I decided to go downtown and take in the Chicago Jazz Festival because—I like jazz, and it’s a nice day to be outside. I figured that I would get some food, sit on the ground listen to some jazz, maybe peruse some overpriced souveniers… Well, when I arrived at Grant Park I was already hot and sweaty, owing to the fact that no public transportation up by me goes anywhere near the Park—I was hugely disappointed to find that the “festival” was set up on the small access road that cuts Grant Park in two. About a block and a half had been blocked off, with one little stage crammed in at one end, and the rest given over to crappy food booths and useless vendors. (“Geico Insurance, lady?!” “Sorry, don’t have a car, and I don’t buy products from geckos with ambiguous accents, anyway!”)
Forget about vegetarian food. I finally bought some lukewarm fries using ten of the eleven tickets I was forced to buy (why-why-why?) and then attempted to listen to some jazz. Only the twenty or so chairs in front of the stage were already occupied, and I didn’t feel like standing in the sun, in the middle of a street juggling a Syrofoam container of fries and BBQ sauce, so I went around into a grove of trees. Shady. Cool. Also, directly behind the beer truck. Now, it’s nice to have beer at these outdoor events—but not when it’s ridiculously expensive. Also, the truck’s air conditioning unit was humming so loudly it drowned out a lot of the music. I pulled out “Good Omen” and attempted to get my good humor back. THEN I was suddenly attacked—bitten, hard, on the leg. I swatted the invisible attacker, only to feel it again on my arm. I caught a glimpse: horsefly. AAARGH. Despite my best efforts I got bit about five times. It was like—the Battle of Britain or something. Needless to say, I ate up pretty quickly and got the hell out of there.
After that I wasn’t really in the mood to listen to jazz, which sounded pretty modern and contemporary anyway. I ended up wandering south through Grant Park, which is actually a pretty nice park—most of the parks in Chicago are pretty nice, I will give the city that. The problem is, they are so far AWAY from anything like a little caf or restaurant, that when one begins to think longingly of a cup of tea, one has a long way to go. Also, there was no TP in the restrooms. I did enjoy the huge fountain (and subsequent cooling spray) at the end of Congress Parkway, but was saddened to see the fence around it, as if to say “No Wading.” Pffft. I don’t understand why the jazz fest organizers didn’t spread their jazzy goodness out under some of the cool shade, unless it was a concerted resistance movement by those horseflies. Next time, I’ll bring a stereo with some Ella Fitzgerald pre-loaded.
Eventually I ended up wandering (read: hiked three blocks) into the art institute on the off chance it was free today. It was not, so I skulked around the gift shop absorbing air conditioning until I cooled down, then headed for the L. Stopped in a McD’s to get a liter of cola (I would have gotten a bottle at the fest but only had one ticket left—for the scrapbook, apparently), from a countergirl who was so bored she was literally leaning on her picture-screen console. Very nearly dumped said liter of cola on a street busker who whistled at me as I was going up the steps to the L. Arg. What a waste of a perfectly good day.
The only fun part about the weekend is the fact that I have finally embarked upon “The Baroque Cycles” trilogy, which I have heard is good. All I know is, when I brought “Quicksilver” home yesterday in my messenger bag, it gave me “Nelson’s Syndrome,” a term I coined when I was walking around Portsmouth all day with my bag resting on a nerve in my shoulder and then later that night I couldn’t feel my right arm. Nelson hasn’t shown up yet, but I have confidence. Try writing a book about historical Britain and not mentioning him. Try.