Wednesday, April 12, 2006

It’s not spring in Chicago until …

• The El starts smelling like pee again.
• The first bad gay of spring appears in capri pants.
• The first bad straight of spring appears in jean shorts.
• There’s a run on self-tanner at Walgreens.
• You make it through the night without having to get up to find a blanket.
• Shaving your legs starts sounding like a good idea.
• So do highlights.
• But you promised yourself you’d remember past mistakes and leave well enough alone.
• You have your first meal at a sidewalk café.

Chicagoans love to eat outside—even when it’s not quite warm enough—and Jason and I inaugurated sidewalk café season tonight with a delightful dinner at Uncommon Ground. Which I’d never even heard of, though it’s HUGE and AWESOME and OTHER CAPITALIZED WORDS. It looks like it was one of those best-kept-secret storefront cafés that quietly gained a following and eventually swallowed up the whole block. The place now comprises four different storefronts (bar, café, fussy dessert place, poetry slam room), with outdoor seating that fills the entire sidewalk. And it has delicious food.

As we were leaving, Jason stopped to unlock his bike from a rack next to a table of street hoodlums straight out of central casting: slouchy postures, baggy clothes, gang gestures … the only reason they weren’t covered in bling is they looked too young to die in a war vote.

And as Jason adjusted his bike helmet, I adjusted my prejudices:

Street Hoodlum #1: You gonna go out with her again?
Street Hoodlum #2: Nah. Too weird.
Street Hoodlum #1: Who cares? She’s HOT.
Street Hoodlum #2: I thought she was too. Until she started text messaging me.
Street Hoodlum #1: And?
Street Hoodlum #2: She doesn’t know the difference between they’re and their.

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