#133: Chiditarod, Eh?

March 4th, 2013

I own a hockey jersey now.

It’s black with red hockey sticks crossed pirate-style, which is pretty badass. And it’s number 13, which is also pretty badass. And there’s a patch on the sleeve that says “Danielle’s Bat Mitzvah, November 15, 2008,” which is less badass and also made me realize that the jersey number is not really that badass after all.

But I bought the 13-year-old girl’s jersey… I’m sorry, 13-year-old woman’s jersey from her hockey-themed Bat Mitzvah anyway. Because I was a Canadian for the 2013 Chiditarod charity shopping cart race.

The Chiditarod is a yearly shopping cart race where hundreds of revelers take to the street in costume hitting local bar checkpoints to fight hunger. Participants raise thousands of dollars and collect thousands of canned goods for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

For the last three years, I’ve been volunteering for it with a group of friends I met through the race. I learned my lesson after spending the 2009 race leading an ill-advised 1980s pop star-themed team through the rain while dressed as Simon Le Bon.

Now, I help work one of the checkpoint bars with a group of friends I know from the race. We get to stay inside and get bribed with beer and candy as the race comes to us.

After the success of our wild west saloon last year, we wanted our theme this year to reflect our natures. Helpful. Pleasant. Beer-loving. Apologetic and made of provinces while providing health care for… OK, it’s not a perfect metaphor but our theme was Canada.

Andy, Meredith and Trevor were our Mountie leaders in coats Meredith made out of thrift shop women’s clothing. As mentioned, I was a person who generally supported the concept of hockey. We had a Québécois, several moose, a Tim Horton’s employee, two Avril Lavignes, some lumberjacks, the Canadian flag itself (she made a great flag) and the Kids in the Hall version of the Queen of England.

Niagara Falls and the Keystone XL pipeline were a married couple.

As prepped as we were (and I prepared jokes about Pierre friggin’ Trudeau), there is nothing to compete with the creativity, insanity and overall awesome OCD that makes up a Chiditarod race. Nowhere was that more evident than at the starting line.

As usual, there was genius. A “Calvin and Hobbes” team complete with Spaceman Spiff, Stupendous Man and Tracer Bullet. There was a team of Chicago landmarks including the Sears, the Hancock, Buckingham Fountain, Navy Pier and the Picasso in Daley Plaza. Those were the racers, not the cart.

There was artistry. Action Squad’s diner cart. The Derailers’ absolutely beautiful work turning a grocery store shopping cart into the epic battle between the Nautilus and the giant squid from “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.”

There was also bad taste and idiocy. Buddy, we would have gotten that you were Apollo Creed from the red, white and blue boxing trunks. You didn’t have to come in… makeup.

And at least part of this crazy, massive, pulsating mob would eventually make its way to our little bar of polite people who love maple syrup so much they salute the leaf.

It was a blast, as always. We did good things for hungry people, as always. There were the same folks who drank too much, the same bribes and sabotage (both encouraged within reason by the organizers), the same general goodhearted debauchery.

It’s beautiful and chaotic and you should join, donate or just watch the spectacle unfold again a year from now.

I’m honored to be a small part of it, hanging out at a bar with some friends and my Bat Mitzvah hockey jersey.

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I found embarrassing video of my ill-fated 1980s-themed team from 2009

Check out photos from the 2013 race

Check out more photos from the race (including me in the Bat Mitzvah jersey)

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You are currently reading #133: Chiditarod, Eh? by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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