Posts Tagged ‘lakefront’

#13 – Throw a Lakefront BBQ


Staring at the doppler radar report all morning, Accuweather and were no match for the almighty power of the National Weather Service. The thunder boomed and rain fell but I held firm in my resolve to throw a Memorial Day lakefront barbecue. Some friends tried to persuade me earlier in the weekend that the rain would be terrible on Monday but my main dilemma was which was worse: throwing a BBQ in the rain or changing plans at the last minute? Given that over two dozen  people had skin in the game with their Facebook RSVP, I decided that throwing a BBQ in the rain would be better than telling everyone to swap out plans.

The rain and thunder came down and I loaded up a cooler and cooler bag with beer and meat, a backpack full of utensils, and another bag full of blankets. One of my best friends was a bit hesitant to come help set up but he was a good sport and found my grill and we loaded up his car with all of the gear. On the drive to the lakefront there was the unceasing rain making me uneasy, but this is what we signed up for.

Seeing so many people already out at the lake made me feel better about dragging everything out in the rain for a good old American barbecue. Families pitched up tents and canopies while we started unloading all of our gear under an unclaimed tree. The rain was a light drizzle and the text message bombardment ensued. Some people let me know via text that there was too much rain to consider going out, others asked how many people would actually show up for a rain-filled barbecue. My response was always the same: these were the times that tried mens souls, a direct challenge on our personal resolve and we would triumph over the human condition!

Given our limited resources, we tied a tarp to a tree but didn’t have enough rope to tie all four corners. We MacGuyered a solution and used a public garbage can as a support structure for our ill-begotten tarp. While the tarp was limited in its effectiveness, it was way better than nothing. There was a comedy to it, especially while we were envying the other groups that had canopies, other tarps, and giant tents. Most other people were already grilling meat and we were a step behind but that didn’t pose too much of a problem given that the rain got worse and there weren’t that many people there.

A few more friends showed up and we huddled under umbrellas and the tarp. I started checking the doppler and the storm moved too slowly for anyone to be optimistic about the prospects of improved weather conditions. I’m sure my friends were hungry, but we didn’t want to do anything about it until the rain relented a bit. The police drove by more than several times looking for illegal activity and likely were also trying to slap on extra parking tickets in the parking lot. Our morale was low, but our resolve high as we were determined to ride out the storm.

The change in weather also brought in a change in luck. While the rain decided that it was tired of us, a kid from one of the families under the canopy came over suspiciously and told us that his family brought too much stuff and they wouldn’t be able to load the canopy back into their car. The deal seemed too good to be true, so I asked, “How much do you want for it?”

“$10,” he answered.

Faster than he could finish his sentence, I dug out ten singles from my wallet and gave it to him. Someone else offered to pay for the canopy and someone else gave him another $2, but I declared, “Deal!” and we got him his $10. The family packed up their gear and we kept an eye on the canopy to see if they would actually leave it. The tables, chairs, and grill were gone and we swooped in under our much bigger canopy providing maximum protection from the rain. While the canopy was slightly broken, it wasn’t anything some duct tape couldn’t fix up.

Ironically, after I bought the canopy the rain stopped and we were able to break open the grill. Some delicious steaks were popped onto the grill with some burgers and hot dogs and people emerged from the woodwork ready to eat, drink, and play. Some delicious mango salsa arrived while we munched on tortilla chips, buffalo kettle chips, and ate food off the grill. More families arrived to the lakefront and the sun finally broke through. We ate some marinated shrimp and jerk chicken while soaking in the rays and having a great time celebrating Memorial Day.

Was the juice worth the squeeze? While I sit here with a wicked cold probably gained from standing in the rain a bit too long, there are few things better than grilling delicious food on the lake with good friends. I will always remember that raggedy tarp we hung on the tree and the family that hijacked it after we abandoned it for a bit too long. Rain or shine, Chicago lakefront BBQs are where it’s at!

#38 The Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam


Being on short rest and typing away at the laptop, I received a text message from a friend telling me that there was a full moon fire jam at Foster Beach from sunset to 10:30pm.

“What’s a fire jam?” I texted.

“Google it,” my friend fired back.

Googling it directed me to the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam website with a full calendar of fire jams for the remainder of the year. Pretty cool stuff, I remember the first time I witnessed fire spinners at a fundraiser organized by the Leftist Lounge where there were amazing bellydancers, capoeira performers, and fire spinners. I still remember that fundraiser since it was the best entertainment I’d seen in years and I think if you live in Chicago long enough, you’re going to run into fire spinners. Even with the precautionary safety measures taken by the fire spinners, from the outsider’s perspective, it always looks like someone’s going to loose grip and throw fire at you.

Given the spectacle and the fact that I hadn’t seen a friend since he packed for LA, I jumped at the opportunity despite severely short sleep and hopped on the bus. On the bus, there were people talking about the fire jam, but I found them to be a bit off kilter since they were missing a few teeth. They decided that they would wait ten minutes for the bus to round about from Foster and Broadway to Foster and Sheridan. I got off the bus and beat them to the lake, but didn’t see any fire jam.  Another friend decided to meet me down at Foster Beach and we started walking down the astroturfed soccer field. The flickering through the trees and the sound of drums was enough to let us know we were in the right place. Conveniently, someone had already put in the fire jam as a foursquare location and I checked in for an ungodly amount of points after my marathon day.

We walked into a crowd, and people were dancing to the beat of Djembes and trombone and trumpet. The fire constantly flickered from afar, but as we approached the flames transformed to giant arcs of instant combustion. Some people sat, others leaned closely to snap pictures and many a flash went off trying to capture every moment. Unlike most crowded venues and concerts, I had no hard time getting to the caution tape line that surrounded the fire spinners and was happy to not find stiff elbows as my reward. Some people brought their kids while others were in wheelchairs and the diversity of Chicago shined at the fire jam. In the distance, aspiring fire spinners took turns spinning hula hoops while still dancing.

Spinner after spinner lit their poles, bolos, and hoops and as quickly as the fire jam appeared, it was gone. Chants of, “Leave no trace!” filled the air and people picked up their garbage, bags, chairs, and started dispersing. The moon finally made its appearance over the treeline and the Chicago Full Moon Fire Jam made a new fan. Next round about, I will make sure to bring others to indulge in the spectacle of highly skilled fire spinners.

Yelp Elites Pitch Their Bucket List Ideas


It was a wonderfully sunny day with a nice cool breeze, me and @TheAW1 decided to hike a little bit from Gold Coast on the search for a suitable patio. On the walk west on Chicago Avenue, we were shocked to find Bar Louie without a patio setup on an idyllic day. We kept marching, and we kept coming up with big eyefuls of nothing, no patios! By the time we got to Milwaukee and Chicago, we only had twenty minutes left to get over to Mr. Brown’s Lounge to the Jamaica Me Yelpy event and hopped on the crowded bus filled with people giving out too many details of their lives to the general public via cell phone conversation.

We arrived to the party greeted by some of the best community managers in the world and Johnny T himself gave us a detailed agenda for the evening’s festivities from where to get food, drinks, what music would be playing when, and we were stoked. Inside, we found ourselves one of the first arrivals in a sea of familiar faces. As the bumrush of people began, I pulled out the papers and pen and started getting to work.

@raulito’s List

1. Smelt fish at Rogers Park on the lakefront

2. Go to the Air Balloon festival and ride an air balloon

3. Scuba dive wrecks on Lake Michigan

4. Go to the mine pit in Homewood

5. At the Fiesta del Sol, get a piece from the Pyramid of Meat!

@raulito’s list requires some specialized knowledge as I haven’t gone fishing since high school! Scuba diving sounds cool, but being a poor swimmer is probably very conducive to scuba diving or going too deep into water without serious risk of death! I’m really liking this Pyramid of Meat idea and @raulito’s pictures were more than enticing!

Preet’s List

1. Go to Calumet Fisheries and order smoked shrimp and smoked trout

2. Order Apple Fritter at Old Fashioned Donuts by 115th & Michigan

Preet likes good eats in the deep south, I’ve heard of this Calumet Fisheries….could it be the fish version of WINGS AROUND THE WORLD? Oh to dream!

@JillianneM’s List

1. Purchase illegal fireworks and blow them up on the Fourth of July

2. Check out the Ghosthunting Tour

3. Do a run or walk for charity

4. Eat alligator at the Taste of Chicago

5. See an indie film at the Music Box or go to the 24 hour horror movie fest

6. Perform slam poetry at the Green Mill

@JillianneM’s got some great ideas and there’s very few things more fun than blowing up fireworks. I’ve had the luxury of hanging out in the alleys of Logan Square during Fourth of July and watching some impressive displays of firepower! I really think performing at the Green Mill would be a total experience, but I’d need to write something great and rehearse it properly before defiling the stage.

Tim’s (Maryland) List

1. Go to Irazu and have dinner on the patio. Irazu is one of the few Costa Rican restaurants in the city featuring BYOB located in Bucktown. Go to dishes include empanadas, black bean and pork dish, casado, and of course the oatmeal shaek

2. Eat a turtle sundae at Margie’s Candies.

3. Head over to Hutten Bar

4. Chillax at Albion Beach

5. Do a walking route starting at Diversey Harbor, go west to Leavitt, south to Logan Blvd, west to Logan Square, south to Humboldt Park, head to Douglas or Garfield Park, then Western to 55th.

Tim’s final list is a bit ambitious and strenuous all the while posing great danger if done at the wrong time of day. I have driven past Irazu a billion times and have always seen the patio packed to the brim and the idea of an oatmeal milkshake is sounding very enticing right now. Margie’s Candies has long been on my hitlist of places to go check out, so this one may be quickly added.

Andre’s Bucket List


Wicker Park resident and good friend of mine Andre has declared his list. Taking it fresh with the southside perspective, Andre is a local celebrity with his insights and knowledge of the land.

1. Visit The Sears Tower
2. Wings at High Dive & Wings Around The World
3. Drive Michigan Ave & Lake Shore Drive late at night
4. Ride my bike down the bike trail by the lake from Hyde Park to North Ave Beach
5. Drink at Moonshine/Brunch at Moonshine
6. Breakdance at The Funky Buddha Lounge
7. Eat a Steak Sweet @ Home of The Hoagy
8. Sit on the Rocks and make out @57th Street beach
9. Play B-Ball on the South Side
10. Cubs game on a sunny Friday afternoon @ Wrigley
11. Take a yacht out on Lake Michigan
12. Green Mill
13. Harold’s Chicken/Uncle Remus Chicken
14. Drinks @ Hopleaf
15. Taste of Chicago

Like Kurt’s list, native Chicagoans prefer a last goodbye by doing things, taking in locations, or eating at beloved familiar places.