Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lollapalooza and other Chicago adventures

Aside from the fact that I came home from Chicago to news that my cat had passed away while I was out of town, the weekend was fucking awesome.

Going to Lollapalooza was my friend Toni's idea. She spent last summer campaigning for someone who ended up not getting elected, so decided that this summer, she deserved to have as much fun as possible.

So I spent months being a hermit in order to be able to afford to go with her.
And damn, was it worth it.

Toni was excited for Lollapalooza itself, as was I. But I felt oddly luckier than her, because I had another good reason to visit Chicago. My friend Stephanie lives there. I've written about her before-- a fellow feminist and poet, she has long been a great source of sanity for me.

A few months ago, she started a literary collective called the West Side School for the Desperate, and offered to let Toni and me crash there for the weekend. I'd been really curious to see it; from talking to her, I knew that it wasn't a normal apartment. But I didn't really know what to expect.

As it turns out, the WSSD is actually listed as a commercial property. It used to be a Good News Bible Church (lulz), and before that, was a bakery. Now, Stephanie and her roommates use the main area as a performance space. Near the back of said performance space, there's this tiny door leading to a kitchen. There's a bathroom back there too. And they sleep in what I guess used to be closets. The walls to those rooms don't go all the way to the ceiling. It's hard to explain without a visual. But it's really interesting and open.

The night Toni and I arrived, Stephanie and her roommates were hosting a poetry workshop at the WSSD. So we sat in on it. It was a weird experience for me, in both good and bad ways.

One of Stephanie's roommates Julie (who also went to high school with us) has a background in visual art, not poetry. But she still wanted to find a way to contribute to the workshop. So she handed each of us a piece of surrealist art and had us write poems about them.

I hadn't written a poem in a very long time, and doing so felt really good.

Workshopping others' pieces was another story. Toni realized just how much of a nerd I was in high school, because I explained to her that that's all I did in my free time. But I hadn't taken part in a productive workshop session since early 2009, so when Stephanie put me on the spot and asked for my opinion on someone's piece, I stumbled through a response. It was weird, because that's something I used to feel confident about.

After the workshop, we all wound up at a nearby karaoke bar, and after a couple of pitchers of beer, Stephanie and I sang "Fuck and Run" by Liz Phair together. It's good to know that even though I've not been active on the poetry scene lately, Stephanie and I are still close-- even though our interest in poetry is the reason our friendship developed in the first place.

The next day, Toni and I finally headed off to Lollapalooza. But not before a delicious lunch at a sushi place across the street from Grant Park.

I love hanging out with people who love seafood as much as I do.

That day, we saw The Kills, The Mountain Goats, Crystal Castles, and Ratatat. The last one was probably my favorite. The only group that was sorta disappointing was Crystal Castles, if only because they stopped playing abruptly and disappeared forever and no one knows why or where they went. :-(

I think Toni and I were both surprised at how utterly exhausted we were after our first day at Lolla. Having been on our feet all day, we literally limped back to the West Side School for the Desperate-- arriving, appropriately, both looking and feeling pretty desperate. We slept for 600 years that night. It felt awesome.

The next day, Toni caught a train to Oak Park to meet up with her aunt for lunch. This gave Stephanie and me some time to spend alone, which was nice.

A few years ago, Stephanie and I got together on Christmas Day and watched a few episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." One of the episodes we saw was the one about the Larry David Sandwich. In it, Larry has a sandwich named after him. And he's disappointed, because the sandwich is made up of whitefish, cream cheese, and capers. And who the fuck likes those things?

Stephanie and me, that's who. We were like, "Man. People need to stop hating on the Larry David Sandwich. That shit sounds delicious."

We proceeded to raid her parents' fridge for fish. This was especially hilarious because her family had just eaten Christmas dinner, so there were piles and piles of delicious leftovers for us to eat. But did we want any of it? No. We wanted whitefish.

For the record, we didn't find any, and ended up eating leftover ambrosia instead (mmmmm). But since then, we've said that we'd someday eat seafood sandwiches together.

Soon after that, Stephanie discovered a classy sandwich shop in her Chicago neighborhood. She has been nagging me for literally years now to come visit her so that we could eat delicious sandwiches together there.

One in particular is named after Alice Walker. It contains salmon, avocado, cucumber, feta cheese, and wasabi mayo.

So, needless to say, we officially (finally!) declared Saturday, August 6, 2011 "Sandwich Day," and went to this sandwich shop together. And I ate an Alice Walker sandwich and my life was forever changed.

After that, I met Toni downtown for more Lollapalooza madness. We saw the Black Lips, Death From Above 1979, Ellie Goulding, and Beirut. Again, the last one was my favorite, mostly because they played an encore, which is virtually unheard of at Lollapalooza.

Sunday was pretty intense. Stephanie took us to a classy breakfast place for crab benedict. Except they were out of crab benedict. :-( So we ate various other delicious things instead. And then Toni and I headed off to Lollapalooza, day 3.

We got drenched, and our electronic devices (namely my cell phone and her iPod) were taken as casualties. But it was my favorite day of the festival.

We saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. in the blazing sun. They did a rock cover of "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston, which was the most hilarious thing I have ever experienced.

And then the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped 10 degrees. During that time, I ate a delicious vegetarian wrap thing that completely blew my mind.

All I care about is food. Don't judge me.

We headed off to see the Arctic Monkeys, and that's when it started pouring. It poured for at least half an hour, which was long enough to turn the ground to muddy mush. Also, our clothes were completely soaked through.

I danced in it, because I have no shame. You have not lived until you've experienced an outdoor concert in the pouring rain. Just sayin'.

But that was just the beginning. The skies cleared (there was even a rainbow), and once the Arctic Monkeys finished their set, we wandered over to another stage to see Explosions in the Sky.

After that, the skies darkened again and it poured even harder than it had the first time. The whole park flooded. We watched the Foo Fighters from a distance and then got delicious falafel pitas. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, more food.)

We heard the Cold War Kids playing nearby, but didn't stick around long enough to figure out whether they played "Hang Me Up to Dry." It would have been extremely appropriate.

We found our way back to Stephanie's, where we took turns showering. Stephanie had milk and cookies out for us, which was super cute, and then we went to bed at 11 p.m. because we're old and boring.

And that, my friends, was my Lollapalooza/Chicago adventure. It was both excellent and delicious, even if it ended badly.

I'm not just referring to the death of my cat.

When my mom heard about my waterlogged cell phone, her solution to the problem was to dig through drawers until she found my very first cell phone (circa 2005). She took it to Verizon and got it activated for me.

So until it's time for an upgrade, that's what I'll be using, I guess. Lollapalooza and Mother Nature teamed up to force a reunion between me and my 16-year-old self.

Never thought it would have ended that way, but okay. I still count the weekend as a win.

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