(Former) Village Theater, Clark Street and North Avenue, Chicago.

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On Friday a few friends and I visited the Zhou B. Art Center in Bridgeport for the opening of Chicago’s Twelve, an exhibit featuring the work of twelve artists working primarily in found materials.

Artist Connie Noyes described the process of working with materials from the dumpster behind her Pilsen studio, while Kim Guare collected jute from the tags on Trader Joe’s bags to create Harvesting the Blue Potato, seen above.

I was at Zhou B. for the first time last spring, volunteering at a fundraiser, and it was exciting to see the incredible reclaimed industrial space as an environment for this compelling and unique combination of work.

(Somewhere, a future apartment’s walls are shuddering in anticipation of the day when I will undoubtedly try, and most likely fail, to emulate one of Yva Neal’s eclectic and vibrant color-coordinated–and sometimes, in the case of the succulents above, alive–wall installations.)

Chicago’s Twelve is at the Zhou B. Art Center April 20 – June 9, 2012.  Need more persuasion?  Feast your eyes on the exhibit catalog.  For more information about the center and current and upcoming exhibits and events, visit zhoubcenter.org.

 

The Irish love nothing more than some communal suffering.  It’s my theory that this is the spirit in which the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade was devised.I’ve never been a fan of this particular parade. I’m even less of a fan of Lincoln Park during the weeks leading up to St. Pat’s (or as I have taken to calling it, “Spring Awakening for Douchebags.”)

As is the case with so many things, my sentimental understanding of this holiday is totally incongruent with reality, and I present the argument that’s because this particular reality is, plainly, the worst.  In my mind, St. Patrick’s day involves Bing Crosby singing things like “Two Shillelagh O’Sullivan” and “The Isle of Innisfree” from a cassette tape my mom played over and over in the car in the weeks leading up to March 17th, wool sweaters, Guinness, freckles, colcannon, soda bread, “The Quiet Man,” and the repurposing of brisket as a “treat.”  For years my grandparents, whose various ancestors had arrived in New York during the previous century on coffin ships, hosted a St. Patrick’s Day party so festive that relatives flew in just for the occasion.  The evening always degenerated into hours of singing, and in later years more and more neighbors were invited as the noise extended further and further down the block.

In reality, the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade is the first time I remember, as a child, hearing the word f*** used loudly in regular everyday conversation.  Erin go Bragh, indeed.

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The Head and the Heart, Vic Theater, Chicago, March 7, 2012

It occurred to me recently that the concert “encore” is sort of like the adult version of reviving Tinkerbell.

If you believe in fairies, clap your hands! If you are getting legitimately concerned that your favorite song off the entire album hasn’t been played yet and we seem to be leaving the stage with our instruments forever, CLAP YOUR HANDS.

We all know how it’s going to work out, but we play along because it seems way too risky not to.  Is Billy Joel really not going to play “Piano Man?”  Of course he is; that’s why you came, and he knows that.  But he’s going to make you beg for it.

As a child, watching a PBS broadcast of the Mary Martin staging of Peter Pan on low-fi 1980s VHS, I was always tempted to see what might happen if just-this-once I didn’t clap my hands.  Would Tink be gone forever? (Sidenote: She was, let’s be real, juuuust the tiniest bit obnoxious.  Even my four-year-old self didn’t really suffer minxes gladly.)  I was ultra-intrigued, but the potential crushing guilt of being the child who had changed the course of fictional humanity forever was too strong for me, and at the last minute I always burst into full-wingspan applause to bring our girl back to never-Neverland.

No such personal debate was necessary when, last week, The Head and the Heart played at the The Vic.  If kids clapped dutifully to prevent the publicly televised demise of a fairy, this audience applauded desperately for TH&TH–and the reward of hearing the folky, aching, hurtling Down In the Valley”–after all hope of another tune seemed lost– was far better than anything Tink ever drummed up.

I am on my way/ I am on my way/I am on my way back to where I started…

It’s becoming painfully apparent to me that the most regularly employed tag on this blog is “I Ate That,” and that we might be skewing a bit less “accidental Chicago” and a bit more “purposeful consumption of high fructose corn syrup.”

Never you mind, because yesterday was what my mother referred to when we were growing up as “Shrove Tuesday” (I have literally never heard anyone else call what is commonly known as “Mardi Gras” or “Fat Tuesday” as such, but apparently it’s a thing.)

In Chicago, our many Polish-American friends and neighbors also refer to this day as “Paczki Day,” named for the sweet, dense, doughnut-esque filled pastries that must contain lard, butter, and margarine in order to hold their particular shape. (Sidenote: this is the best cover story ever for using three kinds of shortening in one markedly shapeless pastry.)

I’ve never experienced the full reward born from the determination of being at Bridgeport Bakery at Archer and Loomis–where Paczkis are ordered weeks in advance and a traffic cop appears around 10 a.m. to arbitrate the vehicular melee–when they open in the wee small hours of this Tuesday morning each year (having closed as early as noon the day before to prepare), but my more determined coworker was there before the office opened yesterday, snagging the sweet horde pictured above and proving nice enough to share.

In our house, Fat Tuesday always meant pancakes for dinner, a tradition I find we carried over from our English family members (though we nixed the lemon juice and sugar topping favored in Northern Ireland). I couldn’t find anyone else in my circle familiar with this practice, but that didn’t stop them from accompanying me to iHop and partaking in a meal more side-laden than anything ever served at home, and involving a Leslie-Knope-approved-level of whipped cream.

Spiritual practices aside, it seems penance–of the dietary variety–may actually be in order.