Thursday, July 31, 2008

ghost town

i got to see a special preview last night of the new movie 'ghost town' with ricky gervais, greg kinnear, and téa leoni. it probably won't rake in $155M its first weekend like batman, but i haven't laughed that hard at a movie in a long time! ricky gervais (the 'michael scott' of the british office) is perfect for the main role. you can tell he improvises and feeds off the other characters. i'm not a movie reviewer and i'm not going to explain the plot or build it up too much. just go see it or rent it. i'm sure i'll add it to my collection.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

a weekend of festivals and sports and wicker park

the excitement of my near-death experience yesterday distracted me from documenting a really packed weekend.

friday i met up with katelyn after work at the plymounth bar rooftop lounge. it had a great view and good people watching and weird mist spraying out of pipes into the air. i guess the mist was supposed to cool you off, but it only helped my hair frizz. thanks, don't need any more help.

after that, i went home to make sure i met up with my friend alison coming in town from atlanta. we almost relived our college days by getting ready and leaving the condo at 12:30am. our destination: the rainbo club in wicker park (damen & division). supposedly wilco likes to hang out here when not on tour. i loved it already. it was a very small intimate club/lounge. no dancing going on, but there was a small stage where i bet a 1-man band could play a gig, a photobooth if you wanted to prove to all your friends you really did meet a cute guy, and a pinball machine if you didn't feel like socializing (though why would you go to a club in the first place?) alison and i met up with katelyn there and i'd say we had a pretty good time. i mean, i'm going back. most clubs stay open til 4am, which i definitely could have done, but this one turned on the lights at 1:45am and started kicking people out. note to self: go earlier next time.

in spite of the late night, i made it up for the 10am softball game. let me preface this paragraph by saying i truly enjoy the company of most the people on my softball team OFF the field. on the field, they (one) think we are in the world series or something and get so bent out of shape if anyone makes an error. we totally were winning 5-1 until the last inning when we lost our mojo and let the other team score 9 runs. so we didn't make it to the next round of playoffs. fine by me because it was stinking hot and humid and i was ready to quit. we all went to el neuvo mexicano on clark st. for lunch after. it probably wasn't the best idea to order sugary margaritas and sit the hot sun... we learned our lesson; i think everyone's stomach hurt. food was awesome though. i will definitely go back but on a cool evening or in the fall.

following some afternoon errands, alison and i made our way to the taste of lincoln festival. supposedly they had food and bands and crafts for sale, but all i saw was drunk people. and i wasn't one of them. ok i lie, i saw some bands. one even played 'sweet home alabama' and made me feel quite at home (except i was the only person to yell out 'roll tide roll!' after they sang the chorus... guess they don't do that up here). i figured out the point of festivals is not what they portray themselves as (taste, art fair, etc); it's about beer and meeting people. lots of beer, lots of people. basically a huge street party every weekend of the summer. it's pretty awesome, but i'll have to get there earlier again.

i love that i go to church at 6pm on sundays (yes i am following a paragraph about beer-filled street festival with a statement about church). 6pm church = still get to sleep in. which i did and then met mj and jenna (gals i've met through rose) at 3rd coast cafe for an amazing weekend brunch. i went home to change clothes (sundress on a windy day is never a good idea) and run some more errands. at 4pm i filled in for another softball team hoping to redeem myself for saturday's poor showing. again, the guys on the team take it way to seriously. one guy ran over from shortstop to catch a fly ball that i clearly could have gotten. on another play he so easily floated the ball to me at second and screemed at me not to go for the double play. i shouldn't have listened and gone for it, but when people scream you usually take a few seconds to react. oh well. i also walked and struck out. i have learned to restrain myself from giving the ground a severe beating with the bat after a strike out; i think i'm maturing!

after the game, i got all spruced up and headed to wicker park for church. i was actually supposed to go to church and then run a booth at the wicker park festival. i never actually made it to church because i thought surely they wouldn't be preaching while the loudest band i've ever heard was jamming on a stage literally outside the school where church is held. so i just found the booth and let everyone know i was there. want to know what booth we had? it was a 'make free buttons' booth. yep, buttons. like the ones you had all over your bookbag in 3rd grade. but those cooky wicker park people totally ate it up. we were non-stop button-making-machines from 7-10pm. everyone wanted to know why we were giving stuff away for free and we said 'we're with citichurch and we wanted to share the button-love'. facetious, but you get the point. the church wants to be good neighbors and reach out without being fake. i love it.

so that was my weekend and that's kind of how all my weekends have been. busy. non-stop. great.

p.s. if anyone can think of another word i can use instead of 'awesome' i would really appreciate you letting me know.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

it was bound to happen

as the title indicates, something happened that was bound to happen. working in a highrise and living in a highrise and using elevators every day, i was bound to get stuck in one.

well it happened yesterday at work. going to a meeting with some colleagues, we get in the elevator with 2 other people. push the 32nd floor button. nothing happens. push door open. nothing happens. push all the buttons. nothing happens. then all the lights on the buttons go off.

and we all chuckle but are maybe secretly a little nervous.

we push the emergency button and a loud bell sounds. a person comes in over the intercom and tells us to "stay calm" to which we all kind of laugh because are we really going to be in here a while??

in the end, i like to make it sound worse than it was. we were "freed" after about a minute and a half. kudos to the security desk in the building for such a quick response.

i shall keep you posted on any other near death experiences i have. any near train derailments or collisions with cabs, i'll be sure to include.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

D-F Day

i'm debt freeeeee!!!!

this may not be something to brag about for most people; but to me, this is a significant statement. i have been a slave to citibank, american express, mbna, the government, for credit cards and student loans since i was 19 years old. and i thought this was just the american way.

in september 2006, i was introduced to dave ramsey and his concept of "debt is normal; don't be normal". i have to give credit where credit is due though; my sister and brother-in-law got on this crazy debt-free, no-credit-cards, beans-and-rice lifestyle at the end of 2005 and i thought they were a little off the deep end. but their determination to get out of debt and be free (and my brother-in-law's semi-crush on dave ramsey) peaked my interest and i started listening. dave teaches simple concepts that apparently no one wants to think of on their own: budget, plan for large expenditures, have an emergency fund, tithe; if you can't afford it with the money you bring home, you can't afford it! a little extreme, but you know what, my grandparents did not have credit cards and they turned out just fine. they were even able to leave inheritances to their children. will our generation be able to do that??

when i listen to dave, i hear people in their 50s call in asking for help with their 60K, 70K, 100K debt and they make 40K a year. and they have 3 kids. and creditors calling. and then i hear how the #1 cause of divorce is money problems. and then i read that your heart is where your money is. do i want my heart to belong to citibank? or american express? for skymiles?

never (again)!

i don't mind sharing how much i was in debt, more reason to be ecstatic that i am out of debt. when i graduated from college at 23 years old in may 2004, i had $11,000 on my american express card, close to $4,000 on my mbna card, a few thousand on my bankone card, and a whopping $35,000 in student loan debt. that's over $50,000... wow, i just added that up for the first time. scary how much money banks will give people who don't have jobs.

i remember my coach in high school telling me not to get credit cards once, but no one really hit me over the head with it. now i know: have some personal responsibility and don't think for one minute that a bank is going to turn you down for credit and an opportunity for them to rake in billions in interest. don't get me wrong, i'm all for capitalism and earning money when you have an idea and drive and ambition. but now i am an advocate for personal responsibility and eliminating consumer debt (at least in my life and whatever children i may have in the future). and you better believe whoever i marry will share that. marriage is hard enough (i hear) without introducing major issues like disagreeing over money.

so this is my blog and you're choosing to read it. this is my point of view on debt and money. not a soapbox or a lecture.

i will say, that i will NEVER be in debt again!

today july 17, 2008 is d-f day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

bastille day 2008

* from, a ridiculously inappropriate and politically incorrect greeting card website

the cousins invited me to join them for a prix fixe (fixed price) dinner at brasserie ruhlmann in the near north side. for $40, we got all we could eat and drink, including veuve clicquot rosé. delicious. a nice bonus, my friend andrea from the former small group was in town for work and was able to join us.

so when food is unlimited, you can kind of treat that as free food. and people, now matter how dressed up they are or what high class part of town they come from, all act the same when they want to get their money's worth. just create your own mental picture.

however, i cannot judge. it was a monday night and i still definitely got my money's worth of champagne.

Monday, July 14, 2008

house of blues

one of the oddest looking buildings in chicago, in my opinion, is the house of blues. it looks alike so:

despite it looking like a fish, the joint can put on some pretty good shows as well as a sunday gospel brunch (any takers?)

so far, i've gotten to see 2 free shows at the house of blues. first i was invited by a friend to see the b-52s in their comeback tour/new album tour. the show rocked and we got to meet the band after. the opening band was eagle*seagull - cure-esque, 80s british rock-type band. i really like them.

ok, next, and my most favorite. i found out last minute that the house of blues was giving away complimentary (free with fees) tickets to see my first love: gavin rossdale. he was back on tour with his first album since 2005. imagine how dismal the world seemed the past 3 years; it's because gavin was out of the public eye. ok, i'm being silly, but his first band, bush (bad name choice...they're british), was my first concert ever and i've loved the band and their sound ever since.

my favorite songs:
sixteen stone: everything zen, comedown, glycerine (who doesn't love glycerine?)
razorblade suitecase: swallowed, mouth, straight no chaser
deconstructed: mouth (remix)
the science of things: the chemicals between us, prizefighter, letting the cables sleep
golden state: hurricane, float, solutions
distort yourself (from the band institute): when animals attack
wanderlust (gavin rossdale solo): forever may you run, love remains the same

back to the story. so i got to see gavin for free last night and it was just like i was back at the civic center in birmingham, al in 1995 (!?!) at my first concert. he opened with machinehead (also good song) and continued to play a mix from all albums. and man, was he full of energy, jumping around the stage. one thing i like was that he kept looking around making eye contact and pointing at the fans. and he talked in between songs with his british accent. he did remark that he will not make it be so long before he comes back to chicago because he loves our "energy".

i should also mention the opening band for gavin was we are empires. they had an interesting sounds. very loud. i like half of their songs. you can download their album for free at their website.

so besides getting to see 2 free shows, i like the house of blues because it is a very intimate venue. there are no bad seats/standing room in the place (except if you happen to get behind the only tall guy who also feels compelled to raise his cup to the band every few minutes when he really digs the song). it's close to the clark/lake or state/lake 'L' stop and all the shows end around 11pm (i know i'm old, but i like to get my beauty sleep!).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

margaret's last night in the city

to go out with a bang, that's what margaret wanted to do.

so we got all dressed up, including our new friend katelyn, and hit the town. we started at the signature lounge at the top of the john hancock and enjoyed some delicious martinis and an amazing view of a storm rolling in over the city. black clouds and a lightning show.

then we caught a cab and zoomed down michigan avenue towards my new favorite place, pops for champagne. it turned out to be an interesting night as we attracted a lot of attention, had some odd conversations, and made it home by 2am.

on a school night!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

fireworks, the taste, and wisconsin?

independence day. in atlanta, i went to the pool and may have watched fireworks in marietta. nothing too elaborate, but always celebrating our nation's birthday in some way.

ok, in chicago, it's a different story. independence day is more of a week here, starting the friday before the 4th and ending the sunday after. why, you ask? lemme tell you:

the famous taste of chicago started friday before the 4th and it took up about 8 city blocks including buckingham fountain and the grant park music shell. restaurants from all over the city set up mini kitchens and were cranking out food for literally millions of people. there was a ferris wheel, cooking demonstrations, huge chess sets, and and, should you desire, a station where you could test yourself for adult adhd.

entrance to the taste

after the race

buckingham fountain

they also had 4 stages where live bands played pretty much all day long, with some popular acts headlining the shows at night. fo free.

on first sunday the city had a 5k/10k "race to the taste". i totally did it so i wouldn't feel as guilty for going to eat all the delicious food afterwards. after the race, we tried some of the foods available to tickle the palet. here were my favorites:
  • bolat african cuisine (jerk chicken, spicy rice & beans, plantains)
  • soul vegeterian east (vegan sweet potato pie)
  • chicago joe's (calamari)
  • polka sausage & deli (pierogies with sour cream)
  • aunt diana's candy makers (frozen chocolate bananas!)
  • fireplace inn (bbq meatballs)
  • lagniappe-creole cajun joynt (beignets)
  • lou malnati's pizzeria (uh..deep dish)
  • star of siam (pot stickers)
  • c'est si bon (cajun chicken tenders & hone biscuit)

lest you think me a pig eating all that at once, i will have you know that i went to the taste on 4 separate occasions. it was actually a few blocks from my office, so i went for lunch one day. long lunch.

some of the (free!) concerts we watched were josh kelly, plain white t's, ryan shaw, and joss stone (love her!). we missed chaka khan, stevie wonder, bonnie raitt, dave barnes, broadway in chicago, old 97's, and about a half-dozen others. i can honestly say, there was too much to do.


other than the taste, there were street performers and shopping sales galore. fireworks on july 3rd (they want people to stay up late and not feel bad because they have the 4th off from work) which lasted for about 30 minutes. the most amazing show i've seen to date. there were over 1 million people at grant park to watch the fireworks. the crowd was so big, that the people spilled off of the sidewalks into the streets and they shut michigan avenue down. literally wall-to-wall people on the streets.

michigan avenue

pritzker pavilion

after the fireworks show

the extremely unfortunate thing was that there were 4 gang-related shootings downtown as everyone was leaving the fireworks. we heard them but didn't realize that was gunshots we were hearing. a tad unsettling.

on the actual day of the 4th i slept in. and slept in good. i think i got up after 12pm. then margaret and i did some sightseeing since it was her last weekend here. we went to the sears tower, marina city (aka corn cob buildings), state street shopping, and a walk along the chicago river.

wrigley building, tribune building, chicago river

marina city

then we went to a friend's rooftop condo for a cookout and again more fireworks. this time however, you could look 180 degrees around the rooftop and see a dozen or so fireworks displays from all the neighborhoods. it was unlike anything i had seen!

and how does wisconsin fit in? on the 5th we trekked (well, drove) to milwaukee, wi for the biggest outdoor music festival in america: summerfest. it was kind of odd, all the people we saw, though it made for good people-watching. the main reason we went was to see steve winwood and tom petty & the heartbreakers in concert. it was sooo good! they played all my favorite songs and some new ones; tom petty kept saying "you guys are so amazing" (in his stoner type voice).

my neighborhood

at alison's boyfriend jeff's house on the northside

sarah, jessica, and jeff

jessica and me at the tom petty concert

when margaret told one of her friends back in alabama that she went to see tom petty in wisconsin, her friend said "what's wisconsin?" no lie. a tribute to the school system.

oh, i almost forgot to tell you. the last and most important difference between an atlanta 4th and a chicago 4th. it was in the 60s. i wore pants and a jacket! mosquitos. no humidity.