New Schedule

I have been working strange and varied hours lately, which has made blogging a bit of a challenge. I have decided my new post days will be Sundays. I know it is less often than I was posting before (not counting the missed weeks of posts since I arrived in Chicago) but it is a schedule I may have an easier time adhering to.

As far as Chicago goes, I am settling in. I have learned which trains to take, which areas to avoid, and where the best shopping is. I am earning a regular paycheck-something I have not had in several years- and am enjoying life in the city.

I have had adventures that I would not have had back home, such as apple picking, shopping in the loop,

Seeing random, beautiful sights while wandering the city, and of course a brand new experience for this SoCal native: living in the snow.

The first snow was quite an experience for me. It is so beautiful, and I seem a bit touched in the head when it falls, because I can’t resist stomping through it to leave my footprints, all the while giggling uncontrollably. My roommate is also from Cali, and so we share this ridiculous and childish desire to play in the stuff. His boyfriend thinks we are very strange, and tells us so, which leads to the inevitable snow fight. I say “snow” and not “snowball”, because we just scoop up handfuls and fling it at one another. We end up wet and freezing, but somehow it still makes me happy.

I thought Christmas would be a sad day for me, but my mother, in her infinite motherly wisdom, knew I would have a rough time my first Christmas alone and sent me a box of Christmas cheer. She sent a miniature tree, a strand of lights, and some stockings along with a box of presents. It warmed my heart and made me feel so very loved, even from so far away.

Though I worked on Christmas day, I put a pot roast in the slow cooker, and had a wonderful Christmas dinner with my roommate and his boyfriend. It was the first time that Chicago felt like home.

Now, as the snow sticks to the ground, and I finally have a day off, I am catching myself daydreaming about Jeremy, Fairies, and what is in store for Sidhee.

Like any storm that catches us unaware, my writing block is passing, and I find myself ready to open the shutters, pick up the pieces, and rekindle my literary efforts.

Happy writing.

apples
Apple Picking in the orchard
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Inside the Macy’s that used to be Marshall Fields. Quite a bone of contention between Macy’s and Chicago natives. Still, it is beautiful.
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A dramatized image of my first snow day. I took this with my cell phone on the corner of my street at the bus stop.
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The Gluten, corn, and soy free Christmas dinner I made for my Chicago family.
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The view of my building from the street. I never though I would live somewhere so tall.
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Just across the street from my apartment is a walking path that leads here. It is one of the best views of the city I have seen so far.

Adieu

Goodbye house where I first learned to talk,

And begged, “Read it one more time, Dad!”

Goodbye school where I learned to read clocks,

And grew every year, just a tad.

 

Oh classic theater, I bid thee farewell!

There inside I watched my first toon.

Heartbreaking fire left you a shell;

Restorations came none too soon.

 

Farewell to summer burning my skin

And freckling up my pale face;

I went to work and held up my chin

While my friends all got on my case.

 

Goodbye to the books that filled a store

In the job I held in regard.

Hard casualties of an e-reader war

My love for you never once marred.

 

So long diner where I met with friends

For talking, or crying, or beers.

Over finding true loves, or true lover’s ends

You stood without judgement for years.

 

So long kind critics of written intent

Who taught me for who or for whom.

Your tore me apart, not without consent,

But to see my talent seeds bloom.

 

This town, the place I learned to mature,

Has left it’s strong mark on my past.

But now I am ready, able, and sure

To embark on my journey at last.

 

I’m venturing out, moving along.

I can’t take it all, more’s the pity.

I hope to succeed, hope I’m not wrong

For heading to a big Windy City*.

 

*While this poem auto-posted, I boarded a plane to Chicago with a one-way ticket in hand. I am attempting to make it in the big city. Should I find a job before my savings runs out, I will become a resident of Illinois. Should I run out of money, I will return to California knowing I gave it my best shot. There may be a few interruptions in my blog posts, but for the most part, I will continue to write as usual; I am after all,  a writer first, a human second. That being said, expect pictures.

 

The Attic of Evelyn Pearl

Tiny young Evy,

A six-year-old girl

Was named for her granny

Miss Evelyn Pearl.

 

She hasn’t young cousins

Her own age for play.

No brothers or sisters

To fill up her day.

 

When her family visits

Her grandmother’s home

She goes to the attic

Where she plays alone.

 

She’s never caught bored

When she goes up there

‘cause mystical wonder

Hangs loose in the air.

 

A porcelain doll

Becomes her best friend.

She tells her big secrets

For hours on end.

 

On her Grampy’s old flute

She’ll blow out a tune

And fancy’s they hear her

Out there on the moon.

 

Old buttons and beads

Become long lost treasure

That salty sea captains

Can count at their leisure.

 

A toppled old shelf

And a discarded oar

Becomes ship and rudder

That washed up ashore.

 

With musty old curtains

She fashions a tail

And waves are comprised

Of granny’s old veil.

 

Old teddy bear people

Are folk of the sea.

They go on adventures

‘Till afternoon tea.

 

When the moon starts to rise

And it’s time to head out

Tiny young Evy

Won’t grumble or pout.

 

Her exotic vast kingdom

Will wait for our girl.

‘Till then it’s the attic

Of Evelyn Pearl.

 

Room 405

If you are looking through the course catalog of your local college, you will find your typical classes offered; English 101, Algebra, Pottery, Nutrition, that sort of thing.  But if you flip to the back of the catalog, under the miscellaneous heading that most people don’t read, you will find a class not offered by most colleges. This class is Curseology 101, taught by Miss Badalla.

When you enter the classroom it looks like any other. Rows of tables and chairs to the left and right of a center walkway. The front of the class has a green chalkboards and a podium, where Miss Badalla scatters her various notes and articles to reference in her lectures.  She runs the class much like any other teacher; there are vocabulary lists and chapters of assigned reading from the Curseology 101 textbook. But that is where the similarities to everyday learning stop.

Miss Badalla teaches her students about curses. How to use them, what they are, and how to defend from others cursing you. She peeks out from a halo of frizzy salt and pepper hair, tied back by a scarf embroidered with silver suns and moons. Her hands are laden with numerous rings, all interesting stones like turquoise and Jasper. She wears charms around her wrists, ankles, and neck, each one with a special defensive purpose she teaches about in her advanced class, Amulet Crafting. She wears brightly colored wispy fabrics, and a gray shawl that looks as though it has been dragged down the street by a trash truck, and then hung to dry. Her brown sandals have been patched and mended, and are the only pair of shoes she ever wears. She calls out her lessons in a sing-song voice, wafting the spicy aroma of incense as she passes between each desk. She answers criticism and doubt with the certainty of someone who has seen the effects of the curses she explains.

Curseology will not likely help you achieve your major. Indeed, nobody is even sure if there is credit for taking Miss Badalla’s class. But the experience is well worth the price of one semester of your time.

 

My Children’s Book

 

So I have just completed a children’s story that I intend to self-publish. It began as a rather long, fun poem, but with encouragement from my writers group it evolved into a full story. I’m nearly done with the editing (as much as a writer ever can be anyway) and my next step it the artwork to go along with my story.

But the writing is only half of a children’s book. Kids love pictures that tell the story, so I needed to figure out what kind of illustration I wanted.  Upon some further research I found that you can hire an artist and pay them per illustration- the going rate seems to be about $100 to $200 per drawing online, or you can team up with an artist and split credit (and profit) from the book down the middle. I do know a few artists that would be amazing at it, but since graphic art is something I like to do (and have done professionally before), I decided I am going to do the artwork myself. I plan to make little figurines out of Sculpey and Fimo clay and pose them in scenes to take pictures, then turn them into something that looks illustrated in Photoshop. I will be sure to share more with you as my illustration adventure develops.

My father-in-law has a friend who has published a children’s story, so when I told him I wanted to publish he helped me get in touch with his writer friend. His friend told me that publishers want you to have everything done and mapped out before you even contact them, so I will be finishing my artwork before I take any efforts to publish further. The advice that he gave as far as marketing and publishing boiled down to this: Do as much of it yourself as possible. The publishers will be happy to do it for you, but their help requires lots of money. He also said they are impatient; any edits and adjustments are expected the same day they ask for them, and they get irritated if you delay. They also don’t really proof anything-if your work isn’t perfect when you hand it to them, then that is what will go into print.

With all this in mind, I am very nervous about my first independent self-published work. Even so, I am not deterred.

Chicago Part 5, The End

 

 

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On my Final day in Chicago, Robbie took me to see the historic Wrigley Field. There was a game going on, So I got to see what it is like on a game day. We had walked past it several times on our way home from the subway, throughout my visit, but it was always at night so I hadn’t really  experienced it yet.

 

One very interesting thing was the stadium seating on the rooftops of apartment buildings near the field. There is no big parking lot, or any grassy fields near the stadium. It goes from apartments and businesses on one side, right to the stadium on the other. It’s an exciting feeling, being right in the middle of it.

 

We decided not to actually go to the game, since I’m not much of a sports fan. There was enough history on the walls around the stadium to suit me just fine.

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Robbie also took me to a mystic shop where I picked up some Chamomile tea, and a Hematite ring on the cheap. Finally we stopped at a Chicago diner, where the waiter tried to talk me out of getting on the plane home. I’m not going to lie, I really wanted to say, “Okay, I’ll stay.” He even hugged me and said, “I hope to see you again soon.”

Robbie’s roommate offered to let me live there, and I was assured by multiple people with the appropriate authority that a job was mine if I decided to stay. It was a hard to say no. But there was an adorable dog and a loving husband waiting for me back home, so when the time came, I did get on the plane; but not without a long and tearful goodbye with Robbie.

Boy was I sorry I got on the plane once I landed in Huston! For some reason, United scheduled barely an hour between my flight from Chicago and my flight to Ontario. My first flight took too long to taxi to the gate, and by the time I could get off the plane I had 12 minutes to get from gate E3 to gate B85. For those of you who are not familiar with Huston, you know that that is FAR, FAR apart. I ran, literally, through the airport. No Stops, strait to my gate. Luckily the signs are fairly clear. By the time I actually got to the gate, they were paging me. I told at the United employee that I was the person she was paging in between pants- I am really out of shape.

“I don’t know what you’ve been doing. The planes been here since 9.” She grumped at me while scanning my boarding pass.

“I was taxing on the runway. It’s your plane that took too long!” I snarled back. Since when is being rude considered customer service? FAIL United. Total Fail.

Before I even got out the last word she rolled her eyes at me and waved her hand to shush me. ” Well you’re the last person to board. They’re waiting.” She said in the most snarky tone I’ve ever heard.

I growled (yeah, I was that pissed off) and stomped down the ramp to my plane. The crew on this plane made up for the cow that I talked to in Huston.

The Flight attendant called over the intercom, “has anyone lost a wallet?”

Everyone immediately looked around.

“Now that we have your attention, please pay attention to an important safety announcement.”

Everyone laughed, relieved their wallets were safe, and paid attention.

Even though my entire visit to Huston consisted of a jog through the airport and an interaction with one employee, my view of that city will be forever tainted by my bad experience. I don’t think I will ever visit there as a tourist. I can guarantee you I will never, NEVER book a flight that has a layover there, especially if I am flying United. Bad impressions tend to be more permanent than good ones. I’m not sure why, but it’s how the world works.

I arrived back in Ontario, and had lunch with my husband before driving an hour and a half home.  I had only slept three hours the night before, and was more than a little cranky. At my Husband’s urging I laid down for a nap, and didn’t wake up until the following day. Jet lag is apparently a real thing.

With that, my journey was at an end. I will definitely return to Chicago at the first opportunity. Maybe to live there, who knows.

 

Chicago Part 4

 

Half way through my visit I had the immeasurable pleasure of visiting the Chicago Art institute. It is an enormous museum that houses amazing pieces from all over the world, from Africa, to Europe, to Japan. Sadly the Egyptian exhibit was not open yet, but I honestly wouldn’t have had time to see it all anyway; Partially because I lingered at the impressionists, but mostly because the renaissance art nearly took my breath away. I actually had to sit in the room with the Italian renaissance art. It overpowered me. Just thinking of the mastery that these artists must have to create such exquisite, lifelike portraits staggers me.

 

Some of my pictures are below. Robbie limited me to two pictures per room, because he wanted me to see as much as possible and he knew I would spend three hours per room trying to catalog it all. In the end it was wise, given that the pictures do not begin to do any of it justice. To get the true experience, you have to be standing before these pieces in person. Nothing else will do.

 

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There was a park outside the Museum, called Millennium Park,  that was nearly as stunning as the inside.

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Chicago has this huge landmark that I will not pretend to understand. I am not a modern art person. But I was there, so what the heck, I took a picture of it.

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That night I got to tour the bars.  The first bar we went to was having a throwback to the early 90’s night. Barf. I despise 80’s and early 90’s music, with very few exceptions. But in the spirit of being somewhere new, I danced. After a couple hours, we walked to a new bar. It was a cute little dive bar with a seaside theme that I unfortunately don’t remember the name of,  and sang karaoke. This bar I loved. I am not ashamed to say I rock out, karaoke style. I got to hang out with a bunch of Robbie’s friends, who welcomed me and made me feel at home. I don’t really remember getting back to Robbie’s house. I vaguely remember a cab. You know why.

On my Second to last night one of Robbie’s friends was having a surprise birthday party for another friend, so Robbie brought me along. I felt a bit awkward at first, since Robbie was really the only person I knew. But again the good people of Chicago folded me into the conversation like I knew them for years, making me feel right at home. We ate at an Italian restaurant, then we went to a couple bars in Boys town. This is the primarily gay district of Chicago. I had a blast! I don’t remember the name of the first club, but it had loud dance music and the accompanying music videos on the walls. Nothing I’m used to, but I found it entertaining. I love how open and proud the gay community is. There are a lot of places in this country where being who you are is still not okay. I was pleased to find that Chicago is not one of those places.

The next place we went is a well known local hot spot called Berlin. There was actually a cover charge, something I have heard about but never experienced. The inside was blaring with techno music, with people of all shapes sizes and genders dancing together. I enjoyed dancing, but I only hung in there until about 2 am. The loud music, drinking and dancing are all not things I typically indulge in, so I was tired. Robbie was a good sport and noticed I was losing steam, so he was the one who suggested we take a cab home.

We crashed out until noon the next day.

Chicago Part 3

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The view from Robbie’s rooftop, Pictured above.  Various Buildings and sights I snapped shots of while walking around below.

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My first couple of days in Chicago were spent exploring the busy, touristy part of Chicago. On the first day we visited Willis Tower, which is more well known by its previous name, the Sears Tower. Interestingly, what it is called depends on who you ask. Robbie’s flight attendant roommate, who is also from England, says that it is the Willis tower. Chicago natives and transplants say vehemently, “I don’t care what it says on the front. It will always be the Sears Tower.”  That attitude seems to be more common than those who accept the skyscrapers re-branding.

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I had the pleasure of visiting the Sky deck, on the 103rd floor of the Tower. At $19 a ticket, the price seemed a bit steep. But, this being my first visit to Chicago, it would seem a shame to miss it, so up we went.

The lobby going up to the Skydeck has a lot of fascinating facts, and Robbie filled me in on any that they didn’t have posted on the walls.  For example, The Tower contains 76,000 tons of steel.  There is 44,000 miles of wiring within the Tower. There are 6 robots that wash the window of the tower, which takes weeks to complete. Sears tower was built in 1973, and held the record for the tallest building in the world for almost 25 years. On a clear day you can see for  50 miles out of the window.

The elevators to this deck are extremely fast. It only took about a minute to reach the top. It felt much like it does when an airplane is taking off. As someone who enjoys heights, I loved it.

There are these glass boxes that stick out from the side of the building, allowing tourists a view strait down to the city streets below. Standing in this box unnerved me just a bit. I know that the builders would never risk a lawsuit, so I know that these boxes must be able to take the weight of a an elephant; but the thing is, there were a lot of people piling into them, and I’ve never looked straight down through glass that far.  I have a picture below, But the glair off the glass masks the overwhelming feel of the view.

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Once I had my feet back on solid steel and concrete, I got some really beautiful pictures of the city out the window.

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The writer in me couldn’t resist getting a picture of the Chicago sun times Building.

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In the gift shop downstairs there were these cool little museum-like displays about different Chicago events. I gravitated to this one about the Great Chicago Fire, history being a favorite subject of mine. The fire burned for roughly two days in 1871. The Windy City unfortunately provided the perfect conditions to fan the flames. The damage spanned across 4 miles and did an estimated 2 million dollars in damage. Roughly 300 people died. Looking at these silver spoons melted together was as eerie to me as seeing images of the Titanic wreckage.

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I bought a postcard and a magnet, and then we headed out to see more of the Windy City. For dinner, we had to get a Chicago deep dish pizza. Robbie is a vegetarian, so we ordered spinach, artichoke and cheese. Yum!

My impression of the people here was mixed. When walking around or sitting next to someone on the subway, everyone acts like you aren’t there, even though you cannot help physically touching the people next to you. Not in the creepy, “I must touch it!” sort of way. More like, there as so many people next to you that your arm and hers are pressed up against one another. Your other leg is touching the guy on your other side. I am not accustomed to being close to strangers at all, so this was something that took a bit of getting used to. But some people were exceptionally friendly. Throughout the week I was hugged by numerous new acquaintances. More than one person told me they would like it if I stayed in Chicago. A not-so-small part of me really wanted to stay.

By the end of our first day, My legs and feet were killing me. I estimate that we walked at least 7 miles. I don’t even walk to the store where I live. It’s too far away. But Robbie took no pity on me, and rightfully so. I was not about to wuss out on seeing as much of Chicago as I could. The moment I saw the city from the top of the Tower, I was in love. My feet had little choice but to get on board.

Chicago part 1

Some of you are probably wondering where the heck I’ve been for the last couple weeks. Well, I was visiting a much beloved friend in Chicago, and in all the commotion of preparing to leave I simply forgot to tell my readers about it. My humblest apologies.

To make up for it, I will tell you about my trip to the most spectacular city in the united states. I have not traveled much in my 28 years, so I’m not entirely certain that assessment is accurate, but that is how it felt when I was there. Getting there, however, was almost as interesting as the vacation itself.

Flying has always seemed so glamorous to me. The hustle and bustle of important people sipping cocktails and jetting to their next important meeting. Maybe honeymooners coming back from a romantic getaway in Italy. My imagination has always made people watching exciting. When being invited to stay in Chicago I was as excited about getting on the plane as I was getting to see my friend. I have not been on a plane since I was about 19 years old, and even then it was only a 1 hour flight.  I suspect that my youthful sense of wonder painted a much more favorable memory of flying than reality.

My first flight was from Ontario to San Francisco. It was a Tuesday afternoon, which translates to slow and empty. There was also some bad weather in the Midwest that was delaying everything going in and out of Chicago.  The busy image of the airport I had in my head evaporated the moment I walked into those automatic doors at the United lobby. There were about 8-10 other people in line (I didn’t actually count), and every one of us were traveling to Chicago. Some by way of Huston, some on the San Francisco flight with me. There was one United employee at the counter. After about half an hour in line, the United woman announced that anyone boarding the plane to San Francisco could jump ahead to the self serve counter, as our flight was not delayed. After a small pang of empathy for those who were being delayed, I headed over to check myself in.

Here is where an inexperienced flyer such as me has a great deal of problems. I was checking a bag, and there are absolutely no instructions on how to do this. There aren’t really any instructions on how to check in either, but you can figure that out if you have half a brain. I stood there awkwardly holding my black carryon bag and my bright pink Hawaiian print luggage, praying someone would tell me what to do. To her credit, The United Employee was extremely helpful the moment I told her I was new to flying. She got my bag checked in and turned me loose. From there I had to figure out where to go next on my own.

Luckily, Ontario is a very small airport. Finding security is not difficult. Dealing with security is incredibly difficult. I get that being a security agent at an airport is probably not the most exciting or rewarding career choice. But would it kill you to say hello? Crack a smile? The answer is yes, it will kill them apparently. I walked up to the first security agent, who just stuck his hand out at me. I handed him my boarding pass (assuming correctly that is what he wanted) and he wrote all over it. When I asked him what to do next, he grudgingly mumbled “to the left”. I then figured out, by watching the person in front of me that you have to put all your stuff, coat included, into the white bins, then shove them onto the conveyor belt.  I reiterate that there are no signs that give instructions of any kind anywhere around this area.

I stepped forward and was told by a slightly more friendly female security agent that I must also remove my shoes and place them in a bin. Ick. All I could think was, ” I really hope I don’t catch athletes foot from this nasty floor”.  I went through one of those tubes banks used to use at the drive through (only these were human sized) with my arms up in the “M” pose for thy YMCA dance, then went to collect my stuff.

As Soon as I reached for my bag, the security agent manning the x-ray machine said, “Ma’am do you have a laptop in your bag?”

“Yeah,” I answered with a smile. I smile a lot when people make me uneasy. I made the mistake of watching a government conspiracy documentary 2 days before my flight. All I could think was, “great. They are going to think a $300 laptop I bought at Wal-Mart is a bomb and I am going to be strip searched and miss my flight.”

“You’re supposed to take it out.” The security woman huffed while rummaging through my bag to remove the offending laptop.

Once cleared, I was again set free to roam the airport and find my gate. I wandered past several closed up shops and gates with sparse passengers. I wondered how the travel industry has been managing through this rough patch in our economy.  My sympathy evaporated when I saw a price tag of $3.25 for a 20oz coke. Jerks. They don’t let you bring anything over 3.5oz past security, and then rape your wallet once you get there. It isn’t that I begrudge them the added security, I would like to make it to my final destination un-exploded, thank you very much. But I do begrudge them using that as a cover to gouge you on the other side. I already paid over $400 for my tickets there and back. They can charge me the normal $1.29 for a soda and still make a profit.

After a short wait, we boarded the small plane to san Francisco, packed in like sardines.  I got a window seat, and took great joy in watching the landscape shrink beneath us. It was a beautiful and smooth flight.  Even though the idea of flying was a little dimmed for me at this point, I was still excited to finally be on my way.

 

Stay tuned for the next installment.