At the end of the day and start of the summer, the 606 was an elevated wasteland, trail usage set to Low. The strange-for-a-Friday desolation, however, was not met with no-hands-riding-relief. I’d come for a party, had read there’d be one, and arrived only to find moderate runners, hand holding strollers, and no summer solstice celebration. There was to have been music!, food!, lots and lots of people!; but though I was disappointed, I remained undeterred. 8:30-something, and I was already at my second botched fête of the evening. It wouldn’t be my last.
I’m 31, and in the past few goes around the sun, I have become more and more celestial-minded. This isn’t to say I’m always getting my chart read, or that I fall for every astrological Earth beauty who comes my way. It’s just that I’ve come to appreciate our ever-moving place in the wild wonderland of space.
I’ve experienced a handful of world-altering griefs, one or two face-solidifying heartbreaks, I’ve burst the bubble of my childhood religion, and witnessed a solar eclipse in totality. Celebrating the longest day of the year, a hemispheric reality brought on by a tilted planet receiving high-level rays from a nearby plasmic star, is a holiday I can get behind.
In France, particularly Paris, they put on the Fête de la Musique, a city-wide jam gallery of rock bands on flatbeds, folk singers on street corners, and brass sections boating the Seine. Cultures around the word find shared Earthisms—disconnected from faith or family upbringing; connected instead by time and place—worth a dance. I drew up a poster for a Summer Solstice Cycle and rolled up to the Logan Square Monument without a guess as to what I’d find.
Inspired by a monthly full moon ride I used to attend in St. Louis, I have been trying to get Logan Squarites to Lunar Cycle for the year and a half I’ve been living here. I’ve put up flyers, stuck invitations into spokes, made announcements at work, and every month I’ve gone up to that monument with high hopes and low expectations. Once or twice there’ve been one or two riders ready to meander the town, and always it’s been worth it.
So Friday, you couldn’t imagine my psych at hitting the roundabout to find eight, no, maybe 12 folks with bikes, standing, waiting, maybe as though they’d seen an appealing poster, or been passed a convincing word of mouth that extended evening daylight was cause for shared biking joy. I pulled up and smiled, said, “Look at all these bikes,” and smiled some more.
“Are you here for the ride?” “Did you make that poster?” Happy Solstice!” were words left unspoken and imagined by me. Instead, I got disgust stares, telepathic reminders that I was part of the privileged patriarchy, and it was immediately clear that these cool bikers with colorful hair and patches sewn to their jackets were not there for the Summer Solstice Cycle. Their crew was theirs, and I went home to make some tacos.
Then, refueled to retry, I rode over to the 606 to check out the trail fest. Then, bummed and tired, I rode home to take a nap. (It was discovered later that the trail’s festivities were the following day instead.)
A few hours later, Chicago had turned from the summer sun, but my want to share the solstice, to dance at being alive, still remained, and so I put on my pants and went to Cole’s.
Right now, they’re having a Summer Showcase celebrating 10 years on Milwaukee (which I wrote about), and that meant chances for groovy times were high. Coleman Brice’s solid booking does not disappoint. I locked my bike and made my way past the well-dressed hipsters and recognizable regulars to catch in the backroom the last half set of the very danceable Gnuman. With keyboards galore and drums to crush, the middle-aged synth rockers reminded me a bit of The Cars (an association not unfounded since I later figured out they were a Gary Numan tribute band). But though the Chicago-based band next performing at Reed’s in July wouldn’t’ve made their tunes so danceable if they didn’t want you to dance, the crowd at Cole’s was… stationary.
I moved on. I left my bike parked outside of Hairitics and walked. Slippery Slope had a line past El Condor and the East Room hadn’t yet got going. Then at The Whistler, a spot with jams I sometimes enjoy, there looked to be about a ten minute wait. “Is it busy tonight?” one guy asked. “Yeah,” the door-dude said. “It’s Friday. It’s not raining,” and he said it with such a too-cool-for-school-blah that I decided to step into The Native instead.
Small, dim, crowded, it reminded me of Cole’s with a back patio. There wasn’t any dancing, though, so I left. I crossed the street to Deadbolt, where there was indeed at least one couple getting down, but everyone else was standing around! There was a whole lot of drinking, obviously (maybe), and I suppose self-conscious anxiety, the plague of our privileged generation, is a large hand at play on nights in bars with music and emptyish dance floors. I get it and I don’t. You get dressed up. You go out into the new. You stand around.
I left, walked past the over-lit Radler, hammered folks hammering away, and popped my head into Emporium’s pop-up at the unexpected sound of music that was live. There, surrounded by fake trees and faker mountains—a dog-themed setup benefiting One Tail at a Time—I banged along to the alt-rock punk of Engines. They were great, but though I always enjoy the pleasure of watching someone try really hard, something told me that sound-check Cole never would’ve let the frontwoman sing so hard without being heard.
I went next door and was stopped dead in my shoes at the sight of David Robert Mitchell’s “It Follows” playing on each of Emporium’s million big screens. Near 1 a.m., I had a mind to sit with a beer and watch (if you haven’t seen it, you could), but I was still set to the sun, and kept on the move through the arcade, past the pool tables, where I very nearly stayed to watch a rematch between two spaghetti-strapped table hockey-ers in it for blood. But I wanted more and high-tailed back the way I came.
Outside, I ran into a friend from whom I did not bum a smoke. He pointed to two of the bar’s boarded up windows and told me that earlier in the day, a crew had been cutting into the concrete by the sidewalk and had nicked a gas main. A spark from the saw had released a fireball and busted out the windows. “So if I’d been standing right here I would’ve been incinerated?” “Yeah,” he said, and I thought to myself, ‘Yikes.’
I moved along some more and stopped outside Cafe Mustache. There was a DJ in there, and I could hear the grooves. I so and always feel like my dad—not the way he feels, but the way I see him—awkward and loving, exploratory from out of space. There is a need to connect, to celebrate in regard to what’s left. The solstice, another year traveling through it all.
I went inside to try again. Every third Friday, Cafe Mustache hosts a DJ open mic, and this was that. I danced. I grooved. These were the most 21st century tunes of the night, and all of a sudden I was hungry and tired. With a bed and kitchen down the street, I had plenty reason to go home.
I unlocked my bike and kept the Summer Solstice Cycle going until the end. I’d made my own street festival, given thanks to what the neighborhood’s got, even though I missed the 606’s celebration. I was having tacos again by 2 a.m.
Summer’s here, and I’m glad for it. The next full moon is on July 16. It’ll be a Tuesday and there will be another Lunar Cycle ride to complement it.
Editor’s note: The 606’s celebration of the summer solstice took place June 22. Featured photo: Ariel Parrella-Aureli