Weekday Afternoon in a Chicago Bakery and Swing Dancing on a Hill by the River

I think this part of the city is called Noble Square, but perhaps I just projected that fiction because it seemed too delightful not to be so. It is that little area on Milwaukee southeast from Wicker Park (the main hipster stretch) and before it hits River West and the west loop. I love the name “Noble Square”, as though only the most arduous truth-seekers and creators of beauty live in this one tiny square of the city.

I am at Lovely Bakery (which lives up to its name) while Fleetwood Mac plays. A young sandy blonde haired boy spins on one of the bar seats with a curious and bored look on his face. A man orders a pastry and I see only his back, clad in shades of grey from head to toe. He laughs in that verbal way “ha-ha-ha” instead of just letting his belly and breath go with it. A man with a sleeveless top and chest hair peaking above talks on the phone to a client behind the counter. The grey-clad man steps his legs into a wide V, as though to take up as much space as possible while waiting for his pastry. A woman with green pants, forrest green in fact, stands and taps her toes while waiting for the cashier to attend to her. She seems to be the young boy’s mother. The boy grabs the edge of the counter for balance as he hangs and leans his body, then resumes spinning on the bar stool chair. The chair does not seem to spin sufficiently for his standards.

Earlier, a black man came in and sat down right next to me in the tiny bit of space that remained at the edge of the bench where I sit. He reached for a phone connected to a charger and I was for a moment worried that he might be trying to steal my phone charger or phone. I know it was unfair for me to have made such an assumption, but he sat down next to me so abruptly that I could not be sure. Also, our charges looked similar and he did at first mistakenly grab mine. I was busy texting someone on my phone, so I tried to stay distracted because I was worried he would pester me since he had sat down with such brash and unexpected proximity. As he stood up, I looked up and as we met in the eyes, he said, “You’re okay?” while gesturing both hands with open palms. It struck me, but I realized that in a strange way it was an appropriate question, given my sense of alarm. I just responded, “Yes, of course.” in my usual upbeat way. He went to sit at another table, and said something about losing his socks to the man behind the cashier.

I feel I could write forever about my life right now because it all seems so fantastical and slightly ridiculous. It is strange to think that just a week ago, I felt totally lost, floundering, swimming under dirty water and struggling to reach the surface…not even sure where the surface might be. I really felt scared last week. This week I feel elated and really few things are very different except my point of view on my own situation. I believe that money is mostly a myth. It’s not really that important. Everything that I have done and valued most in my life has either not generated any income or has generated very little income, and that makes sense. Money is just the dirt on the foundation that allows a path for walking. That’s it. All of the buildings and the beautiful colors of the spirit manifest in the world flourish through freedom of expression and unburdened self-love and love for life.

Monday night I went to go see two of my dear friends, Joshua and Nicholas, perform with Woodward at the Hideout. Those two are exceptionally gifted and talented artists, and the show was a treat. My new swing dancing anthropology professor higher education advocacy friend Robert came along to the show. I had snuck in a 312 beer that Mikey Zammuto had given to Nicholas and all of us and that Nicholas had left unopened in my car. Honestly, I do not terribly care for beer but I liked that Mikey had given it to us after the Zammuto show and I did not feel like buying a beer. I put it in the giant pockets of my red coat and ordered a cup of just ice from the bar, offering in a cutely eccentric way (that I can pull off) that I “just really like chewing on ice.” At that moment, Robert appeared on my right, staring me down. I had been caught in the awkward scheming phase of my devious act and now had to just seem like a girl who really liked chewing on ice (which I do not).

The Hideout is a special venue because the stage area is separated from the bar and in the bar area there are tables for sitting and visiting. Since the doors block the noise, it is actually quiet enough to carry on a conversation, even one of depth. We talked about the novels that we attempted to write as children and our shared academic pursuits and values.

After the show, we decided to walk to the river. I had forgotten this, but the river is actually very close to the Hideout. A series of industrial landscapes and buildings block access, but we found our way onto a grassy hill.

Once we got to the grassy hill, I did not feel like I was in Chicago anymore. It felt like it can be in a dream, when walking up a staircase leads to a garden and walking through the garden leads to a hospital room. I felt like I had been walking through a crowd at a music show, through my city’s streets, and was then suddenly surrounded by this little grassy hill from my childhood. There were little flowers in the grass, perhaps just weeds, but they were tiny and delicate in that way that I would admire as a child.

We sat down for awhile, talking, and then Robert decided to teach me how to swing dance. He told me nothing, though, it was all just through movement. Well, he did tell me one thing, which was to keep my arm taught and strong by my side and to follow any movement with my body from there. We did spins, dips, and jumps! All the while, I kept laughing and talking. It was rather magical there, learning to dance on that grassy hill.

Then we kept going and eventually we could see the water but trees blocked our path to it. We found a safe clearing and suddenly…there it was. The reflections of the lights of the city twinkled in the water, waving back and fourth like starbursts in a psychic’s glass ball. It was so peaceful, though. A low-hanging tree branch swooped towards the water’s surface in gradual branchings, nearer and nearer. An airplane flew through the sky an I could see one faint star. All of this water was backset by little industrial factory towers and traffic noise. One skyscraper-style building was on the right. I could see a parking garage and the Best Buy that I always see from the highway. It made me laugh, thinking of how quintessentially “Chicago” all of this was: the industry, the water, the lights, the jazzy style of Robert’s clothes, the traffic noise, even the Best Buy…and the hidden little peak of nature.

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