did you ever have a dream where you were in your house, except it wasn’t your house? maybe it was your house, but it wasn’t really you at all, maybe you were there looking at someone who was you (but not) living your life (which isn’t really your life)? in dreams everything is real yet unreal, familiar and unknown. but really isn’t that the definition of dreams? we never have dreams where we do laundry or go to the grocery store or pump gas or watch tv. i don’t, anyway. i have dreams where i’m in my old house and we leave to go to an amusement park where the rides are deadly, or snakes go down the street like upright S’s, or i’m endlessly renovating a house in chicago which is easily big enough for ten people. i have dreams where fred flintstone is possessed of the devil and wants to go to hell. i’m sure that has some kind of secret meaning but i have never figured it out.
so it goes.
and so this weekend i read a book, in one day. i don’t remember the last time i did that, just consumed 500 pages of text the way i’d eat an entire bag of pita chips or, when my salt craving is out of control, a bag of stouffer stove top stuffing dry. even the book salt was a torturous slog. maybe the last time i read one so voraciously was shadow of the wind, which is sort of a gothy fairy tale about a boy who reads a book which is really about his own life or a remarkable parallel to his life — but i don’t want to spoil it for you. read it, it’s quite beautiful.
so there i was reading this book simultaneously enthralled, confused and maybe even upset me at times. i laughed, i cried, i made it part of my life. like i was little daniel sempere reading about his own life, or a life so closely paralleling his that the similarities were unmistakable but with the names changed to protect the innocent. i suppose that, if you lived in the same city as i in the same time frame of the book, and you were of a certain crowd, it would probably have that same echo of deja vous. maybe, maybe not. did you live in lincoln square? maybe river north? perhaps you went to a show at the aragon ballroom — thousands did. i had a friend who worked at the newberry library, and another who lived in south haven, michigan. i probably know you. maybe i ran into you somewhere, sometime.
these places, you know, are not the central feature of the book although they do give it a sense of reality. an eerie sense of reality, if you ever had coffee at the caffe pergolosi (misnamed cafe pergolisi in the book) on halsted, or went to berlin around your 21st birthday. a bizarre confluence of fiction and reality, if your el stop was western, right next to opart thai. for more reasons than one, i could have been the one walking through the book, apparently unaware that my life was being hijacked into a novel.
anyway i don’t want to give too much away, dontcha know, or even tell you what book it was. first of all, it would potentially ruin the book if you haven’t read it, and second i don’t know what i can say about it that isn’t said there. and of course it’s not really my story although it sure as fuck seemed like it at times although mine i hope has a better ending.. . .
caffe pergolesi i don’t think it’s around anymore. it was next door to the 99th floor on halsted, across from the chicago diner. yellow facade. it was a narrow little cafe with tall ceilings and one of those espresso makers that looked like a rube goldberg machine. i first went here when i was in high school, with my cousin peter. it was the kind of place that had chess sets and anarchist books and little tiny tables and artwork on the wall. in the days when you would smoke and drink coffee this was where we would smoke and drink coffee. i liked boystown better when there were places like this and not every place was an antiseptic starbucks or clean little boutique filled with vases and cheese sets made of precious wood.
berlin i never went to berlin on ladies night. i didn’t even know it had one, but it stands to reason that it would. i went to berlin exactly once, to my recollection, on my 21st birthday. unfortunately, my birthday is halloween, so everyone and their brother was out and berlin was packed. i never even got my free drink.
the newberry library i knew a couple people who worked here, actually. one of whom was my best friend and a bookmaker. she would go on and on about how paper is made and different types of book bindings and how books are archived and the various crazy collections of ephemera at the newberry which needed to be catalogued by their diligent staff of book and paper obsessed librarians.
ravenswood and lincoln square so way back when my head was full of crazy ideas the craziest one was that i wanted a house in ravenswood manor which abutted the chicago river. i actually picked out the house, and was biding my time waiting for its owner to haul off to a better location, like florida. it was on the west bank of the river, on the north side of the street, on one of the streets between wilson and montrose. a large shingled craftsman, with a garden that went all the way down to the river bank. the north branch, in that area, is a well kept secret. unlike the la river which is nothing but concrete or the parts of the river downtown, locked in by walls, the river here is au natural. no walls to contain it, no locks, just a river. some people had little piers and row boats, which i found oddly provocative. most just let the bank grow wild with shrubs. i discovered that when i was living in a three bedroom apartment on the top floor of a three flat on campbell. it was a massive drafty apartment full of sun. before that i lived in lincoln square on wilson and lincoln. at both places my el stop was western.
the ravenswood el
anyone who has lived in chicago knows the joys of riding the el, but of all of them, the ravenswood was my favorite. it slowly wound its way downtown, staring into the back porches of two and three flats on the north side along the way. i’ve had dreams about the el, and one specifically about the sedgwick stop. that was another one of those dreams where the sedgwick stop wasn’t really the sedgwick stop because the view was all wrong. but that’s how dreams are. i’m pretty sure the cars no longer have those crazy windows that crank open. i used to like those but there were those days in the summer when the air was so heavy and still it didn’t matter if the window was open or not the car was as hot as hades.
so it goes.
the aragon ballroom not in a million years would i have gone to see the violent femmes at the aragon ballroom. i am, in fact, shocked that they played there. my first show at the aragon was the cure on october 18, 1985. a short time earlier, in a fit of disgust at having to go to school in the middle of a cornfield, i cut my hair into a severe bob and dyed it black. i went to the show with a group of people i don’t remember anymore, except for one guy who had a mullet and made fun of me for mishearing the lyrics to a duran duran song (the chauffeur). i didn’t really like him, but he had a car. this was not the first time i made that mistake.
i wore a pair of black 60’s stilettos (one of which was later ruined in the mosh pit at a jane’s addiction show), a red backless tank dress, and a big shawl collar men’s tuxedo jacket. i stood stage left and made a big mistake. sadly, i cannot time travel to correct it.
so it goes.
the park west god, who hasn’t had their car towed by lincoln towing?
i think i went to the park west maybe three or four times. i probably would have gone more if parking didn’t suck so bad around there. the only show i truly recall is one where santiago was talking to jello biafra and jello went on and on about himself and didn’t even realize who he was talking to for like 15 minutes. i forget who was playing.
i was recently reminded of vintage vinyl by a., who sent me a recent article of the guy who used to work there, mark, interviewing diamonda galas. this hit the deja vous button on a number of counts. i bought a diamonda galas album when i was in college from the quaker when he worked at record swap, on his recommendation. it really wasn’t my cuppa but i used to put it on at the end of parties to get people to clear out. anyway, vintage vinyl is up on davis in evanston, and there was a guitar shop nearby we’d hit on those trips up north as well. did we go to bookman’s alley? i don’t remember. probably. it’s the kind of thing we’d do. anyway, so mark was this industrial / goth guy who had long black hair pulled back into a pony tail and always wore leather pants. it could be a thousand degrees out (factoring in humidity) and mark would be wearing the same outfit – sleeveless t shirt, leather pants, boots. i remember talking to him about his band but all i can remember is that they were sort of throbbing gristley. mark was very committed to his muse.
* * *
you know, i had specifically bought this book to read in transit to spain in three weeks. the book was impatient and couldn’t wait and insisted on being read now, for some reason. i’m not really sure why i hadn’t read it earlier, except that . . . i just didn’t. i assume there was a reason, because i believe there always is.