Monday, October 27, 2008

Weekend in Obama Country

“Obama better get his ass into the White House. Not just his ass—his whole being.”

Such was the comment I overheard this weekend from an Obama volunteer shortly before leaving Chicago, where I had spent three days with Rachael, Barbra, and Michelle for an all-too-rare get-together. We’d chosen Chicago since it’s the most central location we’d actually want to go to (Nebraska would be more central, but…). Subconsciously, however, I’d argue that we chose it because it is Obama-land. And though going away for the weekend meant prying myself away from CNN and political news for a couple of days, my addiction was at least somewhat fed simply by knowing we were among like-minded company. There was one lone McCain supporter trying in vain to pass out leaflets along Michigan Avenue; but everyone passed him by without even a glance.

Andrew has said that one of the best parts of living in Sacramento is that it has made me more open-minded about other places we might one day live—a change, apparently, from my nowhere-but-NYC mantra that had been my previous belief. He’s right; living out West has made me eager to move back East, if only as far East as Chicago—anywhere, anyplace, as long as we’re somewhere where we can watch SNL when it’s actually L. I’d never given Chicago much consideration, despite having visited a few times before, until now. On Friday and Saturday, we shopped and strolled in and near Wicker Park; lunched at a hole-in-the-wall Costa Rican restaurant; saw a Dorothea Lange photography exhibition; looked around the public library. The streets in Wicker Park reminded me a lot of Park Slope; the El took us everywhere we needed to go; and it was, true to form, windy and chilly and utterly fall-like.

Saturday night we got tickets to a dance performance, a series of works choreographed by people who had been taught or influenced by a choreographer named Gus Giordano. We were outsiders at the performance—it seemed like everyone knew the dancers—but it was fun to see nonetheless. What made it memorable, however, was an appearance by one of Giordano’s most well-known protégés: the founder of Jazzercise. She appeared onstage in skin-tight black leather pants and a silver lame tank top, extolling Jazzercise’s success around the world (who knew it was global?). Her reason for being there was to solicit donations for young dancers, and to do this she put forth what I can say with all honesty is one of the worst—if not the worst—analogies I have ever heard. I’ll paraphrase it here:

“We’re all tired of hearing about Joe the Plumber. But I’ll tell you a story about Al the Electrician. Al came to my house to re-do some lighting, including some recessed lighting in the kitchen. When he was finished, he gave me the bill, and it worked out that he was earning $75-$100 an hour! But then I turned on the lights—and those recessed lights just transformed the room. It’s like these dancers. They’d like to be earning $75-$100 an hour too, and they shine just as brightly. So give them what you can.”

Recessed lighting = promising young dancers? It was remarkable.

Sunday, we saw a searing Jenny Holzer exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art and had lunch at a Thai restaurant; then everyone trickled home. I squeezed in one last photography exhibition—Indian-American family life in California and elsewhere, at the Chicago Cultural Center—before heading to the train. Even without a Jazzercise-founder sighting, I’d go back to Chicago anytime. The people on my plane home cheered when the pilot announced it was in the 80s in Sacramento, but I closed my eyes and savored my last few hours of warm sweater, cozy socked feet, and wind-blown hair.

No comments: