Thursday, December 28, 2006

"The nation mourns President Ford,"

THEY INTONED GRAVELY on every national newscast.

1) Is "national mourning" mandatory? Is there a law?

2) If not, then I'll let it be known that no, I'm not mourning. I really didn't know the guy personally. He was one of the least distinguished presidents of the last century, and he got his job by accident. Seriously, why would I be all broken up?

3) If the Voices of Authority on our evening news were to find that most Americans actually were getting on with our lives just fine, would they bother saying so? Or are they too into their perceived role as court scribes and hagiographers of power?

4) Why isn't "the nation mourning" James Brown, who arguably had more impact culturally and even politically?

5) Why do so many worship power? Why are some so hellbent on making the cult of the already imperious Imperial Presidency even more so with each passing day? 

The Ford death was attended by the same sort of imperialism orgasm that attended the death and corpse tour of Reagan a few years back. Why all this attention showered on a carcass?

Did we really need the nationwide tour, the honor guards, the pageantry, the fanfare, the lionization, the damn-near deification? Where does this stop? When the title is changed to Caesar and he is declared God in the flesh?

Since they are dead, dead presidents are not helped by the worship of their remains, nor by the monuments built to them, nor by the monumental sums of taxpayer-contributed paper dead presidents consumed in the process.

But for the the still-living who stand to inherit the power, exploitation of the dead for propaganda purposes -- as spellbinding talismans and ritual props for the power structure -- is essential. The modern United States of America is restoring this ancient superstition to a high art. 

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bringing the "stars" back down to earth

MTV AND VH-1 have perfected the art of serving up pop culture offal you're ashamed to be caught watching, with just enough snark to distance themselves from the stink. When we finally get fed up with this stuff, they'll be able to say, "Ho ho, we were laughing at it all along."

But there is one redeeming value in our glut of "reality" and celebrity, and this is revealed in VH-1's "Celebreality" brand. Although at first glance this programming block appears to be more of the same disgusting celebsession we're already sick of, it's actually doing us a great service: deconstructing and lampooning celebrity; putting celebs -- more accurately, former celebs -- back in their rightful place. These has-beens get "stripped of all their A-list privileges -- and their self-esteem" (words taken from the actual Robin Leach intro). It's actually refreshing to see the formerly famous now groveling for money and recognition by cramming into houses together and enacting stupid scripts and playing dumb games for a nationwide audience. They're back to entertaining -- which is, after all, the whole reason why they became famous in the first place.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The world needs another blog,

so here goes. This one will feature opinions and information about the arts (perhaps with a slight bias toward my hometown, Chicago), as you might've guessed from the name Live Active Culture.

What, you thought it was about yogurt?

Of course, being a writer and musician and artist of sorts, I will find the time to promote my own work here, when the time comes. I don't want to too tightly define or confine the content right now. Just read and enjoy and I'll figure it out as I go along.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Compiled from the research papers of Mrs. Hartmann's sixth grade class, January 1997

In a country named Egypt They believed that there was an after death, so They started mummifying people in the late 1600s.1

The liver, stomach, and intestines were removed by making an incision on the left side of the body. Sometimes the heart was in the body when they died.2

The body was then ready to be raped

Egypt: An Ancient Country (a retro-post)

Compiled from the research papers of Mrs. Hartmann's sixth grade class, January 1997

In a country named Egypt They believed that there was an after death, so They started mummifying people in the late 1600s.1

The liver, stomach, and intestines were removed by making an incision on the left side of the body. Sometimes the heart was in the body when they died.2

The body was then ready to be raped

Friday, October 27, 2006

Diagnosis: Acute vampirosis with hunchbackism

EARLIER TONITE I was in the Underground Cafe at Columbia College, sewing popped-off buttons back onto my new jacket (looks nice, but the quality is crap) when who should show up in the place but S H A R K U L A -- in a black North Face coat and a cape under which was stowed a backpack, making him look like a hunchback. I asked him if this was early Halloween getup, or was it perhaps a promotion for the CD I'd heard he was releasing, The Diagnosis of Sharkula? He seemed to answer in the negative, but then I didn't quite fully understand his answer. Shark can be kinda hard to follow somtimes.

Monday, October 02, 2006



A fake protest for "real fruit"
draws a crowd on Chicago's Mag Mile

IT'S AROUND 2:30 on a sunny Friday afternoon. The majestic Michigan Avenue drawbridge, gateway to the Magnificent Mile, hosts its usual array of buzzing traffic, busy people, tourists, panhandlers. At the foot of the northeast bridge house, magnificently adorned with classical bas-relief sculptures, a homeless man sits oblivious to it all, picking at his crusty feet.A dapper denizen of the district known as "Homeless Yanni" or "Walking Dude" (subject of a supposedly upcoming "Dudeamentary") strolls northward over the bridge, sporting his trademark flowing hair --now silvery rather than Kiwi shoe polish black -- and a rumpled leisure suit.

At Pioneer Court in front of the Tribune Tower, a little girl runs up to a 9-foot-tall moose sculpture made from car bumpers and tries to climb the creature -- then notices it has a penis, which she immediately grabs. Mommy scolds her, then complains to daddy, "Do they have to make these so realistic?"

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ghetto Mama and would-be Sugar Daddy

AS A NATURE LOVER, I'm a frequenter of our region's fine county forest preserves and State parks. I feel better when I'm out in the midst of natural greenery, breathing fresh air. Away from lots of people, buildings, traffic, air pollution, noise pollution, electromagnetic pollution. I figure the other people who frequent the forest preserves feel better in such an environment too.

So, I figured, that must explain why so many of the people I might run into on forest preserve paths or in parking lots on a Sunday afternoon -- including men, who seem prevalent at many of these sites -- are so friendly and always say hello.

I figured, why shouldn't other men be sitting there in parking spaces in their cars, trucks or vans (there are always vans)? I sometimes came to sit too. I would read a book, finish my greasy fast food burger, or just think, or write, or plan things, or whatever, while watching the sun set and the moon appear and the deer come out to eat. I figured they were doing that too.

Until I started hearing WLS radio guys Roe Conn and Garry Meier doing "bits" about the fact that the forest preserves are also notorious gay cruising spots.

My eyes thus opened, I've recently seen a great deal more of this than I'd like to. For example, a couple of nights ago.

It's about 6:00. I go to a Tinley Park forest preserve (not far from World Music Theater/Tweeter Center/First Midwest Bank Ampitheatre/whatever it's calling itself nowadays) which is designed primarily for model airplane flying. I pull into the lot and light up a cigarette and started reading the book I'm studying for my class at the Henry George School, Economic Science. There are a couple other cars backed into spaces -- that's part of the "code." If you're backed into a space it means you're looking. Then a prospective partner backs into the space next to you, and as they say, "it's on."

Well, knowing this, I park normally at the far end of the lot, away from the other guys. Yet even so, in the space of the next hour four cars enter the parking lot and pull up right next to me, even though they could have parked anywhere. Each one sits there for a few moments. When they see I don't look at them, they back out and leave.

This one dude -- a fat, pasty white guy who looked about 55, wearing shades and driving a white hatchback -- pulls up on my right side. After a few moments, he leaves.

Then about 15 minutes later, comes back, drives toward me, U-turns, leaves again.

Then 20 minutes later, he's back again. Pulls in next to me. Leaves again.

After 20 more minutes, it's getting dark and I'm the only car left in the lot. Here he comes again! Man, this guy just won't take no for an answer. I ignore him. He goes away.

I wait a few minutes, and then go home. I hate being there when the cops comes to close the place down, because they probably assume I'm cruising too.

HOW IGNANT CAN YOU GET? I'd rather not have seen this, but I did. I'd just left the class at the Henry George School, where were talking about political economy. Afterwards, we students had hung around with the instructor and discussed education, why schools don't educate, the vital importance of educating yourself ... Stuff like that.

And so I get on the Red Line south and I sit down next to a little black girl who seems to be about 3. The apparent mother or caretaker is seated across the aisle. She looks to be under 20, and is bottle-feeding another child, a blanket-wrapped baby; also, sitting next to her is a third girl, who's about 8).

The 3-year-old who's next to me is clutching a couple of sections of the Reader that some other passenger had discarded. She looks up at me and smiles. Trying to mimic speech, she offers me a section of the newspaper. I say, "No thanks, I have my own. Why don't you read it?"

I actually then open up a newspaper I'm holding (it was the African paper, the Chicago Inquirer), and the little girl, looking at me, likewise opens up her copy of the Reader and starts pretending to read the classified ads.

But suddenly, mom gives an order. And like lightening, the big sis leaps across the aisle, growls "gimme dat!" and snatches the newspaper from the toddler's hands.

"Throw it under that seat!" the mom orders, motioning to her which seat to throw it under. The 8-year-old  crumples it up and chucks it underneath a seat. Then the mom barks to the 3-year-old, "Get over here!" The little girl comes over obediently and sits next to her mom, now only able to stare at people -- or stare out the window at the inside of the subway tunnel.

What just happened? I was astonished, then angry. Is it her goal to raise stupid children? The little girl was sitting there, quietly occupying herself, probably trying to teach herself to read (which is not really possible without learning phonics, which I'm sure will not be forthcoming from mom). For her trouble, she just got  yelled at, scowled at, and punished. Will this child grow up to have a love of reading and learning? Not if mama can help it.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I'm trying not to look at your naughty bits, or think about you pooing.

SO THERE I WAS AT Tojo Gallery last night, casually chatting with a butt-naked guy and girl. And trying not to look down.
They were there with an exhibit associated with the anti-GMO food group T.H.O.N.G., famous for naked protests. I think they were two of the artists. I was trying to act natural (ahem) and make convo, like I would with normally attired people at a normal exhibit. 

As she bent down to put her drawers back on, Melinda was talking about some herbal cleanse she was doing. "It's supposed to balance you, clean you all out, but I'm not feeling that great," she said.
"Oh so you're getting a detox reaction?" I ask.

"Well, it's supposed to make you poo. But with me, it's doing the opposite." 

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Chicagowood (a retro-post)

SO VINCE VAUGHN AND Jennifer Aniston did the unthinkable. They went ahead and filmed The Breakup without me.

Monday, May 15, 2006

"Prince Charles sends his regards"

AFTER A DISASTROUS first couple of days as a server at a private club, I did better today.  No dumb mistakes. (Well, at least none that the guests or the boss saw.)

We  "only" had to work 12 hours today, 10 to 10.

Afternoon brought a tasting for an upcoming wedding reception; then, setup for an exhibit opening and lecture at Joel Oppenheimer Gallery, our next-door neighbor.

It's drawings by John Audubon, printed and colored by R. Havell. Prices are modest; Snowy Owl could be yours for only $160,000.

Two burly black security guards stand at the front and thear rear, while we Latino and black servers take care of the nice white people. Favio mans the bar, serving up reds and whites, Evian, and Perrier. Freddy and Juan set up an audio system with cordless mics. Luis and I tray-pass canapes (which I ignorantly call hors d'ouvres until I am corrected; -- and which, I am also startled to learn, is pronounced "cana-pees," not cana-pays).

Now, Oppenheimer being an infamous name -- global diamond racket, atom bomb, y'know -- I figure this one, sitting on some of the most expensive real estate in Chicago, is one of those. Whatever the case, he sure is down with "The Royals."

Apparently all the guests are connected to the American Society (or Club?), which seems to be connected to the British consulate, also located in our building. So, the conversation is a mix of American and British ox-cents. One Sir Peter Crane is present, and he has to jet -- literally -- right after the lecture. Snippets and snatches of conversation that I catch include:

".. Let me relay Lord Shelburne's regards to you as well..."

" ... You know, his two daughters, who live in New York with Fergie ..."

"Prince Charles sent his regards..."

"Oh, we would have dropped everything and come to see him, but we were in the Galapagos..."

" ... But then Margaret Thatcher dropped by ..."

Other conversations are sprinkled with the names of Charles and "Camilla" and "The Queen." ("It must have a capital 'T'," someone says.)

One dude, who is  the spitting image of a Chicago salesguy I know, has the last name "Stiff."

And yeah -- he does kinda have that Stiff upper lip thing. 

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Shouldn't anarchists be fun and open-minded?

WILD HORSES WAS the Anarchist Film Festival selection I came to see at the Autonomous Zone. Real good. The anarchists themselves -- borrrring. They apparently have no money to spend on beer or any other substsnce that might stimulate conviviality, and thus -- being antisocial geeks naturally -- are just not real social. The ones who did invite me out afterward, to the bicycle bar Spokes, I alienated eventually by coming out as pro-life.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

'I used to think being broke was noble.'

"NOW I THINK being broke is just . . . Being broke."
(Rhonda to me, at Starbucks)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Mary Wanna

SHOULDN'T BE TAKEN the way I took it last nite, in huge interminable lung-scorching drags, but it did appear to gift my creativity and -- surprisingly -- my memory of the stuff I created. A new song inserted itself into my head and spontaneously assembled: a beautiful, early-'80s, discofunk tune with an indelible hook and a female vocal. Other hip-hoppy beats wove themselves through my synapses. And while normally, I forget a tune as fast as it comes to me if I take my focus off it for even a moment, these tunes stuck in my brain the whole train ride home.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Spaceships, disposophobia, and the infinite sadness of Taxi 1010 (a retro-post)

So you haven't heard about the UFO pronouncement from Prophet Yahweh? What rock have you been under?

According to the Prophet, "summoning UFOs and actual spaceships on command" is actually a "lost art." (You can see video of his past UFO-summoning work for the low, low price of $7.95.)

He'll be doing his spaceship-summoning, he says, from now until July 15. Verily, verily! The Seer shall command, and UFOs shall appear. Amen?

How to be a part-time scenester (a retro-post)

THE PARADOX OF THIS blogging phenomenomenon is that the more of an actual life you have, the less time you have to spend writing about it. But since I'm just chillin' at the crib tonight (in part because I'm still recovering from last night), I've decided to just take it easy and recap last night's fun.

As usual, I'd not gotten around to making actual plans, so I ended up going out alone. But then, plans are as highly overrated as the potential fun in going out alone is underrated.

There are always at least a couple gallery receptions going on somewhere in the city. That means complimentary beverages and, in the fancier downtown spots, some phat hors d'ouvres. So, for anybody reading this who does not frequent the "art scene" in Chicago or elsewhere, the "scene" largely consists of guzzling free booze, gobbling finger foods and gettin' your flirt on while occasionally glancing at the paintings on the wall or scratching your head at some silly conceptual installation. Okay, yeah, that is perhaps a bit cynical. Anyway, it beats the bar scene.

With openings happening all over the city -- River North, River West, Pilsen, Wicker Park -- I hit the Fine Arts Building Gallery first. That's a no-brainer, as the FAB is the first building I see when I get off the train downtown. It's also right near my alma mater, and years ago I worked in there, at Fine Arts Theater to be exact, which showed a lot of films of the foreign or artsy variety such as The Piano. The place is a really cool, historic building-- used to be a Studebaker factory. It's got ancient manual elevators operated by mustachioed Eastern European guys. It's also got all kinds of interesting nooks and crannies. During lulls in work I used to creep down into the basement

(accessible from within one of the theaters), wielding my usher's flashlight, and check out the elevator machinery and boilers and what not. Or sneak into the often-unattended projection rooms as a movie ran, looking at the amazingly complex projectors and the film crisscrossing the room from one platter, through the projector, then out to the other platter. Stuff like that has always fascinated me. Also during my exploration, I found a hidden, unlit stone cellar of unclear purpose (Prohibition-era hooch hideaway? '50s fallout shelter?). It's separate from the main basement and It's underneath, I think, Theater Four, accessed by a heavy steel door and stairway secreted behind the theater screen. There is more yet to the building that I never got around to exploring.

In the fourth-floor gallery only about 8-10 people are present: not surprising, since the show is almost over. But the exhibit is impressive, featuring the miniatures, sculptures, and daguerrotypes of Sean Culver,

the paintings and drawings of Sophia Pichinos,

and oil paintings by Janet Doroba.

The tables in the center of the room are still loaded with stuff: fish and veggie sushi (with all the fixin's, including some @$$-kicking wasabi), multicolored shrimp chips (I find out what they are only after munching on a few; normally, I don't eat shrimp or shellfish), green grapes, and insanely chocolatey chocolates with cherry, mint, or other flavored fillings. And of course, an assortment of red and white wines, not to mention a bottle of green tea.

I enjoy munching, drinking and peering inside the dioramas, some of which are viewed through little peepholes. One of them is a miniature replica of a wood, complete with a little pond. Another, titled "The Optician's Nightmare" or something similar, depicts a dollhouse-sized bed floating in simulated water, over a tiny storefront with miniature counters and shelves.

Culver, a tall, salt-and-pepper-bearded man with glasses, is there, listening to a short, lispy-sounding guy, also in glasses who's yakking away at him for about 20 minutes. Figuring the lispy guy is a collector, I let them alone. Then the lispy guy comes over to me and introduces himself as Bart. "So are you an artist too?" (A question I get a lot.)

"'Dilettante' is closer," I say, only half-jokingly.

Turns out that Bart is an artist and also a big preservation activist. And for the next 25 minutes or so he talks my ear off about how the evil developers ran the local "preservationist" council; how the head is actually a zoning lawyer who's a crony of the pols and the developers. He talks about the elimination of historic districts and landmarks in favor of yet more overpriced condos, big-box stores, and McCoffee joints. And he says he's got lots more info. He asks me if I wrote for the Defender or other minority publications, which I have not but I probably could. I get his card and promise to be in touch.

Three or four drinks later, I'm checking out this real cute Asian lady who's in the gallery. She looks to be about 40ish and is with one of the other attendees of the show. She had been talking earlier to the server guy about him coming to work for her in some capacity, whatever it is that she does. Bart knows her, and he introduces us: Judy's her name. She says she and Bart attended the School of the Art Institute together, and she graduated in 1974. Perhaps sensing that I might be flirting with her, she laughs: "You probably weren't even born then! I could be your grandmother." Could've fooled me.
I learn that it is she who made the sushi and delicious chocolates. Probably figuring me for a hungry art student, she fixes me a plate piled with leftover sushi, which I take it away in a plastic bag. I forget to ask for some more chocolates.

SO I JET on outta there and head west to Dearborn and the Blue Line, a few blocks away. On Adams just before Dearborn I hear someone playing a flute. What's more, it's the Little Fugue in G Minor, one of my favorite Bach pieces. So I cross the street and head over to the flautist, who's sitting out on the sidewalk. He's a black dude with thick black-framed glasses (he reminds me of Rog from "What's Happening"). By the time I get there he's switched to the theme from Mission Impossible.
I throw a dollar into his cup. "Hey, nice Fugue in G minor!" I shout.

"Hey thanks! Yeah, the Little Fugue," he says with a big grin.

"I love that! Good work."
As I walk away the guy launches into "My Heart Will Go On."

Down in the subway tunnel, waiting for the Blue Line, I light up an American Spirit, disregarding the "No Smoking" signs. I'm gonna smoke a half cig, that's all: why is that such a problem? A guy comes over and asked me if I could spare one. Which I must, according to the Universal Smokers' Code, not to mention plain human decency.
The dude is obviously gay and interested. Yet, having had three glasses of wine, I'm feeling talkative, so we banter a bit. Why not? Since he has an Eastern European accent, I ask him where he's from, and he says Bulgaria. Yuko's his name, deejaying and making trip-hop music is his game. I have him say his Myspace page, twice, into my oldfangled microcassette recorder I carry around. Who knows? He might have some good stuff.

We continue yakking on the 10-minute train ride to Damen. He exits at Damen with me, asks me where he can get rolling papers. I point out the mini-mart next to Filter. I then go about my way toward Green Lantern Gallery, a loft space at 1511 Milwaukee. But first, I pause outside the Double Door to finish the Spirit and just look around at the bustling nightlife surrounding Wicker Park's famed Six Corners. The hipsters and artists can rant on and on about how the place has become gentrified beyond belief -- and it has, even within my short memory of the place. But it's still the place to go in Chicago for cool nightlife, for art-related happenings, and just fun people-watching. The artists who can't afford to live there any more still show up at the venues and apartment spaces.

Like the one at Green Lantern. As I enter the building and climb to the second floor, I hear the sounds of a madcap marching band: blaring trombones and tuba over a pounding tribal drumbeat.

I step inside, and to the first guy I see, I yell: "Encroachment?!

YES INDEED. I've seen environmental encroachment twice before. They're band geeks gone bad. They do wacky music and performance art with costumes and puppets. They do parties, festivals, antiwar protests, Burning Man.

The airy loft apartment is full of mostly twentysomethings but some older folks as well. The majority are dressed in dorky anti-fashion: chicks who could be bike messengers, multicolored hair, black-framed glasses, piercings, odd-colored shoes that look like they were lifted from a bowling alley, vintage dresses, outfits that look homemade. (By comparison, I'm dressed sort of plain: for a creative guy I tend to dress pretty uncreatively. I don't really like shopping, not even at thrift stores.)

ee is playing in front of the stage, which abuts the huge windows overlooking Milwaukee Ave. I station myself back in the kitchen section, leaning on the counter as someone sets down a fresh case of PBR. I just keep quiet and observe and listen as the band plays and partygoers get down.

The first couple people I recognize are Dave, proprietor of Butcher Shop/Dogmatic -- which I visited last week for the first time -- and a girl, who was also at BSD, who I also see at just about every other art happening I've been to, but whose name I forget.
The third person I see is the equally ubiquitous Lee Groban.

That's Lee on the right and antisocialite Liz Armstrong on the left, apparently ignoring him. (This pic is from some other party; I stole it from Liz' Flickr site). Here's another one, a mask of his face:

Like Savoir Faire, Lee is everywhere. He is a poet, artist and instantly recognizable scenester. He can usually be seen at art-related events chatting up girls half his age as he clutches a beer or a joint, swaying precariously -- and sometimes, falling down. He speaks fondly of his hippie days in Brooklyn and the Bay Area.

I try to talk with him, with little success, over the noise of horns and drums and dancing around us. From what I can make out, he says he's going down the street to Gallery Chicago (where I'm also going) in a bit. He recently had something done to his teeth and was advised not to smoke, so he hasn't bothered securing his usual supply of groovy greens for the folks at GC. "But I guess I could still do hallucinogenics," he slurs.

"Ever do 'shrooms?" I say, just out of curiosity.

Of course, he says. And I may be getting this wrong, but I do believe he said: "Although the last time I tried it, it was more of a body high. You know, not the kind where you see God."

I continue to just observe and soak up the sights, the sounds, the scene. After ee is done playing, I go out on the balc in back and have another Spirit and talk to Caroline, the impresaria behind Green Lantern, and some dude. The only other girl I bother talking to is a beautiful, charming six-year old.

Why am I talking to a six-year-old?

Well, after hanging out back, I re-entered and wandered over to the now-empty stage, and I listen to a guy strumming a guitar and a girl trying to sing something (apparently they're trying out a new song; no one's listening). I pick up a drum and bongo along with them for while, just because I feel like it.

As we play, a few colorfully dressed little kids are running around near the stage. I think it's awesome to see kids at art events. How fortunate they are to grow up in a milieu of art and creativity and grown-ups who are not quite grown up.

One of the kids, an absolutely adorable blonde, blue-eyed moppet, tells me she's six. Her name is Darby Crash -- after the lead singer of the Germs -- and she's there with a babysitter, she says while drinking a Pepsi (which is no doubt part of the reason she's so hyper). She does some gymnastics tricks for me.

She tells me she lives in the neighborhood, and I remark that she lives in a pretty cool place. But she wrinkles up her nose and complains about the dearth of convenient parking. "We had to park aaallllllll the way over here," she says, tracing out a little map on the stage next to me. "And walk aallllllll the way over here." In case I"ve missed the point, she does doggie panting to illustrate it.

Around 10, my celly cell buzzes. Hey! It's a text from Linda, whom I met last Saturday at BSD:

hi. had fun last week. would love to get together for a drink.

NOW, LINDA'S A PRETTY and somewhat nerdy dark blonde -- one of the first individuals I met at BSD last Saturday. She was dressed like a teacher. The reason, I soon found out, was that she's a teacher. Specifically, a third-grade teacher in Lawndale, a depressing, blighted West Side neighborhood that's "always in the news," as she put it.

When I asked Linda where the beverages were kept, she told me to go to the "beer machine" in the back. Scarcely believing this, I wandered on to the back of the gallery (a former meat packinghouse or warehouse or something), saw no machine, and then decided she was pulling my leg. I went back, feigned a dirty look, then strode away and ignored her a few minutes. Eventually I came back and playfully chastised her for screwing with me.

But Linda insisted the beer machine was real. She led me to the back, then up a flight of concrete stairs. At the top -- voila -- an ancient vending machine stocked with Miller ("Henry Miller," the hand-scrawled tab read), Beck's ("Bleck's"), Old Style ("Mold Style"), Heineken and a couple others. So it was real! And a buck per can.

Because of the near- or below-zero wind chill that night, I decided not to bother going to see Ami and Radiant Darling at the Viaduct; I'll have to catch their next show. I hung out and drank PBR's and smoked a Spirit and chatted with Linda and her friend. As it turned out, both were from my neck of the woods -- the south suburbs. Linda had grown up minutes from me over in Chicago Heights, although she'd gone to the local Catholic high school. She was very friendly, although perhaps a bit neurotic. When we got on the topic of blues clubs, she said she'd never go to Buddy Guy's downtown, because parking's scarce and she was afraid to use public transit. "All the crowds, the people, the lights ...." she groaned.

"What do you mean? There are lights everywhere," I said.

"Yeah, but fluorescent lights."

Later in the conversation, after we'd both had a few brews, she made some sort of statement involving "we" (I forget exactly what) and I asked her, "Who's 'we' -- you and your friend?"

"Nooo!" and then, with a wistful look: " Oh, I guess I want to feel like part of a 'we,' again."

I admit, that made me think "stalker" for a second. But then, after all, she was just voicing what so many of us feel -- especially in the wake of a breakup -- but would never say out loud. Perhaps not great strategy, but it's honest.

shoot back to Linda that I'm otherwise occupied tonight, but maybe some other time. I continue taking in the scene at Green Lantern. After awhile, and a PBR, I decide to set off for Gallery Chicago. I bid Caroline adieu and look around for my sushi.

No sushi! Someone's made off like a sushi bandit.

Caroline sees me gaping perplexedly at the sushi-less fridge. "Oh, I'm sorry," she says, sounding embarrassed. "I've got some Thai food. Would you like this instead?" She opens her fridge and takes out a bag containing three cartons. "It's tofu. It's pretty good."

I take it, thank her profusely, and then leave.

SO I HIKE SEVEN BLOCKS south on Milwaukee, past storefronts and over the winding river of headlights and taillights that is the Kennedy Expressway, the downtown Chicago skyline looming ahead. At Gallery Chicago, the door's open as usual. (Gallery owner/painter Ken Hirte is an Army vet of some kind or another, and one of the regulars is a former Seal, so they don't seem too concerned about intruders.)

We pass through the small storefront gallery and into the studio/living space in back: an unevenly lit, warehouse-like space of brick and exposed beams, decorated with a jumble of finished and unfinished paintings and sculptures. In the back is a kitchen space, an entertainment center with couches, an office space and a bed. The only enclosed room in the place is the bathroom. There's a basement workshop, too, into which I've only peeked a couple of times.
Ken says hi. Most of the regulars, including Lee, are gathered around the kitchen table in back. As usual, it's an older crowd -- but I feel quite comfortable around an older crowd. Vito Carli had just left, Lee tells me. Plexiglass art genius Walter Fydryck is there. There's the 50something Jamaican guy whose name I forget. The Navy Seal guy hasn't made it tonight. But there's Gail, the 40?something white woman whom I last saw at the AfroPunk show last May moshing with all the kids. Now that's cool. But tonight she's pretty much 3 1/2 sheets to the wind and doesn't recognize me.

A little cigarette of some sort is being passed around, and I assay to take a puff but grab it so clumsily that it burns my fingers and I drop it -- plus exhale too quickly. Which actually is okay with me, as I'm already quite sorted; smoking and drinking together never seems to work well for me anyway.

As usual, people are talking politics. I have a couple glasses of Ken's homemade wine, even though I shouldn't. Lee shouldn't've either, because he ends up falling and knocking over a framed picture. Last time I was here a few weeks ago, Lee was there showing a bizarre surrealist film he and a friend made in Brooklyn, featuring himself reading his poetry against dilapidated urban backdrops, backed by trippy music. In one shot, the funny-without-even-trying Lee, looking like a demented, bearded tree-person, is shown duckwalking in circles, lying on the ground in front of a dumpster, and, through trick photography, leaping around upside-down. All the while, reciting his poetry. All you can say is: Wow.

It's 12:15 when I realize I have to leave. (Because of the way the trains run in Chicago.) But I don't want to. I'm flirting with Gail and I'm listening to some intriguing political conversation between the Jamaican guy and Ken and another guy. And so the moment passes. And next thing I know, it's 12:45. The last train to my neck of the woods leaves from downtown in five minutes. I will never make it. Maybe I should've taken up Linda on her invitation.

(To be continued, if I feel like it)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Not so quick,
"Assassin Chick" (a retro-post)

This is sort of an inside-y joke for a certain surly girl who may wander on by and see my blog. It's an entry from my old blog from last year.

FRI 4/8: THE ENVIRONMENTAL ENCROACHMENT THANG at Artists in Residence in Rogers Park.
Now it just so happens that this is where my old partner in ADHD, the missing-in-action M., lives -- or at least, used to live. She hadn't responded to an e-mail earlier in the week. So I wrote her again that morning with, letting her know I'd be there. No reply, no call. I tried her number: no answer, and the voice mailbox was full.

I arrive at the AIR building and buzz her number several times. Again, no answer. Somebody lets me in, and I go up to the apartment and knock. I think I hear some stirring within, but the door doesn't open.

Now, if M. (a former bartender) is still partying like she used to, it wouldn't be unusual for her to be asleep at 6:30 on a Saturday night. She actually missed one of our dates, a few years back, because she was still asleep at 7, when I arrived. She then spent the next 25 minutes stumbling blindly about her wreck of an apartment, searching for her glasses. Then she had to open her closet and choose between about 200 outfits and 50 pairs of shoes. We ended up deciding that I would go to the event (was that the teepee show at Wes Kimler's studio? yes, I think so) by myself, come back around 11 or so, and she'd have some Mexican food for us and we'd watch a movie or otherwise occupy ourselves for the night.

Anyway, I ended up slipping a handwritten note under M's door. I don't know if she received it. I don't even know if she still lives there.

THE SHOW, ANYWAY, was hella fun. It took place in a black-box rehearsal/performance space on the first floor. (It was bring-yer-own-booze, so I went to the liquor store around the corner and grabbed a 40.) First there was the showing of the anti-Frankenfood film The Future of Food, presented by Genewise and THONG. The film was riveting and scary and outraging in the outright arrogance and greed of the biotampering and food industries, and damn near got me prepared to go totally organic. They had delicious food there (all organic, I'm presuming), including beans and rice and some of the thickest, tastiest green leafy I've ever had. (I don't even know what it was -- kelp?) With veggies like that, who needs meat?

Afterward was the show with Encroachment, the Jungle Street Rockers, and a DJ. Good time, dancing. I sat down, grabbed some unused drums, and bongoed along with ee for awhile.

I met a few gals, of course. First there was Megha, the Indian geology student. (She switched to geology, she said, because of her concern over the environment.) Then there was Allison, the cute plump blonde punkette who was shakin' it seductively to the music, and kept givin me good eye. I went over and introduced myself. She lives in the building. She's a Columbia student. "Oh, were you at the Story Week thing at the Metro?" I ask her. "I probably saw you, but to tell you the truth, most of my attention was on the chick in the Indian sari who was handing out the programs."

"Oh," says the blondie, "That's my roommate."

What luck!

I'm a male. Certain thoughts did flash through my mind. But only for a second.