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

Right Now


  1. Settled in a great new apartment in a great new neighborhood with a great new roommate.
  2. Spring and maybe summer have arrived in Chicago. On Tuesday, it was 85 and sunny for my post-work run.
  3. A couple of great overnights in Champaign, and vacation on the not-to-distant horizon.
  4. Lunchtime walks in beautiful places.
  5. Lots of demands at work, but most of them are interesting and stretch me in good ways.
  6. So much good music in the next two weeks: Zoe Keating, Emily Wells, Front 242 (DJ set), Colin Stetson, Four Tet (DJ set). And then Movement not long after.
  7. Back to back PRs in a set of races where I PR’d last year.
  8. A new relationship that isn’t really new at this point, but that continues to fill me with wonder and joy and peace.
  9. A battery of tests proving that I’m in excellent health.
  10. Horoscopes that tell me to follow my heart:

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19): Despite everything I wrote to you last week about weighing self-gratification against fairness-to-others (which probably still requires some consideration), I can’t help but encourage you to veer slightly more in the direction of pursuing whatever the hell makes you happy. While it’s useful to reflect enough on your privilege relative to your friends or colleagues so you’re not blind to their potential responses, you can’t live a satisfying life by concentrating too much on assuaging others’ discontent. In fact, with multiple 5th-house planets now moving into a supportive trine to Pluto in your 1st, I’m sure you’re feeling pretty emboldened to make the personal most of any situation… and why the fuck not? These energies sure seem to be formally inviting you to intentionally put yourself at the unapologetic center of this week’s decision-making—and not just out of some future-minded commitment to ‘becoming your best self’, but in order to choose whatever will bring you immediate joy, creative fulfillment, and/or positive flirtatious attention. In closing, yes, I suppose I should reiterate the possibility that certain social allegiances could suffer tension, as envious or disapproving others react to seeing you so unapologetically serve your own pleasure. Maybe it’s because they’ve become too accustomed to you taking care of their needs first?

Midwest Tour, part 1

(or: 7 days, 8 states, 1 wedding, 2 families, 1 apt, and 2 tired librarians)

Day 1: Alexandria, VA > Lakewood, OH
States: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio

After a very full day of Important Work Stuff, we loaded up the car and set out at 5pm, basically the worst possible time to drive anywhere in any metro area.  The first 15 miles of our trip – from our apartment to the Beltway – took a full hour.  Fortunately we had NPR and various forms of jerky to get us through.  Carrying on, we encountered the Pennsylvania turnpike, which lacked rabid bears but did contain some pretty epic construction and/or accidents that significantly slowed us down.  Shane was a trooper and carried us through to Lakewood, Ohio, where we arrived at his mom’s house at around 1230am, completing a 6.5 hour drive in about 7.5.  Shane’s momma (and the cats) welcomed us with a lot of whispers, and we almost immediately crashed the hell on out.

Day 2: Lakewood, OH
States: Ohio

Despite getting in LATE, I was up at 9am to test the web conferencing software I would be using for an interview later in the week.  We kicked around the house, then went to the farmers’ market and Discount Drug Mart (which, apparently, ‘saves you the run-around’) with Shane’s momma, then stopped in to Rozi’s to pick up the first of OMG SO MUCH beer.  Throughout the trip I referred to these stops as our Smokey & the Bandit operation (sans pesky sherriff).  According to Shane’s tweets, he picked up DFH Sah’tea, Jolly Pumpkin Bam Bière, Nøgne Ø Sunturnbrew, and Southern Tier Back Burner.  This was a portend of things to come.

We met Shane’s BFF Steve for lunch and GOOD LORD MORE BEER.  Steve gifted us with five six-packs and a three-pack of underfills from Great Lakes.  They’re all anonymously bottled, so we’ll see how we do on figuring them out, especially because Shane kept getting confused by the conversation about the bottles, their provenance, and their actual contents.  We grabbed lunch at the Buckeye Beer Engine, a bar with pretty fantastic taps just around the corner from Shane’s momma’s house.  I haven’t really met any of Shane’s friends from way-back – just his friends from college on – so it was pretty hilarious from start to finish.

Both of Shane’s brothers had to work, putting us on a pretty tight visiting schedule.  After a quick nap (punctuated by Kittens Inspired by Kittens-type screaming), we had dinner with Orin and Shane’s momma at Luxe, in what is apparently an up-and-coming neighborhood that mostly appeared to be under construction.  Shane and I split a really fantastic charcuterie and cheese spread before Orin had to take off for rehearsal.  The rest of the evening involved hanging out with Travis, his girlfriend Kristen, Orin, Shane’s momma, and Shane’s aunt Corinne and uncle Chris.  At this juncture let me tell you that Shane’s family is great, but they are hella loud, god love ’em.  It was really fun to see everyone, though, as the only other time I’d met them was when we visited in 2006.  Unacceptable, right?  We’re both excited that we’ll be living 2.5 hours away instead of 6.5 (or 7.5, depending on the day) and will be able to visit more often.  Anyway, over the course of this evening I learned about “knee basketball” and that both Shane and Travis regard socks as “napkins on your feet”, among other interesting and informative facts.  We kicked everyone out at 11 so that we could crash before the next day of driving.