In the past couple of weeks I’ve had several self-congratulatory conversations with other Chicagoans about how we really appreciate summer, unlike the wimps who live in mild climes and take the sun for granted. It’s true that summer here is generally more fun than summer anywhere else I’ve been, but to be honest, sometimes it can be more boring than winter.
Take last week, for example. By the time Sunday night rolled around nothing had happened for days–nothing worth writing about, at least. Looking for some action, I grabbed my friend Randall and went to Bridgeport, where some people I know (and some I don’t) try to outdo one another every weekend at a competitive potluck. Dishes are made from scratch with ingredients that are sometimes pulled from Dumpsters.
The winner for the week gets to wear a satin sash with geometric designs on it. Sometimes the cuisine gets nutty, like Rat Beef (grocery store meat loaf with Slim Jims sticking out of it, strung up with dental floss decorated with dyed flowers), or cute, such as America vs. Middle East Pizza (a cheese pie topped with White Castle sliders and random scraps of meat on one side and vegetables on the other, and decorated with photos of flags and soldiers clipped from magazines and mounted on toothpicks), or latchkey-esque, such as Ants on a Log (celery sticks slathered with peanut butter and dotted with raisins). And there’s always something with curry in it–last weekend it was mashed potatoes.
No one made anything too wild that night, unless you count my fancy organic salad–white beans, arugula, basil, scallions, and janky wheat-free croutons made from rice cakes and topped with olive tapenade–a dish whose uppityness made it completely out of place. To my horror, I saw someone scrape those gorgeous green leaves off her plate and plunk them back into the serving bowl. Anything baked with cheese seemed to get the most yums.
A handful of us hung out on the rooftop patio getting tipsy off a buffet of malt beverages: Tequiza, Zima, and a party pack of Smirnoff coolers (Green Apple, Black Cherry, the totally delicious Wild Grape, and the inexplicably named Triple Black, which is lime). I didn’t feel like waiting around to see who won the cook-off, so I went to the Empty Bottle just in time to see Juiceboxxx, the Milwaukee teenage rap sensation, drinking nonalcoholic beer and pumping his fists to an audience of perhaps 20.
Party music just doesn’t have the same appeal in a nonparty context, and I was getting restless. A little after midnight I left the show with Randall and went banging on the front door of Andrea Bauer, photographer.
We were so bored we’d do anything, so when Andrea suggested we dump Slurpees on cars, we were pumped. We loaded up at 7-Eleven with a round of 44-ounce Super Big Gulps, several flavors layered parfait-style in each cup, and started looking for an overpass. We drove around, picked up our friend Dave, and burned gas like teenagers. After Andrea’s boyfriend scolded her on the phone regarding the dangers of dropping things onto vehicles, I suggested we go pool hopping.
Andrea said she knew about some quaint little part of town where there were a bunch of big houses by the river. She’d never actually seen a pool there, but rich people have them, right? We drove till we got to Ravenswood Manor, a twinkly village of adorable, heartbreakingly unattainable houses on the northwest side where gorgeous front lawns birth perfect flower gardens designed to look like miniature patches of wild prairie. We parked and walked along the bridge over the river on Wilson, looking for low-stakes trouble. We wanted something to throw into the water and found a life preserver stored in a broken safety box on the side of the road. We took it out, threw it over the edge, and pulled it back up by its rope. Then we threw it down again. This is what happens when the temperature’s in the 80s and there’s nothing going on: you remember that being a teenager with nothing to do wasn’t so bad.
We started our pool search in earnest, peering through slats of tall wooden fences, eyes peeled and ears perked for such telltale clues as a dreamy, flickering blue-green light or the faint hum of an external filter. We walked up about a dozen driveways and marched into backyards, only to trigger motion-sensor lights. After about half an hour of creeping around we were still dry, so we got back in the car. Dave said he used to live in an apartment not too far away, where his next-door neighbors had a sweet pool.
We found the mansion near Clark and Wilson, guarded by a wrought iron fence. We tried unlatching one side of the fence, which wouldn’t budge. But the front gate swung right open. We snuck to the side of the house, and through a giant trellis we could see the glorious sparkling water in a half inground, half aboveground pool, complete with a beach ball and other floaty things. A stone path led us right there.
I was getting mad because the guys couldn’t take their clothes off fast enough. “C’mon!” I kept hissing. “Hurry up!” Once all of us, minus Andrea, who didn’t want to get her camera wet, were starkers, we ran up the wooden deck and jumped in.
The water was on the cool side of room temperature and felt so good. We surfaced and laughed like loons, splashing around for maybe one minute before we figured we should get the hell out of there. We scampered across the deck and gathered up our belongings as fast as we could, then streaked down the front lawn and down the street to the car, opened the doors, and dripped on the seats, laughing deliriously, finally no longer bored.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Liz Armstrong.