So I have been taking a little break from living w/strangers. It’s a little more stressful than you might think. Imagine moving in with people much older than you and raised in a situation much different than you. Further—oh shit—you left all your friends behind and live in a town of about 40 people so you better just make new friends w/these strangers. If not, you’re welcome to go sit in your car for the rest of the day, but that gets pretty old. I found that out the hard way.
This has been the last 7 months of my life, in one single paragraph. It’s been all awesome, lonely, fresh, dull, heart-wrenching, toe-smashing, back-massaging, dynamite-exploding and soul-pumping all at once. A “character-building experience” as someone’s uncle always used to say.
This whole blog was created to document that if you are new here and want to look around. I would give you a guided tour but it’s completely unnecessary. None of these doors are locked.
Anywho, I came quick into the city of Chicago to cover Riot Fest for the new blog I have been getting pieces under, The Monarch Daily. A friend of a cousin got me in to cover the event and that I did. I think the pieces turned out great, check out Friday here and then the rest of the weekend here. I’ve been blessed to work underneath a great new editor, the fabulous Miss Gabriella and have gotten a bunch of great pieces in and about Chicagoland since. I know is link city right now, but everything is I’ve written for the Monarch Daily is here.
Though I’ve been here barely a month there’s so much to go over! You know, I’m just going to start with this past weekend move backwards to the weekend I arrived here. I’m really excited about everything that’s happened. EEsh! Ok, chill.
This past weekend I hosted my lovely pappy, Mr. Robert Stanford around town. My equally lovely cousin, Miss Lucy Hall, who is from my mother’s side, put us up in her Bridgeport place. My dad can be hard to read. And by that I mean he is absolutely impossible to read. He’s down for anything which can prove difficult to determine what exactly he wants to do. I imagine unicorns are extremely agreeable and he is about this agreeable. There is a careful procedure of questioning that eventually tricks him into accidentally telling you what he wants to do. This comes from years of tailing around with my mother, who is stubborn as a mule but with the decisiveness of a fox. Lethal combination. “My way or the mother-fucking highway” is actually an original quote from my mother.
We found his old stomping grounds from childhood days first thing off the plane. Rupert (pappy’s nickname of sorts) moved away from Chicago in the sixth grade, sometime in the mid-60s to spend the rest of his upbringing in Richmond, VA. After that to the Garfield Park Conservatory, which I had been to two days before and just knew I had to take my dad there. He’s quite the green thumb so massive glass buildings hosting exotic plants is pretty much way up his alley.
I had a planned (and borrowed an extra bike) for a pretty active weekend but my pappy is having some foot issues and had suddenly been put into a boot. He could take it off, but I could tell he was ok with a little less walking. So we just drove more than planned, which was fine. We also never once paid for parking. In your fat face Chicago!!!
Day 2 of pappy-time started out w/Chinatown, which, if you’re not hungry or apt to purchase tiny trinkets, may not be the place for you. The highlight was the city library located on the drag. Next was little Italy (this paragraph sounds UBER touristy, I know) where we found a pretty bitchin’ place to get some pastrami sandwiches, walked around, stumbled upon another public library and spent another thirty minutes looking at some books.
Cousin Lucy, who is HEAPS of fun to be around, was in tow most nights. I can’t remember a single name of a restaurant we ate at to save my life, but all was delicious: Deep-dish pizzas, way-too-much fine Chinese food, great fajita plates and cookie-dough ice cream. She has great roomies too, Isaac and Michaeljit (Michael-geet) who were all quite nice to let us descend on their place for a weekend.
Final Day, Saturday. All day was at Lincoln Park: They have their own conservatory their too, a pretty rockin’ farmers market on Saturdays and the nicest free zoo I’ve ever seen. Rupert only takes close-up pictures of plants for later identification. He’s a mad scientist trapped in the body of a retired chef turned gardener/teacher-by-night. After that was a drive out to Riverside, a Chicago-suburb where my old high school friend Dan Maguire co-runs the the Quincy Street Distillery. I had seen him the previous week the Chicago Craft Spirits Expo, but since we’re moving backwards, you don’t know that yet.
The time in Chicagoland before that was mostly busied up by work done for the Monarch Daily. Since we’re working backwards (isn’t this fun??) last Thursday was my covering of Maps: Borders, Bodies, Memories, a photo exhibition for Filter Fest, a yearly photography expo—for lack of better word—here in the city. I like to take zillions of pictures to document what’s around, but as a fine art form I don’t really get into it. I had dad/cousin in tow so we were there enough to get what I needed for the piece. A very cool exhibition, but I don’t know how actually inspired I was by it. The previous day Monarch Daily got me into the main event of the Chicago Craft Spirits Week, which was an expo proper. Vendors set up all over the place pushing samples of their product. I don’t really drink any liquor, but the people watching was supreme. This is also where I caught up w/old-thyme high school superstar, Dan Maguire, who has already been brought up. He rawks, as they say.
Also in the past schedule of events that already happened was a visit to the Indiana Dunes State Park. The state of Indiana is right around the bend of the lake and apparently Michigan isn’t far from the city either. Lake Shore drive in Chicago is a lot like Bayshore in Tampa, FL, my hometown, because a road/exercise trail extends down a body of water. This is fresh water and Tampa Bay is garbage water, but the parallel is clear. What’s coolest, is towards the southern end of both trails one can look North and see a miniature view of the city. What’s even cooler is the Chicago skyline from Indiana Dunes looking like it belongs inside of a snow globe.
Before we wrap up at the start of my stay I want to outline my SPECTACULAR living situation. I was only planning on staying for a week or two, but the vibe is so nice I just contributed a little rent for the month of October. I’m crashing with Stephan Brown, another old comrade, but from UF. He’s an athlete, supreme drummer and a soon-to-be “fuck-your-shit-up” lawyer. He’s an incredible influence to have around. The story is kind of long, and this post is getting even longer, so we’ll say a fortuitous situation got him into our place. It’s a huge row house in East Garfield Park, which I think has tons of character. In the house—and there’s ample room for us all—is myself, Stephan, Brennan, Julie, Banke and Isaac. Three people will be on the lease and three of us will take up extra space (ie, in no actual bedrooms) and add some padding to the rent due. Everyone is so awesome, and I simply pick up more work an the ole TSLCI to account for rent. I’ll be here for at least a month, maybe the rest of the year…?
SO! If you’re still reading, maybe you should rethink your free time. I kid, but kudos to you for powering through this behemoth of a post (Hi mom!). The ticket that got me quick into Chicago we’ve already mentioned, but was a FB post from cousin Caitlin looking for a writer to cover Riot Fest, which had a nice lineup. Free festival? Published piece? Chance to make a connection?!? Of course everything was pushed out of the way to get there. The images above are from the wrestling stage at Riot Fest, which was about as much fun as the rest of the festival put together. The links to the stories are way above this blog post, if you missed that, but I had such good time. I’ve already gotten four pieces and I haven’t even been here a month. I forgot how much fun this is to cover events (and, of course, to get in free). I think I hear people sometimes get paid for such things.
More to come!