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By the time March had rolled around, I was 100% ready for Chicago Zine Fest. The only thing stressful leading up to the event was getting there. I took the time in January to reprint all back-catalogue zines, print all the new Stranger Randy comics throughout February, buy whatever displaying items I needed and etc. I even took the time to make sure that my car was up to snuff for the 1,200 mile drive. In December, my brakes went out in my car, and honestly I was glad it happened before I took off on my trip and not while driving on the interstate. Originally, two other friends were going to come with on the trip. One, who said he had friends we could stay with the entire time, and the second a close friend who wanted to go for the fun. I anticipated that neither of them were really going to go so I arranged places to stay with friends that I have in Chicago. I took the week of the zine fest off from work as well as the week after in order to button up any loose ends, and for having time to stick around in the city if something exciting came up. I decided that I wanted to leave for Chicago the day before the fest early in the morning to give me some free time to explore the city before my friend M got off from work at 10. The night before I left, I made note of every Historically Nationally Registered building in Chicago to photograph, and other plans to take up time before 10pm. To get into the city at a decent hour, I left Omaha at 4am with an expected time of arrival into Chicago at around noon. This past holiday, I received a GPS that came in really handy on my trip. I pre-programmed all the addresses of the places I needed to be and used it to monitor my gas mileage throughout the trip. According to the GPS, 65 was the best speed to attain best gas mileage so pretty much the entire way out to Chicago I drove at that speed.
Driving through Iowa for most people is pretty boring. However, I find middle America to be quite nice with it's open spaces and an interstate that is easy to travel. Leaving at 4am though is quite boring due to the fact that you can't see anything except the road in front of you. For the drive I burned two mix CD-Rs with one being more chill with electronic artists, and the other with heavy metal stoner jams to keep things fresh. While driving in the darkness, I put on the electronic cd with the new and really good Burial ep, as well as the Irresistible soundtrack, that has some straight up gangster tracks. As daybreak was approaching I was getting close to Des Moines and took a couple snaps of the wind farms that have been popping up recently throughout Iowa. I was in the heart of Des Moines just as the sun was coming up, and luckily there was minimal traffic. In case of emergencies I filled up once I was down to a quarter tank, and by the time I got gas, I was 10 miles past Iowa City. I could probably get to the Illinois border on a full tank, not bad. By mid-morning I was crossing the Mississippi River and more than half way to my destination. There is an exit off of I-80 that exchanges to the interstate that goes towards Chicago that quite a tight turn and you have to go pretty slow in order to not fly off the road. When I went around this curve I noticed that my brakes felt a bit spongy. By the time I had to stop at the first toll booth, the brake light came on and stopping power was poor. When I arrived to the Dekalb toll brake power was close to none. Just my luck to get my brakes "fixed" only for them to go out less than two months later, and on vacation hundreds of miles away form home. My plan originally was to stop at a place and get some brake fluid and keep the reservoir topped off until I got back to Omaha. I bought my car from a chain dealership and it happened to be in my favor when I spotted one just a few miles from the toll. On a whim I decided to take my car there and show them that I just got my brakes fixed and they are going out already. Luckily I did have my service receipt handy. The people at the dealership were sympathetic to my needs, and were able to get my car up on a lift only to find that a brake line wasn't tightened properly and was fixed within an hour. Not only was the service free, I also received two $25 coupons for future service on my car. It was a relief to just get back on the road, and the coupons was just an extra bonus. By this point it was after noon and the Friday traffic heading into Chicago city limits was getting heavy. It was good that I got the brakes fixed because it would have been a huge problem driving through the city with them compromised. I only lost an hour travel time with the brake ordeal, but it messed up my plans for eating lunch at a vegan cafe on the north side that I wanted to check out, so I decided to check out the Chicago History Museum downtown in the loop. The interstate that goes through the heart of Chicago is quite ridiculous with exits on both sides of the road so you really have to know what lane to be in, and the closer you get to the loop the more mind boggling it gets. By the time I got to the Chicago History Museum I only had about 2 hours to check everything out. The museum is quite nice, and from outside the building doesn't appear to have such a large interior. There was so much to see inside, that it would take a whole day to see everything. I only got to see maybe a quarter of the exhibits, mostly the pre-history stuff and the late-1800's time periods. The 2 hours went by quickly and was asked to leave without seeing most of the museum making it an expensive visit with parking at ticket admission. I did however get a few good snaps of things inside and would recommend the museum to anyone who is a history buff. I would later find out that young people never go to this museum and isn't a hip place to visit... Fuck em! It was after 4 and I had plenty of time to waste and was hungry so I drove up the street a few miles to check out the vegan cafe for dinner. I ordered a portobello burger and it was a pretty good meal, but it wasn't worth the $22, shit was dumb. The people working were super friendly though, and they seemed super interested in the zine fest, so I gave them the address and where to find me. Chicago has a really cool website that has a lot of the happenings in the city going on, and I found out that a black metal show was going on that night. It was getting close to the time for the doors to open, so I decided to head out for that. The show was on the south side of town and I wanted to take the Shoreline Drive on the way just to say I drove it. The only way I can describe driving Shoreline Drive in Chicago at 7pm on a Friday night is similar to playing Mario Kart. You basically have to just go crazy with the weaving in and out of traffic, and be aware of lanes that are ending. The craziest thing I noticed was there isn't any emergency shoulders on the side of the road. If you have any problems, you are basically screwed, and a lot of people are going to be pissed if you completely block traffic. To bring things even closer towards the Twilight Zone, a firetruck had to get through, and it was a clusterfuck. On the way I drove past Soldier Field, and man did they fuck that place up with the remodel. It's so bad the stadium was taken off of the National Registered Historical Buildings list, ha! Good job. The venue I was trying to find was called The Orphanage, and without my GPS, I would have never found the place. The venue is actually a community center for a church, and the only way I knew it was the place because a heavy metal dude with long hair and trenchcoat was standing outside talking on his cell. His name was Bob, and after his phonecall he said that this was indeed the place and the show was going to happen in a couple hours... punk time. I should have known that this show was gonna start late, but if gave me a place to hang out for a couple of hours. The building it's self is old as shit, and looked really cool inside with a large room, nice stage, and a good PA system. The space is definitely big enough to host big hardcore shows, and possibly a fest. Eventually the bands, and metal fans found their way to the place. This was gonna be a "I'm-a-super-serious-metal-guy" kinda show with most of the people in attendance were wearing spiked everything, and I even spotted a few bullet belts. I did get to talk to some of the locals and they were nice enough. By the time the first band was setting up to play, I had to bounce to go pick up my friend M from work. She was nice enough to let me crash at her place, so picking her up was the least I could do. Traveling back to her neighborhood was really quick with the traffic being much lighter than earlier in the day, and I was relieved because at this point in the evening I was starting to get tired from being up all day doing all that driving. I haven't seen M in almost two years, and it was good to catch up and tell her about everything I did during the day. She showed me her new place in a different neighborhood, and hooked me up with an old wrestling magazine as a gag gift... Thanks! It's a pleasure to spend time with my good friends in Chicago, and it's something I should do more often. We stayed up late chit-chatting about working all the time, punk bands, and places to eat in the city until I could barely keep my eyes open, and soon crashed.