We resume our story.…….The next morning, I’m up before Janet (my AirBnB host), get a little Advil in me and pull out the breakfast I put in Janet’s fridge the night before. Shower, shave and get to work at painting my face. Time is of the essence. Here’s the plan for the day. We have tickets for the Frida Kahlo exhibit at 12:30. The museum is an hour from the city. Kurt is driving, but he lives on the South Side. So, I’m meeting Brent, Kurt’s ex-boyfriend, at the Belmont train station at 11am, so we can ride down to Chinatown and save Kurt a drive up to the North Side. Now, it’s gonna be really hot out in the burbs, so my outfit consists of a black tank top, a jeans skirt and cute flip flops with sparkly flowers.
I had expected to be exposing my toesies, so on the Thursday before, I painted them in my office – that day I had an 8 hour zoom meeting, so I had plenty of time to let them dry without anyone being the wiser. This was the first time Julie was wearing flip flops and the short walk to the train was actually a bit of challenge – boy mode Julie almost never wears flip flops. As usual, Brent gave a compliment on my outfit and a big hug. We’ve hung out several times before and now that I think about it, Brent and Kurt were my companions for Julie’s first time out in Chicago.
The pic is the 3 of us eating outside at Wood in Boystown, back in 2017.
On the train, a couple of young women sitting across from us complemented me on my necklace. I told them I bought it at the MCA a few weeks before, which sparked a discussion about art museums. If I remember correctly, they were heading to the Art Institute to see the Monet exhibit. We shared that we were on our way to see Frida and we all agreed that the upcoming Obama portraits at the Art Institute were a must see. Kinda weird to bump into a couple of strangers on the train who happen to also be art lovers. Again, I just love living in Chicago.
Kurt was right there as we got off the train and we embarked on what seemed like a forever drive. But it was good, because it gave all of us time to catch up after seeing very little of each other due to the pandemic. The exhibit was really incredible. Not any of the usual Frida paintings you see in pop culture. All were lesser known works that gave insight into who she was as a person. The one on the left was the most prominent of the exhibit. I was mesmerized by the eyes of her guard dog. The one on the bottom right was motivated by an article of a real life incident in Mexico, but many say it also portrays her emotional relationship with Diego Rivera. I’m actually more of a fan of his work than her’s – a print of his with giant flowers hangs in my office.
Outside of the official exhibit, the museum put together a pictorial history of her life along with numerous artifacts. The photograph (top right) made me think that she was much more beautiful than she portrayed herself in her paintings – I guess trying to illustrate her inner turmoil. If you have ever seen the Frida movie with Salma Hayek, I have good news for you, it’s pretty accurate, historically. After the exhibit we hung out in the shady part of the courtyard and I convinced Brent grab a few Julie pics – not the most flattering, but good for a historical record.
After a bite to eat at a local Mexican restaurant we started the trek home. I thought Kurt should have dropped us back at Chinatown, but he insisted on driving us to the North Side. The traffic on Lake Shore Drive was insane and not any better when we got off at Belmont – weekend traffic in the city is no fun. After he dropped off Brent, I was like, no need to drive further into this chaos, just let me out here and I’ll walk the last few blocks – probably faster anyway, even with the flip flops. We parted ways promising to go see the Obama portraits, which given my current schedule, might need to be in boy mode, which is fine – he hasn’t seen me in boy mode in almost 2 years.
Back at the room, I quickly got to fixing up my makeup – mask at the museum combined with the heat had disrupted the makeup on my chin and upper lip. There was not much debate on what I was gonna wear – maroon dress with black patent strappy heels – another opportunity to show off my toesies. The plan was to take the Brown Line to Lincoln Square and meet Susan for dinner at a Thai restaurant before heading to the jazz show. However, before heading out, I got to thinking that those strappy heels are not all that stable and probably not ideal for walking to the train, especially if in a hurry. I had some flats I could have worn, but then I thought, why not go with my boy mode Converse Allstars?
They worked out perfectly, as I felt like a typical city girl heading to the train in comfort and style. Waiting for the train a random girl complemented me on my dress, despite, or maybe even due to, the functional shoes.
Got to the restaurant and Susan and her wife were waiting for me. This was my first time meeting either of them. I’ve talked to Susan several times on messenger, so it was great to finally meet her in person. Susan is the Secretary for the Chicago Gender Society, so our previous conversations have mostly been about raising awareness of the organization with younger folks – currently it’s membership is mostly older folks, which doesn’t bode well for the future of the group. However, on that night there was little talk of such things, as the 3 of us took the opportunity to get to know each other better. Of course, just after we ordered food, I dug into my new purse from DSW and changed into those decadent shoes. After dinner I went out for a cigarette and got my first real taste of walking around in those 4.25” babies. Yeah, definitely the right decision not to wear them on the train.
It was a short drive to the Gail show, although we walked into the wrong place at first. The actual place is part bar, part restaurant. The small dance floor in the center of the place had been converted to a makeshift stage. We gave Gail a hello hug and left her in get prepared with the drummer and keyboardist who would be backing her up as we joined the others in our group. She looked a bit nervous, but once the show started – with a rendition of Life is a Cabaret – you would never know it. She’s not an incredible singer, but her stage presence made up for anything she might have lacked in that area. Between songs she told stories that were simultaneously touching and funny – a lot of self deprecating talk about who she is and putting our community in a good light. I should note that while our group was about a dozen or more, we didn’t make up even a quarter of the audience. After the show, she explained that during the pandemic she had joined this jazz singer group for zoom meetings, where they would take turns singing their favorite songs. So, most of the audience was people from that group. It was really a fun event, especially since it was a mix of the two groups.
Things were breaking up about 9:30-10 and Susan and her wife were leaving. We said goodbye and I started thinking about getting an Uber to my final activity of the weekend. I was hesitant about asking them for a ride, and when I finally decided to ask, they were about a half a block away. So, there I was trying to catch up to them, almost running in those massive heels. They were, of course, happy to help, but a little concerned about dropping me off in what looked like a very desolate street at that time of night. The place was Reed’s Local, one of my favorite dive bars, in Avondale just a short distance from Gail’s show. I figured I would be stopping by there after the show, so a few days earlier I had contacted my friend Lauren, who is kind of a bar fly at Reed’s. Walking in, there was no sign of Lauren. No worries, there’s always someone interesting to talk to at a dive bar. But then, I stumbled upon Tina, who was sitting at the bar. Tina is part of the trans/CD community (actually uses the non-binary label) and I had contacted her a few weeks before to see if she wanted to go to Gail’s show. She said she was busy that night, which is why I was surprised to see her.
Tina is the one who introduced me to Reed’s, so it wasn’t really that much of a surprise to see her cuz it’s one of her favorite haunts. We talked for a while and then I messaged Lauren, who said she was on her way – just finishing up with seeing her friend perform in a burlesque show. She arrived just as Tina was heading out – I’m not sure those two get along all that well. In any case, it was nice to catch up with Lauren outside of Facebook. She invited me to her birthday party, which I thought I might be able to make in boy mode, but, in the end, couldn’t make it work out. At some point, I was outside smoking and decided I had had enough of those shoes. But, before changing back to the Allstars, I asked a random girl to snap some pics [insert single maroon dress pic here]. I think the best part of that pic is the sign painted on the front of the bar – words to live by ❤️
The next morning, I took my time packing up Julie into my suitcase and made plans to go out for brunch with my wife once I got home. On my final walk to the train, I noticed this little sketch on the sidewalk. Seemed like a fitting final expression of my great weekend. 🧚♀️