A few years ago, I was at Carol’s Pub every Thursday from May through August for karaoke. I started to notice a handful of solo-regulars. There was the Librarian, long blond ponytail hair, thick glasses, conservative teacher clothes, who’d sit quietly thumbing through the song books until she found a tune she liked. She’d whisper the lyrics into the mic, never taking her eyes away from the screen. There was Country Guy, with too-tight, too-light jeans, a braided belt and thinning hair, who’d sit at the wobbly tables, silently drumming his fingers and nursing a drink until his name was called. He’d always do a country song, the Cash or Haggard kind, belting it out with high-energy and verve, swaying his hips and sweeping his arms across the dimly-lit room. They never talked to anyone yet had an air of contentedness about them. Did they come by themselves week after week because their friends weren’t karaoke fans? Was this a secret life they led, a Thursday night routine they chose to keep to themselves? Perhaps they didn’t have anyone to go out with but didn’t want to stay home watching Friends? I was fascinated.
I’m intrigued by what people will and won’t do by themselves, and how they act when they do choose to go solo in public. Many are ok doing restaurant breakfast and lunch alone but not dinner. They’ll bring a book as a security blanket, attempting to hold it open with one hand as they fork a salad with the other. You’ll do a matinee, but not a 7pm movie. You’ll go to an improv show but sneak in after it starts and the lights go down. You’ll go to a bar for a drink but position yourself in TV-view so you can pretend you’re interested in the Marlins/Mets game.
I try to do one thing a week by myself. This started a couple of years ago when I wanted to go to something (I can’t remember what is was, probably because I’m so emotionally-scarred from the regret) but couldn’t find anyone to accompany me. So I didn’t go. Ridiculous. I vowed to never again not do something because of not having a date. Half the time I think you ask for accompaniment not necessarily because you want to hang out but out of fear of being judged. Going solo is a great way to meet new people, especially in a party-type setting; you go with a group of friends, you stand in the corner and talk to them all night.
Most recent “Table For One” outings –
Pig Roast at an Abandoned Convent
I heard about Clandestino , an underground supper club of sorts that throws food-centric events in unusual venues across the city. I love BBQ, bluegrass, summer dusk, white Christmas lights strung from tree to tree, places I’ve never been, and flip-flops and jeans so when I saw that their next event was all of those things, I signed up. The convent is in Pilsen. There were about eighty attendees, mostly groups of friends. I chatted with a group of young twenty-somethings who regularly volunteer at Clandestino events and loved repeatedly sharing that they know founder (Chef Efrain Cuevas). While in line for a pulled-pork sandwich, I talked bacon with two guys, one a chef who mesmerized me with his bacon-basket recipe in which he actually weaves together strips of the heavenly meat. I ran into a girl who came to one of my Mac ‘n Cheese Minglers a year ago and met her friends; two of them met on Match.com years ago, so I had many questions and thoughts to share on that topic. I sat on a window ledge and listened to the music, people-watching, sipping wine. A group of three guys came and stood next to me and eventually one said, “Hey.” Turns out we went to the same high school, though years apart, so relived our Evanston days. Then he and one of the other guys meandered away, and I was left talking with Patrick, a self-proclaimed drifter who also lives in Roscoe Village and throws dinner parties. We exchanged list criteria and contact info. New friend.
This past year I’ve really gotten into riding my bike. Last Friday, I did Critical Mass for the first time. OMG, as the kids would say.
Hundreds of people, of all races, ages, economic classes, gather in Daley Plaza at 5:30pm the last Friday of the month. Some dress in costume, some decorate their helmets, some drink alcohol, some yell “Happy Friday” to cheering bystanders and to cursing bystanders, some bring boomboxes – I purposefully rode next to a ’80s/’90s fan most of the way; nothing like a little Snoop Dog “Gin ‘n Juice” while pedaling down LaSalle.
I had such a good time. The pace is slow. You don’t have to worry about red lights, being smacked by a car door, pedestrians. The cops rode with us and stopped traffic at major intersections. The route was 14 miles, Daley to Division/Elston to Greektown to Chinatown to Bridgeport to 31st Street Beach, and it changes each time. It’s free. It’s exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise. It’s taking advantage of living in this great city. Ended about 9:30pm.