During the festival the singer of Smith Westerns, who I interviewed last summer, recognized me walking around and stopped to say hey. I noticed the color of his hair was different, and so of course the first thing I said was, “Wow, you literally dyed it blonde!”
This is the Chicago skyline shown from the bridge that overlooks the lagoon inside the Lincoln Park Zoo, which K and I walked through to reach Lake Michigan because it was only 3:30 and we were still wired from the perfect backyard party we’d just left. (All our friends were there, the alcohol was free, the rap music was loud and relevant.) After starting down Armitage from my mom’s house, we encountered a group of drunks who were loudly discussing something that ended when one of them pulled off his boat shoes and whipped them across the street. “You a Sperry man?” he asked me as we slipped past. “There’s a free pair over there.” At Armitage and Wells, a man thought we were trying to poach his cab as we waited at the light until we assured him him we weren’t. We didn’t see anyone for another thirty minutes, making our way through the zoo, over the bridge, through nearly pitch dark passages overgrown with foliage and tasteful architecture, checking behind us every few seconds to make sure we weren’t being followed. I hadn’t been to the lake in years but was guided by instinct, certain that if we walked out of this staircase and cut through that park, we’d eventually find the bridge to take us over Lakeshore Drive to the beach, which we did. On the sand, we took our shoes off and waded into the water, where we were greeted with darkness only broken by the stars. Standing at the edge of my favorite city I felt like I could’ve stayed awake forever, but after a few minutes of not talking we put our shoes back on, found the path back into civilization, hailed cabs, and went to sleep.
Every time I’m back in Chicago, I remember it’s the best American city.
The first page of my grandfather’s diary, January 1, 1941.
When the plane pulls in I realize I’ve thirsted for Chicago, but it makes me nervous to find what’s changed: I turn my key to the left and not the normal right because I’ve gotten used to Brooklyn, there’s a table in our yard and fluorescent lights in the foyer, my hair looks more depleted in the mirror, my mom’s boyfriend is increasingly familiar, my bed somehow seems higher that it was. (Turns out the mattress was actually replaced.) My mom and I are looser around each other since we don’t live together, which is why she asked, with mildly concealed horror, what was going on with my teeth. I’m not sure, a few weeks ago a handful of them acquired some dark stains due to… I’m not sure, but it doesn’t look great, I need to get it taken care of, I’ve just been busy enough that I could push it to tomorrow and the next tomorrow in hopes it’d go away, which it hasn’t. I haven’t been home since Christmas, so for all she knows, I’ve been walking around for months looking like I’d just licked a tail pipe. I had to assure her it’s honestly been no time at all.
Thor, the God of Thunder, he messed up. — Whoopi Goldberg
Oh, the shame you feel as the sentence “Ooh, new Hemlock Grove!” escapes your mouth.
"What do you tweet?" My friend, who works in the film industry, asks me. I think about it for a second and say, "Mostly dumb jokes and self promotion." She wants to see an example, so I scroll through my timeline looking for a joke that isn’t dependent on knowledge of some meme or micro-controversy… and have to go back more than two weeks to find this one, which is obviously terrible. I may have gasped. So powerfully embarrassing to be confronted with the banality of your brand-building exercise in real time. (Gaze long into an abyss, etc.) She laughed, though.
I got wise and stopped wearing band shirts, mostly because they never produced the conversations I wanted and, really, who needs to brand themselves as an Okkervil River fan. (My haircut tells the full story, anyways.) But drunkenly buying this shirt at the Yeezus show last November turned out to be a great decision, because more people talk to me when I’m wearing it than they do when I’m only wearing some boring button-down:
- On the train, a man with a forlorn look says he was at the Yeezus show, and only realized the next day what an idiot he’d been for not getting one. “I really fucked up,” he says. When he gets off, I look to make sure he’s gone before hugging myself.
- Sally and I both ended up in New York but the last time I saw her, she’d recently dumped her college boyfriend was asking me how to tell if this guy K she’d gone on some dates with was into her, which made me want to laugh until I passed out, it was such an absurd question. It’s months later and now they’re moving to San Francisco; she’s quitting her job at a women’s magazine to freelance, he’s gotten some position I don’t recall, she’ll be closer to her family and everything seems like it’ll work out. I don’t know anyone at the going away party but her, so I try to gobble up as much attention as I can before letting her disappear on the floor. “This is the first post-post-college decision anyone I know has made,” I tell her. Eventually I start talking to Max, who’s K’s best friend and doesn’t know anyone either. He’s a classical violinist who screwed around in his 20s before settling in his 30s, which his girlfriend had a lot to do with. He says K’s gotten more attention from women than anyone he’s ever known, which makes a lot of sense because he looks like a leaner Tom Brady with Macklemore hair, but that Sally is the first girl he’s ever talked about in rapturous tones. I tell him what I do and he asks what I think about Kanye’s last album and it fills me with serendipitous glee to one-strap my backpack so I can turn around and show the tour lettering stretching from shoulder-to-shoulder, because now we’re in this together.
- I’m waiting for the train when a woman asks if she can take my picture. “Look that way,” she says, and faces my back. When I ask her why, she says it’s because she never sees anyone wearing Kanye shirts in public, and she doesn’t want to forget about it. Her camera looks professional, and when I get home I’m buzzed enough to troll Flickr for twenty minutes, searching #kanye and #yeezus to see if she’s uploaded her photo of just another amicable New York drunk willing to let a stranger spread their face on the internet for no discernible reason. Alas, there’s nothing.
- Today felt like it was time to lunch at the sub shop near my office, but I forget that I’ve taken the punch card out of my wallet because it was getting a little bulky, and I wanted my butt to move around as freely as possible on the Fourth of July. Since there’s about no way I’ll spend $10 on a zucchini parmesan sub sandwich if it won’t get me one-twelfth of the way toward a free one, I consider my options after already walking there, and notice a sushi place with faded lettering I’ve never seen before. The health inspector gave it a B, which seems right; it’s clearly a flophouse, no one’s in there but me, two waitresses, and four chefs bunched behind the sushi counter with no shortage of questionable facial hair. But the food is okay and acceptably priced, the waitresses both take their turns waiting on me, and I read my book for a little bit before the hour is almost over. When I’m paying, the second waitress asks if I saw Kanye play. She was at Barclays, I was at Madison Square Garden; she saw Kim, I didn’t; she took tons of photos and videos, I only took a few. “Kanye’s great,” she says. “He’s a fashion icon!” Before I go, she says it was nice to meet me but I haven’t decided if I’ll be back.
- I’m putting on my Kanye shirt in the morning and I think to myself, “It would be pretty funny if today was Wear Your Kanye Shirt To Work Day.” Then, in the office, the intern really is wearing his Kanye shirt, though I wait for someone else to point it out.