Chicago

Night at the Green Mill

Last Sunday evening, I was rushing to find an artist’s date for the week. Luckily I remembered while looking for ideas the weekend before, that the Green Mill had a slam poetry night that Sunday. I checked to see if it was a regular thing, and sure enough, it was! I’d always meant to go since I moved to Uptown, and it was only a ten minute walk for me.

When I first walked in, I didn’t know what to expect. My focus was initially on the dim lighting, the hum of conversations from the booths, the people seated at the bar. I circled the bar and became frantic as I realized all the seats were taken. I gave a sigh of relief as I found folding chairs leaning against one of the tables, and sat myself at the end of the bar. Now, I was able to focus on the nostalgic feel of a bar from another era, the walls in faded golds like an old movie theater. I could truly see myself in the 1940’s. A waitress interrupted me to let me know I was blocking the waitress area, and seated me at the end of the front row tables. I got a clear view of the front stage, where a jazz band was playing beneath a “Green Mill” sign in green light up cursive letters. My heart skipped at the thought that maybe I had come at the wrong night, that the website had been outdated and this was actually jazz night. As a precaution, I asked the woman next to me if this was in fact slam poetry night. I’m glad I did, because not only did she reassure me, but she also introduced me to the scene. It turns out Julia was one of the organizers, and that this week’s theme was the “French Connection.” People from France actually flew in to participate in poetry night! I was in awe. It was nice to make a friend to talk to and laugh with, and who welcomed me to the community. Julia is a woman in her forties, with short layered hair and a smile that lights up her whole face. Her laugh is infectious, and she reaches out to touch your shoulder when she gets excited and wants to tell you something.

It was interesting because I was sitting so close to the guy next to me that I couldn’t reach into my pocket without bumping into him. I apologized and got embarrassed, and after that I could tell that he kept wanting to talk to me throughout the show. I overheard him speak french, and thought he might be a part of the French Connection. It wasn’t until the second intermission that he did. He sat down next to me and segued smoothly into conversation, which was good because I felt awkward. I found out he was a French Brazilian who had lived here in Chicago for four years, and saw him in a different light. He had side-swept hair, glasses, and a trace of a mustache on his upper lip. He also had a bit of an accent. He wants to move to a different country, and since he has a lot of friends in Africa, he thinks he will go to Tanzania and some other places. I wish I could so easily say that I was moving to a different country. After finding out I came here alone, he also added me on Facebook to let me know if he and his friends were going to any more shows, as he used to go alone too. He mentioned being nervous about his poem about the CTA, and hoping the judges were from Chicago or it might not make sense. I was confused before I realized that he was participating in a slam poetry contest.

People here were friendly in general, as during the first intermission, when the seats cleared between us, one of the girls from the open mic slid over next to me and introduced herself. She had short poofy sand colored hair, a red infinity scarf, and a lovely smile. She said she was born in France and “moved over here when I was just a tadpole.” I remember her poem was something about pink flamingos rising from the grass with their consumer farts. It was fascinating to me how many new people I was drawing in simply for existing, not ever for doing a reading. It did seem like this was a community where old timers knew all the words to the intro songs and the ending songs, and newcomers were welcomed alike.

The night was broken up into three parts: open mic poetry, French and English translation performance groups, and slam poetry contest.

Open mic opened with a “virgin” reader named Samantha. She opted to use the band, which plays along to the beat of the poem, and told them to play something spooky Halloween-y to match her poem that says Trick or Treat a lot in it. Next, a more seasoned older man with a white beard wanted to read about Chicago violence and blood on the streets. “We’re off to a great start,” the host joked. Next was a woman named Emily, also a long timer, who made a poem based on a conversation she had with a French painter who had survived the Holocaust. Among the first timers was also a girl who lived in Seattle, who quit her job and moved to Chicago because she had a dream that told her to come here. There was an African American who read about the current political state and a relationship with girl. There was an old timer Hispanic who was allowed to read two poems, both seeming to revolve around bilingual speech, love and music. There was also a funny Polish guy who asked for gypsy Fleetwood Mac polka music, as his first memory revolved around listening to Fleetwood Mac with his dad. He read about the first memory of his father, who he thought was going to heaven, hell or prison. He was worried about his boy’s first memory, but decided that either way it wouldn’t matter, because they would remember singing to Pantera, the way he had listened to Fleetwood Mac with his father.

Part Two was an overlapping performance of English laced with French, where they spoke lines between and over one another in order to do both language versions of the poem.

Part Three involved the slam poetry contest. The first guy was Zee. His words went very well with the music, as though they had rehearsed, and he spoke about his blue jeans and how “I’m leaving” the girl. Next was Bruno, who read about “Just another day in the CTA.” The third was the winner, an older man with glasses who request French cabaret music in honor of the French guests. His was very comical, about birds love making going “COO COO” and at one point he scared us all when he said he’d shoot them and go “BANG BANG  BANG.” “COO COO.” The next was called the laptop poet, speaking of meditation with an ambient music background, before he got snapped off stage. The last was a stout blonde girl who wanted French war music, as her poem concerned this time period.

In all, I’d say it was a very successful artist’s date!

 

 

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Artist’s Way Week Three-Childhood Memories and Girl,Interrupted

This week’s theme was the childhood creativity. As I recalled my childhood room, so many memories came back to me as I filled out the details. These were memories at the deeper recesses of my mind–not lost to me, but certainly not recalled since my teenage years. When we had to write about our five childhood treats–I suddenly remembered something I didn’t even know about myself since I was a child! Apparently I used to eat arroz con platano (rice with bananas), something which I even forgot existed. We were challenged to eat some, so on Friday I ended up going down the cafe, bought a banana for a dollar and was told to take another one. I went to a small Asian restaurant and grabbed a bowl of rice. I reached for my wallet and the lady kept saying it was okay, “Listen to me. You don’t have to pay.” So I got my lunch for a dollar! They probably thought I was low on cash for food or something, but I’m still happy about it! I also manifested a free chai latte earlier that day.

I’ve also been looking at lists of novels with important themes, in this case mental health. One of the titles I looked at was “Girl, Interrupted.” Then yesterday for some reason I was looking at a “shipping” video of Harley Quinn and the Joker, which then led me to looking at a flashback of Jared Leto’s roles over the years–one of which was Girl, Interrupted. At this point I decided I had to watch it. So, after discovering a mini nature trail next to a high school in Andersonville, hearing someone play a ritual drum, going to a Mediterranean bakery, and heading home, I found some short clips on Youtube and then found the movie itself. I was completely mesmerized by Lisa’s performance and then shocked once I realized that was Angelina Jolie. It amazed me how all the big names were in that movie–Winona Ryder, Whoopi Goldberg, Jared Leto, Angelina Jolie. I don’t even know if they were household names yet. Although honestly having seen a couple of Jolie’s later films I was actually disappointed seeing just how amazing she was as Lisa (her best performance I think), and then playing flatter characters like Lara Croft or Mrs. Smith. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. As I expected, the story humanized the girls–however I was pleasantly surprised by their bonds and friendship, and the way they helped and hurt each other. I will definitely have to read the book. After that, I talked to an Afghanistan door man below for a few hours. It was amazing to learn about his life, the country he came from, and his life values. In a way he kind of addressed my inner critic- reminding me to let go of the past, and enjoy life. While I accept that, I am also strangely resistant to that–because if I have no standards, what if I just accept mediocre work and never strive to make it better? But that critic does at some point become detrimental instead of motivational, and I think that’s why some of us get blocked.

Until next week!

Artist’s Way-Week Two

This week was actually far more challenging. I was exhausted after a week of waking up at 5:15 am every day, and I quickly dropped my exercise, instead adding on Louise Hay’s morning meditation.

I used my morning pages much more heavily for dream work, and was having better dreams, possibly because of Louise Hay’s evening meditations. It was both impressive and frustrating that I started to need four or five pages to record my dreams in their entirety. For my second week, I was much more proactive about reading all the activities from the get go, and reading the whole chapter within the first two days. I did as many activities in a row as possible, and set my artist’s date for Thursday at the Art Institute of Chicago to see the Thorne mini rooms.

Though I was proactive on paper, I was feeling very vulnerable underneath. I was going every work lunch to Barnes and Noble since the previous week for “idea shopping,” and thus far had only managed to write a few short paragraphs based on Hozier’s “Like Real People Do.” This of course was better than nothing, but I was becoming frustrated at my lack of inspiration. I thought about Kiki’s Delivery Service and how Kiki had lost the ability to fly a broom but recovered it. This sent me down a nostalgic path of listening to the soundtrack and some of Miyazaki’s other musical pieces. My heart was filled with longing for the initial thrill I had a thirteen year old, to go on the same kind of adventure and coming of age ritual as Kiki had. The only time I really ever felt like that was when I studied abroad in Spain in college. I was inspired to look up the dialogue Kiki had with Ursula, her college artist friend who lived in the forest. It struck me how relevant the passage was. Ursula said that she used to create things without even thinking, until suddenly she couldn’t any more. Then she said she had to find her inspiration, or her reason to create again. It struck me that this was exactly what I needed. Up through high school I just had a spring of ever flooding ideas, was always inspired and stayed up nights and woke up early mornings just to write. College made me doubt my abilities, and from there my inspiration and my passion dwindled. Today, I struggle to think of anything new at all.

The combination of the Artist’s Way and meditations brought small micro-changes to my world. Some of my tweets from 2014-2015 had been rediscovered, liked and shared out of nowhere, with 9 different interactions within nine minutes on a random Wednesday morning. I was getting spots on the train and time opened up for me to draw. We got to play a board game during yesterday’s meeting and get off half an hour early. On Friday, I took on a more proactive approach and decided to go to a stationary store instead of Barnes and Noble. It was the wrong stationary store than the one I had in mind–but it was across the street from a bookstore. And in the bookstore was Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.” She addressed all my fears. That I was not descriptive enough, that I had wasted all my time writing and would continue to do so, that my ideas were not important enough, that my best writing and ideas were behind me, that it was too late, that no one would ever want to read my work, so what was the point? She talked about letting go of daily fears and anxieties of the past and the future, to become receptive to the ideas around us. I did not get any new ideas after reading this, but I got a new excitement about the possibility of having them. Maybe a good idea would find me after all.

I have now drawn for the first time in about a year, and done all my exercises but one: play the guitar. I’m guessing I will do that tonight or tomorrow, and get started on reading Chapter Three!

NINJA GIG WITH AMANDA PALMER!!

This time I had three more days of work. My second day back we had a two and a half hour collective meeting off site, and were due for a happy hour after. The only thing was, at 11 am, when I checked my Twitter Feed, my eye caught on Amanda Palmer’s post.

AmandaPalmer

Immediately I wanted to drop and rearrange all my plans. I couldn’t go to this work happy hour, I HAD TO SEE Amanda Palmer! For context, I’d like to backtrack to when I was fifteen. At the time I was a bit of a loner in high school who clung to what little social activity I could with the art and theater kids. At gym I hung around two alternative theater girls who seemed plugged into the music scene beyond the mainstream and American Idol exposure I was used to. They liked bands and albums like “Elevator” by Hot Hot Heat, “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” by My Chemical Romance, and the self-titled album Dresden Dolls. I had my mom take me to Target and bought them all. Upon hearing these albums, especially the Dresden Dolls, I finally felt like someone understood and catered to my “out there” personality. Someone finally produced art for the sake of art and created something truly unique that spoke to all the afflicted parts of my soul. There was only one problem. I was fifteen. And even though in retrospect, I realize thirty dollars is not a lot of money, at the time, I couldn’t even afford to get a ticket. Since I wasn’t that familiar with the city (I lived in the burbs), I’d have to get a ride from my mom or my friend. One time, Lindsay and I finally tried to coordinate to see the Dresden Dolls, but it was already sold out.

“Don’t worry,” Lindsay told me. “We can see them another time.”

It was too late. By the time I turned eighteen and truly thought I could afford it, the Dresden Dolls had broken up. I had missed my chance because I believed those words, I felt. I was truly mad at myself.

So you can imagine my glee and surprise when I finally saw Amanda’s tweet.

Since the band had broken up, I had only kept up with “Who Killed Amanda Palmer,” and certain aspects of Amanda’s life from time to time. I was thrilled when I heard that she married my favorite author Neil Gaiman, and they officially became my favorite celebrity couple. What were the odds that my two favorite people met and got married? I saw on Buzzfeed that she’d become pregnant, and that was amazing too. I had not really followed her later albums aside from a couple of singles. Lindsay linked me an article that said the Dresden Dolls had reunited briefly for a ninja gig in Boston, and I felt a quick flame of envy. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I live in Boston?

“Don’t worry,” Lindsay said. “They’ll come to Chicago. It’s a big city. They can’t miss it.”

Where had I heard that one before? I wondered. I had become pessimistic too soon. But from that moment I kept an eye out. An even stranger coincidence occurred that same week when I rode up to Evansville to meet a friend for a reunion in Heartland Cafe. I hadn’t been since February. Since I got there half an hour before she did, I scoped the shop. My eye was immediately drawn to Origin Magazine, with who but Amanda Fucking Palmer on the cover. I flipped the pages hunting for the article, and started reading it. I deliberated. Should I just read the article and put the magazine back? I felt Amanda judging me. She would want me to support the magazine. But more importantly than that, I knew that I wanted to take the time to read the article and take notes on it. I knew what she had to say would be valuable to me. I scanned some of the other interviews, and found that in general the magazine had a very uplifting feel. When I looked back at the price of six dollars, I knew I was sold. I sat in the cafe, read and took notes while I was waiting for my friend. I finished reading it on the ride back. For eons I had been waiting to have something “worthy” to say to Amanda Palmer. As much as I wanted to tweet fanatically at her every day, I really wanted to save that @amandapalmer tweet for something special. I knew this was it. Her interview meant so much to me–that even someone as amazing as her could face negative attention, even she had hard days, but she chose to focus her energy on the light and the people that loved her. That women who were big in their industry were attacked at all angles, because a powerful woman is threatening. I realized more than ever that if I wanted to be an artist, I would have to be willing to endure that. And I was. Aside from grade school bullying, I don’t actually know what it’s like of course, but I am not afraid of the idea of it. If my art truly matters to be, I can’t be afraid of what anyone says about it, no matter what. I just have to have the confidence to keep creating, and focus on the people who love what I do. I couldn’t say all that in 140 characters, but I did my best. I told her it meant a lot to me, hearing her perspective as a woman getting into the arts. She “RT”ed @ me and I felt like my life was made! It was for that reason that I ended up reading her feed more avidly. It was for that reason that I saw her tweet, dropped everything, and invited Lindsay and everyone I could to go. It was for that reason that after our meeting ran late, I went to the happy hour for a half hour before Lindsay called me and yelled at me to GO NOW to stand in line for Amanda’s concert. She didn’t have to tell me twice.

“I’m giving our zine to Amanda Palmer. Do you hear me? I’m giving her our zine.”

My heart pounded. I wanted to scream. Lindsay had been preparing for the Chicago zine fest and just finished printing them out the day before the fest, on Thursday. She “stole” Mike’s car and high hitched over to Chicago. I bailed in the meanwhile and rode up to Lincoln. When I got in line I was shaking. I kept talking to people ahead of me to reassure myself, since I found out after the reserved tickets sold out. One guy gave me the address to the after party as consolation. I had to get in–right? I had been waiting for this moment my whole life. If I got turned away now, I would cry. Lindsay reminded me it wasn’t likely we would get another chance, at least for a while, given that Amanda was pregnant. So I was rubbing my hands and crossing my fingers and talking to the guy ahead of me the whole time. We were both anxiously awaiting our friends who were running late. We talked about art and essays and “real careers” and everything in between. When the lady came down the line and handed out wristbands, I wanted to cry in sheer joy. Josh (the guy in front of me) and I celebrated. We even got filmed by Amanda’s crew, asked about what it was like to get in finally. Not ten minutes before the line started moving and the doors would close, Lindsay finally arrived. We were worried she was too late, but she did end up getting one. The film crew was asking everyone if they got tickets, saying Amanda was really worried everyone wouldn’t be able to get in. I was touched by that statement. In the end, everyone did get in, even Josh’s friend who came in at the last minute.

The show was at “The Old School of Town Folk,” a nonprofit to teach kids and people music. It was a very nice venue with theater seats circled around the center stage. We landed good seats in the third row up center. Lindsay and I chatted excitedly, took photos, and kept hugging another. When Amanda finally reached the stage, it was surreal. She came in singing a charming ukulele song I had never heard before off the “Australia” album called “In my Mind.” She was very personable, asking for our requests, talking to us about how her perspective on her music changed when she became pregnant and how very strange it was to sing about abortion when she was pregnant. She told us stories about her time in Australia. She even took an hour poetry break reading with Maria Popova from Wislawa Szymborska’s “Map: Collected and Last Poems.” Maria and Amanda’s favorite line, as well as mine, was: “Ill-prepared for the privilege of living.” Beautiful. Amanda read a poem of her own during her struggles with the pregnancy, and comparing her struggle to those lost in the Germanwings plane crash in March 2015. What struck me most was the women’s friendship and close interaction. They were like two powerhouses on stage. I later found out Maria had interviewed Amanda on “The Art of Asking.” It wasn’t until this concert that I even found out Amanda had been on Ted Talk, even though I knew she’d come out with the book. We had time for a few more songs at the end before wrapping things up. Lindsay and I of course were revved to go to the after party.

We brought the two friends we’d made, Josh and Orion, to the after party. It was out of the way, and in a questionable area. But as soon as we got in to the Catalyst Studios,  we were amazed. The setting was once again surreal, with an art sculpture set up in the living room, a minibar, a buffalo head and couch, and a string of people lining the halls along the way. But no Amanda Palmer. We wandered into what looked like a ballerina studio where we anticipated the after party would be. When Amanda did finally arrive, she sat at the piano and we all crowded around her. What proceeded was an intimate, very casual setting. Amanda seemed relaxed and unwinded, as though she’d kicked off her shoes finally at the end of the day. She opened up to us, taking requests again and taking Q & A sessions in between, calling on different people with their hands raised. Someone blew bubbles, while some of the girls harmonized and sang along with Amanda. A girl played ukulele alongside her. A cat even interrupted and took the limelight away for a while. I was in awe. This was what I had always wanted. I read that Amanda created settings like this, but I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be one of the people who got to enjoy her company. After reading her interview in Origin magazine though, it finally clicked for me. Why not me? Why not us? Lindsay and I waited in line to see her at the end. I had to hug Amanda of course, though I realized a little late that she had no prior context of me, so it must have been a little strange for her. Still, I appreciated the gesture and told her I was the one who had read the interview and commented. Her camera man, who had asked me earlier what it felt like to get into the concert chimed in and said “she must have seen you on the help line.” Lindsay handed Amanda our zine as well as her own zine on “Elsewhere.” Amanda said she would read them that night! I am not sure if she did, but even that was enough to thrill me. I could not believe she could ever possibly read something of mine unless I’d made it big and was published. Yet here I was, 25 years old at an after party with little to my name but a college publication and a paragraph on Matador Network, and there was my friend handing Amanda Palmer our zine. It was amazing to me, and I couldn’t have been happier that she was willing to give it a chance simply because we were her fans.

My Last Day with Laura

Laura and I only had half a day left, but this didn’t stop us from planning the last of our moments together. After planning a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on Monday downtown, we saved the National Museum of Mexican Art for the last day. Once again, props to Laura for finding a free art exhibition I had never been to. We stopped by the Howard Washington library on the way there to print her tickets, and admired its impressive size and modern feel.

We boarded the pink line all the way to Pilsen. I was a little wary since I heard mixed reviews on the safety of the neighborhood, but this particular area was quiet, sunny, and suburban. I have to say the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago presented my favorite display of Mexican art outside of Mexico. We saw colorful clay pieces of the Tree of Life, Adam and Eve, and a cheerful grinning La Catrina. We saw family portraits, religious paintings, and an exhibit on the “House on Mango Street,” by Sandra Cisneros. Though I had read the book, I hadn’t realized she’d grown up in the barrio of Chicago. It was amazing to see her typewriter and a beautiful traditional floral dress. Other rooms had more modern pieces– a neon sign that said “Make Tacos not War,” a pink motorcycle, a photography series by Karen Miranda-Rivadeneira called “Other Stories.” The captions that went along with the photos really compelled me.

The caption that moved me the most was: “You only visited me at 6 am, half an hour before going to school. Your visits were always short but constant, constantly trying to sell me your best albums, to pay for your addiction. Last time I saw you, you showed me your ‘homemade’ tattoo. I never thought how important you were, I guess I was too young or embarrassed. Thank you for seeing someone that was still not there. For you Tonzo, who lived on Cobra St.  (they did find you in your favorite place) RIP 1981-96″

Something about that was so hauntingly beautiful and sad. There were of course other pieces, such as a wood sculpture collage, mini house scenes, and a windowpane with traditional Mexican embroidered curtains, but Tonzo’s photo with the caption was the one that moved me most. From there we moved to rooms with more traditional art, traditional wind figures and old woman archetypes, to another room filled exclusively with religious paintings and relics that smelled of the Catholic church. We made our final stop at the gift store before a loud group of students entered the museum. “We came at the right time,” Laura said. I couldn’t agree more.

On our way back I eyed a colorful food cart, filled with colorful fruit bowls. The man handed a girl a large chicarron topped with aguacate and mayonesa, con chile encima. It looked delicious.

“Do you want to go?” Laura asked, teasing me.

“Yeeeeeess,” I whined. I stood in line for the rainbow colored fruit bowl, while a woman talked to the vendor for five to ten minutes and handed him a twenty. I was nervous because I didn’t have too much cash on me.

Cuanto es?” I asked when I finally got the chance.

“Tres con cincuenta,” he answered. Three fifty! That was the exact amount of cash I had on me, it was all too perfect. I happily handed him my money in exchange for a delicious bowl of fruit.

Cual quieres?” he asked.

“El de arco iris,” I said happily. I told him sin limon, sin chile, even though it didn’t feel very Mexican of me. Laura saw the big smile on my face when I walked back with a bowl filled to the brim with pineapple, watermelon, melon, canteloupe, and grapes.

“How much was it?” Laura asked. I told her.

“Well I wasn’t interested, but now I’m very interested,” she told me. “I’m going to get one.”

She kept saying “it was a steal, I feel like we were robbing the guy,” over and over while I kept saying “three fifty!” We raved on and on about the fruit even as we sat on a bench on the train platform. We decided that this was the new highlight of our day, and this was another Ferris Wheel moment. When we got home we bought Italian food at the “Half Italian” deli in Logan Square, and brought it to the backyard along with out fruit to enjoy from the comfort of the lounge chairs in the sun. Our last moments were spent recalling what an amazing three days it had been, and what adventures we’d had. We had a bit of stress because her bag zipper broke right before she had to take the train to catch the plane, but in the end it all worked out. We hugged and waved at each other through the turnstiles. I had enjoyed a long 5 day vacation, and soon I would have to go back to work for another three days. But until then I treasured those last moments with her, before the next series of adventures to come.

Zoe & Pod’s Day Off

When I first recounted our adventures to a coworker, he asked if it was like “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.” Considering the movie is three years older than I am, I wasn’t able to to say, but I’m glad to report I watched the movie last weekend so that I could make a fair comparison. I did this under the guise of “research” for my blog 🙂

Okay, so we didn’t jump on a parade float and sing “Twist and Shout.” (Spoiler alert?) BUT we did do a lot of amazing things in Chicago. I was proud of us for sleeping early the day before because we had a lot ahead of us.

First Stop- Museum of Contemporary Photography (Columbia College Chicago)

Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity Apr 6 — Jul 12, 2015 source: http://www.mocp.org

I credit Laura for finding and planning out most of our free Chicago events. She’s from St. Paul, Minnesota, and she found places I had never even heard of, this being one of them! Located on South Michigan Ave, the Museum of Contemporary Chicago was a free and great find! The current exhibit, that runs until July 12, 2015 is called “Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity.” The exhibit presents black and whites as well as stunning color photographs of black men and women dressed in European attire re-appropriated in an African context. Among my favorites were the men dressed in bright contrasting colors of purples, yellows and reds imbued with African patterns. There was something beautiful and proud in each rendition of menswear personality.

We crossed the street afterwards and roamed Millenium Park, taking pictures by the Millenium Fountain. looking out on the concert stage and staring at our reflections beneath the Bean along the way, before crossing the street again to visit the Chicago Cultural Center.

Next Stop- Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural center exhibit “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist” source: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/motley.html

At this point I sensed a theme–both exhibits at the Chicago Cultural Center both centered around black art, which was refreshing to see. Most paintings were vivid and lively, depicting family, playground, and jazz clubs, with themes of religion and the naked female body. There were a few serious portraits as well, and one that even set me back. It looked like a photograph, amid a bunch of paintings. Why? That turned out to be a trick of my myopic eyes, but it was very impressive that I was even confused for a moment as to whether the painting was “real” or not. The color contrast between the paintings and the walls was very impressive, further highlighting the life and color of the painting and making the experience one of magic and surrealism. It reminded me much of the set up at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and I noticed that Chicago has been following that example in recent years.

Love for Sale: The Graphic Art of Valmor Products

source: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/motley.html

The next exhibit we went to was “Love for Sale: The Graphic Art of Valmor Products.” The life size adverts struck me in a number of ways. At first, because it so blatantly targeted a woman’s desire for love. The message “wear this perfume to keep your honey” seemed to be everywhere, and literally said things like that on their products. It was not even concealed like you see in some of our ads and commercials today. At the same time there was a great vintage feel to the posters and products that made me feel strangely nostalgic for that time, combined with the music at the exhibit, even though I wanted to reject that message. It took me another full minute or so to realize the exhibit seemed exclusively dedicated to black beauty. It seemed the black hair beauty ideal was to curl it with hair oils, and the images made me appreciate the natural hair movement I see in women like Lianne le Havas who rock their full head of kinks and curls. My friend got inspired by this one day and rocked a full waterfall fro, getting compliments from the people around her. I feel we are in an interesting time where the dichotomy of female black hair is split between straightening and teasing their locks and letting it go full force. While I think it is each women’s personal choice, I like to think we can get to a place where both can be celebrated and women won’t be pressured to choose one over the other.

At this point Laura and I took a lunch break, before checking out the Palmer Hotel and its decadent ceilings reminiscent of the European Renaissance style. We then went to the River Walk and blocked out some time to relax and soak in the sun. We both appreciated that we didn’t have a tight agenda controlled by the hour. We had a lot to do and a lot we wanted to see, but we were not obligated to the schedule. We could pick and choose locations as we pleased, and gave ourselves time to relax and enjoy the details. We watched the boat cruises pass, gazed at the “corn cob towers,” the river, and laid on our backs. When we were ready, we crossed the street and walked to my old workplace- the Chicago Tribune! Until I worked there I never knew this, but there are actually stones and pieces of different building from all over the world lined along the Tribune Tower. The Forbidden Temple at Peking and Hans Christian Anderson’s home are a few of my favorites, along with the pyramid of Giza.

We also saw a line of three form to pet a fuzzy and content little puppy in his daddy’s arms. He was the quietest and most content little ball of fur we had ever seen, so of course we had to form in line as well. His dad (in his twenties) was very gracious, telling us yes please pet him, and said he was trying to keep the Rottweiler puppy as a chill little guy. Heartened now by our encounter with the puppy, we decided that our dying feet could handle another four blocks to the Navy Pier. The walk was so long I almost thought I had led us astray, but it turns out I missed the shortcut leading us underground to the other side. We cried in relief with the Navy Pier in sight, and ran towards it.

Third Stop- Navy Pier

At this point, our feet were dying and our urge to go to the bathroom was strong. We felt we had walked across half of downtown Chicago, but really we were a couple of bosses for trekking it up to Navy Pier and it finally felt worth it. What might be described as an entertainment and shopping center, the Navy Pier had a botanical garden and a couple IMAX theatres, and a long line of boat cruise options. We were interested in the Ferris Wheel out back. Our inner children were screaming to get on it, and I had never actually been on it in all my years of living in Chicago! I had always wanted to see it with another friend but we never got around to it. This was my chance, here with Laura. I was preparing to be overcharged for it, but the ride was actually only seven dollars! Well worth the excitement, and there was even a photographer with a professional camera behind us. We were screaming in delight as we boarded, and the slow ascent gave us plenty of time to build up the hype and take in the city as it shifted further and further below us. We had plenty of time to take pictures and talk about how we would always remember that moment, the peak of our journey. Laura said it we weren’t at the top yet until we could see nothing above us, not even the car in front. She was right. And at that moment we felt like we were at the top of the city, Chicago was our playground. The descent gave us time to settle back down to earth.

Before we left, Laura wanted to buy a flower crown. They were two for ten, which I took as a sign to buy one of my own. Once again we were fashion twins (a trend that started when we first went to the Pride parade and bought different patterned sarongs, with a two for thirty deal). We wore our crowns to the beach, took our shoes off and rested again in the sun, admiring a doggy running and playing on the shore in the company of a group of teenage boys playing volleyball without a net. After a couple hours of resting and chatting the group began to pack up, the dog rejected our call, and the shade cast us in the sudden cold. We decided that was our queue to head early to the concert venue. This time however, our feet refused to trek back downtown, and we loved the bus like we had never before in our lives. Laura even joked to the bus: “I would kiss you if you weren’t so dirty.” I was praising the invention of the bus and its convenience in similar odes. We ranted once more about the puppy and our transportation route, until we hit the red line and made our way down to Addison.

Final Stop- Metro Chicago

We had some time to eat leftovers and rest our feet once more in a cute cafe called Uncommon Ground. It had a very chill lights and lounge ambience, a classy place brought back to earth feel with its all wood ensemble. Even the bathroom brought it up a notch, with a mosaic of a glazed enamel tree climbing up the wall and a beautiful saying in chalk on the door about the beauty in our hearts and the stars. When we had finished the Metro was a mere three minutes walk back.

"Live your truth always."- @iambettywho This gorgeous woman just stole my heart. ❤️

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Betty Who was the opener and the person I had come to see as far as I was concerned. Laura and I were both disconcerted when Lord Huron had sold out, as that was what had brought us together in the first place, but we both agreed it was better to spend the money we would have on multiple events instead. As soon as Betty Who came on stage with her beautiful presence and light, we knew that we had made the right choice. This was the right place to be. Throughout Betty had such an amazing reach with her fans, reaching their hands, signing autographs, wiggling her hips and joking she would “report us to HR” for whistling at her, and even taking a guy’s phone camera and recording herself singing with the band and the crowd behind her before giving it back. She dedicated the concert and a song to a friend she lost in Nepal due to the earthquakes. I was truly touched when she said she had wanted him to be there, and that all she wanted to do was spread the light and the love for him, just increasing the love in the room. A person with a more beautiful soul I have rarely seen, and I became more a fan of her than ever.

After that, Laura and I felt she was a hard act to follow. I doubted Keisza was up to the task. I was wrong. While Betty Who has catchy beats and an amazing personality, her dance presentation is good but simple. Keisza on the other hand is a multi-talented powerhouse who can command the stage. She hits the high note throughout, never missing a beat and practically break dancing with her two back up singers almost the entire time. She was very good on timing when pulling out all the stops, opening with some impressive songs before dialing it down to a few solo beats and playing the piano. Then she jammed it up with a microphone that lit up green and we all screamed. Laura and I had to put on our sunglasses. Keisza wanted me to pull a career change and just make my life all about dancing, singing and performing on stage. Towards the grand finale they pulled out colored circle hoops, more dancing, the Take U There remix (which Diplo and Skrillex had done) and Keisza even finished it off with a Worm onstage! Laura and I were screaming an thrilled at all the girl power action we had witnessed! We were tired and pumped out of our minds, making an amazing end to an amazing day.

Jumbotron Twinsies!

Took this gal out to a ball game @zoehatton1 #SoxvsRoyals

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April 26, 2015 marks day two of Laura and Zoe’s adventures! We didn’t have many plans besides C2E2 and the concert on Monday, so Laura went ahead and secured us tickets to the Sox game. While not the biggest fan of baseball myself, I agreed it was the perfect activity for Sunday.

After agreeing to meet up with a friend and former coworker that morning, we made the mistake of staying up until 5 in the morning at the Owl. Combined we are quite the party animals and I live by the philosophy “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.” We had to postpone our gathering at Lula’s Cafe by half an hour because our eyes were burning, but it ended up being a pleasant reunion. It was crazy to hear Kristine had moved to Chicago in December like I did, especially since she was in Minnesota and I had originally planned to stay in Ohio. Yet there we were. When we were waiting for seats at the bar, I said: “This better be worth it,” to which a lady adamantly replied “It is.” I kept to a simple fruit bowl and green tea while the girls ordered brunch and we got caught up! From there we paid the bill, and Laura and I headed straight to the Sox game.

Our seats pretty quickly got overtaken by the shade, and we kept moving over into the sunlight until we were on the complete opposite end of the stadium. We hadn’t even planned to have matching shades, but it worked perfectly that way, and we both wore black and white of course. Eyes still burning, we half-heartedly did the wave along with everyone else and talked shop and Minnesota. I thought she was talking about someone she knew when she raised her hands to the screen, “Did you see that??” But I missed the memo. We were on the Jumbotron!!! That made for quite a day. I was happy to see the Sox caught up to the Royals and we ended up winning and having fireworks at the end. Excited as we were, after a long weekend we agreed to sleep as soon as we got home (read: seven thirty) since we had a big Chicago day ahead of us.