Monday, May 11, 2009

Chapter 2: Chicago Weekend Part I

Running on one night's worth of sleep spread over the past three, I woke up at 11:30 Friday morning to walk downtown and meet up with Harjit and a bunch of west coast kids at the May Day parade. Talking to people about it I'm consistently surprised by how little Americans know about May Day, if they've even heard of it at all. The Europeans, on the other hand, were shocked that businesses were open at all.

After a series of phone calls and half an hour of wandering through a downtown to which none of us had ever been in a city with which no one but me had any familiarity, we met up with the march for the last couple of blocks. Since there isn't much of a radical labor movement in the states, May Day marches tend to focus on immigrant rights (or at least this one did). It felt weird to be at a march again; I'm pretty sure the last one was some time in 2004.

The march terminated at an outdoor speaking event in some square downtown, at which point it started to rain and the majority of our company began to agitate for a move to the Chicago Diner. The Chicago Diner impressed the shit out of Sean and me last summer with it's seemingly better-than-Red-Bamboo quality and slightly-lower-than-Red-Bamboo prices, although looking back I suspect that our enjoyment of the food was partially a product of having eaten nothing in weeks but crappy Chinese food, Subway, and an extraordinary amount of Cliff Bars, as well has having ridden 60 miles without stopping that morning. This time around the food was less remarkable (though still slightly cheaper than comparable places in New York), but the experience was dramatically improved by the presence of a few dozen friends, friends of friends, and acquaintances that showed up during the meal; the diner is apparently the first stop for vegans visiting town.

After some wandering around in search of a mythical Urban Outfitters (which was revealed to be an Anthropologie store that, due to its ownership by Urban Outfitters, turned up in an iPone search, our group split up and several of us headed for Subterrainian to see the first Burning Fight pre-show featuring, among others, Converge and The Hope Conspiracy. As I entered the club the bouncer saw my x'ed up hands and didn't ask for ID, so I wasn't given a wristband. I asked about re-entry and was told that it was only possible with a wristband, which I couldn't get because I was under 21. I told him that I as, in fact, 23, and showed him my ID, but he replied that it was impossible because my hands were x'ed up as though to indicate my underage status. After a frustrating conversation I was given an wristband and told that if I wanted to re-enter I had to wash the x's off my hands because even with a wristband they would assume that I was under 21 and now allow me back in. Sheer idiocy.

I had the good sense to buy tickets ahead of time since I knew the show would sell out and it was to be the second of two shows that THC planned to play during 2009, so I ended up having to collect wristbands and sneak in several friends just in time for THC's set. The show turned out not to be very fun, especially not Converge's set, which began with some girl (that apparently was as smart as the bouncers) standing 5 feet from the stage with a full beer right when Converge began and subsequently dumping most of it on me as soon as kids start moving around. Not wanting to start a fight while standing alone in a city where I knew no one (and not really being the fight-starting type anyway) I opted to spend the Converge's set stewing over it.

While several of my traveling companions went to the late show to see Indecision, I waited at Veggie Bite for Lee and a car full of Fist City's finest vegan straightedge kids. We drove back to the apartment from the previous night so I could grab my stuff and then to a much fancier apartment downtown in a building that was rumored to contain a pool, and in a well-lit room full of people I fell asleep within 5 minutes of arriving, wearing a had over my eyes and headphones in my ears.

The next morning I woke up on the early side and Josh No Job (AKA Josh Hate Edge AKA that kid that I got in a fight with (for at least half of Richmond's non-straightedge population)) and I took the L (is it L for "loop" or El for "elevated line? I'll just stick to L) to the end of the line where we met up with an assortment of anarchists and walked to the graveyard in which Emma Goldman is buried. I had my picture taken in front of her grave, but it either hasn't been uploaded or I haven't been tagged because I still haven't seen it. After the graveyard we headed for The Metro.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Summer 2009 chapter 1: Brooklyn to Chicago

We woke up early Thursday morning for french toast before leaving for Chicago, despite the fact that two nights before I got back to Brooklyn at 5am and only slept for a few hours and the previous night I was up late watching Buffy with Melanie, but it was worth it because Janne made the most incredible home-made vegan french toast I've ever had. At least, at first we thought it was worth it, until it turned out that meeting us at noon meant meeting us at 3:30 (of course it was no fault of Mike's that he was so late, but sitting around all afternoon made us all a little antsy). Because most of my belongings, including my computer, were already packed away in anticipation of Adam subletting my room for the summer, we all sat cross-legged around my room listening to records; all anxiousness aside it was a lovely afternoon.

The first stop was the Vegan Treats bakery in Bethlehem, PA, where I once again did not have the willpower to resist Danielle's excellent food presentation. I don't have much of a sweet tooth and most of the things she makes are on the rich side for me (the goal is Vegan desserts that taste as good as or better than non-vegan ones, and in the pursuit of that goal I don't think she holds out on the white sugar and Earth Balance), but every time I see the elegantly prepared mini-cakes and brownies I break down and buy at least one thing.

The next several hours of driving were uneventful - I tried to nap while listening to relaxing music on my supposedly sound-cancelling headphones but minivans are not as comfortable for sleeping as tour vans and I was distracted by the European style dance party infiltrating my attempt at solitude. Around 3am, not feeling particularly well-rested, I gave up on sleeping and took over at the wheel since Mike and Josh were both getting too tired. I drank about 3/4ths of a Big Blue - a midwestern soda that tastes like cotton candy flavored bubble gum and contains about as much caffeine as coke or mountain dew - and set the cruise control at about 9 mph over the speed limit, a speed that I have been told in the past by cops is safe to drive without getting pulled over. Not so in Indiana. Around 5am I saw a cop car pull off the median going my direction after I passed. I slowed to just under the speed limit and got over to the right, but to no avail. After checking my license and registration and failing to notice Mike hiding under a blanket on the floor (there were 8 of us in a 7-seater) he returned to my window, perhaps dissatisfied with my clean driving record, asked me to step out of the car, and told me that he smelled marijuana. I tried to suppress my laughter because stone-faced as he was I knew he was bluffing, and explained politely that there was no marijuana in the car. He insisted that I had better give it up because he was going to find it anyway and I'd be in way less trouble if I cooperated, I asked him if he was familiar with the concept of straightedge, and the blank look on his face told me that no, he wasn't, so I sighed and held my arms out to be patted down.

Two more cars pulled up and helped search everyone for knives, guns, illicit substances or any excuse to arrest the city slickers that dared to drive through their quiet Indiana town, population: 1000. By some miracle the found nothing on our persons and pig #1 proceeded to search the rental car, hand in latex glove, with admirable determination. His bluff would not be called by a bunch of punk kids, god damn it! The 8 of us, under dressed for the late-night cold and groggy from road trip napping, waited on the side of I-80 while I chatted with pigs #2 and #3. I've always prided myself in my ability talk with adults, and after a while we were all chuckling and conversing about punk music, tattoos (pig #3 had one or two and was frustrated that the local police department didn't allow any below short-sleeved shirt length), and my bike trip through Indiana the summer prior. At one point #2 quietly asked #3 if he smelled anything, which he didn't, and several times throughout the 20-minute ordeal they looked over at #1 and rolled their eyes.

Finding nothing, pig #1 wrote me a warning for speeding and Adrian and I busted Chain of Strength, Go It Alone, Carry On, In My Eyes, Count Me Out, Strife, and other such straighedge and youth crew jams (beginning, of course, with True Til Death) for the next several hours.

We rolled into Chicago at 8am, EST, now locally 7am, and shuffled into a large, fancy, and mostly empty apartment in what used to be the newspaper building. Being the only one still hopped up on caffeine, I offered to return the rental, and no one complained. I dropped it off a few miles away, and having worn my running shoes and mesh shorts, I ran 3 1/2 miles back the apartment, did some push-ups and sit-ups, showered, and finally went to sleep around what felt like 10am, only to be woken up less than 3 hours later for the Chicago May Day parade, vegan sandwiches at the Chicago Diner, and eventually, the Hope Conspiracy Burning Fight pre-show.