Archive for December, 2006

If I Wasn’t Such a Mean Old Biddy, I’d Break Right Down and Cry

Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

That’s a quote from Emma, the busybody housekeeper in White Christmas. My mother taught my sisters and I from infancy about essential Christmas movies. When we got our first VCR in the late 1980s (my dad likes to make sure technological advancements are here to stay before he splurges on them), we got the chance to buy these movies and watch them over and over and over again. The three most important movies were Holiday Inn, White Christmas, and Miracle on 34th Street.

Music Box Christmas show marqueeSomehow, Hayden has never seen any of these movies, and he excitedly told me a few weeks ago that an old theatre, the Music Box, would be playing 35mm prints of White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life during their 23rd annual Christmas show. So on Friday, December 22, 2006, I got to do something that I thought I would never get to do: see White Christmas on the big screen.

When we arrived at the theatre, there was a line of moviegoers along the sidewalk, many of whom were speaking like veterans of the Music Box Christmas shows. Not until we got inside did we see what a ritual this event is for many Chicago families and groups of friends. About a quarter of the audience was wearing Santa hats, and even more were carrying jingle bells.

Crowd, many of whom are wearing Santa hats and Christmas colors

To begin to get everyone fully in the holiday spirit before the picture, a short called Suzy Snowflake was played. Grown women sighed, cheered, and sang exactly like they must have when they were little girls decades ago. Then four members of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Santa Claus himself, and the organist, who was wearing a Christmas tree costume, led the audience in Christmas carols. A slideshow reminded us of the words to standards like “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Up on the Rooftop,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Everyone was singing their hearts out and jingling their bells at every opportunity. Hayden and I cheerfully joined in. Most of the lyrics quickly came back to me, and I could even picture the pages of the booklets my sisters and I sang from when carolling at a nursing home with other children from church. Hayden had to look at the screen a little more often. We both had to keep our eyes on the screen when Santa led everyone in a song he wrote about mud-slinging during Chicago elections to the tune of “Sleigh Ride.” The sing-a-long ended with “Chicago Christmas” to the tune of “White Christmas.”

At last, the lights were more fully dimmed, and I was keyed up and excited about Christmas in a way that I hadn’t been in years and years. When the title White Christmas appeared on the screen, I nearly cried because I was so happy and wished that my mom and sisters could be there to share it.

White Christmas opening title

During the movie, I couldn’t stop myself from singing the words to the songs in Hayden’s ear and sometimes saying lines with or even before the characters. But I kept it quiet so that no one near us would take off his or her Santa hat and beat me with it. I wasn’t the only one singing, though. I heard quite a few women singing “Sisters” unabashedly. People would laugh at almost anything, jingle their bells during songs, say “awwww” when something was touching, and whistle when Betty (Rosemary Clooney) or Judy (Vera Ellen) appeared all dolled up or we caught a glimpse of Bob’s (Bing Crosby’s) bare thigh. I was thrilled to be a part of it all and see people enjoying the movie as much as I was.

The only thing I didn’t understand is why people were hissing. I’ve heard people do that during old movies at the Orpheum when a villain appeared. But there isn’t really a villain in White Christmas. People hissed at Betty when she had the misunderstanding with Bob and continued even after she realized her mistake and wanted to make amends. I felt defensive of Betty and wanted to shush the hissing.

Finally, the movie came to an end, and Hayden and I drove back home looking at all the Christmas lights and listening to Christmas music on the radio. (You can’t beat Willie Nelson singing “Frosty the Snowman.”) When we got home, we forced Eva to take a picture with us so that we could put it an ornament we got to celebrate our first tree together.

Apryl, Hayden, and Eva (the cat) in front of the Christmas tree

Then we wrapped presents and listened to Christmas music playing on one of the public access channels after hours. When we were exhausted and “Oh, Holy Night” came on, we decided it was time to drift off to sleep.

The End title from White Christmas

Hayden’s Top 10 Favorite Chicago Pizza Joints

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Here’s a fact: Chicago takes its pizza pie seriously. In fact, the two of us were discussing this matter last night (over pizza, of course): that pizza in the “Second City” is scrutinized the same way that BBQ is in Memphis. I mean you aren’t a true Memphian unless you know the exact location to scarf down the BBQ to end all BBQ (which is the Bar-B-Q Shop on Madison). Now, Chicago is nowhere in the same league as Memphis when it comes to pig cookin’ (we know, we tried), but they do make a mean pie. And like Memphians have their favorite BBQ joint, everyone here has their favorite pizza joint, which is carefully decided on from a multitude of criteria such as pie crust, fresh toppings, sloppy level, etc. Well, we have scarfed down enough pizza ourselves since we’ve stepped foot in this fair city for me to come to my own conclusions. So, here are my top 10 favorite places to grab a pizza in Chicago:

10. My Pizza Pie – It’s basic, but good and only a few blocks from our apartment.
09. Pequod’s – This one upset Apryl’s tummy, but I enjoyed it once I dealt with the pepperoni issue, which was that there was way too much of it. I had to pick them off or be left with an overly salty pie.
08. Santullo’s Eatery – OK, this is actually New York style, but good pizza is good pizza. And Santullo’s offers an amazing deal for a slice of pizza, that I swear will make you feel like you just devoured an entire pie.
07. Pizzeria Due – Sure, it’s a tourist trap, but so is the Rendezvous in Memphis, which doesn’t make it any less wonderful.
06. Edwardo’s – A favorite by many for their fresh toppings. To me, it was just another great Chicago pizza. The big plus is that it’s right next to my favorite Mexican restaurant in Chicago and a tasty Indian spot. -Tie-Bacino’s – Apryl seemed to really like the stuffed spinach here, while I tended to like the stuffed spinach from Edwardo’s. However, I will say that Bacino’s was one of the best tasting of the pizzas for a cold breakfast.
05. Art of Pizza – Voted #1 Deep Dish in Chicago by the the Chicago Tribue a few years back. I don’t know if it deserves that honor or such a high spot on this list, but we had it last night (and for breakfast for me), so it’s on the mind. Nice friendly folks, and the best feature is the deep dish “pizza by the slice,” where you can try out a variety of different pizza combinations.
04. Piece – Sure, it’s a trendy spot in Wicker Park, but the pizza is wonderful. Forget deep dish, pan, stuffed, and enjoy a thin slice of pizza every once in awhile. Saturday nights there is live-band karaoke which is wonderfully obnoxious entertainment for out of town guests.
03. Homemade Pizza – How is this for an idea: a restaurant that delivers their pie right to your door uncooked for you to bake yourself. That’s right, uncooked. The reason it’s so great are the fresh ingredients, and it only takes 15 minutes in the oven. And yummy wheat crust!
02. Lou Malnati’s – This might be a pain to get to (at an intersection of a dozen cross streets) but the pizza is so good, that it is only rivaled by…
01. Giordano’s – This was my first introduction to stuffed pizza, and it has changed me forever! If you’re visiting from out of town, we’re going here. There are multiple locations around Chicago, including one close by in Logan Square, but the one on Rush downtown is my favorite.

(Out of town friends Caroline and Liam enjoying a stuffed vegetable supreme from Giordanos!)

Hayden’s Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2006

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

10. I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass – Yo La Tengo
09. Let’s Get Out Of This Country – Camera Obscura
08. Rather Ripped – Sonic Youth
07. Ships – Danielson
06. Everything All The Time – Band of Horses
05. The Greatest – Cat Power
04. So This Is Goodbye – Junior Boys
03. Destroyer’s Rubies – Destroyer
02. World Waits – Jeremy Enigk
01. Post-War – M. Ward

And here are some overlooked albums of 2006 that I enjoyed: Music For Bluegrass States (R. Keenan Lawler), Lantern (Clogs), Hokane (Aki Tsuyuko), A Lazarus Tazon (Tortoise), Gospel Music (Various Artists), Springfield (Arthur Russell), IBM 1401 A User’s Manual (Jóhann Jóhannsson), Congotronics 2 (Various Artists)

O Christmas Tree

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

Are you still on the edge of your seat? Even though we have very limited days to enjoy it, we went ahead and got into the spirit and purchased our first Christmas Tree as a married couple. Which was all a bit odd to Apryl, since she grew up with Christmas trees that were actually cut down by her father. And since we’re on a budget, we bought our tree at the Home Depot instead of the corner tree lot (which is next to the Vienna Factory, I might add). Below, Apryl walks down the aisle of trees, surveying the selections:

And she’s found one!

Let the cutting begin!

No pictures of us getting the tree into my car, but it did do a good number on the paint job of my bumper. So, it looks like we didn’t save any money at all. Of course, the same thing would have probably happened at the tree lot, so we still probably saved a few bucks. When we took the tree out of the car, we both stepped into dog mess, which was a heck of a way to get the festivites started. But after dinner, we seemed to get back in the mood.

And here is Tree Man:

There are two ways to put lights on a tree: the wrong way and the right way. And Apryl does it the right way, which is why there aren’t any photos of me during this stage.

And she’s done!

At which point it was three in the morning. Another hour for ornaments, and it was time for bed. I didn’t get a great photo of the tree with the ornaments but I did get this one:

Merry Christmas!

Random At Best

Monday, December 11th, 2006

I have been so busy with work (editing) that I haven’t been able to write a post in awhile. But I thought I would take a second to alert you that we are still here and doing fine. Apryl’s semester ends this week, and I’ll be less busy by mid week (I hope). So expect future holiday postings real soon, including whether or not we get a tree. Now that I have you on the edge of your seat, I thought I would share with you five songs NOT from 2006 that I have been listening to alot. Random post I know, but enjoy:

Sun Ra – The Perfect Man (Greatest Hits)
There has been a month’s long celebration of Sun Ra here so I’ve been motivated to listen to a lot from the Sun Ra’s exhaustive back catalog. “The Perfect Man” is reason #1004 why we are still at awe with the man from Saturn.

Kevin Hewick – Spain (Tender Bruises and Scars)
I bought this record from eMusic merely on a whim (and to fulfill my monthly download subscription). And while I am not impressed with the majority of this one, the song “Spain” is brillant. I have listened to it on repeat on numerous occasions.

Daniel Johnston – Don’t Play Cards With Satan (YouTube Video)
Click here to witness one of the greatest solo performances ever recorded. It will make you smile, laugh, and ultimately leave you heart broken.

John Fahey – Untitled With Rain (Red Cross)
An atypical piece from Fahey’s last album. Fahey abandons his typical acoustic guitar stylings for electric guitar, organ, and a field recording that sounds like it’s coming from Fahey’s open window apartment on a rainy day. Very moving.

Sid Selvidge – For All We Know (Waiting For A Train)
This one is just plain pretty. And I listened to it over and over on the plane ride to Philadelphia.

If you are unfamilar with any of the tracks above give them a listen and tell me what you think. And look out for “best of” 2006 lists when I have time to think straight.

The Playlist…

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

… for the first The Music Lovers Monthly Review can be found here.

The Music Lovers… It’s Back!

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

It’s true… sort of. I will be recording a monthly two hour program on WEVL called The Music Lovers’ Monthly Review which I’ll be playing my favorite new releases of the past month. You can think of it as a monthly “best of” of The Music Lovers. Check out the first program this Tuesday (and all future programs on the first Tuesday of each month) from 4-6pm. I’ll be posting the playlist at the old site.

Snow Day

Friday, December 1st, 2006

Is it still a Snow Day when the city doesn’t shut down?