Back to Chicago (plus, a random guy discounts my research!)

I went to Chicago last week. It had been over a year since I visited the city, so I was very glad to be back. The purpose of this trip was to attend the American Music Festival at FitzGerald’s Nightclub in Berwyn. I’ve been before, and it’s a really great festival – and this year, several Bloodshot bands played to celebrate the record label’s 20th anniversary. It wasn’t the only 20th anniversary event, and it won’t be the last, but it was certainly a great excuse to get back to the city.

I got to see friends (thanks as always to the wonderful folks who let me stay with them–and their ridiculously cute one-year-old), and I managed to spend some time wandering around downtown. I ate at a couple of my favorite vegetarian restaurants – Pick Me Up Cafe and Handlebar. Even though I had a definite plan to eat lunch at the Chicago Diner, I planned rather poorly and ended up not making it (which only means I can’t wait a full year before I visit Chicago again!). Oh, and I also did some research/follow up work at the Chicago Public Library.

The trip was fun, productive, and tiring, but I have to share one particular story, if only because of its absurdity. The short version is that I had a complete stranger (older, male) discount my dissertation and research after hearing approximately five sentences about it. His general take on my work was, “That’s not gonna cut it. That’s just not gonna work for you.”

As I was in Chicago at a music festival devoted to American music when this conversation took place, I initially thought for a moment that I was being schooled by a senior scholar in musicology or ethnomusicology from a Chicago institution. As this person continued to speak, I realized he was not in my field, but was likely in a related academic field, such as history or anthropology. But then he kept talking. And then I asked him point blank, and he told me, no, he was not a PhD, nor was he in academia. After I told him Advisor was in disagreement with him about my work “cutting it,” as it were, not to mention my committee, he said, “That’s just one person’s opinion – or just a few people… it’s really not gonna cut it. You’ve really got to do more.” At this point, I replied, “It seems you don’t know how folks go about getting PhD’s. I really would like to pay attention to this band now.”

So, basically, I had my dissertation mansplained to me by a person who was not an academic AT ALL. He was not a musician, nor was he really familiar with Bloodshot,, or country music, or even academia. After I walked away, I had at least 80,000 other wonderful and witty and clever things that came to mind that I wish I had said to him. And of course, I wondered why in heavens I even spoke with him for as along as I did.

In any event, I’m glad that guy’s not on my committee.



My trip to Chicago (with a bunch of pics)

I posted a few pics from my trip on Facebook & Instagram, but here are (quite) a few more.

Getting from Midway to the train involves a not short walk:

I interviewed a musician at Cafe Mustache (the second interview I’ve conducted there), so afterwards, I wandered around Logan Square. At the suggestion of my interviewee, I ate at a great place called Lula Cafe. It was delicious and super hip. It’s right on the square, but as I was heading that way, I passed the new Chicago Diner location!!! I knew I was going to have lunch at the original Chicago Diner later that week, so I managed to keep walking. I also passed the Rocking Horse en route; I know nothing about the place, but their sign is pretty special!

I got to go to Ravinia to see a Prairie Home Companion, and of course, spent some time at the Hideout. My friends introduced me to another Chicago venue that features live country music, the California Clipper, and I ate at my favorite restaurant in Chicago: Handlebar. And thanks to the previously mentioned interviewee, I got to see the Sanctified Grumblers and the Carolina Chocolate Drops at City Winery (for free!).

And finally, I spent a couple of days at the Chicago History Museum. It’s located at the south end of Lincoln Park, and is quite close to the lake. I got to see the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup after seeing a show at the Hideout. That night, I also met someone from my tiny undergrad institution who I had NOT known previously. Not only did we both go to Transy, we were there at the same time, and even played in the band together! I still can’t believe it. Pretty cool.

Another trip to Chicago is in the books, and it’s looking like I won’t be going back any time in the very near future (I’ll go back eventually, of course). This is bittersweet because I obviously love visiting the city, but it also means that I’m that much closer to finishing this degree. And well, we all know that I need to be transcribing and writing, not traveling! Thanks for the fun and good times, Chicago!

I have the power…

This latest trip to Chicago was productive, enjoyable, eventful, and tiring (I think exhausting probably sounds better, but that might be a bit of hyperbole). I stayed at four different locations over seven nights, and really made the most of my time in the city. The kindness of Chicago acquaintances and friends (both new and not-so-newish) remains overwhelming to me (not hyperbole), and I really do have a pretty fun dissertation topic. Nevertheless, on this trip in particular, I found myself regularly preoccupied with… battery life.

When I visit Chicago, I rely primarily on public transportation, and thanks to my trusty research tool extraordinare, aka the iPhone, plus the google maps app, I can get around pretty well. However, using the map frequently and consistently doesn’t bode well for my (relatively not new) phone’s battery life. I regularly found myself scouring a venue for a power outlet for fear that my phone would die before I managed to memorize the train stops, bus numbers, and directions to get me back “home.” Of course, as I wrote about here, not even having a charged phone and the app can keep me going in the right direction.

Just one of many places I charged my phone

Just one of many places I charged my phone

In (another) one of my less-than-smart moments, I ended up in Chicago for an entire week without my laptop charger. Considering the primary reasons for this trip were to document items at the Chicago History Museum, and to organize and clarify data/photos/documents from Bloodshot Records, the laptop was kind of necessary. After discovering the cost of a new charger was out of my budget ($80!!!), I opted to “borrow” one from Best Buy. The only catch was that I had to be in the store for about 35 minutes, just hanging out next to the macbook display. No one seemed to mind, and only one employee asked me if I needed help… as I was walking out the door! Also, thankfully, I stayed with someone for a couple of nights who also had a mac, so I got another charge there. These two charges gave me enough battery to do what I needed to do and get my work done.


Doesn’t everyone take their Jamba Juice smoothie to Best Buy’s Apple display?

I didn’t realize until I walked into my house latelatelate on Wednesday night (or earlyearlyearly Thursday morning) how much brain space had been devoted to thinking about charging my electronic devices. Having many chargers and even more opportunities to charge my devices, along with knowing how to get where I’m going most of the time are all luxuries that I am not taking for granted this weekend!

Notes from the “field”

I have mentioned my ambivalence when it comes to categorizing my research as musicology or ethnomusicology (and also what “-ist” I call myself). Regardless, I am in Chicago conducting research of various sorts (hence the quotes around field in the title), and here’s a story based on my 22 or so hours in Chicago so far.

Do you know what’s really helpful when traveling? Going in the right direction. It seems obvious, yes? Well, when I’m dealing with the CTA, it doesn’t always work so obviously. Case in point: yesterday I was trying to get from the airport to my hotel. Thanks to my iPhone (research instrument extraordinaire) and the google maps app, I had a route set involving one train and one bus.


Part of the journey from inside the airport to the train

The train part was a piece of cake, as there is only one train departing in one direction from Midway. I got off at my stop and proceeded to the street to find the bus stop; conveniently the stop was right out the front door of the train station. Not so conveniently (for me), both the northbound AND the southbound version of this bus arrived at that stop. I did not notice this…. because as I was walking out of the train station, what I thought was my bus pulled up.

I hopped on, pleased with the fortuitous timing. My phone was dying, so once I got on the bus, I put it away; but after a few stops, I decided to check my progress. It was at this point that i realized my blue dot was NOT on the blue line heading north. I tried to remain calm and immediately got off at the next stop. I and my luggage trudged across the street and back north a block or so to find the nearest bus stop for the NORTHbound bus. I waited a solid twenty-five minutes; finally, I was on the bus headed toward my hotel.

The happy ending is, of course, that I made it to the hotel (eventually). But here’s the more interesting coda: There was a man that got off the train when I did. I remembered him because he let me exit the train before he did, and when I was trying to find the elevator, he pointed me in the right direction. When my northbound bus got back to the train station, he was still waiting and got on the northbound bus! Assuming he had been there since we disembarked from the train, my stupidity did not cost me any extra time, only a bit of embarrassment and a slew of frustration!

My kind of town

It’s that time again. I’m going to Chicago tomorrow for what will hopefully likely maybe be the last official dissertation research trip (whatever that means). I have two interviews lined up, an appointment at the Chicago History Museum, a visit to Bloodshot, and a carrel at the Chicago Public Library waiting for me. I plan to attend several shows, including this festival for the third year in a row, and of course honky-tonk happy hour! There’s also a cutie newborn (belonging to Fabulous Chicago Actor & Husband) that I can’t wait to meet!

Last year's poster for A Day in the Country at the Hideout

Last year’s poster for A Day in the Country at the Hideout

Of course, I haven’t packed or really done much in preparation for the trip, which explains why I’m blogging and contemplating going out for dinner. Especially since, after meeting with Advisor today, her primary advice was to write. And write some more. And keep writing (tonight we shall believe that blogging counts).

So, you know the drill. Prepare to be inundated with lots of Chicago pictures and posts, followed shortly thereafter by great lamentation regarding interviews, transcribing, and yes, writing.

Writing appointment

The past two weeks were full, but not full of writing and/or research. I haven’t really written anything substantial related to my dissertation since I sent Advisor a draft of a chapter… well, unless you count emails (yes, let’s) and some free writing over at 750 Words (my points total for June is already abysmal). Oh, and I did actually send Advisor a draft of a chapter. It was awful, and mostly, it didn’t really do what I said it was gonna do; not to mention I left out one complete section. But it was something, and sometimes, something is better than nothing.

I got the Very Tall Nephew back to his parents, and survived the return of multiple rooms/services at the church yesterday. Now it’s Monday, and my writing appointment is approaching. I’m greatly contemplating doing just about anything else, but I know I need to get back in the swing of writing things… particularly since I’m supposed to have another chapter draft written by the end of the month [cue panic and procrastinating].

Just to make things a bit more exciting and even more challenging, I’m going to Chicago next week. This means, I need to do a significant amount of writing before I leave (as the month will be basically over by the time I get back), plus line up/confirm interviews and appointments in Chicago. Piece of cake, right?

On the road again?

I read a book tonight. And I fully admit it’s something I didn’t do very much of in 2012, despite a resolve to do so. But here on the first day of 2013, I’ve at least got one book under the belt. Don’t be too impressed, though. I read The Shack (Young, 2007). It was thought-provoking, fascinating, cheesy, stirring, and at times, a little goofy and sappy for my tastes, but overall, I found it entertaining and a good read. I can see why it has been a little controversial, but at worst, it’s completely a work of fiction comparable to a made-for-tv movie, and at best, it’s an allegory that opens up interesting discussion. And that’s all the book review you’ll get here.

If I wasn’t reading very much this past year, you know what I did do? Travel. A lot.

Chicago Midway International Airport in December. I was in this airport eight times this year.

Chicago Midway International Airport in December – I was in this airport eight times this year.

I went to:

  • Chicago for a conference and research
  • Dominican Republic for a conference
  • Charlotte, NC for a conference
  • Spartanburg, SC for a conference
  • Nashville, TN for a conference
  • Myrtle Beach, SC with the church for youth camp
  • Chicago for the American Music Festival and research
  • Chattanooga, TN to hang out with friends
  • Gadsden, AL to see family
  • Chicago for Bloodshot’s anniversary party and to watch VHS tapes
  • Lexington, KY and Nashville to visit family/friends and for research
  • New Orleans, LA for a conference
  • Puerto Rico for vacation
  • Chicago for research
  • Lexington, KY for Christmas
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - I was in this airport fourteen times this year.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – I was in this airport fourteen times this year.

While all the travel was fun and productive and good, I’m looking forward to some time at home, not to mention all the transcribing that remains to be done. And then there’s the actual writing of a dissertation. There will be travel – I’ve already confirmed trips to conferences in Charleston, SC (January), and Austin, TX (February). But really, I do hope to make the time to read for fun some this year, too.