Tag Archives: travel

ah, summer.

A stretch of home games for the Cubs and the traffic nightmare that is the Taste of Chicago have turned downtown into a one-two punch of appalling annoyingness and shuffling white people. Michigan Avenue is just not really that interesting, especially when you can’t make your way down the sidewalk at anything resembling normal speeds, owing to the mooing bovine herds in from Naperville or Boilingbrook or some other suburban shithole who, honestly, could stand to be hustled along with a cattle prod. Surely they have Forever 21 and Borders in the mall in those places. You have to have seen this shit before. Chop, chop, people.  And I say this as someone who is usually half a block behind my significant other because he is TALL and I am SLOW.

God forbid you should have to say, run any kind of errands within the boundaries of the Loop, whether that be making a quick Trader Joe’s run for staples (beer, melatonin, cat food, parmesan), trying to get frozen yogurt at one of Chicagoland’s fine Pinkberry imitators*, or buying outlandish five dollar dangly earrings from H&M that will be worn exactly three times before they break into tiny fragments from the insistent pressure of your cell phone. Gotta love that far eastern quality control!

It’s certainly enough to make you go all What About Bob, i.e. to wear this:

Shirt available at Found Item Clothing, and seen in action here

The Onion’s AV Club has an excellent piece on the summer-induced recession-heightened tourist deluge that is upon us. Link here.

Rachael Ray’s $40 A Day says: “Rachael Ray toddles into the Windy City of Chicago with a farmer-sized appetite and just $40. She hits Kitsch ‘n on Roscoe for breakfast, and BackStage Bistro for lunch. For dinner she tries Greek Islands, a Greek family restaurant. The evening ends at Navy Pier with macadamia popcorn.”

But they forgot to mention: That frugality needn’t go hand in hand with scattershot dining choices. Also, no evening should end at Navy Pier.

Never listen to anything Rachel Ray says. “EVOO” is just not going to happen, because it’s an absolutely un-bloody-necessary acronym. And, there’s the whole part where she can’t cook. Howevs, I will concede that her magazine is kind of cute. Probably because you can’t hear her yapping beagle voice when you read it. That’s a start for making her, oh, an eighteenth more tolerable.

The Onion article also links to this website, which you can use to scare the bejeesus out of yourself and plot the incidences of various crimes on each city block. It was one of my most favorite activities before moving from Kentucky.**

Which, in light of the fact that Chicago’s longstanding handgun ban was just struck down, means there will likely soon be a lot more dots on that little crime map. Just in time for a rousing summer round of my fave summer game: “Fireworks or Gunshots?” Not to mention that the New York Times can reward us with charming gems like this, that go so damn well with your a.m. iced coffee–

Last school year, 258 public school students were shot in Chicago, 32 fatally, on their way to or from school, traveling through gang-infested territory and narcotics wars on the South and West Sides.

Oh, woo. If you need to shoot pheasants on weekends in Wisconsin, get a friggin’ rifle. Otherwise, the second amendment can GET BENT.***

*I love Pinkberry and the denizens of imitators it has spawned. I now long to go to Korea because I fondly imagine that you can get tart frozen yogurt everywhere. The streets are awash in it. Pinkberry’s motto is “Swirly Goodness,” which sounds like the kind of kink you would normally hear some traumatized woman call in to Savage Love about. And think to yourself, lordy, glad I’m not fucking that guy. No? Just me, then.

**And also try to parse the language of incident reports. Why is domestic violence classed as “simple battery”? It seems like the convergence of factors that feed into household violence are mind-bogglingly complex.

***I must steal a tweet from Charlie Brooker (about David Cameron, zoinks!), and co-opt it for my own purposes: “LEAST SEXY AMENDMENT EVER.”


I live five doors down from the Obama’s house  in Chicago. The proximity to political bigwigs wasn’t necessarily a factor when we rented our place, and we actually used to park in front there all the time. Then we discovered that Ellis actually had better street parking and was less of a schlep.

I didn’t think much about any of this until the presidential campaign really got underway in 2008. Suddenly, Greenwood was blocked off, and there were cop cars stationed every twenty feet. In the run-up to election day, Chicago’s finest were joined by what can only be described as a smokin’ hot security detail: dudes in navy polos, bulletproof vests, and regulation khaki pants.* I once saw a giant white Escalade dropping off an honest-to-God sniper on my street. Presumably, he then went and climbed a tree and sat there perched with his rifle or whatever they carry, ready to pick off intruders. Eek.

In the three months between the election and the inauguration, the security ratcheted up to a fever pitch. Three blocks of my street were  barricaded in with cement road blocks. All the bus stops were removed. Cars were diverted elsewhere, and the residents who wanted to park had to submit to having their trunks sniffed by giant German Shepherds. Pedestrians were discouraged, and those of us who live here  had to have our bags searched and IDs checked every time we came and went.

A wrap-around gate encircles the building, but we have two separate entrances for each part of it. I quickly learned that entering on the Ellis side meant I could bring my groceries and toilet paper in without being wanded or patted down. For the most part. Before I had an Illinois driver’s license, I had to carry my voter registration card around as proof of residency. Once, a secret service guy stopped me.

“Ma’am, where are you going?”

Um. Here? My building? Where I, you know, live?

“Just inside, sir.” I’m going to what, jump the cast iron fences of the next five lawns?!

“Well, we need you to use the other entrance.”

“Sure, just, it’s not connected? Inside?”

“Oh, well. Okay then.”

This happened more than I would care to repeat. Don’t get me wrong, I want the leader of the free world to be protected. I just wish when they come to town they’d stayed in a goddamned hotel, with security cameras and CCTV and secure entranceways and egresses, is all.

Given the level of security, I’m also kind of surprised that you can still blithely explore the surrounding area using Google Street View. I was almost 100 percent positive that great stretches of the neighborhood would be grayed out, like Area 51 or Roswell or some such.

I don’t necessarily feel safer, just massively inconvenienced.

Like the time when I had to explain to AT&T–whose customer service department must have been trained in Soviet post-offices for their interminable fucking bureaucracy and insistence on making everything just that much worse– that, no, they couldn’t fix any of the telephone poles or wires within a half mile of my house, because that would necessitate running cables to 47th, which is now a protected area, because the president, yes, I do mean President Obama, and I’m sure you were a McCain-Palin supporter since this call center is probably located in Provo or Texarkana or somewhere god-awful where people think cappuccino comes out of a machine at the Dairy Mart and costs 79 cents and I know you think he’s in league with the terrorists but that’s not really the issue it’s more like could you just please for the love of Christ find a way to reroute the DSL wires so that we don’t cause a security breach and not disable my internet every time a new tenant moves in to the building and not mysteriously slap a $200 charge on my direct bill which I then have to spend an entire afternoon on the phone contesting owing to your utter shit-ass incompetence?

Yeah, cheers.

*These guys were hot. In stark contrast to the tubby whiteness of the CPD. Google image searches for “Secret Service” don’t turn up the same stunning caliber of attractiveness. Most of those guys look like miniature jujitsu experts or minor supporting characters from The Sopranos.