Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Homestretch

I have entered the "homestretch" of my time in Chicago. Two weeks from today I will be officially moved into my new apartment in Milledgeville, GA. I would be lying if I said I wasn't terrified. This next week is my last week at both of my jobs and all I can think is, "This is the last time I will set up the Actor Dinner. This is the last time I will work a two-show Saturday. This is the last Monday morning train I will have to catch." (Just as an FYI, I am leaving Chicago to go to grad school in Georgia. I will be getting an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing and working with the Nonprofit Department -- they're paying me to go to grad school. Yay!)

When I first knew that I would be leaving Chicago, I started a Chicago Bucket List. This list mostly consisted of places to eat and drink since I have already done most of the touristy things in Chicago. So far I have not done a great job at crossing things off my Bucket List. It's hard to complete a list of "Best Eats and Drinks of Chicago" when you know you will stop receiving a paycheck soon (my graduate program will give me a small stipend, but it won't quite cover rent). I was able to cross-off "drinks at the top of the Hancock" though, which was very exciting. The Hancock is my favourite building in all of Chicago and I have always wanted to go up there for drinks. The view was amazing, the drinks were strong (but expensive), and the crème brûlée was TO DIE FOR. Seriously, to anyone thinking of going to the top of the Hancock for drinks, get the crème brûlée.

View from the Signature Room

Besides crossing off my own personal Bucket List, I have done a few other "firsts" in Chicago this month. One "first" was going to a Korean spa. A friend of mine emailed a Groupon deal to me and said that we should go to the spa one evening after work. I purchased the Groupon, we set a date and that was that. It wasn't until a few hours before Katie and I were to meet that I thought to look up information about the spa. I had never been to a spa before to I was unsure if I should wear a bathing suit or if we had to walk around in robes. The website said that uniforms were provided and guests were asked to leave their clothes and belongings in assigned lockers. When you went into one of the pool-spa rooms you had to check your uniform at the door. Then what are you wearing?  I ask myself. I kept reading these directions over and over. When Katie arrived at my apartment I asked her if I should bring a bathing suit. "Yeah," she said, hesitantly, "it's nude?"

So Katie and I went to a semi-nude spa. I say "semi" because clothing was only prohibited in the bath area. It felt strange at first, stripping down in front of a bunch of strangers and then walking around without a way to cover myself. The towels that were provided were washcloths so there was no hope of building a cocoon. You had to shower before going into the baths. Shower heads lined the walls and small five-inch barriers separated each "shower." Katie and I lathered up and giggled nervously. There were a few Asian women in the baths and one small child. I did not have my glasses on and thus could not actually see anything other than blurred figures. I began to feel oddly comfortable. Sure, I was naked and practically showering with my friend, but everyone else was naked too. It even felt a bit empowering -- all of these women walking around completely nude and making no attempts to cover themselves. I wanted to raise my fists and shout, "Yeah! Female bodies are beautiful! Everyone flaunt what you've got!" Katie even commented, "Your tattoo looks great in here." I turned, displaying my back tattoo to the women in the baths, "It was made for this precise moment!"
After the spa.

Another "first" this month was driving a boat down the Chicago River. Obviously, being from St. Simons Island, I am not a stranger to boats and I have driven a few, but there has always been an actual boater with me. Usually, I am on someone's boat and they offer to let me steer for a bit. This time, however, I was the experienced boater. 
My roommate and I purchased a Groupon (are you seeing a pattern in what I do with my time?) for a two-hour electric boat rental. The boats are docked right in the loop and you are allowed to bring food and drink and have up to ten people on board. Emily and I each invited four friends. Everyone met at the harbour in time to sign paperwork that basically said, "If we crash, we are held responsible." I was the only one in the group with any boating experience (and my credit card was authorized for any damages) so I got to be Captain for the evening. We watched a video that stated it is illegal to drive a boat and drink alcohol. One friend and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes. "It's an electric boat," we agreed, "how hard can it be?"

The answer -- very hard. The boat had both sensitive and delayed steering. This meant that if I turned the wheel slightly left we would veer sharply, but not for  few minutes. The river was also crowded with water taxis and architecture tours. I had a half glass of wine and stopped. The possibility of damaging the boat was suddenly too real. It took a lot of concentration to keep a straight course, but I think I did a decent job. In fact, the most harrowing part of the night was when one of my friends said she had to pee. We had just made it down the Navy Pier and were heading west again, hoping to do the north branch before we had to return the boat. We passed the boat docks and my friend pleaded to pull over. Everyone on the boat agreed that to pull over would mean the boat trip was over. Finally, someone convinced my friend, who was fortunately wearing a skirt, to kneel over an empty strawberry container and pee there. My friend did not want to do this, but as we passed the boat docks she realized she had no other choice. Everyone on the boat turned away from her (except me because I had to keep looking straight ahead) and she peed into the container. The things you do to not return something before you have to!

Boating photos.

My last "first" is an Independent Bookstore Crawl. On July 11th, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel officially declared July 12th Independent Bookstore Day in Chicago. A close friend of mine was driving down from Wisconsin to spend the weekend with me and, being writers and book-lovers, we decided to spend Saturday afternoon "crawling" the participating independent bookstores. A theatre friend of mine joined us (she is the one who actually told me about the crawl) and we made it to three of nine bookstores. That does not sound like a lot, but remember that the bookstores were in different neighbourhoods and that we had to take public transportation everywhere. Each store had sales, raffles, and treats. By the end of the day the three of us had almost twenty books each and we each won a raffle prize! It was very exciting. I highly recommend participating in Independent Bookstore Days.

 We got the goods!
 My pile of books (minus the bag I won in the raffle).

So there are some of my Chicago "firsts"! They weren't on my Bucket List, but they should have been.

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