Last day of Ohio & Lagunitas Mental Health Charity

April 20th was, ironically, the first day my dad ever rode a bike with me (I’m 25 to put that in perspective). As a kid he always said it was too dangerous, so it was really up to my mom to teach me. I had moments of fear and elation relative to bike riding because of that. But ever since I moved to Minnesota two and a half years ago (I’m in Chicago now), my parents have held on to my bike. I wanted to take advantage of that, but I didn’t know all the trails they were mentioning and didn’t want to get lost. Mom was the most proactive in getting me and Dad to go before it started to rain. It was so bizarre, that in that smallest moment, I felt like my inner child was finally getting something she wanted. It was moments like these I felt I could even see myself living in Ohio again, biking down the trails in the mornings.

From there it was a mother daughter day. We deep conditioned our hair together before beginning our shopping day. It was nice to experience the convenience of a car again, going to the mall, and experiencing life just as we always had when we lived together. The highlight was getting to meet an immensely energetic teddy bear puppy. Is it called cheating on your cat if you play with it? After a full day together I finally had the evening free to work on my story. I ended up pulling an all nighter because I really wanted to get the first draft done in time to send to my friends for review. Plus, no sleep til Brooklyn right? There was plenty of time to sleep on the bus the next day.

April 21st, the day before my mom’s birthday. I had originally planned to stay with her through the 22nd and leave on the 23rd, but I had so many events and plans for the next week and a half that I decided a three day weekend together was still a good present and coming together. Her mother’s heart is such that she went grocery shopping for me and got me produce, rice milk, strawberries, and snacks for the bus. I was going to miss being in that clean, simple environment where there was a space for me and my relaxation. But I also know I moved away for a reason, and that was to find a city and a life of my own.

I was proud of how productive my bus ride was. I took advantage of my resources at home and printed out a copy of my manuscript, went through the entire thing and highlighted all the parts where I thought it would be appropriate to insert an integral story device. I thought I had better insert it and flesh the story out before resolving and ending it. I ended up adding and fleshing out all the story device sections, expanding on descriptions where I saw fit, and finally ending the first draft of my story half an hour before the end of my ride! Of course I texted this milestone with my best friend who I was about to meet up with that night. Upon arrival, there was really no time to stop. I went straight home, dropped off my suitcase, then went straight back to Wicker Park to meet with Lindsay. Our mutual friend invited us to “Stories and Steins,” a mental health charity event at Lagunitas hosted by Heartland Health Outreach, so we decided to ride the bus together. Lindsay was working on the cover of our “Lightning and Dreams” zine and gave me a piece of paper so we could work on the zine together. I was impressed by her steady hand on public transportation, and amused by the jellyfish she put on the cover inspired by our conversations on my game “Selva del Mar” (WIP). This in turn inspired me to include a rough sketch of a romantic dream-like jellyfish scene for the zine.

Lindsay and I ended up walking through a quiet, if somewhat sketch neighborhood. At this point we were just glad to be together. I was not expecting to find an actual warehouse with a flashing sign that read “Lagunitas Brewery.” And we were definitely not expecting the surprise we found inside. Our first impression of the brewery was a trippy experience. It was a black light hall with moving lights and a disco ball, and the somewhat eerie but entrancing tune “World of Imagination” from Willy Wonka.

World of Imagination

World of Imagination

Photo found on the Stories & Steins Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/HeartlandHealthOutreach/photos/pcb.1569028223371908/349038015299162/?type=1&theater

Lindsay and I took photos in the wild fun house landscape before climbing the stairs to the actual event. Again, we were surprised by the change in scenery. The lounge was surprisingly classy and the bar ended up being a really good venue. We came in time to hear most of the speakers and play catch up during intermission. James Kowalsky, outreach worker and case manager at Heartland Health Outreach started us off with a comical comparison between sports craze and mental illness, and tied the two together in an interesting way — if we can understand all the crazy things sports fans do (climbing under fences to get into the game, screaming wildly and crying and catching a foul ball)– if we were understanding of that, then why did we not afford the same understanding to mental illness? There were others–a lady who grew up around a mentally ill grandma and considering that normal, that that was her normal. It was just the way she was and lived and expressed herself in her mind. Another girl, Bella I believe, said she lived for those snapshot moments where people had a moment of insight or strength in their lives. One of the final speeches brought some tears to my eyes because it was everything I ever wanted to have validated in my life. This man said he used to judge people with mental illness, consider them weak because they couldn’t cope with life without pills. But in meeting his wife, she taught him what real strength was–sitting through nights of anxiety, still working and taking care of the bills through the trauma and difficulties, staying strong and never giving up even when there was every reason to. And that he never wanted anyone to think he was “settling” for her or to judge her for her illness. There was something about that one person’s change of perspective, that release of judgment and stigma that really moved me and made me want to cry out in that validation everything that me and my family had ever gone through. And I never wanted to leave that kind of space to be honest. There is just something powerful about being in a room full of positive people who embrace those in need and truly understand how important not just physical, but mental and emotional health really are, and not to let the homeless slip through the cracks but get the care they truly deserve.

At the end Lindsay, Sam and I had an extended reunion at the Small Bar in Logan Square. Perhaps not surprisingly, Lindsay and I bantered about the difference between artists and artisans. She was upset Kanye could earn an honorary degree at SAIC simply by joking about it in a commencement speech and tweeting about it, instead of going through the four years like her friend. As usual I played the devil’s advocate and argued–who is it that makes Kanye “Kanye” and supports those actions? Obviously if he were a random civilian, he could not get an honorary degree simply by tweeting about it. He built himself up and we support him monetarily in his brand and his business, and there has to be some respect in that. Sam also recognized that it was all about marketing, as she came from that side of the business. I was mostly amused we could hold up an intellectual conversation–me with my shot of Jeremiah’s Sweet Lemonade vodka, Lindsay with her sliders Sam probably also several beers in. It was an amazing end to a jam-packed weekend, but not the end in a month’s worth of adventures to come.

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