This place is great.
I’m in Chicago for the PItchfork Festival (and blogging about it here.
I’m currently at Lovely – A Bakeshop. I’m eating a buttermilk raisin scone (Not sane, right?) and drinking a frothy mochacinno. This place has just about everything I look for in a coffee shop: a great variety of seating, plenty of space, friendly service, interesting decor, just a touch of food, good location (it’s about 4 doors down from where we’re staying), and good music (currently a lite mix of the happier side of mid-80s synth-pop).
And now here’s the story of why I’m an idiot and Yelp is sometimes no help at all.
I looked-up nearby coffee places on Yelp last night (on the iphone) and it directed me to the Ark, just 4 blocks away. So, this morning I got up, showered, made a plan with Accacia, and hit the street. I stopped at a bank first, and then proceeded to not turn on Division like I was supposed to. I don’t remember what deep thoughts had me so distracted, but I just kept marching down Milwaukee, and didn’t realize it until I’d gone about 4 blocks and started wondering where the Ark was. Urgh.
So, I took a corner through some apartment complexes, and walked up 3 blocks to the corner of Division and Noble, only to discover that the Ark is closed. Paper over the windows, with the word “closed” spray-painted on the front door. Ya gotta be kidding me, right?
Okay, so I google coffee and discover a Starbucks a couple blocks past the apartment on Division. Okay, that’s a sure thing, at least. But what’s Lovely? I’ll be it’s closed. Reverse path, back through the apartments, up Milwaukee and lo and behold Lovely does exist. It’s big, and beautiful, and just about 40 steps from where I started this little Saturday-morning odyssey.
At least I’m happy to be here. It feels like I earned it.
I love having a conveniant little 12-inch laptop. It sure makes ass-long bus-rides more tolerable.
I didn’t write yesterday because there was no time and I had no energy. I got up in the morning and went to the Bobtail, a cute ice cream/coffee shop in Mike’s neighborhood, East Lakeview. I sat down and read a bit from Start Making Sense, a really moving speech by Barack Obama that’ll part of will definitely be in Tomorrow is the Question. Then I just did some writing, taking notes and brainstorming about what’s next. I wanna get more into the Hip Hop Theatre thing, support the movement. As Mike put it today, it’s quite possible that hip hop could turn into a revolutionary movement. That’s certainly the direction it’s headed in the rest of the world. I wanna be a part of that. So, I had some ideas, I have some work to do.
Then I went back to Mike’s and we got ready to head downtown for the panel. I will detail the panel extensively elsewhere, but suffice to say, it may end up being life-changing. It was really phenomenal. Open, passionate discussion about changing the world. While the rest of theatre world either ignores each other completely, or expends tons of energy trying identify degrees of censorship, these people are trying to do something that matters. It’s all about making something out of nothing, and that’s my speciality. So … it was great.
Afterwards, I spoke to Jeff Chang, who wrote Can’t Stop Won’t Stop which is, I repeat, ESSENTIAL READING. He was really cool. We talked about what I’ve been up, what Sean’s doing, what we’re doing together. I even gave him a copy of Sean’s DVD. Then, I got geeky and asked him to sign my book. He was really, really cool and friendly. He even told me to get in touch when Sean and I make it to the Bay Area. In my book, he wrote “Matt – Thanks for your support, and your work. Keep rockin, keep writin. J. Chang, MCA, Chicago” Yeah, I’ve totally looked at it like 20 times. It’s great. I love that book so much, and now it’s even more special.
So, then I approached Danny Hoch, who was also very cool. We chatted a little more about what Hip Hop Theatre is (“By, for, about” was his mantra, echoing W.E.B. DuBois) and then I told him about Sean and pushed a DVD off on him. He was very cool about it, and then I was psyched to tell Sean the good news.
I keep thinking about how potent it would be to combine hip hop and ViewPoints. Maybe it’s just a case of me trying to shove my peanut butter and chocolate together, but I really think it could work. There’s a real connection in that they’re both potent methods of creating vital forms. That’s the whole point. I think there’s an essay to be written about how the tenants of the hip-hop aesthetic match-up with Anne’s 7 Needs. Bamuthi sparked it off talking about Ritual, and he’s right on. They’re different rituals, it’s a different kind of participation. That’s one really good example, actually. Call & response is one tenant of the hip-hop aesthetic. That directly address the issue of participation. I believe that there are other tenants that will match-up precisely. Heck, I think magic is in both lists. Wow. When will I have time to write that?
Meanwhile, I have 25 days until my show opens in Cincinnati. Fewer till it “opens” here. Geez. That’s more than a little scary to me. I mean, I know it will be great and all, but it’s a lot of work, not much time, and there’s A LOT I don’t know yet. Maybe I should work on my lines now or something.
Well, here’s a preview of what might be ahead. I asked myself this question, and almost asked it of Danny Hoch. If I had a show about revolution, consumer culture, media cosoladation, celebrity emulation, and shitty jobs, and I quoted Mos Def, Kewil, PE, and Gil Scot-Heron, and used music by people like DJ Shadow – would it be hip-hop theatre? Sure sounds like it.
So, that’s the view from Michael’s apartment, looking out on Surf.
Somehow I managed to wake-up at about 7:30am this morning. Woah. I’m guessing it was all the light pouring into the room, maybe Michael shut the door and woke me up, maybe it was the cat. I don’t know, but it was unexpected, and I’d never have guessed it was so early, because I felt well-rested. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that Michael generously insisted I take his bed for the night while he slept on the futon. I hope he slept okay.
I went to sleep imagining my first solo hip-hop piece. What would I talk about? It’s easy to imagine me doing some sort of lame, navel-gazing, “let’s talk about Hip Hop Theatre” hip hop theatre piece. But, one of the messages of the movement is that we need to grab the mic ourselves and talk about the world, dialogue throught he art. “We do not live for hip hop [theatre], it lives for us.” It was fun to imagine. Acacia said she thought Bamuthi and I would get long really well if we became friends. I imagined that too. It’s fun to imagine being part of a tight community like that. And I do feel like I could bring something to them. Somewhere between the SITI Company and Will Power is a place I think Bamuthi and I could sit together very comfortably. Anyway, that’s all late-night day-dreaming for the moment. I have a few other things to tend to first.
So … I called Acaica and then spent some time getting ready for the day. I looked at my map book and got an idea of where I could likely find a decent coffee shop (DePaul) and some fruit. I tried to figure out how to kill the day. A whole day, trying not to spend money, in a big, big city. So, I think I may head to Lincoln Park from here, walk around, talk some pictures with my phone, maybe visit the Chicago Historical Society.
“Here” is the Savor the Flavor coffee house at 2545 Sheffield. It’s a nice little place with good coffee and a kind girl behind the counter. It’s right by the corner of a busy intersection, so there are interesting people walking by and I have a nice view of a park outside. Of course I didn’t even enter without knowing that they had free wireless. I was SHOCKED by the lack of WiFi at the Corner Bakery yesterday. Maybe they are trying to prevent people for sitting around their place for 3 hours, like I’ve done here. Who knows. Anyway…
I got right to work writing about the show last night. Once again, that’s here. It was a great night at the theatre and reason enough to come to Chicago. The energy in the room, even before the show started, was inspiring, revolutionary. It feels good to be among that crowd. I used to feel that way in Louisville, at Humana every year, but that feeling has faded a bit. The crowd last night was so young, so hip, so energetic. They’re just the type of people we’ve been trying to get in the theatre. And maybe that’s the key. I really believe that those people would respond to things I’m trying to explore in the theatre. Maybe adding a little more of the hip hop culture I cherish would bring some more people in the door. It feels like crass marketing when I put it that way, and maybe to some extent that’s what it is. Or, maybe it’s about learning new ways to communicate. But, then there’s that whole credibility issue. The race issue. I admit, I worry about trying to do hip-hop theatre as a white guy. A white guy from Ohio. It’s a legitimate issue. But, I hope I have more to talk about than that.
Imagine a more hip-hop influenced Pursuit of Happines. I quoted Kweli and Mos Def in it a lot. What if it had more beats, a more HH aesthetic. The end is pretty much Hip Hop Activism as it is. It certainly has that feel. But how much is the race/class/credibility/identity issue important? Certainly POH doesn’t feel like hip-hop with Geoff, Tara, Liz, Acacia, and Brant performing it. Of all of them, only Acacia really knows much about it. Well, Liz’s brother apparently knows a lot about it, but Liz doesn’t exactly exude rhythm and rhyme. Do I have more hip-hop to offer? What does that even MEAN? Ugh.
Maybe the hip-hop part of The Absurdity of Writing Poetry is an experiment, to see if I can pull it off. To see how it feels. To see if it connects. I’ll have to think more on this.
But then, what does this all have to do Al[t] and Ian and Acacia and Dave and Michelle? Who knows. My head hurts. I need to eat some lunch.
Does Chicago feel like home? Well, it certainly feels good. When I went to Millenium Park yesterday, I definitely loved the idea that if I lived in Chicago, that would be a place I could visit with frequency. Couple hours to kill? Go sit by the Frank Gehry band-shell. Nothin to do, visit any one of the 552 parks in town. How many coffee shops are in this 5 block radius? How many different Universities and Colleges are here? How many internationally important theatres are here? That’s what’s exciting about it. I wouldn’t have to take a 7 hour bus-ride to go to someplace culturally complex and intellectually challenging. In Columbus, you really have to work hard to find cultural/intellectual challenges, and you HAVE to go to the Wexner Center. In Chi-town, it’s here for the taking.
Well, that’s what I’m thinking now. The bubble hasn’t burst. I haven’t read any crime statistics or thoroughly explored the price of rent. Maybe I’ll do a little of that today. There are certainly people around I could ask. I need to find a Reader.
Reading over what I wrote above, I realize these are good questions to explore (possibly) in the discussion with Jeff Chang, Danny Hoch, and Angela Zone. What IS the hip-hop aesthetic. How does one become a part of the culture? And what are the issues surrounding autheticity?
Okay, I’m hungry, and as it turns out, the espresso here is pretty strong.
I’m in pain. My back hurts from carrying my bag around all day today and yesterday, and from hunching over my computer too much. I meant to go back to Mike’s place and dump my stuff, but that didn’t happen. I just walked, walked and walked. All the way from Mike’s place in East Lakeview, to DePaul, down Lincoln Park to the Park and the zoo, then down Clark and Dearborn till I hit Chestnut, then over to the Water Tower. Here’s my view as I write.
So, I had fun this afternoon, but now I’m just totally beat. I can’t believe how much the walking (and carrying) has tired me out. Until I sat down here, I really thought I would collapse. But a little water and coffee later and I’m feeling much better. Hey, here’s a picture from the zoo.
That’s a chimpanzee, if you can’t tell.
So, as I walked around today, after browsing apartment classifieds in the Reader, I was thinking about how Acacia and I might manage to live here, as far as financially. It’s some pretty scary stuff. I think we’ll do fine, but the necessity of living on a tight budget becomes much more of an imperative. That’s not exactly one of our strong-suits right now, and we’re negatively co-dependent when it comes to that. So … discipline, restraint. Maybe fewer $5 coffee-shop trips each week. Fewer iTunes purchases. Fewer vacations to Paris. Hey, wait.
And then what about theatre. I’ll really be starting from scratch when we get here. In a way, it’s an opportunity. We’ll be whatever we say we are. We can have open auditions and just see who’s around. I’m looking forward to the response to our first open call, actually having some people show up who we didn’t call or email personally. But, at them same time, we’ll have no connections, very little knowledge about who, what, where, etc., etc. It’s not a big, scary city. But it’s a big city. So … I guess what I’m saying is that our greater opportunities will, at first, go head-to-head with our lack of knowledge and resources, but the avilablity of resources makes that a little less scary.
Boy, I am tired. I’m gonna stop blathering for a little bit.
I’m fucking tired. We’re back at Michael’s place on Surf.
I had a nice afternoon, ate a lite lunch at a Corner Bakery, took my coffee to Millenium park and hung out a bit, reading the newspapers and using the phone to send pictures to Acacia to make her jealous. Let’s see. Do I have the wherewithal to get those pix together for posting. Let’s try it.
Hey, that worked. Let’s try a couple more. These are the ones I sent to Acacia.
Wow. I’m impressed with my myself.
So, we had a good dinner at Timothy O’Toole’s. I had fish n’ chips, Mike had mahi mahi. Then we made our way to the theatre.
The show was great. As I said, I will document it here. Afterwards, Mike and I hung out a bit and talked to Bamuthi. It was funny, actually, he totally recognized me and gave me a big hug. I was like, “Hey, I saw you in Columbus a few weeks ago,” he says, “I know I recognize you from your MySpace profile!” So, I have officially ceased complaining about how dumb MySpace is. Then we talked a bit about his aproach to the physical and textual work, and about Hip Hop Theatre and it’s unique relationship to certain rituals in the theatre, as opposed to others. Interesting. Definitely something to spend a few days thinking about. Unfortunately, Bamuthi is leaving in the morning and won’t be around for the talk on Saturday. Which, by the way, I forgot to mention above the talk on Saturday afternoon, which features Jeff Chang, the author of the ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL (for anyone who wishes to understand the times in which we live) Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.
Well, anyway. Mike’s doing homework and I’ve got a few emails to send out, so I’m gonna hit the sack. I will write about the shows tomorrow at a cafe or something. Then I gotta find something to do in Chicago. What a burden.
Guess what. Now blogging Chicago here.