Guest Post – Letter from Chicago #1

Yes, it’s been awhile. Life is busy. This post is from Baby Sister who is currently in Chicago to take part in a workshop for cabaret singers. She is not a cabaret singer – not yet, that is. But she is a singer. She is planning a one-woman show which she hopes to launch this fall. She wrote to me yesterday waiting for her flight, threatening to go home and pull the covers over her head. But of course she didn’t. Because she’s not like that. The workshop ends Sunday with a live show. I’m posting my sister’s photo because you should know how beautiful she is. And here’s her first dispatch…

Alright, my lovelies, for those of you who have been waiting since the Italian dispatches for me to do something interesting, welcome to Chicago. This is how I take my loved ones with me when I travel. And you get to keep me company in my head.

I’m reminded of how much I like Chicago, and Chicagoans. They are friendly and direct, like a whole city of more confident Canadians. I’m in a neighbourhood called Wicker Park, northwest of downtown. Wicker Park has the gentrification of Riverdale in Toronto with the edgy hipster vibe of the Main in Montreal. Now imagine a neighbourhood like that built by working class Poles, then spending a generation as a Puerto Rican ghetto. It means that in one block you have a Polish lumber yard called Plywood Town, a bar from the 50’s called Phyllis’ Musical Inn, side by each with bodegas, fair trade jewellery shops, organic food markets and yoga studios. And strangely, there are a lot of wig shops.

The B and B is nice (the Wicker Park Inn), 5 rooms in total. The manager said she’s going to bring  “everyone” (??!!)  to the show on Sunday. I explained that the purpose of doing this in Chicago was that no one knows me here, but she doesn’t care. She just doesn’t  care. Neither did the nice man I met on the plane. He’s a native Chicagoan and a hotel concierge so I took full advantage and pummelled him with questions. He’s planning to propose to his Torontonian long distance girlfriend next month so in return I gave him lots of opinions on venues and rings and such. I’m sure he was grateful. 🙂 But he says he’s coming to the show. Aargh. I have to stop talking to people.

When I got here yesterday I found an amazing taco joint (if I never ate anything other than their bean/avocado/corn/cilantro salad for the rest of my life I’d be happy…and they have fish tacos!) and a spartan Chinese massage place called the Pain Go Centre. It’s the kind of place where the little Chinese lady climbs on the table to put the full force of her 110 pounds into your shoulder, and random Chinese people wander in to chat while she’s doing it. Okay, that was weird. But you may be pleased to know that my shoulders are no longer up in my ears.

We had our first workshop last night and I learned a lot. Nobody sang but we met the teachers and spent a lot of time learning from the technical director about how to talk to a technical director. One of the music directors and one of the performance directors talked about defining your musical identity…gave me a lot to think about. They seem to know a lot of things I need to know. The club is wonderful…it’s a real cabaret with great tech ie sound and lights. It will spoil me for all other venues. The group is varied, most of the singers are from Chicago but there are singers from New York, Boston, St Louis, Washington and San Francisco. I know this is hard to imagine but it seems I’m the quiet one.

We have the day off today and I’ve been making good use of it, even though it’s 105 degrees. Yoga this morning, then the metro to the Art Institute for the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit. I’ve always thought of Roy as marginally better than Warhol (with whom I’ve never been impressed), but boy, did I get schooled today. Now that I understand his work as a response to AbEx and a commentary on other art, it makes more sense and has more value to me, and it feels like Lichtenstein is the missing link between Seurat and the Hirst dots I saw in January in Paris.  (Check out Roy’s Landscape in Fog…gorgeous). I went back to look at Seurat’s Sunday on La Grand Jatte and sang some Sondheim quietly to myself…selections from “Sunday in the Park with George“. And  I couldn’t leave here without staring at the Sargents for a really long time. Sargent’s women are feminine, beautiful and decorative enough for whoever paid for the painting, but he’s subversively sympathetic enough to them to give them strength and personality.

Back to Wicker Park to watch the soccer match. I was going to look for a bar but it occurs to me that there may not be many others choosing Germany over Italy in my Polish/Puerto Rican neighbourhood. Not sure what we are doing tonight once I get to the venue but if I don’t send this now you will all sink under its weight. It’s probably for the best that none of you are here because I’ve been singing on the street all day. But looking at the art helped me find a more zen headspace…I woke up as jumpy as a cat in a roomful of rockers.

Tomorrow we sing. I drew the last place (certainly wouldn’t have chosen it) and I’ve decided what I’m going to sing first. Except I will spend the night staring at the ceiling and changing my mind.

Love to all….. C


About saxbergonstuff

I'm a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a daughter, an auntie. When I'm not focusing on that, I'm an educator, facilitator and content designer. When I feel like it.
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