Sunday, December 22, 2013

Week 15: More Chicago

We went to our awesome new gym starting Thursday. This is XSport Fitness, with locations all over the city. It's a low-end chain gym, but so much nicer than any gym I've belonged to before. They give you towels, there's a steam room, sauna, jacuzzi, rock-climbing walls, plenty of pairs of weights the size I need them (7.5-15 pounds---I usually have to wander around the gym searching for and failing to find the pair of ten pound weights), stone-lined showers, plenty of aerobic machines, classes, and a really friendly atmosphere--like the rest of Chicago. We started to incorporate a gym routine into most of our days, helping each other off the couch. It's never easy to start a practice again after a long lapse. For me, it had been almost a year since I had a regular gym workout routine. It feels good and I'm sleeping more soundly at nights.

On Saturday, we went to a play at the Den Theatre on Milwaukee Street. The Den has several performance spaces, so when you walk in the lobby, there's different places to check in for tickets and a bar for patrons who are milling about. We went to see Marin McDonagh's "The Pillowman," which is an amazing, dark comedy. Even though the actors gave it their all, and seemed quite skilled, it lacked some direction--the comic timing was off, so the play and humor lagged, and they chose not to use Irish accents, which I think is pretty necessary for McDonagh's work. 

Sunday, it snowed in billowing clusters again, and we decided we needed a new Christmas tree, as our first one was losing all its needles. We bought a giant balsam tree, carefully chosen from a corner tree lot, helped by a slightly stoned and physically disabled young man who knew his trees. Neither one of us had ever had such a big tree, and though we'd been cranky about taking down all the ornaments off the former tree, a tree that had needles that pricked like, well, needles, we were really happy with the results of the new tree. I have a tradition of folding paper origami cranes and putting them on the tree, so I taught Larry how to do that. (Last year, our housemate was in charge of tree decorating and that was our first Christmas together.) 

We finally made a plan, scheduling out the things we must see in Chicago. It's so tempting just to rest, go to the gym, and watch movies at home. (Larry's introduced me to "Freaks and Geeks" and we're working our way through all the episodes on Netflix.) However, there's so much to see and do here! On Wednesday night, we ventured out on the "L", walking down to the California stop for the Blue Line (about a 20 minute walk), riding it downtown to the Clark/Lake stop and walking over to the Siskel Theater to see the first ever Saudia Arabian film, the delightful "Wadja." It was a sweet film and really interesting to have the introduction to such a foreign culture. 

Thursday night, we headed back to the Den, to see  The Senachai Theatre Company's production of "The Seafarer," another contemporary Irish play by an Irish theatre company: The acting was brilliant, the accents were spot on, the comic timing perfect. The play didn't seem as funny to us at it seemed to be to the rest of the audience, but that was maybe because we don't find stupid-acting drunk people that funny. Still, it was a play about redemption, and in the end, I was moved and gladdened by the play about brothers and friends-as-family. 

Friday, I went to a fancy spa to get a mani-pedi, a real luxury that got me in the holiday spirit: 

After going to the gym, we decided to have a night at home, but Saturday we were up and at 'em to head back downtown on the "L" to see Tuba Christmas, a national event where tuba players gather and play Christmas carols at different locations across the country. We went to the Parker House Hilton's Grand Ballroom, arriving about 10 minutes late to the concert/singalong. There were at least 600 seats, packed, and probably 400 or more people spilling out on the edges and in the hallways to listen to the 200 tuba players. I was moved when we started the singalong part of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." I always seem to cry when singing Christmas carols, maybe because my dad used to lead us and a whole caroling party around the neighborhood every year and he's no longer alive. It lasted about an hour. 

We then walked down downtown's state street in the rain, popping into various shops and the downtown branch of the public library, which is an awesome building. Larry spotted the building from a distance and we followed the street to solve the mystery of what could be housed in such a beautiful building. Larry especially loves libraries. All around the walls inside, there are quotes by great writers: 

Saturday night, we went to see "American Hustle" at a packed theater down the street from us. The acting was great, but we both felt the film has been over-hyped. We both loved Russel's "The Fighter" and "Silver Linings Playbook" far more than this film, and I know it won't get the awards it deserves, but "The Dallas Buyers Club" for acting, story,and filmmaking is my favorite American film this year. 

Sunday, I finally made my way back to church, finding the Orthodox Church of America near downtown. Larry dropped me off and did some shopping while I listened to a beautiful liturgy in a beautiful church. The Priest, Father John Baker, gave a lovely sermon about the majesty of humanness, and I got a real jolt of the Advent season. Much-needed. Their website has great introductory information about Orthodoxy for those who wonder. It's under "For Inquirers":

Now, the Sunday afternoon football games are on, I'm writing this blog after cooking up our lunch, and trying to get in the mood to hit a yoga class at the gym later. . . 

It was supposed to snow today, but the snow has melted in the rain, and it doesn't look good for snow for the next 10 days, so we might not get the white Christmas we hoped for. However, we are still so grateful to be in Chicago, for the spirit of friendliness, inclusion, and helpfulness we have encountered, the great public transportation, the cozy colorful house we get to watch over and live in for the month, and the little sweet dog who we've quickly bonded with.

Thanks for reading! We hope you and your families have a beautiful Christmas!

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