Get a Life—April 7, 2006

By Jane Lopes

I am sick. And not that cute, rosy-nosed kind of sick. The phlegm-producing, daily-hygiene-reducing, demonic-cough-inducing kind of sick. So for my sake—and everyone else’s—I have sequestered myself indoors as much as possible. As a result, the extent to which I have “gotten a life” in the last week has been walking the 50 feet from my apartment to Cornell Dollar for tissues and then trudging to class only to piss people off with my sniffling and stifled coughs.

But the fact that I’m not having fun doesn’t mean you can’t. Below are my sources, what I use to find cool events, places, and trends in the city. Read up and go out. Take advantage of your perfectly healthy, regularly showered, not-frightening-to-children state and enjoy Chicago. I’m jealous.

Avant Guide Chicago (Empire Press, 2005)

Avant Guide is a hilarious, witty, cosmopolitan guide book that pulls no punches: It tells you the bars in which you have the best chance to luck into a threesome, the regulations for lap-dancers in the city, and the best restaurants to have a “foodgasm.” The book is divided into self-explanatory sections: “Sleep,” “Eat,” “Shop,” “Play,” “Explore,” and (by far the thinnest) “Know,” which gives the gist of the different neighborhoods as well as a brief history of Chicago. It is decidedly neglectful of our poor little Hyde Park, but—admit it—we at U of C enjoy being the disenfranchised outsiders. It’s what we do best.

The Slow Food Guide to Chicago (Chelsea Green, 2004)

The phrase “slow food” makes me think of those Oregon Trail buffalo who saunter onto the screen, moving at a snail’s pace, lingering under the target—imminent victims of the hunt. But in actuality, the Slow Food movement has nothing to do with the speed of hunting targets. It’s about choosing local, seasonal, and organic products; preserving regional cuisine and culinary tradition; and taking the time to enjoy and savor food. The book highlights restaurants, markets, and bars in Chicago that follow this food ethic. It’s organized by type of cuisine, with special “best of” sections (pizza, barbeque, wine bars, et cetera) and a neighborhood index in the back. Although Hyde Park is a little under- (and oddly-) represented by La Petite Folie, the Med, and Harold’s Chicken Shack, the book has never steered me wrong.

Gapers Block (

I didn’t know this, but apparently “we in Chicago” call a traffic jam caused by a car accident a gapers block, or gapers delay. This is where Gapers Block, an everything-Chicago web publication, gets its name. The website’s aim is to make people slow down and take notice of this great city of ours. There are columns and blogs, as well as a section listing events in the city. You can sign up for a weekly newsletter, which points you to some of the events posted, as well as some very bizarre articles and websites.

This week, it lists a site called that sings you the day’s headlines. Funny thing—I was just thinking the other day how wrong it is that no one has ever written a song about Tom DeLay. And what do you know? felt me: “Hey, hey, whaddaya say /It’s the resignation of Tom DeLay.” Gapers Block is good like that—always providing distractions I never even knew I needed.

Flavorpill (

Flavorpill describes itself as “an e-mail magazine covering a hand-picked selection of music, art, and cultural events.” You sign up on their website, and every Tuesday you get a newsletter with a listing of various events going on in the city in the coming week. Each issue has a different “flavor”—this week’s is “braniac flavor,” and past selections have included “sophomoric flavor” and “historically accurate flavor.”

These titles are loose organizational principles, to say the least, usually having little to do with the content of the issue. They’re cute, though. Flavorpill is a good filter if you don’t have the time or energy to wade through all the listings in something like the Reader or Time Out (both of which are great but do require a little more patience). So, if you’re like me and enjoy being told what you will like, check out Flavorpill. Eerily, they’re usually right.