Sunday, January 27, 2008

On a Downtown Train. Shit. Why'd I Go With That Title? I Hate That God-Awful, Rod Stewart Song!

Every day one steps onto The El (short for elevated trains, for our 3 readers not from Chicago) anything can happen. Here are three things that went down during my rides in the span of one week:

1. During rush hour, when you can rarely get a spot to sit, I noticed a car that was inexplicably almost empty. It should have dawned on me that something like that is too good to be true, but one has so little time to think before those doors close. Well, when the doors shut I immediately knew why so few people were riding that car: It smelled like shit, and I don't mean that figuratively. Most everyone had their shirts over their mouths and nose, which should have also tipped me off before I got aboard, except for one sleeping, homeless-looking guy, who was more than likely the culprit, since not even he should be able to sleep through that kind of stink (must have been immune to his "own brand"). It was the coldest day of the year, so maybe he decided to stay warm by riding the train all day and shitting himself. Does he know how to have a good time, or what!!

I couldn't take another second of it, so when the train came to the next stop, I darted out of the stinky car, said, "That car stinks" to a man about to board, and ran to the next car. Just before the doors of the breathable car closed, the guy who I warned thanked me, and I said, "Yeah, I think he pooped himself." Then another guy said, "That was rough. I changed cars too."

2. Okay, no more doody stories, I promise. Yesterday I was listening to my ipod on a high, going to make me deaf some day, but who gives a shit level, something by Pavement I believe, but I could still make out a phrase that the doo-wop, street performer group was singing. Although they had reworked the song nearly to the point of being a different melody, and even with Stephen Malkmus' slacker vocals belting it out into my ear drums, I still made out this phrase: "I'm not happy when I try to fake it." I knew if was from a song I like, but I wasn't sure which. I took my headphones off to realize that it was an excellent rendition of Easy by The Commodors. As I slipped a buck into whatever it was they were using as a tip jar, the one guy doing back-up harmonies sang a quick thank you to me. Then, as I boarded the train, they started up a killer, reworked rendition of Stephen Stills' Love the One You're With. In fact, I've never cared for that song too much, but I loved the version by this overqualified group of Chicago street musicians. If I see them again, I'm asking them to play my birthday party, and you'll all be there, along with lots of balloons.

3. As I'm riding to work the other day, again, bumping my ipod, a Black kid, who's age I would guess to be around 11-years-old, but the sex was undermined at this point, tugs at my shirt to get my attention to ask me how many gigs my ipod held. I told her twenty, and she showed me her ipod, portable game system, and a few other devices. I said, "Man, you gotta be careful walking around with all those electronics." To which she said, "I'm a girl." Oops. I tried to explain that I was using the word "man" as an exclamation. She must not have been too offended, because she then showed me her Tupac book, which was pretty damn, cool. It had compartments inside with all kinds of lyrics he had written, and they looked like the originals, because they were on notebook paper. As I got off the train, I said, "Alright, this is my stop. Be good." I've been saying "be good" a lot lately, and it is a stupid habit that doesn't make much sense. Although, this kid seemed really sweet, and I hope that she will "be good."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Food, Bar, Coffee, Records.

A little sharing about some new spots I went to this past weekend. Chicago has so much to offer that I try not to get into a routine of eating at the same place... drinking at the same place... shopping at the same place. I always tell myself that when employees know my name that is not a good sign (especially if it's a bar).

The Spot: My vote for worst bar in Chicago (on N Clark near Montrose). It has so many things going on that none of it works. It's part 1950's Italian Restaurant, part dive bar, part hipster hang out, part sports bar, part bad 80's music, part swanky... and so on. The clientele is white boy wanna-be frat dudes that are more pathetic which does not make for good people watching (it's too sad). The place has no vibe, no comfort, and no class. The Spot is sooooo not the spot.

Painted Lady: Once called the Bleeding Heart bakery (which I've never been to, but it moved and actually still owns this little cafe) this is the little organic cafe that could (on W Chicago at Damen). A great vibe (not too earthy / hippie) and some fantastic coffee. The food was good - not spectacular. LP had the vegan chili which tasted more like salsa, but was not bad. My mac&cheese was very tasty... but how hard is mac&cheese. That fact that they are offering completely organic ingredients is stellar. The food is not cheap, but the price is fair for what you are getting in return. Well worth checking out especially over a conversation about flax seeds.

Atomix: A block away from Painted Lady is a little hole of a coffee shop called Atomix. A friend of mine practically lives there since it is close to her house and it has free wi-fi. And for students free wi-fi is a big plus. The coffee is good... maybe even a bit more than good. But the place is boring. There are no comfortable places to sit. The two women behind the counter where more into looking at their computer than acknowledging my presence and helping me. Sorry Atomix... you are just ok.

Premanent Records: Another block or so east on Chicago Ave is a little record store that spews charm. I've heard a lot of good things about this Permanent Records shop and have always meant to check it out. Sure it's not the greatest find in the world, but I did find a few pieces of vinyl I've been searching for. The store cat ads a great little touch to the place, and the owners are super. I'll be going back there to support a good part of the Chicago music scene.