Selfs in Chi Town

With more Family Time than a US election ad, this weekend I took my parents and Tash on a whirlwind tour of Chicago before they headed home. In the unreasonably lovely sunshine we packed in a lot: Improv Shakespeare (this time with the marvellous Rockin’ to the Brothel), Lincoln Park Zoo, the view from the top of the Willis Tower, the Planetarium, my favourite Italian restaurant La Scarola, Navy Pier, the Bean, an awesome jazz club called The Jazz Showcase, American diner breakfasts and lots and lots of walking.

At the Bean

At the Bean

You gotta do the really tourist things once

You gotta do the really tourist things once

Jumping on the roof. We stopped when the neighbours came up to find out what the noise was.

Jumping on the roof. We stopped when the neighbours came up to find out what the noise was.

And in a curious twist, I also had lunch with my aunt Sally last week, who was in town for entirely coincidental reasons. All of which means I’ve had a wonderful time, but am now ready to (a) collapse in a heap, and (b) go hang out with some Chicagoans again. At least until the freezing begins in earnest.

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!