Thursday, April 30, 2009

"A Dancer Dances"

There's a restaurant here in Chicago that I like, called the Bagel. There are a couple of them actually, but the one I like best isn't in the burbs but on the lakefront, in the Gayish neighborhood. As befits its name, the restaurant features downhome Jewish fare, like matzo ball soup, corned beef sandwiches, liver and onions plates, lox, of course, and in the front part you can get bagels and cream cheese to go. The place has been around for a couple decades, at least, so its not like its some 'concept' some restaurant marketers came up with.

I like the place, but the interior feels a bit dated. It's tough to describe, but Broadway musical posters from the 1970s look a certain way (like they are all trying to evoke the early 20th century in some way), and these posters line the walls of The Bagel. In some way it's comforting, but in another way the decor has not aged well and seems a bit out of place, because it has no context --you don't know why there are all these weird-looking musical posters on the walls. (Sometimes when I am there or at a similar place down the street, The Melrose, which is open 24 hours and is Greek-owned as opposed to Jewish, I look at the old posters and photos on the walls and start to wonder about all who have been there before me -- all the dates and all the after-show meals, all the after-clubbing cups of coffee consumed there, all the lives that have passed through. But that's another story.)

This is not about The Bagel, though I kind of wish I had wound up there tonight. This is about "A Chorus Line," which I saw at the Oriental/Ford Theatre tonight with Stephen. I have not seen the movie before, have never seen the stage show, had an idea of the story and definitely knew that it was supposed to be important and influential and that there are people who just adore it, so I thought it would be good to see it onstage, since it was in Chicago for a two-week engagement and I was able to get a decent deal on tickets. Also, I was further intrigued by it after Neil Steinberg wrote about it in the Sun-Times and Amy Matheny and Stephen Rader did their Windy City Queercast podcast after having seen this particular production.

So, a couple hours after having seen it, I can say that it is like having gone to the Bagel. I am glad I did it, the meal was alright, but as I was looking around, I felt that the decor was dated and had no context. I didn't hate it; I was entertained, I thought the dancing was lovely, the actors were good, a couple of the monologues were so well done that the entire theatre was hushed, but ... but ... it just didn't like grab me by the collar and show me how or why it was so important. I don't know, maybe if this was 1977 and we had gone to the Bagel or RJ Grunts afterward it would have felt different and more meaningful, but it kind of was just there for me. I really enjoy 'inside baseball' type stuff and would have enjoyed a story about these dancers' lives and backgrounds and their struggles to even get onto an audition stage, but this production didn't really connect with me, didn't give me that sort of sense of urgency.

But I am glad that I saw it, thought it was great that there were many others, particularly high school-aged kids, who were seeing it, and I had an enjoyable evening. Maybe I'll have better luck going to see Topol in "Fiddler."

Monday, April 27, 2009

Goose Crossing

Sunday, 26 April, 6:20 a.m.
Hubbard Street between Kingsbury and the Chicago River, outside the East Bank Club and the Apparel Center.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Girls Behaving Badly

For some time now, there has been both concern and consternation regarding the presence of drinky giggly women acting like fools in male-centric gay bars. This issue has emerged again recently, with the fight for equal marriage rights at the forefront of the gay civil rights struggle, since some gay bars are so often besieged by groups of these women, who go to gay bars to celebrate impending wedding vows. Bad enough as it is that they are loud and boisterous and obnoxious and tip badly, they also flaunt their legal right to marry by wearing little wedding veils and accompanying costumewear to their bachelorette shenanigans. Some bars have even banned such groups of girls (I can't really call them women because they don't really act like adults), for the above and other reasons.

Jessica and Elizabeth may not have been celebrating an upcoming wedding, but they are not unique. The two pretty much constituted a two-gal wrecking and mayhem party of their own Tuesday night on Halsted Street (I have problems with calling it 'Boystown' -- namely that a moniker such as that only reaffirms the assumption that it's a theme park, and the gays who hang out and live there are mascots and sidekicks and not real people).

Basically, the story says (full disclosure: the version linked to in this post was written and partially reported by me. The Sun-Times Wire Service overnight crew got the story originally, I got the charges and the gals' names and further details), Jessica and Elizabeth got stinkin' drunk at Roscoe's Tavern, and in the process, they dragged a guy into the girl's washroom, kicked bar manager, slapped a bouncer, and tried to interfere with the arrest of one of them, blocking the way of the police and screaming at them. Oh, and one of the gals MADE AN ALLEGATION THAT THE BOUNCER -- AT A GAY BAR -- RAPED HER. And they were only charged with misdemeanors.

Nothing I can say about these two would be fresh or new, because it would all be along the lines of 'Imagine if they had gone to one of the many straight bars just down the street from the gay strip -- do you think they'd be able to get as drunk as they did or act like they did without actually getting sexually assaulted at worst, or at best, gotten kicked out of the bar much sooner? These gals, both of whom live in the gayish area of Chicago, likely go to gay bars to get drunk and out of control because they feel safer doing so there than in straight bars, they like to live in the gayborhood because it's just so lively and fun and safe and I'll bet they don't even know where all their elected officials stand on issues that matter to gay and lesbian folk.

It's kind of odd that it took them so long to get kicked out of this particular bar, though, because Roscoe's has always had a full phalanx of headset-clad security throughout the place. And the former bouncer in me looks at this and thinks that even if the place was understaffed, there were probably signs that they should have been tossed out way before one of them kicked the manager.

I have, even very recently, opted not to chase certain news stories because I felt there would be nothing gained by doing so and it would cause undue harm and pain to those affected by the incident. Not so, here. I hope what these gals did gets out all over and while they were only charged with misdemeanors (Geez, can you imagine if a guy, or even worse, a Black person, had acted like that toward police? They'd be dead right now.), I hope they are embarrassed to death by having their names in the news. And they should be kicked out of the fucking neighborhood.

[NOTE: The above image is a stock photo, from the Daily Mail, of drunken young women at a tavern, presumably in England. Apparently such behavior is international.]

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday morning, 4:40 a.m.

Last night about 4:40 a.m., I heard some talk on the police scanner about a woman falling to her death from the 19th story of a downtown building. Since it was about the time for me to leave the building where I work, which was only about a block and a half from where this happened, and drive to the medical examiner's office, I decided to stop near the scene on my way to the West Side, if for nothing else to confirm that someone had fallen there, and if there was a media person from the fire department there, maybe to get some info from them.

The street where it happened was blocked off to traffic by 5 a.m., when I got there, but I was able to park across the street from the scene and get to within about 20 feet of where the body was lying, on the sidewalk, covered by a white sheet. There were also about five guys, in their 20s or 30s, standing at a car closer than mine, a guy in a suit standing up against a wall, a couple guys walking past and stopping, who looked as though they may have just gotten off work from a nearby bar or club, and a girl, maybe in her early 20s, wearing a baseball cap and a Cubs T-shirt, near the guy in the suit. I called the office -- "yeah, there's a body here, no cars on the street seem damaged by the fall, she's right on the sidewalk." As I'm saying that, the girl in the Cubs T-shirt, whose eyes are tear-filled, walks toward me, past me, and into the arms of one of the guys standing just a few feet behind me. She is sniffling, the guys say nothing, she says nothing, then I look to the guy in the suit, and it looks as though he has been crying, too.

My first instinct is that I'm glad I didn't talk loudly on my phone or that I didn't say something insensitive that one of those people out on the street at 5:15 a.m., who clearly knew the now dead woman, may have heard. My other instinct is that these people likely know what happened. There are undoubtedly some people who work as reporters, maybe some who work with me, who'd walk up to the guys, or even possibly the girl, and try to get the "story." But not me, not today. As a human being I'd like to know what happened, of course, it's natural curiosity, but also I look at the small group of people out there, weeping, biting their lips, standing in near silence, and I want to know why this happened ... was there a fight or argument? Was the woman suicidal? Was there a party and was she just drunk and fell? I could get the story if I walked up to them. There is no other media there; no TV station, even though the Chicago ABC affiliate is about one block away; no Chicago Tribune, whose lone overnight reporter likely is already at the ME's office. I could be the first, possibly the only, reporter to get the story, or I could slice open a wound that has not even stopped bleeding yet, turning an already horrible night into something even worse for a few people. Then, possibly, for the rest of their lives, these people, and their families and friends, would hate the media. Or they could just scream at me or through their tears tell me quietly that their friend or relative has just died, and can't I just leave them alone?

The decision wasn't that difficult for me. I leave them alone. Did I "miss" a story? Maybe. Does it matter? No. I did a brief story on it anyway, with the information I had and what police later told me, largely because, though we don't story suicides, if that's what it was, it was something that happened publicly, downtown.

A couple hours later, after getting in my car to drive home, I had to go south anyway to stop at the post office, so I drove past where that woman had fallen to her death. The police were gone, the police tape was gone, there was some sort of debris in the street, a section of the street and sidewalk were wet, likely from the cleanup that took place after the body was removed. I drove slowly, a couple drivers went around me and sped by, past the scene, having no idea what happened there just a few hours earlier. I felt like saying some sort of prayer, but I just drove by, slowly, silently.

"A Bit of a Blooper"

The funniest thing about this clip of a Canadian TV guy saying a dirty word on live TV is not what he said, or that he was live at the time, but the guy back at the studio who referred to it as "a bit of a blooper." Ah, Canadians, gotta love 'em.

Oh, and let's go, Blackhawks!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hey Sports Fan!

I love about 18 different things about this picture, not the least of which is that killer watch our President is wearing. Damn, now that's a watch!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

White House Hopscotch

This is so cool. And it comes in the same week that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a chat outside the White House, near the Obama girls' swing-set. I don't know, there's just something strangely heart-warming about it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Blood on Their Hands

This weekend, a 23-year-old man from Pittsburgh, who had been laid off from his job at a glass factory, shot and killed three police officers who had come to his home to answer a domestic disturbance call.

The man had told friends that his fear in life was not the economy, his family, his community, the future of his country, but that the Obama administration would take his guns away. No matter where you stand on the issue of guns -- I think it wouldn't be an entirely bad thing if everyone's guns were taken away, why would anyone need an AK-47 in their home, like this man had? -- this is a myth that has been perpetrated and perpetuated by the whole McCain/Palin, "Joe the Plumber," Limbaugh, O'Reilly, FOX, "F -- Obama" crowd, and each and every one of them has blood on their hands. Every person who has worked to perpetuate this fear among gun owners, all these law and order types, from congressmen and women all the way down to the individuals who two months after the inauguration, refuse to accept Obama as their president, has the blood of three dead Pittsburgh police officers on their hands. And I don't expect the rhetoric to cool down any time soon.

We can only hope, and pray, that sensible people will prevail.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Throwing My Arms Around Morrissey

I think since I reference Him in this blog's subtitle, I should at least occasionally post some news about Morrissey or my obsession with him.

This is Morrissey weekend for me. Tonight I am going to see him at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. It ain't much of a ballroom -- it's more just a giant pit with a horrible sound system, and I have seen him there at least three times already, but it's only a mile or so away from where I live so I can walk there.

Monday night I am going to see Him in Minneapolis, at a place that looks to be a great, once grand and recently refurbished old theater. That should be fun.

Actually both shows should be fun. Tonight I will be going with my friend Michael, whom I saw Morrissey with in Milwaukee last year, then we will be meeting my other half, Stephen, at, appropriately enough, the Wild(e) Pug salon, which is an English-inspired gay club, which may or may not have music and drinks that bring to mind Dear Old Blighty (or they may just play thump-thump music and have go-go boys wearing Union Jacks. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but after a Morrissey show?)

Monday Stephen and I will be driving up to Minneapolis, which I have never been to before, so I can see Him there, then we will hang out a bit in one half of the Twin Cities before driving back to Chicago Tuesday. On my list of things to do up there is visit a cafe called the Wilde Roast and of course, stand in the street and toss my hat up in the air, a la Mary Tyler Moore. In this instance, I allow anyone to say, "That's so Gay!" Because, well, it is. I like it, though.

Trip details, as well as photos, of course, will be posted next week. I might just make it after all ...

My Other Blog

So, as if I don't have enough on my plate already, (pun half-intended), I now blog for the Chicago Sun-Times' food section/Web site/food site on the Web.

The blog, "Digging In," (you like it? I came up with that), is filled with food features, food and restaurant news, observations on food (that's by me - I wonder about things a lot) and occasional restaurant reviews. I know, I know, as if there aren't enough people writing about food and newspapers and magazines and Web sites blogging about food. But we hope this is a little different, because it is, for the main part, written by people whose background is in news reporting. Two of the people, Janet and Lisa, actually know and write about food often -- Janet is the paper's food editor, Lisa does the 'food detective' column. So, we'll have stuff on what chef is in the running for what food award, but we will also report on restaurants that are closed by the city because of health code violations and mouse droppings in the food prep areas. We'll also cover some things that the serious "foodies" wouldn't stoop so low as to write about -- that's where I come in. I am the guy who asks the stupid questions, but who hopefully finds some interesting food news and bits and bites (another intended pun) sometimes.

I am not what you would call a "foodie." I live right around the corner from one of the most renown "foodie" haunts in Chicago, a Japanese restaurant that is open like three hours a week and supposedly is one of the few "authentic" Japanese restaurants in the metropolitan area, and I've never been there. I also live a few blocks away from one of the hottest pizza places in the city, but I have never been there and do not intend to go there, because the place is so cool, so hip, that they cannot even bring themselves to say, in the window, that they are a pizza place/bakery. Seriously. My other half and I have walked past many a time and have wondered if the joint is a neo-retro hardware/furniture store, an organic bakery or rustic art gallery. No menu in the window, no hours posted, and they've got some ambiguous 'what could it be?' name, as well. I don't get it.

But I do like food. I like eatin' it, like cooking (sometimes) like watching other people cook, like trying to figure out what's in certain dishes. I like reading magazines about food and I get all breathless when I walk by the kitchen showrooms in the Merchandise Mart.

So we'll see how this goes. Every New Year's I resolve to be published in one place I haven't been before, and I guess this kind of sort of fulfills that resolution for this year. Who knows, maybe Lisa, janet and I will become sort of a Siskel, Ebert and friend of food writers. And soon, radio and TV shows will be clamoring for our witty and wicked insights. I can dream, can't I?