“Dishes at the Butthole,” my first evening in the Windy City

I had to think alittle about how I wanted to express the events of my introduction to Chicago.  As you might tell from the title, it was pretty raw, at times painful and all together fairly stressful.  And yet profanely amusing.  Just like life.  Crusty around the edges.

I came into the city around 6pm and was supposed to meet my couchsurfing host at a sketching marathon she was attending in a park.  I’ve driven in a lot of cities but Chicago has the most incomprehensible traffic situations that I have ever experienced.  Needless to say,  I didn’t make it to the park.  Instead I forfeited and found an oasis, a Whole Foods store, which thankfully had a parking garage (though the traffic wasn’t any better in there).  It was well worth it though.  I’ve heard many wonderful things about Whole Foods so I was glad to take a much needed break and wander the store.  I concluded that it is a much more impressive grocer than Wegmans.

The prepared foods were just as extensive but far more vegetarian, vegan and in general healthy.  I tried some of their indian food and though it was good, Wegmans still holds my record for best indian food as far as prepared foods are concerned.  I ate my healthy dinner on the balcony along the Chicago river while being entertained by a family of bobbing Canadian geese.  I definitely would need this moment of serenity.

Whole Foods goes well beyond just a prepared foods section; there was an actual food court with about four or five small restaurant-like sections.  And they definitely had my vote when I saw the gelato counter.  Oddly enough, they also had a bulk bath salts and soaps section.  I was left unimpressed by the small bulk herb and spice section and I failed to find any bulk teas.  Not sure if they just don’t exist there or if I just couldn’t find them.  I was happily in sensory overload.

I dreaded getting back in the car but I had wasted enough time and was supposed to meet Anna, my host.  Just as I was leaving the parking lot though she called to let me know she had met a friend and wouldn’t be home until 730, another hour and a half.  This was fine.  You get accustomed to being at the will of your host so I figured I would float around town a little.  Well, the traffic doesn’t get any better downtown either and worse yet, the GPS stopped working when the buildings around me began to interfere with the signal.  So as I was trying to get my own internal sense of direction back and dealing with maniac drivers who actually knew where they are going, it started to get dark.  Eventually, I managed my way to Canal Street which gave me my GPS back and I felt alittle more at ease.  Enough that before it got really dark, I was able to stop and take a photo of this odd building in the middle of a bridge.  Lighting here didn’t make for the best photo but I appreciate it all the same.

I made it to Anna’s house by 730, at which point she called again to tell me she would be out until 8.  That was still fine.  It gave me a chance to make a much needed phone call.

She finally showed up alittle before 9.  I got off the phone, collected my things including my plant as it was getting too cold to be outside all night, and headed towards the side door I saw her go in.  The night was certainly entertaining.  The small apartment was currently inhabited by about nine Crusties, three of which were permanent residents but they were all technically squatters.  There was no gas hooked up and therefore no heat and the shower was nonoperational.  Most of the people were friendly enough but the people in this particular culture are not always trusting, even with those they travel with.  That’s just a side effect of their minimalist wandering lifestyles.

At this point, I was a bit put off.  The place was a complete mess; I’ll leave it at that.  And I knew there wasn’t really a place for me to comfortably sleep.  I refused to let my usual comfort zone keep me from embracing this experience.  I braced myself and jumped in.  After I met Jason, her roommate, Anna finally came out and we had a lovely evening.  She came over and gave me a big hug.  She was beaming, exuberant and full of life.  She wore a pair of colorful paisley patterned pink tights and feathered pink glittered glued-on eyelashes behind her thick glasses.  Her warm openness put me at ease and we spent a couple hours drawing as she and Jason took breaks to sing and play the banjo.  They are both quite good.  They played a completely improvised song called, “Dishes at the Butthole,” which was about how disgusting of a chore it is to clean the dishes in their apartment, nicknamed “the Butthole.”  I didn’t get the story of where it originated.  Honestly, I was a bit impressed.  Sure it was grotesque and vulgar but there was something beautiful about the innocent way they let themselves play.  Not just play music, but play in general.  Think of cats or dogs that inadvertently roll in mud.  I was actually jealous.  They were completely uninhibited; they lived on the outside of their skin.

A few more travelers had come in, one of which was a scrawny New Yorker of Russian descent named Greg who showed impressive insight concerning world events.  He had witnessed the protests on Wall Street during its inception and was well versed on current politics.  I enjoyed listening to Greg and Anna banter back and forth.

It was about 3 am before I finally resigned myself to sleep.  I didn’t have to sleep on the floor.  I would be sharing a twin mattress on the floor with a traveler from Seattle named Billy Jo and her dog, Annie.  I put all my clothes on and prepared for a very cold uncomfortable night.  Billy Jo was pretty rough around the edges.  She has lived a hard life which I don’t envy, the details of which I will leave between us as that’s not my place to publicize. Covered in tattooes, the orange tan of a train hopper, two lip piercings and a hard stare,  she is definitely a tough looking chick.  And yet to stay warm for the night, we shared a pillow; I cuddled up behind her and she shared her sleeping bag with me.  She’s still tough but she’s still a beautiful, caring person.  I wish her all the best.

I actually slept better than I would have imagined.  In the morning,  I headed out as soon I woke up.  I needed to get the oil changed in my car and I wanted to get to a coffeehouse for breakfast and to use a bathroom that didn’t have feces on the floor.  I sent Anna a message to meet up later; we were going to play in some abandoned buildings which is one of my favorite pastimes.  But she never got back to me and I felt that perhaps I should find somewhere else to stay for the remainder of my time in Chicago.  I managed an evening at “the Butthole” but I wasn’t feeling comfortable enough to go back and she wasn’t as reliable as I would have liked.  I guess sometimes you have to learn your own limits and respect them.  I did want to resist my limits but I found myself far happier with my next host.

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4 thoughts on ““Dishes at the Butthole,” my first evening in the Windy City

  1. Your descriptive story is so vivid I could almost feel being there!! What an experience! I never had good luck getting through or around Chicago either, so I avoid it if at all possible. Be safe! Sal

  2. Sounds like you have quite an experience there for just one night. Is your trip turning out to be more colorful than you thought?

  3. I found it fascinating to translate my conversations with you throughout the additional and deleted parts of your blogging. LOL! All of which [the edits] are necessary to a good dialogue with your followers and friends.
    Some time soon…ish I would be *really* interested in hearing you describe me in your Blog Voice. If it’s primarily uncomplimentary, please do so off-line and in person – you know I’ll take it in stride. … if it’s a little more kind, post it where you will. 🙂
    Really! How would you describe any of your now-friends if you were just now meeting them? Experiences shape our perception … trite but true.
    Your insights, captivating visuals, turn of phrase and introspection would keep me coming back for more – even if you weren’t a
    Forever Friend,
    – j –

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