Rain, rain go away


Come again another day. JUST KIDDING. Please rain? Pretty please with a cherry on top? And some whip cream. PLEEEASE????

I don't know if the internet is the proper place to perform any kind of weather-related prayer, but I've already practically fallen to my knees on the sidewalk and begged the skies to open up and shower us with mercy. It's been days since it's rained in Chicago, which means that for days and days and days, while it has been just threatening to rain, it has felt like the goddamn tropics around here.

Erin and I have been sitting in our apartment, fans buzzing, beads of sweat clinging to our faces, watching each others' hair grow frizzier and curlier by the minute. Everything in our house is saturated with moisture. Even the wood on the door frames is swollen from the humidity, which is super entertaining (not) when it's time to lock the damn door.

I tried to pack some boxes the other day for our upcoming move. Made of the traditional sturdy cardboard, they all folded in the wrong places the moment I lifted them. It was soggy and impossible, like trying to carry a sleeping child's limp body.

Today hasn't been so awful. In fact the temperature right now is downright pleasant. But I still have a fro rivaling that of a certain scary haired comedian/freakshow, and any exertion outdoors results in just enough sweat for me realize that I should have a swimsuit on because I'm fucking five feet under water in a swimming pool. Only I've gotten used to it.

So again, I supplicate to the clouds, the gods, whatever the hell is up there, please, please rain. Please?

Erin's 1st Annual Best Bar Awards


There is only one thing I have unequivocally excelled at in life: heavy drinking. And now, one year into my tenure in Chicago, I look back and admire the truly great places that have rendered me happy and incoherent. You have all been cruel lovers of mine; this one's for you!

Best Cocktail
You've seen it here before. The unparalleled gimlet/margarita at The Matchbox. There is no pleasure like the pleasure of sipping a long series of these. Say what you will about the bar; call it cramped, call it uncomfortable, call it inconvenient; you will COME to this bar for this drink and you will find it hard to leave. Zest that motherfucking lime
What you drink: How many times do I have to say it? The goddamn margarita.

Best Beer Selection
I would like to remind everyone that this is a purely subjective list, that these names are only from personal experience and tastes, and once I find something I like, I rarely deviate. So, in what is assuredly a contentious category, I give my vote to Quenchers Saloon. Located near my place (bonus points!) and hosting plenty of live music, Quenchers isn't just an inviting dark place to put back a few, but houses a selection of over 80-some odd domestic and international beers, including the beloved official beer of this site, Bell's Two Hearted Ale. Good God.
what you drink
: The specials are always a good place to start; one of the only places I know with Quilmes readily available.

honorable mention
: The Rock Bottom Brewery. I have a serious fondness for micros and any beer that aims only to fuck your shit up. See the seasonal beers and drink yourself retarded.

Best Bar Food
No competition whatsoever, Skylark. A bar that looks nothing at all like it tastes, it's a large innocuous place with a few mangy hipsters hanging around. When I was told I was in for the mac n cheese of my life, naturally I scoffed for I am a macaroni champ. And then I shut up and ate/drank my dinner. Glorious, holy, and unfuckingbelievable. Go there and eat, brethren. Spread the gospel of Skylark.
what you drink/eat: Another honorable purveryor of Bell's Two Hearted. Do yourself a favor and go decadent: Bell's, tater tots that will blow your mind, collard greens as you've never tasted them, topped off with the macaroni n cheese. If you die, it will be in the most complete, sated happiness you've ever experienced.

honorable mention: Not actually a bar, but no less dear to my heart, Won Kow is one of the oldest dim sum establishments in Chinatown. $2 Tsing Tao and some of the finest tasting dumplings. For best results, get there early on Chinese New Year and tie on a serious buzz with friends before hitting the parade.

Best Music
God help me, another category bound to get me lynched in this town. But for sheer awesomeness of acts, atmosphere, crowd quality (see: ratio of hipsters to me), and fucking affordability, I give it to Schuba's. My heart has been broken twice now in the space of a month having missed the likes of Elvis Perkins and Dan (holyshitareyoufuckingkiddingmetheguyfromtheblackkeys?i wouldmakeallhisbabies!whyyyyyyyyyamimissingthisshow?!!?!iwanttodie...) Auerbach. Couple these allstars with the fact that my friend's band has also played there on numerous occasions and drawn a crowd, and you have yourself a refreshingly unpretentious venue. Ignore the fools with their Ginsberg beards and PBRs. You are here to rock. And no one is going to stop you.
what you drink
: Keep it simple. Bottled domestics - the waitress will be good to you while you dance your little heart out.

Best Atmosphere
I am a lover of novelty and deviance. You know these things; you're no stranger to my scribblings, Dear Reader. So this category goes to The Old Town Ale House. It's a close, dark dive (as all these bars are) with every inch of available wall space covered in portraits. The paintings are done, I understand, by the owner, and the subject matter ranges from frequent patrons to political figures. I arrived on the doorstep of this bar when word spread (circa the last election) of a scurrilous nude portrait of Sarah Palin. Buyer Beware: human paint-flesh is in no short supply here, and if you're some sort of uptight fascist, you should stay away. But if you too have imagined the ample breasts of Ms. Palin as she grins and clutches a rifle (Freud? Are you listening?), then I suggest making the trip.
what you drink: Standard fare here. You come for the happy crowd and interesting eye candy.

honorable mention: On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have Guthries. Going to Guthries is like stepping into someone's living room. The place is warm and lamp-lit. Small tables covered in red-checked tableclothes. More board games than you can handle waiting to be played. Quiet winter evenings were made for a good round of Trivial Pursuit and some fine bourbon, neat.

Best After-Work Dive
Brando's is hidden in a quiet spot in the Loop, beloved of long-gone deranged capitalist alcoholics who would sooner escape into the bottom of a glass than suffer another minute in corporate hell. As I am pretty much the opposite of this (for now), I come to Brando's with the expectation that I will be leared at, but not bought a drink; be the subject of an overloud hateful accusation directed at women (those bitches), but offered protection or an apology should some out-of-line outsider make a move. The place looks to have been remodeled with the hope that the clientele would be escorting high-class hookers. Abundant red velvet and blue lighting. But these hopes must have faded, since there is always some basketball game on tv and lovelorn Springsteen in the air.
what you drink: There are some wicked martinis to be had in these parts, but I stick to the whiskey sour or some kind of assy Budweiser product to remind myself I don't want to be here in 5 years' time.

Best Overall - The Bar All Bars Should Strive to Be
An easy pick for me - Delilah's. I have loved many bars, but none so well as you. Shall I name the reasons? Dark and intimate. A rotation of local artists' works on the walls (last I saw, a collection of unicorns doin it). Amazing punk and rockabilly music all the time at volumes that make your eardrums beg for mercy. A bartender that looks like James Dean. Zombie movies on in the afternoon. Draft beer that will give you a hard-on. A whiskey selection that will make you straight fall on your knees and declare your undying devotion. Oh, and the occasional promotional event in which they hand out free scotch. Free Scotch! I'm no scientist, but I'm pretty sure free scotch cures cancer. And AIDS. And did I mention the many-tattooed James Dean bartender? And I shall name my first born, be he male or female, Delilah.
what you drink: Bell's Two Hearted, when it's available. Piraat, if you're in a beer mood (this shit will kick your ass; i imagine this is what licking a Belgian pirate would taste like); whatever the shot of the month is; absinthe; whiskey/bourbon/scotch.....really, you can do no wrong here.


Biggie & Jan


I've been dreading this post because it is mostly depressing. But since I have absolutely nothing else to do at the moment and this has been staring me in the face for a week, here it goes.

My sister's puppy, Biggie Smalls, passed away last Friday. Before they even got to meet him.

They bought Biggie from a well-reputed-among-Marines breeder in Missouri, whose son is also a Marine and is stationed in 29 Palms, which is near where Meredith & Tony live. The breeder and her husband were driving across the country with all the puppies, dropping them off at their new homes, when in New Mexico they let them out at a park to play. Biggie, being adventurous, got into something and began to choke; they were able to clear his airway and thought everything was fine. The next morning, however, he was vomiting and clearly very ill, so they took him to an emergency vet. About three miles from the vet their car broke down (can you believe that?). Biggie was in such distress by this time that the breeder's husband started running with him, but they just couldn't make it in time. Biggie died.


Naturally, Meredith and Tony were pretty distraught after losing the puppy they'd never met but had come to love through photos and updates since he was a week old. They'd already prepared for this independent, outgoing little guy.

Another couple in Hawaii who'd put a deposit down on a female puppy, Biggie's sister, learned what had happened to Meredith and Tony's pup. They already have a bulldog from this breeder and offered to give up their puppy and wait for another litter to get a second dog.

Meredith and Tony thought long and hard about whether they would be able to accept this new dog who was so different in every way from the dog they had been ready to adopt. First, she was female, which would mean they would HAVE to get her fixed pretty much right away, something they'd planned to put off with Biggie until they decided whether to stud him out. This was a financial burden they hadn't planned on. Then there was the personality differences; the breeder told them that this girl was shy and cuddly, whereas Biggie had been, well, the complete opposite. But after sleeping on it, they decided that this must be the puppy they were meant to have, even if they were sad about losing Biggie.

They got her on Monday. Her name is Jan Levinson-Gould (Jan for short) and they are already in love.

Yes, very soon I will shut the hell up about Zack being gone. You're welcome.


Starting around the end of April I began to dread the upcoming Summer of Quality Time With Myself. And when I say dread I don't just mean that heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think about whatever you are not wanting to happen. I mean I was near tears when I thought about the TEN WHOLE WEEKS that stretched before me OHMYGOD and I was a constant ball of anxiety (because I like to sweat the small stuff). I even had myself a little drama queen moment when I actually - out loud - admitted to Zack that I was angry at him for leaving. Leaving to go off and do something necessary for his career. Where he would be making us lots of money. For me to spend. See how this is a little (or, you know, A LOT) of crazy to be all stored up in one person?

Cue over-acted dramatic flailing.

Now that the ten-week separation is coming to a close, I find myself feeling absolutely fucking ridiculous for making such a big deal out of the whole thing. Granted, we ended up seeing one another every weekend save one when we thought we'd only be able to afford to travel every second or third weekend. That helped a ton. It never felt like the separation was TOO overwhelming except that one day when my dad left town, my sister moved across the country, my grandparents left and my husband went back to Minnesota. That day sucked pretty hard.

So Saturday marks the end of this experience and I have to say that everything everyone told me was true. I did learn to value a good dose of alone time. I did not die because Zack was not around for ten weeks and I managed to keep the pets alive and even add a couple of basil plants to the mix (which, seriously, who wants fresh basil? because I have some pretty prolific basil plants flourishing on my porch).

People keep asking if I am nervous about having Zack home after "all this time apart". And the answer is "eh, not really". It's not like we'll need to readjust to one another because we've seen each other every five days. We talk multiple times a day. While I now know I can appreciate coming home to an empty house and cooking whatever I want for dinner without argument or compromise (and grocery shopping, I will miss you!), the apartment feels empty without Zack in it. Even the animals are different: needier, more clingy. We are all better when Zack is around, but we can survive a few weeks when he has to be somewhere else (as long as plenty of visits are involved, apparently). This summer has made me more aware of my own independence, which is never a bad thing. I missed Zack terribly when he was gone, but I also came to understand that I WAS OKAY ANYWAY. I could miss him and still get along alright by myself. Who knew?!