Listless: Summer In Chicago 2011 – The Quickening


Ah, to be in Chicago when things turn warm. The women, the outdoors, the terrible sensation of tension in a man’s throat when he realizes his allergies have come once again to inflate his sinuses until his voice resembles that of Sloth from The Goonies. It’s a beautiful time of year, and though I may be jumping ahead of myself just a little bit, for it’s not yet May, an 80+ degree Sunday was more than enough to persuade me to write this week’s Listless on some of the best/worst/most fascinating changes the city undergoes when the mercury begins to rise.

(Side note: While writing that last line, I came up with the rap line “Made that mercury rise like Bruce Willis.” You may quote me.)

1. The triumphant return of Def Leppard covers or: Street festivals.

Being that I’m on that next-level science shit, I was able to calculate that there are approximately one metric fuckton of street festivals in Chicago every summer. These range from the musical (Wicker Park Fest, where it’s already confirmed Wavves and Blitzen Trapper will appear this year, among others), to neighborhood block parties (such as the one in Wrigleyville where I watched a man go inappropriately hard on his cover of “Livin’ La Vida Loca” last year), to food festivals. This last one is possibly the most exciting, as every few days tends to bring a new smorgasboard of neighborhood-centric bliss. A better and more detailed guide can be found here.

2. The increased hostility on the El.

Let me qualify that title by saying that I find this genuinely exciting. There’s something about the heat that brings public transit riders’ dark sides out in the rarest of forms, and I for one cannot wait. From the indignant woman who wants to know why the hell the heat lamps won’t turn on, to the gentlemen trying to sell pornography out of his trenchcoat (his sales pitch that almost had me despite myself: “You like DVDs, right?”), it’s like Pavlov’s bell goes off and suddenly the mere scent of B.O. is enough to drive your everyday, average nanny into a psychosis of Falling Down proportions. And that, my friends, is pretty awesome.

3. Al fresco drinking.

Classier writers will be writing up pieces in the next few weeks on the major outdoor dining hot spots to hit up during the warm weather months, but I will instead focus on a far cooler tradition: open-air boozing. It seems like more and more bars every year have made their windows retractable, in order to maximize the potential of a guy wearing a shamrock headband in late June shouting Justin Bieber lyrics at passerby. Admittedly, it’s also really soothing to peoplewatch/take in the general sounds of the city when inebriated, kind of like having someone rub your head or play you in a rousing game of Uno. Mostly, though, I just like the sensation of people shouting at me from bars. If I drown out things like context and words, it’s like being the prettiest woman passing by a construction site.

4. The scariest fountain of all time.

You’ve seen it. You’ve had friends visit from out of town, and insist upon seeing that bean thing that everyone takes pictures in. Then, suddenly, your friends stop being narcissists long enough to loudly exclaim “Oh GOD, what is that thing?!?” Before you can chide them for their flagrant disrespect of the homeless, you realize that they’re talking about the Crown Fountain, one of the odder bits of the Millennium Park lineup. Random faces, often those of children, appear on two obelisks which bookend a small pond that people for some reason want to frolic in. Then, every five minutes or so, the smiling faces turn into O-faces and spew water upon the waiting, laughing masses. I’d rather just scale the nearby Buckingham Fountain, myself.

5. Tourists!

I miss them every year until they come. Until they come, and they book it for Navy Pier and its overpriced fudge, until they have to count change on a bus at 4:45 on a Tuesday, until it’s Cubs season and the sidewalk is impassible due to the volume of cornholing being done, until for that matter Taco Bell is overrun at all hours, until Ed Debevic’s becomes the most important restaurant in the world and until multi-level McDonalds locations blow goddamn minds. Most importantly, until they remind us all that at heart most of us are just them with three years and entitlement on our side.