This is The Dena, posting on Popthomology for the last of three nights. Marianne returns tomorrow, and I'm sure we are all very excited about that. As always, I am entirely grateful for this opportunity and for your kind attention. Marianne was not the only one who traveled this weekend, although I did not go quite as far. In the spirit of travel, adventure, and superfluous self-analysis, I leave you with "Tipperary."

It’s a long way to Tipperary and it’s also a long way from Evergreen Park to Andersonville, but I won’t let that stop me. Public transportation is no picnic, but I’ve hardly left my neighborhood since the heat wave struck a few weeks ago and I’m getting a bad case of cabin fever. Besides, there’s a block party about to happen, complete with egg toss, and raw egg does not go with black.

Clutching my One Day Fun Pass, I hightail it past my neighbors and the barricades at the end of my block and head for 87th Street. The Fun Pass is aptly named and possibly the best bargain in all of Chicagoland, seeing as it endows the buyer with unlimited travel on all CTA routes for a mere five clams per day. That’s more fun than most of us can handle, and it’s more than enough for me.

The intoxicating scent of freedom mingles with much less intoxicating scents as I board the crowded bus on 87th Street and squeeze my non-priority butt into a side-facing seat in the front. I would like to use my phone or write, but the bus is heading East through some slightly dodgy neighborhoods and I opt to remain at attention and observe my surroundings. We are all together in this enterprise, just trying to get where we are going, but you never know who might be boarding or when squabbles might erupt. When I see grey heads and hear screaming babes waiting to board at one stop I hastily move towards the rear and wedge my non-priority butt into another side-facing seat near the back door, between two much larger women. Looking up, I observe the three younger and more able-bodied people who were sitting across from me have not budged from their privileged perches, for which I silently judge them.

My new seat-mate is Young Mr. Pants On the Ground. He sports lipstick red clamdiggers, a spotless white wifebeater, and horizontally striped briefs. This is actually more information than I need about him, but my real concern disdain for this fashion faux pas is strictly about comfort. I still have traumatic memories of the time I had to rush to Macy’s and replace tights that were falling off of me, running late to meet up with friends for an Eddie Izzard show. I can’t fathom why anyone would find it cool or tough or fashionable to be constantly hiking up his clothing, especially while navigating the exigencies of urban public transportation. I once had to exit a train and gingerly walk to safety on a board in the tunnel between stops, so I know of what I speak.

Exiting the bus at the Red Line, I squeeze my sticky body into the inevitable human bottleneck that happens when a major bus line intersects with a train line. I board a near empty train without incident, settle into a window seat, and take out my pen and Moleskine, gambling that my car will remain quiet enough for me to rub two thoughts together. Ha! What are the odds of that? Every CTA ride has its own distinct auditory footprint, and this one is no different. As we chug alongside the Dan Ryan, past White Sox Park and into Chinatown, a female voice repeatedly floats over the usual train noise and rider babble on the loudspeaker: “Someone needs assistance?” The crowd response would seem to indicate that “someone” is either pranking or clueless and not in need at all, so we collectively accept the Lynchian disembodied voice as one of those shared experiences that make riding public transportation memorable and distracting.

We speed through the tunnel and emerge into the light at Fullerton, making our way North. I am stunned when the sunburned guy in the Cubs hat and Buttweiser t-shirt fails to exit the train at Addison, perhaps as a mere act of spite to prove me wrong. With some dismay I note there is a Cubs game, which gives me pause because my second thrift stop is in Wrigleyville. There is a street fair happening at Broadway and Lawrence, but then you can’t go two blocks in summertime without running into one of those things. The last time I went thrifting, I got off the bus and walked right smack into a street fair, protesting to the gate people, “I’m not trying to attend a street fair, I just want to get where I’m going.”

We pass Argyle, where I spot a Pho joint and wish I could have some. I hop off the train at Berwyn, grateful to be moving under my own power. Oh noes, the train is now running express to Howard! More people getting off behind me, squeezing down the stairs. I need to break free!

Finally heading west on Berwyn, I stretch my legs and it feels glorious. I wait at Broadway to cross the light and see the canopy of trees on Berwyn, beckoning me. This is one of my favorite walks in the city, through shaded streets with varied gardens of hydrangeas and hostas and front porches that sport foo dogs, among other enhancements. It’s overcast and I think for a moment that I should have checked the weather forecast, but I was so happy to get out of the house after all these days that I just didn’t think it could possibly rain on my parade.

I reach my thrift stop, where I immerse myself in scouting for books and try to shut out the rest of the world to the best of my ability. I make an exception when I hear another customer sing along with the music, which I’m pretty sure has a chorus that repeats the words, “I need a freak tonight.” We all smile, because, after all, who doesn’t?

It’s raining when I finish my business and carry my heavy bags out onto Clark Street, so I trudge two stops down to Starbucks where there is a canopy I can wait under. I stand there for an endless half an hour, during which time several buses go the other way and I rack up more than my monthly quota of people watching. I feel utterly at home in this neighborhood, which seems to mostly consist of gay people and families with children. No one who ever stands at this corner for some time could ever fear for the continued existence of the human race. I see kids on foot, babies in strollers, infants in carriers and slings, and at least two in utero. I see several couples strolling hand in hand that I’m sure must be on their way home to procreate, as well as other couples strolling hand in hand that I’m pretty sure are not on their way home to procreate. Many tattooed personae pass by, as does a woman carrying the largest smiley face balloon I’ve ever seen. She squeezes her way down the cramped sidewalk, obliviously bopping people in the face.

When the bus finally arrives, it is two buses. This is one more than I need but it means one of them is not too crowded, so I lug my bags up the steps and park myself near the exit. I am betting that the game is over, but I still decide to squeeze in a second thrift stop. I am apprehensive about getting off at Waveland, but I still enjoy the ride down Clark Street, past cemeteries, shops, and restaurants. I’m still having fun.

I get off the bus and power my way through the drunk zone on Waveland, keeping my head down. The game has indeed let out, but the crowds are all massed in the bars and give me no problem. My second thrift stop is briefer, as the books are less interesting and I’m getting tired. I know I have another long trip ahead of me with more drunk people at the other end, and I wish, momentarily, that I still lived in Wrigleyville. Since I don’t, I resolve to hop on the Halsted bus instead of walking to the Red Line and braving the drunk zone. It’s a longer trip, but I’ve inhaled more than enough beer sweat for one day.

I board the Halsted bus at Addison and ride all the way to the Orange Line, exhausted enough to be less attuned to my surroundings than on the trip north. My attention wanders back and forth between the twenty-somethings on the bus on their way to dinners and parties and the meanderings of my brain. Mostly I am thinking about Breaking Bad and how to make more money, which are probably the two things I think most about these days. My mind keeps going back to the hipster try-hard I saw in the downtown tunnel whose shirt said “Heisenberg” and showed the iconic black and white sketch of the character. His girlfriend wore a shirt that said “I Hate This Shirt” and they just irked me, but I wasn’t sure why. After chewing on it long enough, I finally decided there is a difference between watching a character like Heisenberg in rapt fascination and sporting his face on your chest like he’s a superhero. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between trying to understand the psychological underpinnings that drive some human beings to do evil versus celebrating that evil, which is why it matters.

My seatmates come and go as we make our way through neighborhood after neighborhood. Boystown, Lincoln Park, Greektown, and PIlsen, on and on we go. Aside from the fact that there is now a Powell’s Bookstore in University Village where Barbara’s used to be, I see two things that jump out at me enough to draw my attention from the bus. The second is a sign in Pilsen next to Express Grill that says "Boycott Express Grill: Nothing Good Can Come of It.” The first happens when I look out the window at Roosevelt and set eyes on Young Mr. Pants On the Ground #2. He has just debarked and is trying to run across Roosevelt to make his connection, yanking his pants up as he goes. Well, I could have told him.

Soon enough we are at the Orange Line, where I will get the train to Kedzie and then, finally, a 30-minute bus ride home. Starting out a bit after noon, I will have traveled nearly seven hours and many miles—I’ve never counted them and I’m not sure I want to--ending up back where I started. I will avoid the block party by sneaking into my own house through the back yard, and I will try to write a blog post through howling laughter and repeated poundings on my front door, finally giving up in utter frustration and making my annual token appearance at the block party, but avoiding jello shots. I will ponder how I might somehow alchemize all this experience and all these notes of my ride, made in three separate notebooks as I remembered bits and pieces of my day, into something lasting.

Before all of this happens, while I still wait for the Orange Line, I pull out my camera and take a picture of downtown. I am overcome with the usual ambivalence that strikes me at this moment, in which I simultaneously ache to return to the city where I lived for so many years and feel relief to be going home to my near suburb, where I can turn around without bumping into someone. I may live in this tension for the rest of my life, as I desire all the seductions of the urban lifestyle, but I like my space. As I get my shot and surreptitiously put my camera back in my bag before somebody grabs it, a scruffy guy drop-kicks a plastic bottle all the way to the other side of the tracks and laughs like he’s just accomplished something pretty big.