Out of the Loop (Chicago: Day Two)

Waking up on the top bunk of a rickety bunk bed is an interesting experience. While sleeping, I tend to forget about my surroundings and focus on, well, sleep. I was vaguely aware of air from a ceiling fan being way too close to my face, and the fact that every time I switched positions the entire bed swayed, no doubt disturbing the two sleeping ladies underneath me. However, I was still slightly alarmed when I woke up two feet from the ceiling in a twin bed. I overcame the post-snooze fog and the after-effects of too much cheap vodka and remembered where I was, if only long enough to decide I didn’t have to pee bad enough to attempt to scale down the side of the bed and avoid getting decapitated by the fan.

I was just drifting back to sleep when I heard one of my friends rouse and start to be productive at the preposterously early hour of 8ish. She didn’t directly tell the two of us to get up and get out, but her meticulous morning routine was insistent enough to get the point across. We eventually groaned to a sitting position and I rolled off the top bunk, grappling for anything I could hold on to on the way down. I made it safely and moved on to wiping off makeup from the night before, and adding more to create a sort of equidistant morning-after mess. Being unable to socialize at that hour in the morning, we all decided it would be best to skip the free breakfast offered by the hostel, and just get checked out and moving on our shopping excursion. The plan was to hop on the “L”, get to the Loop and marvel at the “Magnificent Mile” (or in other words, to find H&M and drool through the windows at the more upscale shops).

We did get to the “L” station, after walking in the wrong direction for a few blocks and stopping at every corner to peer at our map that may as well have been a gigantic neon sign that said, “TOURISTS!” We couldn’t seem to break the cycle of walking for blocks on end in the wrong direction and would end up doing that all over the Loop as well. We did manage to get our butts to the Brown Line train, transfer to the Red Line and stumble to Michigan Ave, eventually. I have this personality flaw that comes with a need to look cool at all times. I do not like looking like a lost tourist. With that in mind, I adopted a sort of “take charge” pace to at least seem as if I knew where I was going. As a result of keeping up that facade throughout the day, I have been working with quite a limp for the past few days.

The shopping was fruitful for me, but not so much for one of my lady friends who just couldn’t seem to get her mind right in the stores. If you’re having an “off” day, there isn’t much you can do about it. Even the most perfectly fitting pair of jeans look hideous if your brain is infected with “that-time-of-the-month-itis”. I felt for her, but my credit card didn’t. I just continued swiping like I make decent money and came away with quite a few treasures, including a hat and a few pairs of sunglasses that will make denying my “hipster-status” all that much more difficult. Once we had exhausted the few budget-friendly shopping experiences in the loop, we headed back to the train and back to Boystown for some dragalicious thrift-shopping.

By the time we made it back to the land of feather boas and sequins, our feet were screaming to just stop walking. I had accumulated a ridiculous amount of shopping bags and I just didn’t want to go on. We rummaged through racks of discount clothing and I found a few useful items (it’s hard not to when everything is $2). Everything, literally everything, is fabulous in the Boystown thrift stores. Beatnix, Ragstock and The Hollywood Mirror are amazing and I’d travel back to Chicago just to stop there. I didn’t get a chance to experience the retail wonders of Boystown the last time I was there, as the streets were clogged with half-nude bull dykes and glittery twinks in manties (which I still enjoy, but for different reasons). After our arms were full of our vintage finds and “Mag Mile” purchases I made an executive decision to take a cab back to where the car was parked. I was through with walking. The only trouble with taking a cab outside of the Loop is that the cab drivers have no idea where anything is. You better know the intersection or you’re never getting back to “Barleycorn”.

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