A Day of Firsts


Welp, we've come to the end. Friday was Brock's last day on the job! His co-worker was nice and treated him to a free sandwich at Potbelly. It feels so wrong to call what Potbelly makes a "sandwich." Subway makes "sandwiches." Potbelly makes...love on a hoagie.

Anyway, while Brock was at work I met with the gal I was selling our bikes to--Irena Djuric. In case you're wondering, she's 100% Serbian. I love Chicago because there are so many people from so many different backgrounds walking around you
all the time. For example, last night we started chatting with the front desk girl on our way to the elevator. Well, one thing led to another and before we knew it we'd talked for an hour! Get this...her name's Aphrodite! Isn't that awesome?! She's 100% Greek and told us all sorts of stories about how her parents got here (her dad won his ticket and visa over by winning a poker game!), and about her family back home (her grandparents live on a tiny island and own a farm where they make their own wine!). Anyway, that was a great way to cap off our night. I love hearing people's stories! People miss out on so much by plugging their iPod earbuds in their ears. If you just smile and say hi, you'd be surprised at the amazing people all around you!

Whoa, hello sidetracked! Where was I? Oh yes! Irena. Irena works in a high rise in the Loop downtown, so I headed down there yesterday afternoon to meet up with her. She and her boyfriend are leaving on a vacation to Montana this weekend, so Brock and I are going to drop the bikes off at her apartment when we're done with them. But she wanted to pay me in person rather than leave $100 laying under some rock at her house :) Anyway, it was pouring cats and dogs so by the time I got to her building I looked like I'd just gone for a dip in Lake Michigan! She, of course, looked super cute and professional. Despite the discrepancies in our appearances, she invited me to Starbucks for a coffee break.

A coffee break? What are these things, "coffee breaks?" I seem them in the movies, but are they real? We certainly don't have them in Utah, that's for sure. So, I set out into the lone world to encounter my first "first" of the day: a coffee break.

Being the good little Mormon that I am, I ordered a hot chocolate
. Irena was so sweet and even paid for me, and then we sat down and chatted for a little bit. We both love to travel so she gave me tons of great advice on how to travel on the cheap and, if seeing the world is really in your blood, to search for a job where you could work internationally every now and then. She, for example, works for a business that helps U.S. universities collaborate with international ones to set up study abroads for students.

Somewhere along the line, it came up that I wasn't finished with school yet. "Wait," she said, "are you still an
undergrad?" Apparently she had thought both Brock and I were working on our Master's degrees.

"So when did you...?"

"I got married when I was 18."

"Oh! Did you know Brock in high school?"

"Nope, we met at college."

Her eyebrows raised and I noticed her eyes bat rapidly for a moment, but, being the classy woman that she was, she hid her shock. I could tell she inherently disagreed with someone marrying so young, but she didn't know enough about me to judge me on my decision. I read this all on her face within a second and immediately became embarrassed. I'd never really had to explain myself before. I mumbled something about how Mormons tend to get married younger than most, but I could tell she was didn't quite understand. And who could blame her? Tying the knot at 18 isn't just getting married young . . . it's barely legal! Anyway, our coffee break ended on a good note and I'd definitely like to keep in touch with Irena, but I rode my bike home wondering how I should have responded to her reaction.

I spent the remainder of the day packing, doing laundry, and cleaning the apartment, and then met Brock at there Halsted/Milwaukee intersection to bike to my other "first" of the day: a bar! We went to Rosa's Lounge, which is blues bar waaaay out in the boonies that touts itself as "Chicago's Friendliest Blues Bar." And it really is. There's no smoking allowed, which is
so nice. Other blues bars we stepped into reeked of Marlboro. Listening to blues is cool...but coming home smelling like an ashtray isn't. The other great thing about Rosa's is that--because it's so far out there--it wasn't too crowded and ranked low on the college yuppie index. There was a good mix of people there but only about two guys who were moderately drunk...they made for good people watching :) Brock and I ordered a couple of Cokes (livin' on the edge!!!) and sat down to watch the show...

Performing there that night was Melvin Taylor, who is a blues
legend. And after seeing him last night, I know why. I have never seen a man wail like he did. His guitar seemed to be just an extension of his body...my eyes could barely keep up as I watched his fingers dart up and down the neck, his hands playing under it (the "normal" way), then over it, and every other way you could possibly imagine. He even played the guitar with a guitar, sliding the strings of one over the other while he went whammy bar crazy. Then he would get bored and use a microphone stand to do the same thing. It was just absolutely insane.

We watched him play from 10:30-2:00am, and you couldn't believe the range the guy had. One minute he'd be playing his own rendition of Stevie Ray Vaughn, the next he'd be playing Pink Floyd, then some Stevie Wonder, then some slooow, down home Mississipi delta blues. His sister even got up and sang a few songs with the band! Talk about
soul. This woman could belt it and was a seasoned, seasoned performer. She sang this one song called "Rock Me" and I swear, it was one of the sexiest things I have ever seen. This middle-aged, 40-something woman, wearing a modest flowered shirt and black trousers, swaying her hefty hips almost imperceptibly from side to side, ooozed sex out of the microphone like pyroclastic flow. I'd be lying if I said I didn't, if only for a fleeting moment, question my womanhood.

That's how you know you're at a legit blues bar.

Rosa's Lounge has a cool story to it. The owner, Tony, started playing blues in his hometown--Milan, Italy. Obviously, the blues scene in Italy...well, isn't...so after a while he packed up and moved to Chicago, barely speaking any English. One thing led to another, and in 1984 he opened his own blues bar, which--in the true fashion of an Italian boy--he named after his mom. Rosa moved to the States after a couple years to be with her boy, and worked as a bartender at the Lounge. Tony treats the bar like a family, not a business...and that's Rosa's charm. The title "Chicago's Friendliest Blues Bar" is more than warranted.

Chicago blues with an Italian flair...who'da thunk?


  1. Okay Kristi, your blog ROCKS. I love all your stories - it's so awesome how you meet people! I seriously love your blog so much.

    Laura (Taylor) :)

  2. I met Irena in Palo Alto, CA. A friend from Cornell was getting married. She is a sweet soul.


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