Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lost Lights

There are beautiful things to be seen in this city. The lights are dimmer earlier, and the city shines like a jewel as my train approaches in the early darkness. The days so short that they pass by before I finish working and so out into the dark I traipse, toward home, toward a small dog, toward my little pocket of life in the city. Away from all the little pockets of life that hide out there at the end of different choices and unclear routes.

I do my best to avoid the things about New York that bother me on my walk. Before, when it was still daylight it was not anything to be worried about, but crossing Lexington and 125th always makes for an adventure. On one corner are the prostitutes, on the other corner the meth addicts, down the street a hundred people line up at the street collector to input plastic bottles for change. Quickly I realized that walking down Lexington from 125th was not the best route to take.

After days of trial and error I had worked out a route for myself, one that felt safe, one that avoided the project buildings, and dark alleys, and that is for the most part direct. A few catcalls here and there, a small gang of teenagers being shepherded by a school teacher in the morning, for the most part it is safe.

I want to be comfortably blind to the rest of the city but I see it there, out of the corner of my eye, no matter how hard I try to avoid it.

The men and woman that sometimes pass out on the street in puddles, affected and broken by whatever it is they took to pass the time. I read an article about a reluctantly homeless middle ager who had to admit that the worst thing about being homeless was all the time. When you have no job and no where to live you have all this time. With drugs, with drink, at least you knew you had this thing you were going to do to pass the dead time. I could understand it, can see the attraction, but it bothers me to see the results of it. Not in some bourgeoisie, get a job, stop cluttering my streets, sort of way. It bothers me to see people I can’t save.

It bothers me to see people I could have become. Had it not for one very solid brain, an extraordinarily contrary nature,  and the nascent idea of a plan, this could have been my life. It still amazes me that I have managed to accomplish anything at all.

A week ago, I started my day talking to 1,200 people who hung on every word I said. People came up to it and told me that I had finally “made it.”

The girl who came to watch my dog while I went on my trip looked at my apartment and asked me what I did. In 2,000 words or less I tried to explain, while feeling the entire time like I was rambling, like I was showing off.

“You are really someone, aren’t you? You’ve just, you’ve done it right.”

To myself, I look at her, and I wonder what have I done.

On my walk home on Monday a man lay dead in the street at the doors of my train station. The sky was a twinkling wonder and New York was doing its best to impress with shining. The streets were cluttered with gawkers, people pushed over each other to see what had happened. I did not want to see.

I went around the police and the barricade, eyes forward, cross the street, don’t look around, don’t look back, don’t look down the loop of the past or try to peer around the corners of the future. Stay focused. Let the city sparkle and stay inside that bubble, find beautify somehow in the early night, in the accomplishments I don’t feel exist. The streets are simply there for walking, and you can’t save everyone on them.

Somehow though, I may have saved myself.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


My flight to New York got delayed. Through the magic of phone apps, I was able to quickly rebook myself on the next flight leaving an hour later, and had a ticket to boot.

On the flight I walked up to my seat to find someone sitting in it.

“Look, we want to sit together, do you mind sitting in first class?”

I surely do not-the-fuck mind.

“That’s fine. Sure.”

So I cozied down in first class, had a vodka and soda, and contemplated my weekend, my upcoming month, the things I need to do, the places I need to go. There is work, travel to another country, and a trip to Korea that I just don’t even know how I feel about yet.

There is a beautiful woman waiting to see me.

There are boys and girls I haven’t seen in too long that I will be happy to see.

There are those friends who feel like strangers to me now, but who I still think on and still miss. And there is and always be my life and loves scattered in and around Chicago.

I was already sleepy and I found myself napping on the flight to New York. My dreams were strange and full of David Bowie music, dance, with hints of clouds and a small dog.

As the plane began its decent into New York they announced we were landing back in the Big Apple. For a moment I panicked. I was dreaming of going home; why was I on a plane to New York? Was I on the wrong plane?

Was I in the wrong sky?

Was I in the wrong country?

Where was I going?

Who was I going towards?

I panicked for a moment, I felt so out of sorts, so strange, and so totally lost.

Then I started to breathe and realized that I was coming home and this was home for now, for as long as it was. I change. Life changes. The seats on the plane change, and the landing strips. The countries and the cities change, the states change. All that change taking place all the time.

Life changes.

Home changes.

I’m home. Home is wherever I am for however long I am there.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Second City/Hubbard Street Mash Up

Like peanut butter and chocolate. This worked.

The Second City collaboration. It is, in some ways four acts, but all these acts are also a weird sort of love story. There is a main story about love confronting fear and complacency, an improvisation of love (if there is love, or not, or maybe) between random people in the audience. There is strange, awful, weird, but also vibrant office romance, and then…the horror of well, the kind of binding relationships you can get into with people who communicate with you, stranger or no. The intimacy of sharing.

Because it is Hubbard Street it is dance, but not what I expected. If I was thinking that it would somehow be slapstick comedy that would be reminiscent of the Three Stooges, I would have been incorrect. Somehow when I first heard about the Hubbard/Second City mashup I figured it would be something like clownish/slapstick/mime.

It was none of these things.

First, there was dialogue. In a piece I saw last year, Hubbard incorporated dialogue and it was weird, off putting and entirely out of place. It should have been scrapped because it really didn’t contribute to the dance at all. In that show I had decided there was no place at Hubbard for talk. Yet this worked.

The dialogue was well placed, helping to shed light on the choices of the movement, the scene construction. Made the story one that existed because it was communicated in the dance and in words. Yes it was funny, but while being funny it there was this element of the bittersweet as a variety of different characters struggled with a variety of different shortcomings. Where there was weakness in one, the personal failings were filled by strength in their companion.

Strangers who had the wherewithal and compassion to be there, to be open, and to be available for others, and those who gained strength as they continued to progress along a continuum of the play. Where some were willing to take leaps of faith, others were too caught up in fear to take the plunge. It was spectacular and moving, and certainly outdid of all my expectations. Both the Second City actors and Hubbard dancers performed at the of their game, making the show well worth the trip to Chicago. My love picked me up right on time and we drove home, enjoying the quiet of the city at night, NPR on the radio, and the warmth of our hands together as we sped down the Ryan, over the Skyway, and along the lake toward home.

The next day we slept in, had breakfast, and after some tiny turnabouts, I was back on a bus and back on a plane headed back to the other city I call home.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blue Cheese Olives ARE Dinner!

I changed into my favorite Hubbard Street dress in a dressing room of one of my favorite clothing shops before hitting the bar for dinner. Faust was supposed to meet me at the bar, and most likely already head seats.

While the dress I wanted to wear was cute, it was entirely inappropriate for the weather, so in some ways, perfect.

I hooked up with Faust at the bar.

“Hey, you.” I said surprising him. “How was work?” I had tried to convince Faust to meet me for Bowie, but work had asked him to come in and so he had spent his day doing that instead of hanging out with the cool people. He took one look at me, smiled, and said “I should have called in dead.”

“Let’s get dinner,” I laughed at him. For dinner I had three martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives. I’m sure there was also food, but who cares about food when you have blue-cheese stuffed olives? Faust had fish and chips and then we were off to the dance.

The Harris Theater was its usual self, a theater that also wanted to come off as a parking garage, but with lighting that made it look like an airplane hangar that got confused and ended up being a discothèque. I got some pictures of me in my cute dress, and then picked up some chocolate so we could settle in for the show.

This was a show I was rather looking forward to, as it was the premiere of a collaboration between Hubbard and Second City. At some point, I swear, I will totally take in a Second City show, maybe. Eh, live comedy, while an art, is not an art that calls to me all the time. However this was different; this was art and DANCE!

The reality going in was that I was fairly sure nothing would move me the same way I had been moved by The Impossibles, from the closing of Hubbard’s 2013-2014 season, but still, the work they did was always exciting.

I can say with a fair amount of certainty that this did not disappoint. In reality, it exceeded all my wildest expectations and was enjoyed rather thoroughly by myself and my most reliable dance date.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

This Really Needs Music

The Hall of the Gods continued to be powerfully godly, and we took the less direct path thought he Greco-Romans towards the Byzantine exhibit.

What strikes you first about that exhibit is all the gold. The gaudiness of how religion was dressed up, in cassocks inlayed with silver and gold thread, large tapestries showing off the needle point of a thousands of hours of finger work of a bored nun or monk who settled in to pay homage to their particular version of God through the most decedent art.

The exhibit was not humble and about halfway through I felt as if the entire room was full of 13th century Gregorian chanting.

“Gods, this is all so churchy I feel like I can almost hear the chanting in the background,” I say to the Author.

“That’s cause they are playing Gregorian chanting in the background.”


And 11th and 13th century pieces to be specific.

“This needs a drink.”

“Sadly we are out of time, museum is closing soon.”




We hit the bathrooms on the way out (“Honestly, I once used my membership to go to the bathroom because I was downtown and I knew I could,” I said), then grabbed our coats and headed back into Chicago. I had a dinner date and the Author had his evening to attend to.

On the cold evening, as rain lightly started to fall on my head, I was reminded of the strands of the falling instillation and heard dark chants as I walked up the street and toward my next goal.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Clown Torture

“So where to?”

“Let’s go take in those Dali’s and then you mentioned something else going on?”

“The Byzantine exhibit?” Which is more appropriately called: Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections.

“Yes, that.”

We walked through the modern art, skipped down the stairs, and walked past Clown Torture on our way to the Hall of the Gods.

“Did I tell you I went in to see Clown Torture?” the Author asked.

I had seen Clown Torture just before leaving Chicago, on a day when I was visiting the city and taking in my favorite place to hang out.

“It really is clown torture, isn’t it?” I said.

“I mean, at first, you are like, okay, it’s kind of funny in a disturbing sort of way. Then it keeps going, and, yeah, it’s like this really is clown torture.”

“The image of the clown stuck on the toilet forever reading bad magazines and trying to get toilet paper will haunt me until I die.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“That and the joke. The way he tells that joke, as it devolves into the like, Sisyphus-ian nightmare of the bad joke that will never end.”

We walked by without stopping to see Clown Torture again.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pentrable de Chicago

It’s like plastic rain, like walking through the beaded hippy curtain covering the doorway of an entrance in 309. It was surprisingly quiet inside of the mash of silicone, but with just a little movement, sounds like rain falling down. No clicks or thuds, but just waterfall, avalanche of white noise.

The stringy plastic slips across flesh and leaves behind strange trails.

Walking through the fronds of a jellyfish’s out-flung spindly tentacles, if jellyfish were silicone instead of jelly, but not like that at all.


It was calm inside.


There was touch everywhere, at first disturbing, then like the caress of a lovers fingers washing over you as you move. It was impossible not to stick out my arms to feel this floating over more of my skin; to want to catch the feather-like silicone rain in my fingers and pull out it, to grab it like a lover’s hair and shake it.

It was the clawing around my neck that finally rushed me out, breaking me into a moment of uncomfortable giggles before I rushed out.

“You started a trend. As soon as you got in so did everyone else.”

I looked behind me into the instillation to see it was true. Where it was empty when I entered there were at least 15 people clawing their way through it now.

Outside of it, I paused; looked into it, thinking. For some reason this thing was very enticing to me, to my flesh, and the more creative cognitive part of me. There was a weird sort of beauty to this inverted waterfall. We both walked through it again, enjoying the strangeness of it until we both felt it time to move on.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Walking and Talking to the Art Institute We Go

We walked in the chilly afternoon of Chicago, discussing the street art, the street musicians and the buskers, taking in the river and sharing our various tales of being AIC members, because there is nothing more fun that seeing a line up to get in that stretches down Michigan Avenue, and then walking around them and just heading straight into the museum. An act of membership that we both took advantage of that afternoon.

Inside the museum was balmy and warm, and after getting an updated card with some Monet printed on it (“You know, Monet painted a fucking lot of hay bales; it’s like he really wanted you to know that he had painted some fucking hay,” the Author mentioned as I waited for my card), we checked our coats and hit the show.

“Fucking leg day!” I bitched up every step to the third-floor instillation, because I had hurt myself the day before lifting weights.

“Sucks to be you; yesterday was my arm day so I feel fine.”

“Eat me.”

We giggled, we walked, and we skated past a Miro, a Kandinsky, and one of the most perverted erotic art pieces in the Art Institute, which I found as disturbing and unsettling as any work of shock horror, and headed into the instillation.

“I got yelled out for twirling in this last time I was here,” the Author said.

“Well then don’t twirl.”

He walked in first, then it was my turn. I watched, fascinated by the entire process, taking pictures, amusing myself, feeling the strands falling down from the ceiling. As he walked through he was mostly alone, aside from some Korean art students (yes, they were Korean, yes they were talking in Korean), and for a good minute he was the only interaction with the piece.

When he was finished it was my turn.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Midwesterners, like Honey Badgers, Don't Care!

After David Bowie I had some time to kill before my Hubbard Street show, and I needed food and possibly a drink. I sent a message to the Author to find out where he was hiding. Since he had recently moved to Chicago I figured it was time we have a moment together to drink and reflect on life.

Me: Day drinking?

Author: Day drinking. Where?

Me: I’m downtown. Just got out of the Bowie exhibit.

Author: I can be downtown in about an hour. Where to meet?

Me: I’ll send you the location once I know what it is.

Author: Where are you going?

Me: No idea. Need food, not sure what.

Author: Cool.

Where I ended up was Mi Casa down on Ontario just off Michigan. They were having (for no readily apparent reason) a free beer special.

Me: Meet me at Mi Casa, you are drinking free beer.

Author: Hardship.

I had tequilas and some soup and waited. The Author showed up about two shots later and we both grabbed a respectable amount of grub while talking. He discussed settling into Chicago, I shared settling into New York.

“The thing about Midwesterners seems to be that they don’t care about anybody else.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“It’s like, they don’t care if you are interested or not, they are just going to do what they fuck they want.”

“Now you know that I come by it honest.”

Hard to disagree with that.

I shared my Bowie experience and he asked me how I was killing time between now and the Bowie exhibit.

“I was thinking of going to renew my Art Institute membership.” This prompted an art discussion in which the Author regaled me with a description of a recently resurfaced exhibit on the modern side of the AIC.

“It’s a thousand hanging little strands of silicone, and you walk through it.”

“The fuck are you talking about?” But, really, that was what he was talking about. This particular instillation was about 40 years old, and was originally exhibited in Chicago, but had been in a private collection somewhere for about 30 years. The point of the instillation is for the viewer to interact with it by walking into it, thus disturbing the flow of this shower of hanging plastic fronds, but at the same time, with the creation of movement creating a moment that was in and of itself art. This was just the kind of fascinating modern art instillation that I enjoyed. It made me recall a piece I had seen at AIC maybe four or five years ago of a sound instillation that you walked into and added your voice to. The voices were collected, and projected based on movement through the exhibit. It was fascinating and I spent about forty minutes walking through it.

“Let’s do it.”

Friday, November 07, 2014

David Bowie Is

David Bowie Is is plastered with declarative sentences that describe David Bowie. David Bowie is now. David Bowie is change. David Bowie is here for you.

David Bowie is not to be ignored is the sense I got most. This is an artist so prolific that he has at least a hundred studio albums, more than a handful of hits, and has set the stage for glam rock, shock rock, art rock, cock rock, androgyny, misanthropy, and non-linear revolution. There are a thousand interesting different little things in the exhibit: a napkin he used to wipe off smeared lipstick from the Boys Keep Swinging tour, thousands of pairs of shoes and show outfits, lyrics sheets with changes, a small video where he talks about an Apple program he developed in the 1990s to randomize sentences that might inspire songs. You have his music, videos from the original songs, starting with "Space Oddity" and going all the way through Earthling and other late hits of the 90s before he took almost a twelve-year break between putting out albums.

David Bowie is not a tall man.

David Bowie is tiny in form.

David Bowie is a chameleon.

With all that though, David Bowie is an unquestionable force, a presence that you can’t help but to be awed by. In reflection on who David Bowie is I found myself thinking about who I am, who we all are. David Bowie has shaped his life, put it out there for public consumption, making it in many ways a shared experience. And while you can see that he is certainly prolific this exhibit doesn’t feel like a brag. Instead, you leave it thinking about what it is that creates the presence of a life. We are all our own tiny little museums; pockets of memory and experience, our own tissues and napkins, inspirations, stages, changes. What struck me about this was that David Bowie took a moment to stop and reflect on who he is versus who we think he is.

It made me wonder the same thing about myself.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Now Entering David Bowie

Of course, the trains from my neck of the woods were not cooperating properly, so I ended up getting dropped off basically at the feet of David Bowie by my love with instructions to have fun. The David Bowie Is exhibition had opened at the Chicago Contemporary Art museum in September, inconveniently after I had packed three suitcases and a dog and moved across the country. (Interesting side note, every major move I’ve ever done can be equated to the size of what can be moved in three cases, with or without a dog.)

It was a grey and slightly rainy Chicago morning, just north of freezing cold, but otherwise what one would expect of fall in Chicago. The museum, at just before noon, was quiet, decorated in pictures of Bowie enticing passersbys to come and find out exactly what David Bowie Is.

I went in got a ticket, had a mix-up, got a refund for being overcharged for my ticket, said thank you, and was on my way in and up an elevator to the fourth floor with a ticket for entrance at high noon, which was 30 seconds away. The exhibit weaved guests down a little maze of an aisle to line up for the get-in. A docent came by and shouted at us about how the headsets worked and asked if we had questions. When there were none she smiled and ushered in the smallish group. (Normally I would eschew the headsets, but for this exhibit is seemed appropriate.)

The Walkman that we were given, which really does look like a Walkman, was programmed with geotagging or some sort of tagging, that allowed it to sink up with where you were in the museum by walking. No need to toggle, search, go forward or back. If you wanted to listen to something all the way through, you only had to stay in one place. If you moved on the track would move to the next track appropriate for the experience you were standing in front of. Which made this exhibitionist walk through David Bowie’s like a rather dynamic three-dimensional experience. The first part of the tour was his pre-history. Young teen David Bowie, headlining cheap cover bands and taking glam shots that make him look like the next late-night guest of the 1950’s Ed Sullivan Show. He is not yet full of drama and pageantry; he is just himself, a schoolboy, a chum.

He is rather adorable in his 1950’s button downs, looking more like Davey Jones than David Bowie. You walk through his young life, which he narrates for you, and watch as he transitions from a young Frank Sinatra to a young John Lennon. His bands don’t excite him, but he wants to be an artist. What you feel from walking through the tour of his youth is how he was influenced, but more than that, you could feel his need to create. He is compelled by a need to make art. If he can’t make music he will paint (and he did take a pass at being an artist). If he can’t get the recognition for the music he wants by being himself, he will become someone else.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

My Life between Big Cities

I had tickets for Hubbard Street in October, which of course, meant I had to fly to Chicago. In all, living in New York is a touch preferable to living in Korea when one is homesick for Chicago. It’s a shorter flight, and all around a slightly less fussy pain in the ass to get from New York to Chicago and back again. (Also, practically a quarter of the cost of flying to Korea.)

I made plans with the Geek, who had taken to staying on my couch and watching my dogs when I was out of the city but needed to make sure the Monkey was alive and well, and hopped a flight to Chicago. My love picked me up from the airport and we had much less of an adventure getting home than on my last trip, when a rental car developed a flat tired that required a tow. Of course, being that it was almost 10 at night on a cold, rainy, and potentially snowy, Chicago September eve, we had to get towed to a rental place, which turned out to be closed and unstaffed. Without information to pick up a new car. With a lot of confused people trying to figure out why we were at this particular rental agency. In all, it was not the greatest of times and we got home at close to 2 a.m.

Friday I got up at 6 a.m., did a training, and spent the rest of the day working from home without pants, being loved by a big black dog, and enjoying the senses, sights and sounds of my Chicago home. Autumn in Chicago is very cool in October, and the leaves were changing colors outside my window. The coffee seemed stronger, and the feeling of being home more present.

The next day it would be all Chicago all the time. I had decided that since I had to come to Chicago to see Hubbard Street that I would combine this with a trip to the Contemporary art museum to see the special exhibit David Bowie Is. This would be followed by lunch, day drinking, martinis with BLUE CHEESE OLIVES (!!!!!) and Hubbard Street. It was going to be a busy Saturday and I was looking forward to all the fun I could get into and up to in twelve hours.