From “The Astronaut’s Dilemma” to “The Taming of the Fondue”

Last night I saw my last Improvised Shakespeare show in Chicago for what is likely to be quite a while. They’re probably one of my top three favorite things about this city, and while I am super sad to lose out on regular access to their shows (especially in their gorgeous new theater at iO’s new, incredible space on Kingsbury Street!), they visit New York often enough that I shouldn’t be bereft for too long.

Oh shoot, that was me burying the lede. Hi, world. The reason Magpie & Whale has been so incredibly quiet on the WordPress side is that I’m moving to New York in a week for a job. Very exciting! Very stressful. Very odd to say goodbye to the city I’ve lived in for the majority of my adult life.

I’m pretty up to my ears juggling work and packing and organizing, but I’ve had a little time to enjoy the last of a very pleasant October here (save for the three straight days it rained this week; now it’s sunny and mild and perfect, and hopefully it’ll stay that way).

A photo of Wicker Park I'm sure no one has ever taken before.
A photo of Wicker Park I’m sure no one has ever taken before.

Overall, I’m surprising myself with how calm I feel about it at heart. People keep asking me what I want to see before I leave, and most of what I can think about is how I still need to find poster mailers that fit the unframed prints I’m bringing. I have a few things to hit up still, though: a bike ride along the lakefront, an hour in the Lincoln Park Conservatory, a dinner at my favorite Ethiopian restaurant. Last weekend I went hiking and finally went to a Chicago hot dog stand, in addition to visiting all my favorite works at the Art Institute. Really, though, I think I’m ready for something new, even if I never envisioned that that new something would be Brooklyn.

For all that I just want this move to be over, for all that I just want to be there already, for all that I’m eager to set up my (amazing!) new apartment, Chicago is never really going to be done with me. How could it? I love this place too much, too wholly, even if I’m ready to go.

Branson beats the house blend

"This energizing tea is perfect for an early morning foxhunt or preparing for the dramas of the day."
“This energizing tea is perfect for an early morning foxhunt or preparing for the dramas of the day.”

Here is the thing about Republic of Tea’s Downton Abbey Grantham Breakfast Blend: it’s really quite nice for about ten minutes. The label promises a sort of “sticky ginger pudding” experience with a splash of milk. And it’s true, the tea tastes pretty good at first, while it’s still piping hot. Better drink it quickly, though — or maybe let it steep longer than the suggested four to six minutes. It gets as dull and pointless as the Earl himself once it starts to cool.

You don’t need to be the acid-tongued Dowager Countess to see a one-liner there, so I’ll just leave things at this: I have switched back to my other Republic of Tea favorite, their Lucky Irish Breakfast black, which does, in fact, have the kick that makes you want to riot for suffrage and elope to Dublin. (Maybe not die in childbirth, though.)

I’ve been up to more than just having conversations with myself about tea. Last weekend I had the chance to see actual live theater that isn’t improv, which was a lovely outing. The show is running in Chicago now, and if its title, Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, doesn’t intrigue you, the fact that it’s about creating a triad lesbian relationship while also confronting terminal cancer in a way that actually works might. Plus the dioramas are freaking hysterical — absolutely worth the price of admission. And of course, there are mammoths.

You may have noticed that I have missed a week, and that this is a bit late. There’s a good reason for that, and a nice one too. I’m doing some behind-the-scenes work as a copy editor at PolicyMic, which is a super hopping news site by and for Millennials. I’m still not over seeing stories on the front page and having a proud little moment of “Hey, I edited that!” But yeah, journalism work! I’m really pleased to be part of the PM team, who have been great to a person. Three cheers for work in your chosen field! (This is, incidentally, a classic example of burying the lede.)

It’s a good week to feel inspired by other working journalists, and I’ve got some amazing stories to share this time around, so hopefully the wait was worth it.  Continue reading “Branson beats the house blend”

Daylight: Saved, apparently

I promised everyone I’d dance in the streets if Chicago made it to 50 whole degrees, and holy cats, on Monday we hit 56. So, off I went with my camera in just a sweatshirt and tennis shoes, although rain boots probably would have been a better plan, considering that all our snow and ice is now melting into gigantic pools of standing water, much of which is congregating on sidewalks and at street crossings.

Of course, it’s supposed to dump more snow on us again this week, which makes Chicago Magazine‘s musings about whether the City That Works is too cold to compete with the sunny South particularly apropos. But I assume you’re not here for me to endlessly talk about the weather. (In my hometown, you didn’t start conversations with remarks on the weather, you filled dead air with a comment on the height of the Hocking River.) I could ramble about treadmill desks or Amtrak’s actually sort of scummy terms and conditions for their writing residency, but let’s get to the good stuff, shall we?

By which I definitely mean Scottish Plumber, (888) MAC-CLOG, tagline: "The Pipes are Calling"
By which I definitely mean Scottish Plumber, (888) MAC-CLOG, tagline: “The Pipes are Calling”

Continue reading “Daylight: Saved, apparently”

An actually excellent Friday the 13th

After a week of 90+ temperatures, when the air cooled off and the clouds were racing across a bright blue sky, Julie and I finally decided to do it. We’d been saying we would bike to the Chicago Botanic Garden for weeks, if not months: with conditions like this, there was no time like the present.

The day got off to a promising start. Spoiler alert: it stayed pretty perfect.
The day got off to a promising start as I left my apartment building, bike in hand. Spoiler alert: it stayed pretty perfect. This post is actually not a tragicomedy!

I’ve been happily doing my running thing for about a month, but my bike has, unfortunately, spent a lot of time in my apartment building’s laundry room this summer. No worries, though, right? We had a map and an open schedule, and Google said we’d be there in an hour and a half.

Google makes some funny jokes sometimes, fyi.

The original plan was to take the North Branch Trail, which has some occasionally confusing bits that we were totally prepared to tackle, thanks to this helpful comic. We fumbled our way through a number of interruptions and detours, but figured this was probably the last hiccup that would bother us; it appeared that we’d have smooth sailing as soon as we passed, say, Devon Street.

Not actually the case! All through Lincolnwood, Wilmette, Skokie and into Evanston, we had to start and stop at very busy street crossings (though we did get to enjoy some interesting public art along the trail). By the time we made it to Evanston (more winding through streets, at which point we nearly hit the football stadium, distressingly close to the lake), it was nearly 2 o’clock and both of us had been counting on eating lunch at the Botanic Garden by then.

Enter Walker Bros.

Oh my god.

I learned that corned beef hash is something that looks like it will give you mad cow disease, but tastes like heaven. Hurrah for culinary daring!
I learned that corned beef hash is something that looks like it will give you mad cow disease, but tastes like heaven. (It’s hash browns or potatoes plus corned beef, all fried together.) Hurrah for culinary daring!

The whole interior of that place is well worth a photo essay all its own, but a little Instagram will have to suffice for now: we had better places to be.

Continue reading “An actually excellent Friday the 13th”

Possibly missing the point of a vacation, but there’s no time for that

It's a beautiful day to be on top of the world!
It’s a beautiful day to be on top of the world!

Waking up at 8 o’clock is my favorite, I think. This is my new reality for the month of September, since Medill, along with the rest of Northwestern, is on break for most of it. 8 a.m. is nice: the air is clear, the birds are singing, and I don’t have to join the harried 9-to-5ers on the train. I can sit here in my kitchen with the windows open, taking my time with this tea.

Yesterday I hit a panic point in my staycation. As the quarter got more and more overwhelming, I just let a lot of things go, and my apartment has been paying the price: dishes piling up, laundry all over the floor, papers scattered everywhere. It’s a parody of how a grad student lives. (Don’t look, Dad.) You know that “Clean ALL the things!” comic? That hit me around 8 o’clock last night. All of a sudden, after spending days on my couch hoping Tumblr would be more interesting with this push of the refresh button, I was clearing off countertops, loading up the dishwasher, savagely reorganizing, ready to purge and recycle and straighten up.

This happens with me. I have to go a certain amount of time and let myself get really bored and restless so I can throw myself into big projects. This one feels different, though. This one has an undercurrent of existential terror.

Continue reading “Possibly missing the point of a vacation, but there’s no time for that”

Come visit historic Pullman, Illinois!

When a friend asks if you’d like to join her on a trip to a place as steeped in history and interest as Chicago’s Pullman District, you don’t turn her down, especially not on a day as lovely as this past Sunday was. We’re both nerds and we’d both always been curious about Pullman, which was, in short, the original planned corporate community, built for employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company, about a decade after the Great Chicago Fire. The backstory is fascinating — apparently Clarence Darrow and Eugene Debs both got their starts organizing in the Pullman rail strikes of 1894 — but what you can see today is a strange little shell of what was clearly a truly impressive town once upon a time. Continue reading “Come visit historic Pullman, Illinois!”

Good morning, Saturday

"This is happening."
“This is happening.”

I don’t actually know whose idea this was. I mean, I know I mentioned watching the sun rise on the rocks when I came to Evanston for geek camp in high school, but with the momentum of the night we were having, it just sort of became this thing we were going to do.

It was raining and humid and disgusting yesterday, but it seemed natural that it was so clear and perfect, once we got there. I didn’t question it, anyway. At that point it was a little after 5, and most if not all of us were coming up on having been awake for 24 straight hours. Someone asked if we were really going to wait here an hour to watch the sun rise, but in the end it wasn’t all that that hard. Continue reading “Good morning, Saturday”