This Week’s Reads (1/27/2017)

I don’t have a lot of extra cycles this week. I was in Atlanta last weekend at a conference doing conference things (meetings! attending presentations! carrying too much stuff around!), sharing meals and drinks with friends and colleagues that I don’t see often enough, and participating in the Atlanta March for Social Justice and Women (more on that later). Reentry after these whirlwind trips is always hard, but it’s been particularly overwhelming this week, when several work projects have come together at the same time while (it feels like) our country has imploded around us. I’ve alternated between trying to read all the news and make all the phone calls – and feeling so exhausted and demoralized by any one piece of news that I just want to put my head in the sand and tune out for the next four years. But I can’t do that.

I spent Tuesday morning teleworking from our car dealership – just routine service stuff – and the sign on the TV made me feel a little more sane, as did some of the below links. Right now it’s really hard to know how to direct our energy, where we can do the most good, or what news we should trust. It seems like the best thing we can do is keep leaning on each other as we find our way through.

Don’t shame the first steps of a resistance – SocialistWorker.org
Oh boy, did I need to read this. I’ve already talked about feeling shame about not doing enough before the election. This has been compounded by shaming in various online spaces from more active or established activists.We can and should all do better. Every event, movement, organization, and individual can be more inclusive. “But endless social media critiques with no commitment to diving into that struggle for the kind of movement we want is not a serious approach.”

After Women’s March, Longtime Chicago Activists Answer ‘What Next?’ – Chicagoist
Reflections and ideas for action from Chicago-area activists

How To Mobilize Your Election Fear & Anger Into Action In Chicago – Chicagoist
This is from November, but it’s worth a reread for Chicago-area folks. Lots of links to organizations that can use your help.

Ways To Take Effective Action Following The Magnificent Women’s March – Gothamist
Specific action items for leveraging the nascent movement embodied in the Women’s March

Trump’s executive order on Obamacare, explained by two health policy experts – Vox
This gives me at least a little hope that the repeal of the ACA, if it happens, won’t be as catastrophic as feared. (It will still be bad.)

Chicago To Trump: Go F*ck Yourself
“Chicago isn’t perfect. We have a dickhead for mayor, horribly crooked cops, an insane murder rate, and over 100 years of institutionalized racism that is literally embedded in the city’s infrastructure, but threatening the city with armed soldiers is a historically bad idea. Just the fact that a city built by immigrants and full of refugees, transplants, hipsters, and olds could unite to tell the highest elected official in the country to take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut is proof that something good is happening.”

2014 Chicago Bucket List, part 2

I’m so far behind in blogging about my resolutions and other adventures from this year. We’re halfway into December and I have drafts from outings from February. So how about rolling up this very fun resolution into a miniseries?

The second installation in my miniseries about my 2014 Chicago bucket list adventures!

Chicago skyline
View from the Adler

Adler Planetarium: May’s Adler After Dark event was cosponsored by the Oriental Institute – a perfect excuse for us both to make our first visit! We learned about medical astrology and inverse moons and took funny photos of our bellies.

Hot Doug's
Doing Hot Doug’s right

Hot Doug’s: Chicago’s premiere encased meat emporium had been on my to-do list for years prior to the announcement that the owner planned to close up shop in October. My first thought was “I can go on my maternity leave!”. Fortunately, an earlier opportunity presented itself: since I was already missing half a day of work for an ultrasound, we decided to make a day of it and brave the Hot Doug’s line. It felt pretty ridiculous, but was worth it for extremely delicious sausages and fries.

Chicago Bucket List: Cubs game with Nicolas
View from Wrigley

#ChicagoBucketList: Cubs game with N, even though he's cheering for the Mets...
View at Wrigley

Cubs game with Nicolas: Despite living in Lakeview for 6ish years, Nicolas had never been to Wrigley Field or to a Cubs game – in fact, the Sox game in April was his first baseball game, period! We kept talking about how these all-American activities needed to be added to his citizenship dossier. Hot dogs, beer, and baseball on a perfect summer night were an excellent addition.

Drinks at a shitty Wrigleyville bar: After the baseball game, we knocked out a second bucket list item by walking down Clark to grab drinks and food at a random bar before Neo prom. We thankfully skipped the douchiest bars in Chicago.

Dim sum
Dim sum

Dim sum in Chinatown: The bucket list originally called for hot pot, but dim sum was on my mental list. We tried Moon Palace on the recommendation of another Chinatown diner who, after seeing us order pork buns at another restaurant, said we had to try the (off-menu?) steamed spinach buns at Moon Palace. They did not disappoint.

We stopped into Vosges yesterday and left with free truffles.
Truffles from Vosges

Vosges with Nicolas: I’ve been a fan of Vosges chocolate for years, and had been to the Lincoln Park shopfront a few times, but never with Nicolas. We stopped in while walking around Lincoln Park one afternoon and left with free truffles! My enormously pregnant belly probably helped.

Vegan Korean food with Karen! 36/#100daystobaby
Vegan Korean with Karen

Vegan Korean at Dragon Lady Lounge with Karen: Karen and I talked about checking out the monthly Korean buffet at Dragon Lady Lounge for two years before we had the right opportunity – the next-to-last buffet they would offer! We ate all the things, and all of them were delicious.

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Sailing on Lake Michigan

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Chicago skyline, golden hour

Sailing on Lake Michigan: We bought a deal for a two hour sailing adventure at the beginning of the summer, and cashed it in as one of our last pre-baby adventures on a lovely September night. We were supposed to share our outing with at least two other people, but they didn’t show up, so we had the boat to ourselves. We were treated to an exceptional sunset as we turned back to the city. It was perfect.

Pie at Hoosier Mama Pie Company: We made a strategic error in not eating before Nicolas’s naturalization ceremony, expecting to be in and out in an hour or so. Instead, it took three hours, and we emerged as a famished family of American citizens. We headed straight to Hoosier Mama and had pie for lunch. What’s more American than apple pie, after all?

2014 Chicago Bucket List, part 1

I’m so far behind in blogging about my resolutions and other adventures from this year. We’re halfway into December and I have drafts from outings from February. So how about rolling up this very fun resolution into a miniseries?

Around this time last year, I posted a first draft of my Chicago bucket list: an aspirational collection of 50+ outings and adventures that I’d like to tackle before I eventually leave Chicago. While I didn’t stick to my goal of one bucket list item per month, I knocked a number of them off this year:

Sandwiches and Petits fours
Tea at the Drake

Tea at the Drake Hotel with Mom: For the last few years, I’ve met my mom in the city for a birthday weekend. This year I requested high tea at The Drake in lieu of a birthday dinner. While pricey, it was a really nice thing to do for a special occasion, and something I look forward to doing with my nieces in the future!

The Brookfield Zoo: In February, we braved the cold to take advantage of a free admission day to visit the larger of the Chicagoland zoos. They don’t have a sand cat, but they do have black-footed cats! The highlight for me was probably the wolf habitat – it was amazing to watch the pack tear around in the snow.

The Oriental Institute: I took a whirlwind tour of this museum during a tour of campus when I first started my job, but hadn’t been back in the two years since. If you haven’t been and you have even a passing interest in history or archaeology, you MUST go. I wasn’t feeling well the day we were there, so I spent a lot of time reading the contents of cases that had benches in front of them.

We walked downtown for donuts.
Do-Rite

Donuts from Do-Rite: It turns out I’d already had donuts from Do-Rite, but I hadn’t been to the main location downtown, so we made it our destination on a late spring morning when Nicolas wanted sweets and we both wanted a long walk. We’ve been a few times since, and their old fashioneds have been consistently excellent – possibly my favorite donuts in the city, though that might be the subject for another post.

Not bad.
Our view for the Sox vs Sox

Tina!
More baseball with Tina!

White Sox game: I was raised baseball agnostic, but adopted the Cubs as my team by default when I was subjected to radio broadcast of the games at my post-college call center job. If you’re a Cubs fan, you can’t be a Sox fan. That’s just the rule. So this was one of the least likely items on the list – unless I got tickets to the Crosstown Classic. Instead, I went to TWO Sox games this year. In April, Tina and Jeff treated us to an extremely cold Sox vs Sox game (and a helmet full of nachos). And then in May, we got a good deal for tickets and snacks on Memorial Day. I’m still a Cubs fan, but I have a new appreciation for the Sox – or at least their ballpark.

Water taxi <3 <3
View from the water taxi

The water taxi: THE WATER TAXI. How did I live in Chicago for two years before taking the water taxi? How did Nicolas live here for three times that long without taking the water taxi? The water taxi was a highlight of our summer, and a frequent weekend activity – walk to Chinatown, take the water taxi downtown, have an adventure, take the water taxi home. It’s the cheapest way to see the city from the water. If you buy a 10 ride pass, it’s not much more than taking the El, and it’s considerably more pleasant. About half the time, they didn’t punch our pass, or didn’t punch it the right number of times, so we have a number of water taxi rides saved up for next summer. Seriously: take the water taxi.

Chicago Bucket List: Donuts from Do-Rite

Saturday morning hunger is not something to be trifled with. I wanted bacon, but N wanted donuts. We struck a compromise: a quick bite at a place in our new neighborhood (bacon for me) followed by a long walk to get donuts.

That long walk turned out to be 3.5 miles from Pilsen to Do-Rite, just across the street from the Daley Center downtown. Despite the limited menu options, we struggled to make our choices, but left with an iced coffee and the beginnings of grease stains on the sides of our paper bag containing three precious donuts. It was a beautiful day, and with no seating readily available, we wandered over to Millennium Park to dig in.

We walked downtown for donuts.

It was only after we dug in that I remembered that Do-Rite was on my Chicago Bucket List, though we’d previously had their donuts from Star Lounge and Dark Matter Coffee. We tried three old fashioneds: I had the chocolate, while N enjoyed the buttermilk AND the pistachio Meyer lemon.

It would be premature to say that these are my favorite donuts in the city, but they’re a pretty strong contender. Doughnut Vault’s are excellent but the lines are a significant drawback. Glazed and Infused’s are delicious, but have a similar effect to what I imagine chocolate frosted sugar bombs doing to Calvin. But Do-Rite? Just right.

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.

Right Now

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  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?