Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Versionfest wrapup part I

I worked on my blog at a coffee place yesterday. This would qualify for Most Boring Statement Possible, if not for the addendum that I wasn’t writing this blog entry on a laptop, or some computer-like device, but on pieces of scrap paper I dug up (“Neill & Company Fax Form”—where the hell did I get those?). I wrote it on paper and typed it in. Maybe that’s common, maybe there are other low-tech bloggers around, but I felt I was a couple steps removed from chiseling it on stone tablets.

Anyway, I’m desperately trying to get in the habit of actual writing (though maybe I shouldn’t be wasting time on a blog no one comments on…what does it take? Bribes? I’m seriously considering it!). Since the mid-April entry, I’ve produced another entire zine, so I CAN write a lot if I try. Upcoming here: CTA stories, zine promotion, a book-signing spree, an art show dealing with suicide, horror at the new food pyramid, etc. “Soon.”

But right now, a bit about Version 05. (Non-Chicagoans can look it up at I’ve gone to Version in some capacity the past few years. I went to it when it was held at the MCA (Museum for Contemporary Art); I was there during the infamous performance when the cops were called in for some reason. Last year I only made it to a concert held at the Bottom Lounge (I mostly remember getting a compliment from a woman on my new fuchsia with black-and-white appliqué linen skirt [“Only $17 at Marshall’s!”]). And the all-night closing party at the Buddy space on May 1. One of my finest moments ever—I sat in an armchair for 5 straight hours. That requires explaining, but not right now.

This year, I paid $25 for a festival pass, and I’m getting to most of the events. Friday night was the big opening party at Buddy/Highschool/Heaven in Wicker Park.

The lousy weather meant no hanging outside on the roof beyond the time to get beer from the keg (and another round of “Why the Hell Do They Put the Keg Outside?!”). My boyfriend and I, together or apart, wandered between the art show at Heaven, the keg on the Buddy roof, the artsy stuff upstairs at Highschool, and the music, and eventually dancing, at Buddy. (I especially liked Environmental Encroachment’s lively performance there—someone I know, who now has a thriving massage therapy practice, played with them.)

My favorite of everything there was the row of piñatas against the wall at Highschool, with enormous wall text explaining that these were George W. Bush piñatas made and sold in Mexico. But to be shipped across the border without getting stopped at customs, the faces were left blank and they were designated “lawyer piñatas.” So all these little vague papier-mache versions of GWB stood in a tough-guy stance. I expected the display was either to be left untouched, or there’d be a mass demolition at some point, but around midnight, people just started taking them as souvenirs. I really wanted one, but didn’t know if it’d be okay with the artist, and by the time I could deal with this possibly misplaced guilt, they’d all been taken. People carried the piñatas around as if they were cuddly Cabbage Patch dolls, not representations of a widely hated ruler. Or drew faces on them, or ripped them apart, so a stray head or leg would appear on the dance floor.

Before, Highschool had a performance that didn’t impress either my boyfriend or I, so we watched it from the stairwell to make snarky comments. Him: “It’s like a parody of performance art from a Woody Allen movie 20 years ago.” Me: “Art involving naked people is never by the people you want to see naked.” (Not 100% true, but I couldn’t resist.) So we walked through the space to the other side, by the piñatas, to observe from a distance. But the naked guys, one carrying the other, now wrapped in tape or plastic, moved from the stage area to right in front of me (alone and pressed against the wall), making expressions at me, and I tried to stay serious and not crack up, and the two guys collapsed to the floor a few feet away, and it ended. I wonder if this gets in “Chicago Antisocial”--everything involving public nudity seems to.

So my boyfriend (S.) and I went back to Buddy, now much more packed, just after midnight. People seemed to be very drunk and annoying much earlier than usual for a party there, and I spent the next hour or so trying to stay out of the way of all those chemical and fashion casualties. I danced some, but mostly I sat on a sofa, S. coming by occasionally. I was actually happy to be both there with someone, AND to get to go off into one of the sitting-down-and-drifting-off semi-trances I seem to have at almost every Buddy party. By then I’d had a fair amount to drink, so my profound thoughts were:

“Why doesn’t anyone say anything about my green tights? Aren’t they nice?”

“This is the first time I’ve worn high heels here! I did pretty well!”
(I’d bought them at Payless that afternoon. It’s been years since I got anything there, but I bought 4 pairs at 2 different Payless stores Friday. You know, the buy-one-get-one-half-off sale—BOGO. Thanks for coining a stupid new word, Payless.)

“The next time I’m at a party here, I want to be coked up!’
(Despite extremely limited experience with said substance. This is not to suggest anyone is ever under the influence of drugs, or anything other than alcohol [and only if they’re 21+], at any parties I attend. And it’s not to suggest anyone in the scenes I’ve known, like the open mike/spoken word scene, or art school scene, ever consumes anything illegal. And it’s most emphatically not to suggest that there’s a permanently-stained-the-second-time-I-wore-it pink hoodie in my closet that shows why it’s a bad idea to be at a house party where people are doing crystal meth and waving paintbrushes around at 4 a.m.)

So maybe I fell asleep, because I noticed S. was dancing with the now-small crowd on Buddy’s disturbingly uneven and shaky floor (well, when there’s a large crowd, it is), and we got our stuff and left, and he was maybe the drunkest/goofiest I’ve ever seen him, and it was almost 4 a.m.

Saturday evening I went to Version’s “Urban Gardening” event at Open End Gallery, an enormous space a couple blocks from the United Center. I guess I didn’t read the program closely enough to get that this was a show about street art, and that’s what was on the walls, and what an artist from Germany gave a presentation about. I grabbed whatever free stickers and such I could, scarfed down a lot of the delicious pasta (very addictive, garlicky pesto), enjoyed the first band that played, then had to leave to go to something else.

Sunday afternoon I saw a bit of the Terry Plumming event in McKinley Park (at 37th and Damen), but going to Bridgeport was mostly an excuse for a visit to Huck Finn at Damen and Archer to eat and drink coffee and buy a giant chocolate-glazed donut. There may have been a Version “show and tell” event at the Spare Room (just down the street from me) that night, but I didn’t feel like going.

Monday night I met S. at Buddy/Highschool/Heaven for a night of short films in all 3 spaces. It’s amazing how many short films still seem 2 or 3 times longer than they need to be. By which I mean, I didn’t enjoy this as much as other film programs I’ve seen there. The Digital Disobedients program was pretty strong, though. (But it’s not necessary to have someone give a spoken introduction before each film. I’m just sayin’…)

S. and I left around midnight and after a long time decided to stop at Rodan, a nearby bar/restaurant that always looked way too hip for me. But a lot of Version people were there, and the local artist Cat Chow, who I’m acquainted with, was DJing, so I relented. The menu looks creative, Latin American and Asian influences, so I hope to come back when I’ve got money. S. was amazed they had PBR for $2 in such a fancy-looking place; he gave a big tip, afraid they’ll discontinue cheaper drinks because of low tips.

I liked the décor, and told S., “It’s not too…overdone.”
“Well, it’s supposed to be minimalist.”
“I know, but it’s not too…”
“Too minimalist?”
I just couldn’t explain.

I also told him the ladies’ room had something I’ve never seen in a bar bathroom before, and he should see if the men’s room had it too. Thinking this too vague, I added, “It’s what they have instead of a mirror.”
“What, a video camera with a screen projecting your picture?,” he guessed.
“Yes,” I said, simultaneously impressed and crestfallen.
When he did check, the one in the men’s room was broken.

I once again blew my chance to be involved with Version. I’ve got talent, but I just don’t know if what I do fits its high-tech/cutting-edge focus. I mean, I paint, and put out zines, on paper, and give readings. It all seems so old-fashioned, Ye Olde Zine Writer. At the Printer’s Ball (a hotshot event for the Chicago publishing world) in March, I told Edmar (one of the main Version organizers) I hadn’t proposed a project because I couldn’t think of anything, “but maybe something involving cooking?” He said maybe I could be on the “cooking team” and maybe could be an artist for the show and tell event “20x20x20” (I’ve really wanted to do that), and I was very excited about both, but never followed up. Since then, I’ve published a zine I’m very happy with, but I don’t know how to relate it to anything at Version.

So I go to these, like I go to any Lumpen/Buddy/Version/Heaven events, wanting to be more than a spectator. And always feeling a bit—in high school terms—like these are the popular kids I don’t know how to be friends with, you know? Not the kind of popular kids who are snobs, who go out of their way to be rude and condescending to the less popular, or the kind who are at best fake-friendly, but the popular kids who seem genuinely nice to others and try to make them feel welcome, but they seem harried and you’re a bit wary of trying to take up their time because they’re, you know, popular, and they’ve already got plenty of friends.

Oh well. Maybe later I’ll have something better to report.


africkinamerican said...

Okay, you finally got your FIRST comment! (You may deposit my $20 bribe into my Paypal account.)

I'm the guy who came up to you at Skylark and sat next to you on the stage and asked you about Mad Lib. Like I said, I knew that I knew that I knew you from somewhere. Saw your picture in Reader, probly saw you around CCC back in the day. And I was at Printers' Ball, the Banana King thing, and maybe I've seen you elsewhere too, since you're such a scenestress. (Speaking of Printers' Ball -- did you meet a punk rock chick with stripey stockings named Alicia? Was that a chick or a dude? Just curious.)

I know all about the absolute mess of computer files. Last year I undertook a big organization project last year. Only, since my computer was down, all my stuff was on floppies. Which, I've had to learn repeatedly, are notoriously unreliable. Especially if you borrow a friend's computer and it's old and the disk drive is out of alignment. Then it can end up literally scrambling all your data. That happened to several of my disks, and most of them I still haven't fixed yet. So much for the big organization project.

So I have reams and reams of handwritten stuff too. In a way, it's better because a computer only tempts me to spend hours surfing the web and posting rants 'n' raves at craigslist. And, if need be, I can write in a notepad while walking, which would be difficult with a laptop.

About Edmar & co. being "the popular kids": actually, they are -- so I cut them a little slack. When you're an impresario of that stature, it's like the old Billy Squier song: "Everybody Wants You."
Especially when you're the host/producer of a big event. So I cut Ed a little slack for his abruptness. He's busy.

My blogspot is brand new, tho I have an old blog elsewhere. I guess I will post about my Version experience too, but since I work strictly from libraries these days, it may take until tomorrow or Fri. to get that up.

About passively waiting to be invited: been there, done that, hasn't worked so far. Procrastinate tomorrow.

Both your parents are published? Jeez, talk about pressure to measure up.

Crystal meth: no no no thank you.

Cannabis: sure!

It was nice meeting you. Be in touch.

africkinamerican said...

you can tell I didn't take a lot of time to edit! ;)

Kripp said...

Here we go again, human animals in decline desiring and desiring until the soul gets sore. Ah, indeed. And those moments, tell me you know them, tell me you understand... do something, anything to get noticed, to feel less alone and more understood, the action separates from the skin of the moment, consumes the room and everything in it, leaving only the gesture itself, naked, dangling in the frozen air, unaccompanied by the human soul that commisioned it. "This is not me." Can you hear yoursef saying it? Yet, there you are. The evidence is plain, a presence, a representation. Pray that we perform ourselves well. The other, the antidote is just as suffocating, unable to find yourself under all this useless skin. Try love? Other humans can be helpful, have superpowers, see what we cannot. And still, there is the stream, the buddhist aphorism, the leaf on the water. But everything has desire. Rocks and leaves and chairs just succeed in their soulful rockness and leafness and chairness where we do not. "Urge and urge and urge" said the bearded poet of the dead American idyll. "Always the procreant urge of the world." And here we are, yet, making things from paper clips and kilobytes and small balls of desire, hoping that they will grow up to love us for who we think we are.

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