This jolly fellow has found a way to safely drink outside.
This jolly fellow has found a way to safely drink outside. Credit: Zach Vessels / Unsplash

Making plans during this pandemic is akin to making plans during any cold Chicago winter: indoor stuff with a minimal amount of people is preferred (you know I don’t want to share cocoa to begin with) and outdoor stuff is not terrible if you take the proper precautions. We’re not out of the woods yet but there are some places to go if you’re feeling up to it. And in the throes of deep Chicago winter, you have time while you’re getting your 15 layers of clothing on to reflect upon the big questions. Is the limit on social gatherings truly affecting you? Or are you just mystified to find out that you only actually have three “real” friends?

All kidding aside, a spur-of-the-moment outing this week to one of the bars that built little heated huts for outdoor seating reminded me that one of the many things we’re all missing out on right now is the randomness of connection in the city. My friends and I have been excellent (by our standards) at keeping in touch over these last few months, checking in and comparing notes. What I miss is the more distant connections that are nonetheless an integral part of my Chicago experience: the concert-goers that you run into at a variety of shows (where you think “Oh it’s that guy,” and start a conversation talking about “Did you go to that thrash fest last week?” but really don’t know each other’s last names), and the people I’ve befriended at bus stops (“It’s you again!” “Yeah, I was running late yesterday.”) You can fill in your own scenarios. We all have neighborhood people, random people, downtown people, the gym crowd, the dog park people, etc. that enhance our world each day (when we’re not under quarantine) and it’s hard to think of a world limited to just the people we invited to our pod.

I’m sure I’ll see some of you out there, with distancing enforced (I’m happy to see you but honestly I prefer that you stay six feet away, Pantonedemic* or not). A tip for enjoying a bar/outdoor dining experience during this time: find places that offer individual rooms or huts or domes for just you and your pod people and that require you to go up and get food or drink rather than make the servers enter your bubble. I know, for some of you the point of going out is getting served, but none of the heroes of food and bar service want you to sneeze on them right now (or ever). Six feet! And if you have the privilege of going out during non-peak hours, it’s worth it for everyone involved. I know I just wrote about missing seeing random people out and about in a pre-COVID Chicago, but me and my three real friends are quite enough while we get this Pamplona sorted out.

*A tip of the nib to The Read for calling it “pandarama” and “Panda Express.”

Some shop talk:

  • The nonprofit arts organization Quiet Pterodactyl, which released the music compilation SituationChicago is selling a series of limited edition shirts and hoodies with logo art from closed Chicago music venues to benefit current Chicago venues as they deal with being closed for the pandemic. This month’s offerings celebrate the Double Door, and are on sale at Quiet Pterodactyl’s Threadless page until February 17.
  • Girl Scouts are selling Girl Scout cookies at the moment but you don’t have to go anywhere to support them. You can do the entire transaction online, plus they ship the cookies to you! All you have to do is find a Scout and get their personal web link so that they get the sales credit for the merit badge. If you don’t know a Girl Scout, the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana chapter has a map of “digital booths” on their website [] so you can support troops in our area directly. And they give you a digital badge when you order, which for a Brownies drop-out like me is truly a thrill.

More events coming up:

  • Sat 1/30, 8 PM: Constellation hosts an online concert by Chicago’s own Young Masters (in the direction of jazz musician, composer, and longtime band leader Ernest Dawkins).
  • Tuesdays, 8 PM: DJ Scary Lady Sarah brings her Nocturna goth, industrial, and new wave dance night to Twitch.
  • By appointment through 1/31: Experimental Sound Studio hosts “The Roedelius Cells,” an audio installation by composer Tim Story featuring music from the groundbreaking electronic musician Hans-Joachim Roedelius. Free to visit but groups will be limited to three people.