I went to Chicagoland this past weekend for the Spring International Quilt Festival. Erica and I have gone to it together every year they’ve had it–that’s three so far. We’d planned to make it a road trip again this year, but she called me on Tuesday night to share the news that she’d gotten a job interview scheduled for Friday morning at just about the time we’d intended to leave my house. So we’ll delay our departure a few hours; no problem, right? Nope. The interview was in Indianapolis; she’s looking for new job closer to where she grew up and where her parents still live. We could start our trip Thursday with a first stop in Indy or we could meet in Chicago. After mulling it over for about ten seconds, I decided that latter option was better. Does that make me a bad friend, to not want to be flexible? I’m sure I could have gotten my packing done earlier and managed to get out of work early on Thursday, but I didn’t want to. And what would I have done while she was in her interview? Tagging along and sitting in the lobby would be a little weird. Hanging out at the hotel might have been okay, if they had high-speed internet and a late enough check out time, but that’s not really a fun way to spend half a vacation day. I couldn’t go anywhere else because she’d need the car, since dropping her off not knowing when to pick her up again would not be very workable.
So I drove by myself, stopping at a quilt shop and later at Culver’s (mmm-Butterburgers) on the way. Having been really, really frustrated by the Indiana Toll Road/Skyway route the last couple times I went to Chicago, I took the Tri-State when it came time to choose. Of course that was frustrating too. There was construction. There’s always construction, but what was really shocking was the tolls. They doubled when I wasn’t looking. When I got the first plaza and saw it was 80 cents, I thought maybe it was construction special, but no, all the plazas were charging 80 cents, and the exit that had been 15 cents was now 30. Aren’t they supposed to nickel and dime me on the increases so I don’t notice as much? And if they’re going to jack them up a lot, why not just go to an even dollar, which would be easier for everyone? Evidently the tolls didn’t increase at all for the I-Pass holders, the people with the little transponders in their cars, but I don’t really see that getting one makes sense for my two or three trips a year through Chicagoland, especially once I learned it costs $50 to get started.
I got another surprise when I got to the suburb where the hotel was–there was a homeless guy at the end of the exit ramp, complete with cardboard sign. (He was not, however, offering to work for food, just accepting donations.) I’d never seen that in that area before. It’s got to be tough to be homeless anywhere, but in the suburbs, where walking as a mode of transportation is discouraged, I can only imagine it’s even harder than in the city once you’ve gotten to the point where you have no car, either. I wonder how much of that guy’s daily income was in dimes and nickels people like me had handy after getting change for a dollar when paying all those 80-cent tolls.
After Erica and I met up at the hotel, we walked across the street to browse in the mall that wasn’t there when I was growing up. Fortunately, the stores were awash in ridiculous and unflattering clothes, so we were not tempted to spend any of our fabric-buying budget. (My favorites were the pink cowboy hat with a rhinestone tiara in place of a hatband and the lime, orange, and fuchsia paisley cropped pants). After happy hour at the hotel–the wine wasn’t great, but it was free–we decided we’d walk to the Mexican restaurant on the other side of the mall, where we’d had a really good and fast dinner last year. The most direct route was through the mall, which took us by the Rainforest Cafe. Erica had never been to one, and there was hardly any wait, so we decided to do that instead. We should have kept on walking. The best part of the meal was my margarita–after that arrived it was hard to get the attention of our waitress (we ended up snagging a floor manager to get water–not refills of water, but water in the first place), and it took a long time to get our entrees and when they did show up mine was wrong and that meant more waiting (I would have eaten whatever the other thing was, but the waitress never even set it down, just waved it in front of me before whisking it away) and by the time we finally ate and paid (well, Erica paid, because I was able to get our room for free by cashing in some frequent stayer points–I’ve never managed that before) it was pretty much bedtime.
Saturday was the quilt show. We met my mom and a friend of hers at a quilt shop that was running a shuttle bus, which was much easier than hassling with traffic and parking at the convention center. We looked at the quilts, had lunch at a steakhouse across the street, looked at a few more quilts and then started in on the vendor mall. Mom got stuck at one of the first booths–when I circled back to find her, she’d bought me a kit for a museum quilt challenge and made a new friend, who hugged us both good-bye when we finally moved on. If I had even a fraction of my mom’s way with people, I might still be in public accounting, schmoozing my way to new clients without even trying. After the first aisle of vendors, Mom had to leave to take her friend home, so Erica and I finished up on our own.
The whole show experience was just okay; I’m thinking I don’t need to go back for year four. In 2003, I was disappointed by the show but figured it was only the first year so things were bound to improve. In 2004, the show moved to a bigger hall and so the crowds weren’t such a problem but it still seemed to me that there was too much shopping and too few quilts. I felt the same about this year’s event–it isn’t so much a quilt show as a vendor mall with a quilt exhibit off to one side. The floor is laid out so the traffic flow through the vendor booths is much more efficient than the flow through the quilts. It’s easy to see all the merchandise without backtracking–not so the quilts.
Part of the problem is that I don’t seem to be the target audience for most of the quilts on display–there wasn’t a lot there that really appealed to me. I don’t expect to like everything at a show, of course, but there were whole sections where I didn’t find anything to inspire me. And the quilts I did like always seemed to be in one of the “no photographs” sections, which rankles. The signs said the restriction is to protect the quilts, but “no flash photographs” would accomplish the same thing. I guess it is easier to just scold everyone with a camera in her hand. I suppose I could have tried to draw the designs I liked–though one vendor didn’t even allow that. “NO PHOTOGRAPHS AND NO SKETCHING” is what her sign said. Geez–if it’s that big a deal, maybe you should leave that quilt at home, chica. In one of the no photo zones, they were selling a book with pictures of the quilts in it–for $18. If the book had all the quilts I couldn’t take pictures of, maybe, but just a dozen or so? Nope. At this point I’m thinking Erica and I should find another show to go to next spring instead, something more low key, but we’ve got plenty of time to decide.
Saturday night we drove out to what I consider my hometown and had dinner with my mom and another of her friends, who had some family quilts and quilt tops to show us. Erica and I are now the caretakers for the quilt tops, since mom’s friend thought it was better for us to have them since we’d be able to use them and her family would just throw them out after she died (she’s 85 years old and has started to think about these things). I felt a bit uncomfortable accepting such a gift from a woman I’d just met, but it felt like refusing would have been rude, so I thanked her and took them. I have no idea yet how Erica and I will split them up or what we’ll do with them. One of them is definitely not in good enough shape to make a quilt from as is, and I’m not sure the other is either. We’ll have to get creative.
Sunday Erica and I drove back to Michigan in a mini-convoy, me in the lead. I am not a good convoy person. Leading is stressful– having to decide for more than just me how fast to go, when to pass, where to stop– and so is following, since I’m not in control. No wonder I like to watch Monk; he’s my people. Our last stop together was at the quilt shop about an hour from home. (I say quilt shop, but the scrapbook section of it is spreading into what was formerly fabric territory, so we didn’t need to spend as much time there as in past years.) Erica bought some of this year’s Hoffman Challenge fabric; she thinks she might enter this time. That’s cool. Wouldn’t it be neat to see both our quilts in the same show next year? Yeah, odds are slim, especially since I haven’t definitely decided to even enter, but it’s fun to think about.
One year ago, there was no entry. Why? I was working too much, I think.
Two years ago, I was busy looking at quilts and buying fabric instead of writing.
Three years ago, it was finally spring.
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