The official user's manual for sunshine

Memories of Summer: Romancing the Van

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Summer reminds me of skinned knees, rainy nights and short hair. Of climbing trees, catching fireflies and coming home wasted. And even though summers are never the same, I fall in love every time. With a boy? Sure, sometimes but mostly with the warm breeze. With yellow tulips and sundresses. With faint stars and ripened avocados. With new friends and green tea frappuccinos.

When I was fifteen, I fell in love with a van. A decrepit white messy whale of a thing my entire graduating class faithfully dubbed the “Party Van.” I was a freshman, going through what my sister called “the classic phase of teenage rebellion.” You’ve likely seen the scenario played out innumerable times in movies and television shows: Girl yawns, stretching her arms out wide feigning immediate and uncontrollable drowsiness. Girl kisses parents goodnight, marches down the steps to her room, closes the door silently behind her and starts getting dressed with the clothes that have been lying in wait atop her splintered cherry wood dresser since about supper time that day. Read the rest of this entry »

Summer Swill: Drunk Brunch

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I dream about it all winter, as my Brown Line halts and screeches through a December morning or I hunch my shoulders against a February night. One day—maybe not soon, but inevitably—the city will thaw, the birds will return, and we will have Drunk Brunch again.

When I moved to the city two years ago I had something to prove. I was newly twenty-three, working at a comic-book store, and I wanted to be treated like an adult. This was the inspiration for the inaugural Drunk Brunch, the apartment-warming party I threw in June 2012 with my roommate Paige. This was the perfect chance to show everyone our Albany Park apartment with its sloped floors and chipping paint, its front sun porch AND open back deck. Most importantly, it belonged to me, as long as I paid my rent.

I daydreamed my presenting life like a Martha Stewart magazine spread, a chance to flaunt my skill at assembling a strata. We would emerge from a life of undergrad immaturity, inheriting this new world of city sophistication. Twenty minutes into the party, I shotgunned a PBR on the back porch. Read the rest of this entry »

Summer Road Trips: Pomona Natural Bridge in Southern Illinois

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Summer for us means escaping the city in search of trees, stars and family time. We have a lot of favorite destinations but few match the surreal beauty of Pomona Natural Bridge, located almost three-hundred-sixty miles directly south of Chicago.

I first started going to Pomona Natural Bridge a decade ago, right after getting married. Honeymooning in Southern Illinois is not everyone’s cup of tea, but we take a certain joy in discovering places off the beaten path. Pomona itself is a lovely, mostly forgotten place in an obscure corner of the Shawnee National Forest that stretches over most of Illinois’ most southern tip. A couple dozen vineyards and a whole lot more cabins dot the area, but most places have a remote, rustic feel and getting to the good points almost always involve a little gravel under the wheel. Read the rest of this entry »

Signs of Summer: Finding the Perfect Brazilian Beach Food—in Chicago

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One of the things I miss the most about my native Brazil is its “beach food, ” preferably savored by the ocean, as waves hypnotically break within my sight. Stuff like crunchy fried shrimps; corn on the cob slathered in butter and salt; coconut water from an actual coconut, and its soft pulp afterwards; grilled “coalho” cheese on a skewer; and the ultimate calorie bomb, açaí na tigela. They’ll be sold by the humblest vendors at crazy low prices (especially if you’re not speaking English out loud), brought to you right where you happen to be, and they will taste like heaven. These delicacies might seem simple, but their perfect flavor, consistency, temperature and ambiance cannot be easily replicated; basically you’ll just have to drag your untanned gringo arse all the way down there—which I highly recommend, now that the Brazilian currency has lost so much value. But I hear you: it’s finally summer here, not exactly the right time to flee. So how about the next best thing, which is finding a few fairly decent substitutes within driving distance? Read the rest of this entry »

Memories of Summer: The Fun in Our Stars

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Back in those days, we could still make out the stars in the night sky, all the brilliant pinpoints of light along with the constellations—Orion, Cassiopeia, Ursa Major and Minor.

We were surrounded on all sides by cornfields rustling in the warm early summer air. Those night-green fields went on and on ad infinitum. At least it seemed that way. There was a remarkable lack of ambient light back then, in this stretch of far-west suburban Chicago. This was before the incessant creep of asphalt and Klieg lights and big box stores—before the rural acquiesced to sprawl.

We were twenty-one, me and Tom and Bill; childhood friends on the cusp of adulthood. On a quiet country road we had discovered an old concrete pipe factory out amidst the darkness and the wispy corn stalks that would, in weeks, be knee high by the fourth of July.

We parked our car in a subdivision about a mile away from the factory. This was the first subdivision of many that would soon arrive, a harbinger of the development to come, a real estate malignancy bearing such ironic monikers as “Cedar Ridge” and “Willow Creek.” We were in Tom’s nocturnal blue Chevy with scrunched-up fast-food bags on the floor and heavy metal looping from the glowing stereo.  Tom doused the headlights. We rolled up the windows and stepped from the car. Read the rest of this entry »

Top Five Art and Design Doings This Summer

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Live to Tape (May 18-24): Links Hall (3111 North Western) hosts a festival that curates the best of television-related video and performance work made over the past four decades. A week-long series of screenings that begin each evening at 7pm.

Frances Stark: Intimism (May 21-August 30): One of the most prescient contemporary art practices to account for how one’s personal experiences are being shifted by Internet memes, Instagram and camera phones, the Art Institute of Chicago has organized Stark’s first comprehensive museum survey.

ACTIVATE (May 15-October 16): Alleyways throughout the Loop are activated as sites for multi-arts events throughout the summer. Monthly events, from 5pm-10pm at a variety of locations. Read the rest of this entry »

Easy, Breezy and Beautiful: The Brazilian Girl Guide to Summer Fashion

User's Guide to Summer No Comments »

Pattern skirt Crop topIn summer it’s a lot harder to look elegant and well dressed, but Brazilian women always find a way of incorporating charm into their sensual wardrobe. Easy, breezy and beautiful might as well be their own slogan—under such high temps, light fabrics and effortless styling are a must. Here are a few trends the current girls of Ipanema are embracing in their cool and gentle sway:

Special bras: The recent heat waves in Brazil are creating the perfect storm for their lingerie market. With fine materials such as leather, modern cuts and bright colors, bras have found their place in the sun. Right now it’s hot to show what’s underneath, either through sheer fabrics or by letting a strap peek out.

Cropped tops: Here’s the great advantage of this trend: you don’t really need to be in shape to rock it. Worn with flattering high-waisted bottoms, a shorter top creates a contemporary, feminine and even elegant look—it all depends on the pieces and fabrics you’ll choose. A crochet cropped top paired with high-waisted trousers and a few statement bangles can make a dazzling—and very Brazilian—party outfit. Read the rest of this entry »

Summer Smackdown: Chicago v. LA

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Top Five Festivals For Music in the Open Air This Summer

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In summer, music in Chicago means one thing: festivals. It’s almost as though, after a typical brutal winter, we collectively can’t bear the idea of hearing one more note played in a crowded nightclub, dimly lit concert hall, or claustrophobic tavern. We want our music under the bright, blue sky and in the open air, with all the randomness, confusion, sense of community and acoustic challenges that represents. And boy howdy, do we ever get it.

Chicago Blues Festival
June 12-14, Grant Park
Still the largest free blues festival in the world, and one of the cultural events most associated with the city by out-of-towners. This year’s fest—the thirty-second—features local legend Buddy Guy as the headliner, and celebrates the centennials of both Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. Other acts include Billy Branch, Toronzo Cannon, Clarence Carter, Eddy Clearwater, Syl Johnson, Zora Young, Taj Mahal Trio, Eddie Shaw & The Wolfgang, Charlie Love and Chick Rogers, among many others. Over half a million people are expected to pour into Grant Park for the chance to bliss out to every kind of blues imaginable, including acid, electric, Delta, New Orleans, Kansas City, West Coast, St. Louis and (of course) Chicago. Free.

Pitchfork Music Festival
July 17-19, Union Park
After ten years, this laid-back, all-ages fest can probably be called a Chicago institution. This summer, hometown favorites Wilco, Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa welcome rock royalty Sleater-Kinney and The New Pornographers. Also appearing: Future Islands, Sophie, Ought, Churches, Run the Jewels, Iceage, A$AP Ferg, Panda Bear, Caribou, A.G. Cook, Jamie XX, Mac DeMarco, Todd Terje & The Olsens, Ex Hex, Tobias Jesso Jr., Jimmy Whispers, Bully, Ariel Pink, Bitchin Bajas, How to Dress Well, Mourn, Protomartyr, Single Mothers, Natalie Prass, Parquet Courts, Ryley Walker, Future Brown, Mr Twin Sister, The Julie Ruin, Waxahatchee and more. There’s also a wide range of local vendors, and a popular record fair run by CHIRP Radio. $65-$180. Read the rest of this entry »

Southern Illinois Superman: Can the Man of Steel Save the Illinois-Ohio River Valley?

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By David Witter

More than a century ago, towns like Metropolis, the “home” of  Superman, Elizabethtown and Cave-In-Rock were thriving agricultural hubs, buoyed by riverboats and barges, as well as fluorite from the nearby mines. So much so that Cave-In-Rock  had the dubious distinction as the capital of Illinois’ crime long before the gangsters arrived in Chicago, with river pirates and mass-murderers operating along the Illinois-Kentucky border.

But the demise of the riverboats and lower grain prices left parts of the region like much of the rest of the rural Midwest—depressed. There are nearby areas of great natural beauty, including Garden of the Gods and the ancient Cypress trees of the Cache River State Recreational Area. But driving along portions of the Ohio River Scenic Byway, you pass tattered houses with yards full of stripped cars and rusted washing machines, as well as shuttered businesses with signs that seem to have been fading for decades. Metropolis and “Superman” hope to change that. Read the rest of this entry »