Last night I saw my last Improvised Shakespeare show in Chicago for what is likely to be quite a while. They’re probably one of my top three favorite things about this city, and while I am super sad to lose out on regular access to their shows (especially in their gorgeous new theater at iO’s new, incredible space on Kingsbury Street!), they visit New York often enough that I shouldn’t be bereft for too long.
Oh shoot, that was me burying the lede. Hi, world. The reason Magpie & Whale has been so incredibly quiet on the WordPress side is that I’m moving to New York in a week for a job. Very exciting! Very stressful. Very odd to say goodbye to the city I’ve lived in for the majority of my adult life.
I’m pretty up to my ears juggling work and packing and organizing, but I’ve had a little time to enjoy the last of a very pleasant October here (save for the three straight days it rained this week; now it’s sunny and mild and perfect, and hopefully it’ll stay that way).
Overall, I’m surprising myself with how calm I feel about it at heart. People keep asking me what I want to see before I leave, and most of what I can think about is how I still need to find poster mailers that fit the unframed prints I’m bringing. I have a few things to hit up still, though: a bike ride along the lakefront, an hour in the Lincoln Park Conservatory, a dinner at my favorite Ethiopian restaurant. Last weekend I went hiking and finally went to a Chicago hot dog stand, in addition to visiting all my favorite works at the Art Institute. Really, though, I think I’m ready for something new, even if I never envisioned that that new something would be Brooklyn.
For all that I just want this move to be over, for all that I just want to be there already, for all that I’m eager to set up my (amazing!) new apartment, Chicago is never really going to be done with me. How could it? I love this place too much, too wholly, even if I’m ready to go.
Here is the thing about Republic of Tea’s Downton AbbeyGrantham Breakfast Blend: it’s really quite nice for about ten minutes. The label promises a sort of “sticky ginger pudding” experience with a splash of milk. And it’s true, the tea tastes pretty good at first, while it’s still piping hot. Better drink it quickly, though — or maybe let it steep longer than the suggested four to six minutes. It gets as dull and pointless as the Earl himself once it starts to cool.
You don’t need to be the acid-tongued Dowager Countess to see a one-liner there, so I’ll just leave things at this: I have switched back to my other Republic of Tea favorite, their Lucky Irish Breakfast black, which does, in fact, have the kick that makes you want to riot for suffrage and elope to Dublin. (Maybe not die in childbirth, though.)
I’ve been up to more than just having conversations with myself about tea. Last weekend I had the chance to see actual live theater that isn’t improv, which was a lovely outing. The show is running in Chicago now, and if its title,Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, doesn’t intrigue you, the fact that it’s about creating a triad lesbian relationship while also confronting terminal cancer in a way that actually works might. Plus the dioramas are freaking hysterical — absolutely worth the price of admission. And of course, there are mammoths.
You may have noticed that I have missed a week, and that this is a bit late. There’s a good reason for that, and a nice one too. I’m doing some behind-the-scenes work as a copy editor at PolicyMic, which is a super hopping news site by and for Millennials. I’m still not over seeing stories on the front page and having a proud little moment of “Hey, I edited that!” But yeah, journalism work! I’m really pleased to be part of the PM team, who have been great to a person. Three cheers for work in your chosen field! (This is, incidentally, a classic example of burying the lede.)
I promised everyone I’d dance in the streets if Chicago made it to 50 whole degrees, and holy cats, on Monday we hit 56. So, off I went with my camera in just a sweatshirt and tennis shoes, although rain boots probably would have been a better plan, considering that all our snow and ice is now melting into gigantic pools of standing water, much of which is congregating on sidewalks and at street crossings.
Of course, it’s supposed to dump more snow on us again this week, which makes Chicago Magazine‘s musings about whether the City That Works is too cold to compete with the sunny South particularly apropos. But I assume you’re not here for me to endlessly talk about the weather. (In my hometown, you didn’t start conversations with remarks on the weather, you filled dead air with a comment on the height of the Hocking River.) I could ramble about treadmill desks or Amtrak’s actually sort of scummy terms and conditions for their writing residency, but let’s get to the good stuff, shall we?
After a week of 90+ temperatures, when the air cooled off and the clouds were racing across a bright blue sky, Julie and I finally decided to do it. We’d been saying we would bike to the Chicago Botanic Garden for weeks, if not months: with conditions like this, there was no time like the present.
I’ve been happily doing my running thing for about a month, but my bike has, unfortunately, spent a lot of time in my apartment building’s laundry room this summer. No worries, though, right? We had a map and an open schedule, and Google said we’d be there in an hour and a half.
Google makes some funny jokes sometimes, fyi.
The original plan was to take the North Branch Trail, which has some occasionally confusing bits that we were totally prepared to tackle, thanks to this helpful comic. We fumbled our way through a number of interruptions and detours, but figured this was probably the last hiccup that would bother us; it appeared that we’d have smooth sailing as soon as we passed, say, Devon Street.
Not actually the case! All through Lincolnwood, Wilmette, Skokie and into Evanston, we had to start and stop at very busy street crossings (though we did get to enjoy some interesting public art along the trail). By the time we made it to Evanston (more winding through streets, at which point we nearly hit the football stadium, distressingly close to the lake), it was nearly 2 o’clock and both of us had been counting on eating lunch at the Botanic Garden by then.
Waking up at 8 o’clock is my favorite, I think. This is my new reality for the month of September, since Medill, along with the rest of Northwestern, is on break for most of it. 8 a.m. is nice: the air is clear, the birds are singing, and I don’t have to join the harried 9-to-5ers on the train. I can sit here in my kitchen with the windows open, taking my time with this tea.
Yesterday I hit a panic point in my staycation. As the quarter got more and more overwhelming, I just let a lot of things go, and my apartment has been paying the price: dishes piling up, laundry all over the floor, papers scattered everywhere. It’s a parody of how a grad student lives. (Don’t look, Dad.) You know that “Clean ALL the things!” comic? That hit me around 8 o’clock last night. All of a sudden, after spending days on my couch hoping Tumblr would be more interesting with this push of the refresh button, I was clearing off countertops, loading up the dishwasher, savagely reorganizing, ready to purge and recycle and straighten up.
This happens with me. I have to go a certain amount of time and let myself get really bored and restless so I can throw myself into big projects. This one feels different, though. This one has an undercurrent of existential terror.
When a friend asks if you’d like to join her on a trip to a place as steeped in history and interest as Chicago’s Pullman District, you don’t turn her down, especially not on a day as lovely as this past Sunday was. We’re both nerds and we’d both always been curious about Pullman, which was, in short, the original planned corporate community, built for employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company, about a decade after the Great Chicago Fire. The backstory is fascinating — apparently Clarence Darrow and Eugene Debs both got their starts organizing in the Pullman rail strikes of 1894 — but what you can see today is a strange little shell of what was clearly a truly impressive town once upon a time. Continue reading “Come visit historic Pullman, Illinois!”→
I don’t actually know whose idea this was. I mean, I know I mentioned watching the sun rise on the rocks when I came to Evanston for geek camp in high school, but with the momentum of the night we were having, it just sort of became this thing we were going to do.
It was raining and humid and disgusting yesterday, but it seemed natural that it was so clear and perfect, once we got there. I didn’t question it, anyway. At that point it was a little after 5, and most if not all of us were coming up on having been awake for 24 straight hours. Someone asked if we were really going to wait here an hour to watch the sun rise, but in the end it wasn’t all that that hard. Continue reading “Good morning, Saturday”→
One of the best things about journalism school has been realizing how little of Chicago I had seen or even known to seek out before I started learning how to report and find stories. My first quarter was spent tramping up and down Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park, on the city’s northwest side, which is less than two miles from where I live but which I’d only been to for its incredible eating (notably Noon O Kabab, which, if you like Persian food is a must-visit in this town). Even though I’ve lived here since 2002, my Chicago experience had really been limited to enclaves and bubbles like Hyde Park, Lakeview, Wicker Park and bits of Uptown.
Due south of Albany Park, with all the same cross streets, is La Villita, Little Village. I’m working on a feature story about the Chicago Youth Boxing Club, which is an incredible organization full of beyond incredible people. Just south of the church where CYBC lives in the basement is 26th Street. “Oh, you have to see it,” I was told by source after source. “Go eat at Nuevo Leon, it’s the best.”
My interview began at 9, and the gym itself was closed on the weekend, so once the interview was done, it seemed like a good idea to get a feel for the neighborhood. I didn’t know what to expect — I really had no exposure to Little Village beyond what people involved with CYBC had told me, plus one thread in the community gang resistance documentary The Interrupters.
“People only hear about the bad stuff, the gang stuff,” people told me over and over again. “Which means people outside La Villita don’t know what an incredible neighborhood it is and what good people live here.”
There’s no better setting for an existential crisis than IKEA. This one starts and ends with a TIDAFORS EDSKEN dark gray sofa.
That’s the opening line of my latest post at Oy!Chicago, Those Blue-and-Yellow Box Store Blues. I really like this post! It’s a good foil to a lot of the things I’ve been wrestling with lately, which have largely included how to use the spaces I inhabit. In the Oy! post, it’s about investing in an apartment; here, on Magpie & Whale, it’s about not building the idea of the site up so much in my head that I never say anything here unless it’s Deep and Meaningful and Well Crafted and Illuminating.
That’s… not very representative of what Being Alive and Being a Person entails. So, time for an arbitrary break with perfectionism. I’ve been super enjoying the blogs of my friends lately (Coming to the Edge and Terra Bear are always good reads!), so I hope to bring more of that to Magpie & Whale in the future, near and far.
(I also hope to bring more fiction here too. And maybe things like book reviews and such, because I finally want to create stories and enjoy books again, after a very long time not feeling either of those things. Given that we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of my mom’s death, I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about that in the coming weeks too, but for now, there’s been a palpable feeling lately of being able to come back into the world, and that’s nice. And she would want that too.)
By the way, you may have noticed that M&W has its very own domain now! I’m still pretty stoked about that. I’ve also added a snazzy (and expansive) Journalism section; this site was originally intended to be a launching pad for my identity as a professional writer of fiction (someday!), but until I commit to making RealName.com anything more than a place where I learned how to CSS and WordPress (yes, those are verbs; no, don’t look, it’s horrible to behold), this is going to be a much more interesting and informative place to be.
Today was my last class of my second quarter of grad school, which means I’m pretty much halfway through my time as an apprentice journalist, as I’m thinking of it. At this very moment I’m just trying to catch up on my sleep debt, which is more profound than I realized. But for those who found interest in the work I’ve been doing this term, here are the back four stories that I filed, rounding out my 11 required.
Military suicide epidemic compels survivor families to speak out (June 6, 2013)
Of the military families the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors looks after, as many have lost a veteran family member to suicide as to combat. Andy and Julianne Weiss of Naperville are of that number: their son, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Danny Weiss, took his own life in March 2012. The Weiss family is determined to confront the issues of mental health and suicide risk among veterans, especially given that, according to government statistics, 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
Warrior artists explore art therapy for veterans (June 5, 2013) Veterans and art therapists are working together to formulate new counseling programs using creative arts therapies outside of the VA system. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Albany Park Community Center have just completed the pilot year of their VetCAT program, using a variety of approaches to bring veterans healing.
Veterans without VA health care eligible for Medicaid through Obamacare (June 5, 2013) Thousands of uninsured Illinois veterans could start receiving health coverage when the Affordable Care Act provisions expanding Medicaid eligibility kick in on Jan. 1, according to a study released in March. Many factors could be keeping these veterans from using VA health care benefits, including, in some instances, a choice to avoid the VA entirely.
I have a letter to the Chicago veteran community that I would like to write, but the short version of it is that it has been such a privilege and such a pleasure reporting on such an extraordinary group of people, all of whom are doing such important and amazing work. I thank everyone I’ve spoken with for entrusting me with their stories.