Saturday, December 31, 2011

happy holidays

It's still the holiday season. It's still the 12 days of Christmas, for that matter, and thus okay to post my Christmas photo a little late. (It's on Flickr, too, with my incredulity that my transparent attempt to post a specific photo that everyone would say "Merry Christmas!" or whatever on, didn't work.)

A photo store in downtown Belleville, IL (which still has small businesses: an office supply store, a sporting goods store, a hardware store, a craft supply store--as well as chains), seen on Black Friday 2011. (There's a photoessay waiting about the gingerbread display contest there! And on the CTA Holiday Train, and on shopping mall decorations...)

Just a fond message to the many great photographers I've met through the Internet and in person (especially the one who made it possible for me to take photos in Belleville) and to anyone who supports any of the work I do.

(And now to see if I feel like writing a 2011 wrap-up piece.)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

waiting for the train

Waiting to catch my first CTA Holiday Train of 2011 on the Cicero Green Line, abandoned Brach's factory in the background, multiple rush hour Metra trains going by between the platform and the factory, I got a couple quick and fuzzy videos. Really just posting this to see if I remember how to include video properly, and because I'm still in the habit of blogging daily (if not promising to do a NaBloPoMo for December, too):

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

and day 30

...and I'm trying to end this National Blog Writing Month on a good note, but I stayed in (well, after catching the CTA Holiday Train for the first time this season, that was cool) when there were some great events going on, hoping to get iPhoto and blog things done, and ended up dozing off and catching up later. Oops.

I'm still happy I did this project, even if it was a bit of uh, quantity over quality. Especially because traveling to Detroit, Toledo, St. Louis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, St. Louis again, and Cincinnati in November meant I didn't have much time for posts. And I got virtually no response to this on social media (heard from a couple friends in person/via email, at least) and I'm not so great at pursuing projects without external feedback. (I guess hitting the 200th post on my blog is unimpressive in the Tumblr era. People still like a blogiversary, but I don't know when to say I started this blog!)

Also, I haven't looked, even once, to see if I got any comments on the blog all month. That's kind of a problem I have, too. But if anyone did comment in a non-spam manner, thank you! I signed in and posted to the blog ten times as much as I did in the previous six or so months--that counts for something, right? I may even get going on the blogroll, design, and profile overhaul, in time for a 2012 relaunch of sorts. Yes, you've heard this before...

Because I'm too overwhelmed with which new photos to post, here's an old favorite (taken 2006, South Chicago) posted very, very early in my Flickr stream:


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

away in Cincinnati

Yes, yes, a Megabus trip (and Greyhound return) barely 24 hours after I got back from the St. Louis Thanksgiving one. However, StL was unplanned. Since I had no way to tweet from the road and haven't yet tried scheduling posts to post later, this is written/dated after the fact. And of course, still no way to post new photos, so here's an alternate version I liked from photos of my Cincinnati trip a little over a year ago:


My Flickr set of Cincy photos.

Monday, November 28, 2011

as seen on the Red Line

I am back from the mostly wonderful St. Louis Thanksgiving trip, filled with gratitude for having been able to take it and good memories and a camera card I still can't upload from yet, so I must do another quick NaBloPoMo post of photos. These were taken on a recent night out using the near north CTA Red Line, and show old and not-so-old signs and advertising there.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday in St. Louis

Even slower and weather's even drearier than Saturday's (about a thirty degree drop from the fantastic Friday) and I will just note this: the bar we impulsively chose on the way back from Small Business Saturday shopping for a quick dinner, local institution the Bleeding Deacon, turned out to be having its second to last night before an indefinite hiatus? closure? closure before relocation? that night. I am so glad I went: good beer menu and impressive food menu (vegetarian and non-, gourmet touches, probably lower prices than a similar place in Chicago--and embarrassingly, I couldn't think of an equivalent place in Chicago). And I'm glad I took a few photos, even if I can't upload and post them yet. So I will take the extremely rare step of posting someone else's photo, since I actually got to ask permission in person and all. Here's one Darren took two and a half years ago:

MO - St Louis - Bleeding Deacon

Flickr link to it here. I also recommend his other photos of the bar, including him hugging the jukebox, an entry in the GroupHug St. Louis photo contest earlier this year.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday in St. Louis

Was a somewhat quiet, drizzly day here in St. Louis. Observed Small Business Saturday in a few neighborhoods. Again, since I can't get new photos uploaded yet, here's a shot from one of my first visits in 2011, for a nice corner grocery, Gustine Market. I've seen this sign out on every trip this year.

springtime in St. Louis

Link to this on Flickr

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday 2010 and 2011

The following was taken Black Friday 2010, when I set out with a new camera (a late birthday gift, and a good camera that ran into problems within a few months). I think I Flickr posted a few of my shots taken in Chicago's Loop, and around the L and Metra, and of my first visit to Orland Square mall in Orland Park (after stopping in their Borders store a few blocks away for my first--and last--Cocoa Trio drink there), but I'd held on to the ones I considered/entered into the Picture Black Friday contest. (The site information was unclear, I've hardly ever emailed my photos before, and to this day, I have no idea if anyone at the contest saw the photos. Obviously I didn't place in the contest, but I loved the excuse to take the photos.)

Here's arrows taped all over the Toys R Us store across from the mall to facilitate orderly lines, which were happily quite minimum by the time I got there.

Black Friday, Toys R Us, Orland Park, IL

I need to do a photoessay of just the mall, and of where I spent Black Friday 2011. I didn't get out of the house until after the doorbuster sales had ended and I didn't go near any big box stores, but I did see the bustling and charmingly decorated downtown of Belleville, IL, and for the first time (looks like I'm making a new-to-me mall a BF tradition), the Saint Louis Galleria. When I get back to Chicago I'll see how they turned out.

(This post also marks me finally discovering a much faster way to post my photos and a way I can do them on someone else's computer. I'm embarrassed I hadn't thought of it before...)

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Brief post from the road, from the unexpected trip mentioned late Wednesday. I made it to St. Louis all right and on time (a little early). I had a relaxing morning and a great day of taking photos of mostly abandoned/vacant things in suburbs I hadn't seen before. In between the photo opportunities, a pleasant afternoon watching the National Dog Show on NBC (a Thanksgiving tradition I haven't done before) and then eating at a restaurant with my host Darren's parents. (I was the only one who ordered a Thanksgiving-type meal; couldn't resist.)

Relaxing in the evening (looking at Black Friday ads in the StL paper, though I didn't intend to shop much this weekend), then a house party at his friends' where we probably consumed more calories of snacks (so much cheese!) than during the afternoon meal, and I bravely tolerated watching some of the Cardinals World Series 2011 commemorative DVD surrounded by Cards fans (reliving the infamous Game 6, which I got to watch with my parents on my most recent Iowa visit and the one kind of substituting for visiting for Thanksgiving, wasn't bad).

I've had good Thanksgivings with my family and good ones going on adventures around Chicago--seeing what stores were open on Thanksgiving one year; my first visit to the great Korean grocery store Chicago Food; my then-longest-ever bike ride in Chicago (about 50 miles on what I've told everyone was a 60-degree day, but from the forecasts this week saying Chicago was about to have its first 60-degree Thanksgiving in 13 years, I guess I was off a little); an excursion to an abandoned trade school in 2007 (one of my all-time favorite posts here)...This was a chance to do something a little different, and I'm glad I took it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

mmmm, cooking

I was all excited about how I'd posted a longer post than usual for NaBloPoMo yesterday--and earlier in the day than usual, too!--but today, just hours before I was about to go out and buy groceries for a Thanksgiving meal I was going to make for myself tonight/tomorrow morning (and possibly bring some of to a friend's--and I should clarify I didn't absolutely promise I'd be at a friend's so I'm not backing out of anything. I think), the chance to go out of town and spend it with someone came up. Yes, when I literally hadn't unpacked from the last trip!

Anyway, I figured I could go ahead with my plan for a sweet potato pie, since I needed to use the sweet potatoes and I should bring a dish with me, so I biked to the Aldi on the Humboldt Park/Garfield Park borderlines. Lines weren't as bad as I'd feared. I didn't find the premade pie crust--that and (soy)milk were what I went there for--until I got to the checkout. Somehow I wound up with three bags of cranberries and a package of mushrooms because they were 25 cents each (!) and cheap celery and cheap Yukon Gold potatoes even though I had some at home, well, now I'll have ingredients (and I cooked some of it) when I get back from the trip. The pie (a vegan recipe I found online, put in a probably non-vegan crust) appears to be a success. I'm appalled I didn't have ground nutmeg (how could I be out of nutmeg?), but I used allspice with the three other spices called for.

But since I still can't upload new photos of the pie, I dug up these photos of orange cinnamon rolls from Aldi (purchased at a discount at Stanley's produce market, oddly), showing off that I do use my wonderful Le Creuset cast iron skillet. To cook a 99-cent package of highly processed pastries.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, if you're celebrating! (And warning, I'll have to blog from a laptop for a few days again.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

vacant Hot Wheelz and more


I promised myself I wouldn't do any blogging-a-photo-direct-from-Flickr during NaBloPoMo. But I admit I was hit with the "photo I thought would be popular but hasn't gotten any response yet on Flickr and I'm going to blog it too" for this one. It's got primary colors, it's got something "abandoned," and best of all, it's got a possibly legally actionable name (uh, Mattel?). But I want to do MORE, so here are a few other shots from a photo excursion to the industrial West Side with two friends, earlier this month.

I limited myself to car-related ones, or I'd end up feeling I needed to include all the primary color-themed shots I took that day, and food mart shots, and industrial shots...

Monday, November 21, 2011

a quick word on Occupy

Writing a political blog isn't my thing. Okay, right now writing a blog isn't entirely my thing. I've tried to stay out of the Occupy Wall Street/etc. debates on social media and, somewhat shamefully, I admit I've spent more time seeing Occupy movements in other cities (well, I walked by the ones in Detroit, Toledo & St. Louis all in the space of a week) than I have seeing Chicago's, which I went by once. Once. But this impressed me enough to get a screenshot and post instead of wrangling today with what photo or photos of mine to post: 

Re: the pepper-spraying cop, of course there's this about the pepper-spraying-cop meme.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

serendipity, MO

I was finally going to try a photoblog of my day on the day it happened, since I got home early for once, but for reasons too boring to describe (hasn't stopped me from telling friends!) I can't upload new pictures right now. Hopefully early in the week. So here's one from Independence, Missouri, as previously mentioned a few times, that I think stands alone in a pleasant way.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday in Missouri

One week ago today, a drive across Missouri. Many decent photo opportunities were missed because I didn't know of them in time to get my camera ready (whereas I'm at least aware of what I keep meaning to shoot in time between Chicago and St. Louis). A few never-making-it-Flickr shots, I guess. Also, as tiny a deal as this may sound to others, I'm pretty thrilled I actually posted some of the photos onto Flickr--night shots from a Saturday night in sleepy Independence, MO--in less than a week. And even before my traveling companion, Flickr's plasticfootball, had posted from there, though he's posted Boonville already. Now, the next frontier: a night where I post photos of an event that happened that day, such as the DIY Trunk Show or Chicago Book Expo I went to, and only photographed.

Friday, November 18, 2011

titling these is the hardest part

Not really, some days, writing is. And this was a strange, challenging day I don't want to discuss right now, so: I'll randomly link to my Flickr set of Phoenix. Just photos in it from 2009, which reminds me I still have two other cities from that trip to post! And much more Phoenix. My habit of taking thousands of photos a month is catching up with me, and there are specific people I don't want to disappoint. As long as I'm glancing through Flickr photosets (and cringing at all the private ones of stored photos, which make organizing my public ones a challenge), a personal favorite that also got a little overlooked: through green windows.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

more than halfway

I'm going to admit daily blogging has been a bit of a challenge, but I'm keeping it up. Here's a scene from my aforementioned bike ride to Central Park Ave.--I'm not sure I ever noticed this in ten years living nearby.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

cold-weather bicycling

Just a simple city shot today, taken recently after I left my first Tweed Ride in Chicago early (it was fun, but didn't have enough actual riding) and went to Cafe Mustache in Logan Square. Today I had my first bike ride in days, though the temperature had dropped about 20 degrees from Tuesday (a day I mostly spent on a Greyhound bus) and it wasn't bad--sunny and 40 degrees. It helped that the trip was to buy nice cold-weather food like borscht at Tony's grocery (Fullerton & Central Park) and a bowl of chili at The Brown Sack nearby, an overdue visit to both. I'd post a shot of The Brown Sack but haven't uploaded much from my trip yet (or the photos since)!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

the return (and post 200)

I have returned from the Missouri-Kansas trip; now to get the 1000-some photos onto my computer. And enjoy the other things I've brought back: half a variety 12-pack of Boulevard beer, winter hats from both home sports teams I saw play on the trip, books retired from the Boonslick Public Library collection, cheap postcards from gas stations (many still showing the old Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis), locally made candies, an out-of-print 1970s book on hobos and trains, etc. Here's a quick photo from, I believe, Higginsville, MO, where I got pumpkin-flavored coffee at the gas station. (After pumpkin beer in Boonville and before pumpkin pancakes in Independence.)

Blogger is telling me this is my 200th post on City of Destiny, and since I've spent National Blog Writing Month talking about discovering Blogger stats, and hitting 200,000 photostream views and 1,500,000 overall views on Flickr, I suppose I need to point this out too. ("All I have are my pageviews!" I told my traveling companion, half-kidding, before leaving St. Louis.) I'll assume that means posts that are actually posted (there may be some drafts floating around). As with the Blogger stats, that seems quite low for having been on here in one form since 2005 and another form since 2007. But this trip was an escape from the negativity about my creative output I've been bogged down in recently, so I'd better not dwell on that, and think about how it might be possible for me to hit 500 by the end of 2012...As before, thank you for anyone who's read and supported this blog!

Monday, November 14, 2011

K of C in KC day 3

One more excellent day on the road (then a partial day returning to Chicago on a bus from St. Louis): Independence, a bit of Kansas (but not Kansas City, Kansas, apparently), Kansas City, MO (but neighborhoods and not really time for downtown), and my first (I think) stop in Columbia, MO, on the way back. I thought of #kofcinkc for my @kofchicago Twitter a little too late and was too busy having fun and trying not to check my phone to tweet/post during the day anyway...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

a note from Kansas City

Still on a wonderful Kansas City (and other Missouri) trip with good company (whose laptop I'm using, but I don't want to go through the hassle it'd take to post photos using it right now). I now have a Kansas City Flickr set starting with photos from my 2010 trip, after posting a few as the latest round of "Guess the City" on my Flickr. This trip is as good as my Quad Cities trip around my birthday this year (and I've found pizza I like even more). Both sets are in the around the Midwest collection on Flickr, still missing a few cities I've visited (that are left for "Guess the City").

Saturday, November 12, 2011

hello from Independence, MO

Having a lovely time! Been up since 6:30 am arrival in St. Louis. Then a drive across Missouri with a surprisingly nice stop in Boonville, instead of finally seeing Columbia nearby. We attended an entertaining hockey game in Independence, saw the downtown, and had a late dinner at Denny's. Then got the motel wi-fi to work, and I showed off a bunch of vintage postcards I'd bought at an antique mall in Ames, IA, and we tried to decipher the writing on back of them, and now I CAN'T STOP THINKING IN A POSTCARD-WRITING VOICE.

Kansas City tomorrow. Photos to follow!

Friday, November 11, 2011


A quick shot from the trip I just returned from, posted just before leaving on another. We'll see what posting from a borrowed laptop or from my phone is like...Oh, this is Toledo--I didn't know about this bridge. Can't wait to go back...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sheffield & Addison, November

Just another night shot (with the new camera that takes them fairly well).

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Flickr again

So, a three-part Megabus trip I just took would have gotten a glowing review from me, but a confusing situation on the last bus made us get in well over an hour late, and posting a whole new piece or even choosing a photo is too much right now, so here's a photo I really like that I put on Flickr:

Taken last Sunday, near a school demolition site. That photo was at the top of my Flickr page when it hit this on 11/9/11:

1.5 million overall views. Again, thank you to all who've appreciated my work on Flickr, even the several commenters who've frankly been annoying me recently in various ways and I should really say something. And the people I haven't heard enough from recently. I could tell, checking on the Detroit hostel computer last night, I'd almost certainly miss seeing it EXACTLY at 1.5. But hey...the 201,234 I see above is kind of neat.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

notes from the road

I honestly can't recall if I've ever done what I've imagined for years, posting a blog post while traveling (from those travels long enough for me to stay at a hostel with computers or with friends or family, which isn't the majority of my trips!). To get one in for NaBloPoMo, I'm making a quick visit online at the new-ish hostel in Detroit. It's my third stay here in 2011, one night each time, and every time I've been almost the only one using this computer (since everyone else is either too preoccupied while traveling to do anything online, or has a laptop). I can't do some of the functions I could on my home computer, so no images, but it's better than trying to blog from my phone or just doing another blog-from-Flickr.

It's been a decent visit (on-time Megabus arrival, mild weather, Tim Hortons, familiar and unfamiliar photo opportunities, no major hassles, a fun game even if it involved the Red Wings winning) but I have to get up early for another Megabus...

Monday, November 07, 2011

question of the day

Seen while walking a Chicago industrial zone Sunday morning with friends (which produced many enjoyably bleak photos I haven't had time to look through yet):

No answer was provided.

(I had a discussion with someone about if this blog recently, i.e. during NaBloPoMo, is sounding too sad. I can't help it that the start of the month corresponded with an excessively stressful week, but I CAN try to watch what I say. But I also don't want to make any promises about what I'll be posting; signing in here every day is a huge deal for me, in itself.)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

on a sad Sunday

This is a day where I wanted to go on an evening cooking jag, or reading jag, or uploading today's photos and actually writing about the day that just passed jag, but I'm too tired and sad. I was sad at not hearing from people so I shut my phone off completely at 4:30 pm and don't feel like turning it back on yet (though I need the alarm on it to wake up in a timely fashion, theoretically). And though I tried not to be, I'm sad thinking about a year ago today when I spent time with one friend and first met another through him, and not knowing if they remember this, and not being in touch enough, well, certainly not with one of them, to talk about all the strange turns life has taken (from getting to know both of them, and from everything else in life) in that year. The picture above is a previously unposted one from a nice photo excursion that day (Pilsen, I think, hence the tag). I'm also sad to write a piece that's passive (or passive-aggressive?) communication, but it's better than no communication.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

briefly noted

200,000! Thank you to all my viewers and supporters! I'm sure I'm not the only Flickr user who likes seeing nice round numbers. I average about 50,000 photostream views per year (it's slowed down, which seemed wrong, since I keep getting more PEOPLE [or sometimes bots] viewing, but then it really sunk in that I post 2-5 photos a day average, when I used to do 8-12...and you would not believe the backlog I have) so I knew I'd be hitting this in the fall. Got up a few hours after waking up today and to my delight it was at 199,999. Of course that means it inexplicably takes forever for ONE person to bump it over to 200,000, but it happened, and I got screenshots.

When I neared 100,000 views, I was on a trip to a Boston-area friend, needing to leave soon to get my bus back to Chicago, and I was so anxious to see the round 100,000 I had to sign myself out of Flickr, view my account to get the right number of views, and sign back in to see 100,000 on the screen, so I could save the image. (Probably via an actual photo of the screen, since I still don't know how to do screenshots on non-Macs.)

And: the number of photos it shows is extremely different from the number I actually have posted. Disregard. And also: getting very close to 1,500,000 of ALL types of views on my account all-time, but I'm not counting on being at the computer when that happens.

Friday, November 04, 2011

thrift store, Davenport, IA

It has been a strange and somewhat terrible week, but I'm very excited about signing into Blogger for four straight days now for NaBloPoMo and it's only going to get better (except for a few days when I don't have time for more than a random photo like this) from here; I'm full of ideas. Including the one that'll explain just why this blog semi-vanished the past few years... Photo taken on my birthday, 2011.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Humboldt Park/Garfield Park, cloudy night

Two night photos, from a walk home from Kedzie & Chicago, which I'd never walked around at night, as far as I know, after getting items at the Dunkin Donuts there 15 minutes before closing, after a Chicago Ave. bus ride from an artsy event downtown that was cool but went badly, just like an event did last night. (Material for a post I'm working on.) At least this time, I got views I rarely see.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


I am too tired on day 2 of NaBloPoMo (from things that happened today, not from the blogging itself; I have plenty of ideas now) to post anything except this amazing fact: November 2, 2011 was the first time I looked at ANY statistical information for this blog--pageviews, links, etc. THE FIRST TIME. And I've been on Blogger since early 2005. (With some very long breaks, but still.) I've checked my Flickr statistics probably at least 5 days a week since I first could access them, but my attempts to figure out where stats were here never worked.

And then, after I posted last night, I sampled the new Blogger look--an introduction since I'd last signed in in spring--and BOOM, there it was, whether I wanted to see it or not. Already I want to find how to hide it. I'm more interested in search terms, which are consistently entertaining in my Flickr stats (today's successful searches included "i love boilers" and "want my house to be filled with books"), than I am in numbers. And, well, my numbers seem very low compared to Flickr views. But it's good to know the information's there. (Also: this post is my first written using the new design in the "new post" section, but I'm too tired to do more than a basic text post.)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Nov. 1. NaBloPoMo

Happy Halloween...or a bit after Halloween. This photo is from two days earlier, of a pumpkin given to my parents in Iowa, which was already falling apart (the top fell in the next day) and a bit moldy. I did virtually nothing to celebrate the holiday, since I was away from Chicago over the weekend (and away from parties I didn't know about/wasn't invited to). All I saw were a few costumes at the Iowa State Cyclones hockey game, and then on Halloween back in Chicago while taking the CTA. It's always a lost holiday for me--I have material (vintage clothes, uniforms--including some found in abandoned buildings!) for literally hundreds of costumes, but nowhere to wear it. At least I like pumpkins and I like candy. Day after Halloween, I almost forgot to look for candy except at my local Family Dollar, which didn't have much (Walgreens is a better bet). I bought a bag of candy corn for 50 cents and ate too much of it already. The store had Halloween decor still hanging from the ceiling all over...and plenty of Christmas decorations already up. Little trees on top of the refrigerated cases on both sides of the entrance. (They start stocking winter holiday merchandise the first day of fall every year.)

This is my first time actually signing into Blogger in months, since its redesign (which I haven't explored much yet). It appears I still can't combine my old Blogger account with my Gmail account and it appears posting photos still isn't any easier. But I wanted to try NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month, established in 2006 as an alternative to National Novel Writing Month (which I kind of hoped to try last year, but I know my limitations!): it's now hosted at BlogHer. I need to officially list myself and promote myself and figure out how I'll handle posts on a few days I'm out of town in November, but I'll try to have something up every day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

where I've been

closing Borders, Ames, IA
Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

Many places since--I don't even know the last time I posted. Trips in the spring, then lots going on Chicago and major tasks I had to do in the summer (I don't travel "all the time" like so many people think--I didn't travel for two months!), then a bunch of trips in August including this one to my hometown.

I've been documenting as many closing Borders bookstores as possible, just like I did earlier in the year when the first round of store closings happened. This Ames store is one of the saddest for me. So much I could say about my relationship to this chain but I'm working on the best way to say and show it--I warn you, I might post a LOT here when I'm able. The last stores close this Sunday, Sept. 18.

Monday, May 16, 2011

goodbye, Mayor Daley

new library, Kedzie near Chicago
Originally uploaded by katherine of chicago

Real life (good and bad) has interfered with this blog again, but I would be remiss in not posting something on Mayor Richard M. Daley's last day in office. (Yes, Friday was his last working day, but I heard from most sources today is the technical"last" day. I got back from an overnight bus from St. Louis before the inaguration ceremony going on as I'm writing this.)

Daley's legacy is better told on other sites--and I'm looking forward to books about him--so I will simply note that he's the only mayor I've ever known in Chicago, and I've lived here longer than many or most of my friends and acquaintances. (Since 1995. Most people I know here are either lifelong Chicagoans or moved here since the late 90s or later.) This is kind of a big deal. I don't know whether to be more scared or excited.

This library, by the way, is the first in many years to break the Chicago Public Library's policy of no longer naming library branches after people. It is the new Richard M. Daley branch, not far from where I live.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Just trying to make sure I post at least once a week, and signed into Blogger, not just posting from Flickr. This photo, of public art/decoration in downtown Highland Park, IL, on a brief visit via Metra last Sunday afternoon, just screams SPRING. Especially the dreary spring we've had here so far (the old "lousy Smarch weather" Simpsons reference has been most useful); it was cold that day, and since.

This photo also happened to be my first photo of the day on in quite some time (I hadn't been submitting many), not since they redesigned the site so it cycles through the past few weeks' worth of photos (and I couldn't find a permalink. But trust me, it was there), so that was nice.

I was neither up to doing a proper photoessay on my recent suburban trips (or other travels) nor writing a personal piece tonight; I really need to work on the blogroll I've barely touched since early-mid-2010. Bear with me as it changes...and so does the blog design...

Friday, March 18, 2011

The green, 2011

A few scenes--a very few scenes--from the extended St. Patrick's Day week in Chicago:

Saturday, March 12: the Chicago River is dyed green. Too early in the day for me, but I did see it live for the first time in 2009. I went by in early afternoon, and as always completely missed the parade downtown. No signs of it at all except vendors, and teens on the way to drunkenness.

I guess I wasn't in the right place to see the river bright green:

But Monday the 14th (no longer any South Side Irish Parade on St. Pat's Sunday to endure), I heard from someone on Twitter that the river was still green, so I biked the miles downtown and back just to check it out. Taken from a little west of the previous shot, it's greener. I don't get it...more sunlight? The dye shifted in the river?

I had my first visit inside Hoosier Mama Pie Co. on W. Chicago on the way back (though I had had their pies before), a rare time they were open on a Monday, for Pi Day (3/14).

On St. Patrick's itself, I checked my Twitter list of Chicago businesses to see who had good specials. Swim Cafe on W. Chicago, a place I don't get to nearly enough (especially since they have the lowest-priced bottomless coffeeshop coffee I've seen in the greater West Town/Wicker Park/Logan Square area--$2.25 when I've seen $3, $3.50). I had the Irish stew I'd read about, a creamy vegetable soup. With bread: this was a lovely presentation. Breaking the square format here:

I biked home with a couple goodies for later. This was the only overt sign of the day, seen on Milwaukee Ave. around 3:15 pm:

I stopped at the local liquor store later. Guinness seemed too obvious so I picked an Irish cider. This is the corned beef and cabbage hand pie I got from Hoosier Mama before the Swim visit, and a green velvet cupcake from Swim. There was a chocolate-beer one, but I'd had a Guinness chocolate cupcake from Milwaukee last week. And a vegan one; I was curious but only wanted to buy one, and I've been hooked on red velvet for a couple years now. (I'm sure someone somewhere does a blue velvet cupcake...)

The hand pie was fantastic. Notice you can almost see through the bag. The cider was fine and cupcake delicious. Beyond that: completely avoided bars, all week. I'm curious about Irish soda bread and wondering if I can still find some post-March 17...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

This was Chiditarod 2011

(Hey there! I felt like returning to the long-threatened “real” blogging with something remotely timely, and of an ill-advised personal nature, and rambly, though I assure you I DO edit. But at least it has a lot of pictures! And since the last time I signed into Blogger--spring 2010?--it hasn’t gotten any easier posting them. Dammit.)

Chiditarod, the urban Iditarod shopping cart race through Chicago, is one of those things I’d missed every year previous in Chicago (five times) and it makes no sense why. It involves art and creativity, it’s organized silliness, it takes place generally in my part of town, it goes to bars I’m familiar with, and it’s for a good cause (raising money and collecting food for the hungry). A quick look at my Flickr friends showed many had photographed it extensively in past years. Where was I?

I don’t know, but I wasn’t going to miss it this year (March 5), especially not after the guy I was seeing was going to be part of a team with friends from work. I knew it’d take up a lot of his time in February but I had a lot of my own things planned anyway and--and then I got broken up with at the start of February, during the week of the huge blizzard.

Oh. Well, I wouldn’t get to follow the team’s preparations closely but I could still cheer them on. A bit of awkwardness with one person wouldn’t keep me away. We’d resolve things by then, we’d be’d cool, mostly, right?

Here’s where I skip over a difficult month so as not to be a jerk communicating passive-aggressively via blog. Except to say there was less communication than I’d expected, and it’s not like people are going to tell you upfront how little. Going from little response to my sad-sounding messages to little or no response to happy ones...I puzzled over it. Still attracted and wanting to avoid me (if so, I cannot emphasize enough how this is an experience I’m not used to), or was I annoying and a burden to deal with? I’m not good at figuring these things out, but had enough awareness that even if it was possibility A, needling someone about getting in touch with me would precipitate possibility B. Anyway, I eventually decided to stop personal contact and restrict it to social/public media (there was no reason for unfriending). My last message was when Chicago’s Earwax Cafe, a 21-year-institution, was going to close and I figured texting a longtime Chicagoan was justifiable. No response (and the damn place reopened anyway) and I felt idiotic again. Okay. I’d see him at Chiditarod, a couple weeks from then, and then figure out what to do, but no attempts till then.

And then the day before the race, minutes before I needed to leave to meet up with photo friends Don and Rachel for an all-day photoshoot adventure (Don is who I met him through, four months earlier on his last visit to Chicago; they’d been friends for years), I skimmed my Twitter messages from overnight and learned...he’d just gotten a job in San Francisco and would move a “couple weeks.”


I’d actually guessed this from a few clues online, especially a big cryptic announcement he was getting congratulations for the day before (I refused to break down and ask). I...I...was happy for him. Huge relief that this must have been part of the distance in the past month. This changed everything. I felt it expedited the process of friendship...but probably ruined the ideas for things we could do as friends--some abandoned buildings he’d never visited to photograph, and a few other things around Chicagoland. Or at least we wouldn't have time for much now. I left a congrats and photoshoot invite on his Facebook and it meant a ridiculous amount to me to get a smiley-face response from him again.

And yeah--I had to see him at Chiditarod, because I had no idea when I’d see him again otherwise. I was afraid to get my hopes up about what we’d do before he left, especially since I’d only known him for months and his family/friends/coworkers of years’ standing would want to see him. I distracted myself with an awesome day taking photos and getting ice cream with Don and Rachel, and broke my don’t-text-him ban late afternoon Friday.

The race would start at noon. Around 11 Saturday morning, CTA Bus Tracker, which I finally started using this year both on my smartphone and Mac, alerted me that I couldn’t possibly make it there by bus in time (using my day pass with a couple hours left). Biking there and biking all day it’d be. Really no way to get around and see it quickly otherwise. I didn’t have breakfast. I got to the assembly point, Hubbard & Wolcott, around 11:40 and walked around to shoot the teams lining up.

I ran into Erin and Nick, friends serving as bike marshals, and told them both the outline of my awkward situation. His team must have thankfully been in the crush of teams behind the fence in a lot (you needed participant ID to get in. they were getting pancakes!), so I didn’t see him. I didn’t want to bug him then and hoped he wasn’t dreading running into me. It certainly wasn’t a secret I was going, at least. Was I pathetic and stalker-ish or was I being a friend supporting him in both the race and the move?

So many teams, well over 100, the most ever. It didn’t get started till well after noon; spectators were getting chilly and a little cranky. And then, finally, they were off! I shot the starting line as a video because I couldn’t have possibly gotten photos fast enough. Rushing by were Devo, Blackhawks, “Slap Shot,” Windy City Rollers (the real ones), the Titanic, Muppets, a steam locomotive, “Back to the Future,” various pirates, zombies, and video game characters, unicorns, Borders bankruptcy (yup)..


(Not mine; another woman had ridden her vintage Schwinn to watch the race.)
I knew what his costume would be and saw him run past a couple feet away. I think I called his name, then felt stupid. I’d started following one of his teammates (who I’d met, at a party) on Twitter the day before and worried how that looked, but his team was pretty active on Twitter during the race and I’d wished more teams did that; it was fun to follow along.

The teams scattered off onto the streets and sidewalks. I’d been told to bike side streets, but where to go? It was probably a couple hours till anyone hit the endpoint. Well, it was cold; I’d make a rare visit to Atomix coffee at Damen and Chicago.

After I parked my bike and went to check my money at Dominick’s, the Muppet team passed by, the first team I’d seen since the start. They got honked at and I had my first of several chances to explain Chiditarod to curious drivers. Nasty wind blew a picture from their cart down the block into a puddle and I rescued it for them.

I spent the good part of an hour at Atomix nursing a coffee and a refill (all I could get with my cash, so still no breakfast), warming my extremities and reading an urban planning book. I figured I should hit some checkpoints. Not understanding how the checkpoint system worked or what route teams would take went in my favor of not wanting to be stalker-y. I’d just hit as many as I felt like, briefly, then. If the weather had been nice I’d gladly have visited them all.

I should have gotten food. I had time, I had money, I’d already been biking a lot. This is where I point out I haven’t had an eating disorder but there’ve been a lot of times when I don’t feel like eating this year, even if I can and even if I should. A lot of late-day “breakfasts” even if I wake up in the early morning. I just get stubborn and lazy. I hate talking about things like they’re “symptoms” and I hate worrying that I sound like the symptoms are anyone’s fault. (They aren’t.) I had the hunch I’d be biking around for hours in winter weather, caffeinated, hungry, and nervous. This is why I didn’t get drinks; I had to put limits on the discomfort. 

I could have headed west to Darkroom but went east to Five Star, a bar I’d never been in, instead. I stopped at Walgreens to get a beverage and cash back to use whenever I got around to eating. At Five Star a red Chiditarod flag was in front--along with a shopping cart fixed up to cook bacon. Teams parked their carts in the adjacent lot for a funeral home.

It was warm and cheerful inside and I gawked at teams in skimpy outfits (I admired their commitment) and ran into Erin and Nick. We talked about the proliferation of Angry Birds-themed teams (4, really?) and Black Swan and White Swan teams and Charlie Sheen references but the lack of other possible timely themes (was there really no Rahm Emanuel?). I had my first of several restroom visits where I’d run into someone in an old-timey costume.

This may have been the worst of the weather that afternoon, windy and sleety and low visibility if you have to wear glasses while biking. But it really wasn’t that bad compared to thinking about what the race participants were going through. I got to Phyllis’ on Division, a long-ago haunt from my days of attending open mic nights. I’d maybe seen it in daylight once. Plenty of participants were there or in the beer garden. Hey...this was starting to seem like an excuse for hipsters to drink all day.

At Inner Town, a corner bar on a side street, I locked my bike and got compliments from a tipsy participant. I used to visit Inner Town a lot both with a guy I’d dated and with school friends, but it’d been a while. For once it wasn’t brutally crowded; I considered a drink but felt sad sitting there alone. I moved on.

Up to Wicker Park’s main drag, parking my bike across the street from the Titanic, now in front of the Flatiron building. Not many participants in the Flat Iron bar checkpoint, but someone there did a New Year’s countdown (?) and singing.

A little south, the checkpoint at Nick’s was even emptier. No one I could define as Chiditarod participants seemed to be inside. An older group of Blackhawks fans, who either put “Chelsea Dagger” (Hawks goal song) on the jukebox or the bar did. I stayed through the song then moved on.

And now it’d been one coffeeshop, five bars, and no food. Filter coffeeshop, then. I’d been there on a date with him and that was bumming me out a little but they had the food I wanted, so. Packed but I found a sofa spot, got a cafe au lait and tofu reuben (breakfast! at 4 pm), and stayed a little longer than I meant charging my phone via an outlet on the floor, alert to prevent anyone tripping.

Off down Milwaukee and down Ashland to Cobra Lounge. I locked my bike with both locks and prepared to take photos outside a while...because it took me minutes to realize this wasn’t the end point, that was Bottom Lounge a few blocks away. Ooops. I didn’t go inside, figured I’d better move on since it was almost five and almost the official end time.

(They're putting a pair of women's underwear on him.)

The unicorn team got to Bottom Lounge just as I did. I parked and watched teams check in at the Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation truck, and pose for photos, and leave their carts in the lot. I stepped back out and saw his team checking in at the truck. I had a brief moment where I thought I would fall down dead of nervousness, breathed, and went to say hi.


Since I’d seen him last (not that all the following are things we’d have discussed, just making a point about the passage of time) there’d been the blizzard. The Super Bowl (a great time to finally make my first visit to otherwise-packed restaurant Kuma’s Corner, as it turned out), the Grammys, the Oscars. Chicago’s election. Borders bankruptcy (hey, I loved hanging out at Borders) closing most stores here. The Wisconsin uprising (and Ohio and Indiana), and of course protests in the Middle East. I’d been to Iowa once and Ohio twice, I’d been to the Chicago Auto Show (my first event at McCormick Place!), I’d had another hard drive replaced, I’d had my first time almost getting jury duty for a criminal trial, I’d made steps to see a therapist for the first time in years. And he’d gotten a new job and would be moving across the country.

He was smoking, which I think he’d only restarted recently. He had friends and teammates around and now I kick myself for not saying hi. We talked about how the race had gone and I realized I hadn’t understood all about how it works. I’d read a little on the Chiditarod website for spectators but should have read the part for participants. There were 12 checkpoints, counting the finish line, but teams only had to hit 6. (I’d made it to 7.) And they had to spend at least 20 minutes at each checkpoint (all the standing around drinking made more sense). I also didn’t know a lot about the culture of sabotage and bribery in the race--so much to learn! His team had been to some of the same bars as me, but fortunately at completely different times. Every checkpoint they'd tweeted was far from me at that moment.

(I'd heard the Loch Ness cart was good, but missed seeing it in action.)

We went inside. The lower level was completely filled with Chiditarod folk; I was used to going there for Blackhawks-related events. (Turns out the Bobby Orr pinball machine is always there.) After a couple minutes I went to talk to him again. I asked if I could hug him in congratulations for the job and did. It felt good, it really did. Maybe this encounter was a brush-off and I didn’t realize it (“talk later”) but I believed him when he said he’d had two hours of sleep and was worried about getting the cart back. I hugged and said congrats again (I meant for the race but added for the job, again). I thought I wouldn’t see him more at the event (I was right) but I stayed for awards.


I went to tear up, briefly, in a stairwell and headed upstairs for the music and party. Bought a tallboy (the Chiditarod special, in tubs) and sipped it staring out the window at the L. I ate a tangerine that’d been in my bag all day (with seeds, that was a mess). I didn’t see anyone else I knew. On one of my trips downstairs a costumed man asked if his tie looked tied right. Close to six I tuned in WGN radio intermittently to hear the preview of the Blackhawks-Maple Leafs game (in Toronto, so an early start). I shut it off for the Chiditarod awards. The Muppets were the Best in Show (two teams, actually, co-winners).

I came downstairs and the Blackhawks had already scored two goals against Toronto, during the awards. Wow. I stared at the screen and a guy at the bar beckoned to me. It was the man with the tie, and a friend. They said their team placed third in fundraising. The friend noticed my thrift-store coat and said there’s a custom (somewhere) of giving women fur coats for their 30th birthday, though he knew it was fake fur, and wanted me to think he thought I’m under 30. Tie guy showed me a handwritten acrostic poem for “CHIDITAROD.” The C-word was not “Chicago.”

Tie guy offered drinks, then gave me a tallboy so I quickly finished my first and started it. Then there were shots. Whatever it was was good. Then there was a bit of another shot. I had to bike home. I wasn’t feeling super-social. But why not make up for a day of not drinking? Tie guy said several times I reminded him of someone he knew who studied engineering. Did I go to RPI? No. Did I want to hang out with them somewhere else? Ehhh... Drinking with strangers has little effect on my “morals” but it does put me at risk of blurting out that I’m famous on the Internet. (I know, not really.) I managed not to but I did tell the friend my screenname. Tie guy patted me on the head before he moved on.

I sat on a bench watching the Blackhawks a little more, assessing my condition to go home. Yeah, good enough. Went outside and a shopping cart was now parked at the same pole as my bike.

I’m kind of a lightweight and here I was biking home in winter on icing-over streets in the dark after drinks with strangers while emotional. And I was listening to the Hawks game (but with one earbud! and I biked mostly on the sidewalk!). I was unsurprised to find myself crying a lot of the way. At least I was on near-empty streets.

Home to watch the end of Hawks-Leafs on TV (Chicago won). I would have given up seeing the entire game to hang out with people, but anyone I knew had left. Damn, I wished I’d hung out more with those guys. Distraction. It was only about 8 pm but I was in for the night. I had a good cry, or several, that night, my mood ricocheting between insecurity, sadness, relief, and joy.

(And that’s where I leave it so as not to go the extra-terrible step of blogging an unresolved situation up to the present. I had fun. They raised lots of money. I actually posted photos quickly to Flickr and they got a good response and I got some on Chicagoist, and a Windy City Roller contacted me about a shot with them because they’d forgotten to take their own, and I finally started a YouTube channel to post the starting line video that was too long for Flickr. And I’d love to participate next year, at least as a volunteer.)