Dear Lincoln Park Conservatory: I’m sorry I ignored you for 15 years…

Most days I feel comfortable saying that I’ve seen pretty much everything my home city has to offer. I’ve been to the tourist traps and the holes-in-the-walls. I’ve ventured to all corners of the city, and after 15 years in Chicago I thought I’d pretty much nailed down what to do and what not to do here.

But then I went to Lincoln Park Conservatory.

I have no idea why I’ve never been there.

It was a stupid cold and sleeting winter day in spring (read: late March in Chicago) and the weather threw a monkey-wrench in a scheduled pre-wedding “Meeting of the Moms.” In searching for indoor, get to know you activities, the conservatory seemed like a great alternative to window shopping in Andersonville, because moms like flowers, right?

Right. Continue reading

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Reasons I love Edgewater: Brunch and a $27 Subaru

I’ve spent about 5 years living in the Edgewater neighborhood (split between two tours), and I’m starting to think that this is the place I belong.

Love it or leave it, Edgewater is as strange as I am, which might be why we get along so well.

Unpretentious and often bizarre, “the edge”, as our silly lamp post neighborhood banners say, is the sort of neighborhood tumblr_muz19rIelV1qmywbko1_500where you can eat really fancy, really expensive ice cream on one block, and get shot on the next.  Yeah. We live on “the edge”.

Whatever.

All I know, is that this past Sunday was kind of a pivotal moment for me.  The GF and I have been scouting this tiny diner two blocks from our house for the past several months.  You know the type… the decor hasn’t been updated since 1963, and you’re pretty sure the food is going to be the best thing ever or the worst thing ever.

Sunday was the day we finally bit the bullet and went to Alexander’s for breakfast. I’ve never seen waitresses that good. My omelette was the size of my ass. The coffee was free-flowing. You get half a banana as a garnish, and homemade salsa on the side. Alexander’s was everything I hoped it could be, but I’m a little afraid to admit it lest you start going there too. I want Alexander’s to be my little secret. A place where we can walk to on a Sunday and always get a table, and always have fantastic service. Please don’t change, Alexander’s. You haven’t changed since 1963, so there’s no reason to start now…

… and then on the way home we came across a $27 Subaru.

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Yeah. That’s my ‘hood. We are a match made in heaven.

The Fanciest Bathroom I’ve Ever Seen

Every once in awhile, it’s fun to schmooze downtown at a fancy place – the sort of place where you might go hang out as a tourist.  Last weekend, the GF and I got an opportunity to meet up with some friends at the Radisson Blu hotel bar before a dance performance at the Harris Theater.  The bar was fancy enough, but the bathroom was out of this world.  We all decided it was like being inside a disco ball. I wouldn’t want to be the guy that placed all those individual mirrored tiles (and, let’s be honest, it doesn’t make for the most flattering image).

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But wait, there’s something else!  The toilets are named after my guilty pleasure band.

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Recipe for the Perfect Picnic

Brie.

Grapes.

Italian bread.

Wine. Red.

Add a little greenery, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a bumpin’ twitter feed and a few thousand of my closest friends, and this is the making of a beautiful evening.  

People do it up right at The Ravinia Festival.

There’s the mad dash from the gate. The in-fighting over the shaded spots close to the Pavilion.  The pop up tables, real crystal, and vases of flowers.  Everything you’ve heard about Ravinia is true.  It’s at times chaotic and dripping with wealth, but the North Shore folks in khaki pants and claustrophobic lawn quickly fade away once the music kicks in.  You settle into your bottle of wine, gaze up at the trees, and all your worries melt away. 

For just ten bucks, you can sit in the most beautiful back yard in the tri-county area and hear some of the best musicians in the world.  This particular Sunday it happened to be Idina Menzel with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  Admittedly sniffly, and suprisingly crass, that bitch can sing.

What a glorious way to spend a summer evening. 

Lauren relaxing on the lawn at Ravinia Festival

True confessions of a bike commuter: Francesca Bourgault

It’s time again for another bike commuter…. today features the lovely Francesca Bourgault, the cheeriest lighting designer I ever did meet:

Francesca Bourgault is a lighting designer, technical director, dance teacher and crafter that bops around town constantly. The only regular parts of her schedule are the 4 tot dance classes I teach each week at Chase Park for Design Dance. In the evenings she design for enough dance companies that she’s always somewhere different and always trying to remember how to get there. When gear needs to be shuttled or the commute is too far, she drives, but only then does she leave her funked up bike locked at home.

Where do you live? The southeast corner of Ravenswood [a North-side Chicago neighborhood]

How long is your commute? Depending on the gig, it can be anywhere from a mile to 8 each way. If I get called to Oak Park, however, I typically choose to drive since it’s super far and usually a late night rehearsal or tech crew call.

from Red Dress Run on the 4th of July 2009. Francesca uses her bike for exercise and dressing up in addition to commuting.

What kind of bike do you ride?  Ha! My poor bike was probably stolen before it got to me. On Craig’s List it was labeled Arctic in color, purple and white. It’s had a lot of adjustments including a trade from Ram’s horn to straight handlebars and from green brake and gear lines to silver. I think it can be considered a hybrid but who knows anymore.

Do you wear work clothes on your bike, or wear bike clothes and change at work? Almost always I will bike in work clothes. The only exception is if I want to wear cute shoes for a show; then it’s all about the sneakers or boots for the commute.

How do you carry your stuff? Paniers? Messenger bag? Milk Crate? My partner donated a sweet, white basket to my cause that goes on my handlebars. I also have a rack on the back with bungee netting that holds the leftovers. Sometimes I even add my backpack but mostly I find a way to leave something at home if it seems like that may be necessary.

Fair-weather rider? The only things I won’t ride through are the slushy stuff on the side of the road and ice. I hate ice and have fallen on it too many times. My tires are not good for that sort of thing and I don’t trust my unbalanced bike.

Scariest moment on the bike: I don’t usually run into any funny business but recently, in Wrigleyville, of course, I got slowly cut off by a cab. Slowly meaning that he almost wasn’t past me when he started veering into the bike lane then off the road. He got a swift smack to the window for that one. No turn signal or anything. Sheesh! I must say that I’m pretty lucky for not having been doored ever or gotten thrown off by any humungous pot holes.

Tips for new riders: Make yourself do it. It’s easy to get into the habit of taking the bus/train or driving “because it’s easier” but in the end, it’s really not. It takes so much less time both in transit and pre/post ride due to parking plus the boost from cardio is a benefit we all can use.

Why you ride: I hate driving and parking and definitely hate missing the bus. My bike is so convenient and reminds me to move when I would otherwise be sedentary most of the day.

If you are a bike commuter and would like to be featured in this series, please send an email to lauren@artintercepts.org for consideration.  Thanks!

True confessions of a bike commuter: Tim Warnecke

Last Fall I kicked off this series with an expose of some of my own experiences as a bike commuter.  Now, it’s my Dad’s turn!

Tim recently hopped on the bike commuting bandwagon as a cathartic way to rebuild strength after a prolonged illness, save money, and to stick it to the government.

Where do you live? I live in Eugene, OR

How long is your commute? My normal commute is only about 20 minutes each way to my part time job (playing poker) which means I work at night and commute home in the dark.

What kind of bike do you ride?  Raleigh “hybrid”, kinda mountain bike, kinda road bike… the tires are too wide but it gives me a workout…

Do you wear work clothes on your bike, or wear bike clothes and change at work? Helmet (highly reflective), bike gloves and regular “work clothes” depending on what kinda work I did that day… generally work boots and construction-type clothes…. I then “change” into an appropriate poker hat (covers my eyes and most of my face… and I’m ready for “work”

How do you carry your stuff? Paniers? Messenger bag? Milk Crate? I carry my stuff in a highly reflective back pack with a blinking red light on the back…

Fair-weather rider? I would still call myself a fair weather rider… I’ll be glad to ride in light rain and cold, as long as there’s no ice…  I did get caught in one hail storm that I didn’t like at all..  The weather in Eugene doesn’t get too bad so I can see myself riding 90% of the time as I get stronger…

Scariest moment on the bike: I haven’t ridden long enough to have any scary moments… I’ve only been riding for about a month.. the big scare is finding my way around the bike trails and finding the the least populated streets that constitute the most direct route…

Tips for new riders: Although I’ve ridden for years, my bike commuting experience would put me in the “new” category… my advise for new riders is to get as much reflective clothing as possible and just get on the bike and ride… it’ll addict you as you do it more and more…

Why you ride: I ride because I want to gain some strength and fitness and screw the companies that sell gasoline and the government entities that tax gasoline… don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate businesses that sell gas, I’m a card carrying Libertarian and unabashed capitalist…. but there are alternatives to everything and riding a bike allows me to beat them out of a few dollars a week of my “hard earned” dollars… By the way, I feel the same way about providers of “public transportation”….

If you are a bike commuter and would like to be featured in this series, please send an email to lauren@artintercepts.org for consideration.  Thanks!

True confessions of a bike commuter: Ann Hinterman

Ann Hinterman is a rock star. 

I first met Ann when I was living in Ravenswood and we connected over our mutual love for worms.  Ann is the Market Manager for the stellar Glenwood Sunday Market, and all-around advocate for all things organic, local, and sustainable.  As such, she’s also an avid bike commuter.

There's nothing Ann can't carry on her bike, even canning supplies for her annual tomato processing fest!

Where do you live? Rogers Park (a neighborhood on the North side of Chicago, IL)

How long is your commute? When I began commuting by bike, I was working at a bakery in Lincoln Park, biking 13 miles round-trip daily.  My commute now that I work in the 49th Ward Alderman’s office is a wimpy 1 mile round-trip!

What kind of bike do you ride?  A powder blue Raleigh hybrid affectionately called Baby Blue, or the Blue Bombshell

Do you wear work clothes on your bike, or wear bike clothes and change at work? When my commute was longer, I’d peel off my sweaty riding clothes and change into something more customer-appropriate after a quick stop in the walk-in freezer to cool down.  On the road, the hard core cyclists were always swishing past me in aerodynamic outfits, so I thought that’s what bike commuting should look like.  Visiting Amsterdam with it’s incredible bike-centric cultural opened my eyes to a world of commuting sans Spandex.  One woman even said that a bike commute is the perfect venue for those gorgeous killer heels, because you don’t have to walk in them!  Now I hop on my bike in work clothes and a bandanna to wipe my brow.

How do you carry your stuff? Paniers? Messenger bag? Milk Crate? I installed a rear rack with two collapsible metal baskets.  It’s heavy, but I haven’t come across a load I couldn’t carry on my bike.  This includes the delivery of two giant canning pots to a friend across the ‘hood, and (gentle) transport of my office compost worms- bin bungeed on the back, hand-carrying the container of worms while biking one handed.

Fair-weather rider? No way!  I don’t really have an excuse, now that my commute is so short.  I say that I bike in all weather because I’m lazy- it would take way longer to walk than to ride!  Plus, now I’ve outfitted myself in a stylin’ Dutch cycling poncho, so I’m ready for anything!

Scariest moment on the bike: Off-leash, bike aggressive dogs.  Yikes!

Tips for new riders: Get a bike you love or get a good tune-up of your current bike, find a carrying system that works for you so you’re not limited by what fits in your backpack, and start riding!  Don’t give up, it gets easier.

Why you ride: It’s faster than walking, cheaper than CTA, good for me and the planet.  And I can rock my Glenwood Sunday Market bumper sticker 🙂

If you are a bike commuter and would like to be featured in this series, please send an email to lauren@artintercepts.org for consideration.  Thanks!