being there

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


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…

2012: The Year I Resolve to Do Everything No More Than Three Days Late.  (Or at least try).

New Years Eve ice skating at Daley Bicentennial Plaza; The Bean with East Coast friends
Introducing out-of-towners to reflective-bean-photography; Chicago Cultural Center
Festive friends; unbelievable NYE dinner (and sidecar) at Aquitaine in Lincoln Park
New year/new tie; aftermath: Clark Street, Chicago, January 1, 10 AM

German incense smoker; a glass of Christmas Eve Glühwein
My grandfather, the original Christmas enthusiast; German wooden village
Swiss fondue, our longest-standing Christmas Eve tradition
Christmas morning Panettone; Christmas afternoon eggnog
Christmas tree; feather fascinator
Ice sculpture at Lincoln Park Zoo Lights; Mom’s “incroyable” Bûche de Noël
My sister’s Christmas train; Licoln Park Zoo Lights