As of January 1, 2016, Gapers Block has ceased publication. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Bucket List Sun Mar 03 2013

My Chicago Bucket List (T-6months): Lady Arm Wrestling is as Awesome as it Sounds

Previous Entry: My Unfinished Bucket List

If my life in Chicago has taught me anything, it is that the measure of a good Chicago night can be seen by the remnants of the evening in your bed the morning after. I woke up after CLLAW (Chicago League of Ladies Arm Wrestlers) with tiny red stars littering my bed, the name "Hills" signed in red marker across my left breast and the distinct taste of PBR still in my mouth. My terrible morning hair concurred; CLLAW had been a success, one more thing that made me fall completely and utterly in love with the city of Chicago and all of the crazy creative people that inhabit it.

To be honest, when I thought about going to a CLLAW event, I thought "Cool, I'll see some ladies arm wrestle. That seems like a pretty gender-dichotomy-crushing thing to do today." It was one of those things that seemed to have that feministy flavor I love while also not being some horrifically boring feminism education event straight out of "Portlandia's" "Women and Women First" bookstore. CLLAW is feminism in action baby!

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Niki Fritz / Comments (2)

Bucket List Mon Dec 31 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Applying to Grad School & the Rest of my Unfinished Bucket List

Previous Entry: Gambling and Hangovers aka My Wednesday of Powerball and Dating

Numbers 2, 10, 19 and most importantly number 25: Apply to PhD programs you chicken shit!

I did not finish the bucket list. Not even close. In fact, although I added eight random things to my original list of 25, I didn't get to 10 of my original to-do's.

And I think I'm kind of OK with that, which is kind of amazing given what an insane type-A, control-freaky-type, check-every-box kind of gal I was coming into 2012. But the thing about a bucket list is it kind of gives life some perspective.

In 2012, I learned that despite all my lists, I can't do everything or be everything. But I can do and be what is most important to me, what I choose to be. And in 2012 that turned out to be writing, facing fears, doing scary shit and the combination of all those: applying to a PhD program.

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Niki Fritz

Bucket List Wed Dec 12 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Gambling and Hangovers aka My Wednesday of Powerball and Dating

Previous Entry: Waiting in Line for a Hot Dog

Number 23: Gamble on Something

powerballjpg_Page1.jpgWhen I was a little kid I LOVED those scratch off lottery tickets. There was something about etching away every single sliver of silver on those cardboard cards that just made my anal little 4-year-old self so freaking happy. I loved them until I found out people paid money for them with the strict purpose of making more money. Suddenly, with the understanding of what gambling was, every little scratched clean card seemed like a failure and a waste a dollar that could have been spent on ring pops.

And so I learned to hate and fear gambling. I hate even standing in a casino, I never play poker for money, and the idea of the lottery seems like the most idiotic invention in human history. And yet when my friend asked me if I wanted to buy a Powerball ticket with him last Wednesday, I remembered this to do on my bucket list: gamble on something.

We headed to 7-11 and we bought a Powerball ticket: 21, 31, 34, 47,48, 08.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Wed Nov 21 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Waiting in Line for a Hot Dog

Previous Entry: My Chicago Bucket List: Standing on My Head to Feel My Heart
Next Entry: Gambling and Hangovers

HotDougslogo_medium.jpgMy mom has this annoyingly cute habit. While she is watching "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" she likes to text me anytime the show features a Chicago restaurant. This means at least once a week I get a quasi-cryptic text that looks something like this: "Inas 4 Breakfast? good?" "Genes, I think in your neighborhood?" "Frosted Mug in South Chicago? Is that far?"

Usually as least once a month, the featured restaurant is a hot dog place. My mum loves a good Chicago-style hot dog. And yet every time she comes to visit we end up going to the same Greek restaurant just out of sheer lack of creativity.

But I decided this fall's Mama Fritz Chicago visit would be different. This visit we would be adventurous, we would go beyond flaming cheese and gyros and we would courageously endure the line at the infamous Hot Doug's.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Mon Oct 15 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Standing on My Head to Feel My Heart

Previous Entry: Love at First Cat Scratch
Next Entry: Waiting in line for a Hot Dog

Number Eight: Stand on my head, balance my chakras, find Nirvana

The year was 1996 and I, like the majority of 10-year-old girls, was obsessed with the Women's USA Gymnastics team. It was not just the high ponies encased in scrunchies or the sparkly onesies either; it was the gymnasts' ability to do things with their bodies that seemed physically impossible to me. They were my superheroes, these girls who owned their bodies, who defied gravity and broken ankles.

Unfortunately my early career attempts into professional gymnastics were thwarted by the fact that I was terrible. Like truly awful. I couldn't do a cartwheel to save my dwindling gymnastic career. I could not even master the basics of the tripod head stand.

Part of it was that my chubby little belly got in the way of my legs trying to push up. But mostly, I was terrified... terrified of falling, of breaking my neck, of looking stupid, of being the one 10-year-old who couldn't wobble around in a tripod. But really it was a fear of my body betraying me, of my body not being able to support me, of my body being an embarrassment.

Fearing my body -- or really fearing my body's evident lack of coordination -- was a reoccurring theme throughout the next two decades of my life. When I took my first vinyasa flow class and saw people float their legs up into headstand, I almost had a panic attack. These were people, normal people, doing seemingly impossible things. I knew then that yoga was my chance to relive the 1996 glory years; yoga was my chance to finally stand on my head victoriously, Kerri Strug style.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Tue Aug 21 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Love at First Cat Scratch

Previous Entry: My name in print
Next Entry: Standing on my head

Number Five: Fall in love, preferably with someone lovely and fluffy who is already neutered and declawed.

I couldn't get a cat. I just skidded into early late 20s, I lived alone, I'm single. If this was 1895, not 2012, hell, if this was Green Bay, WI and not Chicago, I would officially be an old heifer put out to pasture. To get a cat would just fulfill every single stereotype I had ever heard of the career-obsessed, selfish single cat lady. And what would the relatives say? Or my old high school friends on Facebook?

lemon.jpgBut I wanted one. Really bad. I had the most serendipitous cat growing up. As an only child, I treated Rascal much like a younger sibling, dressing him up in doll clothes, making him listen to my elaborate stories of Barbie drama and hauling him around under my arm like a sack of furry squirmy flour. He loved me and I loved him.

I wanted some of that love back and since I've sworn off any form of online dating, getting a cat seemed to be the quickest way to instant love gratification.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Tue Jul 24 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: My Name in Print

Previous Entry: Become Everything I am

Next Entry: Love at first cat scratch

Number One: See my name printed in black and white byline; there is nothing better in this world than having your writing printed in a tangible format you can physically mail to your mother

Last March I had my first column printed in the RedEye. It was titled "Feminism is your friend," and it was everything I always wanted my first column to be. It was feministy, idealistic, witty, not entirely serious, and well written; it was as perfect of a first column, and a printed moment, as I could hope to get.

guy reading my column.jpgAnd I have to say it felt freaking fantastic. There is a tangibility of dirtying your fingers with the words of your own column. There is finality in seeing a train full of people reading your column. It is vain and humbling in the same instance. It is really everything I want in life condensed to a moment.

In my excitement of my first column, I grabbed at least dozen papers, leaving me with about five extra papers after mailing one to my mother, both grandmas, my first grade teacher, and every boy that ever dumped me since sixth grade. I wanted leftovers of all this tangible proof of a life well-lived or at least well-documented.

But sooner than expected the paper began to yellow. I lost the high. And what I saw when I looked at my printed column, was just that a piece of paper, free paper at that. It did not make me anything different than I was before. What I mean is it did not make me a writer.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz / Comments (1)

Bucket List Tue Jul 10 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Become Everything I Am

Previous Entry: Run a 5K
Next Entry: My name in print

Number 33: Make a movie, face more fears and become everything I am.

Here is the thing about bucket lists; they grow, not diminish, as the year progresses. The more "to-do's" you check off your bucket list, the more to-do's you begin to add.
With half of 2012 gone I have officially etched off seven of the original 25 things to do on "My 2012 Chicago Bucket List." And I have added eight more. And I have 20 more added in my head. And another five that I can't yet put into words but are definitely bucket-list-worthy.

To me the beauty of the bucket list has been that with time I realize those "things" I wanted to do before, these tangible events, have morphed into these ephemeral experiences I want to have or really these experiences I want to create. These new experiences are not the makings of a traditional bucket list; they are not sky diving, or eating at Hot Doug's or things that you have been "meaning to do for years." This new desire to create experiences has resulted in some of the most random, previously unthinkable and often terrifying desires.

Like in May 2012, when I decided I wanted to make a movie montage... by myself... with iMovie... and then show it to a roomful of people.

Facing Our Fears from Niki Fritz on Vimeo.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Wed Jun 06 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Run a 5k

Previous Entry: Riding a bike in the city
Next Entry: Becoming Everything I Am

Number 32: Run three consecutive miles without walking, faking a leg cramp or throwing up

I've never been what you would call an athletic person. I remember once in middle school making an impassioned speech to my gym teacher about why running the required timed mile once a year was by definition "cruel and unusual punishment." I'm not exaggerating; I was that kid.

But as I grew up I realized that exercise, especially in the forms of jazzercise, kickboxing or zumba, could indeed be fun. But I still never fancied myself a running person. And I certainly never thought I would be one of those people who PAID to get up at 6am and run a few miles with some insanely competitive strangers. Races clearly weren't my thing.

And then I found out about The Color Run: a 5k filled with color explosions at every kilometer and a gigantic dance party at the end. It is basically a 3 mile-run/walk/skip/dance all to the background of Rihanna, Ke$ha and Katy Perry. This was something I was willing to spend my $40 on.

color bomb.jpg

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Mon May 14 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Riding a Bike in the City

Previous Entry: My Chicago Bucket List: Learning Resilience from Preteens
Next Entry: Run a 5K

Number 31: Ride a Bike in the City and Try to Not Die or Be Permanently Damaged

As I shimmy through 2012, this bucket list is becoming less and less things to check off a list and more and more scary things to do that freak me out of my comfort zone and into the magical. And considering the stalemate of boring I mucked around in for much of 2011, this is exactly what I needed.

My latest venture out of my comfort zone involved a Craiglist impulse buy of one red Schwinn Beach Cruiser. Ten minutes of Craigslist scrolling led me to Annie, a hefty 40-pound cruiser meant either for really slow city biking or possibly razing buildings. The first time I sat on her and attempted to pedal, I shook... she squeaked... and we swerved down Paulina Street in Rogers Park like drunk Dutch man after Cinco de Mayo.

But five miles of SLOW shaky pedaling later, I was officially a city biker; something I thought was reserved for the school children and hipsters. And it felt great and strangely liberating.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Thu Apr 12 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Learning Resilience from Preteens

Previous Entry: Embrace "Yes And"
Next Entry: Riding a Bike in the City

Number 11: Volunteer, preferably with cute kids

I never understand people who say they don't like kids. What is not to like about energetic, idealist little balls of human potential? How can you not love each little putty ball of kid, each so unique because they haven't yet been smashed into the square beige cubes of society expectations? Kids rock!

Kid awesomeness is something I've been missing my past three years in Chicago. I am entombed 9-5 into my 3.5-wall office and my nights are filled with very adult-like activities such as pop culture trivia and kickball leagues. In high school and college I tutored ESL kids, taught at-risk first graders after school and was an official "parkee" during the summers. Kids could be exhausting but the kind of exhaustion that is worth it.

I was pumped when Chicago Social Guru Saya Hillman said our Fear Experiment group would have the opportunity to volunteer with the middle schoolers at Marconi School in West Garfield Park. I've never been to Garfield Park and I've never worked with middles schoolers. To be honest, both terrified me.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Wed Mar 14 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Embrace "Yes And"

Previous Entry: Stop Making Fun of Hipsters
Next Entry: Learning Resilience from Preteens

Number 30: Be Silly and Embrace the 2nd City Art Form aka One Night of Improv

I'm your typical improv hater-ator. After moving to Chicago, I overloaded on the second city's best-known theatrical art form. From iO and Comedy Sports to my friends' free student shows and weird troupe performances in dive bars, I personally experienced every single improv show in the city.

And I hated it; I truly, to my blackened, humorless soul, hated it.

I hated the intensely awkward energy, the languishing moments of silence and the hint of edgy competitiveness. I hated the forced laughter, the moment you knew you should laugh and felt the pressure to chuckle at a cheap joke, the laugh "should." So one day I decided to just quit and never again make myself sit through another improv show. It was nothing but rehearsed Second City shows and Judd Apatow movies for me. And then last week, I went beyond going to an improv show; I was the improv show. And I was converted.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Mon Feb 27 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Stop Making Fun of Hipsters

Previous Entry: Galentine's Day
Next Entry: Embrace Yes And

FAIL: Number 29: Go to Logan Square and don't make fun of hipsters (An impossibly difficult "to-do" that I knocked off my original list of 25 for its implausibility. I know myself well.)

I have a notoriously nasty habit of routinely and senselessly making fun of hipsters.
I do not make clever little "Portlandia"-worthy jabs or even witty insight into the hypocrisy of the hipster subculture; I'm more prone to nod towards a dude on a bike and say, "Hey man, look at that hipster riding a bike. He looks so...stupid."

hipeterself.jpgI have justified such high-brown heckling because I have dated approximately 53 percent of the hipster community in Chicago. If I have had to help shimmy off skinny jeans, then I should be allowed the reward of mockery for my troubles.

But recently it has been rather loudly brought to my attention that I may indeed be a hipster myself. (See most recent Facebook pic update for proof of hipster demise). It may be time for the dimly disguised self-loathing to stop.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz / Comments (7)

Bucket List Mon Feb 13 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Galentine's Day

Previous Entry: Learning to Kick a Guy in the Groin
Next Entry: Stop Making Fun of Hipsters

Number 6: Make a New Friend

I love Amy Poehler.

I love Amy Poehler because she is funny.

I love Amy Poehler because she makes bright blonde hair and pants suits look like an awesome choice.

I love Amy Poehler because Tina Fey describes her like this:

"Amy made it clear that she wasn't there to be cute. She wasn't there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys' scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it."

But most of all I love Amy Poehler for legitimizing Galentine's Day
on primetime television.

As Leslie Knope explains, Galentine's Day is "ladies celebrating ladies, like Lilith field minus the angst" (and perhaps more shaving). For me though the idea of Galentine's Day is celebrating all that freakin' friend love that we often take for granted in this couple obsessed world.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Mon Feb 06 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Learning to Kick a Guy in the Groin

Previous Entry:4 AM at the Green Mill
Next Entry: Gallentine's Day

Number 28: Take a Self-Defense Class

backoff1.jpgI've never really been the self defense "type" of girl. To be honest, I didn't want another bullet point to add to the "angry feminist" stereotype. I've already got the NOW signs in my living room and the "hey hey, ho ho" chants memorized; I didn't want the imagine of an angry Niki Fritz kneeing some hooded guy in the crotch added to the already characterized version of my feminist self.

Plus I really really really like to avoid unpleasant thoughts in life, you know, things like muggings and rapes. I like to pretend violence against women is just a thing that happens to other people. I am safe.

And then something rather innocuous happened: a guy was rude at a party.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz / Comments (4)

Bucket List Fri Feb 03 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: 4 AM at the Green Mill

Previous Entry: A Dance Experiment
Next Entry: Learning to Kick a Guy in the Groin

Number 15. Go home by 2am unless the late night destination is Green Mill; then go and jive hard.

Sometimes you must go and actively pursue your bucket list.

Other times the good lord drunkenly steps in at 2 a.m. and helps a sister out. And thankfully the alcohol-fuzzy stars aligned the first weekend in January to help me cross number 15 off my list: an epic night at Green Mill.

goat.jpgIt is a check mark three years in the making. The first night I was in Chicago, back in January 2009, my bestie and I had planned a night of appetizers, wine and the exciting "grownupness" of the Green Mill. Instead I got plastered on a bottle of Barefoot, climbed a goat statue and lured home my first hipster with the promise of PBR.

I think that night might have been the opposite of "grownupness." It was also what being 23 in Chicago is all about. And it was glorious.

But three years later, on the weekend of my official third anniversary with Chicago, I finally completed those well-laid plans I had back in 2009.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Fri Jan 27 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: A Dance Experiment

Previous Entry: Surviving and Thriving at Singles Events in Chicago
Next Entry: 4 AM at the Green Mill

Bucket List Number 7: Dance even though 700 people are watching

For the next three months I'm participating in DE3, Dance Experiment Three, or, as I explained to my mom, I'm going to be in Glee minus the singing and scandalous teen sex. It's Glee for Grownups: 20 amateur Chicago dancers who think rekindling high school show choir drama and trauma is a good idea.

And the craziest part is it all culminates on April 28th at the Park West for a Kesha-inspired performance in front of 750 people. I will be body rolling my winter rolls for 750 strangers. The Improv Experiment team will also be joining us on stage, to make one gigantic group known as Fear Experiment.

I know crazy. This probably explains it better.

DE3craycray.jpg

Photo courtesey of the magnificient Rich Chapman

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Fri Jan 20 2012

Chicago Bucket List: Surviving and Thriving at Singles Events in Chicago

Previous Entry:Wholehearted Living
Next Entry: A Dance Experiment

Bucket List #27: Go to Singles Event because being awkward never killed anyone outright (really a 2011 "to do" carry over)

Singles events terrify me; partially because I fear my attendance will destroy my carefully crafted Carrie-Bradshaw-esque-fakesona of the chic dating columnist who just loves shoes, pink martinis and being single. What I mean to say is I don't want to look like a complete loser especially to anonymous internet readers.

But the majority of my distaste for singles events has to do with the inherent aversion I have to awkwardness and feeling horribly, depressingly, foreverly alone. I'm not sure how it is possible but attending a singles event, with a roomful of similarly unattached people, seems like the loneliest thing you can do.

So I've avoided nuts and bolts parties because of the clich├ęd awkwardness they are sure to bring as someone asks to stick his bolt in my nut. But, after meeting the founder of a Chicago-created singles event called MeSoFar at a Gapers Block party, I had a slight moment of revelation, (I know I'm just full of revelations this year): dating does not have to be this painful experience everyone suffers through alone; it doesn't have to be a phase in your life you drunkenly date through attempting to end single status as soon as possible by settling on the first normal online dater who pays for dinner and doesn't have any obvious STDs; being single can be enjoyable.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Fri Jan 13 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: Wholehearted Living

Previous Entry: The List
Next Entry: Surviving and Thriving at Singles Events in Chicago

Bucket List Number 3. Have a moment of wholehearted living -- aka new hair and no more green onions

You know that moment of revelation; that moment you recognize a pattern and make a paradigm-changing conclusion about life; like when after years of "Our Fathers" you suddenly realize organized religion may be a sham; or when after searching for two guys, one girl threesomes yet again you realize you really just want to eliminate the whole boring girl part and be really gay; like after eating green onions for the hundredth time you suddenly get it, green onions give you horrible gas? You know that moment when you suddenly understand a new truth about life and the world is never the same?

Yeah, I know you know those moments. And I know you know they can really suck. They can be terrifying. They make you suddenly see a world of new truths, truths you may not be ready for.

After getting my ass dumped in an eerily familiar fashion last week, I had one of these moments. I suddenly realized with absolute clarity... that I date punk ass little bitches. OK, so in all fairness and honesty, it wasn't me who came to this conclusion but my kickass therapist who in the Lifetime movie of my life will have a British accent and will sit across from me on the couch and say, "Niki, it sounds like you are dating punk ass little bitches," and then sip her tea.

After trying to defend my punk ass little bitch exes for about two minutes I realized she was right. I date punk ass little bitches.

So I died my hair red.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz

Bucket List Fri Jan 06 2012

My Chicago Bucket List: The LIST

boyfriendlist.jpgI have always loved lists, probably to a somewhat unhealthy degree. They fill my agenda books, phone notepads, middle-school-esque journals and often the palm of my hand. I write down what I need to do this week, my ideal traits in a boyfriend (see image for my ideal boyfriend traits at age 13), what I need to pick up at the grocery store, story ideas, who I've made out with in the past 12 months, my current anxieties, who is on my celebrity sex "pass" list, what I want to be when I grow up, the pros and cons of converting to Judaism, and what I want to be in my next life.

And I relish every New Year, for that moment when it becomes socially acceptable to make crazy lists about what you want to do and share it with the world. It is a time when "losing 10 pounds" has the same validity as "finish my novel" or "become an international porn star." It is a time when you decide who you are going to become in 2012 -- or at least what you are going to convince your Facebook friends you are in 2012 through the art of Photoshop.

This year I'm skipping the traditional Fritz fun-time resolutions in favor of the Ultimate New Year's Resolution List, a.k.a. My Chicago Bucket List. It is a list of 25 "to-dos" -- some seriously concrete actions, some ephemeral feel-good moments. 2012 is not about checking off the numbers one-by-one; it is about writing down what is important to me and giving it credibility. It is about believing the things I want aren't ridiculous.

But most of all, this bucket list is a recognition that a year is no more than a series months, of days and of moments that lead to a life. A bucket list is really a promise to live 2012.

Continue reading this entry »

Niki Fritz / Comments (6)

GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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