Feed your mind (and your friends will follow) in an arts-filled weekend designed to fuel your inner Renaissance man.
Ah, 48 hours at home with nothing to do but get cultured. How to spend your time wisely? Sure, you could finally tackle James Joyce’s Ulysses—you might even identify with its hour-by-hour account of a day in Dublin—but your brain would explode if you tried to decode it all so quickly. Instead, pick and choose among the city’s many artistic offerings—many of which, you might be surprised to learn, can be ordered in, just like your favorite pizza. If you and your friends pool the money you’d otherwise be spending at concerts and wine bars, you can order up quite a weekend.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- Library card
- Internet connection
- Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot (see amazon.com)
- A few bottles of Snoqualmie syrah from Washington state ($6.99 at Trader Joe’s, multiple locations, traderjoes.com)
- Marriage of Figaro CD (on Deutsche Grammophon, see amazon.com)
7pm Settle into your sanctum. Enjoy a quick dinner, ordered in from Soupbox. The menu varies daily, but the roasted butternut squash with sage variety is tasty and nutritious (2943 N Broadway, 773-935-9800, thesoupbox.com; 12oz soup $3.65–$6.43, call for delivery area). Clear off your largest table so you’re ready for four or five artsy friends joining you tonight. Uncork the wine.
7:30pm Your inaugural event: a two-hour bookmaking class, complete with all materials, taught by an artist-instructor from Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S Cornell Ave, 773-524-5520, hydeparkart.org). (Other order-in options include drawing, puppet making and jewelry making; HPAC can also custom-design a class, such as “doing something conceptual and decorative with old sweaters,” says school and studio manager Michelle Beckett.) The traveling HPAC artist teaches you and your group how to make and bind your own journal, complete with a thick “bookboard” cover and a selection of acid-free interior papers. Cost: $600.
9:30pm Crack open your new journal and ask guests to write down their philosophy on life in 50 words or less. Deep!
10pm Time for a brief jolt of real-world televised news. Not, of course, from any local affiliate: You don’t want a crime update, and who cares about the encroaching blizzard? No, it’s more fun (and more important) to observe how low the Clinton campaign will go to take down our homeboy Obama before Super-Duper Tuesday on February 5. To that end, HBO subscribers can catch Real Time with Bill Maher, which is airing new live episodes again—writers’ strike be damned. No cable? Settle for the free audio podcast, available through iTunes.
11pm Engage in the inevitable political debate Maher’s show sparks. Then, politely yawn.
11:30pm After everyone leaves, crack open that nifty new journal. Use it.
7am Wake up. Pee. Go back to bed—you’re on holiday!
9:30am Okay, get up now. Start your coffee a-brewing. Recall that Julia Cameron—author of The Artist’s Way, the modern-day gospel for creatives—advises three handwritten “morning pages” every day. (The relatively unfiltered honesty of early-day journaling supposedly functions as a boon for creativity.)
10am Breakfast delivery is hard to come by, but not impossible: Finkel’s Deli (840 N Halsted St, 312-335-0050, finkelsdelichicago.com, call for delivery area) to the rescue! This being a deli, it’s big on corned beef, ham and eggs. Good news: If you’re an early riser on weekends, Finkel’s starts delivering at 8am.
10:30am Crack open one of 2007’s best books, Alice in Sunderland. Longtime British comics whiz Bryan Talbot spent four years dreaming up this beautiful mélange of history and mythology, recounting the connections between Lewis Carroll, Alice Liddell and the town of Sunderland in northeast England (where Carroll wrote Jabberwocky).
1pm Lunchtime. Order in a spicy homemade curry dish from Jitlada (3715 N Halsted St, 773-388-9988, jitladathaihouse.com, call for delivery area). If you can be patient about the lack of English fluency on the other end of the phone, you’re golden—and delivery from this tasty Thai house means no spotty table service, Jitlada’s perpetual downside. While you wait for lunch, give a listen to the new recording of The Marriage of Figaro with outstanding soprano Dorothea Röschmann.
2pm Welcome your next instructor: composer Andrew Duncan (asdaudio.com). A Northwestern grad with a music degree and an ex-member of OK Go, Duncan makes house calls to teach guitar and songwriting. (A Renaissance guy, he teaches yoga, too, in case you want to get flexible after you practice your chords for an hour.) For now, don’t worry about floundering—a common problem for beginners. “Self-consciousness is always one of the biggest stumbling blocks,” Duncan notes. “You’re doing the practice to become good.” Cost: $50.
3pm Download an audiobook from the Chicago Public Library’s site (chipublib.org). The site has more than 3,200 titles to choose from, including a list of staff recommendations. It’s free with your library card—but you’ll need a Windows system.
6pm Dinner. Order a finger-lickin’ barbecue dinner from Hecky’s of Chicago (1234 N Halsted St, 312-377-7427, heckyschicago.com, call for delivery area), the big-city edition of a classic Evanston eatery.
7pm Who’s ringing your doorbell now? It’s Xwing, a small theater company that specializes in “calling-card theater,” performed with puppets but designed for adults. You (and the handful of theater-loving friends you invite over) choose two half-hour plays from a menu at nicholaslowe.co.uk, and the actors perform them in your living room or even your bedroom. Cost is on a sliding scale, but averages $400.
9pm After parsing the merits of Avenue Q with the Xwingers and your buddies, they take their leave. Now you’ve got a chill hour or two before bed to write in your journal, read more Alice, whatever.
9am Wake up. Make coffee.9:30am Break that fast. Le Peep (1000 W Washington Blvd, 312-563-9990, lepeepchicago.com, call for delivery area) delivers as early as 7am. While you’re waiting, fetch the Sunday New York Times from your porch. Sure, you could read it online for free, but there’s no substituting the pleasure of a leisurely weekend morning with coffee and a fat-ass newspaper. Sunday-only delivery costs $3.25 per week (nytimes.com).
11am Wash the dishes and take a shower. Haul your recycling out to the alley, just to get a little fresh air.
11:30am Put your burgeoning creativity to use by making a card and writing to Grandma or to your good college friend. We mean an actual letter, not an e-mail. Everyone loves real mail—and the way to get real mail is to send real mail. Make your own collage-art card with pics and headlines from the Times.
12:30pm Lunch. Go Middle Eastern with a falafel sandwich ($3.26) from Sultan’s Market (2057 W North Ave, 773-253-3072, chicagofalafel.com, call for delivery area). 1pm Welcome chef Alekka Sweeney from Give Me Some Sugar (312-546-4788, givesugar.com). She’ll teach you and a friend how to make potpies for this evening’s party. (See “Cooks on call.”)
3:30pm Usher in four or five music-loving friends while Even in Blackouts (eveninblackouts.com), a four-piece Chicago band that specializes in intimate pop-punk acoustic sets, sets up in your living room. Part of their payment is a home-cooked meal (seriously), so everyone digs into the dinner you just made with Sweeney (while she cleans up—such service!).
4:30pm Invite the chef to hang out afterward while Even in Blackouts strums through a 90-minute set—mostly original songs, but they’ve been known to cover everything from ’80s synth band Yaz to the girl-group stylings of the Chiffons. Cost: $200.
7pm You did it! That culture-vulture merit badge is yours. Now download the audiobook Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson (see amazon.com). While you listen, fill out your journal with your own plans for greatness.