Updated: December 19, 2012 7:22PM
Nothing on Earth has shaped my existence more than the city of Chicago. I formed my band, Kill Hannah, way back in the ‘90s while I was a student at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The saddest day in my life was Dec. 24, 1999; I was heartbroken over a girl and my entire family was in Connecticut celebrating the holidays. I couldn’t sleep, so I hopped a fence and wandered around Navy Pier alone and freezing at 2 a.m. Silver lining: The pain went away and I got a great song out of it called “New Heart for Xmas.” (Hey, free therapy!)
Two years ago, I moved to New York to act in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” on Broadway. The experience was priceless, but it’s amazing how many things I missed about Chicago.
This weekend, I’m reuniting with all of my original bandmates to play our most important hometown show of the year at House of Blues on Saturday. Fans will fly in from all over the world, and many have Tweeted us, asking for advice on where to hang out. I’ve put together my idea of a perfect day in Chicago.
1. Wake up. Brush. Floss. Fill flask with Makers Mark. Open window and scream, “Hey Earth! Put on a diaper! Let’s do this!” (cost: free).
2. Walk to Caribou Coffee (600 N. Kingsbury) and get a Mango Black Tea to go (cost: $2.75).
3. Walk around the corner to the hidden dog park beside the Ohio Street overpass. Laugh as yuppies flirt while their basset hounds mount each other. (cost: free).
4. Walk a block north. Punish your heart with a delicious pastrami and onion sandwich at Erie Café (536 W. Erie), which looks like an old mob hang out, and visit the private jungle gym across the street. This is just like the dog park but with humans (cost: free).
5. Walk through the Palm Court lobby of the Drake Hotel (140 E. Walton). Imagine being obscenely rich and owning Pullman trains. Finger sandwiches optional (cost: free).
6. Walk one block south to the hidden gothic courtyard of the Fourth Presberterian Church (126 E. Chestnut). It’s just inches from the chaos, but always empty. It feels like 1800s Oxford juxtaposed with modern skyscrapers overhead. There are vines, a garden and warped leaded glass rectory windows. I’ve written a lot of lyrics here.
7. Throw a coin in the old fountain. One time, when I had no pennies, I made a wish and threw in a vibrating pager alerting me I had a table ready at the Cheesecake Factory across the street (cost: free).
8. Walk one block north to hidden Gallery Aesthete (46 E. Oak, 4th floor, next to Jill Sander) and obsess over local artists.
9. Go around the corner to the best boutique in the city, Sofia Vintage (100 E. Walton). Buy something for your girlfriend, or just flirt with the impossibly cute staff. Ask for Ashley.
10. Walk east to Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago). Lick a Koons sculpture (cost: $12, free on Tuesdays).
11. Rent a bike (warning: this involves something called “exercise”) and ride north along Lake Michigan to the campus of Northwestern University. (Along the way, stop to watch people fall down at the skate park on Montrose.) Trespass inside the old music building, play a grand piano and explore the hidden Shakespeare Garden and tiny old chapel (cost of bike rental: no clue, ask a normal person).
12. Ride north to the Bahai Temple (100 Linden Avenue, Wilmette, Ill.). Looks like a giant orange juicer made of white marble. Meditate, be present (cost: free).
13. Return bike, stop on bridge overlooking the Chicago River. Make weird faces at tourists on the deck of the architectural cruise boat. (cost: free)
14. Dinner at Kuma’s Corner (2900 W. Belmont). They blast death metal and make unbelievably delicious burgers (the Judas Priest is my fave).
15. Cordials at my favorite bar of all time: Zebra Lounge (1220 North State Parkway). It’s the least “hipster-ish” place in the city. Literally located inside a retirement home, it feels like a Cincinnati Airport lounge from 1973. Seats about 20. Tom has been playing Barry Manilow on piano there since before cocaine. It smells like Old Spice, Merit Ultralights and beautiful failure (cost: $2 for ice and soda to mix with the last drops of your flask).
Mat Devine donated his fee for writing this column to the American Cancer Society.