Blindfolds and Gitana Jazz

My friends and I have a tradition of kidnapping each other for our birthdays.

It started with one of mine, back in college. It was a Friday night before my birthday, and I was going to watch, I think, the movie version of As You Like it with my friends Annelise and Alex. Just a low-key movie night, popcorn, the whole shebang.  We got through the previews, then into the credits, and watched about the first five minutes of the movie. They they sprang a blindfold around my eyes.

They walked me all over campus, making up imaginary threats I had to withstand, like hurdles to jump over, cars to run past, and animals to freeze in front of. Finally they led me to the basement of a nearby house, where all of my friends were gathered for a party. And a tradition was born.

Last year we upped the ante when we kidnapped Alex. The “Grind” cast got together and created a hostage room in the basement of our house, wore all black, and laid in wait at a gas station. We got his parents to stop at the gas station as they brought him home from a nice dinner out. And then we ran at the car, threw a pillowcase over his head, and threw him into the back of my van.

We had everything–a loud punk rock mix CD, fake Russian accents, interrogation lights in our hostage room, and even various frightening kitchen utensils. Once he was in the basement, we whipped off his mask, immediately threw water on him, and made him take a shot of vodka. We shouted at him for “information” for a bit, blindfolded him again, and brought him into the woods…where we had a bonfire, s’mores, beer, and more friends waiting.

Terrifying? Sure. Also really, really fun.

So yesterday was Alex’s birthday again. I don’t think anything will live up to last year’s kidnapping, but we tried to make it special. A bunch of friends met to discuss theatre company happenings around 7, and that ended at 8:30. I bought him a cupcake, we went outside…and out came the blindfold.

It’s surprisingly enjoyable to walk a blindfolded person around the streets of Chicago. Most people are puzzled or amused, and sometimes you even get someone who comes to the blindfolded person’s defense, until we point out that it’s their birthday and see, we even have cupcakes.

So we wandered the streets of Andersonville, trying to keep him from tripping too majorly but not being too scrupulous about small branches, since they add to the adventure. For awhile, although he had a sense of where we were, we had him stumped as to where we were going. I made an ill-advised comment about a fleet of postal vans, though, and he figured out our location and probable destination, although we walked him past it and pretended we’d meant to bring him to the Bridgeview Bank instead.

Where did we end up? Why, at the Green Mill, of course, Chicago’s favorite speakeasy. They had gitana (gypsy) jazz (think Django Reinhardt), cocktails, and the most fabulous atmosphere you could ask for.

And although I’ve been tired lately, although there’s been a lot going on and I feel sometimes like I’m just rushing through, I sat in the padded leather booth and watched the guitarist’s fingers dance themselves into a blur, and I smiled at my friends, and felt purely happy.

So thanks for that birthday gift, Alex. Next time buy your own dang cupcake.



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