Searching fruitlessly for an audition companion for Chicago’s open cattle call for “The Voice” resulted in a random, pointless trip to the city anyway. I was accompanied by two friends with whom I had never spent more than a few hours. They wanted to experience the city sans Pride Parade and throngs of rainbow-clad twinks jamming up the “L” and the sidewalks. We made plans on Thursday evening and after some frantic online booking, we headed out Saturday afternoon for a Chicago getaway. On a budget.
Since it was last-minute and we didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg, I booked a private room (with a toilet, even!) in a Lincoln Park Hostel called “The Chicago Getaway”. It came complete with bunk beds, internationals and luckily, no creepy Eastern European murderers (I’m from the YOU-kraine). I didn’t know what to expect from a hostel, save for what I’d seen in movies like “Eurotrip” and the aptly named, “Hostel”, but I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived. It was very clean and teeming with young people who emitted an adventurous aura (ok, so they were all sitting at computers and shutting out the rest of us with headphones). I can imagine that in a pre-modern time a hostel would be a great social experience. Even more so if you’re brave enough to book one of the “dorm-style” rooms and get placed with randoms at arm’s length while you sleep (there were condoms in the vending machines in case “arm” isn’t the distance you wanted to maintain). This hostel was one of the only ones (self-acclaimed) to allow alcohol, and provided a nice alternative when the bars proved unsatisfactory. I’m getting ahead of myself.
After parking and walking several blocks in the freezing wind, we reached our hostel and cursed ourselves for not being more prepared for the weather. We checked in, dropped our stuff in the room and headed right back out again to secure some food and drinks. We figured, being next to Boystown, it should be no problem finding a surplus of fun, divey bars. We were wrong. There were definitely bars, but more than one of them had a giant group of men entering them, chanting something in unison. Quite frankly, I’m leery of men with group-mentality (see: Frat Guys and Military). We traipsed all over Lincoln Park, stopping at bar after bar, including one with an Irish bartender and another that was only suggested to us because of our physical appearances (it was called “Delilah’s”…). By around midnight, we had exhausted ourselves and our patience. We decided to give up, go to a liquor store and head back to the common area of the hostel.
Finding no liquor store, we tried a CVS that boasted “open late” in neon. Upon entering, the lady behind the register yelled, “THREE MINUTES! WE CLOSE IN THREE MINUTES!”. We ran to the liquor aisle, grabbing the first vodka we found and made a mad dash for the Solo cups and any sort of mixer. We scrambled to the cash register where we were rushed to the point of being flustered. The Russian (rushin’) lady kept yelling that we had only “ONE MINUTE TO BUY BOOZE! YOU HURRY NOW! CASH REGISTER STOP AUTOMATICALLY!” (Imagine the voice of Natasha from Bullwinkle and the face of your scary great-aunt.) In retrospect, she may have been the Eastern European I was fearing. Hostel strikes again!
Booze in shaking hands, we were shoved out of the convenience store and made our way back to the hostel. We collectively decided that wearing real pants was only necessary if you were really out, so we retired to the tiny room to try our hand at contortions, emerging somewhat intact and in sweatpants. Having vetoed shoes as well, the three of us padded into the common area in our socks and “jammy pants” and hoped to meet some interesting people.
Thankfully, after listening to the skinniest kid I’ve ever seen talk to a middle-aged man about the wonders of “big buildings” when you’re from a “really rural area”, we were treated to a mustached vision in acid-washed jeans. I can’t remember his name because I didn’t really listen when he told me, but I will refer to him as “Kentucky Hipster”. We offered him two beers that had been given to us and subsequently cast aside because of their IPA status (ick), he drawled what resembled a “thank you” and said he’d give them to his two friends. Once “90s Dave Grohl” and “Mustache Moby” entered, I knew we had made the right decision to retire to the hostel common area. It seems the trio had traveled from Kentucky to see a puppet show that was only playing that weekend. They were so passionate about the show, that when told it was sold out, they sent emails begging for seats and pleading the “but we drove all this way” case. It worked. They played us clips of the show online and it did seem pretty interesting. Somehow, in our conversation and shared liquor, the subject of a nearby “Super Mario Bros. Burlesque Show” came up, which resulted in more Youtube videos and of course, more giggling.
“Kentucky Hipster” refused to acknowledge that he was, indeed, a hipster. His mustache, vintage SF 49ers Football jacket and acid-washed jeans begged to differ. They were all very nice and very entertaining while helping me scold the younger two of my group for not enjoying 90s music. Eventually, their stomachs caught up to them and our trio of weirdos had to leave us to find some food. They were quickly replaced by what I assumed to be a gay couple, who were also wearing PJ pants. We drank more, started a rousing game of dominoes and discovered that they were both straight. One of them even had a “girlfriend” sleeping in their room to prove it. I’m still on the fence about them. They were very nice and fun, but they were from a city not too far from GR so I was a little disappointed when the night wound down and we went to bed without meeting any eccentric foreigners.
After climbing into my top-bunk bed and narrowly escaping the murderous ceiling fan, we went to sleep and dreamt of the shopping day that would follow.