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Thursday, July 15, 2004 05:12 am

Grace About Town



The funny thing about my life is that things rarely go as planned. I confess that lots of times I don't even have a plan, but I really don't think it makes any difference whether I have one or not.

Take last weekend: Friday afternoon, my best friend, Christine, called. She just moved from L.A. to Denver and started a new job. I hoped she'd be able to come to "Grace Talk #2," but figured she wouldn't be able to get away because of the job. But she's coming! This gave a whole new flavor to the weekend, and I believe it set into motion the series of delightful events that followed.

"Grace Talk #2," by the way, will be at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 29, and 8 p.m. Friday, July 30, at Stella Blue. Tickets are available at Engel's on Edwards salon, the Cardologist, and Recycled Records. I really like Mark Kessler, Recycled Record's co-owner, because he's such a supportive and friendly fellow. I hope you can all make it to the show.

This week I planned to write about my friend Kurt's softball game. Kurt's team is called Throbbing Gristle, and I figured the name alone was worth writing about. They played Friday night at the Four Seasons Sports Complex. But I didn't make it there.

The weekend started early, with a delightful Friday lunch at Tea Thyme. (I went there with My New Boyfriend, MNB, but because I promised you last week that I'm not going to be writing about him constantly, I'm not going to mention all the time I spent with him -- which was pretty much every minute).

Friday evening, I saw Virgil Rhodes, jazz saxophonist extraordinaire, and his great band at Robbie's Uptown Friday Night show. They jammed, and I was pleased that the place was packed.

And there's where all my plans started to change in interesting ways. Sitting at the very front table at Robbie's was a great friend from my youth, Jai Dewith. I hadn't seen her in about eight years. She'd been living in Chicago but moved to Argentina last year, so it was a delightful surprise to see her. She's here visiting family (her sister is former city chief of staff Letitia Dewith-Anderson), and Jai joined my family for dinner at Mariah's.

Have you been to Mariah's? You should definitely try it some night. You won't have to wait in line for hours, and the food is delicious. The décor, faux-log cabin, reminds me of the El Tovar Lodge at the Grand Canyon (another place I highly recommend). We didn't leave until after 10, and by that time Kurt's softball game was long over.

Afterward I stopped by Norb Andy's to see the jazz band Real Time. Not only is their music top-notch, but the guys in the band, Hank, Steve, and Bob, are the most cheery musicians I've seen. I told Steve it's refreshing to watch him grin from ear to ear as he plays the keyboard; he has none of that too-hip-to-crack-a-smile musician attitude. Steve said he's a middle-aged geeky white guy, and that's not going to change, so he might as well be happy about it.

Saturday, MNB's sister Bethe and brother-in-law Craig came to town. Not only is MNB fabulous, but so are his relations. We all went to the reception for the Prairie Art Alliance's show, The Subject is Still Life, at the Hoogland Center for the Arts. Art + food + wine -- what more do you need? My dad, who recently joined the Alliance, has a painting in the exhibit. Dad has been painting for about 50 years, and the rest of the family has tried to get him to show his work, but he's more about producing art than marketing it. My sister, Amy, has a bunch of his paintings on display at her new hair studio, Click, and recently sold a piece for him.

After the reception, we had tickets for the Rooftop Roots Festival, on top of the Hilton parking garage. I'd never heard any of the bands playing and was excited about the festival -- except it was pouring down rain. The organizers started the event outside, but when we got there they were in the process of moving everything into the Hilton. So we sat in the bar at the top of the Hilton and watched the rain. It was really an ideal place to wait.

When the festival finally re-started inside, the bands were great, despite the lack of outdoor ambience. Mandy Barnett has a truly outstanding voice. The crowd wasn't huge; I'm sure the torrential downpour cut into ticket sales, but everybody in attendance seemed to love the show as much as I did.

Sunday morning, we went to the Knights of Columbus Hall #364 on Meadowbrook Road for a tasty brunch buffet. The buffet is held every second Sunday of the month, and for a measly $6.50 you get a delicious assortment of brunch items, including made-to-order Belgian waffles. Each brunch benefits a different charity; Sunday's proceeds went to United Cerebral Palsy. I can't think of a tastier way to support a good cause.

Sunday afternoon was spent out on the water, the only place to be on a hot July afternoon. Maybe I'll make it to Kurt's softball game next week. Or maybe not. No worries. Summertime, and the livin' is easy.


Contact Grace Smith at grace@illinoistimes.com.

graceuncensored.com. To see her latest video, check the link with her column at


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