Well, we're back in one piece - a lot has happened since last I blogged. I will defer to Heidi for the details on the dance recital (a total of 7 hours of recital - not exactly how I envisioned spending my 35th, but you know, you do what you have to for your kids) and Capital City Pride. However, I did have the singularly interesting experience of having Anna announce her intentions to use the bathroom, and then taking her into Blazing Saddle to use the restroom. It's not often one ushers a 5 year old girl through a gay bar to go use the restroom, but that was just what we did. As I entered, I was explaining to the guy at the door that I just had to take her to the bathroom, and he was all nice and went on to explain that he wasn't with the bar (I figured he was) but people had been bringing kids in all morning!
That night, my mom and dad came and picked up Anna and took her back to their house where she would spend the next three days. We then tried to adjust to the suddenly very quiet and very empty house. We finished up a few odds and ends and then went to bed pretty early as we were getting up the next day to head to Chicago for the True Colors Tour.
We ended up getting off to a later-than-we-liked start on Monday, but fortunately, we were only going to Naperville that night which is one of the most western or all the burbs. Once we got there, we checked into the hotel and because I had my hands full of other stuff, inadvertently left the suitcase in the hall, which prompted Heidi to ask if it was "another suitcase in another hall." Have I mentioned how much I love this woman? The fact that she would not only get a joke like that but had the idea to make that joke herself just endears her more to me every day. Of course, because we are dorks, we had to take a picture of it.
After that, we headed out to dinner and browsed the very burby downtown of Naperville. We decided that we couldn't really live there - a bit too trendy for our tastes and while the downtown is cute, it's also a bit full of itself and besides, the traffic is about 100 times what the roads are meant to handle.
The next day we spent in the Lakeview District - specifically the portion known colloquially as Boystown. It is an incredibly vibrant neighborhood with a lot of great shops and restaurants. There are also many cool residential buildings - most of the being refurbished townhouses and brownstones that just appeal so much to the part of me that despises all that is sterile and barren about suburbia. We just fell in love with the area - it's so cool because you're in Chicago, but you almost don't feel like it. Every now and again, you catch a glimpse of a skyscraper (usually the John Hancock Tower) and you're reminded that you're in a metropolis of 3,000,000 people (and that's just the city of Chicago by itself!)
I love the Lakeview District - it's a must visit every single time we go to Chicago now, if for no other reason than Borderline Music which had some ultra rare (and also very expensive) Madonna picture discs - one of which I might have considered purchasing had I had excessive money just laying around waiting to be spent. It's a very Madonna-centric store, but it's also much more than that. I always forget how much fun it is to flip through CDs and vinyl - especially when it's not at Target or Wal-Mart. The owner of the store is very nice and a huge Madonna fan who still doesn't think that Re-Invention is going to get a DVD release (I asked.)
After picking up the new Erasure and a CD-R of Madge's 12" remixes from the 80s, we walked around the neighborhood, hit Gaymart Chicago (another of the must-stops) as well as Chicago Comix (where I struck out in my search for other zombie figures) and finally a store whose name I forget but had a lot of Buddhist and Hindu jewelry and figurines etc. I picked up a pocket Ganesha - he is the remover of obstacles in Hinduism and I figured if ever anyone needed obstacles removed, it would be me. However, I found out that he is also the creator of obstacles, so who knows.
The time for the concert was drawing close so we headed downtown as the concert was at the Auditorium Theatre on Congress Parkway. We ate at the Artists' Cafe which was just around the corner from the venue which was quite good - although I was a bit worried that we wouldn't make it out of there by 6 as the service was a bit slow. But we really had no problem, so it was all for naught.
We arrived at the concert only a bit early and they started pretty much on time. Our seats were rockin - only about 26 rows back and smack dab in the center. This is the first concert that I've been to where more than one act was on the bill, and it was also in a smaller venue than I am used to being in. The lesser known bands played first - at our show, it was The Cliks and The Dresden Dolls. The Cliks were very Green Day-ish, kind of emo and I just wasn't sure what to make of them. Despite Margaret Cho's incredible enthusiasm over them, I just didn't find them all that good. The Dresden Dolls were a bit of a different story - they were relatively new to me in that I knew of them but not really any of their songs. Well, they played a couple of really good songs, one of which I ended up buying from iTunes tonight - that being "Coin Operated Boy" which I guess is one of their better known songs.
The third act in the set was one of the ones I had been waiting for - that being the one and only Deborah Harry. At 62 years old, she's easily the oldest of the performers. She's also been around the longest of any of them counting her time with Blondie. Oddly, she played nary a Blondie song and stuck to her own solo catalog which is, admittedly, a bit spotty and has not been very successful chart wise. So instead of "Call Me" and "Heart of Glass" we got "French Kissin'," "Rush Rush," and "The Jam Was Moving." She played several tracks from her upcoming album Necessary Evil ("Two Times Blue" is available from iTunes US now)which will be out in August and if the tracks she played are any indication of the sound of the album, it will be her best and most accessible solo work yet. The funniest part of her set came, however, from my wife, who leaned over to me and said "She's like Anne Murray, only hard!!" One review described her as watching Florence Henderson rock out - mostly due to a very unfortunate haircut (see picture.)
My biggest complaint about the first half of the show was the sound - it was about twice as loud as it needed to be and the instruments were so loud that you often had a hard time hearing the vocals.
After a 15 minute intermission, Rosie O'Donnell came out and spoke for about half an hour - she was very good and very funny. She introduced the next artist - the one Heidi had been waiting for - Erasure. All I can say about their roughly 45 minute set was WOW! Their performance was worth the price of admission all on its own. It was hit heavy - playing only three songs from their new record - but they had the crowd on their feet and dancing and singing along like none of the other bands had. When they played "Drama!" it was fabulous to hear a huge portion of the crowd yelling out the "Guilty!" part in the chorus. Crowd favorites "A Little Respect" and "Chains of Love" were fabulous and they ended their set with "Oh L'Amour" (just as Heidi had predicted.)
Cyndi Lauper, the tour organizer, was the last act in the line-up and she opened with a real head-scratcher - that being "Hole In My Heart (All The Way To China)" - her first flop after a string of hits. But it was a great live performance and reminded me of a song I had all but forgotten about. She played a bit of an odd set - a couple new songs as well as hits like "The Goonies Are Good Enough," "She Bop" (slowed way down in a way similar to how she performed it when she was touring with Cher,) and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" (although it seemed a bit perfunctory.) In addition to the songs, she gave an impassioned speech begging for support for the Matthew Shepherd Act aka the federal hate crimes bill. The final song of the night was, of course, "True Colors" which most everyone (save Deborah!! - Heidi said she probably had to take her pills or something) came out and joined Cyndi in. Here's a great shot I got of it.
After the show, we decided to follow the energy (although I was hesitant) and go out to this bar that had had flyers at the show promoting their after-show Erasure party. The place was called Neo and is located on Clark Street south of Lakeview in the district of Lincoln Park. We initially thought it would be a gay bar considering its proximity to Boystown and the plentiful amounts of Erasure being played. As it turns out, it was not, although they are open about who goes there and pretty much anyone can dance with anyone (after getting home, I found out it was a goth bar which, in hindsight, totally makes sense.) We had to walk DOWN A DARK ALLEY to get to the entrance which pretty much made me want to turn around and go back to the car, but Heidi, ever the adventurer, pushed us forward and we went and had a couple of drinks and ended up dancing our butts off to new wave music (mostly Erasure, but some Blondie, New Order, Pet Shop Boys and others thrown into the mix.) It was a FANTASTIC time. We met a guy there named Kevin or Evan or Ewan or something like that who, of course, thought I was gay, but when he found out that Heidi and I were not only a couple but married and married for 10 years (!) he confided in her that I was a hottie. *blushes* Heidi and I were there till around 1AM but then went back to our hotel - a mere 45-50 minute drive to Naperville.
It was a great time and I'm so glad that Heidi pushed us to go to the bar because I have not danced with such reckless abandon in so long. And it felt so good. I highly recommend it. It made this 35 year old married guy feel like not such a stick in the mud.
By the time we got up today, we had nothing to look forward to other than 5+ hours on the road home. I drove the whole way, we stopped in Iowa City for some coffee and wi-fi and other such things (as well as a needed break.) We made it home around 5pm today and my parents were here with Anna waiting for us to come home. It was so good to see her - and she was very happy to see us as well. We all went out to The Cafe to belatedly celebrate my birthday and then it was back to reality. Getting Anna ready for bed, reading her books, doing the dishes. All those sexy things that still wait for you when you get back from vacation.
So tomorrow, it's back to work and it's probably all there just as I left it. But I have learned a thing or two from these last couple days. Even though (as Heidi says) it's a very trite new age phrase, I am going to try to live "in the moment" more - doing so while we were in Chicago was so refreshing and so liberating. And even though I'm sure to suffer some re-entry trauma tomorrow (I almost always do), I told myself that I would take a little of the experiences I had in Chicago and take them with me to my everyday life.
Finally - here we are - a bit fuzzy, but it's us at the concert.