On a more serious note…

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This morning, an old friend from high school posted the sentiment below, and it really resonated with me. Anyone else feel this way?

There is so much to feel about right now. Gaza. Syria. Iraq. Robin Williams. Michael Brown. The war against women. The war against black men. I can’t listen to the news or read my facebook feed without tears coming to my eyes… I feel so much all the time.”

Feeling so much all the time seems to sum it up pretty well. I’ve been feeling a lot lately, which can sometimes be a dangerous thing. Perhaps it’s the scientist in me, but I’m the kind of person that’s drawn to analysis and logic, research and discourse. But on the flip side, I also tend to be quite empathetic, and well, soft. Which, for some reason, has made the last few weeks of news harder to handle than usual. Personally, it’s been a rough couple of days with an ailing family member and the death of a close friend’s father. Still, there are many bad things that happen in the world (and our own backyards) all of the time, so it’s strange when these types of feelings hit you at one particular time.

It’s also a weird position to be in when you’re generally a happy and positive person. For one thing, people grow to expect it from you all the time, but also, there is a guilt for doing and sharing fun things when so many people aren’t in that place. How do we strike the balance between being grateful and joyous, while being fully aware of what’s going on in the world around us?

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Clang, clang, clang went the trolley (party!)

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Many of my Chicago friends have summer birthdays, which make for fun birthday parties. My friend Evelyn just celebrated hers with a Trolley Party! If you’re not from the Midwest, you may have never heard of this concept before – at least I hadn’t. But everyone assured me it would be a blast, and it certainly lived up to the hype!

We all convened at Ev & Chris’ place where our chariot awaited us. The trolley then chauffeured us around beautiful downtown Chicago for three hours, while we celebrated onboard!

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Our resident party planner, Maria, organized a fun photo challenge, which really livened things up. Some of the photo challenge terms were “sword fight,” “pyramid,” “shots with the birthday girl,” and “ride the trolley.” Can you guess which one is which?

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With these gems, it should be no surprise that our team won!

I was in charge of the playlist. Obvi! In honor of Ev and songs from our youth, a compilation of 80’s and 90’s hits. Have you ever seen a trolley full of adults singing and dancing their hearts out? I can only imagine it was as awesome as we thought it was!

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Like every fun time, it all flew by way too fast and we ended our three-hour-tour at Jake Melnick’s to close out the night and recap some of the evening’s shenanigans.

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Happy Birthday Evelyn!

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Honey Butter Fried Chicken

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Happy Monday, y’all! There are many things I love about my job, but the commute is not one of them. Thankfully, I have a bunch of great train buddies to pass the time with, and we’ve recently started planning after-work outings. Hence, the formation of the Metra Supper Club!

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Every month, one of us picks a location and plans dinner and drinks at a fun new spot. Anh had July, and her choice was Honey Butter Fried Chicken in the Avondale/ Roscoe Village area. I’ve heard so many people talk about this place that I was glad I had a chance to check it out. Also? Fried Chicken!

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Me and Anh

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Laura, Regina, and Keith

So how was it? Well, the fried chicken was indeed spectacular (very crispy, juicy, and fresh). Although tiny, the corn muffins were good; in reality they primarily served as a vehicle for the namesake honey butter (so good that I don’t have words to describe!).

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The negatives for me were the sides, which was a little disappointing (because I love sides! Who doesn’t?). I tried the pimiento mac and cheese, as well as the pomegranate kale slaw made with yogurt. The mac and cheese was so sharp that I could only eat a few bites, and while the slaw was refreshing and a good compliment to the chicken, it seemed like it was missing something to balance the tartness. Similarly, my friends weren’t too impressed with their sides, including the sweet potato salad (served cold), collard greens, and mashed potatoes. The one exception was the corn salad, which everyone liked. In any case, go for their signature dish, and skip the sides! Of note, HBFC uses all locally sourced ingredients, and uses organic and natural products. That’s something I’m very cognizant of, and I don’t mind paying extra for. Additionally, HBFC is staffed with the friendliest staff I’ve ever come across! While you order at a counter, the staff brings everything out to you, and goes above and beyond. Pleasant surprise!

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Also, the backyard patio is awesome! Lots of tables with umbrellas, in a nice garden are with plenty of twinkling lights. Seemed like a fun place to host a party. A+ for ambience!

August’s supper club is being planned by Laura, and then I’ve got September. Any unique recommendations for the Chicago area?

Jay Pharoah at Zanies

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Photo via NBC

I love comedy shows; over the years I’ve seen Russell Peters, Dane Cook, and Aziz Ansari twice each, in addition to some lesser known comedians in New York. I also grew up watching Saturday Night Live. So when my friends Jane and Bernard invited me to see Jay Pharoah at Zanies last week, it was an easy decision!

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This was my first time at Zanies, and we ended up arriving a little later than planned (a few extra drinks at dinner, oops), but we somehow scored the best seats in the house – a corner booth in the back, which was slightly elevated and had a clear view of the stage. See, the moral of the story is that a tequila flight with friends is always a good idea!

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Yes, we are wearing sweaters and scarves IN JULY. Chicago is hilarious like that.

We were wondering how Jay’s onscreen performance (impressions, rapping) would translate to a live show. I was pleasantly surprised; it was hilarious! From the minute he started, he engaged the audience which always makes for a fun show. He then launched into a series of stories about his life, peppered with the impressions that we all love. Of course there were the obvious ones like President Obama and Jay Z. But the best were the unexpected ones, including rappers Drake, Katt Williams, and Lil Wayne (by the time he got to Weezy, we were all dying from laughter!), and comedians (Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, and Dave Chapelle). It’s pretty clear he’s a great impressionist! He even spit some rhymes and sang a little bit of “What Does My Girl Say” from the infamous SNL skit he did with Kerry Washington. Hard to believe this talented performer is just 26 years old! Overall, it was a great show, and we laughed the entire time. It really made me want to check out more of Chicago’s famous comedy scene!

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Jay leaving the building. And Bernard grinning because he just got to shake Jay’s hand!

Counting Crows at Ravinia

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The first concert I ever attended was Counting Crows (featuring the Goo Good Dolls), 17 years ago; Monday night I had the chance to hear them play again! This time, at Ravinia, with Toad The Wet Sprocket. Talk about reliving the 90’s. One of the best music producing decades, in my opinion!

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Right before the Counting Crows concert, 1997. What are we wearing? Why do I have glasses on? 90’s mysteries we will never know the answers to 😉

The concert was held at Ravinia, which is such a fun summer venue. While traditional seats are available, most people opt for the lawn where picnicking is taken to a whole new level! It’s nice to enjoy the music from the comfort of your own space, but also have the option to check out the show at the back of the theater.

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My friend Tamara and I got tickets ages ago. My friend Tedd was also going with a group, and invited us to join them. That’s half the fun! Meeting new people and sharing food and drinks. We also made friends with two older gentleman, who were quite characters. One was wearing the brightest neon yellow shirt (pardon me, tank top) I ever saw, and may or may not have multiple fiancés. Like I said, the fun part of Ravinia!

As for the concert itself, I was pleasantly surprised.  I have one Toad the Wet Sprocket song on my iPhone, “Something’s Always Wrong,” which is one of my favorites, and one which they played that night. But they also played several more that I recognized such as “All I Want,” “Walk on the Ocean,” and more.  Counting Crows was awesome! Adam Duritz sounds just like I remember him from back in the day. Ok, maybe more like I how I remember him from his CDs! Everything they played was familiar, including some of the newer stuff (that I recognized from the radio and from movie soundtracks), but of course my favorites were the oldies from the August and Everything After album, such as “Round Here,” “Rain King,” and of course, “Mr.Jones.”

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Tell me, what was your first concert?