Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Ninja Wedding and Afterparty

As we piled into the car it was still cloudy, but there was no rain. As we drove down, the same. When we got to the point, the weather co-operated, but if you live in Chicago you know everything is “cooler near the lake” and today that meant a gale-force wind and a ten-degree temperature difference. This would have been fine except that I was wearing a skimpy little sundress and not much else, leaving me covered in goose bumps, with nipples so cold they could cut glass, and tears in my eyesnot so much from the wedding as from the wind whipping across my eyeballs. These are the things you endure to be the best girl-in-waiting,  or whatever my particular honor was. Mostly I was the person that set it all in motion.

At the park we met the Priest, who greeted the party announcing only one caveat to the ceremony. The Priest lived in the area so he was very familiar with the park. Perhaps, overly familiar.

“The only thing I ask,” he said as we prepared for the wed-n-dash, “is that we have to find a place where I have not had sex to do the ceremony.” The second was, “Okay, I may not have noticed this before, but I just have to ask, have your breasts always been that amazing?” This was to the Bride, who was quite happy to admit that her breasts had indeed always been so fantastic.

“Well done, son,” the Priest said to the Groom, who could only smile like a kid who was about to rob the candy store and get to keep everything he took.

And with that we were off hunting for an edge of park that did not bring back joyfully debauched memories of the Priest. Along the  way we took some pictures of our ninja antics to illustrate the wedding. All of us were in running shoes, ready to dash out of the park at the first hint of trouble.

We managed to find a nice spot with the city in the background, and the ceremony was just absolutely gorgeous, if cold and windy. Young Kubrick, acting in role of photo hero, took the amazing pictures. Beautiful rings were exchanged along with beautiful words, and everything went as smoothly as you could want a ninja wedding to go. As it ended we packed up quickly and did indeed dash off, back to awaiting chariots and the seafood feast prepared to warm our cold bones.

The dinner was perfect, with mountains of shrimp and crab to gorge ourselves on. We had plenty of wine too. Eventually it came time to give presents to the Priest, and this was where the happy couple had really outdone themselves. The Bard had called me early in the week for some ideas about the most appropriate gift, which interestingly enough reminded me of a little shop not far from where she used to live.

“They have all sorts of things. Imports. Tribal goods, lots of interesting stuff. If they are still open that would be the place to go.”

The Bard went on a store hunt and sure enough, not only was the store still there but it had the perfect gift for the Priest. What she found was a hand-carved walking staff with tribal embellishments and paintings made out of the most sumptuous-feeling wood.

As it was presented the Priest smiled and his eyes twinkled with a wicked light as he thought of all the ways in which this gift was most appropriate. After that the party wound down into looking at wedding pictures, spending time alone in bedrooms and general mellowing with bellies full of seafood. As the night grew longer I began to pine for my own Boy, and before the evening was out I'd called him and arranged for a pick-up in Chicago. I fell asleep happily in his warm arms, preparing once again for the long wash of leaving, packing, and rushing about that embodies a great deal of time between places.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What is a Ninja Wedding?

Almost a year ago (but not quite a year ago) I had met the Electrician, whoamong other misguided adventureshelped me to appreciate electricity and enjoy my first time shopping at IML. Good times were had all in all. Despite some fits and stops I had really wanted to at some point introduce him to the Bard. While they had met several times before, it had always been distracted meetings, thwarting my plans to get them to really TALK to each other. Then, I had a bit of a going-away again party last July and finally the pair was able to really meet. (Meet and stay up all night talking after I'd passed out on the couch.)

I left the next morning, and they went on a date the next weekend, which started on a Friday and ended sometime around the following Friday. (Not quite that long but you get the idea.) They had been damn near inseparable ever since. One night in Korea, during an evening chat with the Bard and the Electriciansince I spend way too much time online and on messengerthey both (at roughly the same time) indicated they had something to tell me. There was a bit of hemming and hawing until the great reveal.

“Wer'e getting married,” said the Bard.

“Excellent.”

“But you have to be here. So come home,” said the Electrician.

This started the months-long debate of how to schedule a trip in a way that would accommodate a wedding. Originally the plan was for me to go home in April, but things changed with the book fair (business flights rule!), leading a change in plans to a May wedding. This gave all the parties plenty of time to file paperwork and make plans. Once plans were made, I headed up to Chicago on a Friday where the Bard and I went shopping for something for me to wear at the weddingsince a black dress didn’t seem right, and given that she would be wearing a dress it seemed inappropriate for me to wear jeans.

We spent about an hour and a half putting me in outfits before she finally settled on a cute little pink-and-yellow sundress, which went perfectly with my Doc Martin boots. I got stockingsthis time stockings that would not fail when put to the use that the gods intendedand a small thin cover up, being May and all in Chicago.

That night we had a nice dinner, laughed, talked about the drama I had left behind me in Korea (between the soon-to-be Ex and the Irish), and had some nice wine before passing out in preparation for the big event the next day. The company included medriving down with the happy couple and the best manone photographer, and the Priest.

The Priest was a friend of all of us and a member of the local club. He was certainly not your run-of-the-mill priest, being both well-educated, extremely broad-minded, and absolutely willing to defend the variety of life choices against the often ridiculous imposed bigotry of small-minded biblical interpretations. My contribution for the Priest was helping the Bard find the most perfect wedding gift for him as part of the payment for the services. On a chat preparing for the wedding, she had mentioned she needed something, and I knew just the place. More on that later.

When we got up that morning, we also needed to prepare the house a bit for the guests to return and eat. The Chef and her fiancé helped with that. The Chef would be cooking a low-country boiled seafood feast for us to enjoy after the ceremony. The wedding party was quite small because, as we had learned, it was going to have to be a ninja wedding.

Chicago has a lot of beautiful parks, and while they are nice, they also like to have people pay money to use them for things like a marriage. Now, the park we were going to for the ceremony was in the beautiful  Hyde Park neighborhood. Promitory Point overlooked the city and the lake. It was gorgeous, green, growing, and a great place for a wedding. In fact, it was so great that the city of Chicago charged a mere $4,000 to hold a ceremony there. Somehow it seemed pretty certain that was not going to work out. The plan that was hatched was to sneak in, perform the ceremony, and be in the cars on our way back out before anyone handed us a bill for four grand. Good plan.

The Bard and I worked to get the table for four ready to accommodate a party for eight plus, which included strapping a board to the table shibari style and adding weights to keep it from toppling over. Once the table was secured using our ninja-shibari rope skills we all got dressed up and ready to go. The only concernaside from getting in and out of the park before being discoveredwas that the weather would hold off on raining. So far it was a cloudy morning but now there was rain.

Monday, May 07, 2012

And An Alumni Dinner

After the bookfair was over, I had a little time to myself in Chicago. Very little, because I was cramming in a trip to the east coast, a Shimer dinner, and a Ninja Wedding (in roughly that order). So it was busy. The east coast trip was probably the easiest as it involved flying in, staying a night, and flying out. Things went smoothly and as expected. The most alarming part of the three events was the landing from the east coast, catching a cab, and going straight to the Shimer Alumni dinner.

It has been noted that I seem to fly in special for Shimer events, and that ends up being partially true. I couldn't help being there for Shimer things. The Boy was very attached to Shimer, I was very attached to the Boy, and when you had an invitation to an Alumni dinner coming up it seemed like the only thing you could do was say “Of course I want to go.”

The big thing was the planning, as my flight was set to land around 5:30 and the dinner started around 6:30. Figuring out how to get from the airport to the dinner was going to be the trick. My attitude was that it would be easiest to take a cab. The Boy wanted to give me a ride. We negotiated for a while and finally decided that it would be easiest for me to take a cab there and meet the Boy, who would then have time to attend Shimer graduation before the dinner.

This left me standing in an airport in Philly getting ready for a semi-fancy dinner. At least I wanted it to be semi-fancy. I had a nice black dress that I decided to bring with me. What I did not have were shoes. I did not have shoes, I did not have any accessories, and I did not have stockings. I had hoped to accomplish most, if not all, of these things from the road. However standing in an airport in Philly was the worst time to try to figure out how you are going to accessorize and be all fancy pants.

This ended badly, as it would have to, with me in a second-rate airport jewelry shop getting earnings, a bracelet, a necklace I would only wear once, some sandals (because I needed something, anything to wear with the dress), and in desperation some stockings. Everything ended up working our pretty wellexcept for the stockings, which shredded upon contact with the toes. I keep my toenails trim and I slid the damn things on properly so I knew that the problem was with the stockings. Why is it that they made these things, these entirely unnecessary nylons, out of material so cheap and so flimsy that they could not actually withstand being put to the use for which they were created? I was annoyed and frustrated, but in the end decided it was not a big deal as I didn’t really need them, and the sandals were fine.

Aside from a few stares on my way onto the plane for having unshaven legs (the horror), the flight was fairly unremarkable. The unshaven leg thing just amused me. I’d been trying to grow a proper combover on my legs for years, although the reality was my calves were so muscular that very little hair grew there anyway. But, that would never stop someone, somewhere, for thinking I could get it together a little bit more.

I landed at the airport feeling all fancy pants (except for my backpack), grabbed a cab, and headed toward the address for the Shimer Shindig, which was being held in some gallery on the north side of town. The place was fancy and I was glad I’d taken a little time to dress up. However, as I walked in I saw old-school Shimer graduate number one, from the 60’s era, outside, strumming on his guitar with the younger students crowded around listening. He wore a vest and old khakis, with his grey hair long and dangling down his back in a loose ponytail. It was perfect. It was Shimer.

One thing I have noted about Shimer is that no matter where we go, be it new campuses or fancy-pants galleries for dinners, we maintained a sense of who we are. I wasn’t the only person sporting piercings, nor was I the only once fancily dressed, but there were enough jeans, T-shirts, unwashed dyed hair, and random eclectic characters around to make it comfortable. To make it home. To make it Shimer.

I managed to meet the Boy when he finally found a place to park, and he hemmed and hawed a bit about being underdressed, which was silly. We found a nice table to sit at and I appreciated that he was treated a bit like Shimer royalty, being almost single-handedly responsible for rousing the rabble during the Civil War, and having since taken it upon himself to work, advertise, promote, and spread the word about the beauty of our little school. Dinner consisted of tasty food and wine, and listening to excellent, very Shimer speeches. The new presidenta real firebrandwas introduced to the Alumni to much appreciation. Alumni awards were passed out, hands were shaken, and old professors were greeted. There was love, Shimer love, and great conversation. It was everything you would expect a Shimer dinner to be, and I was quite glad I had a chance to go during my all-too-brief time in the U.S.

After that, the only thing left to conquer was the Ninja Wedding.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Books and Food

To my surprise I was successfully able to crash the book fair with my bootleg pass. This amused me to think that I was in Chicago, crashing a book fair, and it was totally worth itsince we had already invested a lot into getting there. It didn’t seem to bother anyone else there, so I was happy to go with it. My only concern was to not get arrested and that seemed to be happening, so I was happy to go with it.

The book fair was massive. In fact, it was so massive that it filled all of McCormick Place pretty easily, which was a surprise to me. While the show was there to fill the hall, in reality the part I was most interested in was the exhibition hall where things were being sold. The vendors were the people I needed to meet, explore, and talk to, and that was where I needed to be. Partly because I needed to do market research and see what was out there and partly because I needed to meet the movers and shakers and talk with them about products.

And that is what we did. For the next two days it was all running around and meeting vendors and pitching wares, and taking pictures of things that I needed to remember for later.

It was work. The work part went well.

The fun was afterward, having my business partner in the city of Chicago. My city, my home, so happy. We discussed during our running about the possibility of dinner to which I just had to recommend that we go and eat out because Chicago was a great place for going and eating out. The first night after the conference we hit a really nice little Italian place that was down Jackson just in front of DePaul. The food was brilliant and I’d learned a lot about ordering things to suit my diet and make myself happy since I had been there last. We had wine, discussed the business, and I took the trains home.

It was agreed that food in Chicago was good. The next night we hit the same place again, (with food as good as the first night), and the last night we took a trip over to Tavern on the Green, across from Millennium Park to indulge our food cravings further. I’d taken him to a couple of other places, but since he never really left the downtown area I did not have as much of an opportunity as I would have liked to really show him the taste of Chicago. As it were, where we went sufficed.

With the book show completed, our missions accomplished, talking done, minimal interest in projects shown, and a few leads obtained, we were good to go, with him heading back to Korea, and me finishing my wind-down in the U.S.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

May Adventures in Booklands

May in Chicago. Was there a better time of year to be in Chicago? What brought me to Chicagoaside from the desperate need to see my love—was,  in short order, a book fair, a visit, a dinner, and a wedding party. In short, I had roughly 15 days left in the country, and most of them were going to be taken up with being too busy to think, which was about par for the course with the way I did things these days.

The book fair I was visiting was roughly six weeks before the larger UN summit that would take place in Chicago. The fair was huge with something like 12,000 attendees and they took over the conference center for a few days. It was also freaking expensive. The entrance fee was pretty steep and both my business partner and I were worried about the expenses. He called when he landed and we went out to have lunch and discuss the fair. He asked if I wanted to go out to the conference center that day, but it was two days before the fair and I knew everything would be closed down, Chicago style. There was no way anyone was going to get onto the exhibit floor until the show started.

"I'm going to try anyway, and I'll get us preregistered."

"I'm telling you, it's Chicago. There is nothing by the conference center to eat or drink, you probably want to bring a lunch, and really, there is no way you are getting in early."

"I'll give it a try."

I shrugged and went home. Chicago, how I love you. How beautiful you are in the spring, how lush and green and temperate. Perfect, beautiful blissed-out Chicago. I rode trains and cars in and out of the city, going back and forth between home and friends and generally being content with the situation as it stood. Remembering what it was like to commute in the city for a few days gave me both amusing nostalgia and random silliness.

The next day I got up bright and early to catch the 6:48 train to the city and commute along with the other commuters heading in for the day. I found a nice seat on the train and enjoyed a book and computing on the way. I missed my Korean smartphone for it's amazing ability to keep me online, but even my poorly functioning American phone at the time was better than nothing, and I was still able to occasionally hot-spot the phone, though the ability was quickly fading.

I met my business partner at his hotel which overlooked Grant Park. I brought coffee and we run into an older gentleman who spotted our bags and asked us if we were also going to the book fair. It turned out he was a writer and there to promote his book on visual thinking. His theories were absolutely fascinating to me so I made sure to get a copy of his book so I could explore it more. He had worked mostly with deaf and blind students. He felt this was the segment of the needs-based population that was at greatest risk of being left behind. His manner of speaking was engaging and he was so passionate about what he discussed that I couldn't help but to want to agree with almost everything he said.

His primary argument was about multiple-intelligence theory. He was down on Gardner in a big way.

"Sure, this whole multiple-intelligence thing is a big thing, but how many people do you know who are really verbal learners? Everyone says that cause it seems like the politically correct thing to do, but really, everyone is visual. We are all visual learners and that is the most powerful form of learning. And it's not an intelligence, it's how your brain is wired."

As an example he asked us to think about a word. "Think about anything, think about an animal. An elephant. What is the first thing that happens in your mind? Did you see the word "elephant" or did you have a bit of a mental image of an elephant? You see, the brain works on images more than on lexis and that is something we can use."

He went on. It fascinated me. I bought his book.

On the bus I was given my conference badge.

"So, remember how I went out early to register us?" asked my business partner.

"Yes?"

"Well I registered me."

"Right."

"And I was getting ready to register you, and when I went up and everything, well they handed me this extra badge. So, you know, I thought maybe you could take this one, and we could save ourselves the conference fees or something."

It was all spilling out very quickly but what it boiled down to was I was about to make an attempt to crash the biggest book fair in North America that year. The good girl in me thought that perhaps I should reconsider. The rest of me thought fair game.

"If I get arrested I'm taking you down with me," was all I could think to respond.

It would be a gamble and we agreed that I would at least pick up the forms and we would feel it out to see if it was possible for me to get in, but the backup plan would be to register ASAP if there was some kind of problem.

And with that, we adjusted our bags, put on our badges and took the escalator up to the conference floor.