Friday, February 27, 2009

Date Hot Spots

Somehow, I am the first person that people call when they have a date. Often times, the call is from a girlfriend but sometimes guys ask too. On a personal note, I don’t know whether I should be flattered (maybe they think I’m a cultured nightlife enthusiast who appreciates all the city has to offer) or insulted (because they think I eat out too much or have been on way too many dates.)

The call is always the same. “I have a date. “Where should we goooo?” Their voices exude both excitement and dread.

I usually ask a few questions like “Which date is it?” and “What kind of person is the lucky guy?”

Unfortunately, winter time in Chicago doesn’t offer a lot in the way of creativity, but that doesn’t mean you are limited to a night at the Cheesecake Factory.

Stick to some of the ideas below and you’ll have fun, even if there’s not a love connection.

First Date

Even if you think that you might really like this person, it is better to have a casual first date. You want there to be an adequate amount of activity, in case the guy is a dud. Conversely, if the chemistry is right, an environment conducive to conversation is ideal.

  • A Bulls or Blackhawks game is a great idea, particularly if both parties appreciate sports. This is kind of a no brainer because most men are sports fans.

To look at the Bulls and Blackhawks schedule, click here.

  • Ice skating at Millenium Park. This is fun because you are likely asking him to go outside of his comfort zone. Watch his behavior; if he is a fumbling idiot, but is able to laugh at himself, then he has earned himself a second date!

To view skating hours at Millenium Park, click here!

  • Walk through the Art Institute of Chicago on Thursday night – it’s free and open until 8 p.m!

11 S. Michigan Avenue

To see which exhibits are currently showing at The Art Institute of Chicago, click here!

  • Take a trip to the Chicago Cultural Center, which is not only one of the most impressive buildings in the city, but also a home to film festivals (March 6 – 8), poetry readings, art exhibitions and cultural celebrations.

78 E. Washington Street

Find out what exciting things are happening at the Chicago Cultural Center here!

Not The First Date...

If you’ve survived the awkward first date –hooray! -- and are ready for more datey activities, then keep reading.

  • Webster’s Wine Bar – has to be one of the most charming spots in the city. This dimly lit hangout boasts an impressive list of wines by the glass – It is the perfect date spot.

1480 W. Webster Ave

Peruse the extensive wine list at Webster's Wine Bar, here!

  • Tango Sur – This Southport haunt never disappoints. The BYOB spot features traditional Argentinean steaks with chimichurri sauce. The tango music is barely audible over the hordes of people – they don’t take reservations but the wait is always worth it.

3763 N Southport Ave

To visit Tango Sur online, click here!

  • Firefly – is a quaint, Boystown French bistro. The food is marvelous and it’s easy to get cozy and stay for a few hours.

3335 N. Halsted St.

To visit Firefly online, click here!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Art Review - Julie Blackmon and Joseph Grigely

Joseph Grigely at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 East Chicago)

Joseph Grigely‘s exhibition at the MCA, St. Cecilia, is a definitely worth a second look – which, is something I rarely do when viewing contemporary art.

Given my aversion to Christmas, I rushed through the film installation where “Christmas carols” are sung by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, as though I were being followed by Jehovah's Witnesses. Then, I spotted We’re Bantering Drunkening About What’s Important in Life, 2007. It was here that I lingered with childlike curiosity, mesmerized by the patchwork of hand-written notes scribbled on maps and stationary. This wall is a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes and textures, composed of pieces of paper which once lived in a cash-register, a hotel nightstand, a menu in a French restaurant – it’s like peeking into an artists’ diary with funny quips, confessions, remarks and little drawings portraying silly squirrels and smoking snowmen. This piece is a byproduct of Grigely’s disjointed conversations with friends and perfect strangers (Grigely will often ask people to write down a statement when he is unable to lip-read.)

The artist claims that “the walls owe a lot to Josef Albers, Sol Le Witt and Agnes Martin.” I see no trace of these artists, however, I appreciate the piece for its simplicity and ambiguity. Some of the papers are simple, one reads “yuck” and another reads, “she loves you” (the word “went” is next to “she” but has been crossed out.)

Others offer more comic relief:

“She asked ‘Are those your flowers?’ voluptuous lady holding a big orange”

And some tell a story with a picture.

What Did I Say?, 2008 is equally entertaining, featuring more pieces of paper from “conversations” with former professors, friends, acquaintances and strangers. When I stand here looking at the wall, I get a glimpse of what it would be like to be deaf. One napkin displays text that reads: “Would you like a salami and smoked turkey cold plate? Yes. No. Another soda?”

And then I discover a two headed dog and a squirrel that looks an awful lot like Gizmo and my mood shifts back to amusement and utter fascination.

I giggle at a card that looks a lot like this:

The 53-year-old artist marvels at how Europeans

describe him as an artist who explores communication, while Americans are quick to reduce him as the deaf artist. Grigely’s work seeks to explore the idiosyncrasies of language and communication. I am pulled in by his delivery, which is that of a mischievous intellect with a great sense of humor. I am left with one question: What’s with the smoking snowman that I keep seeing everywhere?

Julie Blackmon at Catherine Edelman Gallery (300 West Superior)

Julie Blackmon paints a picture of the world I live in –magical and chaotic. To say that Blackmon’s work is captivating would be like saying chocolate is good. Ummm….chocolate is divine, and so too are Blackmon’s photographs. The whimsical prints jump off of the wall begging you to investigate them further. The lucid colors and dreamlike compositions make me a little seasick at first, but once I have gotten my bearings, I am nothing short of smitten. Her contrasty prints are peppered with unexpected nuances, offering an imaginative alternative to suburban family life.

Snow Day, 2008, instills both nostalgia and dread in the viewer. A darling toddler looks as though she is half ready to run outside in her little boots and long-johns. She is perplexed staring at her belly as the bright, sunny day pokes through the door behind her, where her brothers are playing. Scarves and gloves are sprinkled on the floor along with fresh snow. I empathize with the Mom who is cursing snow days as she cleans the house later.

American Gothic,2008, is quixotic and dreary. Why would anyone dress their family in matching sweaters when they could be wearing all black and looking like an advertisement for Prozac?? I particularly like the duck who admires the family from a comfortable distance. I wonder if they have ducks on craigslist.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Valentine's Day Guys Guide

click here to watch the WGN Valentine's Day Survival for men on Feb. 12!

My least favorite Valentine’s Day was the year that m
y girlfriend Emma called me into her office. “You are not going to believe what Josh got me” she said. I walked in to assess the Valentine’s Day crisis. There were already two other girls huddled together giggling. “Uh-oh” I thought. The first problem was that Emma had been trying to break up with this guy for a good two weeks at this point. The second problem was that he sent her a teddy bear holding a balloon (which said “I love you”) in one hand and a vase with one rose in the other. TO THE OFFICE. He sent this to the office!!!

Awkward. I couldn’t help but join in the giggling.

“Tom (my sp
ecial man friend at the time) knows better,” I thought. To my horror, I returned to my office a few minutes later and discovered a large teddy bear adorned in black silk boxers decorated with red hearts. He too brought something with him, it was chocolates. I felt icky. I hate teddy bears, I hate stuffed animals wearing sexy clothes and Fanny May chocolates tastes like cocoa flavored toilet paper. When the girls came into my office they erupted into laughter.

“What do I do with this?”I asked them. If I discard the little guy then Tom would ask to see it.

“Oh my God. I can’t be with someone who thinks this is a good idea!” I exclaimed.

I decided to hide the evidence and threw away the boxers in the office kitchen and then, I hid the teddy bear my desk drawer. Then the phone calls started. It was Tom. I let it go to voicemail once or twice. When I finally answered the phone, I uncovered the following:
1.) Tom thought my colleagues and friends would be impressed if he sent a silk, heart boxer wearing teddy bear accompanied by chocolate
s, TO MY OFFICE, where people take me seriously.
2.) His Mom alerted him that the best teddy bear maker was whatever A-hole company
that sent me this teddy bear to begin with.
3.) Girls like it when you sent them stuff at work, so that they feel important.
4.) Maria the cleaning lady, somehow uncovered that I threw away said, sexy boxers which co
uld only fit a one-year-old and paid a visit to me in my office. She continued to ask me over and over again in Spanglish, why I threw them away and could she have them.

The best Valentine’s Day I ever had was sharing a home cooked meal with a former boyfriend. We split a bottle of wine and cooked then stayed in.

Gentleman, don’t be Tom!!

The guide below will make you a model boyfriend or husband. You’re welcome – you
can send me lavish gifts or flowers afterwards…

Make it Heartfelt
Spend a little time thinking about what is important to your girlfriend or wife. Think about stories she has told you in the
past and try to connect the dots to identify things that she cherishes.
Did you take
a memorable trip together? Frame a photograph from the trip and give it to her.

Is her secret fantasy to become a jewelry designer? Then sign her up for lessons locally or visit to find handmade pieces that she might really like.These are the best gifts bec
ause it shows that you care and that you pay attention.

Socially Aware Gift Ideas
Does your lady friend recycle and live at Whole Food
s? If she is a bleeding heart democrat then she is likely environmentally and socially conscious as well. The following gifts are reasonably priced and ethic.
  • FIVE Accessories – eco friendly bags made from recycled materials like potato chip bags and bamboo in placed like Honduras, Bali, Cambodia, Guatemala and India. For every bag sold owner Christine Hutchison, gives five dollars back to the community where it was made.
Click here to visit FIVE Accessories online!

  • Fair Trade Flowers - Fair Trade-certified flowers guarantee fair wages in developing countries where flowers are harvested. It’s only a difference of a few dollars and it really makes an impact.
Click here to find out more about Fair Trade Flowers!

Please find out what flowers she likes first. If you don’t know, ask her Mom or her best friend. Don’t buy her carnations – they are a funeral flower. Tell a friend.

  • Cruelty free perfume – ($39.95) Flower Market perfume by Lush celebrates timeless beauty with classic florals and it is cruelty free (not tested on animals)!
Visit Lush online here!

Turn up the Heat
  • Intercourses by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge – ($19.77) This aphrodisiac cookbook is a must have because you can use it year round; not only are the dishes simple but they taste phenomenal! Cook a quiet dinner in this Valentine’s Day and enjoy the simplicity of it all.

Click here to buy your book today!

  • Aphrodisiac Red Fire Hat Box by Vosges – ($75) Turn up the heat with this kit from Vosges: it contains spicy chocolate bonbons, an Aphrodisiac guided tasting and red feathers.

Click here to buy your chocolates right now!

Get your sweetie the ultimate Valentine’s Day experience. A gift certificate to Evlove Intimates, where she’ll get to design her very own lingerie. The gift that keeps on giving, you’ll get her the perfect gift (for both of you to enjoy) and a
truly unique experience of creating it herself!

View the
Evlove website and make your purchases here!

  • Racy Portrait – Is your partner usually the center of attention? Women that bare it all for the camera find it to be an empowering experience. And she’ll have a keepsake for life!

Visit the Thom Rouse Gallery here for more information!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fanciful Flirting

I remember preschool, one sunny, spring afternoon, sitting in the sandbox next to Billy “Big Cheeks” Thompson. One second, I am content, making a little sand castle, minding my own business and “WHAM”, out of nowhere “Big Cheeks” threw a mud pie in my face. I was furious. I left the playground in a huff and soon after I was driving home with my Mom in the family station wagon – my brother and sister affectionately referred to this car as the “blood mobile”. I was crying and inconsolable. My first male disappointment --if I had known how many more of these I had ahead of me, I might have started spiking the cool aid at a much earlier age.

“You know why Billy threw a mudpie in your face, don’t you?” my mother asked.

“Because he’s a meanie” I retorted.

“Because he likes you,” she said.

I gave her a look that indicated I was sure she spent the afternoon drinking AND ironing. Later I learned that my Mom was right, about almost everything.

Flirting and finding a man in a big city is a lot like shopping on Black Friday; it’s completely overwhelming but shoppers keep going in hope of finding the perfect pair of designer boots, fifty percent off. Chicago is not short on men, by any stretch of the imagination, but the good ones are tough to find. Men, it seems have more options than they know what to do with and they are programmed to live the frat boy lifestyle as long as they can get away with it. Ironically, I find that the women who fair well in modern dating act more like Billy “Big Cheeks” than your average girl. I think the mistake that most women make is being too accessible and too nice. Women are hard wired to be accommodating and to put everyone else first. When it comes to dating and life for that matter, it is important to recognize that people treat you the way you allow them to treat you, this is human nature. Men want to see how much they can get away with and believe it or not, they want to be told “no”. It’s a challenge they’re after and to win the flirting gold medal, you must be smart, supportive, difficult and fun in equal amounts.

Flirting is amusing but if you’re trying to catch a big fish, you’re going to need better bait. Another fact in human psychology is that we are attracted to that which retreats from us. Think about it. Have you ever had someone get too intense, too quickly? And how did you react? You dodged his calls and eventually asked him to please lose your number. Right? The lesson is simply to refrain from putting all of your cards on the table. Keep a few just for yourself. This isn’t cruel and it’s not game playing. It shows self respect and what’s more, it shows him that you’re not counting on him to furnish 100% of your happiness.

According to the dictionary, to flirt means to court triflingly or act amorously without serious intentions; play at love; coquet.

Flirtatious Facts

  • While women are ovulating they are attracted to a more dangerous, flirty type of guy.
  • Flirting is often times, subconscious, and many times people will flirt when they are feeling socially awkward. Alcohol has long been touted as a social lubricant, so too is flirting!
  • Men who work as stylists or personal trainers tend to be very flirtatious. Why? To get you to come back!
  • German singles are encouraged to board the Flirt Express to find that special someone. Last year, nearly 5,000 people tried to buy tickets and there were only 800 seats.