Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

Posts tagged “Chicago

On Getting Ready For Birthdays

Not sure if I’ve mentioned it enough, but I’m turning 30 this year! I’m super excited about it. I honestly don’t know why exactly, but I just am!

I love my birthday more than most people I know. The fact that I have a handful of friends with birthdays around mine adds to it because we celebrate together every couple of years or so. I think for this 30th birthday, it’s going to be all about me though.

But I’m not the only one turning 30 this year. I’ve mentioned before that a group of us have this 30th birthday bucket list. I’m enjoying crossing items off of mine. I can’t wait to talk about what I’m doing to alter my physical appearance in ode to my 20s. And my friends have been doing some interesting things for their buckets lists as well.

Not everyone doing this bucket list is a close friend of mine, but a couple of them are. In fact, one of my best friends is the one who had the idea for the bucket list. And it just so happens her birthday is one of the first up for my people who are turning 30 this year.

The absolute first of my people who are turning 30 has a birthday next Thursday. He’s so excited about his birthday, and he should be. He has a lot to celebrate this year. He just graduated Harvard Medical School and he got the residency of his choice in Dermatology.

Up next is Easy. His birthday is July7th. Easy is my husband for those of you who missed the post where I said he wanted me to go back to using the nickname I gave him on my old blog when we first started dating.

Anyway, Easy turns 30 in a few weeks and he’s excited too. We don’t really have the funds for me to do something super extravagant for his birthday, but I didn’t let that stop me. I’ve been having so much fun getting ready for his birthday.

I’m doing something I’m going to call Gifting Mondays. It’s a crappy title, but it requires no explanation at least. Starting last Monday, and going for every Monday until his birthday (which falls on a Monday), I’m getting him an awesome you’re-a-grown-up-now gift. It’s been so much fun getting these gifts for him. I think I purchased the first one back in March and just hit it at work for a few months.

Last week, I got him and iPad mini. If you about the Apple products, you know this is a pretty cool gift. I got him a bluetooth keyboard to go with it. I think it could be a functional and fun gifor him because most everything he would do on the laptop, he can also do on the iPad Mini.

This week, I got him a flask. It’s a pretty nice flask, if I do say so myself. We have *cough* like four flasks already at our house. We usually use them as to go cups whenever someone leaves one of our parties early. And because our people are awesome, they return them. The flasks I bought are super girly, so they never get given out; we usually give away one of Chris’s. I really wanted to get him a flask that would be all his.

Things Remembered is a great store for personalized booze-y gifts if you didn’t already know. I would link you to the page with the one I bought him, but it doesn’t apear to be on sale on their website anymore. But I did find a picture online from QVC. I want to show you because it’s so cool looking to me.

image

I got it engraved with his initials to look like a nice monogram on the front. On the back I have a simple quote. It says: Best. Day. Ever.

I’m not going to discuss what’s coming next week because Easy reads this blog, so no spoiler alerts!

After Easy’s birthday is one of my best friend’s birthdays. Hers is actually one day apart from his. I love celebrating her birthday with her because we always have a good time. Also, it’s important to me to make her birthday special because occasionally her other friends drop the ball when it comes to her big day.

I think it’s because she’s nonchalant about things maybe they don’t get that her birthday is important to her. Nonchalant isn’t the right word. She’s just not the type of girl to get all giddy about every little thing. But lack of giddiness doesn’t equate to lack of interest, and I get that. So I try to always make sure she knows I care about her birthday.

Because this birthday is the big 3-0, I’m making a special trip to Chicago to visit her. Usually when I’m in town, my schedule is packed full with all the other family, wedding, friends’ birthdays crap, and we can’t always get together. So this time, I’m coming to Chicago just for her. Seeing other people will fit around our schedule.

I’m waiting until the weekend after her and Easy’s birthdays. I’m doing so because I want to be in town the weekend before Easy’s birthday, and secondly, she won’t even be in Chicago. She’s taking a trip to Europe for her 30th birthday. Quite a gift to give yourself, right?

Her job includes a lot of event planning, so she doesn’t want to plan a whole big thing for her birthday. I get that, so I told her I’d look up a couple of options, and when I got to town, we’d just pick something off of the list and see where the weekend takes us.

And also, I’ve been working on a playlist. We have been friends for over 20 years now, and music has been an integral part of our friendship. Back in college, we would get together Thursday nights and do each other’s hair. There was so much experimentation with color and cut, what we would have for dinner, and what we would talk about while we were hairstyling. But one thing that stayed consistent was the music.

We listen to a lot of the same songs over and over again. When a new album or single comes out that is really amazing, that gets put into rotation. I still remember when Amy Winehouse’s album Back to Black came out. That really got put into heavy rotation.

So now that it’s time to have an epic birthday celebration, it wouldn’t be right without a playlist. An epic playlist that includes almost every song we’ve loved in the last 20 years. I have most of the music we like on my phone and synced with my Google account, so I’ve been working on this playlist. I know I haven’t caught all the songs, but I’m trying. In Chicago, we’ll be driving pretty much everywhere we go, so I have enough music to fill an entire weekend with the soundtrack of our friendship.

I’m not going to say too much about the activities I’m looking into because she reads this blog too, so I’ll just have a list ready when I get to Chicago, no spoilers!

After that, there are a couple of birthdays for old friends. The most important of which is my friend who was one of my bridesmen in my wedding. He’s my favorite Libra (besides myself of course), and it sucks that I probably won’t get to do any celebrating with him this year. We have had some amazing birthday celebrations over the years together, and including another Libra friend of ours (who doesn’t turn 30 for a few more years).

Then there is my birthday! Hopefully, Easy will have something fun planned. Hopefully, my girls will make the trip here for Halloween and help me finish out my birthday month. And hopefully, I’ll have finished the bucket list by then.

Then last is another one of my bridesmen, who is a Scorpio. He’s making a trip to NYC at the end of the summer, so maybe we can do some early celebrating as I don’t expect to make it back to Chicago any time in November or December of this year.

Then next year, there’s a whole other slew of 30th birthdays. But we’ll get to that later. Because this year, it’s all about those of us born in 1984!


This Chicago-Style Girl is Home

I had a great time in Chicago. Dinner with my girls was so much fun. The Memorial Day barbecue with my family was also a blast. Hanging out with my best friend in my parents’ kitchen like we used to when we were 14 was so great. And hanging with all the jazz musician etc. folk in Chicago the night before we left was the cherry on top.

But the moment of the weekend was the wedding we went to. Most of you all are probably unaware of this, but Easy and I met at a wedding. Quick synopsis: we met at a wedding 4th of July weekend 2010. We got engaged Memorial Day weekend 2011. We got married Valentine’s Day weekend 2012. Since that time, we’ve been to a buttload of weddings.

There are a lot of things that happen at weddings, but the drinking and dancing part is what we excel at. It’s what led to us being married in the first place. So each wedding we’ve been to (except the cheap, dry, or uber-religious ones) have all been great experiences for us.

The other memorable thing that happens at weddings are the toasts. The most memorable toasts from weddings I’ve attended are:

1) The wedding Easy and I met at. The maid of honor cried through her entire toast, and the only thing I heard was, “you guys… have shoooooown me… the reeeeeeeal meaning of loooooove.” The best man said something like, “man, I never thought [groom] would be the first one to get married. NEVER…. [more random accidentally anti-marriage stuff]… and remember that time with Shelly in the basement?” The bride’s name was not Shelly.

2) The wedding from this past weekend. The maid of honor gave a nice speech. I don’t remember any of it because wine & beer. But the best man was more memorable. He spoke of how much the groom has matured and how he felt lucky to have witnessed watching him “really grow up in the time he’s been with Stephanie.” The bride’s name was not Stephanie.

3) My wedding where we had 4 people giving toasts. The wedding guests heard none of the amazing toasts because their cell phones were vibrating with breaking news updates confirming the untimely death of Whitney Houston.

4) The wedding of one of my best friend’s other best friend. He was their best man as well. Unlike my wedding, at this one, everyone heard his speech. It’s the one he and I had many a phone conference to work on in the months preceding the wedding. Anyway, this speech was so funny, heartfelt, and crowd-winning, that to this day the bride and groom don’t believe he was sober while giving the speech. He was totally sober, but they refuse to believe him.

Moving on from memorable toasts. Let’s talk about family portraits. For some reason, it didn’t occur to us to use the portrait as an opportunity to get head shots done for Easy. He is a musician after all and people are always requesting a shot of him for TV-type stuff. After we were all done with our pictures, it occurred to us.

Luckily, his horn is never far away. He ran across the street to my parents’ house and grabbed the horn. Because we want to reproduce the photos whenever we need, we purchased the photo CD that comes with it. As soon as it arrives, I’m adding the photos to my phone, Easy’s phone, my dropbox, and sending it to our e-mails. The Walgreens app is great for ordering pictures on the fly. I can order prints directly from my phone and they’ll be ready in a half hour at the Duane Reade store up the street from my office. New York is the best.

Speaking of New York being the best, I was so happy to arrive home yesterday. I don’t know why it took me so long to learn that I need a day off when I first get back from travelling. I can work right up until it’s time to leave for the airport before a trip, but after, I need some time to unwind. Our flight landed in the early afternoon, and I was so happy to just lay on the couch and watch the midseason finale of Mad Men and do nothing else.

There are some things better in New York, and others better in Chicago. Here is a short list based on my weekend travels.

Barbecue: Chicago wins this hands down! I shouldn’t have to travel to Williamsburg and wait in line for 2 hours to get good BBQ.

Navigating my way home: New York wins this. A taxi ride home from the airport was right around $30 and took less than 30 minutes. Chicago cabs can suck it.

Buying liquor: Chicago wins this. For Memorial Day, we spent about $200 on drinks for the BBQ. The same stuff would’ve cost $100 more in New York.

Getting great food close to home: New York kicks Chicago’s butt on this one. Chicago really has some amazing food, but it’s not accessible everywhere. But there is great food everywhere in New York. You may not get the cuisine you’d prefer right in that moment, but if you’re not too picky, you’ll never have to leave your neighborhood to get affordable, healthy, tasty food. AND most places deliver.

Crime: New York wins again. In New York, you can fall asleep on the subway at 2 am with earbuds in both ears and a laptop on your lap, and you’ll likely make it home safe. In Chicago, you don’t even want to leave the house after midnight, even if you’re carrying a knife in open view. This is because in Chicago, you’re just bringing a knife to the gunfight. Do better Chicago.

Lastly, is skylines, but I refuse to compare the skylines of the two cities. I love a good skyline, no matter where it is.

Previously, on flights to Chicago, I would feel this surge of love for my city as the skyline came into view out my window. I would suddenly feel this longing for the city, embracing everything it has to offer, and I would cringe at the thought of having to leave again, even if only for that moment.

This past Friday, I didn’t feel any of that. I felt happy to arrive for a visit, but no emotional swell happened. On the return trip to New York, I was too sleepy to notice anything on the landing. But on the ride home, I felt that same, “I live here, I LIVE HERE” moment when I saw the Manhattan skyline across the East River.

It’s not quite the same old-timey, returning-home feel I used to get with Chicago.

It’s newer. Less familiar. But more hopeful of treasures still uncovered and neighborhoods still undiscovered.

But still, when I saw the Empire State Building, I knew I was home.

Where is home for you?


A Chicago-Style Girl Goes Home

As soon as I wrote this post title, I started thinking, “what is home?” I thought that and other existentialist things that I won’t share because those thoughts make me sound even weirder than I normally do.

But seriously, When I think of home now, I think of three things:

1) Our apartment in a brownstone in Brooklyn

2) The soup kitchen I volunteer at in The West Village

3) The dining room table at my parents’ house

The fact that 2 of my 3 “homes” focuses around food may help explain why my weight is hovering around 15lb heavier than a healthy BMI.

But anyway…

Only a tiny bit of Chicago feels like home to me now. I’ve been talking about this trip a lot. A family portait (yuck, but also kind of cool), another wedding (blech, but also kind of cool), and Memorial Day with my family and Easy’s family (completely cool, only positive feelings towards that one–see Christmas 2013 in Gramercy Park) add up to a great weekend getaway. Throw in a thrice rescheduled dinner with one of my best friends and a double birthday dinner with my girls and you’ve got an action packed weekend.

So why am I not super excited for this trip?

Eh, a big part of me would just rather stay home. Which is New York City. I’m will always be a Chicago-style girl. Big city + Midwestern sensibilities – red state restrictions = me. But New York is home.

So this weekend, I’m not going home. I’m going to visit my friends and family. This make my blog’s name all the more appropriate. I’m not a Chicagoan anymore. I’m Chicago-style (Chicago-ish? Chicago-adjacent?).

Easy and I haven’t decided for certain if this NYC thing is permanent. Hell, four years ago, I couldn’t even imagine myself living here. Of course, I blame that on being only exposed to Midtown and Harlem. If I’d gone straight to Chelsea and the Village on my first trip here, I may have never left.

Back to this trip though. I’m packing in an awful lot. First up is a double birthday dinner for my girls. There will be 8 of us dining at Ruth’s Chris in Chicago. One of the birthday girls has never been and really really wants to go. So we’re making it happen. The birthday girls don’t know I’m coming in to town though, so I’m just showing up at dinner as a surprise, which is why this post is publishing almost 24 hours after being written.

Next up is a family portrait. My parents, my brother, Easy, some cousins, and my aunt and uncle are all cramming into one shot. I think it will be one of the few photos we have of members of both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family that’s not at a wedding or funeral. We’ve decided to wear combos of red, navy, and white. Should be fly.

Yup, I just said fly. I’m an 80s baby. Deal with it.

Then I have a dinner with one of my best friends. Seriously, like every time I go to Chicago, we’re unable to hook up. Between my short stays, he work schedule, family obligations, etc. we kept cancelling on each other. But not this time. We have reservations at Cantina Laredo, which is an amazing Latin restaurant in downtown Chicago. Check it out if you’re in the area, totally worth the valet/effort to find parking.

Then Easy and I hop in my mom’s car to drive to St. Louis for a wedding. These are friends from when he lived down there when we started dating. We were considering just staying in St. Louis, and the four of us were going to do this Honeymooners thing. That would’ve made a completely different life for us. The St. Louis version of Easy and myself were interesting people, different from who we are in New York.

Eh, no use wondering what if, right? The NYC versions of us rock, and we have better looking calves from all the walking anyway.

Then back to Chicago for Memorial Day where we will eat BBQ and left over birthday cake from our nieces/cousins. Two words. Atomic cake. Google it if you don’t know. Because you need to know.

I really cannot wait for the BBQ. Can someone explain to me why I have to travel to Williamsburg to get good BBQ? And for that matter, why do I have to travel to Harlem to get good soul food? And to Flatbush to get good jerk chicken? New York is such a melting pot, but they really fuck up food the entire rest of the country has mastered. Excuse my language, but I really feel pretty strongly about it.

And then after lots of good food, we get on a plane back to NYC. That will make 5 days, 4 nights in the Midwest. By Tuesday, I’m going to feel sooo ready to come home. So perhaps I’ll write another post called A Chicago-Style Girl Goes Home. But that one will talk about street food and easy taxi/subway options and volunteer opportunities and lack of allergy sufferers due to the lack of trees and wifi everywhere and people who don’t care if you accidentally step on their foot and a beautiful nighttime where outside of every window looks like Christmas will all the twinkling lights coming from every office window.

That run on sentence (so sorry!) just gave me clarity. NYC is like a new relationship right when you go from limerence to being fully in love. At that moment, their dirty drawers shouldn’t even bother you.

I think NYC’s dirty drawers count at the stinky homeless man who coughs up part of his lung on the subway and you just know he has tuberculosis. I am in love, but I’m not stupid. NYC’s dirty drawers bug the hell out of me. I don’t want TB. You can’t donate your organs and tissues if you’re contracting TB from a random stranger on a train.

That being said, hopefully my love is long-lasting. After all, it’s not blind-to-logic love. It’s just enamored, full-hearted love. A love that says Chicago can suck it. Because you’re #2 now.

Disclaimer: this only applies to the cities, not their sports teams. Bringing Phil Jackson to the Knicks is a step in the right direction, but really it just makes me think of the early 90s and his 3-peat with Jordan & Pippen. Da Bulls Da Bear Da Sox


Wine School?? Hell Yeah, Challenge Accepted

Did you ever have that moment where you’re reading something on Wikipedia and you look up 7 hours later wondering how you got from Batman comic books to a historical exploration of homosexuality in Greece to the population demographics of African countries in 1900s to Reese Witherspoon’s filmography?

I know it is not just me.

This type of thing happens to me more than I’d care to admit. And it is not just Wikipedia. It happens when I Google something and then jump from website to website reading randomly connected articles all linking to one another. Last night, I was berating myself for somehow missing that Fred Armisen and Elisabeth Moss have divorced and they met when Jon Hamm hosted SNL. How did I miss that?

Anyway, this type of internet browsing happens to me often enough where I’m officially frustrated that I don’t have a wonderfully pithy catchphrase to describe it.

Last night my browsing took me to the New York Times online. It started where it always does, at the Opinion pages. Then The Gun Report. By the way, ten people got shot in Chicago on Monday. The first day over 50 degrees. Really, Chicago?!

After hopping from article to article, somehow I ended up trying to decide if I would beg Easy to try a new recipe for polenta or quinoa. My gut says polenta because he’s weird about texture, but somehow that sent me to a string of articles about which wines to pair with which meals.

Then I had that moment, where I’m all like, “my people!”

Then I mentioned this concept to a co-worker and she called it pretentious.

Then I was sad. She didn’t mean it as an official insult, just as an observation, but still.

Then I remembered I don’t really care what people think, which is why I don’t mind that even writing this blog post is furthering me being labelled by my entire family of in-laws as bourgie (is that how you spell the hood way of saying bourgeois? I never knew for sure).

Anyway, back to my point.

The man recommended champagne as the perfect wine pairing to fried chicken. I think I just met my best friend y’all. Eric Asimov used to write in Chicago, now he writes in New York. I don’t know how I’ve managed to miss all the wonderful things he has to say.

I’ll forgive myself for not seeing the man before today. It’s like the nerdy guy in high school that no one noticed was hot the whole time until he returns for Thanksgiving break freshman year of college.

Yesterday was the perfect day to notice Mr. Asimov because today he started Wine School.

Here’s how it will work: Each month I will pick a type of wine we will explore together. I will suggest three representative examples of that wine, and if you want to join me, I hope you will be able to find at least one of those bottles. If they are not at your wine shop, which is always frustrating, consider asking your merchant to find them, searching for them in other wine stores or ordering them online. You have time to hunt them down.

I was in when he told me to get out my corkscrew. Just reading pas articles of his about wine pairings let me know I have so much to learn. Right now, I’m all Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. In every single article of his I read, there were at least three wines mentioned I didn’t even know existed.

So, I’m getting out my corkscrew and signing up for wine school. I’m so excited!

The first wine type is Bordeax. It just so happens that I have a bottle of white Bordeax at home. My favorite wine shop in the West Village recommended it to me the last time I was in retail therapy mode. But I’m going to stick with his list of recommendations.

His best suggestion for wine school? This is not wine tasting, it’s wine drinking. Wine tasting is how professionals learn a lot about a variety of wines quickly. But he wants his pupils to learn about the wine and really dive in, get to know the wines, drink the entire bottle over more than one meal, if you can.

If all school were like this, I’d have 5 degrees.

Here are the three wines Eric Asimov wants me to try one or two of:

CHÂTEAU BERNADOTTE HAUT-MÉDOC 2009 $32 (Sherry-Lehmann Selections/Le Reine Importing, New York)
CHÂTEAU CANTEMERLE HAUT-MÉDOC 2009 $53 (Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York)
CHÂTEAU SOCIANDO-MALLET HAUT-MÉDOC 2009 $62 (Frederick Wildman & Sons)

I wish they cost less money, but advanced education is hardly ever cheap. Eric Asimov says there’s no need to buy all three wines. Just pick one, pair it with simply prepared lamb or beef, and don’t forget to take notes.

Like I said, challenge accepted.