Last Sunday Tom and I drove into the Loop from the northwest suburbs at 3:30 a.m. on a muggy morning for a reason big eaters like us enjoy – we were heading to watch people run in the Rock and Roll Half Marathon (runrocknroll.competitor.com/chicago) while we managed stages for the bands who encourage the sweaty by playing at setups every mile or so.
I’ve done this three times now and Tom has twice. His first year he had neighbors yelling at him about the noise so early in the morning so he retired from show business for a bit. This time, I think he may have gotten a phone number or two from a singer in leather pants from Plainfield and that band’s manager. And they are both women, even.
Me, I lucked out, being posted my first year by Union Station, then last year and this at 18th and Lake Shore Drive, in the lot where cabs and buses wait to pick up Bears fans.
I was offered a great view of the skyline at sunrise, as did Tom’s spot about 50 yards north of Roosevelt on Columbus.
There’s something about big, quiet empty spaces in a city so big, the welcome solitude, the gratification that you can be vastly alone among millions of people. Then, just a couple hours later, 30,000 or so folks in skimpy shorts will be running by you while a band plays Paul McCartney covers from the 80s, 90s, and today.
That was the case where I was, where The Ivorys (www.theivorysband.com), who are playing a pre-Lollapalooza show sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon, skipped their own tunes in favor of Beatles and Wings numbers. Cripes, they even played My Love upon request for some running man who proposed to a woman just across the LSD ramp from the stage.
The other act, Pipe Dream, opened with a Journey tune, and the lead singer brought along her two, well-behaved young kids – with ear muffs like junior versions of the ones people who work on airport runways wear. The kids made signs and drawings to cheer on the band and played with a tiny pet frog to keep occupied.
Both sets had me wondering – with music so old still being played at street festivals and bars throughout this country and probably elsewhere, is rock music now just another form of folk music, passed down from generation to generation?
Heck, rap even dates back at least to the late 1970s (www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUqvPJ3cbUQ) – even if too much of the stuff now is just vulgar for its own sake, which is to say it perpetuates lifestyle stereotypes in calculated ways to make money.
Clever vulgar I like – like how Richard Pryor could swear (www.richardpryor.com). Or even stupid vulgar like some hair metal. Or angry vulgar like some metal and rap. Too much pop I hear through teens I know now doesn’t shock or frighten me, it merely depresses me and/or makes me laugh at the terrible cliches it buys into (www.chiefkeef.com) with somebody making a buck off the oft-times inevitable trainwreck.
That’s the kind of stuff you have time to think about as 30,000 people pass by in a way which offers evidence of the Bell Curve, with a few A++ honors types blazing the trail, then more and more at the solid B level, a whole lotta of Cs and Ds and then the stragglers who get to take a bus from the point I was two miles from the finish line in Grant Park.
There were fans, too, including some woman holding a poster she had made imploring people to touch a pink spot to get a free “turbo boost.” And I thought a Klingon showed up to the corner, but it turned out to be a woman in a tight, leopard print outfit and running shoes.
As on test day at school, a few folks got sick – one by me so bad he had to be taken to the hospital, apparently from heat exhaustion. Yes, running in Chicago in July – even at 7:30 a.m. – that’s the risk you take.
Maybe it will be different in Dublin on Aug. 5, when the Irish capital hosts its first Rock and Roll Half Marathon (www.dublinrocknroll.com/).
I hope nobody gets lost. It’s hard to find street signs in Dublin. The Irish talk too much when they give directions, at least for people in a hurry.
In any nation, I don’t like running. As with Twitter, being vegan or Game of Thrones, I don’t get it. They all seem like such wastes of time and take too much effort.
I know you need to exercise to be healthy. Buying lots of shoes, wearing short shorts and putting all that pressure on your joints just isn’t my idea of a fun way to do it.
I’d rather walk, ride a bike, mow the lawn or get on one of those aerobic exercise machines in an air conditioned gym where you can read or watch TV to counter the mindlessness of the process.
Watching runners once a summer reminds me of the above – and also gives me a chance to hit Kitty O’Shea’s (www.hiltonchicagohotel.com/restaurants-bars/kitty-o-sheas/) for lunch to make up for everybody else’s good intentions. Note to Eamonn Brady: Irish wait staff should be given summer pay bumps for having to head outside in Midwestern sun (and what it can do to them) to serve people like us who wanted to watch folks walk by on Michigan Avenue.
A guy in his 60s who ran the aforementioned marathon happened to sit at a table near us. He was drinking whiskey. Then he had to go ruin it all and ordered a salad.
Afterward, as we were both still hungry from all that watching and managing, we headed to the new restaurant district on and off Randolph where we bought some lardo at Publican Quality Meats (publicanqualitymeats.com/) to take home.
Because nothing says summer like backfat spread delicately on toast. And I mean that. Especially since the butcher cut it oh-so-thin and put pieces of paper between the slices to make it easier to use.
Driving back to the suburbs, though, the hideous traffic reminded all too well about what an annoying place Chicago can be this or any time of the year. That, and the $20 we paid to park at a lot behind the Hilton which advertised an $8 weekend rate, but once you put your credit card into the auto-attendant, spit back the higher receipt marked “event parking.”
With express lanes closed, the Kennedy/90 was stop and go for us pretty much to O’Hare. The poor souls heading toward the city were bumper to bumper from the Des Plaines Oasis at least to Randolph if not onto the Dan Ryan.
I think they still call that the rat race.