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In a week I leave for a long Fourth of July weekend in New York. If you know me at all or if you've followed my blog even remotely closely, you can probably guess the primary purpose for the trip: the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest. It will be my seventh time at the contest since 2008, including that one time I actually managed to eat on the big stage. This year I'll be in the press box, though there's a huge part of me that wishes I would be eating. I thought hard about trying to earn a...

Every so often a dream team comes together. The Million Dollar Quartet. The 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team. The cast of The Breakfast Club. For all we know the 1945 Chicago Cubs could have been a dream team too. And maybe they could have gone on to be a dream team in 1946 and '47 and '48 or any other of the years in between then and now. And maybe they could have won the World Series that year and the next and the next....

Step 1: Don't Sign Up for an Eating Contest The first step to not preparing to compete in an eating contest is to not sign up to compete in an eating contest. I suppose you can apply this logic to most anything you might (not) want to train for: marathons, SATs, dog-obedience. Whatever. Just don't sign up and you don't have to prepare. Easy. For instance, I didn't sign up to compete in the Ribmania ribs eating contest at Ribfest Chicago this past Friday. To be fair, I might have tried to sign up for it if I hadn't have been been in...

It's festival season in Chicago. At least, it is in theory. In reality the weekends have been cold or rainy or both, and every Chicagoan is waiting for consistent sun and consistent warmth. Not warm one day, cold the next. Not sunny all morning with a downpour at noon. Just warm, just sun. Summer. But in a city known to have all four seasons in one day, we might be waiting for a while. Chicago is miserable in the winter, having the kind of weather that merits not-so-cute nicknames such as "snowpocalypse" and "snowmageddon" and "Chiberia." But we brave those...

Other people do fancy things. Other people go to those kind of parties that cost $50 to get in. Other people get gussied up to go to a museum event, like the Last Speakeasy Chicago prohibition party, on a Thursday night. Other people. I don't. I am the kind of person who sees people doing fancy things, who sees people spend $50 on a party, who sees people getting gussied up for a museum event on a Thursday night and thinks, "other people do that." Other people. So, even though the CTA was plastered with ads for the Chicago History Museum's "Last Speakeasy...

One of my goals in life is to spend the holidays in Europe. I would love to don my winter best and wander the lights and markets of some German Christmas market. Some day. Some day. Until then, I suppose, the Christkindlmarket in Chicago will have to suffice...

Hands up — who out there who has been reading along with my 'round the world journey has thought at some point "I wish I could do that?" I know it may seem daunting or like an impossible dream, but, trust me, if I can do this anyone can. I am shy and awkward and timid. I grew up with massive social anxiety. I'd always had very little confidence in myself and my abilities. I'd always been extremely dependent on other people. I'm scared to death of everything and have a tendency toward panic attacks. Trust me, I'm not the kind of person...

I never in my life thought I would say this. But there might just be such a thing as too much bacon. I spent the latter half of my weekend with heart burn and a stomach ache and a general feeling of not ever wanting to move or eat again. It's not to say that it wasn't worth it. Because, really, If you're going to spend the second half of a weekend with heartburn and a stomach ache you might as well have had spent the first half stuffing yourself with bacon....

Yesterday was cold and rainy. I got coffee. I came home. I drank my coffee. My internet and TV went out and I was bored. So I decided to leave ridiculously early. Which meant I decided to walk where I was going. Which was Wicker Park. Which was about three miles away. I left and then went right back to get a sweatshirt. Because it was chilly. I got to Wicker Park and walked around the Renegade Craft Fair. I quickly figured out that there were way too many things I wanted to buy, so I just started grabbing business cards so I...