Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Soulard Mardi Gras 2009

How did I enjoy Mardi Gras?  Perhaps one of the finest weekends I've had in years. Years! Now you're going to have to bear with me on this post. My friends played a large part of how much fun I had so there will be many references to people you probably don't know. I'll try to keep in mind that this IS a blog about my experiences in St Louis. Also, I should forewarn you that there is some debauchery included in this post. While I'm not a frequent visitor of some of the establishments described here, I am also not one to shy away. I'm also going to insist that you keep in mind that most of the actions of ill repute were alcohol induced and not in my everyday nature. Whatever, it was Mardi Gras. Deal with it Grandma. That said, let's begin.

I had to take Friday off of work to prepare. There was picking up the keg of Boulevard Wheat (of course) to deal with and the first two Chicago arrivals ETA was 2:00PM. Through the morning I prepared the apartment for what would amount to 11 people staying overnight. I cleared the loft out for air mattresses, vacuumed Oscar hair off the couches, and stocked the bathroom with TP. The keg would have to wait for my first guests to help me with the loading. I wouldn't consider myself full keg-strength. Neither would anyone else for that matter.
It was good to see John S. and Brian when they pulled up. They are former work peeps who promised to come down to Mardi Gras before my last day. Promise fulfilled, I gave them the quick tour and headed down to Vincent's Market on 12th St to pick up the keg. Vincent's really is fantastic. It's family operated and the owners son's are the nicest guys. They were working hard that day too. The guy picking up before us had a house near the Farmers Market and was picking up 12 kegs. He his parties started years ago with one keg too. Foreshadowing? God I hope not.
After setting up the keg in the laundry room where the moisture of the keg and ice couldn't hurt the wood floors in the rest of the apartment we headed down to Hammerstone's for some food. It was only 4:00 so there weren't too many patrons yet. Although I had been there multiple times the past two months I had not eaten there. As I scoured over the menu the server wholly recommended the chicken strips of all things. "I'm not a big chicken strip eater," I told him. He explained that I had never had anything like these before. They were cut straight from a chicken breast and battered with corn flakes. Yeah, I totally had to try them and you know what? Best chicken strips ever. Seriously, you need to get off your ass and go try them. Unbelievable.
It was around 8PM that Meg and Katie arrived. Meg was one of the first people I had met in St Louis and she's become one of my BF's for sure. She asked if her and Katie could stay over in exchange for making all us guys breakfast in the morning. Um, yes! They showed up with 3 bags worth of food. They likely spent way too much on us jerks but it was super nice of them.
It was right around 11PM that 5 of the guys got in. 3 via Amtrak. 2 by car. Mike (of helping me move fame), Erich, John-John, Kevin, and JRob settled in began making a dent in the keg. In the meantime, the last people due in, Jon and Court had just informed me their train was 3 hours late and they would be in until sometime around 3 AM. Plenty of time for us all to hit bars.
The first place we hit was McGurks which was charging a lame $5 cover charge even though we were walking in at about last call. Not only that but they also had a DJ rocking the back tent. I can appreciate that on some nights but tonight it was just loud and annoying. Not to mention the exact opposite of how I described the place to everyone. We didn't stay long and my Chicago guests left rather unimpressed unfortunately. The few times I've been to McGurks it had been quite awesome.
So where do a bunch of guys unfamiliar with St Louis go with the local bars closing? Damn right... East side. For those unaware, East St Louis is know for not only being extremely dangerous but also for it's high-end strip clubs near the much safer industrial area. I'm not going to go into much detail here but Penthouse is one of the finer establishements of this nature I've ever been to. The Chicago boys completely agreed. The St Louis girls wouldn't join us. Probably a wise choice. They stayed back at the apartment and were fast asleep when us rowdy drunk guys got back at 3AM. As they were woken up by the laughing and yelling, Jon and Court finally arrived from their delayed travel. We drank a little more, made some frozen pizzas and then passed out by 4 with visions of beads dancing around in our heads. Ok, it was boobs.
The girls were up by at least 8 AM making breakfast. Us guys were sleepy, but thanks be to Boulevard Wheat, hangover free. (Those that only drank it mind you) Think eggs, bacon (everyone was calling it meat candy), and mimosa's. The next few hours were spent waiting for your turn to get in the shower. 11 peeps/1 shower=2 hours.  The parade had already started past Allen by the time we got out there.
The parade itself was way more fun than we thought it would be. Much of that may have to do with our parade-watching neighbors. I have no idea who they were but they were hilarious. They were throwing beads back at the floats or aiming for open car windows. Any other day this may have felt mean or childish, but not today. No, today it was high-brow irony. Omg I Lol'd all over myself. We spent about an hour there before we all needed to either use the bathroom or refill our beers. So with about 15 caught beads in hand I headed back to the Smile Lofts already in good spirit. Even with the parade going on the streets throughout Soulard were still teaming with people.
After the emptying of bladders and filling of cups we headed out amongst the crowds. The parade had ended by now so more people were milling about than before. From all later accounts, this apparently was a less attended Mardi Gras mostly attributed to the cold, windy weather, but that wasn't apparent to me. Our group attacked and divided spaces working our way through the crowd. Our goal? The finest purveyor of food. There was no consensus but I can personally recommend the Gumbo at Norton's on Geyer Ave. Top notch Norton's. They were also kind enough to give me, not one, but two high-end Jaeger beads. Thanks ladies! Most of the guys ended up getting Turkey legs which they put away rather quickly. Those too received good reviews. 
The crowd itself was getting rambunctious. Girls were walking up to us and trying to pull off our better beads. And we had some nice one's too. A few weeks before I was smart enough to hit the party store and buy us a nice grouping of high-end beads.  The most sought after? Cardinals beads, of course. We would not give those away for just anything. Anyway, again, we needed some refills and spending an hour in the crowds only is so exciting. If you can hang out at someone's apartment and occasionally mingle with the crowds I highly recommend it. It's the highest form of fun we could find.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of just that sort of Mardi Gras partying. The Smile Lofts ended up being a prime location.  Almost all of the 2nd floor lofts there were having parties and every single window was open. This led to women hanging from them, which then led to crowds gathering below. It went on all afternoon and couldn't have been more perfect for us. We were in and out of the door the entire day. We even let a group of strangers in. I had planned to be completely against an act like this but these girls were clever and good-looking and that is a perfect combination. As an attractive girl walking around Mardi Gras you are asked plenty of things, many of which include the request to show breasts. These girls were smart enough to not only have a plan for such questions but actually had enough self-esteem to not show everything for something as cheap as beads. They had decorated bras. Bejeweled to be exact. Home-made too. So getting a request to show your goods could be, and was, returned with a showing of decorated bras. It's pretty genius. It was enough to get the currency of the day in a fun way and without totally exposing yourself. I had to invite them in for some Boulevard Wheat. The best part? They were totally cool and nice. If we were only letting 4 people in all day those were the perfect 4. They only stayed 30 minutes but they fit right in with all of us. We were sad to see them go.
As the hours ran down on the day we all decided to take a walk down to BB's for some food and music. We got there right at 8 and they opened the upstairs up. Perfect timing. After the meal some people went back to the apartment to crash. The rest of us hit the Lumiere Casino. I walked up to the Craps table completely wasted and started throwing the dice. 25 minutes later I crapped out and was $200 richer. I'll never have another run like that. I quit of course and we soon headed back home. When we arrived at the Smile Lofts one of the first things we noticed was that someone had ripped down the gate to the parking lot. This would have been no easy task with how large it is. I assume their car was locked inside (Red Brick came by on Saturday morning and secured the gate as had been posted the week before). This won't be an easy or cheap fix. In all honesty, Red Brick was lucky.  This was a crazy weekend. The damage could have been much worse.
Overall, Mardi Gras was a way better than I had anticipated. I had never laughed so much. Same goes for the Chicago guys. Although the truth is, they are what made it so fun. And so it goes for all things really. It's the people you're with that make the situation. Lesson learned like Doogie Howser. Yeah, I had written the first part of that sentence, looked up for a second,, and then back down to write the poignant Doogie Howser ending.  

P.S. Sorry for the long wait on this post.  These long ones for big events take forever. Back to the more frequent updates.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Soulard Farmers Market.

Ok... What's with the Raccoons?
One of the coolest aspects of living in Soulard is that I'm so close to the Soulard Farmers Market. 3 blocks close. It was one of the first places I wanted to visit.
My first time there I was ready for anything. I'd heard it was a great "People  Watching" place which simultaneously concerned and intrigued me. It was a late, cold Saturday morning and the place wasn't bustling as much as I thought it would be. I entered the market in the Northwest corner which seemed like the most busy and made my way through the crowd soaking in everything every vendor had to offer. 
Soulard Farmers Market
The workers were yelling out prices and all the deals they were featuring that day while little old ladies examined the tomatoes. Young couples were searching for the perfect green pepper. I was searching for variety. The weird thing about this farmers market was that the booths were all stocked with the same stuff you can get at the grocery store. Perhaps it was a little fresher, but we're talking about obviously packaged goods. Even brand names! 
I admit I felt duped, but then I was reminded of something while I tightened my scarf. It's effing winter. I don't suppose too many green pepper crops are being harvested in the St Louis area mid-January. I wasn't getting the real Soulard Farmers Market experience and it was no one's fault. I've asked around since and, yeah, it'll get better once the weather warms up.
I can't say there weren't any sights to behold. The Meat Market in the center is nuts. Something you'd see featured on a Travel Channel show. The spice shop is awesomely unique. But the craziest thing I saw was raccoon. There was a vendor with meat freezers who had a bucket in from of the booth with the hand-written sign that read 'Coons. I could only assume it was anything but raccoons. Maybe it was pelts I thought. Do people like raccoon pelts? I was hoping they did. Nope. Sure enough, it was a big bucket of skinned raccoons. I was shocked. I looked up at the vendor who obviously saw that I was disturbed by what I just discovered. She just stared back. I assume she gets similar reactions often.
I quickly walked away wondering what the hell anybody would need a skinned raccoon for. Yep... Good eatin'.
I'll update my Soulard Farmers Market findings once it gets warm. I want the full experience. Coon and all.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cardinals Share-A-Seat Tickets

My 40 day plan of sorts. I've been a huge Cardinals fan for almost 15 years now. I seriously eat, sleep, and breath Cardinals baseball almost year round. No easy feat living in Chicago let me remind you. In fact, in a roundabout way it's the Cardinals that brought me down here.
Living in Chicago I would visit St Louis at least 3 times a year for a Cardinals game. I always had a great time no matter the game. It was during those weekend excursions that I was able to experience the city and meet the people.  Each time I'd see new places and do new things and through that I garnered a certain appreciation for St Louis and it's small town feel.
When I started looking at change in employment it was natural for me to look here. Out of the very few places I was willing to move, St Louis was at the top of my list. And so it happened and I couldn't be happier so far. Save for one thing...
Today I'm choosing between seats for Half-Season tickets for the 09 season. The Cards call it Share-A-Seat. I call it the best investment I've ever made. 
Hmm, maybe I should blog it out.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Soulard Pet Parade 2009

Early last week is when the bustling started. One day there were port-a-potties in my alley. The next there were no parking signs on all the trees warning of towing on the 16th. Later in the week came the erected tents around all the bars and restaurants. The Pet Parade was upon us and I wasn't sure what to expect. 

As it turned out, it was a great time. By noon thousands of people and dogs were lining the streets. Although the Hurricanes were already flowing and it was a little colder than optimal everyone was in a great mood, dogs included. I'd never seen so much butt and crotch sniffing in one place. Oscar didn't mind. 
Oscar ignores huge dog
Click Here for more pics of the event.
The parade itself was more cute than anything. There really were some great dog costumes but mostly it was for the pets themselves. Oscar had even more fun than I did and that's what it's all about. Video proof below.

After the parade most people left but there was definitely a sense of partying going around Soulard. The bars were packed with bead wearing revelers and live music was pouring into the streets. I decided to take it easy this weekend with the big Mardi Gras parade looming next week, but I did head out for some dinner at 8:00 over at Hardshell Cafe. There I saw a glimpse of what next week is likely to be. Halfway through my wings I look up to see a young attractive woman drunkingly fall out of her barstool. It wasn't a very graceful fall either. She slammed on the concrete floor. She ended up being fine luckily but I'm sure she wasn't feeling too great this morning. It was what I'm calling the official kick-off to my Mardi Gras week. I hope it starts like that every year. It was kinda funny.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Red Ass Jones

A few weekends ago some friends of mine came down from Chicago. I was excited to show them some of the things I'd been enjoying here in Soulard. They totally loved it here but the highlight of the weekend came completely unexpected. On Saturday afternoon we went for a late lunch and ended up back at the apartment around 7 drunk off our asses. All thanks to the complete awesomeness of Red Ass Jones and the Goldbondsmen.

Red Ass Jones at The Shanti
The above picture doesn't do justice to the scene that day at The Shanti. As we were walking back from our relatively alcohol-free lunch we heard music from the windows as we passed by. The sign on the corner read Blue Grass Saturday: Red Ass Jones.  Yeah, we HAD to go in at that point. 
I had only been in The Shanti once before and it struck me as somewhat of a hippy bar. I hadn't seen so much tie-dye being worn since my high school courtyard circa 1994. That night a jam band had been playing too so it all kinda worked. Because of that experience I wasn't sure what kind of Blue Grass we were talking about. Hell, I wasn't even sure what Blue Grass sounded like. 
The place was packed for it being 4 in the afternoon and it was quite obvious they were there for the band. The scene was nuts. There were people dancing, singing, and calling out to the band. I was sure many of the people knew each other. We ordered some beers and began to take stock of Red Ass Jones. First of all, the music was fucking awesome. It's extremely reminiscent of the Soggy Bottom Boys from O' Brother Where Art Thou. We were immediately hooked and for us that is no easy task. We are definitely in music snob territory. The smallest thing can turn us off. 
Not only were the songs fantastic and often funny, but these guys were extremely experienced musicians. Not a note was off. Multiple members sing and all of them well for being so obviously drunk. (Part of the charm) Keep in mind this is no small band. I count 8 from memory: Mandolin, Electric guitar, Stand-up Bass, Drums, Acoustic Guitar, Banjo, Fiddle, and Washboard. And perhaps their greatest charm is the character each one of these guys exudes. Every single one of them has something very specific and different about them. The drummer is some sort of combination cowboy/hipster with his cowboy hat and black-rimmed glasses. The Stand-up Bassist looks like a character from a Smokey and the Bandit movie while the Mandolin player may have been part of the Grateful Dead.  It's an eclectic array of guys and the one's that speak to the audience are smart and witty.  It was a concert experience like none other we'd ever had. 
This was all compounded by the crowd. One guy in particular really. J.R. is an older man, let's guess 58. He wears a two-tone half and half button up rodeo shirt with J.R. embroidered on the collar. On his head sits a somehow professionally-made-looking cowboy hat made from Miller Lite 12-pack boxes. He also wears a large belt buckle. Another funny thing about J.R. is that he tips the band every five minutes or so while requesting them to "play me a Gospel song".  He does this in between dancing with his lady and what I mean by dancing is grabbing her ass a whole lot on the dance floor. J.R. was a decidedly awesome addition and also quote fodder for the rest of the weekend. The band was amused by J.R.'s antics and played along with him without being assholes. They even did play that gospel song for him. 
3 hours later, drunk and tired from having a ludicrously good time for it being late afternoon, we left The Shanti with our minds blown. After a short rest we went out that night with a new respect for Blue Grass music. We even gave playing it ourselves a try later that night. Not good.
What is good is that Red Ass Jones plays The Shanti every other Saturday between 4pm and 7pm. I can't recommend it enough. Be sure to say hi to me when you're there. I'll be the dude pounding the Boulevard Wheats and nodding my head approvingly Mr. Miyagi style.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Smoking Indoors and the Importance of Being of Sound Mind

Very close to the top of things you notice when moving to St Louis from Chicago is the smoking indoors. To see someone light up indoors is somehow shocking at first glance even after only a year. Although Chicago went completely smoke-free on January 1st 2008 it had been mostly smoke-free for a few years before then. Even after a month of trying to get used to eating with smoke wafting about the room, it hasn't been an easy transition. I have to say I'm surprised St Louis isn't smoke free. But I completely understand.
I smoked cigarettes for 15 years. At least a pack a day. I also grew up in a smoking house. Both Mom and Dad smoked indoors. Later myself and my two siblings would smoke inside as well. Like chimneys. I can only imagine now what our house must have smelled like! Maybe that's why we never had visitors. 
Anyway, make no mistake about it, I was a hard-core smoker and would be so until I turned 30. It's been a year and a half now since I cold-turkey quit smoking and I couldn't be more happy about it. I feel better, smell better, save money, blah blah blah. Whatever, I'm not writing this to tell you to quit. But here's something you don't realize as a smoker. It's fucking with your mind.
Smokey Robinson
Smoky Robinson soothes the mind.  Big difference.

I was in full nicotine addiction mode when Chicago started painting the town non-smoking. I (as I assume many smoking St Louisans do) thought that it was ridiculous and taking away my rights. I literally theorized, and I distinctly remember saying this to myself, "smoke doesn't really bother anyone" and if it did they were being a little too sensitive. Not that I would ever smoke around someone who really didn't like it. I understood being close to someone who didn't like smoking could be a bit much. But really, if you are going to a restaurant to eat they have a separate section. Why isn't that good enough? I never had problems with my parents smoking when I was a child. I have no memory of myself fake coughing to let my parents know I thought they were douchebags for smoking around me. To me, Chicago's new smoking rules smacked of Smokism. (racism + smoking - reality = Smokism)
That was until I experienced those rules. It didn't take long for me to appreciate the cleaner air of a restaurant. And certainly, at first, I resented heading outside for a smoke, but you quickly get used to it. It became just what you do. You still don't think it makes that much of a difference but you can appreciate it nonetheless.
Bars, of course, are another story. That was your one refuge and a smoking home you would never agree to give up. Alcohol and cigarettes go together like coffee and cigarettes... perfectly. I had even actually quit by the time the full smoking ban went into effect and I was against the judgement on bars. It seemed like the one place you should be able to smoke inside. It came very close to a full force rebellion in Chicago until, lo and behold, people started to like it. Me included of course. 
It was awesome not leaving the bar completely reeking. Your throat was no longer sore in the morning. You no longer found cigarette burns on your coat from when your sleeve accidentally touched some dude's loosely held smoke. Even the smokers themselves began to admit they didn't mind. Plus many of the bars catered to the smokers outdoor needs by putting in heated tents and the like. In the Summer I often even joined the smokers outside to enjoy the weather. It's fairly safe to say, that Chicago going smoke free was one of the nicer things to happen to the bar scene.
So yeah, it was weird to come here and stand at the bar next to someone smoking. It still doesn't really bother me save for the fact that I seriously stink when I get home. It takes a couple of days for the smell to leave my apartment as well. I've had friends visit who currently smoke and they felt the same way. Smoking indoors was awkward to them. It was hilarious to see them go outside to smoke while they were here. Even though the bar was filled with smokers they preferred to go outdoors to do it. That's most telling. 
I've seen some rumblings in the St. Louis Dispatch of smoking bans in the County and there are those in the City calling for bans as well. The only advice I can give is don't knock it till you try it. Also, be careful of only doing it in some areas. All it does it drive the smokers out to the areas that allow it. I don't know for fact but I bet that has happened to bars on the Illinois side of the river. I look forward to the day St Louis goes smoke-free. It's worth it whether you smoke or not. Just ask a Chicagoan or two. Or three. Well, I guess not everyone would agree.

Update: I had the final draft of this post ready to go this morning when this popped in my RSS feed. Coincidence? Yup.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

12th Night

I was already well aware of the fact that St Louis had quite a large Mardi Gras celebration. In fact, it's the third largest in the world and it takes place right here in Soulard. Being from New Orleans originally, this was not only a bonus to living there but also a hint of home. What I was not aware of was that Soulard residents truly make it at least a month long affair.

My memories of Mardi Gras as a child are still very clear. You get school off (at least 2 days that I can remember), you wear costume, and you beg for all sorts of worthless trinkets as loud as you can.  You even get to bring home a gigantic bag of beads and doubloons that will sit in your closet for at least a year before you throw it away. What many people don't know is that Mardi Gras is celebrated for weeks before the actual Fat Tuesday celebration. There are multiple parades leading up to the big day so by the time you are filling up your bag on Mardi Gras day you've already got 2 bags at home. Plus there's King Cake. Lot's of it. You eat it for every meal: Breakfast, snacktime, lunch, afterschool snack, desert after dinner, second dinner, midnight snack, sneak-a-taste time, etc. Suffice to say New Orleans residents are in the party spirit for longer than just one day.

It was only my third night in the apartment when I heard drumming down the street. It had a familiar sound to it so I popped my head out the door to see a full Mardi Grasish parade heading my way.  It was a group of maybe 40 people all costumed up and throwing beads. As they passed my apartment dancing and waving I realized this was 12th night. For the non-Mardi Gras peeps, 12 days after Christmas is the start of Carnival season which goes all the way through to Mardi Gras itself. So yeah, that means you party on 12th Night. 
12th Night Soulard
As the weeks went on I found out about many Soulard Mardi Gras events that take place leading up to the big day. A list can be found here. Apparently the Dog Parade itself brings in crowds over 100,000. The only disappointment I've come across is the lack of King Cakes here in St Louis. I thought for sure they would have some at the Farmers Market to no avail. I've found a couple of local bakeries online that sell them but I doubt their authenticity. I may have to get one shipped in. Other than that I'm definitely in the party spirit. 
It isn't too often parades go by your apartment like that. I have to say it was an awesome welcome to the neighborhood.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hangover Proof

The first night I moved I enjoyed a Boulevard Wheat and never turned back.  Why? 

Jims Hangover

It is well know in my old stomping grounds that I have serious hangover problems.  I mean out for a day or two type of hangover.  Not moving from the couch, wailing out loud, half-dead type of hangover.  Not so, apparently, when enjoying a drunk night on Boulevard Wheat.
I got pretty drunk that first night.  Plenty drunk enough to have an aching hangover. Instead, I woke up completely fine and appropriately attributed it to having lots of water the day before. I was excited to explore the neighborhood so the next night I went out again. Because I enjoyed the Wheat so much the night before, I ordered it again.  The next morning...  Fine.  Not even a hint of haziness.
After two weeks or so of going out and drinking with new work friends and folks around the neighborhood I noticed I hadn't even a notion of a hangover since the move.  I began to connect the dots and realized that this Boulevard Wheat may have special powers. So I decided to test it. The next time I went out I drank one of my old stand-bys, Miller Lite.  I didn't even drink that much.  Hangover. Even though my head throbbed my eyes were wide open.  I had made a huge discovery.  Time to test it on others.
Luckily the next weekend I had some friends in town (to be discussed on a future post) and one of them took the challenge.  Two nights and two mornings later he had the same verdict.  It was a miracle.
Henceforth I drank and continue to drink Boulevard Wheat whenever it is available which, lucky for me, is almost everywhere in St Louis.  Unfortunately for the rest of the country, according to Boulevard's website you may not find it outside of the Midwest.  I don't recall ever seeing it in Chicago but I may be wrong.
Here's the other good news.  It's effing delicious.  It's light without being too crisp.  It's slightly sweet without being thick and sticky.  It has a subtle aftertaste and isn't filling.  Truth be told I'd be drinking it even without the magical anti hangover abilities.  
On the downside, I may be drinking beer a whole lot more.  Work will likely suffer.

For some actual proof of why Boulevard Wheat may be less hangover inducing there is an interesting article on beer types and hangover correlations here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

296 Miles

Or something close to that.  It's amazing how far away St Louis seems from Chicago until you look at the map.  

I stared at Google Maps for a few minutes before I went to bed making sure I wasn't missing something.  I'm an avid fan of planning so even with only two weeks notice I was fairly sure everything was accounted for.  I even slept! That's how I knew it was fine. With any hint that I might be forgetting something I'll be awake all night.

Mike, Oscar and I rolled off my parent's couches at 6 AM and within 15 minutes were pulling out of the driveway.  The drive was fairly uneventful.  I drove the truck, Mike drove my car and Oscar slept and stood guard when I was filling up the tank around Effingham.

Oscar sleeps in the truck
Oscar the Guard Dog
Not one thing stolen while I was inside

We finally pulled up to the Smile Lofts around 1 to find there there was no great place to park the truck on the street.  There was one SUV blocking the perfect spot right in front.  I took a leap of faith and assumed it could be my new neighbor's car so I knocked on his door.  Sure enough it was his and not only did he move his truck but, hey, I made my first friend!  FYI, his name is Matt and he plays a mean Blues guitar.  

The moving guys arrived early and knocked out the entire truck in an hour.  I highly recommend hiring dudes to do that for you. It wasn't expensive and it made the day much less tiring. 

And that was it...  I was moved.  All I had to do was unpack and get living. Relocation toast! 

Moving Champagne
Mike toasting

Mike was kind enough to surprise me with some bubbly to celebrate.  Pictures are proof of this awesome gesture.

Anyway, I certainly wasn't unpacking the first day I got there so Mike and I decided to go out to eat and start knocking back a few.  Enter Chavas.

Chavas Dining Room

They are know for their fresh fruit frozen Margaritas apparently but I did not partake.  I'm a traditional Marg man.  On the rocks - no salt, thank you.  I'd argue that what Chavas Mexican should be known for is it's awesome salsa! First of all it's a perfect consistency - Not too watery, and not too chunky.  But it's the flavor that's the difference maker.  A nice smoked Chipotle flavor.  It would be easy to smother anything in that stuff.  By the way, they do offer it jarred. We asked.  

For the meal I had the Quesadilla and thought it more than adequate. Presentation was well thought out and the chicken was cooked perfectly.  The guac was only average for me but if it's freshly made the results will likely vary. Overall it was a great place for dinner and I would recommend trying it. The truly awesome part is that it's only a block away from the apartment. Needless to say I've been back often. 

To finish out the night my new neighbor Matt asked Mike and I if we wanted to go down to Hammerstone's for some Blues.  This excursion is notable for a few things I will write about in the future, the major one being that this was the first time I enjoyed a glass of Boulevard Wheat.  

Mike and Matt at Hammerstones

It was also notable for it being my first time seeing live music so close to my home.  Hammerstones's is, again, only a block away.  There was a two dollar cover charge which was no big deal for not only being a relatively small price to pay, but because the band was great.  I unfortunately do not remember the name of the band.  The beer was just too damn good.  

I went to bed that night the newest member of the Soulard neighborhood.  And I slept well.  I guess this is where the real journey begins.  Wow, that is lame.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Last Week In Chicago

Wow...  It's been a month since I moved.  I've really been slacking.  Once I get down to the quick and easy posts like the last one it will be much more frequent. Promise?  Promise.  

Down to Beeswax.

It's the last week in Chicago and I have so much going on.  It's last day of work on the 30th, New Years on the 1st, and "Going Away Party" on the 2nd.  The truck leaves my folks house on the morning of the 3rd if all goes as planned.  Oh, and I also have to empty the house, pack the truck and clean every room top to bottom to get it sale ready.  I'm effing crazy.

The last day of work was strange.  It wasn't sad or too sentimental.  It was almost normal.  I got a card with everyone's signature on it which now hangs on my new cubicle wall.  The fun part was having one last Music Friday.  

One of my favorite things to do was play DJ the last hour of the day on Fridays.  Other than a few awesomeness haters out there, a lot of people had come to expect and enjoy it.  And although it was only Tuesday, my co-workers requested one last Music Friday and I was happy to indulge.  After work almost everyone went up to BW3's (best sauce selection ever) for my going away party.  It was packed and I think the waitress hated us.  And it was awesome. 

The many moods of work
Work Peeps (Not At BW3s)

I can't believe I left those people.  They were very good to me and I miss them.  Again, there wasn't much fanfare.  I gave out hugs and told everyone goodbye and then I just walked out.  No hesitation, no looking back and no regrets.  

My next mission was to finish packing.  No, I'm not going to bore you with the highs and lows of packing up a 3 bedroom house.  It's well within safety limits to promise you that it sucks.  

Fast Forward >>

...hired some hauling company to come and take away some furniture I wasn't keeping.  Rip-off!  Plus I gave those guys some good stuff!

...touch up painting goes as planned.  

...moving creates torrents of trash.  I don't want to put it out on the curb 5 days early out of respect for our neighbors.  I beg my Brother-in-law to come out the following Wednesday and drag all of it out.  I love him because he does.

...rented a truck from Penske.  By far the best truck rental company.  Take my word for it.  Good service and good prices.  

...It takes 2 hours to fill the truck with my junk.  Thanks Dad, Mom, Allison, Brian and Meg!
Play >

The last thing to do before I move is go to my own going away party.  I'm not sure I ever thought I would be the subject of one of these.  Not because I never thought I'd move, but because who would throw me one?  Heather...  
Heather Forever
Heather Foreva

That's who.  Heather has been one of my best friends for years and within one week had put together a party that had more surprise guests than I'd seen in a while.  Friends came to the deep ghetto of Hazel Crest from all over (specifically the city).  It meant so much.  And again, I was walking away saying goodbye.  

Me ACTUALLY Walking Away

No sadness. I knew I'd see them soon.  You aren't friends with people for that long and not have extensive periods of non-interaction.  Next time I see them it will be as if nothing has changed.  And maybe that's why I'm set to leave in the morning with no fears.  That, and because my good friend is driving down with me.  Let the new chapter begin with a bridge from the previous one...  

That Bridge: Lil Mike (From this point on he'll just be Mike.  He'll appreciate that)

Continued Soon...