The summer technically ends on September 22 (as anyone eagerly anticipating the redesign of this site should note), but most people pack up their lawn sprinklers and sun dresses after Labor Day, moribundly lumping the whole of September into the Autumn category. Apparently Mother Nature’s embitterment toward this trend compelled her to adjust the calendar herself; it was 65º and raining in Philadelphia this afternoon. The crap weather seems to have followed me back here from Chicago, from which I returned Monday night. My apologies, Philadelphia.
Friday evening, late crew arrival and “weather” delayed my flight departure just shy of four hours, most of which time was spent rather uncomfortably waiting for more detailed information out on the tarmac. We finally took off, and after six hours in the plane, I emerged into O’Hare International Airport, half expecting to be in Scotland.
I stayed at my friend Lauren’s place in Wicker Park, which appears to be the indiest neighborhood in the Indie City. Many galleries, cafés, book stores, record stores, and bars, most coated with various show posters and flyers. Few people over thirty years of age. Reckless Records on Milwaukee Avenue still has the only Merzbox I have ever seen, and has had the same one on display for at least the last two and a half years, the amount of time passed since my first visit to the store.
On Saturday, an aimless walk north along Lake Michigan caused Lauren and I to stumble onto some massive beach volleyball event. The attendees numbered in the thousands, and generally resembled a vast sea of meat. Many a corporation had set up camp with its promotional wares, and if I so desired, I could have walked out of that place with a frat boy’s bounty of Chapstick, Right Guard Xtreme, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues, and countless other applicables and gawkables. I opted instead for a more sophisticated Nissan henna tattoo.
My refusal to accumulate anything more substantial than a clumsily branded birthmark turned out to be wise, as my budget was blown and my arms were filled at our next stop, Quimby’s, Chicago’s finest merchant of underground publishing. The armload’s greatest treasure wasn’t actually all that underground: Chris Ware’s astonishing Acme Novelty Datebook was my belated birthday present to myself.
That night, at a little Polish restaurant in Jefferson Park, I was served—and I consumed—exactly one half of an entire roasted chicken, along with some soup, potatoes, and vegetables. The entrée cost me $5.25. What a dreamy day.
Sunday contained the main purpose for my journey: My good friends Anna and Paul were getting married. Their wedding was as all weddings should be: self-written, officiated by friends, honest, and brief. I think it was the first friend’s wedding I’ve been to that wasn’t creepy and just made perfect sense. I’m really happy for them.
A few hours later, darkness fell and I headed over to a bar called Louie’s with Lauren and her man John in search of karaoke. I performed from the rich and varied discographies of Lionel Richie, Vanilla Ice, Burt Bacharach, Human League, Georgia Satellites, B-52s, The Carpenters, Englebert Humperdink, Prince, and Journey. I made a fan of a local regular named Tony, who pretty much picked up my liquor tab for the rest of the night. I discovered that the bartender and I had a mutual friend in Kelly Hands, so he bought me a drink, too. To ask for a better final night in Chicago would indeed have been gluttonous.
Upon my return home, I was greeted with a series of “Fun Without ROb” photographs, taken in my absence by my roommates and other friends, who are depicted hanging out in my room, crowding onto my bed, wearing my clothes, and playing with my stuff.