Saturday, June 30, 2007

WANTED: A siesta

Sleeping Lion Cub (Close-up)
Originally uploaded by myndz_0_eye.

Last night was supposed to be an opportunity for me and Dr G to meet some of Chicago's most eligible bachelors, at a fundraiser for Northwestern Hospital. Co-hosted by Chicago Magazine, the event was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art. With the unfortunate name, "Summer Lovin", the event promised much but just didn't do it for us. The catering was good, and the venue was lovely of course, but the crowd? Yawn. There wasn't anywhere near the extent of mingling going on that we expected to find at such a young and contemporary event. Groups of guests were just clumped together, staring at everyone else and wondering what was supposed to be happening. We didn't stay around to find out. In fact, me and the good doc left after about an hour.

We made the best of the situation though and ended up having dinner at Orso's in Old Town. I have fallen in love with the restaurant - the interior is old and full of charm and character, and the menu can't be beaten for diversity and value for money. The veal that I had was a little salty, but I blame the capers for that. I don't like capers anyway but the rest of the dish sounded tasty so I had to order it. I do these things from time to time.

Then we walked across the road to ANOTHER Italian restaurant that had an outdoor bar area attached to it. We got heaps of free drinks from the barman, who took a real shine to Dr G - and we loved it. Then a French guy came at sat with us, and babbled on in French with me for a while. I kept up with most of what he said, but when he criticised Dr G for not being comfortable talking about tax law (which she absolutely IS, she just didn't want to talk to HIM about it), we decided to leave. But he was hard to shake, so we ran away down the street and hid in another bar until the coast was clear.

THEN (we're almost done), we caught a cab back into the City and had some wine & cheeses at Bin36, and stayed there till the place closed.

I won't lie to you, the night took it out of me, but it was one of the most fun evenings out that I've had in a long time. We flew by the seat of our pants the whole time and just had a ball. But I think I'll seize the opportunity of this sunny day to lie down on the sofa for a few hours.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Well it started classy, and that's the point

"Where words fail, music speaks." ~ Hans Christian Anderson
Originally uploaded by Villa Sams.

I should know better than to overload my social calendar during the week. I don't have the stamina that I used to. But when the weather is so great, and the City of Chicago presents me with so many interesting social opportunities, what's a girl to do?!

I called into the Shedd Aquarium last night to case the joint for a birthday cocktails celebration I'm looking to host there. I managed to score a couple of free tickets courtesy of the lovely PR fella there so me, Bork, and Waldo wandered around, sipping cosmopolitans and stuffing our faces with jalapeno cheese poppers and corn chips. The music was wonderful - a couple of live jazz trios dotted around the facility - but the piece de resistance was easily the outdoor Terrace. I have found my heaven in Chicago - alcohol, fresh air, Lake Michigan, a city view - it is paradise.

Then I went to the South Loop to join the Shedd's PR guy and one of the other staffers at a bar for a few drinks. It was wonderful to catch up and I had a great chat to one of the guys whose military career has been amazing - I'm talking trips to the White House, meetings with leading politicians, paratrooper with the SAS, the whole lot. Before I knew it, we'd been at the bar for two hours and it was time for me to head home.

But of course I didn't do that, did I? I grabbed a cab and headed over to the Viagra Triangle to join Biggsy et al for yet more drinks. My cab driver waxed lyrical about how married men are far more interesting than single ones, and then proceeded to give me his cell number so he could be my personal taxi chauffeur around Chicago - a man on call to drive me anywhere I want to go? Lucky me!

Division & Rush on a Thursday night is not a particularly pretty place, and yet I made the best of it. A couple of tequila sunrises later, and I was in tiki torch heaven. I had flower leis around my neck, Jenn had somebody's cowboy hat on her head, and we were having a ball. A bouncer followed me into the toilets to forceably evict a woman who'd locked herself in there and, as I applied my lipstick & gloss liberally, he told me that I looked fabulous and my lips looked juicy. He was built like a wrestler and I almost wanted to do something crazy so he'd pick ME up and throw me out, but I had a drink back at the table that I wanted to finish. So I just gave a girly giggle and left. Awesome.

Crawling into bed at 1am, and then oozing out of bed at 6.30am today, I am a little rough around the edges. But as has been typical of my summer in Chicago so far, I spent last night doing things I haven't done here and I had a wonderful time - tequila hangover and all.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Just make them all work for you

Joan of Arc
Originally uploaded by dbking.

Me and J caught up for dinner and drinks at the Cult tonight and we got talking about my hunt for the perfect apartment and just how well it mirrors our joint search for the perfect man. In this city of seemingly infinite possibility - on both counts - we still turn up empty-handed.

So we laughed about The Holy Army - that collection of angels and saints you're supposed to pray to in order to get certain things. You know what I mean - St Anthony to help you find things, St Christopher to give you safe passage somewhere, a St Joseph statue buried on his head in the backyard will help your potatoes grow big & strong...or he does something like that - it all got a bit confused towards the end.

My confirmation saint from seventh grade is St Joan of Arc and so I guess I should look to her to put a good word in for me with the other saints, right? On her own, St Joan is the patron saint of people ridiculed for their piety (according to a website I just visited, since I had no idea). Hmm. I am supposed to look to her to give me faith. I like that idea. It's generic, and it gives me some likelihood of success.

Given that she was a fairly militant lass herself, with little time for men from any walk of life, my chances of a love match courtesy of Joan are fairly slim. Perhaps she'll chat to St Catherine about that one.

I might just leave it to Joan to put a good word in for me about the apartment I'm going to see this Saturday morning. Without her intervention, I may just find myself praying to St Jude - the patron saint of lost causes.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Alfresco Therapy

you want milk or cream, honey?
Originally uploaded by JKonig.

I realise that this is the second post in as many days that is headlined by a picture of a chair, but it can't really be helped. Even though we had a particularly steamy, humid day in Chicago, today I discovered the healing powers of the alfresco cafe.

I had a late afternoon appointment with my apartment-seeker lady, and it didn't go so well. But we are hopeful that a very cute property in Lincoln Park will open up next week. And in anticipation of this, the apartment lady is going to call the building every single day next week until they let us see their one-bedrooms. So I'm still hopeful.

But Dr G hadn't had such a great day, so I agreed to catch up with her on Southport for a quick drink. Well that turned into two cocktails and a shared plate of calamari outside at "Coobah". I've only ever been to that Cuban restaurant in winter time, when the place is so packed and toasty cosy, full of spicy smells and devilishly strong drinks. It was a pleasant change to visit at this time of year, with the front windows wide open and the outdoor tables filling steadily. The wait staff are very friendly and responsive, so me and Dr G spent a lovely hour or so just chilling there.

We took a walk around the neighborhood and I made some notes of various leasing companies renting out some one-bedroom places (out of my price range but it's good to check out their websites for other options). And then when we'd had enough window-shopping - or just looking in windows - we retired to our mutually favourite coffee shop, Julius Meinl, for a restorative dose of caffeine (and air conditioning).

There is something lovely about cruising the neighbourhood, grazing at various bars and coffee shops, watching the world go by. Dare I say the cafe culture of Southport is particularly European? I like that about it.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I'm sorry, but that seat is taken

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
Originally uploaded by Fixed Image.

The apartment hunt steamrolls on and today I found myself at another leasing company who - yet again - told me that my budget is too strict, and my list of wants is just too stringent - to possibly afford the type of place I want, in the area that I want. I swear, it's getting to the stage where I know what they're gonna say before they say it. And yet I'm an optimist, so I keep going to these companies, and I know that soon enough, one of them will have what I want.

What I could have done without was the encounter with the crazy lady who was also there to chat to someone about an apartment. She arrived a little after me, and sat down in the empty chair next to me. I could feel her staring at me intently, so I become suddenly absorbed in the intricate designs on my coffee cup and tried to ignore her eyeballs drilling into me.

But then she launched into question after question, a la Barbara Walters, quizzing me about the best areas in Chicago to live, what was this area like, just how many reported rapes had there been in the 18 months I've lived here, and how noisy do I really think it would be to live right by the train line?

[I swear, I am a magnet for these people.]

But as if hearing my silent prayers for rescue, my leasing agent appeared in the doorway and called me in. My interview was all over in 3 minutes. The apartment I was there to talk about got leased yesterday - and no one thought to call me. This is a practice I have come to expect.

So I seized the opportunity to ask the lady why her company bothers to advertise apartments on their website with such large price range differences. I mean, if an apartment is $1080 per month, advertise it as such. Don't tease people (ie. Me) by saying it's $895-1080 per month. That just prompts people like me, who are on a particular budget, to come all the way to meet them thinking that there is a chance - even a slim one - that the apartment could go for $895. Does the company derive some sort of perverse pleasure from disappointing these people (ie. Me) to their faces? Do you really think that I'm going to turn around to you and say, "Oh really? The apartment is now $300 more per month than what I had originally anticipated? Hey, that's no big deal - here's $300 from my money tree just for you." What a crock.

I mean, it's the classic 'bait & switch' routine. Naturally the woman had no answer for her company's practice, and really I wasn't having a go at her anyway, and all I wanted to do was leave. So we just agreed that life generally sucked, she referred me to yet ANOTHER leasing company, wished me luck on my search (that I chose to take as sincere), and I went on my way.

And as I left, I wished the crazy lady in the waiting room good luck too. But if she finds a one-bedroom place with floorboards for under $1000 per month in this area before me, I will be severely put out.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

She works hard for the money

Tips Jar
Originally uploaded by Vélocia.

If you're not from America, tipping is a weird custom. It takes a bit of getting used to and, I have to admit that when tipping is required, I tend to be over-generous rather than stingy. I give the standard 20% tip in restaurants, and hope to Hades that I've calculated it right. For the most part, I have had excellent service in restaurants here, so I have not been bothered about adding the gratuity to my bill.

This last week has taught me that perhaps a tipping system should be applied to other businesses that don't currently practice it - and I'm particularly thinking about the phone company, the US Postal Service, and the City of Chicago Fleet Management Department.

If the tipping system were to be applied to these industries, perhaps their employees might actually make an effort at customer service. Becaue right now, there's no incentive for them to do so, and so they simply do not care. And you, as a customer, can't do anything about it, because you need them for a specific reason, and they don't need you for anything.

Hmm. I seem to have become one of those people who thinks that by throwing money at a problem, it will simply go away. But what other recourse do I have?

Money talks, it makes the world go round, it is the root of all evil - truck out whatever cliche you want; I just want these utilities and public service organisations to be staffed by pleasant people and right now, that seems too much to ask. So if I have to pay for the privilege of a few kind words and some efficient service, then so be it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Weaving a creatively-lubricated web

At the recommendation of a blog I read quite regularly, I logged onto youtube last night and watched a full-length feature film called "Four Eyed Monsters". You'll find the link to it here.

The title refers to people in relationships - they have four eyes, two mouths, eight limbs etc. And the film explores the challenges of forming and sustaining personal relationships that begin online. The main male character refers to the internet basically as a weapon of "creative lubrication", where you can really project whatever version of yourself that you'd like - and it makes you view others in a way that you want to view them, not necessarily the way that they really are. And of course, that is both liberating and potentially destructive at the same time.

The characters in the film meet in a chatroom and then decide that they want to meet up for real. The girl is cynical about online dating, so she encourages the guy to come to the restaurant where she works and meet her there. He has already tracked her down and followed her a bit, taking video footage of her as he goes. A bit creepy perhaps, yet she gets a good vibe from him, and agrees to go on a date with him. But they are both a little wary of giving too much of themselves in person, so they decide to have a silent date, where they sit with one another and write messages to each other on a pad of paper, rather than actually talk. In this way, they are mirroring what an internet romance is all about - sharing bits of info about yourself with another person, but just not out loud. And then one of the characters freaks out when he realises that he may not be equipped to have an 'out loud' relationship with his girlfriend and he projects those insecurities on to her. What happens next makes for really interesting viewing.

I can remember having an internet relationship some years ago. I caught up with some online friends in Sydney (which was my first visit to that City, as it turns out). We came together there from all corners of Australia and it was really fun. But I hooked up with a guy from Melbourne who I had been chatting to and phoning for some weeks before. As far as I was concerned, we were close friends but I wasn't expecting anything to happen in Sydney.

Well you can imagine that after a few drinks at the Penrith Panthers Rugby Leagues Club (yep, you read that right), the Kissing Bandit was unleashed but seriously that's all that happened. When I got back home, and two separate florists simulteaneously wandered down my driveway with armloads of flowers and teddy bears from this admirer, my father laughed hysterically - but somewhat cautiously, as I recall. There is something weird about getting flowers like that at breakfast time on a Saturday morning, with your family sitting around the kitchen table.

So I called to thank the guy for the lovely flowers and gifts, never really sure what I was going to say after that. When the guy said that he had made the decision to move to my home town to be with me, I realised I had to nip things in the bud. He had no job there, no family, just me. I didn't want to lead him on like that, so I told him it wasn't a good idea to do that just for me. We chatted a bit more beyond that and he took it all well; never once was he mad with me; never said that horrible "you've led me on" stuff that would have made things waaay more awkward. And I think he realised that the decision was simply a knee-jerk reaction to a great weekend spent in Sydney. He never did move after all.

So you can see why "Four Eyed Monsters" struck a real chord for me; I really enjoyed it. The film isn't full of special effects, explosions, swearing, etc. It's a clever movie with a mix of video recording and animation that was really well put together. It takes a while to load on youtube, but I thought it was well worth the effort. You should check it out.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Make way for THE domestic goddess

Day 241 ~ I Damn Near Melted My Tutu Tonight
Originally uploaded by ambrosialove.

Biggsy opened the fridge at work today - not sure why, now that I think about it - and in our vegetable crisper were about 5 New Zealand lamb roasts. Naturally.

So I have brought one home and I fully intend to roast it, complete with little cloves of garlic dotted around and italian herbs sprinkled liberally on top. (Potentially) lovely jubbly, wouldn't you say?

Once cooked, and if edible, I shall take the cold lamb to work tomorrow where Biggsy will carve it for sandwiches for us. We both agreed that cold roast lamb and tomato sauce sandwiches are pretty hard to beat.

Hell, this better work.

Post script:

WOOHOO - The lamb roast worked a treat. I'd take a photo of it, but that would be a bit weird. Trust me when I tell you that I rested the meat for the required 15 minutes (thanks Food Network!) and the little cloves of garlic dotted around it have infused the meat with delicious goodness. Biggsy is going to love me - and boy, does it make up for the ANZAC biscuit debacle!

Monday, June 18, 2007

I want to live on Easy Street

Originally uploaded by hwnna.

Late on Sunday morning I walked into the Apartment People offices on Broadway. Partly because Dr G had insisted that they were a wonderful bunch who I would find very helpful, but also because I am getting to the stage of being over the whole apartment hunting "thing".

But you know when someone is so nice to you, it makes you want to cry? Well Sheila is my newest hero. To cut a long story short, she didn't find me an apartment, but she made the search seem worth it. I presented her with my (long) list of must-haves, and she gently suggested to me that I probably couldn't afford all those things in the area I was looking in. It's what I knew to be true, but hearing it from her (as a professional in the know) still made me sad.

It's not fair that the City of Chicago hiked up the property taxes and landlords have had to pass on those costs to tenants. It's also not fair that everyone in the free world seems to want to rent a one-bedroom place with hardwood floors in Lincoln Park at exactly the same time as I do.

But those things are completely outside of my control.

All I can do is to keep looking. I have an appointment tomorrow and one more on Wednesday night. And all the while I'm hoping that every phone call I take will be from Sheila, telling me that she's found exactly the right place, just for me.

So if are still reading this, please close your eyes for me - just for a second - and send some good cosmic house-hunting karma my way. I promise that when I am safe and happy in my new place, I'll do the same for you and squint my eyes for whatever you're wishing for at the time.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Oh no he didn't...

Originally uploaded by iamnowhere.

Me and P set off rather early today to view apartments on Arlington Place, my favourite residential street in Chicago (that I've seen so far, I mean). We are both in the hunt for an apartment, and pretty much have the same list of criteria, so it made a great deal of sense to roam the streets together.

When I left the house to meet him this morning, it was already well into the 80s (35 degrees celcius to be precise) and it was heavenly. Feeling my skin warm right down to the bone was such a long-overdue sensation that I was happy to walk down Broadway and not catch the bus with P until it was absolutely necessary to do so.

The apartment we looked at was pretty crap, but it didn't upset me because it was actually one block over from Arlington, so my opinion of my darling street remains a good one. In fact, I am viewing another apartment on Arlington later this week, so I got a sneak peek at it today. The building is not terribly pretty, and probably dates back to the late 50s, early 60s maybe. It could do with some loving but as P said, I'd be looking at it from the inside anyway so it doesn't matter too much what the outside looks like. Agreed. And as we walked towards Clark St, I saw another courtyard-style building advertising one bedroom places for rent, so I called the agent and left a message for her to call me back on Monday with some prices.

We stopped off at Mickey's on the corner to have lunch and sit outside on their patio area, overlooking Clark Street. I instantly fell in love with the longest list of mojitos I've ever seen on a bar menu. Typically I had the cosmo-mojito, a blend of my two favourite drinks for summer. And it was delicious.

The Cubs game was playing on TV and there was a huge melee. I wouldn't have noticed it on the screens, but for the fact that a guy in the bar yelled at the TV in disbelief at what he was seeing. Apparently the Cubs player at the center of it all is normally such a mild-mannered gent. As the bar population turned its collective attention to the game, a man dining with his wife and daughter decided to throw in HIS two cents worth:

"Well he should just go back to Mexico, where he belongs."

The bar was silent. Realising he brought the bar to a virtual standstill, the man turned to the crowd and apologised but then added, "sorry everyone, but he SHOULD be sent home".

The bar didn't even need to say anything because at that point, his daughter stood up and stormed off in the biggest huff I've ever seen. She was dying of embarassment and disappointment and disbelief and it was a display way more interesting than any televised baseball scuffle. The guy and his wife took off in hot pursuit and we all watched. The poor daughter was a block away before her parents caught up with her, and we could all see her wiping tears from her face, the poor thing.

No one commented on the man's racist comment; there was no need. Everyone knew he was out on his own with that one. But I have never heard anyone outside of the movies be so openly racist and it was very shocking. That someone would think it, much less say it, particularly in a bar where every second staff member was Hispanic. I mean, come on!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My kind of home

gingerbread house 2005
Originally uploaded by Watari Goro 渡五郎.

Alas I was unsuccessful in my application for the gorgeous apartment I so desperately wanted. I called the building management company today to follow up and they told me that they had already leased it to someone else. I was sad.

So I sought feedback on whether there had been something lacking in my application (so at least I'd know for next time). The woman said "oh no, there were 40 people ahead of you - we didn't even look at yours".

How did 10 people on the list suddenly become 40?! They never even considered my application?!

And to top that all off, they didn't have the courtesy to call me and advise me. If they had 40 people interested, fine. Why not call and tell people they're unsuccessful, and then perhaps offer to help them find another property similar to the one they looked at? Why not give your company extra business, or at least the possibility of it?

The woman already knew I was looking for a one-bedroom place in Lincoln Park, otherwise I wouldn't have put my name down in the first place. But what if I had been desperate for a place, and hanging all my hopes on this ideal apartment? What if there was a real threat I would come homeless in the immediate future? She didn't obviously care about my situation one bit. Why didn't she offer me something else on her books? Because she has no idea about customer service, that's why. And that is fairly crap.

So I've decided to outsource the whole apartment-hunting "thing". I've enlisted the support of Apartment People, a very famous (in Chicago at least) bunch of people who meet with you, talk to you about what you're looking for, and then DRIVE YOU around the neighbourhood to tour your chosen properties. It costs you nothing, and you're under no obligation to rent any property you see. When I called them to book time for this coming Sunday, they were so pleasant and really helpful.

Granted they were not encouraging that I'll find anywhere in Lincoln Park within my budget, but we'll see. Stranger things have happened.

In the mean time though, the gingerbread house in the photo is looking mighty tasty...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks

welcome to wrigley field
Originally uploaded by maura.

Jenn took me to the baseball tonight to make great use of her season passes and let me tell you, our seats were amazing! We were seated behind the Chicago Cubs dugout, just far enough back to avoid concussion in the event of any players hitting foul balls (and some did). I didn't catch any though - pity, cause I bet that would make me instantly cool.

Fortunately for us we were seated right next to an old guy who looked exactly like Mr Miyagi from "The Karate Kid" and his little Mini Me son, who would have been about 5 years old. The kid was so precious, all decked out in Cubs gear that I have never seen so small - who knew they made tiny baseball gloves like that. And his baseball cap? So cute - I swear it was Barbie-sized. As I said to Jenn, I would have gobbled the kid up, if I wasn't already stuffing my face with jumbo beers and a pathetic-looking (and terribly overpriced) hot dog.

So the Cubs ended up winning 3-2 and I know we played the team from Washington, but I don't know if it was Washington DC or Washington State. Me and Jenn talked the whole way through the game anyway, so perhaps it doesn't really matter in the long run.

This was my first game this season and we're due to go again in August just before Jenn's birthday; I can't wait. I do love it at Wrigley - the biggest bar in the world. The beer is expensive, and crappy, but everyone has a blast and I love that atmosphere. Even though it cost us $35 to park Jenn's car, it was worth it - it's a great way to celebrate making it to the middle of the week.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Markets & Moorings, Burgers & Baseball

Pirates of Navy Pier
Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

Yesterday was pretty action-packed as far as Mondays go.

I got into work early and lodged my application to rent the gorgeous apartment I found on the weekend. There are 10 other applicants ahead of me, but I'm hopeful of a favourable outcome when the preferred tenant is announced today. I'm not sure whether the 10 people ahead of me need to be declared bad applicants before I'm even considered, or whether my merits are considered just as fairly alongside the others, regardless of when I submitted my paperwork. When I spoke to the guy at the leasing place on Saturday, he explicitly told me that it wasn't a first-come, first-served process, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the good phone call later today.

Buy, buy - Sell, sell

At lunch time I was invited to take my boss's house guests on an escorted tour of The Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Usually if you start talking finance with me, I take a mental space walk and probably daydream about buying shoes. But yesterday's tour was a valuable opportunity to learn more about a company that last year traded contracts and stocks to the value of $827 trillion. That is a big number (and that was a very big understatement!).

Captain Leadfoot and the trip to the Pier

As my afternoon bus driver decided to channel his inner Sandra Bullock along Lakeshore Drive, causing me to fall ungracefully into a typical weirdo passenger, I got home and flopped on my bed and responded to an urgent phone call from Bork. Rather than stay home, I instead chose to get changed and go and meet her back Downtown for a cocktails/finger food guided tour of Kanan Cruises's newly-refurbished cruise liner that is moored at Navy Pier. Afterwards we had our photo taken alongside the crazy fibreglass pirates on the wharf and then we walked through the parklands to the edge of the beach and had a beautiful view over the Lakeshore Drive city skyline. As the sun was setting and the sky turned pink and orange, I don't think I've ever seen the Hancock Tower look more beautiful.

Rule #1 - Stuff thine face whenever possible

But we didn't dwell on such things for long. We jumped in a cab and went to Southport for dinner at Messners, a pub I've often passed but never gone into. Mondays was $5 burger night, and so I indulged in a delicious helping of greasy goodness, but I probably could have been a little less liberal with the ketchup. I was constantly at risk of getting it all over me and the red dress I was wearing. Fortunately the Guinness steadied my hands and I was all good.

Batter up, and beers up!

When the Cubs game at nearby Wrigley Field finished, me and Bork ended our night at a pub on Clark St with some of her friends. But when Bork said the word "shots", that was my cue to get outta there and head home [see, I can be sensible when I need to be].

So I crawled into bed around 1am, semi-aware that my alarm was going to force me out of bed only five and a half hours later. Fortunately my subconscious didn't think about all that for too long, and I was fast asleep within seconds after having kicked my week off to a splendid start.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Location, location!

Originally uploaded by Arnold Pouteau's.

It's been a busy weekend for me and if nothing else, I've learned that a lot rides on location these days. Whether it's the worst house on the best street, or getting average service in a riverside cafe, as long as your view is OK, you can get over the worst of it.

I looked at 3 very different apartments yesterday. I know that one-bedroom places on the near northside of Chicago are going to be small and rents are going to be high. But this is where I want to live and I'm sensible enough about what I can afford.

And though I've seen 5 apartments in total, and that's not a lot by any means, it was enough to convince me that I've found THE ONE. The second place I looked at yesterday is the winner and I want it desperately. It's located on the best residential street in Lincoln Park, one block away from busy Clark Street - where you'll find amazing shops, restaurants, and cafes. It's on the very top floor of a courtyard building apartment, right at the very back corner, so it's secluded and quiet and really beautiful. If I was so inclined (and able-bodied enough) I could cartwheel in the bedroom, it's that spacious. Plenty of storage, hardwood floors, laundry in the basement, it's just ideal.

The street itself is wide, with large trees that make a beautiful canopy over the road, and the street is lined with large Victorian houses. Many of them are covered in scaffolding, which tells me that their owners are (hopefully lovingly) restoring them - I got a great vibe from the neighborhood, that's for sure.

Now I just need to convince the leasing company that I'm a waaaay better tenant than anyone else that applies. I think I may have to bust out work's gold letterhead for this one. So be it.

I will spend the rest of today writing form letters for my boss and my bank manager to sign, and maybe skip over to the IKEA website...all in the name of research, of course.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Here's to having potential!

the money pit
Originally uploaded by MookieLuv.

I have decided to look for a one-bedroom apartment for myself from 1 August and for the past few days, I've been searching a myriad of rental websites, as well as browsing the rental ads on my favourite Craigslist Chicago.

Fortunately for me I've already narrowed things down to the fact that I want to find a place in either Boystown, where I currently live, or neighbouring Lincoln Park, close to the Zoo (and closer to the city). I'm not a fan of high-rise apartments, preferring instead to look at properties in vintage walk-ups, or (at the very most) mid-rises. I know my budget, I know what amenities I'm 100% set on and which ones I would let go of (at a pinch). And preliminary searches suggest that the rental market in these areas are flush with options.

Tonight I have got two places to see and, on the way home, I called in to see the first. When I called in response to her online ad, the building manager at the first site said that if I wanted to get floorboards put into the apartment (to get rid of yucky carpet and even yuckier vacuuming), it would only jack up my rent by an extra $100 or so per month.

The building that featured my first apartment was very cute - a mid-rise that was deceptively large; the building manager said there were 61 apartments inside. But she took me up one small flight of stairs (just off the lobby) and voila - the front door of "my" apartment. When she opened the door, the fresh paint smell hit me like a freight train, but at least that's ultimately a good smell because it means a clean slate. The carpet was plain- coloured but really gunky (fixable, naturally). The apartment was quite sizeable but the fridge was enormous and took up most of the kitchen's width so you couldn't be cooking something AND go into the fridge at the same time. And two people in the kitchen at the same time? Forget it.

The closet space was good - the bedroom was a generous size and the bathroom had TWO entrances (which every female KNOWS is a winner). The place had potential.

But the thing that really clinched it for me as a no-go zone? The many windows that let in so much wonderful sunlight gave a terribly ugly view of a barbed wire fence from the property behind. Chain-link, barbed wire fence. I mean, seriously.

So I may have been tempted to run a mile but I did not. It's not the building manager's fault that the yobs next door have erected a barbed wire monstrosity to obscure any views the apartment might have had. I guess if the barbed wire wasn't there, the apartment might simply just look out on a brick building next door - which if you think about it, is equally unappetising.

But at least I can say that the search has begun, and at least I now have a control group - a subject to compare all future apartments to. I'll keep you posted on how the search pans out.

Monday, June 04, 2007

They gave it the chop?!

I learned today that they have axed "Neighbours" in Australia after about a million years on the air.

There were few TV shows that I followed religiously when I was growing up. But believe me when I tell you, "Neighbours" was one of them.

It gave the world Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Guy Pearce, Natalie Imbruglia, Alan Dale (my American friends will know him best as Mr Meade from "Ugly Betty"). Such pedigree - and they cancelled it?!

To be honest, it could have turned into complete swill in the last 10 years and I would have no idea - it's been about that long since I watched a complete episode.

But I wanted to bid my own special farewell to the show by posting this You Tube clip of THE wedding of the century. Scott and Charlene Robinson. She got out of overalls and put some lippy on, and then they both buggered off up to Brisbane and no one ever saw them again.

Whoever would have thought that they really just buggered off to London and made about a squillion pounds each?!

Such memories....reminisce with me, if you dare!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

And it begins

Boat Tour on the Chicago River
Originally uploaded by discopalace.

Chicago residents in summertime are like butterflies - biologically and socially. For so long we've been cocooned in jackets, scarves, and gloves and yet one glimpse of sunshine is enough to thaw us out, and we abandon the layers and emerge in droves to flit from street fair to beer festival to al fresco eatery.

And yesterday marked my formal release from the winter doldrums into society once more. But it's funny because when I actually sit down and look at what I did yesterday, I have set a pretty impressive pace for the social season. Check this out:


Actually, I didn't see much of Saturday morning. I was monstrously hungover from a Friday evening spent in a humid bar drinking with Aussie friends - wine, cocktails, more wine. When we emerged into the steamy neighbourhood given some release from a recent thunderstorm, I was not feeling too well. Consequently, Saturday morning was a blur.


By the afternoon I was feeling slightly more human, buoyed by peppermint tea and cheetos. Then Biggsy called to say he'd opened a bottle of red and wanted to go and see a street festival in his neighbourhood. So we called Jenn, and over we all went to Biggsy's place. One diet coke, two margaritas, and about a thousand buffalo wings later, and I was feeling much better.


Leaving the street fair, I raced home and got ready to meet my new British friend Wongy, because I'd been given free tickets to a New Zealand wine class and she'd agreed to go with me. Once we got to the wine school, we met up with my friend Macquarie and we sat together in the front row. In contrast to the Aussie class I'd done at the store a few weeks before, this class was very intense. Not even intensive, it was just intense. We literally sat there with a flight of wines in front of us for 30 minutes before we were even allowed to sip the first one! Thirty minutes people, sheesh. When it finally came time to taste the first wine - a Sauvignon Blanc if you need to know - me and Macquarie just about dived on it. We later agreed that the class was good, just way too thorough for us and not what we thought it was going to be.

Then we left the wine school, met up with our other chum Cotton, and we piled into a cab to go out to Mayfest 2007 at Lincoln Square - the giant beer festival here with great beer steins and bratwurst sandwiches - the whole lot. This time last year, J&T were staying with me and we went to the festival and we had a ball, so I was very hopeful for a similar good time this year. But the place was PACKED and we couldn't get tickets or steins and the bars were going to close at 10pm anyway so we left and instead sat inside a very crowded (but famous) beer hall on the pedestrian street just off the Square.

At around midnight we left the beer hall and the boys decided they were going to go to a house party and me and Wongy wanted to get some food. So we parted ways at a diner and the boys walked for squillions of miles to get a cab.


I may have missed Saturday morning, but I picked up Sunday morning instead. At around 1am, me and Wongy decided that the diner we'd gone into had probably broken plenty of health codes in recent times and we were afraid to sit down (much less eat), so we got a cab and went to our favourite diner in Boystown instead. And I wolfed down steak, eggs, potatoes and delicious rye toast plus coffee at 2am. It rounded out my evening so beautifully I can't tell you how good it felt.

So do you see? If this pace keeps up, I'm going to have an absolute cracking summer. I just have to remember to keep writing it all down like this or else I'm never going to retain it all!