Week 6, Day 2

Oh, Ellie, you kidder.

Once again, Ellie tricked me into a longer and more interesting bike ride than I had planned. She does this. “Just half an hour,” she says.

“OK, but I still have to write tonight.”

“OK.”

And so we start out. Not in any particular direction mind you, just sort of in a direction we haven’t gone yet, at least at that time of day. Today it was south first, then west. I usually head east toward the lake shore when I bike after work; south and west has been the substance of weekend trips. We hadn’t gone far when Ellie whispered, “Psst, remember these?” She pointed at some large sculptures presiding over the front lawn of the Bridgeport Art Center.

“Oh yeah, we should take a closer look.”

Thus we wended our way through a pretty neighborhood in a northerly direction.

Then Ellie got really excited. We came upon an intersection we’ve been to several times.

“Hey, you know, we’ve never, even once, been on this little section of road. Isn’t that odd, considering how close it is, and how many times we’ve been here? We should really see what’s down there, don’t you think?”

And then a minute or two later, “I didn’t know that Loomis Street went all the way through. How about that?” By “all the way through” she means it passes under both the interstate and the Orange Line and is an access route to Pilsen. Most streets here are abridged when they’re not bridged (LOL).

Naturally, we had to explore to see what was on the other side.

“Look! 18th Street is only a mile and a quarter away! That’s only a couple of minutes!”. Eighteenth is a major bike route, one that we haven’t been down in this section of town, yet. Might as well.

As we were zooming along, we passed over a bridge and looked over the side (we often stop and do this – today a train was passing by). “There!” she says, “It’s that park you see everyday from the train, and here we are!” She gets so excited about these things. The park is located in Chinatown, and has a distinctly Asian essence: pagodas, winding trails and traditional Asian design elements add to the ambience (WordPress likes ambiance there). From the train in the morning I often see people (mostly older and of Asian descent) exercising there. This morning a woman who appeared to be in her eighties was rapidly doing deep squats alongside the canal.

We had to go all the way around the block twice to find the entrance, and we finally did. What a pretty park. It is clearly designed to meander in, so Ellie and I did. There must’ve been a lot of Pokemon there. Just saying.

Now we’re home, an hour and a half later, quite refreshed. Still, what a kidder.

I know some of your are reading this just to hear about the Moth GrandSLAM storytelling competition I went to last night. I was almost late. I had glanced at the bus route: Bus 8 Diversey Street, wait 6 minutes, then take Bus 76 for a few blocks and a 3 minute walk. Google said 1 hour 12 minutes total travel time. It was 6:20 and I had to catch the first bus in 12 minutes. I hurried out and walked 6 minutes to the stop and caught the bus. I got off at Diversey, then checked CTA bus tracker (you can do that even on a flip phone) and saw the 76 was delayed, and the next one was 22 minutes away. Hmm. Walk or wait?

I had put considerable effort into planning the trip back home. I knew it would be after 10pm, but not precisely when. Google offered a multitude of possibilities. Unfortunately, each one started a little later than the previous, but required walking in a different direction to catch a bus: north, south east AND west, depending on the route. And some of the routes were complicated, requiring a bus then a train then a walk and another bus. There was no way to simply memorize  all the routes in the time I had, so I asked one of my TAs, who lives about three blocks from the theater if I could crash in their living room.  Just kidding. I asked what kind of neighborhood it was at that time of night. Pretty nice, as it turns out.

The upshot is that I knew it was about a twenty five minute walk to the theater, so I set out. I realized one small problem as I walked along. I sort of knew where the theater was, somewhere to my northwest, but not the street address. I did remember from a glance at Google Street view that it was next to a big church. So I plodded on, playing right, left, right, left, hoping to recognize the name of the street when I came across it. I did know that one of the many routes home was on the Ashland bus (not my first choice – that goes through a sketchy part of town), which told me that if I got to Ashland, I’d have gone too far. I kept looking up as I walked, and eventually spied the spire (LOL again). I made it with ten minutes to spare. As I waited in line, I mildly berated myself for not having at least memorized the street address. So much for being prepared, but no harm, no foul. As I pulled out my wallet to show my ID to get my ticket, I felt a couple of folded sheets of paper in my pocket – the itinerary, complete with addresses that I had printed out not even three hours earlier. Be prepared, but also try to remember that you are prepared.

The Athenaeum Theatre is an oldie but a goodie. The chairs had been reupholstered, but the seat backs still bore cracked mahogany leather. I had an excellent seat in the second row of the balcony. The theater was nearly full of a very NPR audience – about 90 plus percent white, middle-class and about three-quarters of it was within fifteen years of my age – I was close to the median. I point this out because the host, comedian Brian Babylon (Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me), did also. He had the crew bring up the house lights so he could see the audience, and mentioned that there weren’t too many people in the audience that looked like him, and that he was working on getting WBEZ to program more shows that reflected Chicago, and not just NPR’s core audience.

Given that the theme for the evening’s storytelling was “Comfort Zone”, you might expect that several of the stories might have to do with people experiencing the discomfort of being marginalized, and you’d be right. This theme was furthered when the audience was given the opportunity to fill out a sheet finishing the phrase “I felt out of my comfort zone when…” These were collected up and used during the program.

The ten storytellers reflected Chicago’s diversity better than the audience: black, white Latino, male, female, tall, short, thin and fat. They had all gotten there by virtue of winning at regular StorySLAM competitions. At those competitions, participants are selected by drawing names from a hat.

The stories were judged by three sets of judges: one set were former GrandSLAM winners, at least one of the other two seemed to be selected at random from the audience, and I didn’t hear about the third set. Each participant had five minutes to tell their story before the musicians, a cellist and a bassist, played a single note to signal the time. At six minutes, they would play a more complicated piece indicating that time is up, though they never needed to resort to this, all the tellers finished on time (just barely in some cases).

After each story, Brian Babylon read three of the slips from the audience and provided commentary on them. “OK, you’re just bragging. ‘I felt out of my comfort zone … when I rode my Vespa to a nude beach.’ Who mentions the Vespa? Just say you went to a nude beach!”

Some others:

“… when I gave a patient a PAP smear for the first time today.”

“… when my girlfriend took a pregnancy test today. We passed.” Who even knows what that means?

“… when the person I’d been having sex with for four months said, ‘Well, that’s it. I get married tomorrow at 9am.’”

Before the next story, the judges rendered their scores on an out-of-ten scale, and an assistant recorded them on a big piece of poster board. The scoreboard stayed up for the whole competition, so it was pretty easy to see how the tellers were doing.

The stories were all very good, and many were quite memorable, but the winners’ (Nestor Gomez) was the best.

Overall the night was a lot of fun. Definitely a do again.

Well, I’ve got early yoga tomorrow, so that’s all for now.

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5 thoughts on “Week 6, Day 2

  1. I can’t imagine how many miles you traverse/day between walking and riding. I was proud of myself this AM for biking 8.2 miles, but it seems to me the adventure you describe above probably beats that by a factor of three.

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