2014 Resolutions

  1. Eliminate my credit card debt. I made progress in 2013 but not as much as I’d like.
  2. Bike 2,000 miles. A repeat from 2013. I made it more than halfway thanks to hacking my commute, which resulted in biking more than 500 miles in the last quarter of the year, so this should be easy enough.
  3. Bake one new pie per month. A repeat from 2012, when I made this resolution and then baked zero pies. Savory pies count, but not quiches, as I mastered them a number of years ago.
  4. Leave the country at least once. A repeat from 2013, with the added incentive of loved ones of my loved one living on another continent.
  5. Read 25 books. This was my goal for 2013, but I fell short by several books despite increased commute reading time.
  6. Score a new PR. This means either besting one of my 2013 times in the half or 5K, or running a new distance.
  7. Complete at least one item per month from my Chicago bucket list. Because if I don’t make a list, it won’t happen.

Chicago Bucket List

Chicago sunset

Two years ago, I spent Thanksgiving weekend apartment hunting in Chicago.
On December 23, 2011, I became a part-time resident of Logan Square.
On April 2, 2012, I became a full-time resident of Pilsen.

In the two years since I first signed a lease in Chicago, I have covered much of the city on foot and by bike. I have gone to bars and shows and farmers markets and beaches. I have visited the sand cat a number of times. I have had a whole lot of Chicago-specific adventures, but feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what Chicago has to offer.

I am not planning on leaving my beloved city any time soon, but I expect I will leave eventually, and in anticipation of that day in the far off future, I have started a bucket list of Chicago sights and eats and scenes that I want to be sure not to miss. Some of the items on my list are things I have always wanted to do. Some are very unlikely to get done. Some I have done before, but want to repeat with someone who has not yet done them. Some might require winning the lottery or overcoming severe phobias. Some will likely be removed from the list, and others added.

Without further ado, and with a promise to tell you about each of these adventures as they happen, I present the first draft of my Chicago bucket list:

  1. Adler Planetarium
  2. Art Chicago at Merchandise Mart
  3. Bike the Drive
  4. Bike to Milwaukee
  5. Bike to the Botanic Gardens
  6. Bike to Three Floyds
  7. Brunch or drinks at North Pond
  8. Carillon tour with Mom
  9. Chicago Architecture Foundation walking tour
  10. Chicago History Museum
  11. Chicago marathon
  12. Complete tour of all Chicago beaches
  13. Complete tour of all El lines
  14. Cubs game with Nicolas
  15. Deep dish pizza
  16. Dinner at Bistronomic
  17. Dinner at EL Ideas
  18. Dinner at Elizabeth
  19. Dinner at Next or Alinea
  20. Donuts from Do-Rite
  21. Drinks at a shitty Wrigleyville bar
  22. Drinks at the Half Acre tap room
  23. Drinks at the Signature Room
  24. Ferris wheel at Navy Pier
  25. Festival of Barrel Aged Beers
  26. Field Museum
  27. Frank Lloyd Wright walking tour in Oak Park
  28. Hemingway birthplace tour in Oak Park
  29. Hot Doug’s
  30. Hot pot in Chinatown
  31. Ice skating at Millennium Park
  32. Kuma’s Corners
  33. Last call at a shitty 4am bar
  34. Live jazz on Rush St/River North
  35. Lunch at Calumet Fisheries
  36. Museum of Contemporary Art
  37. National Museum of Mexican Art
  38. Newberry Library
  39. Oriental Institute
  40. Pie at Hoosier Mama Pie Company
  41. Polish food
  42. Printers Row book fair
  43. Rainbo with Nicolas
  44. Robie House tour
  45. Sailing on Lake Michigan
  46. Sears Tower observation deck
  47. See a race at Arlington Park
  48. Shedd Aquarium with Nicolas
  49. Show at the Double Door
  50. Show at the Empty Bottle
  51. Sushi at Kai Zan
  52. Taste of Chicago
  53. Tea at Allium
  54. Tea at Pleasant House Bakery
  55. Vegan Korean at the Dragon Lady Lounge with Karen
  56. Visit one new street festival
  57. Vosges with Nicolas
  58. Walk or run the entire Lakefront Path
  59. Water taxi
  60. White Sox game

Better Than Driving

Lo these many months ago, I complained about my commute. I want to tell you about how that’s changed.

In July, Nicolas moved up to Rogers Park, and we commenced a back-and-forth schedule that left a number of friends scratching their heads as to how it was possible. Perhaps ‘possible’ is the wrong word. ‘Practical’? ‘Reasonable’? ‘Sane’?

To travel the 17.2 miles from his apartment in Rogers Park to Hyde Park, where I work, it takes:

  • 35-60+ minutes driving, depending on traffic + time to park
  • 75-90 minutes biking
  • 80+ minutes via mass transit (red line + 1-2 buses)

To travel the 11.8 miles from my apartment in the Ukrainian Village to Hyde Park, it takes:

  • 25-60+ minutes driving, depending on traffic + time to park
  • 60-70 minutes biking
  • 80+ minutes via mass transit (2 buses or 2 trains + 1 bus)

By September, I was totally burned out. I kept arriving white-knuckled and seething with hate after an hour sitting in traffic followed by 5-20 minutes spent looking for parking. ANYTHING had to be better than continuing to drive. The days when I biked to work from my apartment were a breeze in comparison, even though at least one leg of that commute was straight into said breeze. I was ready to try just about anything.

Enter the two crucial pieces of my new commute: Metra, which is commuter rail, and Divvy, which is Chicago’s new bikeshare program. And so about two months ago, I stopped driving to work altogether. In fact, since mid-September I’ve bought 3 tanks of gas, 2 of which were used in their entirety on a road trip. Considering my previous weekly mileage, that’s significant. And after some complicated spreadsheet acrobatics, I’m breaking even with a monthly rail pass and annual Divvy membership, if not saving money each month as long as I commute from Nicolas’s at least once/week. I’ll definitely be saving money when I factor in paying for parking ($6.50/hour!) when I have to go downtown for appointments twice a month .

An average morning now looks like this:

Rogers Park to Hyde Park:
7:35am: Rain or shine, Nicolas walks me to the Metra station .4 miles from his apartment.
7:49am: 20-25 minutes of reading on the train while making my way south to Ogilvie Station.
8:15am: Arrive downtown, but a little over a mile from my next train. Divvy to the rescue! Pick up a Divvy bike around the corner, then ride to Millennium Station. Dock bike and catch the 8:30 train.
8:30am: 15 minutes of reading on the train while making my way south to Hyde Park.
8:45am: Arrive in Hyde Park, and walk .6 miles to my office, arriving by 9am.

Ukrainian Village to Hyde Park:
8am: Ride my bike 4 miles to Millennium Station OR leave a few minutes earlier to walk .3 miles to pick up a Divvy bike, then ride downtown.
8:20: Arrive downtown. Carry my bike into the station to catch the 8:30 train.
8:30am: 15 minutes of reading on the train while making my way south to Hyde Park.
8:45am: Arrive in Hyde Park, and bike .6 miles to my office, arriving before 9am.

And the evening:

Hyde Park to Rogers Park:
4:45pm: An alarm goes off on my phone alerting me that I need to leave the office. Walk .6 miles to the Metra.
5:02pm: 15 minutes of reading or texting on the express train while making my way north to Millennium Station.
5:19pm: Arrive downtown. Pick up a Divvy bike and ride to Ogilvie Station. Dock bike, zip through the French Market to pick up a treat for dinner.
5:43pm: 15 minutes of reading on the express train north to Rogers Park.
5:59pm: Nicolas meets me at the train and we walk the .4 miles to his apartment.

Hyde Park to Ukrainian Village:
4:45pm: An alarm goes off on my phone alerting me that I need to leave the office. Change into biking clothes and ride .6 miles to the Metra.
5:02pm: 15 minutes of reading or texting on the express train while making my way north to Millennium Station.
5:19pm: Arrive downtown. Carry my bike out of the station and ride 4 miles home.
5:45pm: Arrive home.

When this commute works, it WORKS. When it doesn’t work – like the days when I’ve dawdled getting out of the house and so missed the last possible train that could get me to work on time, or the days when the skies open up, catching me unprepared, or the days when my leakproof thermos has soaked my bag in coffee – it’s a hassle, and there are tears involved – but my schedule is such that I can stay later to make up for a late arrival, and I have clothes in my office, and I can always buy another coffee. And it’s still better than driving.

I missed the train from Rogers Park last week, and so biked 10 miles south to catch the next train downtown. I did that ride in 40 minutes flat, straight into 11 mph winds. I had snot running down my face because it was too windy to take my hands off the handlebars. I arrived winded, and with a slightly pulled calf muscle, but I beat the next train coming from Rogers Park, and I got to work with a tough workout under my belt and a cup of coffee from Intellgentsia to sweeten the morning. Better than driving.

This all probably sounds like an enormous hassle, but I can’t even tell you how much happier I am. My schedule is more regimented, but it also means I’ve carved out time for things that I love and are good for my mental health: every single day I get at least 2 miles on my bike and 30 minutes of reading (or just uninterrupted downtime). Nicolas meets me at the train when I go up to his house, and nearly every day for the first month I arrived bubbling over with excitement and energy and happiness instead of hating everything on the planet after spending 15 minutes circling his neighborhood trying to find a parking spot. So much better than driving.

First #panda on #Divvy, the new Chicago bike share program.

Contents of my bike bag, Thursday, October 10, 2013.

#dailytights #panda. #yearofnopants with 2 months to go!

I feel like my life is unduly influenced by two intractable circumstances: my commute and too many cats. Most nights I’m up 2-3 times because a cat wants out of my room, or because a fight is brewing in the hallway, or because someone is meowing for reasons unknown to all but the feline gods. They’re sweet and cute and loving, but they can’t seem to tolerate each other, and I wonder how long we can go on like this.

I wake up exhausted, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, to face a day with 45-60 minutes of commuting on either side of a typical work day. I know this isn’t unreasonable for a city dweller, and that the commute is longer because of my move, but it is a constant source of frustration, though I’m doing my best to ameliorate it now that it’s consistently warm and pleasant enough to bike all or a portion of the 13 miles from home to work. Today I biked for 20 minutes, then took a train for 7 miles and 15 minutes, then biked the last half mile, arriving at work hungry and not inordinately disheveled, and in about the same amount of time that it would’ve taken me to get in my car, sit in traffic, then hunt for parking.

I’m tired all the time, and hungry all the time. My body will get used to this level of activity, but I don’t know if it will get used to the lack of sleep. What to do?

We spent a portion of last weekend in Champaign, walking around campus in the gathering dark, grabbing a drink at a favorite bar downtown, running to the car in the driving rain. Is the heavy nostalgia I feel when I’m there just a remnant of my previous life? Or should it be taken into consideration as we have these conversations about a future together, and where that might take place, and what factors are important to us as we speculate about decisions that are still a long way off? I know that that place is in my blood like no other, not even Chicago, but also that the world has moved on and I with it.

We sat on the lawn at Pritzker Pavilion Monday night with Carl and a bottle of wine and Middle Eastern take-out from a place in Hyde Park. Daniel Lanois opened with The Maker followed by The Messenger, and it was like all of the chattering, oblivious voices faded away and all that was there was me and the clouds and the silver beams overhead and his voice and my two best guys and the goosebumps on my arms and legs bared against the cool evening breeze. Summer in the city.

And don’t get me wrong, dear, in general I’m doing quite fine.

no simmering life but a boiling one

1.
I woke up this morning sick as shit. I don’t know where it came from, but it felt a little like several essential parts of my body got together and decided to put me in time out. You’ve been doing too much, they said, and it’s time to stop. I ignored the message for a while, but when I looked in the mirror at work and didn’t really recognize myself, it was time to go home. I took photos with my phone to prove the point; when I checked just now, they’re not there.

2.
Last night Erin and I saw David Byrne and St Vincent at the Chicago Theater. We both had to temper our slight disappointment with the knowledge that this was David Byrne AND St Vincent, not Talking Heads. But the sound was fantastic and Chicago got on its feet and danced, and when they closed with Road to Nowhere, it was like something out of an old revival, hands in the air, voices united.

3.
I’ve fallen into that city-dwelling habit of eating out too often while observing evolution in action in my crisper. Every couple of weeks, I buy a bag of produce from Edible Alchemy and dream big dreams about what I’m going to make – and then I devour the fruit while letting the zucchinis go soft, the potatoes grow eyes, the onions shed their dusty skins.

4.
A week submerged in The Diaries of Anais Nin. I’m not sure that I can neatly summarize it. It’s been a complicated, emotional year, and so many of the things she described resonated with my experience while also being completely foreign to me. Perhaps this, from November 1933:

Allendy took pains to delineate my character, my true nature, my human attitudes, but it was by a process of oversimplification. The mold into which he tried to fit me came to a climax the day he suggested I should take love more lightly, give it less importance, to evade tragedy. That I should take a playful attitude towards it. It should be sweet and casual, easygoing and interchangeable…This was the natural conclusion to the formation of my human self, to normalcy; and if he was right about overcoming tragedy, par contre, he overlooked the deeper cravings of an artist, for whom deep full love is the only possible form, no simmering life but a boiling one, no small compromise with reality.

5.
Fall has arrived right on schedule. Last night the thermostat dipped low. It is 6:45pm in my living room, and my space is illuminated more by my laptop than by the waning sunlight. Laurie said that we’re losing 2 minutes of daylight each day. But still the ice cream truck sits on the corner, and I dream of swimming in the lake and of all of the summer things that didn’t happen amidst all that did.

6.
Six months in Chicago, and Jeremy said that it sounds like I’m home. Two and a half years in Ann Arbor. Two years in DC. A year each at MPub and Kresge, two years at Gelman. Five years in this goddamned profession. Six years in a relationship, seven months out. I love Chicago. Chicago exhausts me. I’m envious of friends who have recently moved to quieter places. I worry that my life here will burn me out. I don’t know.

2012 At the Movies

Logan Theater

After seeing only two movies in the theater last year, I resolved to see at least one movie per month in 2012. We’re halfway through the year, and I’ve seen ten, the majority of which were at gloriously restored or gloriously run down theaters like the Michigan or the Logan (pictured above and below). What have you seen?

  1. The Adventures of Tintin – I grew up reading the Tintin books, so I had high hopes and low expectations for the movie. The motion-capture was good enough that I forgot at times that I was watching an animated film.
  2. My Week With Marilyn – Jen and Phillipa and I saw this at a charmingly run-down theater in Encinitas. People were on the fence about Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, but I thought she was luminous.
  3. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – Convoluted and slow-moving, but I’ve watched enough British TV that this didn’t really bother me. I loved the suiting. Also: does it ever get less awkward to watch movies with sex scenes on the big screen with your parents?
  4. The Artist – Lovely, but it took a long time for me to get hooked, which is kind of a problem at a silent film. Honestly, I’m not sure why it won Best Picture.
  5. The Skin I Live In – It’s been several years since I saw an Almodóvar film. I forgot how fucked up they frequently are.
  6. Joy Division – Dharma and I went to a screening of this documentary at the Michigan even though you can actually watch the full movie on Hulu. I loved the way they talked about how Joy Division’s music captured the sonic experience of life in Manchester. The documentary was paired with a remarkable new hand-colored restoration of Le voyage dans le lune which features a new score by the band Air.
  7. Shame – In case you were wondering, a movie about sex addiction isn’t the most uplifting thing to watch when you’re going through a break up and are already very emotionally fragile.
  8. The Cabin in the Woods – I don’t like scary movies, so I definitely wouldn’t have seen this one if it hadn’t been the only appealing option on a day when Michael and Tim and I needed a break from the unrelenting heat. I’m sure I didn’t get half of the references, but I really enjoyed it.
  9. Your Sister’s Sister – I identified with a lot of this movie, particularly the scene when Mark Duplass’s character smashes the shit out of his bike. Problematic, but worth seeing.
  10. The Hunger Games – I haven’t read the books (even though basically every other librarian in the world has), so I had no expectations and was consequently surprised by how much I enjoyed the movie and continued to think about it after. Carrie and I rode our bikes to and from the Logan Theatre for the movie. It was a perfect evening.

Logan Theater

Logan Theater Marquee

Logan Theater

Keeping Our Wits About Us

This is the obligatory ‘sorry, we’ve been MIA’ post from a neglectful blogger. It’s not that I don’t love you and/or don’t want to share things here. It’s just that it’s the end of the semester and the holiday season and, oh yeah, we’re moving to Chicago in TWO WEEKS. Put all of those things together, and you don’t get a whole lot of coherency out the other side.

On the other hand, we have been cooking: Thanksgiving dinner for friends, lentil stew and other soups with the six quarts of turkey stock, shrimp tacos, and last night’s very passable impression of chicken piccata served on the fine china. And we’re throwing diets out the window and enjoying meals at many of our favorite places. So it’s not that I don’t have things to tell you about – it’s that I don’t have time.

In lieu of actual content, here is a picture of our cats behaving strangely:

Cat Train

We’ll be back soon. Promise.