The official user's manual for sunshine

Dissimilar Summers: You Know You’re Not In Kansas Anymore

Fireworks, Memoirs & Miscellany No Comments »

KansasPostcard

When the sounds of dinnertime are punctuated by motorcycle thunder and ambulance wails
As opposed to tornado sirens and trips to the basement with the family cat and radio

When the debate is whether to avert the murky swamp by switching on the air
Versus cranking it at all times to freeze out the blast furnace blowing

When a parade of happenings crowding a calendar with reminders
Makes the summer job “just for something to do” impossible Read the rest of this entry »

On the Exquisite Quality of Sunshine: The Beauty of the Loop

Memoirs & Miscellany, User's Guide to Summer No Comments »

It was an unseasonably warm January day nearly twenty years ago, not long after I first arrived in Chicago, that instilled in me an appreciation for the beauty of the Loop. The thermometer read fifty-eight degrees, and having languished mostly indoors since November of the previous year, the bright January sun at five in the afternoon on that unseasonably warm day was irresistibly attractive. Read the rest of this entry »

Memories of Summer: Romancing the Van

Memoirs & Miscellany No Comments »


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

Food & Drink, Memoirs & Miscellany No Comments »

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

Parks & the Great Outdoors, Road Trips No Comments »

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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

Food & Drink No Comments »

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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

Memoirs & Miscellany No Comments »

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

Events No Comments »

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. livetotapefestival.tumblr.com

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. artic.edu/exhibition/frances-stark-intimism

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. loopchicago.com/activate 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

Memoirs & Miscellany No Comments »

SummerSmackdown