Things done and seen in Chicago

I haven’t flown in three years, maybe more. There’s still a lot of stress in going out into the world and mingling with the populace. Plane tickets are insanely expensive right now too. But I was determined to take a trip, even though I couldn’t take any days off work (I have a full-time job now. Lots going on. The job is remote, though, so I can do it anywhere). I got in at 7:44 a.m. on a Friday. Mitchell and I started our drive back to the East Coast the following Wednesday – which means I was only there for five days, but it feels like I was there for two weeks. We packed so much in. I still feel like that place is home. One of the biggest regrets of my life was moving to New York. Regrets like that are a waste of time, I get it, but it still rears its head on occasion. Anyway, it’s always good to go back. I took a cab from the airport to Mitchell and Christopher’s apartment. Naturally, I bonded with the cab driver. Par for the course. I walked in the door at 9 a.m. And so began my trip. Here is what we did:

— Mitchell and I went to meet up with Julie at Svea, for a delicious Swedish breakfast. It was the day Roe fell, so we were in a state of anger and despair. Like, what the ever-living fuck, America. I’m so fucking OVER you right now.

— Then we drove down to the movie theatre on Diversey and Clark – it’s on the top floor of a big shopping mall – and I saw so many things there back in the day. I saw Titanic there. I saw Apollo 13. So many things. Anyway, we went to see Elvis. We sat in the back row. Sitting in front of us, alone in her row, was a tiny white-haired old lady who was literally dancing around in her seat, occasionally waving her arms around to the beat, and in general having a great time re-living her youth and re-experiencing the crush of her youth. We absolutely fell in love with her.

— Mitchell and I headed home and hung out for the afternoon, watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I am not at all up to date, so Mitchell filled me in.

— Saturday, Mitchell snagged comp tickets to Steel Magnolias, playing out at Drury Lane, in the suburbs of Chicago. Amy Carle was in it, playing M’Lynn. I haven’t seen Amy since she read the part of “Neve” in our Chicago reading of July and Half of August, which was then called The Hill You Die On, after changing it from the original title The Black Wave. I wrestled with the title. Anyway, Amy is a phenomenal actress, and I will always have a soft spot for her because of what she brought to my script, how clarifying her presence was, how intelligent her questions. She helped make the script better. So there we were, Mitchell, Christopher and I – heading out to Drury Lane, driven by Erin, whose girlfriend Elizabeth was playing Truvy. Drury Lane is quite a SCENE, a very unique theatre scene, and the production was Broadway-level in its production values. The cast was superb, all these great illustrious Chicago women, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. There were all these Pride events happening that weekend, and Mitchell has a similar aversion to crowds now – and we agreed that going to see Steel Magnolias was a perfect Pride-adjacent thing to do.

— Over the course of my time there, we did a lot of hanging out at the apartment, a beautiful cozy space on the 8th floor of a hi-rise right on the lake shore, with an amazing view. We watched A Star is Born (the Judy Garland), we watched the entirety of the Julie Andrews AFI celebration, we watched Taxi Driver on TCM, and had great discussions about incels and sociopathy, and we ended up watching the first four episodes of The Boys. Not all on the same day.

— I created a Substack. I haven’t sent it out yet, but one of my goals for the trip was to create one, and so I did. I’ll be sending it out with the piece I write on Elvis, since … nobody asked me to write about it. Good to know where I stand. I am still slightly confused about Substack: I have a newsletter, but it’s not a paid subscription, and everyone seems to be doing Substack now so I figured I’d give it a try.

— on Sunday morning, Mitchell and I met up with Kate, one of my dearest and now oldest friends. I haven’t seen her in 4 or 5 years. We Zoomed occasionally during the pandemic. I miss her so much. We met up at M. Henry, a breakfast place in Andersonville. Some years back, during one of my visits to Chicago, Kate, Mitchell and I had … a seven-hour brunch there. Seven hours. It’s legendary. It seemed only right to gather there again. This brunch was a four-hour-long extravaganza, but it was perfect. Forever friends.

— After that, Mitchell went to a Pride event, and I think he was meeting up with Christopher there. I wanted to go, but decided to stay home because I needed to watch Clara Sola, since I was reviewing it. I had been bitching about it, but then it turned out to be a very good movie. I love it when that happens.

— I worked remotely on Monday and Tuesday, setting myself up at the kitchen table. I also wrote the Clara Sola review.

— on Monday night, we went to Sidetrack for “Musical Mondays”. I haven’t been there in years. It was there when I lived there, a small-ish gay bar with video screens everywhere, behind the bar, on the walls, and on Monday nights, they played an hours-long compilation of performances from American musicals, in film, on the Tony Awards, on the Merv Griffin show, wherever. It was a little tradition to go to Sidetrack every Monday night. (The video montage is different every Monday. The amount of work that represents …) Sidetrack has now exploded, so many years later. It’s expanded both horizontally and vertically. There’s a rooftop deck, there’s a whole other gigantic room, attached to the pre-existing bar. I’m so happy for them! We met up with Emma, who literally had just moved to Chicago two days before. It was all very full circle: Emma is the daughter of my dear friends David and Maria – who are also Mitchell’s dear friends – we go back to college years. I have known Emma literally since she was born. And now she is a beautiful young woman, an actress and singer, on hold during the pandemic, now venturing out to find herself, and her career. Her boyfriend lives in Chicago so it seemed like the right choice. The exact same journey – and almost the exact same age – that her parents made the move to Chicago so many years ago. So I was so glad she came! Mitchell’s good friends Jason and Brad also showed up. I only know them from social media – we follow each other – so it was great to put faces to names and experience them in person. They are so well-read, well-informed, culturally literate and do cool shit like take tap dancing lessons just because and also go to concerts about 4 or 5 nights a week. At one point, a clip from Living Out Loud started on the video screen – the dance scene – and I exclaimed how much I loved that movie and how it’s been almost totally forgotten and – OF COURSE – leave it to gay men to remember and carry the torch. I said, “Elias Koteas is in that. I love Elias Koteas.” Brad thought a minute, trying to place Elias Koteas in his head, and then said, “Oh yeah. He’s the poor man’s Christopher Meloni.” I mean … I feel comfortable with people who understand obscure references and then ADD to it with their own reference. Elias Koteas is the poor man’s Christopher Meloni … I would have said “the poor man’s Mark Strong” but Meloni will do.

— On Tuesday night, I met up for dinner with Ann Marie. Again, I haven’t seen her in three years, maybe more. It’s hard to be separated from friends. The pandemic, in a way, made it easier because we COULDN’T see each other, but still … We sat outside (we still feel more comfortable being outside than inside: I was a little freaked by Sidetrack, being inside: we left before it got really crowded though). We caught up, so much to catch up on. It was a beautiful night in Andersonville. I came home with the sun setting behind me, and Mitchell’s apartment was FLOODED with golden sunset light.

— Tuesday night is when the three of us curled up and caught ourselves up with The Boys. It was a blast.

— Early-ish Wednesday morning, Mitchell and I took off to drive back to Rhode Island. We split it up, 7 hours each day. We got a hotel somewhere in Pennsylvania. We literally talked – and sang – the whole entire drive. I am not exaggerating. We sang through the entire score of Evita, start to finish. I was amazed at how much I remembered, although it pales in comparison to Mitchell’s memory. He literally knows every word. We also discussed: Helen Reddy, the Bee Gees, the Boswell Sisters, Luther Vandross, Adam Lambert, Blossom Dearie … the list goes on and on. Mitchell’s shuffle was a goldmine. All the people, many of whom Mitchell first introduced me to, back in college. Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, all the great jazz ladies. We arrived in Rhode Island at around 7 pm on Thursday night.

I feel like I entered a worm hole where time stretched out. It CAN’T have been only five days.

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6 Responses to Things done and seen in Chicago

  1. I do not understand the proliferation of content delivery systems like Substack/Medium/Stone Soup, coupled with newsletters…what’s the difference? Why do one over the other? Should I do one? Am I failing myself because I don’t have one? I’ve been leaning heavily toward doing a newsletter, because I’m told it helps authors create their own email database of their own readers, but then I think, “Can I even fill a newsletter? I don’t want it to just be links to blog posts….” So I end up doing nothing. Also, a lot of these give options for paywalling one’s content, and I’m pretty confident that doing so in my case would confirm my suspicions about the very small number of people willing to read my stuff.

    Maybe I shouldn’t navel-gaze in someone else’s comment threads….

    • sheila says:

      Kelly – good questions, and I share all of them! I was bored with the newsletter – and how I set it up – it really was just a link to my blog posts. So I was due for a re-haul. And then I saw two friends and writers I respect – Farran and Christina Newland – have Substacks, where they put up deeply researched long pieces, pieces they couldn’t place anywhere else (or, maybe they could, but … esoteric pieces about stuff they find fascinating) – and both have “free” versions so I can read those – but also a subscriber version.

      I think having a newsletter AND a Substack would be redundant? I write so much – as you know – and you do too! – that I do want to find a way to keep people up to date (whoever cares) – but also since I’ve stepped away from Twitter for the most part, I do want to keep the “promotional” side of me – which isn’t really strong as it is – up and running. Every little bit helps. I’m lucky I still have regular readers on my site – just like you have on yours. We both update so regularly – and people care about that!

      I’m nervous about the paywall but enough people have said they would pay for my stuff that I’m going to give it a try.

      Pretty sure that Tiny Letter (where I set up my newsletter) also has the possibility of making it a paid subscription. But I see more people with Substacks now – so I honestly don’t know! I felt the need to shake things up and get a little bit more intentional about what I’m doing. I have a lot of big pieces I’d love to write – and of course I could write them here too – but maybe I’ll put it on the Substack and people will throw a couple dollars my way?

      I have no idea if this helps. I’m as confused as you are.

  2. SeanG says:

    can’t wait to read your review of ELVIS!

  3. SeanG says:

    I saw it twice yesterday! :-D

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