Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On the internet, no one knows

Ever have one of those nights...
Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

...when you're using ironic distance. At least it's not always clear. A friend and I have been guilty of some silly/cutesy/flirty stuff going on across our MySpace pages; I think he started it but I upped the ante considerably by directly calling myself "teenager-ish" and putting Unrest's 1993 "Make Out Club" on my page. I seriously couldn't resist; that's a song that energizes me to this day, but I did intend it ironically (mostly). Anyway, I'm trying to dial things down there and on Flickr (and as always I avoid PDAs in "real life"); I don't especially like seeing people act half their age like this. Part of the intended irony here is that I didn't get to act this way when I WAS a teenager, at least not until after high school. And anyone who's known me a while knows I went through my most severe/dangerous teen-angst-ish phase in my late 20s...perhaps I'm coming out of it and just getting to some of the good stuff now.

Anyway, I went to bed feeling embarrassed, because of that, and because for the first time EVER my downstairs neighbor knocked on my door to ask if I could turn down the music (11:30 p.m., Quasi, not playing that loud, but sound really carries into the hallway). No problem, it just amuses me coming from the neighbors who've had crazy screaming fights (at 7 a.m., 7 p.m., later, other times in between) on and off for many months, with plenty of door-slamming and object-throwing. I debated whether I should blog anything about it, but I will just to put this photo up. See, often things were so loud downstairs I thought a car must have crashed into the building. Then in February, I got home (on the CTA) from a very nice second date...and saw a car had crashed into the building. (Neighbors had nothing to do with it.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Things will turn around

Ha. I was in a funk around 7:30, nothing serious, just late-afternoon blahs where no one I know seems to be online, at least compared to yesterday evening, and no one's noticing what I'm doing, as compared to yesterday when 1) two Flickr people I've met found and friend-requested me on MySpace 2) my Flickr page views crept up to, then easily surpassed 2000 (and of course I'll pay no more attention to it until it's approaching 5000, right?) 3) my MySpace profile views finally topped 300 4) two random people added me as Flickr contacts in the space of a few minutes 5) people quickly responded to my email.

But then after 7:30, someone was obviously looking through/commenting on one of my most obscure Flickr sets, then all at once I was 1) watching someone I know on TV (Andrew of, a panelist on "Chicago Tonight," introduced at the top of the show as a segment on what news "online bloggers" are covering, "online" bloggers as opposed to..."standing on a street corner shouting" bloggers?) 2) noticing someone just added me as a Flickr contact AND sent an email 3) getting a phone call I'd been waiting for, re: tomorrow's Halloween/CTA-riding/photo plans. When all that wrapped up, a Flickr person who'd never commented on my photos before did and added two new ones as a favorite. So, you know, now I'm feeling better but I'm still finishing yesterday's bottle of raspberry malt liquor (as good as it sounds!) anyway.

The photo? I like its blurry darkness--this was a very creepy room I hadn't seen before in a very hidden part of this abandoned school--and I was going to post it to Flickr, but then Noah beat me to the punch with a really good photo of the same thing, so check it out and enjoy. But hey, a couple minutes before he took it, I was standing very quietly out of sight in the room even though I heard footsteps approaching, and I may have finally scared someone in an abandoned building, just a little. Sorry, couldn't resist...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Signs of life

Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

It's been a good weekend (even though right now it's after 6 and I still haven't eaten LUNCH, and my sinuses/throat/everything else are filled with industrial debris and mildew) but I've promised that I won't talk about EVERYTHING on this blog, so I can't talk about it here. Use your imagination. Hey, wait, not to that extent!

Anyhow, please enjoy this photo of a store somewhere in Chicago. (But what do they SELL?) (Chicago Public Radio favorited it on Flickr.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

This is what I got a tripod for?

This statement is inaccurate!
Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

Last Friday I finally bought a medium-size tripod (I know I've got a tabletop one somewhere) before the big photo trip to Gary. I haven't yet learned to take good photos in large spaces (and I've been in a lot of them recently), but I've made much use of the tripod for getting ever-more-ridiculous self-portraits. Today, after one exploration fell through, I took a short trip over to the Damen silo area mentioned in yesterday's post. I didn't have the time or the nerve to go all the way in the silos by myself (found a way in that doesn't involve going through a hole in the fence, though) but I had a wonderful time (this was a little before the weather went bad) walking around the train tracks, underpasses, and canal. Relaxing, low-risk trespassing. (Lots of drivers and a couple pedestrians saw me, no one cares.) Some views there I'd never seen before, and some I saw in the dark Wed. I saw this graffiti and immediately went nuts with it--I've got some "serious"-looking poses, but the combo of "I Hate Myself" and a big smile seemed best. Actually, "this statement" is more like "75% inaccurate," but I didn't want to be a downer on Flickr. (The blog is the proper repository for all angst.)

It's also important to note the whole time, I was carrying around a giant donut I bought at Huck Finn on the way over. Yup, they still got 'em...

I actually want to go to Phoenix

I haven't read Ann Patchett before but right now I've got her new novel Run overdue from the library, yet another book I've been reading having to do with adoption and race. If you wonder about my interest in that subject, the photo right here might explain things. I'm not sure I want to put current photos of my family up here and anyway, I don't have a remotely recent photo of my brother handy. The adoption industry is one of those topics to Not Get Me Started On, so I won't get myself started, but you can see my excellent adoption reading list here at Goodreads.

I'm afraid I only talk to my brother a few times a year and right now I can't quite remember the last time I saw him or visited him in Arizona (he used to live in Tempe, now in Phoenix). I think my wish to see him again outweighs my negative attitude towards the Phoenix area.

Sure, there's still some "nature" (mountains and such) there. I've seen a Frank Lloyd Wright building at Arizona State and apparently he has a ton of other Phoenix-area buildings I didn't know about. The relatively new main branch library in what passes for downtown Phoenix is fun to visit, and Tempe's got a few requisite quirky-college-town establishments.

But...that place is a nightmare of sprawl, and barely seems to have any buildings more than a few decades old and most of what's there is ugly. The city buses run so infrequently that you need to study their small-town-phone-book-sized schedule book so you don't wait another hour in the heat. (I do love how the buses post signs saying "No Guns Allowed.") I already wasn't too keen on the place, and since my last visit I've seriously learned about architecture and city planning, and I'm afraid I'll be in a constant state of despair at how spread-out and uninteresting it all is.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I just haven't found the good stuff yet. Dare I admit that one of the things making me want to visit is...finding abandoned buildings? Not only would it be a thrill to explore a totally different area of the country, but I have a feeling this could be a hobby we could bond over, having very few other interests in common. I don't want to get us in any trouble with the law, though. See, he's been in jail, I'VE been in jail...but he's been in prison, too. (Now I feel like I'm saying too much.)

I have no idea when I'll go; probably not the dead of winter when it costs a lot to fly there. I can't wait to see Phoenix with new eyes, and despite my borderline-Asberger's-syndrome inability to express affection (especially to my family) as well as I'd like, I love him and miss him and feel awful it's been so long.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What I was doing 24 hours ago

Every time I hang out with this particular friend, I end up covered in plaster, dirt, and debris. I never knew I wanted a friend like that, but hey...I'm not complaining. This is yesterday's death-defying trip, into a different abandoned silo complex, this one with 99% intact ladders (still plenty of giant deep holes, though) and a sweet view of the Chicago skyline. We were there for the sunset and then had dinner nearby at one of my top 24-hour restaurants, Huck Finn (who have "three kinds of products: donuts, ice cream, and food"). I had hot chocolate (with whipped cream, do you even have to ASK?) and cheese blintzes with strawberries and sour cream. I've never had whipped AND sour cream in the same meal. Huck Finn is famous (to all who know me) for their giant, half-pound "Texas" donuts, but none were in sight. I didn't even see a sign for them. Very suspicious, I'll have to investigate...

In other news, I missed the talk at CAF about Naperville. I've got a book that's going to be way overdue at the library because I want to finish it and return it to the far-off branch (South Shore) myself, and it's on hold for someone else so I feel guilty. Still, if that's the worst thing I've done all year...

I Got 99 Problems

I Got 99 Problems
Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

Here's a mildly popular new one from Flickr. I captioned it "Yeah, well, I'm sure I've got at least 126." This is a mysterious closed store (?) on Roosevelt near Austin. (The other side says "Don't Hate" Chuuurch!) After I took photos there I ate at a relatively-new (though it'd obviously been a restaurant before) tiny diner called The Depot, my second visit. The prices are listed as "Departure Times," cute. Quite reasonable--the egg cream (I'd never had one before) was a couple bucks, the egg salad sandwich was good, and the fries are seasoned. Definitely check it out if you're exploring the West Side/Berwyn. And there's more quirky signs and old buildings in either direction here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

(Obsessive) summer progress report, a tad late

So the staff here at CofD HQ have convened, vodka-cranberry drinks in hand, to discuss how well Katherine met her summer goals, the ones she listed, or meant to list, in early June, that would guide her through the official end of summer. The report was supposed to be issued in late Sept., but because it's barely felt like fall yet (pushing 80 degrees in late October), the staff got a little distracted. But here it is: how much did Katherine achieve from June to September? (The report will now switch to first person because writing like this is VERY annoying.)

BICYCLING: Ride Critical Mass for the first time in years? YES: twice. Bike all the major diagonal streets in Chicago, all the way? SOME: Broadway, Elston, Northwest Highway, Ogden, Rogers. Crazy long trips? SOME: more on these later. Bike the entire lakefront? NO. Keep track of exact routes and total the miles per day and see if I averaged 5 miles/day? HELL NO. (But next year...)

DATING/FRIENDS: Go on dates: YES. Kiss someone? YES: I'm not saying much more than that. Get dumped a few days before my birthday? YES: What a remarkably prescient (and depressing) thing to put on one's "goal" list. Well, of course I didn't, but why not put it on next year's list? Why expect birthdays to be anything other than utter vortexes of self-loathing and despair? But hey, of course I'm friends now with that guy, cause that's my style, you know. And he's the one who got me into Flickr, and through Flickr I've made new friends, and both Flickr and the odd hobbies I've picked up through it (traipsing around in decaying buildings) are BETTER than...uh...anyway... Keep up with friends? YES: but not enough. Make new friends? YES: through Flickr and MySpace, and some are even friends in real life. (Oh, and I did have a good time hanging out with friends [two different ex-boyfriends!] on my birthday, it wasn't all bad.)

EVENTS: Get to at least a few of the 100s of festivals? YES. Parades? YES: LGBT Pride, and the entire Bud Billiken parade for the first time (4 hours! I'd only seen bits of it before). Gigantic hipster concerts? SOME: totally missed Pitchfork (it sold out so I stood outside the gates for parts!), didn't try Lollapalooza, did go to the second day of the Hideout Block Party. Make use of my Chicago Architecture Foundation membership by going on walking tours for free? YES: lots, though I didn't seem to have a membership till July, even though I'd volunteered there over a year. Giant free events in Millenium Park or wherever that I'd feel like a fool for missing, I mean, look at all the stuff this city does for FREE (even if the schools and public transit are falling apart)? SOME: The Decemberists, "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me", a New Orleans-themed concert, "Young Frankenstein" in Grant Park. No Summerdance, none of the early Sat. morning yoga/pilates/workouts in the park--next year, sure, right, ha!

FOOD: Visit lots of farmers' markets? SOME: but I never bought anything. Cook frequently with summer produce? SOME: but not really until I brought back a ton of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs from Iowa. (Blog briefly interrupted to check on the two hot green peppers still in the fridge. Still solid, but dear god, can they possibly be edible?) Visit all my favorite ethnic grocery stores? SOME: by which I mean hardly any. Visit dive bars I've meant to try? NO: but a few non-dives I hadn't tried. Visit family restaurants/pancake houses/24-hour grills I meant to try? YES, oh yes. Visit other sorts of restaurants/coffeeshops? YES, quite a few. This is one of the only true "achievements." Visit Filter in Wicker Park every day the last two or so weeks they were open? YES: can't believe how much time/money I spent there. I miss them...what happened to that whole reopening-in-Logan-Square thing?

NATURE: Beaches? NO: dipping my feet in at Howard Street and North Ave. beaches but never actually going in the water/swimming because I don't know what to wear for a swimsuit (I'm thinking men's swim trunks) doesn't count. Parks? SOME: didn't get to all the big ones, but enough.

READING/WRITING: I don't know what my reading goals were, suffice it to say I visited a lot of libraries (including Evanston and Des Plaines) and read a lot of books. Write this blog? SOME: restarted in late August. Re-establish this as a fabulous, frequently updated blog, get some flashy cards, attend the BlogHer conference in Chicago and promote myself? ABSOLUTELY NOT. But it was my dream months ago. Write stories/essays? SOME: one finished piece. Write a zine? NO. Complete any of my obsessive Chicago projects (i.e., retaking the routes in an old tour book and writing about it)? NO.

TRAVEL: Visit family in Iowa? YES. Go anywhere else, including conferences I meant to go to in Detroit and in Portland, OR? NO. And my roommate went to the latter, which just made me feel worse.

TRYING NEW THINGS: Oh, finally some success! Besides the new routes I biked, restaurants I tried, festivals I attended, I'd say getting onto Flickr (I started the day after my birthday), and then MySpace, and then LibraryThing, and then GoodReads (and I signed onto Facebook and Shelfari but haven't done anything there yet) is pretty significant. And then the whole exploration thing: 10/22 was my one-month anniversary! I went to the Brach's factory with a Flickr group. And that's going to be a huge, huge part of the blog from now on, sorry to anyone who wants it to be about...whatever the hell else I've been pretending I'm writing about.

Overall verdict: We just got a little more to drink and we're mulling this over. A truly impressive amount of running around this past summer (oh, did we not mention Katherine didn't have a job during this time?) but few coherent accomplishments. But she's making up for it now, really she is.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I think I've had more adventure and success in the last week than in the past year (or five), almost all related to my new quasi-career of exploring abandoned buildings. Sunday 10/21 I took the leap into going into some abandonments all by myself. Very easy, open ones, but still.

I need to slow down the adventures to actually write about/post photos of what I've been doing. Some people are impressed, some are a little worried about me. Don't know if I'll be getting a hard hat but I definitely do need a better flashlight. More on what the hell I'm talking about soon. I've added more architecture/city planning/exploration sites to the blogroll, for your enjoyment, or at least for my convenience.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm on the "Daily You Shoot" Reader blog

For 10/19; it's my shot from Monday 10/15 (as of right now my most popular Flickr shot, as far as "favorites" go) of the Jacob Riis Elementary demolition. Not bad for my first time inside there...actually, my first trip all the way inside a building undergoing demolition!

My photo is here
Update: apparently this inspired a poem. (???) See the comment...


Archicenter volunteer shift
Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

Not everyone's as excited about it as I appear to be here.
This photo's from my Oct. 1 shift. It's misleading because I don't actually have anything to do with the exhibits other than standing in the store and pointing people towards the gallery areas. I was very happy to see this show coming, despite the name being a little silly. The show has a section about a major fatal bridge collapse, and got put up right around the time of the Minneapolis bridge collapse--eerie but timely. I'm trying to get to the related programs (there's a talk this week about Naperville! Exclamation point because I like reading books about the history of suburbs!).

I need to know more about how cities work (or don't) and given my new exploration hobby/vice, I need to know what the things I'm seeing actually are called. I know a moderate amount about architecture (enough to constantly point out quoins to people) but when it comes to what you'll find in an industrial corridor, on a waterfront, or in an abandoned factory, I'm tired of feeling all Malibu-Stacy-"don't ask me, I'm just a girl!"-ish and calling everything a "structure," "device," "machine," or "thingy." I want to know the difference between bascule bridges and...the other kinds of bridges. (Suspension?)

This Wed. I went to a talk by Soliman Khudeira, Project Director at the Chicago Department of Transportation, called "Loop Lighting Program: Wabash Avenue Improvement" because I was curious what's going on on Wabash (it's been a mess of construction). Man, I LOVE this city, a big roomful of people showed up to hear a talk about LIGHTING--I honestly didn't think it'd be that crowded. We learned about the various lights and structures they're putting on Wabash and which other streets they'll be working on (if there's funding). The speaker decided to take one last question: a man asked why Chicago is putting up all this Victorian/1890s-style stuff instead of something modern. I've wondered that too, though I don't dislike the 1890s style. He didn't have much of an answer...

On the way out I picked up a copy of the bulletin for the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois. I'm sorry to say I totally missed commemorating Engineering Licensure Month (August). (Recently declared as such in Illinois by the governor.) Oh well, start planning for next year.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Amazing Mystery Location of Wonder and Rust (and Mystery)

You can do it!
Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

Whatever you were doing today, it probably didn't involve climbing oh, 7 or 8 stories into an abandoned grain silo. (More on this later.) (Hey, I just learned the "Blog This" feature on Flickr, this should make my life infinitely easier.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Four weeks ago at the Archicenter

I heard from an employee that one of the people we'd helped book an architectural cruise for that afternoon was Beau Bridges. I was pretty sure I recalled which man it was, but I was upset because it didn't feel like a "real" celebrity sighting if you don't recognize the person at the time. I went to Sears and was in the restroom when a friend called and I took a cell phone call in a restroom for the first time (normally I'd think that was preposterously rude, but no one else was there) and I told my friend. I came home and googled what he'd been in recently--oh yeah, he's Earl's dad on "My Name is Earl" right now!

Today at the Archicenter

(I've been volunteering at the Chicago Architecture Foundation as a Visitor Services Volunteer since March 2006, usually every other Monday morning.) I got to my 9:30am-1:00 shift just 5 minutes late. (I'm improving.) I'd had coffee but no breakfast at home and I really regretted the latter when it seemed too busy to even run a few yards across the building to grab something at Corner Bakery. A pretty big group (16) for the 10am Historic Skyscrapers walking tour. I was sure the 11am Chicago Old & New tour had been using "the devices" (these things that amplify the docent's voice; you hook a rubber earpiece over one ear. And you have to leave an ID/credit card at the store as a deposit and get it back at the end) for the last month or so. (Historic uses them, so you've got to give them out before 10 and gather them back at noon.) The employee at the ticket counter then wasn't aware this tour used them, so I had to scramble to hand out 24 devices at 11 when the tour should have been leaving. (I should add that about 20 of the people taking the tour didn't buy their tickets until about 10:55.) Then both docents' devices didn't work and I had to replace them. Still, the tour only left 8 minutes late, so no problem, and my 1:00 replacement showed up early so I didn't even have to gather them back in.

New experiences today: a woman couldn't take a device because she's allergic to rubber. And, I broke an earpiece.
Not new: I directed a lot of people to Frank Lloyd Wright stuff in Hyde Park and Oak Park. I stole glances at cute guys buying tickets until their (of course) girlfriends showed up. I practiced my slow, purposeful pacing. I only got through a few pages of my book.

I was about to randomly bring up my Flickr page when the midday ticket employee mentioned he'd just got a digital camera. I had an excuse and we talked about Flickr/photography for a while, and I told him and the man who "hired" me as a volunteer all about my legitimate and less-legitimate architectural photos. (I mean, the ones that aren't quite obtained legally...)

So I got out early and ate at the Bongo Room (South Loop version) for the first time--excellent croissant sandwich, and I've never, ever gotten my food so fast at a place like that! Coffee was a little slower. Eventually I got home, then out again.

Then a Flickr friend and I spent nearly two hours wandering around a school under demolition. Then I got some tiramisu gelato in (area that used to be Maxwell Street).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I'll give you something to cry about

Just a figure of speech; I haven't been crying. Wow, there I was complaining about Flickr and getting nothing done in life (hey, I've at least moved laundry from the futon to the hamper since then)...Since then, the good: I had two Flickr meetups in one day (one an official meetup, one more of an adventure) which were great fun. I've gotten a lot more page views, though a lot might be from one person who's picked a bunch of my photos as favorites (thanks!) including one that's of ME (mildly disconcerting, but at least it's a person I've met).

And I had the most exciting photo shoot ever, even better than the factory two weeks earlier. But my SD card went nuts for no reason about 2/3 of the way into our adventure and said "Error" and "0 Images" and I haven't been able to read it on any camera or computer. I may have to retake 150 images (and the many great shots I missed after the card quit), which isn't completely bad because the place we shot at will be virtually identical next time I see it. But is partially bad because it's not easy to go to this place myself. (Just being on the street outside I get lots of men honking their horns at me.) I'm always doing things people consider "risky": I take the CTA by myself late at night, I walk or bike by myself late at night (through less scary areas), I bike or take the CTA (during the day) through nearly all the "bad" neighborhoods of Chicago. But going into an abandoned building by myself just seems much scarier. Even though our group didn't run into anyone there. There are people who'd like to go back; but I don't know if they'd hang around while I reshoot 200 or so photos.

Hey Katherine, why don't you ever post any photos HERE? Yeah, I'm working on it...

Friday, October 05, 2007

I just need inspiration to do my laundry

I'm drinking tea because I don't want to overdo coffee today. I'm wondering why it's raining when it's supposed to be sunny and another fabulous day for me of bicycling. I just watched an Oprah episode that's supposed to be all inspirational and stuff (a whole hour with one guest--the author of Eat Pray Love, which does sound good), you know, a woman leaving an "ideal" life to find herself through spirituality and pleasure, and how when you do all that finding yourself, that's when you find love. You know, how you find love when you're "not looking." Uh-huh, not looking has worked out REAL well for me. I'm resorting to bad grammar ("real" instead of "really"). I'm wondering what will inspire me to wash the unwashed clothes on my futon from my trip to Iowa a month ago. At least I'm doing dishes; having a roommate forces you to not fall completely into disrepair.

And worst of all, I'm taking out my crankiness about finally posting photos on Flickr from my most-fun photo shoot ever (68 consecutive photos with no photos of the El or cats or neon signs or anything inbetween) to crushing indifference by writing pissy comments in my photo captions. Everyone else is a better photographer/posted theirs already/has been doing urban exploration much longer (I just bought the book on it last night). Whatever, I had fun. (I've promised myself to no longer complain here about no one reading my blog; now I come to the blog to complain about my Flickr page. While I'm at it, I need friends on