geek out: the city of lights

by lizzie & isaiah on February 9, 2011 · 35 comments

geek out - a collection of greats from around the web worth freaking out about.

Isaiah and I grew up a couple of streets away from each other. He was a bit older than I, but I remember the first time he showed me a photo of him as a kid I knew I had ridden bikes with him once upon our younger years. While we are die-hard Chicagoans at heart, we grew up in Aurora, the second largest city in Illinois.

Outsiders might say that Aurora is not a good place to raise a family. Our East-side is comparable in “scary-ness” to the Bronx, only a slight bit more depraved. The West-side is full of teenage gangs, but is typically known to be a little more affluent.

The train from Chicago through the ‘burbs dead ends at Aurora’s station, which is adjoined to¬†The Roundhouse (formerly Walter Payton’s Roundhouse – and will forever be known). Once used as a station to turn the trains around for their return trips to Chicago, The Roundhouse is now a micro-brewery that makes a mean Summer Chocolate Blonde. Nowadays, The Roundhouse can be considered a hub of culture, where almost every Aurora-an has had a chunk of memorable experiences.

Isaiah’s prom was held there. My best friend and I were moderately harassed by a group of homeless men there. I got busted buying a pack of cigarettes at 12:40 in the afternoon on a school day on my 18th birthday. This may not sound like an incredible memory…but when you go to a conservative Christian school and are caught, simultaneously buying cigarettes from a bum cigarette machine, having fun, and skipping school in the back of the abandoned portion of The Roundhouse…it tends to be one you remember as one of your more badass moments. My friend with me at the time screamed “Rapture!” and snatched the cigarettes from my hand before the principal could take them from me directly. That’s friendship.

Also – what the hell was the principal of said Christian school doing in the back of The Roundhouse in the middle of a school day too? Questions for another life, I suppose.

Living in Aurora, we experienced your everyday Chicago fare – pizza, gyros, Italian beefs and hot dogs. Can’t you get pizza, gyros and hot dogs everywhere else? you might ask. I say yes, but they suck. If I have another mixed-what-is-this-meat-hot-dog or a “deep dish” pizza that claims to be “Chicago-style” or a gyro with a fucking pickle on it…I’ll croak. Where the hell are all of the poppy seeds? Do they just evaporate south of the Mason-Dixon? Is that what’s happening? I have had bare-naked hot dog buns, buns with sesame seeds…SESAME SEEDS. SESAME SEEDS. And none of them have celery salt…even available as an extra condiment.

One thing you cannot get anywhere but Illinois is the sweet, salty and juicy heaven of an Italian beef sandwich. You don’t think you’ll ever wake up in a world that doesn’t have Italian beefs…until you do. And it’s horrible.

While Denton is growing on us, and Texas in general a bit, we miss the stinky-toxic-river, the walking, the snow. A lot of my adolescent years were spent at Denny’s and IHOPs across Aurora with friends and too many packs of cigarettes. But it was home. This is me circa 2004 or 2005 at IHOP…with short, red hair, oh my!

Another favorite of mine is, technically, in Geneva, Illinois (nearby). My mom and I would take my dog, Wishbone, for long walks through Fabyan’s and the Windmill Park and once I grew up, it became my favorite spot to be with friends to get into…ahem…mischief.

Every Friday in the summer, the streets of Aurora close down completely for Downtown Alive – a concert/festival downtown with food and goods vendors. If not that, there is always some festival going on. Aurora has had a bit of a yo-yo flux over its lifetime. Once a thriving downtown area, Aurora looks a tad barren these days – more spread out, more cookie-cutter-Walgreens-type-stores cluttering the once beautiful cornfields.

We’re proud to see our hometown making a cultural comeback and adding new bars and local hotspots around town.¬†Isaiah and I met in (what used to be) Ernie’s Pub, which held karaoke on Tuesdays and Thursdays…We lived together for the first time in the studio apartment above his mom’s salon, where he proposed for the first time without the ring…We ordered East China Inn every day and enjoyed the view of downtown from his bedroom window…

Chicago lays thick on our voices, decided our food preferences and sports affiliations early on…But Aurora is home.

Photo One: Found via talented Flickr user JMazich Photo Two: Found via Paddleway Photos Four, Five and Six: Jan Crites via Flickr


the wrath of chicago on superbowl XLV

by lizzie & isaiah on February 6, 2011 · 18 comments

chicago bears superbowl 1985

Chicago’s wrath is, quite literally, pouring hell onto Dallas. How ironic that two Yankee teams are coming to the, normally, sweet warm haven of Texas for the Superbowl while we’re experiencing a Winter Wonderland of our own. I’m sure our measly four-five inches won’t impress either team, but wait until they get a load of the damage control. Sand everywhere, but alas, no traction.

I’m at least 90% sure that this is the curse of the Bears following their should-have-been-2nd-Superbowl down South.

Perhaps 26 years in between Superbowl wins is enough for you to say, “Let it go already.” But, my dear, you just haven’t met many Chicago sports fans, have you?

michael jordan bulls dunk

To this day, it is still perfectly logical for a Bulls fan to say, “Fuck Lebron, Michael Jordan had magic.” Look at that air. Magic, I tell you. It doesn’t matter whether or not the Bulls are having a good season or good decade. It doesn’t even matter that some new players might have better stats than Jordan. The Bulls are still the only NBA team in history to win 70 games in a single season…and that, is my point in action. We will back up any “great game-of-another-team-comment” with 20 year old stats, and it doesn’t matter. Don’t try to argue.

Our sports teams have failed us at times, but we’re resilient. Our teams carry decades of finesse and crowdpleasers and we were in the middle of it all during the glory years (and the riots).

old comiskey

Even (foolish) Cubs fans are resilient in their belief that this year is the year (despite not winning a World Series since 1908). While (us) White Sox fans have had our appetites satisfied most recently with the 2006 Series, we’ve been through a lot with our teams.

Isaiah was lucky enough to attend the last game played in Old Comiskey Park in 1990 and the first new game in New Comiskey, now U.S. Cellular Field (It’ll always be Comiskey).

When I was eight, my mom, a Cubs fan, and my dad, a Sox fan, each took me to one game of their respective teams together. They had a deal that I would choose which team would be “my team” early on. I fell asleep in the first inning of the Cubs game at Wrigley (or Raggedy Field, as we call it). I was up and ‘atem through the finish of the Sox game, though my dad did bribe me with hot dogs and candy.

The rivalry between the teams is as ridiculous as why I am a Sox fan (and most of us). The rich cultural past to the competition is no longer at play, necessarily, while Chicago remains one of the most segregated cities I have seen personally. Chicago fans will fight over as little as “Cubs suck” and the cross-town game every year is worth staying away from unless you have your own baseball bat, if you know what I mean. I kid – they’re a favorite of Isaiah’s, but you can count on a fight.

I got Isaiah tickets to the Sox v. Rangers game for his birthday last year and we sported our Sox gear proud, ready to rumble with any “die-hard” Rangers fans that would say anything to us. I don’t know if it was the weather, the time of day or that the Sox have an intimidating following out here, but the Sox section at the Ranger’s field was comparable to their home side…all sporting black and white (or blue and red) proud to cheer on their team.

obama wears a white sox hat

So while we may not be in today’s Superbowl, we’ll be watching, chanting the curse of Chicago repeatedly against Green Bay in honor of our city. Oh look! The President’s on our side, too.

Eat lots of dip. Don’t drink too much beer. Enjoy Superbowl XLV.

*Post-Superbowl Update: We didn’t necessarily have a dog in the fight, but it was a great game to watch and, luckily, the weather cleared up before the game…not that it mattered to the game, per se, as it’s an indoor dome, but it was still safer to get there and back.

What’d you think of the halftime show? Anyone else notice the sound difficulty and the busted “V” in “LOVE” during the Black Eyed Peas show? Is it me or did Fergie absolutely butcher “Sweet Child o’ Mine?” I miss Prince.

Image Credits: 1: Ditka and the Bears via La Boca de la Cueva 2: Jordan’s Magic via Sports Business Digest 3: Old Comiskey Park via Palehosed 4: Obama sports the Sox via White Sox Pride