Is Chicago, Is not Chicago

My earliest memory of Chicago happens in Homewood, IL. My cousin and I are ten years old at the public swimming pool. He bets he can swim under water longer and farther than I can. We race. He has goggles, but I’ve forgotten mine. I don’t remember which of us won. I’ve always been certain this memory sticking with me is not a coincidence.

We’ve driven through Wisconsin to get to Chicago. This was my first trip to Wisconsin since the memorial for my uncle. I’ve never particularly cared about this state. I do love the Frank Lloyd Wright convention center in Madison. I also love that after the memorial a cousin insisted on stopping for shots of whiskey in case the liquor store wasn’t open. He taught me to play dice while we were there. If’ you’ve never played dice in Wisconsin to see who will cover the round of drinks, I recommend it. This may be one of the more ridiculous regional customs I’ve ever learned. On this trip we stopped to visit a friend in Milwaukee who told us about persuading the bar tender to play as well. If you do and they lose, the round of drinks is on the house. It’s a new goal for me next time I’m in Wisconsin.

I meant to spend three days at Riot Fest. I was a bit pouty about not arriving for the first day, but then I remembered this trip is about seeing people, not about listening to music. Even so, here’s a quick list of who I saw live this trip so far.

  • Mobina Galore
  • Gary Numan
  • Mannequin Pussy
  • Bully
  • Conflict
  • Cat Power
  • GWAR
  • The Adolescents
  • Street Dogs
  • Elvis Costello & The Imposters
  • Killing Joke
  • Jerry Lee Lewis
  • The Jesus Lizard
  • Beck

If you care about people writing about music, this is not the blog for you. I don’t write about music. Probably I could do an okay job. If you’re interested in convincing me I could, great. The trouble is I don’t want to, so I’m not doing it.

We stayed with my friend Bobby Evers on the north end of the city that first night. Normally I wouldn’t name drop, but he’s got a solid radio show on CHIRP radio and they’re fundraising right now. He’s a volunteer there. Help keep radio alive, send them some money. If you want to hear someone talk about music in any kind of meaningful way, listen to Bobby.

Eventually we made it out to my family’s house in the suburbs. She’s just moved to Aurora, IL and as another friend in town said, “Wow, this is so far.” I did resist the urge to try to relive all of Wayne’s world, but also I ate a lot of Aurelio’s Pizza. It’s what you do in Chicago.

I always think of my aunt as my first collected mother, so we had long mother-daughter style conversations about our lives and what we’re doing to take care of ourselves. She even got a jab in about the year I came to Christmas and I was a vegan. What you all care about from these conversations is mental health is real and it takes energy to maintain balance. It’s worth it to take care of yourself in this way and the rest of us are drained when we have to pull too much of the weight for others. All my friends talked to my uncle about, well, I’m not even sure what, but there was a lot of talking all around.

This felt like a coming together of birth and chosen family; it was cozy. Old friends and new, collected from all the parts of my life, converging together as I cross the continent. There’s some kind of magic in the air and it’s not just this harvest that’s happening all around me in the countryside as we’re driving to Iowa.

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