Jamie’s Wedding

Maybe it was the sun, maybe it was the Mexican food in San Francisco, or maybe it was the giant global family reunion to celebrate Jamie and Paul’s beautiful wedding. Either way, I’ve just flown back from California feeling super-cheery and happy.

This lot again!

This lot again!

Global family convention

Global family convention

Saw Crystal again after a four-year gap

Saw Crystal again after a four-year gap

Touring Alcatraz with our customary sensitivity to the serious issues of prison reform

Touring Alcatraz with our customary sensitivity to the serious issues of prison reform

Jamie and Paul. It was their wedding, after all.

Jamie and Paul. It was their wedding, after all.

I’m not even going to try and list everyone who was there, but it was pretty incredible how much of the family managed to get together in one place from the US, the UK, Australia and Israel. I doubt we’ll ever see anything like it again, but I can’t think of a better occasion for given that Jamie has been the one tirelessly travelling the globe and keeping all the connections going.

Anyway, given that it was such a one-off, there was plenty of appetite for lots of pre and post wedding get-togethers, including (for the British contingent) a tour of Alcatraz.  This was my third visit to San Francisco but I’d never made it there until now, and I was surprised how excellent the audio tour of the prison was. It’s absolutely worth doing if you’re ever, y’know, hanging out in San Francisco and need a break inbetween eating in the Mission and running up and down hills.

Special thanks should also to Robin and Tom, for allowing the Self clan to crash their amazing house yet again ;)

I wasn’t looking for this

Usually I like to blog with nice photos of the people and places I’m writing about, so that you can skim past all the needless words and still get the gist. But on this occasion, I’m somewhat glad that the most I have from Saturday night is some very blurry screenshots:

Blurry memories

Blurry memories

Long story short: some bar, my first karaoke night, being volunteered against my will, Call Me Maybe. It was great. And came as the culmination of a very lovely Saturday afternoon in Chinatown with Katie, Todd and a bunch of other Grouponers, ex-Grouponers and hangers-on. It’s always nice to find yourself in a good group, y’know?

While we’re on the topic of briefly trying something you know you’re going to be terrible at before scuttling away again, last week I resolved (for reasons unknown) to try indoor rock-climbing. So I did, with Taylor, although unlike me she didn’t turn up wearing jeans and asking questions like “so can I wear my boots?”.  Anyway, I was slightly freaked out to discover that in the rock-climbing world “bouldering” means “no need for ropes, just sign a waiver and try not to fall in an awkward manner”. Thankfully the place was pretty friendly, so no one pointed and laughed at my lack of upper body strength which prevented much successful climbing. But rather than change this, I’ve just reconciled myself to the fact that if I had been Mufasa I wouldn’t have been able to hold on for nearly as long as he did.

OK, so I can’t sing and I can’t climb. But I can go and watch plays. Awesome plays, like Bethany, another Common Room recommendation with a great cast and a well-crafted story set in a post-2008 world of failed companies and abandoned homes. It helps that The Gift Theatre is also tiny – I know I always say that small, intimate theatres are better, but I’ve seen plays with bigger casts than this had seats. If it’s sustainable, that would be utterly baffling. But either way, this is another great thing to go see.

Next stop: San Francisco!

Down the rabbit hole

On stage at Common Room

On stage at Common Room

Remember Common Room? Wednesday night was the fourth outing of this theatre taster event, and the inaugural ‘interview an audience member’ segment which – as you can see – I made it into.

And this got me thinking… man, I really need to go see more of these plays which I’m hearing so much about. And that’s how I ended up spending this afternoon chasing a rabbit with a French accent all over the neighbourhood of Andersonville in Upended Production’s Alice.

Inspired by Lewis Carroll, the audience (who all take the role of ‘Alice’) are broken into small groups – each assigned a different rabbit – and move between whimsical and fantastical scenes staged in nearby streets, bars, shops. On the routes between each ‘scene’ there are also weird and wonderful sights and mini-interactions with the audience, like this:

One of the many roaming cast members. (Hopefully.)

One of the many roaming cast members. (Hopefully.)

I have to admit, I was a little worried it would feel a little too surreal in the sense of ‘arbitrary random stuff’, but actually everything felt very carefully put together and was surprisingly thought provoking. There are so many people I would recommend this to, and most of them don’t live in Chicago, but if you do you should check it out. (And next week I am going to see another production promoted through the Common Room – hurray!)

Late night pizza bite

Late night pizza bite

Have been doing a bunch of other fun stuff, too. Like meeting up with the one and only Emily Boyd, who was visiting town from New York! I also almost broke Randi’s Californian heart by introducing her to the concept of full English breakfasts, which we made this morning. (Tastes like home!)

I also saw Saved, cheered on the Baltimore Orioles in the baseball playoff season, got treated to a swanky lunch at the Art Institute by a friend of Carolyn’s (still haven’t managed to go in to the Art Institute, mind) and went to my first Chicago jazz club. Which was a bit of a fail, actually, because although the jazz was good I decided that I’d prefer to be able to actually hear the conversation I was having, so we retreated to a regular jazz-free bar instead.

Aside from my own entertainment and shenanigans, in the past few weeks I’ve also started volunteering for two separate tutoring/mentoring projects. I will probably write more about these elsewhere, after a couple more weeks, but suffice to say it’s always an interesting challenge to work with children. And I don’t mean that as a euphemism for ‘difficult’ or ‘unpleasant’ – it’s just something which demands conscious adjustment after not actually being a child for a while. Pretty rewarding if you can get it right, though.