Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chicago in Chains

In the morning we sat around, Katherine, myself, and our two house guests, watching a marathon of Parental Control. Ah yes, the MTV show where parents pimp out their daughter to potential suitors. And I will tell you this – I haven't been able to enjoy doing nothing for some time.

A bowl of Cheerios in my hands, and mindless drivel in front of me. One episode blending into the next, blending into the next, with two dogs hopping around begging for attention.

The morning was spent in a mindless daze, but that couldn't last – nor would I really want it to The idea of doing nothing for a whole day distresses me. Almost as much as the realization that in fifty or so hours, doing nothing – not covering five hundred miles of open country – will soon become the norm.

This idea of home is looming closer and closer. For so long home has been where my pack was, but soon home will be a stationary structure, with the same bed, familiar sights, and rooms full of my possessions. Now, I love possessions, and I love the idea of a good sleep - but, the transition? It might be a messy one for a few days.

Never mind that though, for we were soon picking up, piling into a big black truck, and heading off out of Indiana to the Land of Lincoln, Illinois.

Rather than blindly following a GPS, this time we took the toll roads. Now you may think, but couldn't you avoid those toll roads and only add a minute or two to your time? Well, yes, that's true. And that's what we did last night. However, this way which avoids the tolls may run you straight through the middle of Chicago Heights. Were we hoping that the lights would go green when we approached, and that we wouldn't have to stop at any signs? Indeed we were. Now I was ignorant to the potential danger this neighbourhood could pose. But apparently people go here for one reason: to score crack. Other than that?

That's not entirely fair though, I know people who have worked in the heights – but still, on our final drive, with the sun setting, we could have planned that better.

Chicago is a city that hates drivers. You can tell, because “$25.00! Cheap!” is a sign you'll see on many parking garages, and at that price, it's not lying. But there was no reason to think about that, it was the norm for those that grew up around here. Parking was paid for, and off we went to explore the city.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, we didn't bring our Cameras with us. So many pictures could have been taken, but were not. I did manage to grab a few from one of the people with us. I even managed to borrow the camera to snap a few myself, so I can say that I've been to Chicago, and taken some snaps there. But, for the first time in ages, I didn't have a camera with me.

And it was freeing and wonderful – although, you know, maybe I should have taken a picture of... well, never mind. After an hour or so my mind stopped thinking like that. Mostly, because I knew I could grab pictures from others. So addition, not quite over.

Chicago is a city of beautiful architecture. It's like the Shanghai of the previous century. No two buildings stand alike, It is a stretching city scape of intrigue and interest – and all the street corner people screaming at the masses? They're just there to remind you what time you're really in.

Walking down the shopping strip, passing all number of stores that meant nothing to me (I know Eddie Bauer and Tilley. Those are the two clothing brands I roll with.) we finally made it to the river, where we would meet up with another two guys – brothers, who reminded me far too much of guys I knew from back home. It's strange seeing people who seem so familiar, never mind that you'd only know them for minutes.

The six of us headed through the public park, where two rectangular fountains spewed water from what looked like small skyscrapers. It was not un-reminiscent of the World Trade Centre. Though, I don't remember the world trade centre ever being illuminated by the giant face of a smiling man that slowly begins to frown.

Our real reason for being here was another piece of art. Some call it Cloudscape (but then some call the Sears Tower the Willis Tower, now, too.) For most? It's simply “The Bean.”

The Bean is a huge reflective metal art piece that looks, well, like a bean. The name cloudscape comes from the wide angle reflection of the city which stretches across all sides, showing a different part of the city, depending on your current perspective. As you approach you, of course, become part of the scene as well. More often than not your part of the scene will be consumed with your attempt to take a picture of yourself, camera not blocking your face.

Then, being a warped gently sloping bean, you can walk underneath it. Walking under the bean is an experience. The walls curve in on you, and there you are, standing to your right – standing to your left. A small step and you're both in front and behind yourself. Then, in the flat circular mirror over head, there you are.

The longer you look neck craned back, the more your mind lets go of its physical presence. When finally I looked ahead of me, it was as if I was falling through the sky, crashing down upon the ground. That, or like I felt incredibly car-sick for the moments it took to process what direction was what.

I wonder what it's like for astronauts to come down to Earth after months in space. How does the body re-learn that there's such a thing as “up”?

Now, never having been one to use drugs, I can only speculate – but this seems like it would be a horrible place for a trip. Nothing good would come from that. Looking around, and seeing your refection starring back at you, no matter where you turned? It's disconcerting enough as is.

When all had agreed that enough time had passed within, and around, The Bean we pressed on.

Jumping into a minivan taxi we headed, well I don't know entirely. But it as beside the planetarium. We headed down near the planetarium where Chicago's best outdoor concert venue was located.

Tonight we would be checking out the triple billing of Mastodon, The Deftones, and Alice in Chains.

The area was still two third empty when the musical stylings of Mastodon began their set. Loud, angry, and with muffled lyrics screamed through distorted microphones, I allowed myself the comfort of relaxing into the beat. Closer to the front circle pits had opened up where elbows were thrown, and punches flailed. That, of course, being how you dance at a show like this.

Further back – not wanting to jump in with teenagers smashing around – I focused more on the music, and the fact that, standing safely back, meant I was old. I could not hear their lyrics about dwarfs, elves, “you know – geek stuff,” I think that would have added to the experience, but it was good fun nonetheless.

The only part I hate about live shows is when you have to wait twenty minutes between sets for one act to break down and the next to set up. This is when people walk around, crowds thicken, and suddenly you remember that dressing in t-shirts and shorts, while the rest of the audience is in jeans and hoodies, may not have been the best idea.

Our whole group was dressed, arms bared. In this we were alone. And while it may have been cold between sets, once people started moving, I was glad for the heat syncs that were my arms and legs.

I had no problem with the temperature, and Katherine was trying her best not to let on she was cold. Were it just me, I'm sure I would have heard about it, but she was staying strong in the face of four others. Some of those four? They decided the best way to warmth was through “liquid blankets.”

Between sets, after a few of these eleven dollar 'blankets' one of the group found himself standing beside the Mastodon guitarist while using the urinal. He was shocked, outraged, my new friend was. The guitarist would not shake his hand, and had that gall to look as if he were not enjoying the experience of meeting one of his fans – while, you now, using the urinal.

True that this guy was a huge Mastodon fan, but with everything, it should be noted – timing plays a crucial role.

Next up were The Deftones. I'd seen them many years before, probably at a Warped Tour. It's possible that this is a fictional memory, but I think I remember seeing them way out in Barrie, Ontario once upon a time. When they took to the stage, most of the general admissions area was full up, and the seats were nearly packed as well.

This was a harder set than the one before, with blinding lights, and smoke machines, and lead singers standing on benches, placed just so – allowing him too look over us all and spit water, frothing from his mouth. Why people are excited to be covered in the saliva of famous people, I have never quite figured out. But it seems to be a popular pastime.

This time multiple circle pits opened, one right beside us. Myself, and urinal greeter's much larger (think terrifying bouncer sized individual) helped act as the wall, keeping the chaos contained, only once or twice being knocked back.

When people fell, we – or others in the pit – would quickly act to get them to their feet again. This shocked me. We've always done that in Canada, but I'd grown up hearing about how people were stomped to death at American hard core shows. This did not seem to be the case. It was a good group of people, having a fun time with their controlled chaos.

Knowing that this used to be my scene, Katherine asked in all serious, “What could possibly be fun about that?” I didn't really know how to answer it – but I think it has something to do with the controlled chaos. almost like a roller coaster, there's fear, there's danger, there's a physical side to it all – but at its heart, you know you're likely to be safe. Even if you do take a tumble, smacking your head against the ground, you know there will be someone there to get you to your feet, and pull you out so you can shake it off – before jumping back in again.

The final act? Alice in Chains – at least five of their songs were off the new album. I recognized most of the songs. I think I've listened to three or four hours of straight radio this entire year. How I knew any of their new material is beyond me. Unless they're used as bmper music for Raidolab (which I doubt) or RebelFM (which is possible) it's a mystery.

The crowd was tamer for this, an there was no slamming around. Just people enjoying music, while scenes of flies on meat, or military power build ups played in the background.

When the show ended, the the hundreds upon hundreds of people all left the small confined area, suddenly the wind was no longer blocked – nor was body heat warming. This was a bit of a shock, but as we walked home, taking care not to let some of us stumble out into oncoming traffic, there were other distractions to keep us focused.

It was a long one hour walk from venue to Travelodge where half of us would be departing, and even once there the wacky antics didn't end. No, as they forgot to lock the porthole that allows access to all the phone and data lines that run through the walls, some – still warmed by the liquid blankets – thought it would make a neat hiding place to crawl into. Never mind that it was also an eight storey drop.

Back to the truck, back to Indiana, back to bed. Tomorrow? Well it would be he last full day of my trip.

1 comment:

  1. I'd seen them many years before, probably at a Warped Tour. It's possible that this is a fictional memory, but I think I remember seeing them way out in Barrie, Ontario once upon a time.


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