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Is Monday the new Friday?

Don’t crash after work. The once dreaded day is now brimming with entertainment options.

It starts with a conversation at a bar opening, the kind that entails yelling over pounding music. Between sips of his St-Germain skinny cocktail, Jim Lee, who’s created the invitation list for tonight’s VIP party, thanks me for coming, for “rallying.” Because for all the makings of a weekend kickoff—dimmed lights, DJ and flowing vodka—it’s not Friday, it’s Monday. And it’s barely 6:30pm.

“No problem,” I reply. “Monday’s the new Friday.”

Stilettos be damned, I don booties and a puffer coat. Yet I’m out. In fact, I probably go out on Monday more than any other day. Why? The best events take place on Monday. At one time, the humble day seemed attractive to those whose Fridays fill quickly, but Monday has steamrolled into a temporal entertainment mecca.

“The weekends, the crowd can get a bit more BNT,” agrees Lee, who does his share of feting as a vice president of public relations company Wagstaff Worldwide. The acronym BNT refers to suburbanites rushing New York City via bridges and tunnels. (Should we call it KNE for Kennedy and Edens?) Plus, thanks to the recession, Friday, once a jubilant time known for casual clothes and summer half-days, has become the last in a line of five long, temple-pounding eight-to-sixes. Its best panacea: pizza delivery and an episode of Fringe

I down one too many skinny cocktails and call it a night. But our conversation stays with me.

The following Monday, I wonder how many fun events I can book, and how many I’ll actually attend before exhausting myself for the week ahead. I’d suffered no damage during a weekend of light errands, so I schedule my next two Mondays to the hilt.

First stop: the Chowdah Fest, organized by Imagine Festivals. Appropriately, the sampling session—13 excellent chefs showcasing their best seafood amalgamations—takes place inside the Columbia Yacht Club’s massive docked ship. People shuffle through 1940s wood-paneled rooms, clustering around tables offering Benny’s Chop House’s Manhattan-style chowder with house-cured bacon, West Town Tavern’s peanut-shrimp soup or Nana’s oyster posole.

Manning Leopold’s table, chef Jeffrey Hedin hands me a sample of his delicious, slightly spicy chowder. “Monday’s our off night,” Hedin says of his West Town Belgian restaurant. The post-weekend day relieves many chefs, art-gallery directors and store owners from their diligent labor. At tonight’s nearly sold-out gathering, most restaurants’ head chefs use their off hours to sate customers with conversation (celebuchefs in the flesh!) and steaming helpings.

After Chowdah Fest, I hop over to the Empty Bottle’s free Monday, which has hardly begun at 9:30pm. Then off to Double Door for a benefit raising money for Kristen Romaniszak, who endured a brutal attack while working at flower store Asrai Garden. In an outpouring of moral and financial support, half of Wicker Park shows up—an impenetrable sea of black leather jackets and skinny jeans. Even so, I land a parking spot right across the street. A Monday perk.

The subsequent Monday, an eerily warm night, I try to make it to a Hull-House Museum lecture, but the blasted thing starts at 5pm. Maybe its organizer expected me to dodge work, tossing my boss a quasi-valid excuse, “Oh, it’s just Monday. I’ll finish that big project later.”

I’d scheduled a 7:30pm visit to Alderman Exhibitions, a contemporary art gallery that, in February, reopened in a freshly rehabbed West Loop space. “We recently hired a gallery assistant to be able to increase our hours,” director Ellen Alderman tells me, “but decided to keep the Monday hours [by appointment], because they are great for relaxed meetings.” Sure enough, Alderman gives me a tour—sans an interruption by Saturday gallery traffic—and we lapse into chatter: her husband’s construction of the gallery staircase, my husband’s house-painting skills, her aunt, my grandma.

Afterward, I jaunt northward to Bucktown bar Lottie’s for Irish trivia. ’Tis the season for $5 22-ounce green beer and shamrocks (the latter being the answer to “What did St. Patrick use to teach the Irish about the holy trinity?”)

The next day, following a sleepless night of Miller Lite–provoked nightmares, I desperately need Emergen-C and a couple of Advil. Mondays have their perks, but Tuesday morning is not one of them.


What to do on Mondays

Contra dance
Learn to do-si-do at 7:30pm, and then line dance around the room for three hours. Chicago Barn Dance Company, which aims to support old-timey music, delivers the weekly sessions. Epiphany United Church of Christ, 2008 W Bradley Pl (224-534-9173). Mon 26, lesson 7:30pm, dancing 8–11pm; $5–$7.

Fear No ART: The Dinner Party
Live talk shows are all the rage these days, but this one sets itself apart by providing food for thought and food for, well, eating. Elysabeth Alfano leads a dinner conversation with artistic types including musician Nicholas Tremulis, photographer Sandro and MCA curator Naomi Beckwith. Listen in, and then sample what Three Aces chef Matt Troost has cooked for dinner. Mayne Stage, 1328 W Morse Ave (773-381-4551). Mon 26 at 7pm; $13, with food $25.

Shedd Aquarium extended hours
The aquarium stays open until 9pm for the kiddies’ spring break, but we adults are happy to take advantage of the extended hours. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S Lake Shore Dr (312-939-2438). Mon 26, 9am–9pm. Admission priced per exhibit: $8–$34.95, kids ages 3–11 $6–$25.95. Discounts for Chicago residents.

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