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The Comprehensive Guide to Making Money on New Year's Eve

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New Years Eve, like all grown-up holidays, gets more disappointing each year. For kids, there’s the excitement of staying up late and convincing yourself you’re drunk on sparkling apple cider. But adults must wrestle a surplus of writhing anxiety, much like that snake pit in Indiana Jones.

What will I wear? Where will I go? Will I be stranded without a cab? Will that creepy guy wearing those shoes with a slot for each toe who keeps trying to argue with me about whether The Beatles are really a rock band try to kiss me at midnight? If he doesn’t and no one else does either am I doomed to spend the rest of my life alone? What if I get alcohol poisoning? What if I’m trying to write a check in line at the grocery store tomorrow (because I’m eighty-two years old all of a sudden) and instead of writing 2011, I write 2010 and then I have to start over but I make the same mistake again, and the line is growing and the people behind me are getting angry and finally one of them loses it and tries to asphyxiate me with that bag of Doritos he’s buying to go with his Monster drink?

These are a mere sample of the fretful issues that flood the adult mind, whereas kids are mainly concerned about the Times Square ball coming loose and flying through the TV set to crush them, at least I was. But even if you’ve achieved some Zen-like stage of enlightenment and when your ipod loses battery power in the middle of a run or everything you pick up gives you a paper cut, even the cat, you just smile and sip some green tea, New Year’s Eve remains ridiculously expensive. So ha, you still need me, because that’s where this blog post comes in.

Below, please find a proven list of New Year’s Eve activates that will cost you nothing. Better, each item may even earn you a buck or $2500. Or maybe that’s just the sparkling cider talking.

1. Stuff your pockets with burritos, Plan B and those thin elastic headbands and stand on the corner of Clark and Addison. Come three a.m. sell your merchandise for $50 a pop. Men and enterprising lesbians: this may also be a way to land an out of your league sleepover buddy!

2. You know that older fellow who lurks in Edgewater doorways barking? At first I deemed his disorder involuntary, like Tourette Syndrome or an affinity for the Rachel Ray Show. However lately, I’ve been locking eyes with him instead of acting oblivious as well as observing his behavior from afar. My conclusion? He targets heedless women. So this New Year, why not dress up like Animal Care and Control and come after him with a net? Then charge him $5 for release back into the wild.

3. With tickets ranging from $145 to $2500 for a VIP table, Chicago Scene New Year’s Gala at The Drake Hotel is a perfect place to line your pockets. Just stand out front and pretend to be the doorman. Note: wear running shoes.

4. Slap a lit-up triangle on top of your car and pick up drunken revelers. Bonus: Tell them you’re the Cash Cab, then ask a series of increasingly difficult trivia questions. Every time they get an answer wrong, fine them $20.

5. Watch the New Year’s Eve scene in "When Harry Met Sally" on repeat at top volume. At intervals, wail, “Why doesn’t anything romantic ever happen to me?” and “I want an off-the-shoulder party dress!” When your husband/girlfriend/downstairs neighbor/dog begs you to stop say you will. For a price….

Photo by Patty Michels

A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

OPEN:
Epic Burger -- The popular, sustainable burger spot opens a second location on the south edge of Lincoln Park (in the Best Buy shopping center).
Gaztro-Wagon -- When not out roaming the streets in their new food truck (if it ever gets fully approved, that is), these naanwich-makers will be preparing food (available for takeout) at this Edgewater storefront.
Shallots Bistro -- We recently reported this gourmet kosher spot as closed, but it was actually moving to a new, permanent location in Skokie.
The Wormhole -- This '80s-themed coffeehouse has begun its time-travel adventure in Wicker Park.

CLOSING:
ESPN Zone -- The Disney-owned sports-bar chain is closing most locations around the country. June 16 is the last day for the Chicago branch.

CLOSED:
Kan Pou -- The Chonburi-influenced Thai spot in North Center has closed its doors.
Hortex 2 -- Stylish Polish cafe on Irving Park seems to have served its last pierogi (the phone is disconnected, and paper is up on the windows).


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Chicago Blues Festival
Friday-Sunday at Grant Park; free
Despite the absence of marquee names like Keith Richards and Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - both of whom have graced its stages in years past - and budget cuts that have slimmed the event down from four days to three, the fest is still the largest of its kind in the world. And it's still absolutely free. Centerstage's Blues Fest picks include Big George Brock & The House Rockers, Rev. K.M. Williams and Guitar Shorty.

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photo: Patty Michels

Sarah Terez Rosenblum (@SarahTerez) is an MFA-holding writer, teacher and Spinning instructor. She's also the Theater Listings Editor for Centerstage Chicago. Look for her posts twice a week.

When we’re feeling glum, my dog and I like to dress up as James Dean and Natalie Wood and head for the planetarium. If we are in particular need of a pick-me-up, we chickie-run there on our bicycles. (You’d be surprised at how competitive the dog is; I always ditch first. But maybe that’s just 'cause her collar gets caught.) True, the Adler Planetarium is not the Griffin Observatory, but neither are the dog and I iconic movie stars. Sometimes one makes do with what one has. Well, right now, you can make do for free (which, coincidentally is what the dog does), because the Adler Planetarium is offering gratis general admission through June 11. Just leave your pistol at home, Plato.

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While there is an additional fee for special shows, the dog and I plan to enjoy Planet Explorers, a space adventure that allows children ages three to eight to investigate all aspects of space exploration. We’ll also visit the Moon, a permanent exhibition which features the restored Gemini 12 spacecraft. After that we’ll probably grab some panini at Café Galileo, at which point I’ll look deep into the dog’s eyes and, gesturing toward the majestic Chicago skyline and the boundless firmament beyond I’ll say, “Once you been up there you know you've been someplace.” That’s usually when she steals my panini, and I get mad because Natalie’s much too ladylike to ever do that. “You’re tearing me apart!” I’ll say, but only half-heartedly, since we’re both overtired. Time to call it a day. We have big weekend plans. We’re gonna put on our custom-made Rhett and Scarlet costumes and pretend Andersonville’s Midsommarfest is the burning of Atlanta. Care to join?

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Single City is a twice-weekly blog about the Chicago dating scene written by Sun-Times Media Wire reporter Sally Ho. Got a question? Email her!

Once upon a time, a novel called The Notebook was made into a sappy yet sexy movie that left people romanticizing Alzheimer's disease and fantasizing about rowboat dates through nature. Here's how to make those dreams come true (minus the debilitating disease):

RICH MAN: Once a month, Chicago River Paddle offers a "dinner cruise" called the Moonlight Dinner Paddle. For $45 a person, you get to choose a boat and head out with your sweetheart in the early evening from the Chicago River on the Northwest Side, stopping for a riverside picnic dinner of Persian chicken skewers and grilled veggies from Noon-o-Kabab vegetarian options available, before paddling back by moonlight. The trip is around three hours long, departing at 6 p.m. Call (773) 704-2663 soon -- this month's trip is on Saturday! -- for reservations.

POOR MAN: In the perpetual search for free (or nearly free) things to do in Chicago that might remotely be romantic, I am constantly defaulting to Chicago Park District offerings. This week is no different, because beach season officially opened on May 28. While the Rich Man enjoys turtle sightings and the antique Addison Bridge, you and your cheap date can hit Kathy Osterman Beach (aka Hollywood Beach), a native dune habit and bird and butterfly sanctuary. No life preserver needed.

Here are some recent Chicago restaurant (and bar) openings and closings.

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OPEN:
Pour Drinks & Eats -- Joe Parra, the general manager of this Lakeview spot, took the garden concept up a notch with moody lighting, cozy seating, flat screens and a thought-out menu of affordable fare.
FreshBerry -- Yet another frozen-yogurt chain has set up shop in Chicago, this time in Streeterville.
Donatella Mediterranean Bistro -- Donatella Majore, owner of the now-closed La Cucina di Donatella, is back for more, opening this Mediterranean-inspired spot in Evanston.
Jimmy Green's Bar & Grill -- This self-described "all-American sports bar" serves up everything from pizza to hummus in the South Loop.
City Provisions Deli -- Gourmet catering company City Provisions (headquartered just up the street) offers up gourmet sandwiches, sides and a small selection of groceries at this shop.
Ojo de Agua Taqueria -- Get tacos, burritos and quesadillas on handmade tortillas at this taqueria on the border of Bucktown and Logan Square.
Kim & Scott's Cafe Twist -- The folks behind frozen-food brand Kim and Scott's Gourmet Pretzels now have a storefront restaurant to call their own.

CLOSING:
Marche -- Got a steak frites craving? Better get there fast. The French West Loop spot plans to close its doors on June 13.

CLOSED:
Martini Park -- No more adults will be playing at this River North lounge.
Sugar Syndicate -- One third of Lincoln Square's "Sweet Collective" has come down from its sugar high.
Purple Haze – The Northwestern-themed bar didn't last long in what seems to be a cursed space in Lakeview. The new inhabitant: Beer.
Shallots Bistro -- Apparently, gourmet kosher fare wasn't for everyone.
Shrimp Walk -- The Highwood Thai spot remains open for private parties.
Viet Bistro -- The Rogers Park restaurant stayed classy 'til the end.
En*Thai*Ce -- Andersonville just lost a favorite pad see eiw purveyor.

Check back here every week for more openings and closings, and be sure to check out Centerstage Chicago's lists of new restaurants and bars.

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The Besnard Lakes, The Ponys
6:30 p.m. at Millennium Park; free
Spurred by husband-and-wife duo, Jace Lasek and Olga Coreas, the Besnard Lakes' sound includes lots of strings and choir-tall harmonies, plus the occasional bout of guitar fuzz. As this show will be celebrating the release of the Canadians' third effort, The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night, which was mixed using the same console that Led Zeppelin used for some of Physical Graffiti, you can expect some psych-rock teases, as well. The Ponys, however, are all garage scuzz, excited to kick out some new tunes they've been crafting since signing to the Matador roster.

Aftermath
7:30 p.m. at Raven Theatre; $20
Signal Ensemble rocks it out with this premiere about Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones, who, like any worthwhile musician, died mysteriously at 27. Signal specializes in a kind of hallucinatory intimacy, so if any company can make you feel what it's like to go down in a haze of smack and recriminations, it's them. With live jams from the company's versatile actors.

Commander’s Palace Guest Chef Dinner
6 p.m. at Custom House Tavern; $75
Miss out on your Jazz Fest trip this year? Tory McPhail, executive chef of the renowned Commander's Palace restaurant in New Orleans, will bring you that taste of the South you've been craving. He joins Custom House chef Aaron Deal to create a collaborative four-course dinner including modern takes on Southern cuisine along with cocktail pairings from Ransom Distilleries.


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Stardeath and White Dwarfs show that musical talent may indeed be genetic.(photo: NewsOK)

Stardeath and White Dwarfs
9 p.m. at Subterranean; $10
Before Wayne Coyne tarnished the cred of his nephew's band with a distasteful reinterpretation of Pink Floyd's opus, "The Dark Side of the Moon," this past year (in a digital-only collaboration with the group), the Dennis Coyne-fronted Stardeath and White Dwarfs were doing a fine job of staying out of the Flaming Lips' shadow thanks to prime psych-rock freak-outs with absurdly creative names like "Springtime in Martha Stewart's Head." Take away the relationship, and you're still left with a solid new Okie crop that bridges a fine gap between psychedelia and punk. Chicago's Milk at Midnight opens.

Mortified Live
8:30 p.m. at Beat Kitchen; $12-$15
Called "a cultural phenomenon" by Newsweek, Mortified finds several writers unearthing artifacts of their teenage angst (diaries, school essays) and sharing them with strangers -- with predictably hilarious results. The Beat Kitchen performance will feature six performers.

Crisis (A Musical Game Show)
8 p.m. at Neo-Futurarium; $15
The Neo-Futurists present another rollicking thought experiencement. This time, cash plays on the table. "Crisis" will turn our financial meltdown into a sort of game-show burlesque, with audience members as contestants and real money at stake. After every show, an audience winner goes home with a significant chunk of the box office, which could make "Crisis" the hottest ticket in town.

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This could be you on Saturday. (photo: Hop Cast)

Dark Lord Day
10 a.m. Saturday at Three Floyds Brewing; free
Even if you didn't snag one of the coveted "golden tickets," which give you the right to purchase bottles of the rare Dark Lord Imperial Stout, it's worth heading down to Munster, Ind., for this all-day party including tons of other awesome beers, live music and more.

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Highlights from Centerstage Chicago's latest Crumb newsletter:

Just Opened: Benny’s Chop House
River North steak house is a cut above the rest.

Off the Beaten Path: Basils Greek Dining
Aurora gets an authentic Greek restaurant in a building that looks like a Greco-Roman temple.

Weekly Treat: Wednesday is vino night at Lincoln Station
Popular Lincoln Park bar takes half off all wines tomorrow night.

Man We're Crazy About: Kitchen Sink Cafe
The old Pause Café finds new life as this comfy Edgewater coffee shop.

For more Chicago bar and restaurant news, sign up for the Crumb newsletter.

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Get excited, sots...it's pub crawl season!

Now that the weather's warming up, the progressive parties are coming out in full force, beginning with last weekend's second annual Snuggie Pub Crawl. If you're looking for something a little less, um, fuzzy, how 'bout the Zombie Pub Crawl, which returns from the dead on Saturday, April 24?

For $20, you'll enjoy drinks specials at bars throughout Andersonville, including Simon's, Mary's Attic, @mosphere, In Fine Spirits and more from 2:30-8 p.m., all while dressed as an extra from "Thriller." Folks got pretty into it last year, so don't skimp on the makeup.

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Nelson Algren Birthday Party
8 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul Cultural Center; $10
Celebrate what would have been the 101st birthday of the famed Chicago writer, whose gritty works about the city include The Man with the Golden Arm and Chicago: City on the Make. This year's fete is dedicated to the memory of Howard Zinn, who wrote the Algren-esque People's History of the United States. There will be a cash bar and door prizes at the event.

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Few things go together better than drinking and writing – just ask Ernest Hemingway, Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Raymond Carver, Dorothy Parker and the dozens of other award-winning authors who’ve done their best work while battling massive hangovers.

The tried-and-true pairing has been a hit for Sean Benjamin and Steve Mosqueda as well. The two are the founders of the Drinking & Writing Brewery, which has spawned several plays, a radio show and a popular annual festival at the Hopleaf.

This year, things are getting really interesting. Not only will there soon be a Drinking & Writing Theater – to be housed in the new Haymarket Pub & Brewery (opening in August) owned by Pete Crowley, the group’s resident Brewmaster – but Mosqueda and Benjamin have just announced the first-ever Drinking & Writing Experience, a five-week workshop that covers the ins and outs of both topic areas. The events, to take place at a different local bar/brewery each week, will include discussions about particular drunken writers, some writing time and guest speakers from the drinking and writing communities, as well as at least two drinks per class. The series will end with group performances using material generated during the sessions.

The Experience runs on Wednesday nights from 7-9 p.m., April 14-May 12, and is limited to 15 participants. Cost is $200, or $235 with tickets to this year's Beerfly Alleyfight (May 22) and Drinking & Writing Festival (June 12). Sign up here.

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The Very Best
8 p.m. at Bottom Lounge; $15
It may have started as a chance encounter at a thrift shop, but after a handful of successful remixes, collaborations and a highly touted full-length, the infectiously charming trio The Very Best (Esau Mwamwaya, Johan Hugo and DJ Tron) have established themselves as darlings of the global music scene. The London-based trio tastefully mixes traditional Malawi rhythms with modern-day hip-hop beats, reggae and, well, pretty much everything else to create the sunniest Afro-pop you'll hear. If you tried to catch them in October you probably were met with a disappointing cancellation notice, but don't let that deter you from this one because Esau Mwamwaya has officially cleared his visa and has promised to deliver a show that's well worth the wait.

Cabinet of Curiosities
6 p.m. at Museum of Contemporary Art (in Puck's Cafe); free
Non-profit art gallery threewalls curates this month's edition of the variety show series. The gallery has made a name for itself by showcasing all forms of media, so expect an eclectic evening.

Vintage Magic "Uncorked"
7:30 p.m. at In Fine Spirits Lounge; $13
Magician Sean Masterson performs a variety of parlor tricks in a private room at this Andersonville wine bar. Watch him make bottles disappear before your very eyes -- while you do the same to a classic cocktail from the extensive list.


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Chicago WingFest
1 p.m. Sunday at Bailey Auditorium (1340 W. Washington); $24
Twenty-four bucks gets you all the wings you can eat from some of the area's top purveyors, including Mahoney's Pub & Grille, Timothy O'Toole's, Crossroads Eatery, Reggie's, High Dive, Chicago Joe's, Gators Wing Shack and District Bar. There will also be live music (Cadillac Dave and the Chicago Redhots, Peaches, Rico McFarland), giveaways and more, and the event is hosted by WXRT's Lin Brehmer.
More: Check out Centerstage's guide to the best wings around.

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Louder Than A Bomb: Chicago Youth Poetry Slam Festival
Starts Friday at various locations; see the full schedule
The 10th anniversary of the two-week event kicks off this weekend with an all-day Intersections Youth Literary Conference (Friday) and viewing of the "Louder Than A Bomb" documentary (Saturday). Both events are at Columbia College's Film Row Cinema.

3 Things To Do Today

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Spandex
7:30 p.m. at Studio Theater (Chicago Cultural Center); $5
We built this city on storefront theater. The administration knows it, too. In order to nurture everything that makes Chicago great, the Department of Cultural Affairs runs INCUBATOR, a program that gives fledgling companies free space and resources with which to develop new work. This month, the babies of Wishbone (founded in 2009!) present an ensemble piece about "the complexities of heroism." Gosh, we hope that means men in tights.

You, Me, Them, Everybody Live Podcast Recording
8 p.m. at Hungry Brain; free
Brandon Wetherbee and Esmeralda Leon host this live installment of the local music and culture podcast, with comedian Adam Burke, journalist Jacqui Ryan, music from Al Scorch, giveaways and more.

C.R.O.P. (Chicago Rarities Orchard Project) Benefit Party
6-8 p.m. at Uncommon Ground on Devon; $20
Uncommon Ground unveils its latest "eco-cocktail" at this benefit for the Chicago Rarities Orchard Project, which plants fruit orchards in the city. Your donation gets you a complimentary cocktail, hors d'oeuvres, a raffle and music from DJ Chris Hefner. 21+.

3 Things To Do Today

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Quadrangle's Guest Artist Series with Leslie Beukelman
8-10 p.m. at Uncommon Ground on Devon; $10 suggested donation
Jazz composer/musician John Goldman presents the latest in Quadrangle's Guest Artist Series (second Monday of each month). For this installment, vocalist Leslie Beukelman brings her pipes to complement the play of Goldman (saxophone), Scott Hesse (guitar), Patrick Mulcahy (bass) and Cory Healey (drums). Make a reservation for dinner (the bacon-wrapped meatloaf is the tops!) and you'll have guaranteed seating in the music room.

2nd Story
7:30 p.m. at Webster's Wine Bar; $10
Writer-performers Kim Morris, James Lower, Bobby Biedrzycki and Sara Kerastas will tell their tales as you enjoy wine ($10 flights) and snacks at this rustic Lincoln Park wine bar. Doors open at 7 p.m.; tickets are no longer available online, but may be at the door.

Stout Fest
11 a.m.-2 a.m. at Quenchers Saloon; no cover
'Tis definitely the season for stouts, but if you're bored with Guinness, check out this well-stocked Logan Square bar. Through the end of the month, you can try 20 lesser-known varieties for $5-$8 each. Explore wisely; the beers are divided into four groups of five, and if you buy four in one group, you can get the fifth free. Brews include St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, Great Divide Brewing Co.'s Oak-Aged Yeti, Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout and Dark Horse Too.


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Hey You Millionaires is just one of the 100 acts performing at Chicago Sketchfest.

Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival
Through January 17 at Theatre Building Chicago; prices vary
More than 100 troupes from all over the world descend on this Lakeview theater with one goal in mind: making the masses laugh as much as possible. The annual show, commonly known as Chicago Sketchfest, brings out the best in a city known for its improv/sketch comedy. Can't decide which shows to see? Check out our top picks.

3 Things To Do Today

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Raheem DeVaughn performs at The Shrine tonight.

Raheem DeVaughn
8 p.m. at The Shrine; $25
After collaborating with Ludacris on the hit single "Bulletproof" and successfully touring the late-night talk-show circuit, Raheem DeVaughn quickly established himself as one of the breakout stars of the year. He's not quite a household name yet, but if his solo album, Love & War MasterPeace (due out February 8), lives up to the hype, you'd better believe he'll be one of the most talked about artists of 2010. DeVaughn's charisma and style are the bread-and-butter of his shows, so to have him croon live at an intimate place like The Shrine ought to make this a performance worth checking out.
View all of today's music events.

That's Weird, Grandma
8 p.m. at Neo-Futurarium; $5-$10
This hodgepodge of a show offers something for everyone—hilarity, heartfelt sentiment, sarcasm, quick wit and engaging musical numbers. With only a simple backdrop, few costumes, some props and actors with a ton of explosive energy, the sketches deliver some of the most charming tales staged in Chicago. But what makes the show truly stand out are the third- and fourth-graders (students in Chicago Public Schools) who penned the stories that inspired the sketches.
View all of today's theater shows.

"The Bachelor" Season Premiere Viewing Party

7 p.m. at Cityscape Bar; free
Will we see another Chicagoan take home the grand prize -- a new spouse -- in the latest season of this singles competition? What scandals will there be this year? The journey begins tonight, and Cityscape (15th floor of the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza) offers a comfortable way to watch the proceedings, with $7 themed cocktail specials including the Flirtini (Skyy Passionfruit, X-Rated Fusion liqueur, cranberry juice, candied lemon), the Proposal (Absolut Rasberri, Razzmatazz, cranberry juice, Sprite, candied lemon) and the Wedding Cake (Absolut Vanilla, Amaretto, white creme de cacao, cranberry juice, pineapple juice and a light chocolate swirl). Just don't drink too much -- it's a long way down.
View all of today's food and drink deals.

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