Frozen yogurt and record stores

Another thing I mentioned I’ve been meaning to write about is Kevin, my new favorite person in Chicago. Our first date was in mid-June at Rib Fest, and before you roll your eyes, you should know that was my idea. Commence eye rolling.

Back in February, we started our jobs the same day, and I remember seeing him at our 100+ person orientation and thinking he was really cute. We saw each other a few times at work after that and talked, and then one day we got assigned to a project together and kind of hit it off.

It’s been nice spending time getting to know someone by letting him show me his favorite places in Chicago. He’s been here two years now and knows all kinds of fun little restaurants and shops in different neighborhoods. We’ve taken to touring record stores in Lincoln Park on weekends or running around Andersonville for an afternoon — sometimes meeting up with his friends, sometimes just the two of us. He doesn’t seem to mind going with me and my friends to our Friday night bar and I don’t mind spending time in his fun neighborhood. We both love going to the movies and neither is above spending a lazy Sunday on a double feature. He’s sweet and considerate and remembers things I tell him, or things about me like how I hate french fries but love mashed potatoes, or how I don’t like ice cream but am currently obsessed with frozen yogurt. He’s good at explaining things and is a wealth of information, Chicago-related and otherwise.

He’s also very thoughtful; Last weekend, we were in a bookstore in his neighborhood picking up the next selections for our respective book clubs (he’s in a book club, too — I kind of love that) when I mentioned I’d been meaning to pick up a copy of “Bossypants”. A quick scan of the biography section didn’t render any results so I gave up and checked out at the register. He followed me outside a few minutes later and said he had a surprise. He pulled the book out of his bag and handed it to me.

“I was going to wait,” he admitted.

It was sweet.

One day after work we were walking up some steps toward the Brown Line when my flip flop came off mid step. He stooped down and grabbed it and placed it delicately back on my foot, Cinderella-style, if Cinderella was dumb enough to wear open, rubber shoes in a major metropolitan area.

My roommates like him and he just joined our fantasy football league, after which Christina told me I better not break up with him any time in the next 14 weeks or it’ll just mess up everything.

So far, so good. Come visit me in Chicago and maybe you’ll get to meet him.

Music all summer long

Summer music in Millennium Park

I mentioned the other day that I’ve been to a lot of concerts this summer. The first one was back in June, when I saw Iron & Wine in Millennium Park with some girls from work, as well as Liz, the one person I knew in Chicago before I moved here. The park was packed and it turned out we really couldn’t hear the band all that well, but it was still fun to sit and have a picnic on a blanket, and it felt like a nice kick-off to summer.

The second show I saw was Bon Iver in July, which I hadn’t planned on, but I’m so glad it worked out. It was a sold-out show, but the Friday before, someone at work wanted to get rid of a couple extra tickets. Kevin is obsessed with Bon Iver, and I’d been listening to both albums on a pretty steady stream the entire month prior. I snagged the tickets and gave them to Kevin for his birthday, which was way better than the impersonal, we’ve-only-been-dating-for-like-six-weeks-so-here’s-the-BBC-Office-on-DVD gem of a birthday gift I’d had planned. Even better, the concert was at the Chicago theatre, which I’ve walked by every day since starting my job and had tried to imagine the inside of ever since. It’s amazing; kind of like the inside of Radio City in NYC, but smaller. Just as beautiful, though.

Outside the Chicago Theatre

The third show I saw was the day after Bon Iver, when Ted Leo and the Pharmacists played a free show at Millennium Park. I didn’t know any of the music, but it was fun and easy to get into. They ended up playing a single album straight through and it happened to be Kevin’s favorite. We went with a couple other people from work and got to sit a lot closer to the stage than we did for Iron & Wine.

The fourth show I saw was the most surprising. I went with Liz to the Double Door to see her friend’s band one Thursday night. A guy at the door took my $5 and stamped my hand with the words “Paygoism Saves” and I stepped into the dark bar. I didn’t have very high expectations, but the second his band started I realized they were going to be way better than I thought. I got really into them, and Liz and I ended up sneaking back stage after their set to talk to the band. We got kicked out, but it took a while for anyone to notice. We hung out for a while, and when the next band started, I thought I might leave since I had to work in the morning. But then, the craziest thing happened.

At the Double Door, pre-power outage

Even though it looked like it was only threatening to storm outside, much like it had been doing all week, the power in the Double Door went out. The band’s amps shut off, but they finished their song anyway. After that, the drummer for the band decided to keep playing, and he did, for like 25 minutes. People in the crowd were going nuts, more so than they had during the set before it was interrupted. Liz and I danced to the sound of a single drummer in the longest drum solo I’d ever heard, and everyone clapped along in a single rhythm. We cheered the drummer on together, dancing in the darkness. After that, the rest of the band came back on and played an acoustic set, illuminated by cell phone screens and the light of the moon. It was the kind of story you knew people would be telling for years to come.

Finally, a couple weeks ago, I found out a little piece of Caldwell was making its way to Chicago, in the form of Saintseneca, the coolest thing to come out of southeastern Ohio. The band was originally made up of four people, three of whom went to my high school. When I found out they were playing at a place three blocks from my house here, I couldn’t believe my luck. It’s a small world, sometimes. Kevin went with me to see them and the guys were so surprised to see me. They played in a basement in a house in my neighborhood, alternating among an array of stringed instruments I’d never seen before much less heard, stomping in unison on a wooden platform and singing in harmony. They were even better than I remembered from last summer, and I’m so glad I got to see them again.

One other crazy thing about the Saintseneca tour is that days later, they played a show at a house in Olympia, Washington — and the house they played is where my oldest cousin lives. Mind blown.

I missed Death Cab and the Decemberists when they were in town, and I’ll probably have to skip Guster next weekend, but it’s been a great summer for music all the while. Besides, I’ve already seen all those guys. This summer is about trying new things, I think.

Things I fully intend to blog about

Dear friends and family,

I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I am simply living out the busiest (best?) summer ever. My job is insane right now, I sleep four to six hours a night, I routinely bite off more than I can chew, etc. The usual excuses I offer for prolonged gaps in blogging, but I swear it’s all true.

So, here’s what you’re missing, and I truly plan on writing about these themes and events before it gets too cold out that I’m far too miserable to post. Just kidding. That won’t happen, right?

A list:

  • Revisiting my Chicago Summer To-Do List and all that I’ve accomplished.
  • How I’ve seen more live music this summer than I did in all of 2010.
  • An update on the boyfriend.
  • Getting to know my city much better and even kind of understanding where I am most of the time.
  • Meeting new people and developing the most normal life I can in Chicago.

Meanwhile, I’m doing really well. If I could blog more easily from my commute, I totally would, but instead, I read in order to upkeep the too-many-book-clubs I’ve committed to.

So, hold tight — and remember, you can always call and ask because that’s probably a lot quicker than waiting for me to hastily write before going to bed way too late. Best wishes!

Book club overload

My current book shelf, literally

This spring and summer I’ve spent a lot of time reading some of my dad’s favorite authors, most notably Ken Kesey and Kurt Vonnegut — the True Great American Authors, as he calls them. These guys wrote the books my dad often quotes and references, and has done my whole life, and now I’m taking the time to read them. When I was home last, he and I talked about them all, gossiping about them like we were all friends, and it turns out he’s had some strange brushes with some of them in his life.

At a Dylan concert, on Dylan’s 35th birthday, my dad was there to hear Allen Ginsberg read a poem he wrote for the occasion on stage. He heard Vonnegut speak at Muskingum, where I later went to college. He knocked on Ken Kesey’s front door while on vacation with my mom — no one was home, but he saw that famous 1939 International Harvester bus in the backyard.

He and I talked about who would be considered the Great American Authors of today, 20 years from now. He wasn’t too convinced it would be anybody, but I still have hopes for David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers, and I’m sure loads of others. We’re just too close to it all now, that’s all. There’s still great literature being written, and the novel is not dead.

Right now, in the vein of all those authors my dad loves, I’m reading “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” by Tom Wolfe, who followed Kesey around for a while with his band of Merry Pranksters. It’s a fascinating read, although I can safely say it doesn’t make me feel compelled to try LSD any time soon.

I’ve also recently joined a second book club, because I guess I just didn’t have enough going on. It’s with my co-workers and we’re reading “A Visit From The Goon Squad” as our first book. I know absolutely nothing about it but it’s supposed to be good.

The other book club is my friend Sarah’s, which I joined in May. So far we’ve read an eclectic collection, from “Peter Pan” to a Joyce Carol Oates novel to Erik Lawson’s latest, although I had to miss that meeting in order to go see the new Harry Potter movie with work friends. Shameless, I know. This month’s book is “Norweigan Wood,” and I better start it soon because our next meeting is in a week and a half. This club is full of interesting young women who select a wide range of books, including last December’s tongue-in-cheek choice in “The Bell Jar.” Since teaming up to read that in the dead of winter in Chicago didn’t make them all want to skip book club and kill themselves instead, I think it speaks to both our group’s dedication and their high enjoyability to be around.

Christina and I have talked about starting a house book club; she’s been reading a lot of Tom Robbins these days, although at an airport recently she accidentally picked up the new Nicholas Sparks book, believing it to be Nick Hornby’s latest. She was beginning to feel thoroughly let down until she realized her mistake, but I was pretty entertained when she told me about it — I laughed, imagining her hanging on, just waiting for the book to get interesting.

So for now, I’ve got a full book shelf and about two weeks to get through it. Tom Wolfe may have to take a back seat for a bit but I plan on getting back to him soon. What are you reading these days?