Thursday, April 30, 2009

Just Another Day in Chicago


This was officially our first day back in Chicago. The past two days have been spent looking for apartments, and we didn't really have time to enjoy anything about the greatest city in the world. But today was 'welcome back' day. It wasn't anything special, but let me reveal to you just how cool this town actually is. There's always something going on:

After sleeping through a cold, gray, rainy Chicago morning, it started simply enough: with a lunch trip to Boystown for burritos. But this was merely sustenance, for the day actually started with our trip to a Ravenswood coffee shop (The Perfect Cup). Matt Joynt works as the barista for this coffee shop when he's not on tour with his band, Anathallo. He makes a mean Black Eye, and is always a pleasant person to be around. Amidst some conversation on current news topics, he shared this website with us: 

doihaveswineflu.org

We weren't at the coffee shop five minutes when my old co-host from the Moody Indie Review showed up. It was a lovely surprise. Her name is Jess Jones (formerly Jess Schlobohm), and she is 9 months pregnant. A baby will come out of her any day now. Her life is changing.

After spending some time at the coffee shop, my wife and I went over to Jess's apartment. It took less than five minutes to walk there, about a block. We were welcomed by two cats, one lazy as hell, the other climbing the curtains. Eventually, both cats settled down and we were all able to sit down in the baby-stuff littered living room to talk about our crazy, ever-changing lives. Jess encouraged us by just being such a brave soon-to-be-mother, and apparently we encouraged her by simply coming back home with some faith left. I don't think anyone cried, but it was a very uplifting half hour.

Next, I met up with an old friend for a poetry reading and a movie while Jaclyn went with another friend to do yoga and an art gallery opening. I don't know much about Jaclyn's night, but mine was as intellectually and aesthetically engaging as they come.

The poet was Philip Levine. He read poems for America's working class at the Art Institute of Chicago. Since this was a part of Poetry Month festivities, the reading was free. Here's one of his poems, The Two:

 When he gets off work at Packard, they meet outside a diner on Grand Boulevard. He's tired, a bit depressed, and smelling the exhaustion on his own breath, he kisses her carefully on her left cheek. Early April, and the weather has not decided if this is spring, winter, or what. The two gaze upwards at the sky which gives nothing away: the low clouds break here and there and let in tiny slices of a pure blue heaven. The day is like us, she thinks; it hasn't decided what to become. The traffic light at Linwood goes from red to green and the trucks start up, so that when he says, "Would you like to eat?" she hears a jumble of words that mean nothing, though spiced with things she cannot believe, "wooden Jew" and "lucky meat." He's been up late, she thinks, he's tired of the job, perhaps tired of their morning meetings, but when he bows from the waist and holds the door open for her to enter the diner, and the thick odor of bacon frying and new potatoes greets them both, and taking heart she enters to peer through the thick cloud of tobacco smoke to the see if "their booth" is available. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that there were no second acts in America, but he knew neither this man nor this woman and no one else like them unless he stayed late at the office to test his famous one liner, "We keep you clean Muscatine," on the woman emptying his waste basket. Fitzgerald never wrote with someone present, except for this woman in a gray uniform whose comings and goings went unnoticed even on those December evenings she worked late while the snow fell silently on the window sills and the new fluorescent lights blinked on and off. Get back to the two, you say. Not who ordered poached eggs, who ordered only toast and coffee, who shared the bacon with the other, but what became of the two when this poem ended, whose arms held whom, who first said "I love you" and truly meant it, and who misunderstood the words, so longed for, and yet still so unexpected, and began suddenly to scream and curse until the waitress asked them both to leave. The Packard plant closed years before I left Detroit, the diner was burned to the ground in '67, two years before my oldest son fled to Sweden to escape the American dream. "And the lovers?" you ask. I wrote nothing about lovers. Take a look. Clouds, trucks, traffic lights, a diner, work, a wooden shoe, East Moline, poached eggs, the perfume of frying bacon, the chaos of language, the spices of spent breath after eight hours of night work. Can you hear all I feared and never dared to write? Why the two are more real than either you or me, why I never returned to keep them in my life, how little I now mean to myself or anyone else, what any of this could mean, where you found the patience to endure these truths and confessions?

Hot stuff. I even acquired my first copy of Poetry Magazine as a result of this experience. I also wandered briefly through the museum afterwards (it was free day).

Since we were already downtown, we were easily able to walk over to the Gene Siskel Film Center for a new documentary called Examined Life. It featured all sorts of philosophers and thinkers who were discussing ethics, disability, meaningfulness, politics, ecology and other important modern issues. The star of the film was Cornel West. I saw Dr. West speak at Calvin College a few weeks ago, and it was mind-blowing. He might be the smartest dude I've ever been in the same room with. If you've never heard of him, get off of my blog and google him. He's an amazing thinker, and will more than likely inspire you to examine your life again.

It was my kind of movie, and I want to watch it again. It was like Waking Life with less pretension and no spacy dream talk. And there wasn't any bullshit rotoscoping. Once it was over, Jim Joyce and I walked around the city and talked about the film and the issues it raised. Jim struggles with the concept of social contracts, while I have a hard time with disability ethics.

Next, Jaclyn and Avanti picked me up and we drove past the United Center just as the Bulls won game six against the Celtics in triple overtime. Everybody was wearing red. Derrick Rose jerseys were the item of choice, but Jordan jerseys were still around (and for some reason, Toni Kukoc's number 7 made at least two appearances...). There was honking and yelling, a typical celebration for the Chicago sports fan...

And a few minutes after the Bulls won, I got a text from our realtor letting us know that we've been approved to move in to our new apartment on Saturday. So everybody, if you're not doing anything then, come on over to 1922 N. Washtenaw and say hello. We'll go somewhere later that night to watch the Bulls game of course. And then who knows what the hell will happen after that!

So we're all feeling pretty good right now. We feel right back at home. But tomorrow's another day. 

No comments: