Tuesday, April 21, 2009

chicago day 3

first things first, i got the 'entertainment weekly' summer movie preview and it consumed me. it's one of my little seasonal rituals. i get the movie preview issues (they do fall, winter, spring, summer), then sit down and methodically go through them, month by month, circling the ones that i want to see based on the descriptions/buzz/cast/director/subject matter, etc. then i put these circled titles into my notebook of films. when i see the films, they get crossed out with a line through the middle of the title. if i love the film, there's a star in the margins so i know that i'd someday like to own it.

it's a neat, tidy, efficient little system and i LOVE the act of doing it.

tonight for dinner i made this pasta with fried eggplant cubes, grape tomatoes, basil and olives. alongside i made my antipasto salad which is basically iceberg lettuce, romaine, roasted peppers, tomatoes, red onion, salami, and provolone all dressed with a very vinegary red wine vinaigrette. you could also add olives, cucumbers, hot italian peppers, mushrooms...basically just plus it up however you wish but use as your guideline things that would normally appear on an antipasto platter.

okay, day 3 of chicago times.

sunday was our "free" day, meaning we didn't have much planned by way of itinerary. we decided to check out oak park, which is the suburb of chicago where the majority of frank lloyd wright-designed houses are clustered. he also did the unity church. getting to oak park necessitated a 45 minute subway ride. that was fine, the neighbourhood is hella affluent and suburban to the extreme, in that tony, monied way. like, the kind of way where apparently people who own the frank lloyd wright-designed houses get all panty-knotted about the fact that their houses are tourist attractions and there are people walking around stopping in front of their yards - newsflash: you BOUGHT A FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT HOUSE. what did you THINK was going to happen? sheesh. talk about entitled.

naturally, we got pwned by our lack of foresight and the dotytron's tour antipathy from seeing the inside of flw's home and studio. so we tooled around and gawked at the GINORMOUS houses and took some shots of us with flw's bust (the vacant eyes were a bad call on the part of the sculptor - he looks like some generic early 20th century british illustration of a wacky, well-to-do eccentric à la dr. doolittle).

the dotytron's leg was hurting him like crazy that day, so we decided to pack up ship and go for lunch. the plan was to go to this mexican place that was a little closer to chicago downtown, but still definitely not on the beaten path (it was in humboldt park) - requiring getting back on the subway and stopping somewhere between oak park and the loop. the place was called cemitas puebla and was famous for making cemitas - mexican sandwiches served on a sesame flecked bread, that i'd never even heard of before, and seemed like something i would only get in mexico or in chicago.

i called the place up and he told me what the closest subway station was. we cross referenced on the map and got off at the stop. we passed the conservatory, which is listed as an "off the beaten path" tourist site. and then we started walking. and walking. and walking. we walked for 20 minutes and found ourselves in the thick of a down-at-heel african american neighbourhood. i describe it as kind of like 'boyz n the hood' but not quite as nice. every house had a padlocked iron fence between it and the sidewalk. people were drinking malk liquor at noon, hanging out. some of the houses were boarded up and needless to say, the dotytron and i stuck out like sore thumbs. we were openly being gawked at. there were also signs in some of the house windows that said stuff like: "stop the shooting! no more innocent victims!" with other signs expressing a similar sentiment plastered on the street light poles.

i stopped and asked directions from some kids who gave me the wary up and down look and we were told that it was "back thataways" - so we walked for another 15 minutes (did i mention that the dotytron was limping like the hunchback of notre dame?) deeper and deeper into this neighbourhood, not recognizing a single street sign. finally, we came to a major artery and hopped on the first bus, abandoning the mission.

it wasn't that i felt unsafe per se. it's not like i thought we were going to get capped in the middle of the day. it was more because we stuck out so badly - there was no way we could be anonymous and it was a terribly discomfiting experience. i felt othered in a way i haven't in a long, long time. i wasn't going in there as the benevolent liberal, the hilary swank character in 'freedom writers' - i felt like a trespasser and interloper. maybe it was all in my head, it probably was...but walking in that neighbourhood i felt the full weight of my privileged subject position and my complete inability to navigate the social relations - i was a tourist with a capital T. and i mean, i'm reasonably aware of my own tourism. i'm not one of those people who goes on trips and pats myself on the back about how i avoided the "tourist traps" or looks down my nose at "touristy" things and tries to act like i'm one of the "natives." i know i'm a tourist. i can't be anything BUT a tourist. this experience kind of crystallized all that awareness and brought it forward in such sharp relief that i couldn't sublimate it.

by this point, we were famished, so we went to wiener's circle for cheese fries and chicago style hot dogs. i love a good steamed vienna red hot. i loved steamed buns. they can be pretty mean to the custies there, but they were nice to me because i was unfailingly polite. i got a double cheddar chardog and a double steamed dog. they were amazingly good, though next time i think i won't get the cheddar fries because they are transcendently good for all of 2 minutes and then the cheese hardens and turns stubborn and recalcitrant the way only processed cheese can.

as we were debriefing over our experience in the ghetto, the dotytron brought up this quote from paolo friere that made us BOTH start tearing up. it's something along the lines of this: hope is an ontological need. hopelessness is not the inverse of hope, it is hope that has lost its way. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! so amazing.

as we wandered home, we passed an anthropologie and i applied myself to the sale rack with prodigious industry while the dotyron snoozed on a lemon-coloured sofa.

then we went to garrett's popcorn shop (in business since 1949) and grabbed cheese popcorn (the best cheese popcorn i've ever had...the tangy, sharp, salty cheese flavour perfectly coats each spongy piece...not like the smart food dust that gets in your nose) and caramel corn and went to millenium park where we beheld the glory of the gehry designed amphitheatre and took a million pictures of the bean. the bean is a magical thing. apparently when it was first unveiled, or when chicagoans first saw an unfinished version of the bean, they were in an uproar. now they love it, as they should. it's hypnotic, enticing, fun, playful, engaging - all the things that public art should be.

i'll probably end the chicago chronicles with the alinea recap, so i'll talk about what we did on our last day. we were supposed to go on the segway tour, but it happens rain or shine and we were already feeling a little trepidatious because of the fact that the weather thus far had only deigned to oscillate between a bracing chill and bone-numbing cold. when the day of the segway tour dawned overcast and cloaked in a wet, miserable, dense rain, we called an audible and bailed.

we had breakfast at the bongo room, where i had the pretzel studded pancakes (a reasonable portion) with caramel and white chocolate cream and a side order of sausage and the dotytron ordered the breakfast burrito with chipotle cream.

then we went back to our hotel and bowled a game in the bowling alley in our hotel, which apparently doubles as a club and a bowling alley for the rich and famous, as evidenced by the framed pictures of lance bass and puffy bowling there.  we separated and i returned some of my anthropologie spoils and the dotytron went to this famous jazz record store called the jazz record mart, whereupon he happily gorged on the riches of a store devoted entirely to jazz and blues. we gathered our bags, hopped on a plane (the ricketiest plane EVER - i could feel the refueling guy screwing the gas cap on from my seat!) and came home.

it was a fantastic time filled with adventure and fun. i'd love to go back. i still think new york is MORE fun, but chicago is a great city for a weekend jaunt.

tomorrow i'm going to see 'adventureland' with D at my beloved AMC theatre. K and J are going that night too and we might end up at the same show. the real question is: what to eat? chipotle's? milo's falafels? harvey's??? I LOVE THE AMC!


1 comment:

kitsch:in:sync said...

"walking in that neighbourhood i felt the full weight of my privileged subject position and my complete inability to navigate the social relations"

you got GAZED! (similar to getting "baced" but without anything to upload/tag)