Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This is How it Starts...

With 90 minutes to kill and currently flying a mile high somewhere between Chicago and Dallas, I had planned on summing up our dutiful last saturday afternoon/evening visiting another 8 bars. Without access to the internet and our trusty notebook, I find myself dumbfounded on not only what establishments we visited, but also some specifics of what happened between 5PM and 2AM. I do know we visited 8 bars in Wrigelyville, but for the life of me I can only come up with the names of six. I think I am starting to see the negative side effects of this mission. I am constantly finding myself second guessing which bars we have already visited and now I can't even remember what happened a mere 4 days ago.

But the afternoon started something like this. We killed many morning/afternoon hours watching the USA sprint crew shoot themselves in the foot (again) in the sprint relays, started the first two episodes of Dexter (yet another distraction added to the list), and various errands. With Hall pulling his usual maneuver in ditching Kyle to go see The Hurt Locker we embarked on Wrigleyville. We knew there were still a handful of bars we still haven't graced our presence with, so we figured with the Cubs being out of town that we would adventure down Clark and stop at each one still on the list. First stop, The Blarney Stone, #116. Walking in, there was only one other patron in the bar and he was an 80 year old man with a popped collar sipping on some Jameson. We slowly sipped our two Guinesses and take notes on the aesthetics. The only coming to my mind now were the two pictures above the bar: JFK and The Pope. Not a bad company to be in I guess. Coincidentally Kyle is wearing his "The Pope is Dope" shirt this evening. I remember back in the 907 days when Kyle bought this shirt and The Pope at the time went on to pass away one week later. We debated if the shirt should now read, "The Pope WAS Dope." Yes, we know, we're going to Hell, but at least all our friends will be there. Half-way thru our meals in a can, Seidler joins us and relives he previous evening in Indianapolis, without saying too much more than I should, I'll just leave the story at that. Finally two other patrons walk in but abruptly leave after learning that this Irish bar doesn't even have Irish Mist to order. Apparently their tastebuds we're on a mission to take down the cheapest and nastiest booze available (a la our PDX adventures a few years back).

We walk back north up Clark, say goodbye to Seidler and say hello to Baumer as the next bar in sight is The Houndstooth Saloon, #117. I already have a strong hatred for this bar and this afternoon doesn't improve that perception. The bar is packed with various SEC alumnus as we split one pitcher between the three of us before immediately leaving. Only tidbit I remember from the HS (horse-shit?) is after hearing some drunk idiot jump on a table and yelling the UK fight song me saying to the group, "we need to get the fuck out of here." Some random dude in front us nodded his head in approval. The next bar we visited is currently blank from my mind, #118 (Editors Note: Rebel). All I can really remember is Baumer ordering a pitcher of 312 and he being disgusted in the cost. I also remember him asking if we are disappointed with the way The Savior has been playing this year and we are immediately taken back in disgust. Kyle's analogy linked Baumers question to that of the Cubs ability to sign Bradley, Fukudome, Miles, Soriano, or well any other Cubs player to such an amazing discount. I remember at this point being very hungry and we proceed across the street to The Spread, #119. Damn good burgers are consumed and the start of the Bears game commences. Once again, without our trusty notebook, my mind is blank on this establishment. Kyle, maybe you can fill in the blanks later this week. Now the next bar I do remember being Merkele's, #120. Aaron joins us and we watch the rest of the Bears game. We debate the proper weight class Baumer should look for in a companion and are taken back at his ceiling. At some point we add some estrogen the crew with the arrival of Annie, Abby and Kelly. I can't remember if they joined us at Merkele's, or at the following bar which also stared with an M, #121 (Editors Note: Moxie). I do remember getting free shots of Jameson somewhere along the line and also enjoying a very yummy and robust Rouge Porter. Eventually Baumers Peoria friend Jeremy and his wife join us and I remember a large portion of the discussion being centered about Big Al's (link would be NSFW). Something tells me many long nights there have shaped the current Baumer we know.

Around midnight Jeremy convinces us to head up the street to The Wild Hare, #122. Not knowing what to expect, we are blown away with where the next 90 minutes takes us. Apparently the Hare is a Jamaican bar with live raggae bands moving our hips. Many Red Stripes (Hooray!) are consumed as we all become three sheets to the wind. Before the roaring of our bellies take over, dancing ensues and an older women on the prowl tries her hardest to bring Kyle back to her lair. Fortunately Kyle had his senses with him and didn't pull a, "I'm going to see where this goes." For the eighth and final bar of the evening we cross Clark over to Bar Louis, #123. Baumer has been raving about the Atomic Fries and we concur after wetting our whistle. The atomic fries and Oberon take my mind completely away from a Fourth Meal and the evening eventually comes to a conclusion at 2AM. Not bad for an impromptu crawl.

The rest of the weekend ends up taking a toll on us even though Sunday included no drinking. Sunday was started by minimal sleep by waking up early to catch the final day of the World Track and Field Champs live from Berlin. The 5K was well worth our lack of sleep in seeing 10 guys tied at the bell lap and catching the eventual battle between Lagat and Bekele the final 50. With Bekele taking the reigning 1500 and 5K champ to school, there is no question Bekele now holds the title of being the GOAT. Great American showings all around this week 3 men and women in the 1500m finals - Lagat and Rowbury claiming medals, Ritz and Rupp in the 10K (watch out Med, your AR is going down at Stanford next spring), Symmonds in the 800, Solinksy and Tegs in the 5K, and Jenny B in the steeple. The other big news from Berlin being the very manly Semenya absolutely dominating the women's 800. The rest of Sunday is spent in the direct sunlight sans lotion at the Sox game. The effects of such are still being felt 2 days later and I look like a lobster and feel completely drained. Sunday concluded with another outstanding epidsode of True Blood. Many questions will need to be resolived around MaryAnn and the rest of Bon Temp in the final two episodes.

Random conversation I've heard at ORD so far:
"and the doctor said he only has another 20 years to live"
"that's not that bad, how old is he?"

"seriously! i can't believe Barack is bringing Bernake back for another four years, he is the reason the stock market crashed."

"mommy, that is the Spanish flag"
"good job sweetheart" (she was actually pointing to the flag of Argentina.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rise Up With Fists

Let's start with a request. My friend Sabin is a 33 yr old photographer, now living in Las Vegas. We played indoor soccer together for years, he's an incredibly talented individual and one of the geniunely nicest people I've come across. On June 24th, Sabin suffered a stroke. He's working on what everyone hopes is a full recovery, but since the original cause of the stroke is still undetermined there's a high risk that it could happen again. Sabin has gone to numerous doctor visits, and he recently spent a few days at the Mayo Clinic to undergo more testing. Always one to push the envelope, he set up a website to track his progress -- please visit it at Sabin's Stroke of Genius.com to track his progress or to make a donation. As one of several million working Americans without health insurance, the cost of finding an answer has an unfortunate bottom line attached to it.
Chicagoans -- there is a fundraiser on at Kincades on 9/26. See the webpage for details.


A week late update regarding a Thursday night venture close to where the Lincoln Park Late Night Cowards have been senselessly attacking solo parties (men) after midnight.

Our first stop was Forno Diablo, #113, which is really more restaurant than bar. Dark interior decor, red accents, black & white movies on the television, and thankfully NO CARPET -- this is definitely one of the classier joints in the neighborhood. Our waitress is chipper, the pizza I order is more expensive but also 100x better than the one I ordered the previous Thursday at the Ave Tave. The beer menu is impressive so...(big surprise!) I like this place. While drinking a couple of very intriguing Maredsous Dubbel's, our conversation flows from idiot Cubs fans to the new Sox lineup and ends somewhere around running injuries.
Speaking of idiot Cubs fans...perhaps someone can explain something to me I've never understood. As a Sox fan, I have no problem admitting Wrigley Field is a beautiful place to see a ballgame. The field, that is, the stadium is something else. Anyway, the field, the ivy, the bricks, it's a shrine to baseball and better prose than I can compose has been written about the place. So at this glorious shrine to our national pastime, why is it that Cubs fans, more than any other group I've seen in the US, feel the need to litter the field with garbage when they're unsatisfied with either the umpiring, the opponent, or the perceived slight they feel their players have been given? "This place is gorgeous! Let's throw more garbage on it!" Stay classy, northsiders.

We crossed the street to Duffy's, #114. Duffy's has a huge backroom where the crowded crowd of revelers enjoying the start to an early weekend or simply drinking off their softball wins and losses actually made Rick and I feel old. We had a beer and left. I've enjoyed some days spent at Duffy's, but it's not a place anywhere near the top of my list. It did make me long for the days when I could handle dollar beer night on Lincoln Ave, those days seem to be long gone.

Third, and last stop for the night, is the tiny joint next door to Duffy's, Fion, #115. Technically a wine bar, this small place is well dressed, classy, plays good music and has yet another very very long list of imported beers. The specials for the night were mostly for various wines, but I was sticking to my beer choices. Definitely a spot for chilling out with a small group of friends, I'll be adding this one to the list of usual destinations. The kids can hang out next door, I'll be okay lounging with the adults in Fion.

So a quick 3 up, 3 down, like a good inning from Buehrle, and we're done for the night. No signs of violence on our way home...and thankfully we haven't heard news of more attacks in the neighborhood in the last few days. Hope the mess is over, but be careful out there anyway. Travel in wolfpacks.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Age of Miracles, The Age of Sound

Lollapalooza was rainy.
and Hot.
and Dusty.
and Crowded.
and it frequently reeked of marijuana.

It was also quite a lot of fun. The list of bands I saw perform at least 1 song is as follows, in order:
Frances England, The Gaslight Anthem, Heartless Bastards, Hollywood Holt, Fleet Foxes, The Decemberists, Andrew Bird, Kings of Leon, Depeche Mode, Ezra Furman & The Harpoons, Delta Spirit, Moneypenny, Miike Snow, Ida Maria, Los Campesinos!, Joe Pug, Perry Farrell, Arctic Monkeys, Santigold, TV on the Radio, Ben Harper and Relentless7, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Neko Case, Cold War Kids, Deerhunter, MSTRKRFT, The Killers.

None of them were bad. A few of them were great, and a handful were welcome surprises. Thanks to all of the friends I ran into who also tolerated my frequently late text messages. A new iLike playlist based on Lolla has been posted on the right, brief recaps on some of my favorites are below, and a few more pictures from the weekend are further down.

The Gaslight Anthem, a band I'd heard of but never listened to, was my first real set to catch for the weekend. It was raining and the crowd didn't seem to mind, knowing the two days to follow would be excruciatingly hot. The band is from New Jersey, they sing working class rock n' roll in the style of Springsteen, and the lead singer was wearing a Social Distortion t-shirt. If you don't think this is right up my alley you don't know me very well.

Hollywood Holt perfromed just about the same set I saw for $5 at Wicker Park Fest. He still had the EXPLOSION sound effects, he uses mostly the same lines in between tracks, and his track about not giving a crap what your friends say about your outfit is still hilarious. This dude pictured was having a one-man dance party.

I probably have 2 or 3 Delta Spirit tracks from either My Old Kentucky Blog or Gorilla vs Bear or some place my brother linked me to. People would say they're somewhat Dylanesque, venturing into alt-country. The lead singer called his brother from the stage, who was getting married that day, and had the crowd wish him well. The band's performance in the heat on Saturday was so geniunely earnest and full of energy that I bought their album on Monday. The back cover photo on the album is dated from the early 70's and shows a middle-aged couple playing chinese checkers in the bathtub.

Los Campesinos! are a bunch of exuberant kids from across the pond who bang on their instruments and everything else within reach, belting out songs of musical chaos and disorganization that somehow end up sounding terrific. This band reminds me of a litter of rambunctious puppies playing around together until they exhaust themselves. I picture the band going back to their tour bus after each show and curling up into a pile for naptime. That analogy is terrible and does them no justice.

I love the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and everything they've recorded. Thanks to a little help from Jack Daniels, there was probably no one in the audience who enjoyed their Saturday evening headlining set more than my friends Ben, Verdo and I.

While Neko Case sounded great, and the Killers were better than I thought they'd be, my Sunday faves were both Deerhunter and MSTRKRFT (only because I was at the Sox game and missed Ra Ra Riot and their beautiful cellist). I'd never gotten into Deerhunter, having seen them once before but from a distance. This time I was much closer to the stage and finally understood just what it is that makes them so beloved by the "mybandsarebetterthanyourbands" crowd. I'll be paying more attention to their recorded output.

MSTRKRFT is just damn fun. See Rick's earlier post for their recent video for "Heartbreaker", featuring John Legend.

That's me, centered on the bottom of this photo, taking a picture of myself & the band on screen.

Graham Elliot's Lobster Corndog


Dirty Hipsters cooling off in the fountain.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chi Don't Dance

With Kyle's upcoming review of Lolla from the past weekend, I'm throwing in my two cents of recent jamz that have been added to the 907 playlist. We also knocked off 3 bars on Thursday night - Forno Diablo, Duffy's, Fion; so expect a full recap in the next day or two as well. Without further note, enjoy the rotation of MSTRKRFT and Blowin Binladin Up (BBU).

Thursday, August 6, 2009

And I've Got One Two Three Four Five

Just Notes:

For golfing once a year I'm not nearly as terrible as I should be.

Reminder that EBONY is on Twitter -- @EmptyBlog. Sign up and follow the stupid crap I write about.

John Barleycorn, #111, (ALL OF THEM), after an incident in the summer of 2007, had been collectively blacklisted as a destination by many friends of the 907. A particular manager, drunk with power, didn't like the fact that we were spending time with people (girls) he seemed to think he had some sort of ownership over. As he had the bouncers at his disposal, he had them escort us off the premises. There had been about 25 people at the bar that night (slow night). Upon kicking us out, we took roughly 20 of those people with us to another location. Tool.

Dreaming up the idea behind EBONY we realized we would have to visit a Barleycorn once again. It was a brief visit, many thanks to the GUR staff for making it bearable.

Immediately after entering Moe's Cantina, #112, our entire crew of 10(?) formed a huddle at the front of the bar to assign artists for the "lead the dance floor" contest. If you're going to look like idiots the entire time you're at a bar you might as well start as soon as you get there.
Also taking place at Moe's: The "who has the tightest calf muscles" contest. Stephanie won. Many of us want a rematch.

Last night, because it's my weekend already, I met up with Halljams and Cornerstone Heidi at Danny's (not within the EBONY radius). Danny's is a good bar. A GOOD bar. Not, however, the kind of bar that deserves a line all the way down the block to get in on a Wednesday night at 11pm. The hipsters are here and they're full of sweat. They also need to branch out a bit.

Cabbing north and looking to continue our coversation about tragedies and college youth, Hall and I hit up the much more well lit and subsequently less empty Village Tap (also not an EBONY bar). Nothing spectacular to report, just that the Village Tap deserves your business.

FYI, ESPN: The White Sox have been creaming the best 2 teams in the AL for the last week. So this morning while watching Sportscenter I'd like to see Sox-Angels highlights early in the lineup -- not 34 minutes into the show, after 20 minutes of Red Sox-Yankees preview coverage and right before the human interest piece on the Fake Umpires of Toronto.

Busy weekend ahead, I'll try to recap as much as possible afterwards:
Hot Doug's
Elvis is Alive 5k (bike marshall)
Lollapalooza for 3 days -- all day, everyday
Sox-Indians on Sunday @ the Cell

Also...90+ degree weather. I was built for this. Senses working overtime.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I ran with the Hot Dog, you put it in your mouth

The band is back together. After a late run to make our July bar count somewhat respectable, we needed to keep momentum going with the start of August. Earlier in the week I got a text from Broseph, who owns the Great Urban Race, to see if I wanted to compete with him in the this years race so he could see the dynamics of GUR from a new perspective. Experiencing both the highs (winning the 907 scavenger hunt in 2007) and lows (teaming up with Selfy for a demoralizing 17th place at the 2007 GUR) of this type of adventure, I needed to get myself back on a winning note.

After a 16 mile run Saturday morning with the OMTC crew I had an hour to rest and caffeinate before the high noon start at The Cubby Bear. Our strategy was simple, sprint to the Addison Red Line stop ASAP and work on the clues from there. This went sour when we waited 10+ minutes for the southbound train to arrive which allowed the CTA platform become a complete GUR clusterf*ck. The trip south gave us plenty of time to solve the clues and map out our routes: Q1) Comedy Sportz – Belmont and Sheffield – check. Q2) need to find someone wearing a tie-dyed shirt or Chuck Taylors – keep in the memory bank. Q3) Kingston Mines – Wrightood and Halsted – check. Q4) Find a job application or a Help Wanted sign – easy, hit up a Starbucks before the finish. Q5) Herman Joseph _____ started what German restaurant…think, think….Berghoff – around Adams and State – check. Q6) Daley Bicentennial Plaza, just east of Millennium Park – check. Q7) Victor Fleming directed what movie in 1939 that later had a Chicago park dedicated to it? Has to be Oz Park. What character did Jack Haley play? ….we need a picture in front of the Tin Man – Lincoln Park off Halsted – check. Q8) Famous tattoo shop owned by Dale Grande? …. Has to be the one near Belmont and Sheffield, note: near Comedy Sportz. Q9) Riddle that Joe solved before even finishing – need to find a street sign w/ the same consecutive letters, ie..Sheffield, Fullerton, Wellington – check. Q10) Eat a hot dog from new joint at Fullerton/Clark, easy enough. Q11) Detour: count how many Olympic flags are in the Morningstar building window, then hold up that many fingers in a picture in front of the Art Institute, or count number of flags outside the Palmer House and do the same but in front of the Picasso – cake walk. Q12) Donate one of 4 items (pack of 8 markers and one coloring book, matchbox car, Barbie doll, or a children’s book) to the Starlight Children’s Foundation – across from Berghoff easy.

Train stops at Lake Street, we’re off. I sprint to the Morningstar building while Joe goes straight to Daley Bicentennial Park. 7 flags, Ricky don’t forget this. Now sprint the near mile to the park dodging thru traffic and putting my body as fatal risk crossing Michigan Ave to meet Joe just as he is jogging there. Task: crab walk, then leap frog, then wheelbarrow the full length of the tennis courts here. After 5 minutes of constant sweating we’re off to the Art Museum. Take picture w/ 7 fingers, check. Berghoff, there down the street, go! Wait, we need a kids book, we got to the poster store across from the museum and pick up a $15 kids book on who knows what. We dash out of there, donate the sweaty book to Starlight and dash across to the Berghoff. Wait, what do we need to do here? Get a picture of 10 people doing the “Superstar” pose in front of the sign. Joe, I’ll round up 10 people, you get someone to take the picture. God damn Joe, get someone to take the picture, these people are restless. After finally asking 5 people, someone is nice enough to take our mug. Now sprint to the Brown Line. After another near 10 minute wait we finally get on. Wait, Joe, look, Chuck Taylors. Excuse me sir, do you mind of we take a picture with your feet? Brown Line arrives at Armitage, we sprint for Oz Park and find the Tin Man. Joe is completely winded and slowly heading towards the pain cave. Joe, you wait for the Halsted bus north and I’ll meet you at Comedy Sportz, we’ll skip Kingston and I’ll run to Fullerton and grab the dog. I sprint to the hot dog joint, crab one immediately off the counter and proceed to run w/ it in my had for the 1.5 mile distance over to CS. Still no sign of Joe, I wait, I wait, I wait and wait. Finally he sprints up the stairs. Our task: charades, we can’t leave until Joe guesses 1 of 2 of my words. I get “children” or “knight”. After a couple failed attempts of acting like a baby, I pull out my knight act and he gets it immediately, go figure. Joe, eat the hot dog, I ran with it for 2 miles you put it in your mouth. Now off to the tattoo parlor. Pick up a rub on GUR tattoo and put it on my forehead. This took way too long to get it to stick. After many failed attempts it’s time to spring back to the bar. Wait, Sheffield, get a picture of the sign. Nice call. Now sprinting home, get the Starbucks application and cross the finish line to victory. Well after 1 hour and 38 minutes of closeness with Broseph we take 2nd overall out of 500+ teams. Since Joe is the head hancho though we obviously have a conflict of interest and don’t officially count in the results. After a shower and 2 Lagunitas IPAs, its time to celebrate.

The post party wastes no time as we’re joined by Selfy and the many GUR staff/interns. We spend too many hours at the Cubby Bear (especially considering Kyle and I were already here for the EB&D premier) getting drunk on cheap beer and watching a makeshift jam band on stage. Kyle arrives after his adventures at Cog Hill and we head out to actually start crossing bars off the list. The night gets blurry as our raucous behavior continues on to John Barleycorn (worst bar in the city) and Moe’s Cantina (not far behind). We play the dancing game (each person gets 1 artist, and when the DJ plays that artist, that person needs to lead the dancefloor). I challenge Selfy to many one on one’s and I’ll have to admit he had the better of me this evening. My quick feet and flailing arms are no match for his electric shoulders and swinging hips. Around 11 I call it a night (after consistent boozing since 2PM). Kyle holds on strong and does EBONY proud.

Tonight we are off the Southside see Gordon Beckham and the Sox tackle the team with the best record in the AL on Mark Buehrle appreciation night. We'll be raising a pint in MB's honor.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hold Tight! We're In For Nasty Weather

Not ones to let July go down without at least a half-hearted fight, Rick and I took Thursday, 7/30, as a chance to knock two more bars off the list before we wrapped up our weakest month of the year.

Hungry for food and seeking a shelter from the storm as a downpour was rolling through the city, we manned our umbrellas and waded our way over to The Avenue Tavern, #109. This is a bar we've already been to this year, but the lack of any resemblance of a waitstaff interested in serving us for the 15 minutes we were there caused us to leave. It's no surprise, the building that houses the Ave Tave used to be the Law Offices of Worth, Less & Staff. I'll be here all night folks.

The first person to greet us was our not-waitress, and the way she recited the beer list led us to believe she was a robot. Vicki from Small Wonder had more personality than this charmer.

Our real waitress eventually showed up...she thought she had a ticket on her car and was checking on it, only to find out it was a flyer for one of the 5,381 Thai restaurants on the northside of Chicago. After telling her we weren't interested in the aluminum bottles with Cubs logos on them (really, that's 2 strikes right there and I haven't even gotten to what kind of beer it was) we ordered a couple of $2 PBR's. We also ordered 2 BBQ Pizza's, and she was concerned that was too much food for us. We're not exactly a couple of Deep Dish Bertoletti's, but we've been known to put down some food.
FYI -- the pizza probably comes out of a box. No wonder it's $6.50. At least our bill was cheap. I had enjoyed visits here before, but the last two left me kind of flat. Let's ask the Magic 8-Ball if there will be a return trip: Outlook not so good.

Moving on...
On June 20th, 2005, when I lived at the 907, I had been out and about probably in the suburbs during the day. As I drove back home that summer evening my attention was mostly captured by the giant growing plume of black smoke coming from the area where I lived. Praying the 907 warehouse wasn't burning down because Selfy decided to use the oven for the first time, my fears were allayed when I arrived home and the smoke cloud was further north and east of home. Where was that smoke cloud coming from?

3012 Broadway, where a Dominick's was up in smoke and locals sat outside across the street at Monsignor Murphy's, #110, drinking beers and watching firefighters extinguish the blaze. Tonight, when Rick and I visit, there is significantly less drama. Murphy's is a pretty solid Everyman bar -- if you don't feel comfortable hanging out here you've got some serious social anxiety disorders, or you're just a prick. A couple of Shocktop's and Stella's, crooners are piping through the speakers and the Sox game is on (they would later blow the lead...but then trade for Jake Peavy the next day and COMPLETELY REDEEM THEMSELVES).
A chubby 9-year old comes running in from the outdoor beer garden. "That kid aint 21."
Trivia: Andy Petite is 4th in all-time career wins for the Yankees. Who are 1, 2, & 3? I'd be shocked if many people knew this. (answers listed below in the post tags)

We exit Monsignor Murphy's and walk past the still empty lot where what would be our nearest grocery store does not stand. Immediately after the fire Dominick's promised they would rebuild. That was 4 years ago. No signs of progress in the City That Works.

There has got to be a way.
Burning down the house.