Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ambivalent Anticipation

All day at work I vacillated about listening to Christmas music. I’m pretty excited to start the holiday season, but Halloween isn’t even here yet. I put my indecision in my facebook status and received a mix of responses, most of which supported my holiday excitement and suggested that I start listening. Ultimately, I decided to have some patience and wait until November. After all, I’m not ready for snow yet, so I’m clearly not ready for Christmas.

But the holiday excitement is definitely starting! On my way home from the gym tonight, I noticed that the Macy’s windows are covered, which means they are starting to prepare the Christmas window displays. This would usually make me quite excited, but I was definitely disappointed in last year’s displays. I read later that I wasn’t the only one. Apparently, Amy Meadows, who directed the window decorations 25 years, was fired amid cost cuts in early 2008. That, of course, was before I moved to Chicago, and I had never seen the displays before last November. So, I was anticipating these amazing holiday windows, and was disappointed by the weird, alien rock band creatures in the windows. Even more disappointing was the disjointed, poorly written story accompanying them. Many people just chalked it up to the general, continuing let-down of Macy’s taking over Marshall Fields.

Anyway, I am hoping for better displays this year, though Macy’s apparently continues to lead the drooping retail sector, so their budget certainly hasn’t increased. But hopefully whomever they hire will come up with something a little more appealing than what they did last year. I certainly hope they keep the music. It was so fun to ascend the steps from the El after Thanksgiving last year and hear the Christmas music playing. I remember being in a cranky mood that Monday morning, but when I saw the sparkling trumpets and heard the holiday music, I couldn’t help but smile. Of course, I’d trade music for decent displays.

For now, I really am loving this perfect fall weather we’re having, and I’m not ready to usher in winter just yet. It’s been in the fifties everyday, and, though often rainy, I’ve been enjoying it. I don’t want to lose sight of autumn in my anticipation of the holidays. After all, the leaves have only just begun to fall.

Friday, October 23, 2009


The luster wears off, which is unfortunate, but inevitable. You can walk through downtown Chicago, twice a day, everyday, and not see it. Preoccupied with your own thoughts you can auto-pilot from work to home and back again. Some of us are further trapped in our own heads than others. Some of us are trapped in memories, which is unfortunate, too.

But if we didn’t adjust, conform, fall into these habits, it wouldn’t be so magnificent when something breaks the norm (not that all change is magnificent—some change is simply heartbreaking). For instance, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, a rare pocket of sunshine interrupted the gloomy gray days we’ve been having. I was lucky to have a late morning doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, located about a 15-minute walk from the office. As I trekked up Michigan Ave., the sunshine felt glorious. That giddy sensation of springtime, when those first beautiful days penetrate the winter gloom, started to stir inside me. I remember thinking that I probably wouldn’t feel like this again until April.

The city was enchanting, engulfed in sunlight. My love for Chicago was again ignited, watching the light fall like a blanket, illuminating the tops of buildings. My daily routine, like the clouds, was broken, and it was a welcome change.

Plus, there’s something so satisfying in seeing all the cameras. Watching the tourists on Michigan Ave. with their cameras angled upward, outward, forward, backward, at the city all around them—they remind me how blessed I am to be living here, in a city coveted by so many. I didn’t want to go back to work. I wanted to mosey about with the tourists, pose for pictures by the river, drift in and out of shops, weave in and out of the sparse, non-rush-hour traffic.

It occurs to me that I haven’t taken a day off since I started working in May. And since then I’ve taken on a variety of freelance writing projects in my spare time. During the summer I didn’t feel it so much. But when the sunshine fades away into the shady cool of autumn, you start to feel the weight. I’m not sure why that is, exactly. Maybe it’s the sheer lack of sun. Maybe it’s the heavy layers of clothing.

I don’t really feel like I need a vacation, and routine is okay with me—in fact, I’m pretty sure I prefer it. But I’ve been feeling uninspired, lately. That, I’m not okay with. Blogging gives me a great deal of pleasure, but I refuse write a new blog post purely because I’m getting behind with it. I’ve forced posts in the past, and when I go back and read them, they are always the least satisfying, and most poorly crafted vignettes. But I am wondering where all of my inspiration has gone. There’s not much I can do, however. You can force it about as well as you can force the sun to come out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dance through a Different Lens

It was thrilling for me to walk into Auditorium Theatre last night, not as just a spectator, but as press. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that I get as excited about these baby steps as I do, but, shoot, it felt pretty amazing to walk up to the media table and accept my free ticket to the opening night of the Joffrey Ballet’s Othello, and receive my press kit. This is the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to do--write arts reviews. The magazine for which I’m reviewing the production may not have the largest circulation figures, but if I can combine my two greatest loves—dance and writing—I feel more than lucky. Getting to view the ballet at no cost, getting published, and getting paid a little to write the review? That's a pretty successful venture in my eyes.

I walked into the gorgeous theatre (Auditorium Theatre doesn’t get old for me), got situated, and looked around. I’d gotten dressed up, as I always do for the ballet. Looking around, it occurred to me that I’d done so entirely for myself, since it's probably a rarity to meet a man who’s both single and straight going to see the ballet. Needless to say, I soon tired of people-watching and opened my folder. I was not expecting the 15 pages of press materials they gave me, but I quickly realized that out of all those pages, there were only about four sentences that would be relevant to my review.

It wasn’t long before I was surrounded by writers, which was a comforting experience. I sat next to an older woman who writes a weekly column for a paper in South Chicago. She started telling me how her best friend used to dance for Balanchine, which is more than just a little impressive (and this friend danced with Nureyev and Margot Fonteyne). Too bad her friend wasn’t with her. The woman herself, however, has interviewed dancers and choreographers including Ruth Page, so I was kind of impressed by her, too. She expounded on the history of the Joffrey for me, telling me about the modern years (which, in her opinion, were the “dark years"), the advent of live orchestra music at Joffrey performances, and the general evolution of the Joffrey Chicago. She certainly made me feel as though my knowledge were limited.

But then I asked her if she used to be a dancer. She chuckled, said she’d taken about a month of classes, then gave up when she found out how difficult it was. She took one look at me and asked me if I was a dancer. I told her that I used to be, and she flattered me by saying that I look like one (this is one compliment I will never tire of hearing). I shared a little bit about my dance background and told her that I still take adult classes at the Joffrey, as often as I can. Then it appeared that maybe she was a little impressed by me.

Anyway, it was amusing to me that, during the ballet, I discovered I can write legibly and in straight lines without looking at my notebook. I filled up several pages with notes, in the darkened house, unable to see any of it, and not wanting to take my eyes off the dancing. I was happy to find that I could read it all afterward. Some of the writers around me took no notes, but, as in the classroom, I can’t imagine being without them.

Anyway, the ballet was beautiful, and I think you should go see it. But if you want to know the details, you’ll have just have to read my review. :) Which I haven’t written, yet, and probably should be writing right now. But I’m not feeling the pressure of the deadline yet and I’m clearly behind on the blog.

Monday, October 12, 2009

“Sometimes I been sittin on trains…”

I like to start my week off listening to music that is completely inappropriate for a Monday morning. So, you’ll find me sitting at my desk with my headphones in, looking very serious and intent. Honestly, I am very serious and intent, but I’m also having a party inside. Because Justin Timberlake or Usher or Outkast is blasting in my ears. While I am rarely plagued by a true “case of the Mondays,” I know that I will prevent that beginning-of-the-week office blues entirely if I set the right soundtrack. (Especially when my week starts at 5:30 a.m. with a frantic call from my intern telling me she can't access her computer. Which, surprisingly, didn't phase me at all.)

Of course, music just makes everything better. I can feel my confidence level shoot up about three notches when I’m listening to something bad ass on my iPod, walking to work. Plus, when it’s raining outside, I can listen to something like, “Mr. Blue Sky.” Running is the pits without music—I don’t make it half as far without it. And I have to be honest, sometimes I just really appreciate the option to block out the rest of the world.

I got to thinking about music this morning because there are certain songs that always make me think of Chicago, particularly of riding on the El. Most of them are the songs I added to my iPod last fall, when I’d first moved here, and the idea of commuting to work while wearing earphones was an entirely new concept to someone who was used to driving herself anyplace she wanted to go. I thank Kim for introducing me to most of the music I associate with Chicago (despite the fact that he lives in D.C.). My favorite is still “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. The beat of that song just makes me feel awesome. Anyway, I love how music does that—it wraps itself up with certain times or places or people. Needless to say, I’m still not listening to Stevie Wonder or Aretha Franklin because that music became wrapped up with a certain person. Pretty fabulous music to have to ban from the play list, but you know, these things take time.

Anyway, today I was listening to Justin Timberlake at work. It was great. Sometimes I just want to get up and dance. Like, seriously, just stand up in the middle of work and dance. At 10 a.m. On a Monday. It’s almost as absurd as the urge to stand up in church and yell a curse word (something I always thought would be singularly outrageous). Both thoughts crack me up. I love to imagine doing something completely incongruous with my surroundings. I’d never do it. But if someone else did, I would get quite a kick out of it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rambles to Muncie and Back

I’ve jumped into procrastination mode, full force. Now that I have a number of writing deadlines again, I’m reminded of school, and the key to my success there was to build up the pressure until I had to get the assignments done. Of course, I no longer have the luxury of sleeping in if I stay up half the night writing, since I have a very real day job, so my procrastination methods have to change a little. Anyhow, the more writing gigs I get, the more I want to blog in an effort to resist. Ironically, though, I’m putting off writing by writing. I can’t help myself.

Last weekend I headed out of the Chi for an Honors College reunion dinner at Ball State. You know what I continue to discover as I bump into people with whom I haven’t spoken in awhile, or am just meeting? I never tire of telling people that I live in Chicago. Some people cringe and suggest that life in the city is just too crowded and crazy. Others fondly recall the days when they lived in the city. Some others ask you what part of town you live in and compare notes, since they live here, too. Still others seem wide-eyed and impressed. I enjoy the mix of reactions.

Muncie was a nice stop-off for the weekend, but it definitely felt like a shell. I honestly felt like a hermit crab trying to crawl back into a home I’d outgrown years before. It feels empty to go back to college knowing that your social circle no longer exists in that space. The reunion dinner produced only one other alum from my class, so I was a bit disappointed. (I had envisioned all this catching up and picture-taking, and then drinks at the Heorot after dinner. Instead, I went back to my hotel room, read awhile, and proceeded to sleep for ten hours.)

Anyway, driving around Muncie, past Thai Smile, Szechuan Garden, Lafollette, the Village, I remembered so many great times, with friends and even with exes. But these places are just places now. I have taken all of the important people with me. My favorite professors visit when they come to Chicago, which is fairly frequently. My best friends in the world are available whenever I need them.

So, really, I was pretty happy to return to Chicago on Sunday. In fact, I practically rushed out of Funcie after a jarringly awkward run-in with an ex I never expected to see again, ever (see, this is why it’s probably best not to return to campus after graduation). I’ll admit that I stopped at the grocery store to stock up on cheaper, non-Illinois-taxed goods before I hit the highway. Afterward, as I merged with the interstate, I felt certain that Muncie had served its purpose in my life. While I'll always have a special place for BSU in my heart, the version that exists in my memory is much more meaningful than the reality of the campus today. I’ll only go back to visit again if I get to bring my old social circle with me.