Quantcast

Video of the Day

Masthead

Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Senior Editor
Durga Chew-Bose
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Live and Active Affiliates
Search TR


follow us in feedly

Classic Recordings
Robert Altman Week

Entries in chicago (15)

Thursday
Apr102014

In Which One Move Leads To Everything Else

Blue Islands

by CATIE DISABATO

Grocery shopping is an aesthetic experience. The cardboard boxes built to hold crackers are decorated with designs that the cracker companies hope will make you feel a feeling, then buy crackers. The crackers lead to cheese. The cheese leads to fig jam. Everything I know about advertising I learned from television – certain colors make you feel certain things and what I call love was invented by guys like Don Draper to sell nylons – but I remember vividly when Coca-Cola debuted those mini-cans in the early 2000s. It was all I could do to keep myself from constantly buying them. They were so cute and little and came in Diet.

If you completely fetishize the act of grocery shopping, the way I do, it becomes totally divorced from cooking and eating. It becomes about places and things. Sometimes I manage to leave the house with an idea of the foods I want to cook. More often, I’ll leave the house with a list of grocery stores I want to visit.

photo by henrico prims

I grew up in the southern suburbs of Chicago, which, in the late 80s and early 90s, did not have a grocery store that carried organic meat and produce. My mother was a sort-of ex-hippie and wanted to raise her children on organic meat and produce. We did not have pop, we had Spritzer. We did not have potato chips in the house, we had blue corn chips. All the other kids made fun of the blue chips, they looked so strange. Sometimes, a boy would agree to eat one on a dare, like sometimes a boy would agree to eat a worm on a dare. I would insist that they tasted just like yellow corn chips, but no one would believe it until they had the chip in their mouth and they were chewing. I relished the attention from my classmates, but it was also hard to be the kid with a weird lunch. 

To get our organic items, blue corn chips, and Spritzer, my mother trekked into Chicago several times a month to visit the closest Whole Foods, approximately 30 miles from our house. She buckled us into car seats and filled a cooler with ice, to keep the meat and frozen food fresh during the long drive home.

by hannah sheffield

I remember the Whole Foods from the vantage point of a person so tiny the aisles were like long, wide stretches of road and the shelves were the height of one-story buildings. Shelves filled with colorful bags, bottles and boxes, which themselves were filled with things that tasted good. Things I could have and hold and make my own. In an age before my parents give me privacy, food was something I could own because once you eat it, no one could take it away again. My brother always stole my candy; I learned to eat it quickly so it could be mine.

I hated the fish section, which smelled bad and still smells bad. I loved the bulk goods, the tubs of grains, each with their own consistency. I could sense their enticing textures. I wanted to touch them, the way I wanted to touch paintings in museums, to see what the heavy paint felt like when it dried. While my mother ordered fish and meat at the counter, I tried to touch everything. I did not distinguish the Whole Foods from other playgrounds.

On the few occasions my father took me grocery shopping, he took me to the “regular” grocery store (in Flossmoor, Illinois, this was either Jewel Osco, Dominic’s, or Walt’s). My father lead me through the produce section, grazing. He ate green beans and cherries and anything small left out in piles. He taught me to be grazer. When I’m at Trader Joe’s, I visit the free sample stand two or three times. I eat the green beans from the produce section at Whole Foods. I also eat the nuts, candied fruit, and yogurt pretzels out of the dried goods bins. I use the plastic spoons to pour two or three items into my palm and I eat them while filling plastic bags with lentils or red quinoa.

The only distinctive grocery store my father brought me to as a child was Calabria’s, a small Italian grocery store in Blue Island, the south Chicago suburb where my father grew up. Blue Island is primarily a Hispanic neighborhood now, but when my father lived there, all of the families were Italian immigrants. My grandfather, Michael Arcangelo Disabato, was born in a town in southern Italy called Ripacandida. Calabria’s was named after a region in southern Italy so, combined with my family’s town of origin, I sometimes like to think that Blue Island was a town for southern Italians exclusively. No one ever told me this, but my grandfather died when I was eleven and I don’t remember him very well, so I make things up to fill in the emotional gap. I don’t really remember my grandfather’s voice. I don’t remember if he had an Italian accent.

Calabria’s is hard to remember, too. Narrow aisles, wire racks, boxes of pasta – all vague images. In the back, there was an Italian deli, with fresh baked bread in plastic bins. I remember the bread bins. I remember my uncle, also a Michael, and my father making us capicollo sandwiches in my grandparents’ kitchen. My father made mine with mild capicollo and no provolone cheese. My brother, a third Michael, ate the cheese and the spicy capicollo, the way it was supposed to be.

After college, I moved to Los Angeles. Every neighborhood has a farmer’s market and the produce in the “regular” grocery stores (Albertson’s, Von’s, Ralph’s) is as beautiful as the produce in a Midwestern Whole Foods. I’ve been looking for a good Italian grocery store in Los Angeles. I haven’t found one yet because I’m not really looking for a good Italian grocery store, I’m looking for something that reminds me of Calabria’s, and nothing really reminds you of half-forgotten nostalgia. I’m looking for a feeling I never felt in the first place.

Sometimes I go on a private scavenger hunt for a particular item. I once went to three different stores searching for Morningstar Black Bean Burgers, at least half of which are still in my freezer, crusting over with freezer burn. I searched for Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard for weeks before finding it in a cheese shop in Century City. Now I see it everywhere, winking at me at the butcher shops and the specialty stores.

I’m the kind of person who will drive half an hour out of my way to go to the nearest Whole Foods, because the grocery store near my house does not have the Sea Salt & Vinegar rice crackers that I like to eat while watching Revenge and drinking red wine. The red wine is from Trader Joe’s, because Trader Joe’s is the only place I buy my wine. I’m the kind of person who will drive fifteen minutes out of my way, from one grocery store to another, just to buy one bottle of wine.

Walking the aisles, I feel a sense of calm and control which I so rarely feel outside of the grocery store. I can pretend to remedy my persistent budget worries by cutting costs in each aisle (no nuts, no meat, no pre-prepared salad). I can combat uncertainty by completing a task, nevermind how small the task. The path before me is clear and unencumbered, the goals are modest and attainable, the competition of those goals is imminent. Checkout, paper bags, refrigerator, pantry, done.

Catie Disabato is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She tumbls here and twitters here.

"The Wedding Band" - The Nels Cline Singers (mp3)

"Red Before Orange" - The Nels Cline Singers (mp3)

Friday
Jan172014

In Which We Can Feel It All Over And Through Us

Places of Escape

by BRITT JULIOUS

“I’m a little tired,” I said to Sonia when we met for the first time at a cafe in Lincoln Park. “I stayed out late.”

“How late is late?” she asked.

“4 a.m.”

But really, 4 a.m. is only the beginning. I have danced until sunrise. I have waited and wandered home during the morning rush, a cup of caffeine in hand, walking against the tide of bodies going to while I'm coming from.

This is not a point of pride or contention, but I can recognize it now. Three years ago, I could not feel even black inside. There is a blankness to a state of depression that can only be understood after the fact. Black is absence of light. Blank is absence of order. But my closet was filled with delicate, sequined tops in blues and reds and greens, a balm for something it would take me years to fully articulate.

The night before, Crystal asked if I was attending a performance at SpyBar by George Fitzgerald, a young house musician and DJ. I wasn’t, but all of the lights were on in my home and all I could see was what I saw the night before.

It is so easy to wallow in your own problems. We often forget other people struggle too. I had forgotten until the night before. How many others do we forget until it is too late, until they are gone?

“In a cab,” I typed while still clothed in a bra and pajama bottoms.

The greatest thing I have learned in the past two years is how to escape myself. I envy those people who can stay inside, comforted with their things and self. I will forever be a work in progress. In the future, I hope I can stay home and have that be enough, but right now, my walls close in on me. At first, they are protective, but quickly, they keep me trapped in thoughts born out of 26 years of insecurity.

Not all places of escape are the same for all people. We each develop something that speaks to our everyday, our tastes, our sorrow. I know mine more than many other things in my life: the dance floor; the blinding, shimmery lights; the weight of the bass.

One of the first things Marion ever said to me was that negativity breeds negativity. Positivity does not act the same. No, positivity takes constant effort. Happiness is effort. Joy is work. People who tell you differently are dangerous and lying to you to mask the things they’d rather not be.

I understand that. It is the illusion of attraction and beauty, things that feel less natural, more the work of the self and how it wants to move through the world.

I think that negative memories work in much the same way. Unless the night was truly spectacular, we rarely remember solid pleasantness. Moments that are just good fade until weeks and months bleed into one another. But the bad has a way of staying, an unwanted acquaintance that takes root on the couch of your mind and forever overstays.

The bad can direct the ways in which you move around in the world. I am learning to unravel the negativity in my soul that has shaped me precisely like millions of other young women in the world. Imagine thinking that unpleasantness is born within you. Thinking that your mind and body are made to be used and discarded and your future is to forever watch other people simply breathe and live. This is what I am trying to escape once and for all.   

We ignore our need for places of escape because if one does not work as it is intended to, then what value could we possibly find in the search? The dance floor is nothing new to me, but I opened myself up to it, all of it, as if discovering dark walls of sound and the pleasures of anonymity for the first time.

I see these sidewalks and storefronts everyday. Keep your head down to tolerate the cold. Keep your head down to not seem too proud, too confident, too sure of yourself. Get into the building and sit down and stay there in front of your screen and your work and your things to do.

We are told to believe in the grind and when we finally wake up from that fever dream of things to do, we realize it is too late. All around you is a world that has moved on.

The escape then is the bridge between the grind. It is the pulse. It keeps you moving. I used to think that I could only find it in another person. But the only person you can ever truly know is yourself. Know yourself and your needs and everything falls into grace.

That is the thing about beginning to know yourself. You can see things as they are and stay the same, or you can see them and try to change. Change is rawness, is destruction of the familiar and the usual. And even if you are forever in pain, it is easier to know pain or anger than it is to try for something better. Eventually, you must confront the things that have caused this state of permanence. Most people hide from the truth. I have and will forever refuse to be most people.

George’s set started late and the more I waited, the more frustrated I felt. Is the dance floor the drug or the cure? Is it pure of intentions or masking reality?

If you repeat something enough times, it can grow from what you need to do to what you want to do. That is what the dance floor became for me, a place that I actually liked and understood more than my own home or the job I fear I will never escape.

But I reverted back to its core purpose this time and waiting became a test of the self.

“Is that George?” I asked myself, even though I knew it wasn’t true.

Eventually he took to the booth and what I thought would take hours to feel pleasurable took only moments. “Magnetic,” a song that sounded just OK months earlier thumped through the speakers, the bass a complete jolt to the system. I could feel it all over and through me. To know this feeling is to know it can never truly be articulated. But also, to know it is to love it so fiercely.

“I don’t know how you can go out all the time,” a man I cared for said to me once.

But I don’t go out all the time, I thought. I go out enough. I go out when I need to. I go out sometimes and then I come home and then I keep going about my life.

I left barely an hour into his set. That was all I needed. 

Outside, cabs still roamed the neighborhood as if dawn was not quickly approaching. I got a friendly cab driver, something I find happens late at night. There are stories to share and time to listen. This works both ways with both passengers.

“You had a good night?” he asked. 

“Yes!” I said still brimming with enough energy to last me through the rest of the weekend.

“Yeah, yeah. I can tell,” he said. We locked eyes in the mirror and sped down the expressway.

Chicago has something special in its electronic scene, a specialness that is recognized on its surface and for its history, but not for how it connects people, how it keeps something surprisingly warm alive for music felt to be so cold.

I remember standing on the corner of Chicago and Halsted after coming from a party in the River West neighborhood of the city. It was that biting cold you’ll only ever understand if you live here. It was that cold that makes people move away from here, makes people give up on the city, makes people see the city for what it is and believe that it will never get better.

But the party ran very late and like many times before, I was one of the stragglers refusing to go out from what felt warm and good and pure because of the music. Lots of deep house and UKG. Lots of music that feels instantly familiar. Lots of music that sounds from the future and forever.

The wind whipped against my face and I opened my mouth to breathe in deeply the air that finally felt clear. I saw a young man I met earlier in the night, but had forgotten quickly. He found a cab before I did.

“Here, you take it,” he shouted.

“No, it’s fine. I’m going South,” I said.

“Really? You sure you’re okay getting back?” he said. 

I just nodded my head.

Britt Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about Orange is the New Black. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Photographs by Isabel Muñoz.

"Magnetic" - George Fitzgerald (mp3)

"Bad Aura" - George Fitzgerald (mp3)

"Daily Spirals" - The Cyclist (mp3)

"All I Need" - Daniel Avery (mp3)

"Drone Logic" - Daniel Avery (mp3)

Tuesday
Dec032013

In Which Nearly Everything Has An Expiration Date

Something There

by CATHALEEN CHEN

I live on the top floor of, supposedly, the oldest building in town.

It is a modest place — two bedrooms, creaky floors and the narrowest kitchen you can imagine. A long hallway leads to the bedrooms, shared among the three of us, and adjacent to the dining room is a disproportionately vast living room, the quintessence of my domestic tendencies.

The size of maybe a small dive bar, my living room is a perfect square space of tan hardwood and Ikea furniture (both of my roommates happen to be Swedish, but that’s just a very blonde and button-nosed coincidence). On the far right, French doors open up to a balcony that overlooks a courtyard. When I stand out there on a temperate autumn night, three stories up with dim but majestic stars above, I feel like I rule the world.

The living room walls are a wedding cake shade of off-white, with built-in shelves on the left and a fully functional fireplace. I’ve never actually used it, but I like that I could. The mantelpiece is cluttered with trinkets — old books, a One Step Rainbow Land Polaroid camera, a Grace Jones record cover, Klimt’s Water Serpents II reprinted on canvas (Ikea, of course), and the empty bottles of certain beverages to remind visitors that yes, though my place is thoughtfully decorated, it is still a college apartment and that in this thoughtfully decorated college apartment, we like to have fun.

And we do. My roommate recently put up a poster of John Belushi from Animal House, the one in which he wears the iconic “college” sweatshirt and an expression of simultaneous awe and disgust. The poster is strategically placed so that Belushi’s impenetrable gaze falls on our couch — a stiff, brown futon that’s currently missing a leg — where we spend about 80 percent of our time when conscious. Belushi’s glance is misdirected, however, because his bemusement is unwarranted. At worst, he’d witness a raunchy game of truth or dare amidst smoke and booze, slurred secrets and all — maybe rated R in extreme cases, but only for language.

Most of the time, we’re as tame as college students could be. In the daytime, the room is fantastically well lit. On Sunday afternoons, it’s the loveliest place to do schoolwork or, I’d imagine, for a fat house cat to nap.

But it’s all the more charming after dark. Without an overhead light, we use lamps, candles and Christmas lights that accidentally create the perfect séance every night. There must be something about the color of the floor and the walls that complements the yellow lights against the darkness outside, because the room, along with everything in it, glows.

+

When I first moved in a summer and half ago, I had to live alone in the barely furnished apartment for almost a month. For some silly reason that I can’t remember now, I had a lot of trouble setting up the internet. Finally, AT&T came to install their service one day, but left before I got home from work. It happened to be an exceptionally drab day but it got worse when I found that the internet still didn’t work. And after two hours of angry 1-800-number calls, I collapsed on the hardwood floor and burst into tears.

That was the first night I cried here. And hell, I sobbed.

The next week, my roommates moved in, the couch arrived from Target.com and all was well in the household. To christen the apartment together, we lit an entire bag of tea lights in the living room and drank wine in our pajamas — the first night of many to come.

+

Instead of stuffing myself into marshmallow goose down for the four relentless months of Chicago winter, I spent the first part of 2013 in Washington, D.C. There, I saw Beyoncé lip sync at the inauguration. I witnessed Hilary Clinton cry at a Senate meeting. I ran into Ted Cruz right before he starred in Rand Paul’s filibuster, which we endearingly nicknamed the “filiblizzard.” But most bizarre of all, I felt homesick. Homesick for not my home in Pennsylvania, but for this one in Evanston.

Historically speaking, homesickness for a specific residence is a rare sentiment for me. The longest I had ever lived in one piece of property was eight years, and that was the first eight years of my life, in China. Then I moved to Morgantown, West Virginia, where my parents and I relocated to different houses twice. After the ol’ Mountaineers, we moved to Grove City, Pennsylvania, where we also relocated twice. And then at Northwestern, I lived in a dorm for a year, and finally, I moved here, on the top floor of the oldest building in town.

When I was in D.C., my heart was in the living room of this apartment, eating macaroons with my roommates and listening to Grace Jones on vinyl.

When I came back in April, my roommates threw me a surprise party. I came home one Friday afternoon to find balloons, champagne and a dozen familiar faces lurking in my living room. Surprise, they yelled. I was confused and happy and it was bliss.

+

Last Thursday, I caught one of my roommates — we’ll call him Blonnor for the sake of anonymity — on the balcony at 3 a.m., after I heard a splattering sound while brushing my teeth. When I walked into the living room, he turned around and said, “I aimed for the trees.” I found out the next day that it was a lousy attempt.

On most nights though, nothing really happens here.

I sit on my couch that is missing a leg, supported by a stack of old Vogues instead, and I read. Buttery lights flicker around me, emitting an illusory heat that glazes my skin. I look to my left and there’s Blonnor, also reading or writing or playing a Chopin prelude on the keyboard. If it storms outside, I’d open the balcony door, and the symphony of thunder and rain would accompany his melody. It would be one of those nondescript moments in time that eventually, inevitably disappears from memory because of its bareness. What remains is a familiar comfort, a visceral sort of nostalgia that could only be kindled by an unsuspected scent or a haunting refrain. That is what makes this living room perfect — these lights, the Klimt and my Scandinavian companions — the loveliness of a fleeting moment. From the tea lights to the Belushi poster in its exact placement on the wall, everything here has an expiration date.

But when that day comes, I hope my heart remains on the top floor of the oldest building in town, even if the details become hazy.

Cathaleen Chen is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. You can find her twitter here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about Chopin and wormholes.

"So Says I (live at Third Man Records)" - The Shins (mp3)

"The Rifle's Spiral (live at Third Man Records)" - The Shins (mp3)