A Break from America


I knew I was going to enjoy the city because I grew up in one. Chicago is a different world compared to Lima, though. The people act very differently because after all, it is a different country. And as amazing as it sounds, it is also tiring. I tried to find something to relate to, something that remind me of home. And I did, sort of. It was not home, but it was different. It was something new.

Chinatown is just two train stops away from the dorms. My friends told me about it, but still a stranger, I had no idea what to do. Until one weekend, I grabbed my purse, a jacket, and my roommate. She knew as little about the city as me, but we knew we had to take the red line to Chinatown. We had never been on that train before, but we both knew that it was going to be an adventure. Overall, I knew I was going to like it because I had always found Asian culture fascinating.

When I got off the train I immediately saw it: a glimpse of Asian culture right here in Chicago. I walked away from the station and crossed the street. There was a big sign that said “Welcome to Chinatown” and the architecture was in a traditional Asian style. As I walked the streets I admired the buildings, the stores, and the people. It all felt different, and it all felt like a break from the typical American culture. I felt like a tourist in some part of China or another Asian country.  I am sure it wasn’t even close to being on the streets of China, but still, it was different. After walking for a couple of minutes among the crowd, I notice a sign on one side of the road. It was pink and black and it just kept repeating the same words “KPOP”.


That caught not only mine but my roommate’s attention as well, because we shared an interest in Korean pop bands. My face lit up as I grabbed my roommate by the hand and started running to the building. We crossed the road as fast as we could, because the light had not changed yet, and finally made it to the entrance. As I stood in front of it I could see all the posters of the bands I knew and admired. Big Bang, Seventeen, EXO, VIXX, and more. And that was just the entrance. I remember screaming while hugging my roommate. We both held our breath and went in. After entering the store, the entrance seemed like just the beginning. There were not just posters, but t-shirts, cups, mugs, stickers, stamps, hats, sweaters, bags, and lots of other random things—I wanted to buy them all.

“Monster” by EXO was playing in the store and I just started dancing and jumping while running around the store. The lady over the counter looked at me with an angry face. I could tell that she was Korean by hearing her speak to other customers. As soon as we took out phones out, the lady told us that we weren’t allowed to take photos. That made me angry, but whatever, I was still going to enjoy myself. I can’t tell how long we stayed there and it didn’t matter. I was so focused on finding the perfect poster and hat of my favorite band that I lost track of time. My roommate was doing the same. We both looked like kids in a toy store. I don’t know what happened, but when we left we ended up spending over forty dollars in that place, which left a dent in my wallet. Coming out of the store we felt hungry and wanted a snack. On the other side of Chinatown there was a lot of restaurants and food stores all over the streets. Even though we regreted spending all that money in the store, we still decided to go get something to eat as we had already spent so much today; we might as well enjoy the day to the max.

The other section was more magical. The architecture, the street, everything looked like it was from a fantasy world. It was beautiful. We walked along the streets admiring the stores and everything else. There was this tea place which had a long line of customers waiting. It had different types of flavors and mixes, so we decided to get in line as well. I ordered this weird mix with mango and another fruit with a weird name I can’t remember. The people who were serving had an accent that was hard to understand. I remember that the lady shouted “seventy-two” which was my order, but even after 4 times I couldn’t understand, so I had to show her the receipt. Of course I am not one to talk because I have been told my accent is hard to understand too. But it was great. I can honestly say it was the best tea I had had in a long time.

After acquiring our tea we kept walking until we saw some candy stores. We wanted to buy this candy called “Pocky” just to play a silly kissing game we always saw in anime. So we decided to go in. Everything felt so different and weird. I couldn’t even tell if the snacks were sweet or salty judging by the cover. Some of them had a container with the candy so people can try some. I recognized this weird snack called “Mochi” from not only the vast majority of anime I have watched, but also from the time my Japanese classmate brought some to school. I asked my roommate if she wanted to try it, although she seemed more interested in looking at the boys behind the counter than the actual candy. After debating with myself for a couple of minutes I decided to take a risk and just buy one box. Just to add to the list of unnecessary things we had already bought. We decided to get a bunch of Japanese sodas just to try and see if we liked it. I could feel my wallet getting lighter and lighter.


We walked out of the store and decided to sit down on one of the benches. We were tired. There was a barber shop right in front of us and we could see how everyone in there not only looked Asian but like members of a KPOP group. We both laughed at the idea that we should go in and get a haircut just to talk to the guys who worked in there. I remember one of them came out of the store, stood in front of us and lighted up a cigarette. We came to the conclusion that many Asians smoke because he was not the first one we had seen through all the day. We laughed again as he stared at us with a weird look. I was still feeling hungry, so I decided to try one of my Mochi.

As I opened the box I could feel the weird texture. They were soft, and it kind of felt like skin. I asked my roommate to touch them too, she thought the same. I stared at it and finally took a bite. It was so soft, and so sweet. The inside was full of this brownish substance; it was supposed to be beans, but it was so sweet. I looked at my roommate and ask her to try some. She didn’t like it. I loved it. The sweetness and softness and all the weird new textures were amazing. Of course after two I was done; too sweet is not good. I packed the Mochis I had left in the box and then looked at my roommate, who was starting to fall asleep, so we decided to head home.

It was a tiring day. I remember arriving to my dorm and wanted to just die on the couch. But, it was such an unforgettable experience. I fell in love with that place. The KPOP store, the magnificent architecture, everything was so different and it helped to give me a break from “America”. It’s not like I have never been to an Asian inspired place before. We have something similar where I live. I think that this time was different because I was away of home. When I was still in Peru, it didn’t felt like I was going to a new place, it was just another place in Lima. But this time the experience was different. Everything seemed new, starting from the train station to the weird texture of the Mochi, it was like experiencing it for the first time.


I was feeling homesick and tired. I love the idea of living in a great city like Chicago, it has always been one of my dreams. However, sometimes it feels like just too much. I get tired, I get bored. So, when I went to Chinatown, it was like taking a break. The idea of just being somewhere else with a different culture made me feel like a tourist, like I was there temporarily and I was going to go home soon. And that helped me enjoy the experience even more. I feel that this experience has helped me bond with my roommate, as we were exploring something we shared in common. It has also helped me relax and get to know more places. I am sure I will go to Chinatown soon again. Maybe next week, not for “getting away” again, but because I want another box of Mochi, and another cup of that amazing tea, and the amazing experience I felt the first time. I just hope that next time my wallet will be ready.


7,800 Steps

Image result for Chicago History Museum

This morning started awful. I was jolted awake to the unpleasant surprise of my roommate shaking my bed frame, “Man! I think your printer is out of ink? This damn thing of yours is going to make me late for class!” I checked my phone, 6:38, three hours before I had set my alarm for. So I crawled out of the comfort of my warm bed to play the role of building IT, so my roommate could make use of my free printer. Of course, after he left, my worst nightmare came true; I couldn’t fall back asleep. So I decided to get up and get ready. Day twenty-six in Chicago, we just started our third week of classes; which means the deadline for our first dispatch is approaching faster than I want it to. Where do I go? I had asked around and Googled a few interesting locations that I could write enough about to fill at least a few pages. Someone had mentioned the Chicago History Museum; Great, that’s it! I could write a brief history about Chicago from what I learned at the Museum, just enough to fill a page or two. I stepped one foot outside, I was soaked; “Shit! So much for walking.” It felt like it took an eternity trying to set up my billing information in Uber, but after several trials and many errors, I requested a driver. After a quick Google search to pass the time, I figured that the Chicago History Museum was definitely the place that I wanted to write about. “How long have I been waiting for this Uber?” I glance at my phone; Great, I mixed up the addresses. My driver that was going to take me to the History Museum, was already waiting outside the front doors for me. I gave up on the whole Uber thing and I found a bus that could take me right to the museum, bus twenty-two, and the next route left in five minutes. I spent over two hours in the Museum, taking plenty of notes. By the time I left the rain had stopped; the sun came out and it turned out to be a beautiful day. According to my phone’s GPS, I was about 3 miles away from my dorm. The weather was nice enough and with no other plans for the day, I decided to walk home. However, what I didn’t expect was the turn of events that happened on my journey home; a story in the next 7,800 steps.

I walked approximately 1,478 steps to a nearby coffee shop. I ordered my usual, a sixteen ounce Chai Latte, extra hot. I sat in a small window seat and I watched as the cars would go past and the occasional pedestrian would walk right up against the window. I was staring at a puddle, it was deep enough to make a reflection of the surrounding buildings and was so clear, it looked like it could’ve been a hole to the other side of the earth. As cars would drive into the puddle, I wondered if the people on the other side could see the car passing over. Suddenly, a huge gust of wind swung open the only door in the establishment; in walks a man. He was wearing tattered oversized clothing and a worn pair of sneakers; he was homeless. The man stumbled around the coffee shop for a while until he took a seat directly across from me. He started babbling incoherent nonsense and I tried to appear like I wasn’t paying attention. But there was something about him, some interesting thing that I couldn’t explain. Sam Weller, one of my college professors, once told me, “Go out and turn your curiosity radar on,” and for some particular reason, this homeless man captured my investigative mind. I went up to the bar and bought him a coffee and a small pastry. He was delighted to see that someone had gone out of their way todo something for him. I asked him what his name was, “Jeremy,” he said. “It’s nice to meet you Jeremy. My name’s Jonathan.” He looked at me, set his cup of coffee down on the table ever so slightly and started to cry. I began to panic! What do I do? How did I upset this man? Everyone is looking at me like I did something wrong. “Are you okay, Jeremy? Did I do something to upset you?” He took the napkin in his hand and wiped his tears away, “No, son. You just reminded me of someone that I used to know, that’s all.” Not knowing what question to follow up with, the naive student within me said, “Who was it, who did I remind you of?” He looked up at me, almost too shocked that I had even cared about his problems and sorrows. “I once worked for a nice man back in the 80’s, named Jonathan, I was his gardener. I would tend to his flower arrangements and occasionally help his children with homework, once they returned home from school.” He paused for a moment and picked up the single rose in the small centerpiece on our table. “But one day, in the summer of ‘94, he had gotten a message that his mother was very ill. After many arguments with his wife, he forced his family to move back to California to help aid his mother. I showed up at the house for work after the weekend to find them gone, nothing, just an empty house.” He took another sip of his coffee and gently set the rose back into the vase. “And much like a beautiful rose, everything in this world begins to wither away until it’s finally time for us to depart.” I was speechless. How do I comment on a story such as that? “After I heard that his mother had passed away, I realized that him and his family were not going to return to Chicago. So, I started searching for other work, but in the late 90’s, no one was looking to hire a personal gardener. Now, 16 years have passed and I’ve gone from one shelter and street corner to another trying to find a nice place to sleep.” By now, he had finished his scone and his coffee. He glanced up at the clock and shouted, “Shit! I gotta make it back before Reggie takes my spot.” He jumped out of his seat and started making his way towards the door. “Thank you for the food, young man. God Bless.”

I now had a headache from all the caffeine and lack of food that I had consumed all day. After leaving the coffee shop I walked an another 2,000 steps before I made it to Sushi Naniwa, a small, hole-in-the-wall kind of restaurant, where I met someone for dinner. The sushi was great and I would definetly recommend that place to anyone who hasn’t tried it yet. Sometimes I can get a little carried away talking about things over dinner, and with my day being so interesting, we didn’t leave the diner until well after the sun had set. We said our goodbyes and she took off towards the station for the brown line back towards Lincoln Park, and I went the other direction towards the red line. 980 steps later, I decided that taking the red line at that time of night, probably wasn’t the best idea, so I decided to cheat. I requested an Uber for the remaining 4,322 steps.

To my right was an alleyway. The rain on the pavement acted as a chrysalis as it went through a beautiful metamorphosis into abstract pastel painting. The street was illuminated and brought to life from the flickering neon signs above. What suddenly kidnapped my attention was the natural leading lines from the two buildings encapsulating the alleyway. It drew my eyes towards the end of the street, where a woman was standing alone in a red dress and high heeled stilettos. She appeared to be waiting for someone or something. The faint grin on her face began to fade after each person passed her by, almost not even acknowledging her existence. It was like everyone came together to become isolated; they seemed so distant from one another. The woman stood there, alone, under the overwhelmingly loud lights. You know, someone asked me once why I described neon lights as loud. Well, during my childhood I became very close with a friend who was blind. I would, from time to time, give him a audible transcription of how I viewed the growing world around me. One day he asked me, “What does neon look like? You know, Neon lights! What do they look like?” I sat there for a while, thinking of a way to describe the vibrant emitting lights, that were sometimes so enticing, I realized I had taken for granted. After much deliberation, I told him, “Neon lights to the eyes are… are kind of like a high pitch siren to the ears. Yeah! The colors are very loud and clear.” The woman was approached by a man, who appeared to be whoever she was waiting for and they drove off in his red ‘08 Mustang; you could tell by the shape of the back fender. Once she left, the alleyway was too empty and the lights were almost blinding. At this point I was getting a little pissed, “How long have I waited for this fucking Uber to show up?” I double checked the app to make sure that I hadn’t mixed up the pick-up location, again. Nope, “five-minutes away.” So, I sat down on what looked like the cleanest part of the curb and poked around endlessly on my phone to help pass the time. I even began reading the next set of excerpts for the weekly reading response. Fifteen minutes passed before I decided that my Uber driver was a lost cause. I looked around, hoping to find a bus stop close by, or at the very least, signs that would lead me to the nearest train station. Before I got up to leave, I took one last look at the vibrant neon alleyway. Hoping one day, I would see something as beautiful as – She’s back? The woman was back, standing in the same spot at the end of the iridescent alleyway. It took me only a couple of moments to realize that she wasn’t waiting for anyone in particular, she had just made a sale. After the job was done, she snapped right back into the same busy alleyway, almost like elastic. Try not to think about that metaphor too much. Holy Christ! My Uber finally showed up. “Sorry dude, I stopped to look for you on the other side of the block.” “That’s okay, I’m not in a hurry anyway.” “Where are you heading to?” “525 South State Street; I’m on my way to finish a story.” “Really, what are you writing about?” “I’m thinking about writing a story called, Chicago: A City of People.”(Jonathan Ochocki, City of Stories Student)


Love and Loss. Water and Fire.

Image result for house fire
Ray Bradbury shows how love, with no explanation, attaches itself to the mind, the heart, and the soul, characterizing the young boy in “The Lake”, and unknowingly drawing a parallel to my life, my love, and my loss of a friend not through water, but through fire.

The boy loved this girl for no reason other than he loved her. Bradbury asserts love as a
complex, illogical, supernatural theory. Captured through the innocent gaze of a child, “It was the love that comes before all body and morals” (116), Bradbury transforms love from the traditional romantic idea into an idea more akin to eternal friendship. The young boy has this love swept away by the tide, a tide so graceful “not even a drunk man could collapse with the elegance of these waves” (114). Yet he knows, without understanding this love is eternal, and even when he moves to the West Coast, grows up, marries “Margaret”, once he returns the love will still burn, strong, steady, antithetical to the water that swept it away. These antithetical flames parallel the loss of this love in my life.

My love for Czu, who collapsed in a fire on the East side of Des Moines, three hundred
and ten miles away, unable to pry the upstairs window open to escape the flames, is not thought. It is felt in my soul. Burning, following me, offering no answers, until I return to her grave each year, on her birthday, where it erupts into a spectacular storm of sparks, singing my heart, burning my soul, erasing everything I have known leaving me with nothing but love for a friend who died long ago. The same storm consumes the young boy, now a grown man, when he sees the body of “Tally” and the childlike footprints by the sandcastle where her lifeless body lay ten years after he left “The Lake”. (Brock Stillmunks, City of Stories Student)

L Frank

Image result for Kansas City state line road

I grew up in Kansas…kind of. I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, where we quite literally have a street a few blocks from my old house called “State Line” which separates those who reside in Missouri and those who reside in Kansas. It’s pretty weird to grow up with; I delivered pizzas the year before college and would go between the two states every day of my life. But I’m not in Kansas City anymore, and that’s a pretty scary thing to have to deal with.

The Wizard of Oz is a story I know pretty well, though I’ve only ever read the excerpt given, and this first chapter is amazing in terms of setting up a story. Much like Dorothy, I was swept off my feet and transported to somewhere new. In the reading provided we never learned exactly where Dorothy might end up, so to me, this transition was most easily relatable to the two days I spent driving to Chicago in preparation of my move in day. During that day and half or two days, I was initially worried. I had just broken up with my girlfriend after deciding long distance wasn’t worth trying, I’d lost my group of best friends (we all have matching tattoos), and I was moving to a place much bigger and scarier than I had ever known. Sad? Yes. Defeated? No.

Even now that I’ve been in Chicago for nearly three weeks, I’m still plagued with the same problems and anxieties I was facing on my journey here. However, much like Dorothy, I’ve settled into a state of trying to calm down and see where my ride takes me. The difference between me and Dorothy is that I set out on my travels without a Toto. I’ve spent most of college searching for that connection; someone to confide and experience with, and I’ve found a person or two who might be able to fill that. But I’ve struggled a lot with my own emotions and personal issues ever since breaking up with my ex girlfriend, who was my former Toto. Adventure, like most things in life, is a lot more fun with company.

So far, Chicago has been an amazing place. It’s been crazy living in this city and I can’t imagine what my world will look like in four years, four months, four weeks, even four days. The experiences around me are all so new that it’s helped me survive this journey without experiencing as much pain as if I’d been in a more comfortable situation. Change is hard, man, but we’re getting there.(Sam Keefe, City of Stories Student)

Those Left Behind

Image result for chalk outline

The first Bradbury story really struck me from the first sentence. He describes the end of summer very accurately. The picture of the beach just formed in your mind. It was like watching a movie. Every summer I feel like the boy did. At first, summer is lively and everyone is going on vacation. Then things slowly start dying down, as people leave the pools, beaches, amusement parks, and there is no more fun. There is just the harsh reality that real life will start again soon. For Bradbury’s boy the harsh reality of summer’s end also includes recognizing that his beloved Tally, who has violently drowned, is gone forever. I cannot help but feel that, like Tally (dying in an Illinois lake long ago), other Chicagoans are ending this summer with terrible violence and loss. Not only am I here in Chicago far from home getting back to the grind of school, and the knowing cold weather is coming, but I am watching and hearing the reports that Chicago is seeing summer end with the worse violence in 20 years. But, Bradbury tells you how the boy cannot let Tally go, and how he still loves and misses her when her body appears on the beach all those years later during his honeymoon. The Chicago news, however, only seems to focus on the victims and the violence. I see little attention to the people that are left behind. Unlike Bradbury’s story, which shows the reader the toll the violent death of a loved one takes on those left behind, I have no sense of how the people left behind by the current violence in Chicago feel. Like the end of Bradbury’s story though, with the grown boy walking away from where Tally’s body was found, and you knowing that he still loves her and his marriage will probably not survive, I cannot help but think that this is more than likely what is happening to many of the people that love the victims of Chicago’s current violence. Their whole life has changed from one moment of horrible loss that extinguished the fun of summer. I have felt this kind of feeling.  When I was thirteen my grandfather died unexpectedly from sepsis as a result of malpractice. I did not even get to see him before he died. It still hurts when I think about not being able to say goodbye. And, much like the boy, it hurt me to see his body. My grandfather was always getting up and moving no matter his age or soreness. Seeing him there, cold and still, was horrible. It was just wrong,and it meant he was really dead. I still think about my grandfather every time I accomplish something big, and I have his picture in a locket that I wear. My grandfather and I were best friends. I can really relate to how the boy felt.(Anna Paliga, City of Stories Student)

Reasons I do not wish to forget St Louis Park: an Incomplete Random List

Image result for Minneapolis skyline

1. The freezing cold of the Ice Rink at midnight. Skating in circles illuminated by
Christmas tree lights. Crashing into the snow banks for fun. Feeling like your toes
will freeze off.
2. The corner lemonade stands in the middle of summer. The children’s smiling,
sweating faces as they hand you 25 cents worth of lemon and sugar that they
charge you two dollars for. It tastes watered down and strangely warm, and
obviously made with a powder, but you drink it anyway.
3. When football season starts and hopeless Vikings fans sit glued to their couches,
praying that we win this year. Down the street friendly neighbors become
enemies, because they are Packers fans.
4. The Homecoming football game, a display of how much money our school puts
into sports, and how much it’s not worth it. Sitting in the freezing cold metal
stands praying that we score once. Watching the cheerleaders who have no
reason to cheer. The band whose instruments are beginning to freeze and stick
to their lips. And the reason people come to the game, the kid with downs
syndrome who gets to wear the mascot suit. His smile and positive energy that
make you think we could win for once.
5. Going to the Rec center in the heat of summer. The cement that burns your feet.
The sand box full of children trying to dig their way out. The pool so crowded you
can’t swim. The slide you wait in line for 10 minutes to ride. The diving board and
drop slide no one ever uses, because it takes your swimsuit off if you’re not
careful. The concessions stand where you buy nachos and purposely spill them
just to see the birds come and eat the crumbs from under your feet.
6. The high school auditorium just before a show. The hopeful scared actors putting
makeup on, warming up, and crying, because it is the best place in the high
school. The crew who rush to fix last minute props, who sit in the back playing
games, and watch the actors, for they are fools. The waiting audience, who is
there to watch a show, not knowing whether it will be good or bad, for all St Louis
Park shows are a gamble. And the Director who hides, because she is scared.(Genevieve Bone, City of Stories Student)

Wicker Park: A Balance of Excitement and Calm


The other day I decided to meet up with a Tinder date down in Wicker Park. As soon as I sent the “on my way” message, he told me that he got called into work, or some other lame excuse. So I decided to take a little trip by myself. My day consisted of shopping around in Wicker Park at around 7 pm. and then heading to Grant Park hours later to revisit the breathtaking view of the skyscrapers, which, let me tell you, is impossible to put into words. When you go out into the city, any part of the city, alone, even if just for a few hours, it’s an interesting experience, one that feeds the soul.

Wicker Park has such an urban, nightlife feel, even at 7 at night. While I walked down the street past Myopic Books and Kokorokoro and all the thrift shops, I got a huge hipster-cool vibe. Music basically blasted the streets from various bars and low-key night clubs, making the area so alive, and making anyone close by feel vibrant. However, walking into the antique shops and book stores made me feel so alone and at peace with myself at the same time. This shit is like therapy.

When I walked into Myopic Books, a generally large book store with a no-cell-phone policy, a wave of content spread over me. The walls piled high with books and bookshelves and there wasn’t really a space where there weren’t books being displayed or being hidden. The air smelled like dust and an old house, making me feel safe and protected like I was in my grandparents’ house. I explored the entirety of the store, but my mind kept my body almost stuck at the poetry section the entire time. So, naturally, I ended up leaving with three books: Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl and Other Poems,” Bob Dylan’s “Tarantula,” and Roger Bonair-Agard “Bury My Clothes.” Even as a broke college student, I couldn’t help myself from divulging into the poetics of these books and taking them home to add to my collection of inspiration. I believe this was because of how calm this place kept me.

This specific part of my trip reminded me of “Reasons Why I Do Not Wish to Leave Chicago: An Incomplete Random List” by Aleksander Hemon. The piece didn’t come to mind just because if I were to make a similar list I would talk about the eccentric, urban aura of Wicker Park and the hidden calmness that can be found in each shop. It also came to mind because a place like this really captures the full beauty of Chicago; Milwaukee St. and all its shops relate to all the beauty that Hemon tried to capture in his poem. I believe that he was trying to make a point of Chicago’s beauty under the madness and that if one were to just lift the covers of the liveliness around the city, they could find peace and maybe something to be passionate about. That is what makes his piece, and the experience that I had, so incredible.

When I hopped on the blue line to head back home, I decided to take a short walk to Grant Park, a place where the calmness of the city rests so obvious and so heavy. I started to think about how I could incorporate this trip and my newly found inspiration into my writing, when an interesting point came to mind. You’re never really alone in the city. You may be walking alone, shopping alone, getting high alone, taking the train alone, but there is always someone or something else with you. It could be someone else that’s alone as well and there’s that underlying, unspoken connection of two people both being alone, or it could be the fact that the city is so alive and breathing that no matter how hard you try there is always an energy that is with you. That energy either leaves you with wings leading you to explore, or it calms you and gives you a sense of the quiet, hidden joys of Chicago.

This city is so alive, yet also so calm underneath each layer of its being. The lights dance, music flies through the air, and each living being breathes oxygen directly into this city’s lungs, and vice versa. Grant Park at night shows a part of the city that rests, Wicker Park puts the energetic aspect on display for every hipster to live inside of, and Myopic Books sort of combines the two, residing in the middle of a very lively part of the city, but being a calming factor to anyone that steps foot inside. (Sydney Sargis, City of Stories Student)

For Every Window You Look into, You’ll Find Someone Looking in Yours

From the very first panel, Daniel Clowe’s Ghost World is not what it appears to be. It exists in shades of grey, presenting us with character dynamics that remain open to interpretation and a possible moral center that I have almost definitely warped beyond belief.

It is a comic stripped of nearly everything expected of it, where wish fulfillment is replaced with reality, where the only color is a muted blue, and where women are the central characters, shucking their usual sex appeal for honest conversation- which is the only action presented to the audience.

The emotions of Ghost World are muddled, creating complex dynamics more typical of reality. The protagonists Enid and Rebecca are clearly friends, but their affection for each other is laced with profanity and venom. Rebecca does not hesitate to call Enid on her bullshit, pointing out that she is included in the ranks of the “stuck-up prep-school bitches” that she hates. Similarly, Enid shows semi-playful hostility towards Rebecca’s exes and Rebecca enjoys accusing Enid of having affection for John Ellis. The secondary dynamics are no more cut and dry: The pathetic Joey McCobb is viewed with reverence and lust, the couple at the diner are speculated to be incestuous satanists, and John Ellis believes that “hating everyone equally” means he hates no one in particular.

In Ghost World, all instances of love are balanced out with instances of hate and vice versa. The issue of perception, however, is really what elevates Ghost World’s complex nature. The story ends with Enid making a typical sweeping statement about the nature of others, explaining that John Ellis is really “just interested in the same shit the rest of America is interested in” before getting distracted by a dark news story. We then see Enid from outside the window, hate reading Rebecca’s magazine and exclaiming “God, look at these stupid cunts!” On my first reading, I understood that to be Daniel Clowes condemning his own characters for the hypocrisy that they’ve shown throughout the story- Their interest in the unconventional is no more extreme than John Ellis’s, the stranger at the diner, or even the nightly news.


On my second reading, I considered my own impact on the story. I noted that I, too, was a stuck-up prep-school bitch and that I decided I disliked Enid by panel two for so mercilessly judging strangers in a magazine. By then I had created some sort of cunt ouroboros (if you will), expanding both inward and outward with Daniel Clowes at the center. After all, he is inherently judging both his characters and his audience for misplaced judgement and hypocrisy. At this kaleidoscopic level, it’s a bit hard to find your footing again, but I have decided that this is a crass umbrella statement for all of humanity. Assumed superiority un-writes itself, morality is an automatic gray area, and for every window you look into, you’ll find someone looking in yours. (Colette Robertson/City of Stories Student)

The “Green Silence” that Envelopes You

Chicago is many things- an absolute mecca for shoppers who are equipped to spend the totality of their life’s savings in one twenty-four period, an architect’s wet dream, a portal into another dimension for individuals who have resided exclusively in suburban locales. Yet, I feel as though there is one aspect of the city in particular (and a very large one at that) that is almost, dare I say, underappreciated among both tourists and locals of the like- Lake Michigan.

A large majority of individuals acknowledge its existence, of course (it’s a lake that seemingly expands into the depths of another universe, how could you not?) but sometimes, I feel as though everyone forgets just how inexplicably grandiose it is. Everyone except Ray Bradbury, of course (which I feel like is a pretty blanket statement for everything that he encompasses, to be quite honest.)
“The Lake” by Ray Bradbury perfectly articulates that of the lake’s splendor on a very conclusive, wholesome level, in my personal opinion. From talk of the “green silence” that envelopes you when you go under water and the occasional embrace from a “very elegantly stumbling wave that [falls] with a flourish of lace,” to the sand castles that line the shore in the summertime, Bradbury paints the lake in a very beautiful, nostalgic light.


Yet, a yin-yang of intricate design, he also simultaneously declares the lake to be a very ominous, insidious facet of the city. Most evident through the sentence “she had gone too far out, and the lake would not let her return,” Bradbury personifies the lake by giving it the villainous ability to claim the lives of those we love most. As devilish and gruesome as this may sound, Lake Michigan quite literally “chewed” Tally up and “spit” her out.
In this way, the lake is demonstrative of the city it harbors itself in- a beautiful, yet almost twisted locale that brings both unbelievable joy and painstaking distress. Chicago can either be a place of rich, limitless opportunity or a desolate rut saturated in all of the prospect that could have been- like Bradbury demonstrated with Lake Michigan, this city surely has the ability to “chew” you up and “spit” you out. Therefore, quite plainly synonymous to the fact that without the yin, there would be no yang- without Chicago, “The Lake” would not persist. (Savana Robinson/City of Stories Student)

A Step Closer to Home

Past the initial beauty of the skyline, Millennium Park, and Chicago’s other famous features, the true spirit of the city can be seen in the mundane. Aleksandar Hemon’s “Reasons Why I Do Not Wish To Leave Chicago: An Incomplete, Random List” expresses the purest beauties of the city that can only be experienced once you have completely immersed yourself in the city.

Having only lived in the city for a few weeks, I haven’t had -couldn’t have- the same experience with the city as the author describes. However, there is something universal about the way he speaks of his home. Getting to know a place in the way the author describes is allot like getting to know a person. There are the initial impressions; how a person presents themselves, how they talk and act for the general public. With extended interaction, you can start to really know someone. Eventually you can know someone so well that you can see how they act when they are alone. The observations expressed by the author shows that he truly knows what Chicago is like by itself. The way he illustrates the mundane serenity he’s experienced throughout the city really expressed this idea: “Early September, anyplace in the city, when the sunlight angles have abruptly changed and everything and everyone appears better.” What I find incredible is that of all the grand monuments and structures, he is in awe of a lighting change. His image of the city is so personally constructed.

In my home town (about and hour train ride north of here) we are known for our quaint old main street, our 2-mile stretch of car dealerships, and and a rose garden. Having lived there for the first 18 years of my life I began to discover my own little inlets of solitude that I far more heavily associate with home: There is a tree house me and my friends would go to. A janky plywood platform that sits up 15 feet over the ground and the lake. Watching over the lake on a winter night, the lights from the high school on the other side reflecting off of the snow. We would talk about the future and feel Ok. It is those type of moments that I look forward to experiencing in the city.

Taking Hemon’s “Reasons Why I Do Not Wish To Leave Chicago: An Incomplete, Random List” as advice, I meandered my way towards the end of the planetarium. I took my shoes of near the water and let the wake flow over my feet. When a wave would flow over the edge, before dispersing, I could look into the water horizontally and really grasp the mass of the water. A step closer to home. (Bennett Fuhrman/ City of Stories Student)chicago-and-lake-michigan-illinois-usa-world-1920x1200-wallpaper47337.jpg