Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Versionfest wrapup part I

I worked on my blog at a coffee place yesterday. This would qualify for Most Boring Statement Possible, if not for the addendum that I wasn’t writing this blog entry on a laptop, or some computer-like device, but on pieces of scrap paper I dug up (“Neill & Company Fax Form”—where the hell did I get those?). I wrote it on paper and typed it in. Maybe that’s common, maybe there are other low-tech bloggers around, but I felt I was a couple steps removed from chiseling it on stone tablets.

Anyway, I’m desperately trying to get in the habit of actual writing (though maybe I shouldn’t be wasting time on a blog no one comments on…what does it take? Bribes? I’m seriously considering it!). Since the mid-April entry, I’ve produced another entire zine, so I CAN write a lot if I try. Upcoming here: CTA stories, zine promotion, a book-signing spree, an art show dealing with suicide, horror at the new food pyramid, etc. “Soon.”

But right now, a bit about Version 05. (Non-Chicagoans can look it up at I’ve gone to Version in some capacity the past few years. I went to it when it was held at the MCA (Museum for Contemporary Art); I was there during the infamous performance when the cops were called in for some reason. Last year I only made it to a concert held at the Bottom Lounge (I mostly remember getting a compliment from a woman on my new fuchsia with black-and-white appliqué linen skirt [“Only $17 at Marshall’s!”]). And the all-night closing party at the Buddy space on May 1. One of my finest moments ever—I sat in an armchair for 5 straight hours. That requires explaining, but not right now.

This year, I paid $25 for a festival pass, and I’m getting to most of the events. Friday night was the big opening party at Buddy/Highschool/Heaven in Wicker Park.

The lousy weather meant no hanging outside on the roof beyond the time to get beer from the keg (and another round of “Why the Hell Do They Put the Keg Outside?!”). My boyfriend and I, together or apart, wandered between the art show at Heaven, the keg on the Buddy roof, the artsy stuff upstairs at Highschool, and the music, and eventually dancing, at Buddy. (I especially liked Environmental Encroachment’s lively performance there—someone I know, who now has a thriving massage therapy practice, played with them.)

My favorite of everything there was the row of piñatas against the wall at Highschool, with enormous wall text explaining that these were George W. Bush piñatas made and sold in Mexico. But to be shipped across the border without getting stopped at customs, the faces were left blank and they were designated “lawyer piñatas.” So all these little vague papier-mache versions of GWB stood in a tough-guy stance. I expected the display was either to be left untouched, or there’d be a mass demolition at some point, but around midnight, people just started taking them as souvenirs. I really wanted one, but didn’t know if it’d be okay with the artist, and by the time I could deal with this possibly misplaced guilt, they’d all been taken. People carried the piñatas around as if they were cuddly Cabbage Patch dolls, not representations of a widely hated ruler. Or drew faces on them, or ripped them apart, so a stray head or leg would appear on the dance floor.

Before, Highschool had a performance that didn’t impress either my boyfriend or I, so we watched it from the stairwell to make snarky comments. Him: “It’s like a parody of performance art from a Woody Allen movie 20 years ago.” Me: “Art involving naked people is never by the people you want to see naked.” (Not 100% true, but I couldn’t resist.) So we walked through the space to the other side, by the piñatas, to observe from a distance. But the naked guys, one carrying the other, now wrapped in tape or plastic, moved from the stage area to right in front of me (alone and pressed against the wall), making expressions at me, and I tried to stay serious and not crack up, and the two guys collapsed to the floor a few feet away, and it ended. I wonder if this gets in “Chicago Antisocial”--everything involving public nudity seems to.

So my boyfriend (S.) and I went back to Buddy, now much more packed, just after midnight. People seemed to be very drunk and annoying much earlier than usual for a party there, and I spent the next hour or so trying to stay out of the way of all those chemical and fashion casualties. I danced some, but mostly I sat on a sofa, S. coming by occasionally. I was actually happy to be both there with someone, AND to get to go off into one of the sitting-down-and-drifting-off semi-trances I seem to have at almost every Buddy party. By then I’d had a fair amount to drink, so my profound thoughts were:

“Why doesn’t anyone say anything about my green tights? Aren’t they nice?”

“This is the first time I’ve worn high heels here! I did pretty well!”
(I’d bought them at Payless that afternoon. It’s been years since I got anything there, but I bought 4 pairs at 2 different Payless stores Friday. You know, the buy-one-get-one-half-off sale—BOGO. Thanks for coining a stupid new word, Payless.)

“The next time I’m at a party here, I want to be coked up!’
(Despite extremely limited experience with said substance. This is not to suggest anyone is ever under the influence of drugs, or anything other than alcohol [and only if they’re 21+], at any parties I attend. And it’s not to suggest anyone in the scenes I’ve known, like the open mike/spoken word scene, or art school scene, ever consumes anything illegal. And it’s most emphatically not to suggest that there’s a permanently-stained-the-second-time-I-wore-it pink hoodie in my closet that shows why it’s a bad idea to be at a house party where people are doing crystal meth and waving paintbrushes around at 4 a.m.)

So maybe I fell asleep, because I noticed S. was dancing with the now-small crowd on Buddy’s disturbingly uneven and shaky floor (well, when there’s a large crowd, it is), and we got our stuff and left, and he was maybe the drunkest/goofiest I’ve ever seen him, and it was almost 4 a.m.

Saturday evening I went to Version’s “Urban Gardening” event at Open End Gallery, an enormous space a couple blocks from the United Center. I guess I didn’t read the program closely enough to get that this was a show about street art, and that’s what was on the walls, and what an artist from Germany gave a presentation about. I grabbed whatever free stickers and such I could, scarfed down a lot of the delicious pasta (very addictive, garlicky pesto), enjoyed the first band that played, then had to leave to go to something else.

Sunday afternoon I saw a bit of the Terry Plumming event in McKinley Park (at 37th and Damen), but going to Bridgeport was mostly an excuse for a visit to Huck Finn at Damen and Archer to eat and drink coffee and buy a giant chocolate-glazed donut. There may have been a Version “show and tell” event at the Spare Room (just down the street from me) that night, but I didn’t feel like going.

Monday night I met S. at Buddy/Highschool/Heaven for a night of short films in all 3 spaces. It’s amazing how many short films still seem 2 or 3 times longer than they need to be. By which I mean, I didn’t enjoy this as much as other film programs I’ve seen there. The Digital Disobedients program was pretty strong, though. (But it’s not necessary to have someone give a spoken introduction before each film. I’m just sayin’…)

S. and I left around midnight and after a long time decided to stop at Rodan, a nearby bar/restaurant that always looked way too hip for me. But a lot of Version people were there, and the local artist Cat Chow, who I’m acquainted with, was DJing, so I relented. The menu looks creative, Latin American and Asian influences, so I hope to come back when I’ve got money. S. was amazed they had PBR for $2 in such a fancy-looking place; he gave a big tip, afraid they’ll discontinue cheaper drinks because of low tips.

I liked the décor, and told S., “It’s not too…overdone.”
“Well, it’s supposed to be minimalist.”
“I know, but it’s not too…”
“Too minimalist?”
I just couldn’t explain.

I also told him the ladies’ room had something I’ve never seen in a bar bathroom before, and he should see if the men’s room had it too. Thinking this too vague, I added, “It’s what they have instead of a mirror.”
“What, a video camera with a screen projecting your picture?,” he guessed.
“Yes,” I said, simultaneously impressed and crestfallen.
When he did check, the one in the men’s room was broken.

I once again blew my chance to be involved with Version. I’ve got talent, but I just don’t know if what I do fits its high-tech/cutting-edge focus. I mean, I paint, and put out zines, on paper, and give readings. It all seems so old-fashioned, Ye Olde Zine Writer. At the Printer’s Ball (a hotshot event for the Chicago publishing world) in March, I told Edmar (one of the main Version organizers) I hadn’t proposed a project because I couldn’t think of anything, “but maybe something involving cooking?” He said maybe I could be on the “cooking team” and maybe could be an artist for the show and tell event “20x20x20” (I’ve really wanted to do that), and I was very excited about both, but never followed up. Since then, I’ve published a zine I’m very happy with, but I don’t know how to relate it to anything at Version.

So I go to these, like I go to any Lumpen/Buddy/Version/Heaven events, wanting to be more than a spectator. And always feeling a bit—in high school terms—like these are the popular kids I don’t know how to be friends with, you know? Not the kind of popular kids who are snobs, who go out of their way to be rude and condescending to the less popular, or the kind who are at best fake-friendly, but the popular kids who seem genuinely nice to others and try to make them feel welcome, but they seem harried and you’re a bit wary of trying to take up their time because they’re, you know, popular, and they’ve already got plenty of friends.

Oh well. Maybe later I’ll have something better to report.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Pathetically candid desires for modest fame

If this blog’s main theme is my rather-self-absorbed-but-maybe-interesting-to-others quest to become a Published Author, I might as well be explicit about what I’m hoping for. See, I’m not trying to be Sarah Vowell- or Dave Eggers- or whoever-level-famous (i.e., unmanageable numbers, i.e. “legions” of fans). But I don’t want to name the people who do have the amount of success that sounds just right; that’d be too embarrassing.

I should say, I got a respectable minor amount of attention/pseudo-fame for the personal/music zine (Spiffy) I did 11-12 years ago, and for the activist stuff I did from 2000-2003. But I didn’t read my work in public, nor did I really try to get published, or consider myself a “real” writer or artist. Now that’s changed, and here’s the cold hard truth about my wishes and goals. I’m guessing that if I look at this list in one year, no matter where I’m at, I’ll die of shame.

Let’s see. Topics I’ve covered in my writing (but with a “light touch” when possible, mind you) include: crippling shyness/insecurity/loneliness, sexual activity or lack thereof, eating problems, drug use, suicide, self-injury, and failure. Yet I’m thinking the following is TEN TIMES MORE HUMILIATING than all that put together.



Short-term: Read by and commented on by my friends. People I don’t know seeing my promo stickers and checking it out. Linked to by local bloggers, zine web sites, etc.

Long-term: An actual “following.” Mentioned in local/alternative media. And I don’t want to say “blogger with a book deal,” but…

Currently: Uh, see for yourself. I haven’t even told all that many people I know about it yet, even some who are bloggers!


Short-term: Getting my work in locally produced publications (examples could include Lumpen, The 2nd Hand [although they’re fiction and I’m not], Venus, Ladyfriend, Banana King, Chicago Reader, Time Out Chicago). Zines and blogs asking me to contribute work or reprint my stuff. Inclusion in the Zine Yearbook. Tower selling my zine. (Risk of my family finding out what I’m up to.)

Long-term: More of the above, plus getting work in non-Chicago-based national media like Bitch, Clamor, Bust, etc. Publications approaching ME for articles/essays/artwork. Inclusion in collections of personal stories/essays (like something from Seal Press).

Currently: In my present incarnation as a writer of personal nonfiction (as opposed to my previous work of political articles/flyers, or going way back, music reviews), none. That would require effort. I need to start sending my stuff out, not passively wait to be “invited” (that hardly ever happens, right?).

*****Readings/speaking opportunities*****

Short-term: More appearances at open mikes and reading series like the events put on by Diatribe Media. Inclusion in group readings, perhaps something at Quimby’s, the Hideout, Beat Kitchen, etc.

Long-term: Being a feature at an open mike. Getting invited to perform at local events like Dollar Store and Funny Ha-Ha (although I don’t write fiction, or pieces strictly intended as comedy; more like pieces that are incidentally funny, and even the piece I’ve done that got the biggest laughs [“An open letter to Mary-Kate Olsen”] has a fairly [ugh] “poignant” ending). Getting to be a panelist at writers’ conferences. Reading/speaking at my former school as a “successful” alumna. My own reading/signing appearance at a bookstore (or at least one with one or two other writers).

Currently: I sometimes present work at the Finger open mike; other ones I did are kind of on hiatus. Recently became, to my great delight, one of the readers at Diatribe Media’s events (at Mojoe’s coffeeshop, the WLUW Record Fair, hopefully at the Allied Media Conference in Ohio). I’m still very much at the point where getting asked to read somewhere feels like a big favor to ME (I mean, I sure don’t think anyone’s like, “Wow, we got [my name] to perform!”).


Short-term: Self-publish City of Destiny, even if by self-publish I mean photocopy and assemble a 300-page book myself. (There’s a zine/book I’ve seen at Quimby’s called So Midwest that did just that.) Get blurbs from published authors. Book gets coverage in alternative media, at least locally.

Long-term: Someone wants to reprint and distribute City of Destiny, and/or my (not started yet) indie-rock-teen memoir My Mom Made Dinner for Pavement, and/or compile my zines into book form. Book gets reviewed in national alternative or maybe even mainstream media. National distribution. Local bookstore appearances.

Currently: I’ve got an absolute mess of computer files and scribbled pieces of paper I’m determined to turn into City of Destiny, The Book, before I’m 30. (That’s 16 months.) And people have expressed polite interest in it.


Short-term: Getting something broadcast on WBEZ (Chicago’s NPR affiliate).

Long-term: Getting pieces on “This American Life”. Interviewed on “848” (local news/arts/culture show).

Currently: Well, my former neighbor used to be a producer on NPR's “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” and now works for WBEZ, but that’s neither here nor there.

*****Media coverage*****

Short-term: Getting the occasional review of my work in the periodicals listed under “Publication.” Mentions in local media.

Long-term: Most/all of my publications/projects automatically getting reviewed in those periodicals. Featured/interviewed in local or even national media. Also see “Blog,” “Radio,” and “Books.”

Currently: Again, would require effort. But so far, my 2004 zine’s been reviewed in Zine World (it got two reviews in the same issue! That’s rare!), Best Zine Ever, and Slug & Lettuce--none of whom I sent it to. And it got an erroneous mention in New City, and nice listings in the Quimby’s and Loop Distro catalogs.


Short-term: Getting a grant.

Long-term: Getting a grant.

Currently: Tried, didn’t get a grant. (Depriving me of my plan to suddenly get all independent/anarchist-y and decline it; it was a city arts grant and I realized I don’t want government-funded grants.)

*****Fans (in person and online)*****

Short-term: A manageable number (for me to correspond with). People buying my stuff, or trading. My former college instructors mentioning me to students and faculty.

Long-term: A slightly unmanageable number. People buying my stuff, or trading. And also bringing me silly gifts. People that I’m fans of mentioning ME as a favorite, or someone to watch, or whatever.

Currently: I’ve got a decent number of people who knew me first, then knew and liked my work (including my former college instructors), and a much smaller number (but every case of this is REALLY cool) of people who approached me after hearing me read, or got a copy of my zine and wrote me. Some people buy my stuff or make good trades, but often I give my work away to people I’m fans of. No gifts yet.


Short-term: Uh, preferably none.

Long-term: Maybe a bit of jealousy. (“How’d SHE get a grant/book deal/TV interview?”)

Currently: This is a bit off-topic, but in past years I wrote and distributed activist essays/articles, including at Ladyfest Bay Area (2002), and someone picked them up there and she and her friends had a few vicious entries on their Livejournal page misrepresenting and attacking me. (I didn’t find it until 2004.)

Truly embarrassing and true: I want to see how long it takes to get my name in the Reader’s “Chicago Antisocial” column, and in Time Out Chicago. (Plenty of events I’ve been to, and lots of people I know, have been written about there.)

Both my parents have had books published. (One book each, but a total of six editions.) And my brother (and parents) were the main interviewees in an AP feature article that ran a few years ago.
Make of this what you will.

Friday, April 15, 2005

More from the endless introduction

This blog exists because the Web site promoting my book-in-progress, City of Destiny, is frozen until I find the information I used to (get someone else to) set it up, and I learn how to add to the site myself. So I wanted something out there while I figure out what to do with that site and the book, get in the habit of more frequent writing, and maybe even build up some sort of following. (Not that I expect to be another blogger who gets a book deal…)

I suppose I don’t need a theme or a niche for this blog, but it looks like it’s mostly about being a struggling writer in Chicago, trying to establish myself in the literary and art world. This probably won’t be a general political blog or general personal blog (I’d rather not write about my boyfriend or family here, at least not much).

At times in the past I’ve been very into going to indie rock shows, indie/foreign/classic films, protests and political meetings, galleries and museums. I haven’t kept up as much with those interests; my biggest thing the past year or so is reading and writing, especially getting involved in the local alternative/self-published literary scene. Open mikes, blogs, readings (at Quimby’s, the Hideout, Mojoe’s), local zines and magazines like Venus, Punk Planet, etc.

So I’ll record—in admittedly sometimes excruciating and/or embarrassing detail—how it’s going. How I’m promoting my work; readings and lectures I see, writers I talk to.

Next post: I just published a 72-page zine. I’ll say a bit about it, and a terrifying CTA bus mishap.
Coming up: A recap of something like 12 readings and lectures I’ve attended in 2 weeks. (“Chicago Antisocial” in the Reader already beat me to the punch on one, discussing the Banana King #2 release party. I thought that was her...)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Welcome to my semi-anonymous blog

Okay, so here’s the rules (for now). I’m not ever putting my real name on here. I’ll promote the writing and art projects I do, with their titles, obviously; link to other sites that mention me or other things I’ve written; and publicize events I’ll be reading at (or cooking for, or performing at).

And when I know how I’ll put pictures up, including some of me. And in person I’ll tell people I have a blog, City of Destiny.

So it will be absurdly easy to figure out my true identity—fine. My only concern is that neither my first nor last name appear anywhere on the site. I’ll just keep using the initials “k.a.h.” (which I’ve used on some projects).

It’s too much trouble to try to be genderless here. If I say “boyfriend,” you’ll assume I’m a hetero female or gay male (or bi); but if I go on about dresses and hair dye and whatnot (hopefully I won’t), it’ll seem more likely I’m female. So I’ll just say it: I’m a woman. (K.H., Girl Blogger! [shudder])

My other semi-anonymous project, which I’ve now turned into a simple means to publicize THIS, is a sticker I’ve put around the city that says “Chicago is for loners.” (If you see it, it looks just like the “Virginia is for lovers” t-shirt slogan). Long story, won’t tell it now. It’s so gratifying to run into people who’ve seen the stickers and say, “Oh, you do that?”

See, I don’t know if I could ever do a completely anonymous project; my craving for recognition is just too intense.

All this is moot while I still don’t get ANY COMMENTS...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A night of minor indignities

So I'm warming up to work on my zine, or delaying it again...

I spent a few hours Wednesday evening in Oak Park/River Forest. I love taking the Green Line all the way to Harlem, then having lots of places for books, coffee, etc. all within a couple blocks. (I live in Chicago but get excited to visit the suburbs!)

This was my third visit in as many weeks, and I started off at Panera yet again. (I somehow missed it on many earlier trips, though it's right there in the shopping plaza.) I wrote for a bit, then headed to Barbara's for the Elizabeth Crane reading.

I knew I wanted to see her first Chicago-area appearance for her new book (All This Heavenly Glory). I also wanted to have my zine done to have an excuse to talk to her, and I wanted to buy the new book. Neither were a possibility tonight, but I figured I'd at least go hear her.

I met Crane in early 2004 and talked to her a couple times about how much I liked When the Messenger is Hot, and about my book project, City of Destiny. There's more to it I won't get into now. (Cookies were involved.)

I try to meet lots of writers, but I tend to be bizarrely nervous when doing so. So I'm afraid Crane is on the list of Chicago Authors Who Might Think I'm a Bit Crazy (see also: Brian Costello, Joe Meno). The goal is to get her to the list of Chicago Authors Who I Don't Seem as Crazy To As Before (see: Al Burian).

So tonight I just sat in the back and listened. I didn't expect her to recognize me; in fact, I kind of hoped she wouldn't.

She read an amusing story, then (because she clearly had friends in the audience), asked, "Do any people I know want to ask me questions?" then, indicating the people she didn't know, "Except for the back row?" Where I was. (Next to, oddly, someone I kind of know, who'd shown up late).

Well, I didn't expect to be recognized; I just didn't expect to be explicitly NOT recognized.

I'll have my excuse to talk to Crane soon, but I don't think I'll mention this story, even if it has had me chuckling all night...

So after that, I found out that just since my last visit, apparently, the Oak Park Borders put those fucking locks-that-need-tokens on their restroom doors. Why?

I finished the trip at Whole Foods, to get soymilk and tonic water (no, I don't drink them together). In the soymilk aisle, a thirtyish man and woman spoke in a Slavic language as they filled their cart with quarts of Soy Dream. I mean, filled--they must have had SIXTY QUARTS in there, including at least a dozen of chocolate. It's always at least mildly intriguing to see someone buy so much of something, but this just made me...baffled...and angry. I don't dislike Soy Dream, but who likes or needs it THAT much? I like almost every other brand there more. And it wasn't on sale--Vitasoy, on sale right now (and one of the best brands), cost a dollar less per quart. Every time I saw them as I continued shopping, I got more upset.

I pick very, very weird battles sometimes.

Anyway, back to work; I've got a self-publishing fair Saturday to get ready for...