Monday, October 06, 2008

Spiritualized Part One: Free Time in Chicago...

We ride to Chicago four-deep, Mick drivin' his damn self cause he needed to be back in Detroit on Sunday for the Concert of Colors.

Craving them inexplicably for the past week, I indulge in Chicken McNuggets at an Illinois toll road oasis filled with a typically large Amish family. The ten-piece order satiated at first, but would knot my stomach later.

It was our first time at the Abbey Pub and I wasn't terribly impressed. It's slightly off the beaten path, which meant there was nothing to do nearby. And too much of the basement (ie, band room) was ravaged by rain.

After soundcheck and an inconsequential meal (Caesar salad) Mick and I called for a cab and made our way to the Experimental Garage sale, touting circuit-bent, home-made and hi-jacked electronics. I was tempted by the 8-bit Nintendo system retro-fit with sound chips from a toy ray-gun and equipped with wave modulators, but instead spent scrilla on a similar device with some knobs and switches, makes weird noise rock noises and has the ability to create loops. My brilliant description notwithstanding, it's pretty damn cool.

As we left the garage sale fans that were actually coming to that evening's performance identified us. They offered us a ride back to the club, not before dropping off a pal, and Mick and I were happy not to pay another cab fee.

The trek to drop of this friend, Caz as it were, would be roughly an hour blindly searching the curiously named streets of the Windy City. Our kind driver and his lady friend were a great audience though…they laughed at every stupid joke I made and that is the quickest way for me to like someone.

Once back at the club I gave my little sister a big bear hug and caught up with her, ignoring the opening bands. As we set the stage for our set, Troy's bass head began to emit smoke. He borrowed an amp from one of the opening bands, but the set never seemed to connect. Jay Reatard, King Khan, Dutchess and the Duke and Cheap Time were playing the "official" Pitchfork afterparty across town and clearly most of the crowd we should've drawn was there. Throughout our entire set, I wished I was too.

But the members of the crowd who felt the need to speak to me after the show seemed to enjoy it, which was nice. Was surprised to see Dave McCann, fellow stock-boy at Yorkshire Market while we were both still teenagers. He looked exactly the same and that felt very reassuring for some hard-to-describe reason.

The skies opened up and poured a pisser of a storm on the Chicago streets. Loading out through the rain was a fiasco. Me, my sister and her roommates were able to convince Mick to drop us off at their Wrigleyville apartment on his way back to Detroit. We crammed in and after not too long, I remembered, "Wait a minute, Mick is a TERRIBLE driver." Add to that his questionable vision, the pummeling rainstorm and the delay his defrost system was operating on and I was almost certain something would go wrong. And as the cab ALMOST hit us on the intersection of Clark and something I've since forgotten, that was close enough prophesy fulfillment for me. We thanked him profusely and directed him to his hotel in South Bend.

Rest of the night was spent eating ramen noodles, sipping a Slurpee and nibbling an oven-fresh pizza, falling asleep watching DVD's of The Boondocks.

A day off in Chicago with my sister was what I'd been looking forward to for some time. Late wake-up found us eating decent Thai food for lunch, me contemplating making my very own Italy Records t-shirt (utilizing the iron-on of Michelangelo's David) at Strange Cargo and stupidly deciding to be frugal and try and lay off the unnecessary purchases.

We took the bus to the Levis store where my sister works. I'd not ridden a bus since the summer of 2005 in London with assorted Datsuns to go see Black Mountain open for the Ponys (what a damn fine show to boot). She makes the 40-minute ride regularly and I peppered her with questions about how she utilizes the mindless time. She responded by saying I needed to let her have my iPod.

Levis was intriguing, but ultimately nothing suited me. Squeezing into a pair of 34x34 was funny, and while tempted to make a joke referencing Cadbury Cream Eggs and Butterfingers, let's just say shit was tight.

From Levis to Nike Town, the three-story temple of Swoosh that was amazing in it's ability to accurately recreate the stink of a locker room throughout the entire complex.

We checked The Dark Knight show times down the block and everything but only the 10:30 or later show times were already sold out.

We cabbed it to Dusty Grooves and I finally got my needy hands on the Coasters 4xCD box set. I'd been craving it far too long and the just-below $100 total did not go against my early vow of frugality, as this was the fucking Coasters and you cannot deny "Idol with the Golden Head" or ANYTHING Leiber and Stoller wrote.

I utilized new text-message sensation ChaCha to try and find the nearest batting cages to her haunt. The service works as follows: type out a question on your mobile phone, send it to ChaCha (or 242242 for those who don't know how to spell on a phone) and they will send you an answer.

Best of all, this service (supposedly only in its beta phase) is completely free. How cool is that?

We found ourselves upstairs at Sluggers' bar on Clark, glad to pay the $5 charge for Sunday's "all you can hit buffet." Icing on the cake was skee-ball, some pinball machines and even arcade basketball, complete with leathery, kidney-like balls coping through various stages of deflation.

The pitching machines in the cages criss-crossed like a version of cat's cradle gone awry. It would prove difficult at first to discern where exactly your pitch was coming from. The whole time the machines are being fed, by hand, by some schmoe whose demeanor seemed to say that having his scrotum continuously punctured by lava-hot needles could possibly be more rewarding than his current occupation.

The problem is, I could not disagree more. I think batting cage attendant would be an almost Zen-like profession. Sure, it probably doesn't pay the bills, but with $4-a-gallon gas, what does? He simply correlates the softballs and the hardballs together, loads them in the machines and gets to listen to classic rock radio while doing so.

This, I confess, would be an amazing job. Not only do I think he's got some good stories to lay on you, but I bet his swing is wicked awesome.

My sister is usually slow to bring up the fact that she was All-State first base softball her senior year of high school, but under the aegis of a few rounds at Sluggers, she relishes in lording said accolade over me. And after her failure to make contact with a single ball in the fast-pitch cage, I tell her "The only All-State you're worthy of is car insurance."


Surly cage monkey politely asks all swingers to take a moratorium so he can gather the stray balls that'd found chinks in the netting where they had failed to roll down the steep downgrade back into the pitching machine nerve center. He calmly walks around popping the yellow and orange rubber beacons out of their gnarled spiderwebbing until some dipshit 11-year-old fires up one of the machines and connects a solid line drive that comes damn near close to the dude's head.

He yells and walks back to the ball return HQ and hilariously shuts off the little prick's machine. The batting cages are clearly ruled by laws that are swift but just.

Half the arcade machines in the joint were in such disarming states of disrepair that you were actually surprised by the first machine that confusingly stole your quarter. By the time you'd encountered your FOURTH machine (seemingly in working order) to do so, it became apparent this was more of a business strategy than anything. Have half your machines work, half of them not and what on the surface appears to be an arcade now turns into a veritable casino, each machine its own game of chance.

Angie beat me two games to one (with one draw) in arcade basketball. I was slightly pissed, but now have all the more reason to come back and bond with her some more. I never really appreciated what a wonderful person she was until we no longer lived under the same roof and lately even the most miniscule email, phone conversation or face time is a wonderful treat. I'm equally enamored and proud with how she survives in the city. Now if she could stock Levis in my size, clear a Dark Knight screening at an appropriate time, make my Italy Records t-shirt and be just a tad shittier at basketball, she could just be the best sister ever.


Leyland "Lee" DeVito said...

I stayed in Boystown that weekend, right by Wrigleyville. I think it's testament to the tolerant people of Chicago that the gay district can coexist right next to the baseball district.

It's cool that they have reliable buses in Chicago, but the L is where it's at. It's like the People Mover, only way more fun.

Anyway, the end of your post there is really sweet and shit.

Anonymous said...

I used to work a batting cage, it had a sweet auto-loading system... and I had a killer swing.

Sister said...

best blog yet...