the most time in Ukrainian Village and Logan Square, but with the cold it’s hard to get a feel for the neighborhoods. Trying to read up on them on-line isn’t any easier. A neighborhood’s mood is so subjective even if someone bothers to take time and try and describe something they end up unhelpful and sounding like this:
Wicker Park = hipsters, bars, music, medium crime
Buck Town = rich version of Wicker Park
Lincoln Park = Buck Town – Hipsters + (Chads and Trixies) – Crime
Lakeview = older version of Lincoln Park
Humbolt Park = Wicker Park + Gangs – Bars
Uptown = Wicker Park + Crime
River North = River West = Loop = South Loop = Old Town = $$$$$ Source
So I was really glad to have come across I Am Chicago, a street corner photography project that follows a simple plan:
We set up a portable, natural-light studio on Chicago’s neighborhood corners. We spend a day there documenting the characters of the city by inviting all who pass by to step into our studio. We take full-body portraits of them to record the exact way they have presented themselves to the streets on that given day, brown paper bags and all. Some strut, some smile, some grill, some glare, some frown…
It’s not far enough along in the project to be a look book for the whole city, but there’s enough there to show a wide range of the neighborly characters you may meet walking these streets.
Andrew’s roommate John was on his way to walk dogs and offered to give me a ride up Damen St to my bus stop. A handful of change bought me a bus ride right to the front door of the Steppenwolf Administrative Offices.
Early, thanks to John’s ride, I paced down one side of the street then the other reading my scene and working myself up trying not to work myself up. The auditions are held in a building that looks like any other office with a small parking lot, glass doors, and three flights of low-pile carpeted stairs. Up I went into a little greenroom where I met a flustered young man heading out the door.
“How was it in there?”
“They’re very nice,” he says.
A young woman with a bob and a long sweater sat beside the door with a clipboard and asked if I was Jeff.
“No, I’m early, I’m eleven ten.”
“Well that’s good, were running early.”
I listened to the two auditions before mine. The first, a bigger older fellow, made a southern accent for his monologue but had a quiet scene. The other was a finely featured young man who gave a great audition from what I could hear. Then it was my turn.
Through the door, six people sat behind and around a small table. I introduced myself to the table and was asked what I’d like to start with, monologue or scene. I chose scene then monologue. After I was through, I was thanked “for coming all this way.” I thanked back for the invitation to audition and I took off out the door. It was over just like that!
After long last Sgt. Butler is back home in Montana.
We celebrated, how else!, by heading up to Rimini for a little militia training. He taught Teal and I sling transfers, the proper Special Forces shooting stance, and how to rescue a hostage in a vehicle take down. The SF shooting stance is pretty ridiculous looking and feels awkward as hell. “Try it in the heat with body armor,” Kenny says. Apparently that’s worse.
Here’s the stance:
With your feet shoulder length apart and facing forward, bend deep at knees, and stick your butt out—way out—lean forward and hold your gun with your elbows up by your shoulders. You should look something like like the Mouse Trap Game diving man with a gun in his hands. It’s ridiculous looking, but surprisingly stable and it immediately improved my aim.
Teal (who keeps a delicious blog) has the Hipstamatic app on her phone and took these rad vintage looking photos. She also got to try out her brand new cap and ball revolver. (You can see it in the upper left photos.) It took forever to load and regularly misfired, but when it would shoot it made a terrifically satisfying cracking POP! and threw out a cloud of white smoke.
A NOTE TO THE WORRIED
Don’t worry. We’re not really a militia, but I was curious about what Ken learned during some Special Forces training he received in Afghanistan. Ken and I have been shooting together forever, and despite of what it looks like in these photos, we’re very careful to be as safe as we know how to be. We’ve handled guns for many years and we only shot at the snow.
I’m setting out on a new adventure very soon.
Chicago, my fatherland
My dad left Chicago the year he turned eighteen. He and his two friends—his best friend Pete and their high school English teacher, Brother Noonan—struck out from the south side of Chicago on a mission. Making church-basement theater along the way, they would travel to Carroll College, a small Catholic school here in Helena. I’m sure glad they did.
When I was just a wee lad our family traveled back Chicago every summer. We only stopped when my sister and I got so annoying that my parents could no longer stand the 24 hours of road time. But, in just a few days I’ll pack into my little red car and head down that long stretch of road again to that great American city.
I’m looking forward to catching up with a few friends, my God-parents, and of course the Chicago Casey’s. I’d like to explore the city and scout out neighborhoods, theaters, apartments, and jobs that seem right . I’m not sure what I’ll find but a recent theater review I read called Chicago “a place of risk, rebuilding and reinvention. A town devoted to change.”
That sounds good to me.