Monday, May 22, 2006

Free from Captivity: Julep, Crit, Bridges, Sunburn, Boating, Arty Weekend

(Pictures near the end)

Friday

After work, Chris and I met up with Inge for dinner before going to see her art exhibited along with some other graduating MFA students. Some of the work was very interesting – but other installations truly looked as if the contents of a "Free" box from a garage sale was just stapled to a wall.

Next we headed to opening night of "Picnic," the play that Mia is in. Very good and entertaining. We had drinks with the actors after the show, along with my roommate.

While we were biking back to the ‘hood, Chris mentioned that he wanted to speak with me alone for a bit, so we parted from John at the six corners intersection and headed to Chris’s place.

Chris tried to kiss me.

For quite a while, I’ve suspected that Chris had a crush on me, so this action wasn’t particularly surprising. It was still awkward, of course, since I’m not interested in anything more than friendship developing between Chris and I. We ended up having a long discussion about the situation. Indeed he has been crushing on me for several months, and recently he has been telling mutual friends about his desire to make out with me. Great. I tried to be clear that nothing would happen, but not hurt or embarrass him. We parted on good terms, but I expect a degree of awkwardness with Chris in the future.
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Saturday

I was supposed to go on a bike-packing trip this weekend, but I bailed because there were other things in Chicago that I wanted to do. Plus, I still feel out of whack from the trial. It’s as if my internal battery has been severely depleted, and my alternator isn’t working well.

In the early morning I worked on laundry, gardening and getting the Julep ready for the road. Running late, I hopped on the Julep to ride down to Hyde Park to meet up with Jonathan to watch the Monster of the Midway bike criterium.

I have been riding the Breeze for the last three weeks, without once getting on a road bike. Several things were quickly apparent after mounting the Julep. First, I didn’t re-install the brake in the right place. When I reached for it, I grabbed air and had to scramble to find it. Second, the steering was fucked up. Not knowing what I was doing when I had removed the handlebar stem, I messed around with the headset, too. The steering feels really shaky, and once the bike is turning, it doesn’t want to straighten back out. It reminds me of driving my old car without shocks. Plus, the Julep is a fixed gear and I clip into her pedals. Additionally, my new messenger bag lacks a stabalizing strap, so it was constantly threatening to slide off of my back. Taken together, the ride felt unsafe.

But, I was running late, so I just rolled with it, and sped down to Hyde Park. Damn that bike is fast. I’ve been getting faster on the Breeze, but the Julep flies in comparison. My route took me through Pilsen, Chinatown and Bronzeville before I got to Hyde Park, rubber side down. Despite the constant danger of crashing or falling, the ride was awesome. I love the Julep.

The race was really interesting to watch. Plus it was a beautiful sunny day. What a treat after our recent cold weather and the unpleasantness of my last few weeks. Besides Jonathan, there were a few other people who I knew and chatted with. Good time.

Then I met my old housemate Dee and we caught up for a couple of hours. Dee-lightful. I need to do better at staying in touch with old friends.

The ride back to my neighborhood was fun, but tiring, because there was a massive headwind along the lake. I had looked forward to riding through one stretch of the path that is heavy with the smell of lilacs and other blossoms this time of the year. It is one of my favorite parts of the city. Unfortunately, the wind was strong here too, and neither the thick floral smell, nor the feeling of peace was present, blown away by the noisy, insistent wind. Even so, it was fun to whip past the people who were struggling to pedal into the wind. By the time I got home my back under my bag was dripping with sweat from the effort. Still, it felt good to work.
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Sunday

Several bikey guys I know went in on a sailboat a few years ago, named the American Excess (which I think should be called Critical Mast, instead). Jonathan and his brother Ben are two of the owners. Sunday morning was the day they planned to take it out of winter storage, chug it up the river and into it’s summer dock in Lake Michigan. I accepted Jonathan’s invite to partake in this adventure, and got up early to be at the river dock by 7:30am.

We waited for a flotilla to join as we all sought the open water. Our bikes were either strapped to the deck, or stowed below. This is probably the first time the Julep was on a boat since she came to the States from her birth in Japan. Along the way there are many, many bridges that need to open to allow passage of the boats’ tall masts. To prevent traffic inconvenience, there are scheduled days that the bridges will be opened as the flotilla heads up the river. (Mast up!!)

This was ridiculously cool. Chicago’s drawbridges are scary for me, because they are metal grates. Riding over them with skinny road tires can feel incredibly dangerous, especially when wet. The river loops around downtown, so there are open grate bridges everywhere that need to be crossed. I go out of my way often to avoid riding on these nasty bridges when I ride the Julep. Watching them get out of our way somehow was fun in a vindictive sort of way. I also liked looking up to see the bright sky shine through their lacey pattern, instead of the bumpy blur of the murky river below.

















Out of winter storage and into the river at 18th/Canal.















The first bridge opens for us.
















And another.
















Downtown is in sight, as another bridge opens.






















The Sears Tower is much closer now.
















Nick commands that Michigan Avenue part.

















Crossing under Lake Shore Drive, the Julep sees Navy Pier.















Looking backwards from the Locks.

















Finally, we're in open water, and can see our city from an unusual view.

Watching the city float by was a beautiful experience. I hope for more invites to come out on the boat this summer. It will be even better when the sails are up and the boat is wind powered instead putting around with its motor.
The one bad thing about this experience was how friggin’ cold it was. Brrr-fucking-rrrr. I thought that it was going to be as warm as the prior day, and also imagined being in the sun for most of the trip. Not only was it a much cooler day, but being on the water was even colder.

Once we were downtown, the massive buildings blocked out most of the sun, and we tried to hide in the rare patches of sunlit warmth.
I will admit that by the end I wanted nothing more than to just get home and warm. I think I was home by 12:30 in the afternoon My face is all pink from these two days in the sun.

Later that night I went to a party Inge and her roommates threw to celebrate graduation from art school, or at least the end of the school year. From what I heard everyone there was an art student but me. I felt very much like an intruder. The party was weird for me. There was no laughter, and few smiles. Everyone was either thin to the point of emaciation, or soft and squishy looking. We watched short art films, most of which had no discernable point. After each inexplicable clip, there was no conversation about it, only nodding. Even though several of the clips were engaging and enjoyable to watch, the question that begged to be answered for all of them was, "what the fuck?"

I stayed at the party for less than two hours because I just didn’t feel comfortable. As sad as it is, I apparently am more at ease among lawyers than art students. At least on the walk to and from Inge’s loft I was able to breath in the rich smell of lilacs and feel the calm and peace that I missed on the ride the evening past.

5 Comments:

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Sean said...

I raced in Monsters! I don't think you were there though. My race was the last of the day at 4:30pm.

You have silver streamers on your bike, right? I think I saw you riding North on Milwaukee right where it meets Desplaines on Sunday at around 12:15pm. Weird.

 
At 5:40 PM, Anonymous hamgray said...

Hey! Art films can be cool not just WTF material! Try and see some of some Alex Bagg's stuff; she did some very amusing work which was also reasonably artistic and had a point too.

Nice red bars on the Julep. Reading your blog has got me thinking of turning my old Triumph Tempest (v. old) into a fixie, rather than having it go to waste.

 
At 5:53 PM, Blogger jojo said...

Sean,

I left MoM to meet my friend before 3:00, but had been near the XXX staging area for quite a while earlier.

Yup, 12:15 on Sunday I was returning home after getting the boat out to the lake, and take that small stretch of Milwaukee.

How did you do at the race?
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Ham,

I said some of the films were enjoyable, but what I found weird was that after watching them, there weren't questions asked.

It seems like a lot of current art is creating or doing something utterly perplexing, with the point of offering no explanation. This seems to go against so much of human nature that seeks out 'why?'.

 
At 2:31 AM, Anonymous hamgray said...

I guess people felt intimidated and didn't want to loose face by asking a stupid question. This is a shame, but entirely understandable.

With the few artists I know the impression I get (no pun intended) is that they do want to generate a reaction in the viewer. This is also apparent with artists who are producing works that could be merely described as aesthetic.

I agree with you that people have an overriding need to ask "why?” We probably wouldn't have got to the moon if we weren't so curious. I wonder if artists deliberately or accidentally fulfil this role of providing more questions?

Anyway, this comment is way too philosophical! Time to go to work!

 
At 5:55 AM, Blogger George said...

I have a grandmother and a few other relatives that make or made their livings as artists.

Maybe it was just my family but my grandmother was seriously weird.

That boat trip looked like fun, the biggest boat I get on is a rowboat, I get seasick on anything bigger.

 

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