Thursday, March 13, 2008

I am sick sick sick of being cold!

I’ve about had it with Chicago winter. It’s March. Today we might hit fifty degrees! Im constantly freezing. My house is cold. I wear sweatpants and sweatshirts to bed. Im barely warm in a hot shower. Like Kramer, I can’t seem to get my core temperature back up.

Making things worse, I have Raynauds, a disorder that causes the blood vessels in my extremities to spasm and cut off blood supply to my fingers and toes. Basically it makes my fingers and toes turn white and numb, and incredibly painful, followed by even worse pain when blood comes back and they turn from blue to red. Of course it happens in winter when it is freezing, but the worst times are in the spring and fall when temperatures are actually tolerable, but slightly chilly. Standing outside in this weather for thirty minutes waiting for the bus (turning a beautiful day into a painful nightmare) can induce a Raynauds spasm. So can air conditioning, holding cold drinks, and taking foods from the freezer. Now I’m trying to remember, why the hell do I live in Chicago??

I know from experience that this is the worst part about weather in Chicago. The tease of March and April, it’s finally stopped snowing, but the temperatures can’t seem to break out of the 40’s. And, I’m not even counting the wind chill coming in off Lake Michigan…

I know in a couple months, I’ll have forgotten all about this, when I’m laying out at the beach on my lunch breaks and saying it was all worth it. But right now it feels like it will never end.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Saint Boniface

Every day on my way home from work, I walk past this lovely yet tragic looking Romanesque church at the corner of Noble and Chestnut in Chicago's East Village. Little did I know that this building has been the center of an off and on argument of sorts between neighbors and the Archdiocese since 1980.

The brick building stands tall and ominous over open ball fields. Most of the windows are boarded up; the ground floor entrances are bricked closed with cinderblocks, there is a chain link fence around the perimeter. Four bell towers stand empty. Strings blow in the wind around a broken window from where a banner used to hang. It looks like it could have been a beautiful place of worship during its heyday.

All I had heard of the church was from my roommate. It was featured in a book his grandmother owned about the country's most beautiful churches and was known for its stained glass windows. Then one day I was intrigued by Carey Primeau's photos on Chicagoist of the Illinois Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary. I followed the link to his site titled "neglected beauty". Primeau photographs buildings that have been neglected and turned into unfortunate disasters. Saint Boniface is one of his subjects, and I instantly knew that it was the church I see everyday. I wanted to know more.

Saint Boniface Parish was founded in 1862 for German immigrants. The church that stands today was erected in 1902. It was designed by architect Henry J. Schlacks, who apprenticed at Chicago's pioneer firm Adler and Sullivan (recently made famous again by the book Devil in the White City). The church itself closed its doors in 1989, but there were originally five buildings that stood on the property. There were two convents, one demolished in 1994, and the other in 2003. The school, which closed in 1983, was also demolished in 2003. All that remains is the church and rectory.

After closing, the all-but-abandoned church attracted homeless, drug users and vagrants to break in. Fearing for the safety of the neighborhood, neighbors complained to the church, which finally prompted the Archdiocese to brick shut the ground level entrances. All along the Catholic Church has alleged that all the problems and closings resulted from a lack of funds by the Archdiocese. Despite this, the Archdiocese has been unwilling to sell the property, or simply ignores inquires. In 2006 there was a Coptic Church group interested in restoring the building, but the church ignored the offer amid talks of selling the property to a developer for a high-rise condo building. Oddly enough, the property is a prime piece of real estate that sits just west of the interstate with an unobstructed view of the city skyline, prompting one to think they may simply be waiting for the land to appreciate to sell to the highest bidder.

I am not a Catholic or a religious person, in fact, if prompted I would call myself an agnostic, but I do have an appreciation for beautiful architecture and for people and history. After everything I've learned about the St. Boniface, I can still only think of one word to describe the entire situation: a shame. Hopefully one day Saint Boniface will be restored to its original and intended beauty and people can once again come together there.
(These are pictures I took in December)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Indie Rockers Take On "Large, Sophisticated" Companies

For the past few days we've been hearing all about the drama involving Rolling Stone, Camel Cigarettes, and the "Indie Rock Universe". What started as a shady attempt at an advertisement resulted in Camel pulling "The Farm" promotion, indie bands demanding an apology, and has now led to a full blown lawsuit. Turns out you can't run an advertisement veiled as support for independent labels and artists if you don't tell them you're going to use their names first.

In the recent 40th anniversary issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, they featured a four page fold out section from Camel toted "The Farm: Free Range Music" saying they're "committed to supporting and promoting independent record labels." The cartoon inside the fold out lists the names of artists listed under cheesy subcategories that we guess are part of the "universe" Camel created. Several Chicago based musicians were mentioned in the ad, including Andrew Bird and Fall Out Boy, along with many Touch 'n Go Record's artists. See the ad here. Artists and labels are angry because their names were used without permission, worse yet, they didn't even know about the ad. Um, maybe they wouldn't want to endorse a product that gives people cancer.

So, it's official. Xiu Xiu and Fucked Up have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 186 musical artists against Camel cigarettes' parent company R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Rolling Stone, and their parent company Wenner Media. The complaint claims "unauthorized use of artists' names; unauthorized use of artist names for commercial advantage (right of publicity); and unfair business practices." Camel is already in trouble with several states because the ad violates the 1998 settlement that says tobacco companies can not pitch to minors, including using cartoons in advertisements. (remember Joe Camel?)

We're glad to see Xiu Xiu and Fucked Up sticking up for themselves. It's a sad thing to see a corporate giant take advantage of the little guy. We will be interested to see how this one unfolds. Who knows, maybe they will win a settlement big enough to feed themselves for more than a year.

Friday, September 28, 2007

O’Hare... I hate you.

I'm sitting at the airport, Chicago O'Hare, angry and alone - well, traveling alone, there are tens of other people sitting around me, not on either side of me though (thank goodness). Our flight has been delayed an hour. Not too bad as far as delays go, but it is hard to accept when it is a beautiful sunny day in September, temps in the 70s, not a cloud in the sky. I have plans tonight, well had plans. Once I arrive in St. Louis I am supposed to drive to Mizzou to go out with my sister for her 21st birthday. My flight was supposed to arrive at 7:10pm, now I wont get there til after 8, then exit the airport, get picked up by Dad, ride to my parents house, pick up a car and drive myself the hour and a half to Columbia. So I wont get there til after 10. And that doesnt include any time primping to look half way cute for going out to the bars. So, its really not worth it. So I'm probably going to stay in St. Louis tonight and drive there in the morning. So I spent $ and sat in airports for hours to spend one night going to bars in my former college town. BUT this is for my sister's birthday and it is important to her, so I am doing it. I keep telling myself I'm not going to fly anymore, but I keep doing it. The alternatives aren't great either: rent car ($, gas $, and have to be driving for six hours - but at least I would be moving, making some progress toward my destination), the train - which is cheaper, but still takes six hours and could be (usually is) delayed too. So we fly.

Its getting dark outside now. A woman just walked by in platform red heels. What in the world is she thinking? Not appropiate shoes for traveling, there is a lot of walking in the airport... Anyway - gate change - H11A, have to move now. ugh.

No seats over here, so Im sitting on the ground in the concourse, leaning on a newspaper box. This sucks bad enough having to be in this crowded mess and now I have to be in it longer. No more traveling, its not fun anymore.

I've changed gates three times since I got here and now Im back at the one I started at. I swear Im going to get run over sitting here - woman in wheelchair, man running pushing baggage cart, omg trash can on wheels! Get me on this plane! Shouldn't we be boarding by now? How is this plane supposed to leave the gate in ten minutes?! Omg 7:35 now?!?! Oh - theres the text message informing me of the time change. Thanks for the reminder. Another girl in heels. WTF? Sure, you look cute, everyone in the airport is very impressed. Okay a man just knocked MY suitcase into my head. Asshole!!! I'm texting with my dad. I'm glad he finds this humorous. "Sit in the front of the plane," he says, "you'll get here sooner. LOL." Dad must have just learned LOL, its in every message. I'm so glad I left work early today. I wonder if pilots dread flying into O'Hare as much as people hate flying in or out. Omg - people are entering the gate!! We are boarding!

I'm in my seat now. 7:40pm. I am in row 10. My carry-on is in row 19. So I am sure I will have to wait for everyone to de-plane before I can walk back there to get my bag. I love saving time by not checking my bag. At least there are no screaming children on here, its actually very quiet.

Okay, if I would have driven, say a Zip-car, (im not sure how that compares in price to car rental) plus price of gas (which keeps going up, but thats a whole 'nother story) but if I left at 3pm I could have made it to Columbia around 9, depending on city traffic. (And, how would all that compare to the price of my plane ticket??) But instead, I am arriving at Lambert Ariport at about the same time. Does that mean I actually lost ground in some way?? Well, I certainly lost a few hours, but we did get this fun little story.

I'm surprised theres not more unruly drunk people on planes. Make them sit and wait in a crowded terminal for hours and keep extending the wait a little bit at a time, just enough to make them angry, and what else is there to do but drink?

8:05pm. Still sitting on the runway waiting to take off. My god - I'll be surprised if I get there by Christmas! Oh - wait, wait, we're moving... take-off! We are in the air, circling around the airport, but we're in the air!

You may now use approved electronic devices. Ahhh... iPod and Skymall, recline your seat and relax for the 45 minutes of airtime to St. Louis.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Is it ever going to stop raining?

The strangest things have been happening all week, and I wonder if it is ever going to stop. Usually when strange things happen, its just one thing (that usually doesnt really affect your life that much) and you go back to your normal routine. Lately though, it seems to be one thing after another. Can the stormy weather influence strange things to happen? It started with the murder, or perhaps the violent storm the night of. Granted, this murder did not affect my life directly, but it affected people close to me, and hit too close. Its the kind of mystery you see on Dateline or 48 Hours, that leaves you wondering why or how someone could do something so inhumane, but goes away as soon as you turn off the television. Other smaller, less signifigant things have happened since, that could be qualified more as odd than strange, but in the light of everything else, hits harder. The sun came out for a little bit yesterday, I almost forgot what it looked like. And then the storm rolled in. Ive never seen anything like the black cloud that engulfed our building within seconds. Our office is on the 19th floor overlooking Oak Street Beach, we were all in the conference room sitting by the window when it hit. The wind was so strong the windows were bowing in and out. It looked like one big circle around us, rain and hail going up, debris flying in circles, I half expected to see the wicked witch flying by. And more storms are expected today. The rain stops occasionally, but not even long enough for the sidewalks to completely dry, and then it starts to sprinkle again. Hopefully the rain will end soon and things will return to normal, or at least make more sense.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Is the CTA biased?

I recently moved from Chicago's cushy Lincoln Park to the more "hip" Wicker Park neighborhood. It used to take me about 20 minutes to get to work (door-to-door) traveling 17 blocks. Now, traveling 15 blocks, it takes me about 45 minutes. Some of this can be attributed to heavier traffic on Division Street, but it's the time spent waiting for the bus that is taking me longer. For instance, this morning I spent 20 minutes waiting for the bus. I left my house 5 minutes later than normal, and I got to work a half-hour late. At first I thought it was my imagination since there was only one bus-route running on my new commute and there are four different routes that stopped at my old bus stop, so I actually saw more busses over there. And there were more people waiting at the old bus stop with me, maybe being the only person at my new bus stop made the wait feel longer.

Then I was brought to the question: Is the CTA biased? There is no disputing that the bus routes that run north and south along Lake Shore Drive carry more upper-class, white-collar (mostly white) people. The routes running east-west carry mostly - lets face it – lower-class minority. The east-west routes run less often and usually less efficiently – I cant tell you how many times I have waited what felt like forever, seeing 4 or 5 busses come in the other direction, and when mine comes, there are two more right behind it. It's not just the Division route, though. A couple of years ago I dated a guy who lived on North Avenue in Wicker Park, and I always had the same experience when commuting from his place.

I couldn't help but think this morning, that most of the people on the Division bus with me probably worked at hourly jobs where it matters if they are late, and since you can't rely on the CTA to be there at the same time every day, you get to work at different times every day, making them look unreliable. The bus driver even said something to me this morning about all the people on the bus trying to get to work, school or just want to get home.

So, does the CTA strive to serve its upper-class customers while neglecting the western customers? Maybe it's all in my head and I'm just pissed that my commute is longer than before (or maybe I shouldn't bitch about having to take public transit). There are surely a greater number of people traveling along the lake during rush-hour creating the need for all those routes (and for them to run on time). Honestly, I think its just that the CTA sucks in general. I could go on with a laundry-list of reasons why, but just ask any Chicagoian and I'm sure they will give you their two-cents (more likely twenty dollars) worth.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Review: Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

Has Kevin Barnes traded in his playful story-telling days for a gloomy auto-biography? Welcome to Kevin's year spent in Norway with his wife and daughter, and the near demise of his marriage upon their return to the states. It's unusual for Kevin to write an album so personal, but it works, and it may be his most outstanding effort to date. Instead of vaudevillian short stories, Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer? (along with companion EP Icons, Abstract Thee) is like an epic novel. Listen to the lyrics and you'll hear the words of an extremely troubled man sinking into the depths of depression. You have to listen closely though, because those sad songs hide behind upbeat poppy melodies that Of Montreal is known for. Only Kevin Barnes could make being "on the verge of a total breakdown" or wanting to "destroy" yourself sound so fun.

The first half of Hissing Fauna follows Kevin as he battles falling into depression while trying to keep his family together. The first track, "Suffer for Fashion", alludes right away: "if we've got to burn out let's do it together, let's all melt down together". In "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" he pleads with the chemicals in his mind to help his mood "switch back to good again". Barnes makes the trips the mind takes under its own chemical imbalance sound a lot like the trips of mind-altering drugs. "Grolandic Edit" finds the family back in Athens, GA, tensions still running high, and "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger" recounts his time spent in Norway "on the verge of a total breakdown".

The album's turning point comes in the heart-shattering "The Past is a Grotesque Animal". In this twelve minute epic, Kevin candidly describes the breaking point of his marriage, right down to the violence and emotion of a couples quarrel: "I've been dodging lamps and vegetables, throw it all in my face I don't care".

After the breakdown, the album slips into a strange sexual escape from reality, likely a coping mechanism. Kevin's she-male alter-ego Georgie Fruit even makes an appearance in "Labyrinthan Pomp". The standout track from the second half, "Faberge Falls For Shuggie", is filled with sexual innuendos: "be careful how you touch me, my body is an earthquake, ready to receive you". The funky baseline and falsetto vocals are the grooviest Of Montreal has ever been.

Follow-up EP Icons, Abstract Thee continues on the same path, hitting rock-bottom in the closing song "No Conclusion". He appears to be trapped in his own head, but manically detached by talking to himself ("Don't worry Kevin"). It's also dripping with revealing self-deprecating statements: "I'm killing myself / but my friends will never know because I've never been honest with anyone." Wow.

And that's where the tale abruptly ends. Thankfully, Kevin and his wife have since reconciled. We just hope that he retains the creative juices that came with his despair.

Catch Of Montreal live at Pitchfork Music Festival July 15 in Chicago