Spent the afternoon with Ila last Friday, ambling around downtown Madison. Lunch at Ian's Pizza, where we met Ian and tried two different slices of Ian's wacky pizza concoctions: macaroni & cheese and spicy bean burrito. Surprisingly they were both very good. We wandered around the square, Ila pointed out her new apartment above Mangus, and ended up on the Monona Terrace Rooftop, stretching our legs in the sun and watching the sparkling lake before us. It was a perfect Madison day, all sun and breeze, not too hot. And of course, perfect company. Leaving the terrace, Ila suggested we cross back through the hotel walkway, and I agreed happily. "Great! I do love walkways!" Ila said, "That's what I love about hanging out with you: you take me back to my highschool self, when I did things just for the fun of it."
Indeed. Coming home always involves a lot of that, for me: driving favorite old roads, walking along favorite paths, visiting restaurants and listening to radio stations that all feel like old friends. So much of my delight, when I lived in Oregon, was rooted in means to freedom: driving through the lush back roads, walking up and down State Street, going to certain restaurants (most notably Perkins...) -- anything to get me out of the house and away from school, any excuse to be alone, or to spend time with just one other person.
Saturday afternoon I drove down to Chicago to visit some Grinnell friends, primarily Nick and Chris (with whom I stayed), and happily Vivek, Adam, Rachel Clark, Kumail, Laurelin, Aja, Jarrod, Marti, Julie, and Kate (did I miss anyone?).
Spending time with Nick and Chris was awesome for a lot of reasons, but one of the coolest things, for me, was getting to talk to them about improv theory. They're both on teams at IO (formerly ImprovOlympic), one of the two most famous improv theaters in Chicago. Saturday night, the three of us went out to dinner, and then Nick and I took a cab to IO (across the street from Wrigley Stadium),
where we saw two teams (Extra Billies and Baby Wants Candy) each do a longform show, with games in between. Baby Wants Candy did an improvised musical that made the gang at Gorilla Tango look like amateurs in comparison; whereas the GT group sings funny songs, they don't put too much stress on being particularly musical, while some of the BWC songs could have been on the soundtracks to shows like Rent or Pippen, except for the fact, you know, that the actors were singing about circus freaks with hairy chests and vaginas. Overall, I was really impressed, and I'm so glad that I got the chance to see "real" improv, that I may have a broader understanding and perspective on what it is, exactly, that we're trying to create and do at GT in Albuquerque. And then, because I was lucky enough to be staying with fellow improv geeks, I got to spend time talking about the structure of the shows with Nick, analyzing them from a theoretical/structural perspective. Awesome.
I've always really admired Chris and Nick and really enjoyed talking to them when I ran into them at parties or at Saints Rest in Grinnell, but it wasn't until this weekend that I got to spend any extended amount of time with either of them, just hanging out. I'm so glad that I did. They're both perfect examples of the kinds of people I loved most in college: hilarious, smart, interesting, creative and artistically driven, open-minded, and kind.
The only exception to the kind thing was when we needed to take a bus from IO to the bar where we were meeting up with the Grinnell group, when Nick, sensing my weakness like a predator around prey, played on my mass-transit anxieties and became the Bus Bully, terrorizing me onto and then off of the bus. Nick, in his evil bus riding tactics, pushed me off the bus into the gutter and then kicked me, laughing. Clearly, he's a diabolical mastermind.
Or maybe I'm exaggerating. I mean, just a little bit. Not much though. It was traumatic, honestly.
We met up with a large group of Grinnell kids at the Hopleaf, where we took over one entire side of the upstairs room. Throughout the evening, people moved around, switching places around the table in order to talk to a number of different friends, so I moved from Vivek's lap to between Rachel and Laurelin to next to Adam, between Adam and Laurelin then Adam and Rachel, and ended the evening at the other end of the table, between Nick and Jarrod. The funny thing about the night was that even though I hadn't seen any of these friends in at least two years (and more, in some cases), it was as if no time had passed at all. Adam and I picked up our usual fighty banter, laughing about clownpants and sandmouses; Vivek and I our usual flirty banter; Rachel and I our sisterly kinship. The generosity of the group was twofold: one, the assurance that you're already in, you're already accepted and loved, and don't have to impress anyone or prove anything, and two, that you exist not only as the person you are now, but also as the person you have been. I found myself more open, laughing harder and joking more, quicker and funnier and happier than I usually feel in my "real" life, where I'm far more reserved, more polite and far less outrageous than I ever was in college. How wonderful to travel back, if only for an evening, to step back into the role of a part of me that I loved. In some ways, I felt like the best version of myself in that crowd.
Sunday afternoon, I found myself (along with Chris and Nick) helping Miss Kate Herold move from Iowa into a third story apartment a few blocks down from Nick and Chris, primarily because I hadn't seen Kate in two years and this was the only way I could spend time with her. Also, because she fed us pizza and beer in payment. It was hard work, and the humidity was worse than I remembered (I was having flashbacks to moving into Norris 4th in August of 1999), but overall it was -- not fun, exactly, but agreeable -- not a bad way to spend the afternoon. At least I got to see Kate, is what I'm saying.
Chicago seems like a fun place to be in your twenties. In contrast, Albuquerque seems really stolid somehow. kind of suburban. Maybe it's just that there aren't many Grinnellians there, not many young Grinnellians. Just as I made my peace with Minneapolis -- and then grew to love it -- a few years ago, this weekend I made my peace with Chicago, and I am beginning to see why so many of my friends and family love it. I'm officially adding it to my list of possible places to go to grad school.