Monday, April 28, 2008

Pegleg Sullivan

Before I get to my disastrous weekend, let's wrap up the Chicago weekend. I mentioned that the impetus for this trip was to see the Edward Hopper exhibit. Sunday morning I cabbed down to the museum, and I wished I'd have gotten up a little earlier and walked. So much Chicago to see on the way there.

It was a ticketed affair and I had to wait in line longer than I had expected. The place was full of big dumb people and big loud families and I was worried that they were going to ruin everything for me. I'm very particular about my art viewing.

The Hopper exhibit was great, though very crowded. It had an effect on me I wasn't ready for. Seeing his work in person gave me a sinking feeling. Loneliness, isolation, anonymity. I guess that's what he was going for. His works are much more disturbing in person. For example, I always thought Chop Suey was just two ladies having a nice lunch. But in person you can see that the woman has heavy bags under her eyes, and that she's staring blankly off into the distance, not even looking at her dining companion.

Pictures weren't allowed but I snuck one anyway. Now I feel bad because what, the rules don't apply to me?

Surprisingly, these two ended up being my favorite. "Automat" and "Western Motel."

This was the final painting in the exhibit, and one of the last of his career. Of it he said "I am chasing Me." Sums up his body of work nicely I think.

Let's see what else this museum has to offer.

I like taking pictures of statues.

Is this beautiful or what? It was sculpted in the 1850s which kind of surprised me because it looks so contemporary.

I like old timey mapps.

Looks like the girl from Arcade Fire, right?

Hey! It's these guys.

This is my second favorite American Gothic, behind this guy I know Jimmy.

Van Gogh's bedroom. It makes me sad that he has his own paintings on the wall.

I've never seen this before, I really liked it. It's by some guy and it's called... something.

I left the museum and found myself caught in the middle of a protest!

Luckily it was a quiet riot and nobody was hurt.

Biting political satire. I'm sure it changed a lot of peoples minds.

Sightseeing? This is the Water Tower, the only structure from before the Great Fire that still stands. It's hard to photograph.

Tradition holds that the fire was started by Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over a lantern. This has been disproven, but other theories are more interesting anyway. One is that it was started when ol' Pegleg Sullivan tried to steal milk out of a barn. Another theory is that it was started by a meteor shower.

I had my trip all planned out and then decided to see if there were any cool shows that weekend. As it happens my favorite band was playing, along with up-and-comers Okkervil River at the Riviera Theater.

I fell in love with a girl at the show. She seemed to be designed to my exact specifications. And she held my spot while I went to get drinks. And when I stepped on her foot she said "That's okay!" and when I asked her if Okkervil River played the song "Black" she said "I'm not sure I missed the first fifteen minutes" and I said "Me too." Wow, it's just like in the movies. We exchanged furtive glances throughout the show and after it ended I tried to follow her out (not in a creepy way) but with a forlorn look backwards she vanished forever into the night.

Great show though. The New Pornographers were without co-singer Neko Case (ankle injury) but they still rocked it. I've seen them three times now and this might be the most energetic show I've been to (though other reviews have called it lackluster, so either those other reviewers are jaded or I'm just too much of a superfan apologist. probably somewhere in between).

They played a song called "Stacked Crooked" which they've never played live before this tour. That was awesome. If you've heard the song, you'll agree that this picture represents it well.

After this I found out the hard way that picture takin' isn't allowed at the Riviera. Whoops.

I was loitering about after the show, trying to decide what to do with my life. Members of both bands came walking by and went into this place. Problem! With them was comedian Todd Barry. I'm really not a fan of his work. Like, at all. What's worse, he was with a super cute woman a foot taller than him and way out of his league. And he was hanging with my band. Mr. Barry, you are now number 1 on my arch-nemesis list.

Then I was standing in front of this place and a girl came out to smoke and tried to convince me to join her inside for some jazz music or something. She was really cool, but she spit too much.

I finally ended up at a place called Club Foot. This bar was waaaay cool but unfortunately it was completely dead. The four people there were very friendly though, and there was this one dude who had had major brain surgery only a few days before.

Club Foot has the Elvisiest bathroom I've ever seen.

The walls are lined with toys, not unlike my living room. Check it out, Castle Greyskull.

Time for more walkin'. In front of the Tribune Building is a statue of the guy that said "Give me liberty or give me death!" or it might be the guy that said "I regret that I have but one life to give to my country." I always get those guys confused. I also don't know what he has to do with the Tribune. If only I had some way of finding out. Some sort of internet resource perhaps.

Michigan Avenue, near the Chicago River.

The river.

The cold and lonely streets.

Well, guess that pretty much covers it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

katie casey had the fever and had it bad

There's really only one thing I wanted to do while in Chicago, besides all the other things: see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Rudy had a ticket to the game too and our seats weren't near each other, but it ended up working out because no one ever claimed the seats next to me.

Rounding the corner, here's what I looked like at the exact moment I first set eyes on Wrigley.

Freakin' Wrigley, man. When I was a little kid I'd spend my summers sitting in my bedroom sorting baseball cards and watching Harry Caray call Cubs games on WGN. I've never really been a Cubs fan, but the games were on and thusly I watched them.

The scene around the park is insane. I've never seen so much hype around a sporting event, including big time NBA playoff games. These folks love their Cubbies.

We got there way early, checked out the neighborhood. Met up with some friends of friends at this hole in the wall bar.

At least I thought it was a hole in the wall. It was packed to the gills, and narrow doorways led from room to room to room. This place was huge!

Ah, there's the famous Chicago El Train, named by the early Spanish settlers to the region.

"Hey, help me get up there. I'm gonna write some awesome graffiti on the El rail."

"Oh yeah? What's it gonna say?"

"It's gonna say, 'Cubs."'


Rudy and I walked through the tiny concourse and he stopped, took a look at the field, and said "Dude." Nothing else needed to be said.

I've been to my share of Major League parks, but Wrigley might be my favorite. It's so intimate, and the crowd was great.

Here's all-star Derek Lee. He hit a home run on this swing.

Fan favorite Kosuke Fukidome.

"You can't arrrrrg-ue with great taste." I didn't understand this at first, then I realized the Cubs were playing the Pirates.

I wonder if they change the sign for every series? "our brewers never strike out." That's all I got. You come up with more.

As it happens, my favorite player, Doug Mientkiewicz, plays for the Pirates now.

You've probably never heard of him, but he played for the Salt Lake Buzz in 2000, a powerhouse team that produced a lot of Major League players. He had to cut the season short to play for the good ol' US of A in the Olympics, where he hit a game-winning homerun to upset Cuba. Then he played for my Minnesota Twins in 2001, their first winning season in like ten years. He's bounced around a lot since then and even though he's known for his stellar defense, he's never really been able to get his bat going.

Cubs won, 13-1. Such a great experience, but it could have been so much better if I hadn't forgotten my banjo.

After the game me and my new friends headed out for a place called Sheffield's. Passed this on the way.

His real estate seems great until you realize it's just a bunch of green-screen.

Every movie that has ever taken place in Chicago has filmed a scene under this track. Probably.

A word about neon. I was incredibly disappointed by the neon selection in Chicago. Maybe I just wasn't going to the right places, but I hardly saw any neon at all. This is the best picture from the whole weekend.

Now let's Microsuede it up a bit.

Spent a lot of time at Sheffield's, a haven for beer snobs. They had 200 different varieties of beer, which is great for me since I like to collect interesting beer bottles or bottles from particular good times.

I really like this one, from a place in Colorado called Ska Brewing. It's like this bottle was made just for me.

I disagree, I don't think I drank too much at all.

Back to the hotel for a half-hour nap, which ended up lasting five hours. I woke up at midnight totally bummed that I had slept through the Jazz game and potentially wasted the entire Saturday night. Luckily there was a place open late, so I was able to get my chill on.

Nora the Lithuanian: "Are you from Illinois?"

B. "No, Salt Lake."

Nora the Lithuanian: "Exactly."

Some Stranger: "Do you like Heroes?"

B. "The show or the ... type of person?"

Some Stranger: "The show."

B. "Well, not really."

Some Stranger: "Okay." (disappears)

Maybe I reminded her of Hiro. Some people have said that before which is weird because I don't wear cardigans.

Finally, time for some food. I seemed to be hot on the trail of a disrobing barista.

This McDonald's was a grand palace of indulgence.

I wish I could have gotten a better picture of this guy. He looked exactly like my brother Sean. Same poofy hair, same beard, same size and shape, same hang dog expression. Uncanny.

I realize that it's rude to take pictures of a stranger just trying to enjoy some McDonald's. I'm not proud of myself. But still, he looked just like Sean.

next: art

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

pressure drop

You can stop sending me your e-mails an petitions. I'm fine, and now I'm back to blogging regularly. Let's go. Recognize this?

Look up there. ^^^^. The Microsuede logo is based on this painting, "Chop Suey." It's my favorite painting, and the MacGuffin that kicked off my weekend, which was as awesome and exhausting as a twenty-two inning baseball game.

I'll get you caught up. Thursday I did a heap load of moving and I'm closer to getting settled into my new place. It's a basement apartment, and upstairs live a cat and a middle-aged woman and ... my idiot brother Michael. Long story, ask me about it sometime.

I forgot that the local Fox Sports channel shows Rockies games. Last season I got all into the Rockies so I'm a perfect bandwagoning fan. While organizing my new domicile I flipped on the game. Six hours later the game ended. 22 innings of baseball excitement. The best part was around the 14th inning when the announcers ran out of things to talk about.

"I might head down to the Walgreen's there and ... get some of that stuff you put on your lips ..."

(40 second pause)

"Lip balm?"

The game ended around 2:22 and I hadn't even packed yet and still had a ton of stuff to do. I had to leave the house Friday by 8am so I didn't get much sleep.

I planned this trip to see an exhibition by my favorite painter, Edward Hopper. Kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity to see all of his major works gathered together in one place. In a series of remarkable coincidences, I found out that my favorite band was playing that weekend and that my good friend Rudy from San Jose would be in Chicago at the exact same time.

At the airport I stopped to buy a magazine and there was a lot of upselling. "That's it? Just the one paper? For only a dollar more you get a bottle of water. You're not going to try the new '5' gum?"

I ended up getting a water. And I had to buy gum because my total came to $6.66 and I didn't want any part of that.

I was tired, but I could sleep on the flight right? Nope. The stewardess had a voice like a number 2 pencil, and stood in the aisle next to me talking to some passengers the whole flight. My ipod couldn't drown her out and I didn't want to turn it up too loud since my hearing is still damaged from shootin'.

I walked through O'Hare and "Song for Bob" from the soundtrack to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Give it a listen here, if you'd like. Hearing this song in an airport makes your life seem much more dramatic than it really is. For a while everything was moving in slow motion.

There were a lot of sailors running around in the airport. Ensign, stop! You've got the wrong type of port!

I realized that I was completely unprepared and didn't know how I was going to get from the airport to my hotel. For all I know a cab would be a hundred bucks. I called Sean.

Sean: "This better be important!"
B: "Oh, uh, what are you doing?"
Sean: "Eh. Nothing."

I ended up taking the train. I liked the image from the top of the stairs. Like something out of a dystopian nightmare.

Here I am, boldly gazing into the future.

From the train window I spotted Ira Glass, just hanging out.

The train went subterranean and I realized I had no idea where I needed to get off, and no phone reception to verify. There was one other guy on the train car with a suitcase, so I followed him when he de-trained.

Once I got topside I was overwhelmed. The buildings in Chicago are way too big! I felt like a farm boy getting to the city for the first time. I'm no yokel, I lived in New York for a while (twenty non-consecutive days), but I was intimidated by this place.

On the way to the hotel I stopped to rough up Dan Rather, then met up with Rudy and we went to the much acclaimed Chicago pizza chain Gioardano's.

What a dish!

View from the 41st floor. The second building from the right is the Tribune building. I think a wizard lives there.

Rudy was in town to see a show by a guy named Saul Williams. The concert had been sold out for a while but I was able to buy a ticket from a sad young French girl who didn't realize it was 21+. I hope she didn't have to travel to far to get to the show.

Remember the skunk with a cup on it's head? How about a guy with a cup on his head?

Nope. Not nearly as cool.

I'm not sure what I expected from Saul Williams, but it certainly wasn't this.

Spoken Word/Hip-Hop meets Nine Inch Nails meets Feathers meets Facepaint meets Spiderman.
He closed with a cover of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" that would make Bono choke on his own sunglasses. Pretty rad.

Next time: Chicago, day 2