Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Just one more blogged-from-Flickr, then I'll be back to the chore of photo-essay posts here, okay? By the way, this is my 100th post on this blog! (Not counting an old draft I never posted, or any I've deleted.) A couple Chicago-area blog adds: Orthette (who I've gone on a few photo excursions with). And Jackpix, terrific photos by the peripatetic* Jack Cantey.

I've also added my LiveJournal blog, daily photo-less ramblings about my bike trips and so on. Most of it is public. If I know you from elsewhere, I'll "friend" you there, and/or on Facebook, where I finally put up a profile last week. (I won't link to Facebook here because I think my page is set to private--it'd better be, my dad is on Facebook!) I deleted the LibraryThing link because I lost my password and I don't think I ever verified it by email so I have no way of getting on again till I find the password.

As for real housekeeping...the situation hasn't been good. Sure, one side of the sink is empty enough to use, there aren't dirty clothes on the floor, and when a mouse suddenly showed up dead on my bathroom floor one night last week (I've heard them in my pantry, but where'd that one come from?!) I forced myself to get rid of it before I went to bed. But I've kind of let things go. Piles of books to move, tons of stuff rescued from the demolished school piled on my futon, clean laundry to sort...not to mention I haven't done anything about the wrong-number collection agency calls I've been getting for weeks. (Kristin [my last name] owes student loans. I've had this phone # for over ten years. I've never had student loans. I've been getting as many as 20 calls a day from various numbers about this. I've also gotten collection calls for someone else but I think it's mostly Kristin now. I tried to clear this up months ago but it obviously didn't work.)

Everything's fallen apart because things were already a mess in my life and then...okay, finally writing about this, a month ago I lost a relationship and a roommate the same weekend (this was two different people). Neither was a surprise and neither involved any fights or major conflict, but both those losses happened sooner than I'd expected. I've done nothing about getting a new roommate (as you could guess from above). There's been a very delicate situation involving the guy I'd dated and who he's started something with, who's also become an online friend of mine. Even if I have nothing bad to say, I probably shouldn't say anything else here.

Anyway, the weather is marginally okay enough for bicycling, so I may once again check out some southeast side ruined industrial goodness.

*I mean "walking about," not "Aristotelian." Proof that it's a good habit to look up any word if I'm not 100% sure of its definition.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bicycling season is here!

The bike is back!
Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

For me, I mean. It never went away for some of you. But my back wheel was stolen in November...this had never happened in the 13 years I'd had the bike, nearly all in Chicago, and then it did when the bike was locked a few days in front of my building. Last Tuesday night, in a caffeinated fit (I made it over two months without coffee! or anything containing caffeine other than chocolate/hot chocolate), I walked the bike the 10 blocks to the shop. I didn't think I could take it on a bus and I didn't want to ask a friend with a car for a favor.

I thought the store might be closed so I locked it overnight and came back to Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square the next afternoon, a gorgeous day. While they quickly repaired it, I ate at Johnny's Grill and took photos in the area. The prices were reasonable for the parts/repair, but it added up to more than I realized it would ($162, which must be half of what I paid for the bike itself). But I was so happy to have it back, I biked 5 miles Wed. evening, 24 miles Thurs., and 10 yesterday.

I was in a hurry to get it fixed for yesterday's Critical Mass...and the forecast was so lousy (yes, they got rained on) that I didn't go; in fact, I didn't even make it home on the bike, and it's locked up across from the Ferrera Pan Candy Co. in Forest Park.

If you're on LiveJournal, I just started a bike blog there (kofc.livejournal.com), because for several years I've meant to keep a log of my mileage and streets I travel (and to mark them off on a copy of the Chicago bike map). I'm debating the extent to which it'll be friends-only (i.e. you have to be a LiveJournal member to see it); I need to keep some of it private to keep my location private...but right now I only have one reader, ouch. Anyway, if you don't see it at all, no big deal, any of the GOOD stories will end up here, in my usual timely fashion. Oh, and I've also started a group on Flickr called Bicycling Chicago--there was no general-interest Chicago bicycle group there. If you're on Flickr with any bike photos whatsoever, feel free to join!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The streak is over

The field (and a post)
Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

Thanks to this, the first time I'd ever seen the inside of Wrigley Field, Saturday April 19, I can no longer say (or was it brag?) that I've lived in Chicago 12+ years without ever attending a sporting event here. More later, obviously. I liked it enough to consider going again, maybe even on my own, maybe even to other sporting venues.

Having blog avoidance guilt again. I wrote that last post from my local library branch--and that was the first time I've ever gone online at a Chicago library--and within minutes of getting home, AT&T called to say they could come fix my DSL early. EARLY. So I wouldn't have to wait around the next day. A worker was over within a half-hour and spent about 90 minutes fixing things--mostly a problem with the line outside, but my phone cord inside was somewhat frayed. It was their fault, so the repair was free. I had been planning to go to Dating For Nerds that night, but I figured an emergency DSL repair, and then immediately getting on to post photos (I missed a day on Flickr! oh no!) was a solid nerdy excuse to miss it. An uncharitable friend suggested if I was more of a real nerd, I'd know more about fixing things myself. Whatever, that was a nice surprise, and I feel guilty I didn't jump right back on with a new post here...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I have an excuse this time

"The shape of things to come in North Lawndale"
Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

I really didn't want to leave that last post at the top of the page for so long, I never do with the blogged-from-Flickr ones, or with anything too personal. But my DSL's been out at home since sometime between 1 am and 9 am Tuesday morning (I took a few hours off for sleep). It hasn't been out in this way--red light or blinking orange light, can't get it back on--since before I started my obsessive use of the internet in late August 07. So you can imagine how frustrated I am...a day or two without new Flickr photos, oh no! They're supposed to look at it tomorrow. Meanwhile, I'm at the library with 6 minutes remaining, so enjoy this photo of a vacant lot. Taken Sunday, when I'd expected lousy (cloudy/snowy) weather so I could stay in and read...but it turned out to be nice, so I had to run all over taking photos.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Six months of Washburne, etc.

Green floor at the school
Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

No, it's not six months since I first went to Washburne Trade School, my favorite exploration site in Chicago (one I've somewhat neglected recently while another huge trade-oriented school has been torn down), but six months since I first got photos there, including this, still one of my all-time-favorites. My first visit, with a group of Flickr people, was incredibly fun but my memory card quit about 2/3 of the way through the excursion, losing the 150 or so shots I've took. I definitely wasn't yet up to going in these places alone and had to wait for an online friend to offer to take me back to reshoot, and I first met him six months ago today.

Since then, I've spent a lot of time at WTS (I even managed to be there on Thanksgiving, New Year's, and Easter--the latter two were somewhat spontaneous trips with friends) and with that person. If you'll forgive the metaphor, I could say that both this place and that relationship have undergone changes and I've lost some of what I wished was still around, but what's still there is pretty cool, and important to me.

On a lighter note, this visit was also the first time I faced the dilemma of desperately needing a restroom in a place that didn't have functioning restrooms. My camera batteries were running out and that shortened the visit a bit, but still...There's still not an ideal solution to this problem, but I recommend visiting abandoned buildings with Burger King, McDonald's, or Starbucks nearby.

Anyway, for those of you who haven't seen it, here's my WTS set. I highly recommend photo sets by Noah and David; both have beautiful photos of parts of the building that were torn down before I first visited. We've all blogged about WTS more than once, too...

That pretty much does it for the quasi-anniversaries I've been celebrating (Flickr, UE, making friends)...until it's been a year. I think I passed the 3-year anniversary of this blog not long ago, but I didn't count it because I went two years without posting here.

This constant urge to commemorate could be related to another of my nerdy public radio obsessions--all the anniversary stories they run. In the past week, I heard stories about the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the subsequent city riots, the 100th anniversary of Bette Davis' birth, and the 75th anniversary of the end of Prohibition--or more specifically, Anheuser-Busch starting to produce beer again. So Monday I picked up some Schlitz and spent the evening having beer to commemorate that date, and eating ice cream to commemorate that I had ice cream around.

(Okay, I just checked my past "flickrphoto" tagged posts here to see if I'd used this photo before, and I realized that all the posts where I've since replaced photos on Flickr now come up without images, and I truly don't know how to redo these, unless it's to insert the actual photo in each post...)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Discovering the abandoned CTA

Thanks to the wonderful Chicago-L.org, I learned of six still-existing abandoned CTA stations, and since I decided to visit every existing CTA station, I decided these are "existing" enough for the project. Plus, these are the intersection of my CTA obsession and abandoned building obsession--although I didn't expect to "explore" the stations (and didn't).

I set out one sunny March afternoon, taking the North bus to Western and stopping to snap a few photos of the threatened (and not especially attractive, but I like having a record so I won't forget what used to be there) buildings near the southeast corner, including this one that had been an Easter Seals building until quite recently. Then I got the Western bus to the Blue Line, Forest Park branch.

I started off with regular station photos of Western, Kedzie, and Pulaski, some of which I had to revisit in future trips to get anything remotely interesting. You have to work a bit harder on this branch of the L to find good shots, but there's some charming signage, and I kind of like the pastel brick station houses. I left the Pulaski station to walk the half-mile to the abandoned Kostner station, passing an area of block club signs, attractive greystones, and syringes underfoot across the street from an elementary school.

The Kostner station has steps and a walkway that allowed me to stand over the expressway and get shots of the not--too--exciting station house, stairs, and platform.

From there, I walked another half-mile to the next open station at Cicero. I somehow got onto Harrison and I believe I saw a stretch of that street I'd never seen before. I definitely want to thoroughly bike the West Side this year--I've done a lot of the South Side in the past couple years (and hope to see all that again, too). Miscellaneous industrial buildings, bars, churches--here's a cross protected by Brinks.

It was quite desolate there, which at least meant no one asked what I was taking pictures of. Signs I like, of course, and cute cats next to empty bottles of motor oil...

I'll have to go back to Cicero to reshoot Belmonte Liquors (which was nowhere near Belmont, needless to say). I got on the train again and got my shots of the Cicero and Austin stations.

From Austin, it was a confusing trek to find the abandoned Central station. I think the best way to approach it in the future would be heading south on Central, past the oft-overlooked Columbus Park, but on this trip I was walking east from Austin, trespassing an industrial area that was already deserted after 4, making my way over train tracks, some of which I was certain weren't in use, others that were (but not until I was out of the area).

There's no real station house left at the Central station, just a lot of platform area, overgrown by plants, surrounded by graffiti. I got very close. So close, in fact, that I could have gone into the station easily if not for the pesky issue of the electrified rail. I do have my limits. I looked around the tracks for a bit, then took the same path back to the Austin station, well-covered in prickly burrs.

I took the train to Kedzie and just barely grabbed a Harrison bus to the last abandoned station of the day, California. The sun was setting by now. The California station is at the top of this post. I noticed another bar walking north, though I'm certain it's long-closed. I got shots of the signs and as I walked away, a man jumped out from behind the building shouting "HEY! HEY! HEY!" at me. I don't know what that was about, because I pretended not to hear and walked north.

In this rather run-down stretch of California, I noticed a fancy mid-century modern furniture store, one of several things I want to come back and photograph. But when I saw the S. California bus coming, I wasn't going to pass it up.

I finally posted this because I'm just about to embark on a walking-and-photography trip that will make this one look tiny and insignificant...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I wrote recently of my public-radio-fan nerdery, and here's another example: I was eagerly awaiting the April Fool's stories on NPR yesterday. Their all-time great hoax, in 1992, was that Richard Nixon (still alive then, obviously) was planning to run for president. The Museum of Hoaxes has a funny list of 1992 pranks (a giant banner in Los Angeles saying "Welcome to Chicago?" Cool!) and actually declared the Nixon gag #6 of all time. I overslept, so if Morning Edition had anything, I missed it. Chicago Public Radio ran a story in their afternoon news segments about how the Cubs, due to a MLB ruling, actually have won a World Series since 1908; the story's on their web page. Nice, but didn't fool me.

I knew there'd be a piece during All Things Considered and I expected it during the last part of one of their half-hours, but running it dead last on the show was too obvious. Something about a "subminimalist" classical composer, and they had a super-pretentious record review by a critic (why not their usual classical critic? wouldn't that make it more convincing?). Oh well, it was cute. (And having heard today's ATC comments, did fool some people.)

I had to stand outside the Whole Foods on N. Halsted to hear that story because radio reception dies in the store. Then I went in and bought fake coffee (I ran out of Pero and they didn't have it, so I bought the tastier, pricier Teecino. And today, forgot that you have to make it with a French press, it doesn't just dissolve in hot water like Pero. Oops) and fake milk (hemp milk, which I've wondered about for a while, was finally on sale. I tried vanilla--it's good, kind of like oat or almond maybe?). I also visited the new Belmont & Damen location of the Bleeding Heart Bakery for a vegan blueberry-lemon cheesecake bar (I far prefer vegan cheesecake to the "real" thing; it's hardly identical, and that's why I like it) and my second hot chocolate of the day. (In case you haven't picked it up, I'm still not drinking coffee--going two months without it.)

But on the bus home listening to Marketplace, I was well into a story, half-paying-attention, before I realized it was fake--something about IRS rebates being issued as merchandise, a couple in Phoenix getting an air conditioner. It definitely seemed weird when their regular commenter Robert Reich was rambling about free Viagra and toasters. See, this story worked because they ran it less than halfway into the show...I didn't spend much time looking up Internet April Fool's jokes, there's fake stuff on the Internet at all times, but thanks to a bit on Schadenfreude, I've learned what "rickrolling" is. I'm so late to these net fads, I was looking at LOLcats on Pandagon for months before knowing what they were...

One of my Flickr friends--and disappointingly few tried April Fool's gags--fooled some people with a disturbing story of vintage-Barbie-inspired violence at a flea market. I hope she doesn't mind the link; I should also say she's got more flattering photos of herself on her page, as well as many terrific photos of Barbie and other toys. All I did was put up another shot from the demolished school I've been visiting and claim the police showed up...maybe I should have made up a story about finding a finger in an abandoned building, as a friend once did.

So these photos are from an impulsive trip Monday of last week; on the way to a store, I saw a cluster of abandoned buildings, and went back to investigate. Fairly sealed up, and right next to active buildings, so I contented myself with observing the playground equipment. Katherine's Self-Promotion Corner time again! The first photo in the post was my first ever ChicagoPublicRadio.org photo of the day. I don't see an archive of them, but the past week's feed is here and my screenshot is here. (For the Flickr addicts out there, Monday night I finally learned to do screenshots, and how to add a widget to my profile, and how to create collections of my photosets, which I'd tried unsuccessfully before. And I learned that not only have I been in Explore, I've been in seven times!)

Other works published online since my previous self-promoting post: Chicagoist ran a different version of the frog photo from this post (my "most interesting" photo on Flickr now, really?) and a shot from the 18th St. Pink Line. Time Out also used the Clark/Lake CTA shot. And Chicago Magazine apparently has a photo blog and used this Merchandise Mart CTA shot. CTA photos seem to be my biggest hit, and I'll have an update of my every-CTA-station project soon...