Still Breathing

One year ago today, my life changed in ways I could never have imagined. On October 24th, 2016 I died. Though I didn’t draw blood that day, even though I didn’t swallow the pills that day, I was already dead. I was committed to a heinous act made out of fear, depression, anxiety, pain, sorrow, suffering, and irrationality. Physically I was still here. But spiritually and mentally I was already dead.

On October 24th, 2016 I was going take my life.

On October 24th, 2016 I wrote my last will and testament on notebook paper. Signed in the tears of my own blood. It would have been sealed in the blood drawn from my body. A final statement whispered from the mouth of a boy ready to die…

On October 24th, 2016 my life ended.

And on October 24th, 2016 I was reborn.

I wasn’t ready to leave this world. Despite all the pain I had endured, despite everything I thought was wrong with the world, despite what I intended to do. A part of me was still fighting, a part of me still believed there was hope.

On October 24th, 2016 that part of me saved my life. A plea for help is what it really was when I texted my best friend that simple message, “goodbye.”

She called me. She knew what was wrong, and without her, no one would have known. I would’ve gone through with killing myself. But thanks to her help I made the call that saved me.

I didn’t really die that day, at least, not physically. But it was because of that day that I resolved to change my life for the better.

In the past year, I have changed in more ways than I could imagine. Today, on October 24th, 2017 I’m alive. I’m living life and have realized the statement, “it get’s better,” is true.

This is a dispatch, a place I went, a story of that place.

“Chicago Tattooing & Piercing Company” on Belmont Avenue is where I went. A year after my suicide attempt I came here to mark on my wrist that my story isn’t over. Now the words, “Still Breathing,” are etched into my wrist— in the same spot where I would’ve opened them.

A bold statement about how far I’ve come, the ways I’ve grown and the ways I’ve changed. Today, I love the life I am living. I made a statement today by permanently marking it onto my body. Branding a moment into my flesh, a constant reminder that I will not give up, that I will not give in.

As I stepped into the Tattoo parlor, a few people mingled around, waiting on tattoos and piercings, or simply waiting for friends.

I told them what I wanted. And they made it happen. Tattoo designs litter the walls of this building, an art form I never really recognized until recently. None of them as meaningful to me as what I put on my wrist today.

It was a bold move. One full of symbolism. “Still breathing”, a song by Green Day, the concert I went to with the same friend the night prior. I remember it well. “Still Breathing” was the song she said reminded her of me, after my suicide attempt she couldn’t listen to the song for a while.

But this morning, her and I both listened to it when we woke up. Which is why I placed it on my wrist. It took a long time to get healthy and I can confidently say I will never turn to suicide. And the artwork on my wrist will remind me of that for years to come. It will also remind me to keep fighting, to be strong, and to be resilient.

This isn’t supposed to make you cry, this isn’t supposed to make you feel for me. This tells my story in truth. This is supposed to remind you to live. To be strong, to grow, to be bold. This is a dispatch that shows you, I will not give in.

There isn’t much to the Tattoo parlor, other than what it means to me. I don’t know it’s history, I don’t know it’s full story. But now it is a part of my story.

The story of how I died and got back up.

A story I still have so much left to write.

(By Kyle Marks/Student CoS)

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A Journey to the Garage

Being a musician in the city is an inherently tough job, especially for a drummer. Schlepping mountains of gear on the train, getting stuck in traffic for hours (if you’re lucky enough to own a car) and the worst of all, finding a place to practice. I do agree, Chicago is better at this than a denser place such as New York. But still if one is confined to an apartment with 180 degrees of neighbors, the best you can do is cross your fingers and pray to not get another noise complaint.

This is where rented rehearsal space comes in very handy. Every city has one and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a few, but none stick out in my mind quite like Chicago’s Music Garage. Located just west of the city in a discreet brick warehouse, The Music Garage is a city musician’s dream come true. Its 24-hour access and sound treated rooms make this spot extremely worth it, not to mention the cheap hourly studio rates. One of my favorite things about this place however is Vic’s Drum Shop on the first floor. When I first entered, my jaw dropped and the hair on my arms tingled. Walls stacked with cymbals, drums crammed into every available place; this had to be heaven. And it only got better. After talking to the staff for no less than 10 minutes I was told about numerous gigs and jam sessions, bands seeking drummers, and cheap studio rates all over the city. I would have never guessed that this non-descript, bland old warehouse could hold this many amazing secrets.

After jamming upstairs and talking to my drum instructor (who just so happened to rent a space on the third floor) I left feeling pleasantly overwhelmed. To me this building seemed like a testament to the city that is now my home. An inside look at what lies hidden beneath the surface of Chicago, a thriving music, arts and cultural scene that is not usually what comes to mind when most think of the capital of the Midwest. Yet the thing about this city is that these things surprisingly aren’t too hidden at all. Unlike other metropolitan areas the people here are friendly and always looking to give advice and be of service, all one must do is ask.

(Lyle Luckett / CoS Student)

Lyle

Come on Along

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece written by Motley. There was one part that really stuck out to me and I felt aloud to add myself to the narrative. The part where there is a group of young Italian boys, a variety in age, that hear the blaring jukebox playing a song. It reminds me of how easy it is to get lost in the movement and the music of the busy city of Chicago.

Ever since we first encountered each other in the city, my friends and I, we’ve been
almost inseparable. In the midst of our gatherings we love to abruptly sing and dance. Every time we get together we can’t help ourselves on long walks, exploring the city to become a rollicking choir of odd things. It doesn’t matter where the journey leads us or the measurement of miles it takes us to get there, as long as we find some rhythm in the wind, or a high pitched car horn or a repetition of a thump, thump, thump, that we hear as the CTA coast above our heads. Our feet tap, our hips sway, and our hands move above our heads, and there’s a multitude of melodic noises coming out of our mouths.
All this occurs as if in the distance, maybe even a block or two away, there’s a jukebox
singing out,
” Come on along, come on and hear
Alexander’s ragtime band
Come on along, come on and hear
It’s the best band in the land…”
We all enjoy the sounds of our happiness, hoping that it passes on to the business man,
to the business woman, to the mother and the father and their children holding their hands. Allof us taking our turn singing lyrics, and shuffling through the songs in our heads. No, we’re not crazy, we’re aren’t high and we’re far from drunk. We are nothing more than excited, nothing more than in love with being alive, in our time, in a place we now call our city. We dance next to neon lights, we laugh under building sides, we sing as we cross the overflowing streets.All this occurs as if in the distance, maybe even a block or two away, there’s a jukebox singing out,
“Come on along, come on along
Let me take you by the hand
Up to the man, up
to the man
Who’s the leader of the band”.
(By Armondo Bouie/Student CoS)

Journey to the Center of an Alley

 Air conditioning isn’t necessary when the temperature is being exclusively set by the atmosphere-splitting wooshes of plastic balls colliding with the air. Pings and pangs ricochet off stiff walls, the resilient sounds echoing in the ears of the crowd anxiously watching. Player #1 tightens their grip on

their paddle and flips the handle over one, two, three times, their nerves eating away at their strong and well-practiced playing arm. Before the apprehensive mites could eat their arm to the bone, Player #1 completes the following ritual that assassinates every parasitic creature in sight: they close their eyes and take a deep breath, for this is the millionth match they have played, they take their index finger on their playing hand and tap thrice on their thigh, for they don’t want their jitters to jinx the most important event of the season, their eyes gloss over as they eye down their opponent, for nothing is more critical than eliminating every doubt in their rival’s mind, and lastly, they smirk as they mentally clear a space over their mantel at home where their gleaming trophy is going to begin collecting dust. Scientists around the world celebrate as time manipulation is finally exercised when the heart rates of every watchful eye slows to half their normal rate. Before Player #1 has even completed their upward arm stroke, a girl named Holly, standing at the back curve of the crowd, is swiftly pulling out her wallet, ready to toss down some prediction fees. Scientists dejectedly put down their pens and notes as time once again reaches its authentic pacing. The rubber backing of the paddle meets the matte coating of a plastic ball and the space on the mantel is suddenly cleared. See. That’s how I hoped my dispatch adventure would play out. Sadly, everything I typed above is merely fictitious and is a prime example of how I consistently get myself into bizarre situations. Upon discovering an underground, hidden away, secret location, “by invite only,” exclusive table tennis club located in Chinatown, I was prepared to brush up on my nonexistent skills and head over. The Chicago Chinese Table Tennis Club is off the maps; after doing research on the obscure club, I attempted to locate this hidden gem on Google Satellite Maps. I spent a good twenty minutes struggling to virtually pinpoint where this tiny building could be hiding, and ultimately failed. The adventure began when my trusty partner in crime and I stepped outside into the bitter cold and discovered that the wind and the trees were in the middle of an intense argument. Our trek to Chinatown wasn’t as treacherous as we initially perceived, and we arrived with tousled hair from the fingers of the aggressive, yet motherly wind. We speed-walked as fast as we could without receiving judgement from people leisurely strolling. Turning onto the street, I began to feel a specific form of worry that only arises when one fears that an exclusive table tennis club may or may not still exist. We stood where “x marks the spot” on the Chicago Chinese Table Tennis Club map, yet we saw no rapid, skillful arm swinging, and heard no pings or any pongs. I stood there defeated and immensely confused simultaneously, which amounts to a very interesting and specific mood. I was ready to expel every idea of observing an intense match of tennis on a table, when my trusty friend and adventuring partner gasped: “No way! Holly. Look.” I turned around and suddenly, the pings and the pongs seemed within my horizons. I had never felt so specifically excited about table tennis in my entire life. I would play with my cousins over the holidays, but this was pure, “I’m full on ready to drop out of school and train excessively to be invited to join an under-the-radar table tennis club.” My first/favorite alleyway journey played out as so:

Coming upon the Chicago Chinese Table Tennis Club door was not unlike trekking through the wilderness—being low on water, hallucinating after a while, slowly becoming hysterical, yet all of it is worth seeing the gleaming sun in its most authentic form. This exclusive club’s door is the sun. We felt out of our element and that we were semi-trespassing. The little information I found about the club on the World Wide Web stated the following: you had to be invited to join as a member, and when granted the once in a lifetime opportunity of joining, you’re offered a key that gives you twenty-four hour access to the small, private building. Gee willikers, that’s cool. I was feeling bold, yet cautious, daring, yet cowardly. I knew we had to do it—my immensely courageous comrade slinked right up to the door and knocked like it was as casual as knocking on wood to escape the negative effects of a jinx. I wanted to flee so badly, my dreams of witnessing an extreme game of table tennis were suddenly not as vital. Before I could make any precise decisions on which way to flee, a middle-aged man appeared at the door. The sounds of pings and pongs were abruptly not as muffled. Every dumb mistake and choice I have ever made has led me to this white and yellow door, semi-ajar with a confused man looking down at us. I mentally let my audacious pal take the lead and she began explaining what led us to this glorious door: Columbia College Chicago, assignment, essay, story, adventure, hidden gem, bizarre, interesting, secrets of Chicago, interview, and please were a few of the main keywords used. He smiled apologetically and told us that they were in the middle of a match, but he appreciates our interest. We thanked him profusely and began our journey back through the secret table tennis alleyway, as the pings and pongs faded and ceased to echo against the cold brick walls. As my adventure companion and I trekked away from the building that contained some of the most seasoned table tennis players in all of Chicago, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. In my head, I could see the small plastic spheres becoming morphed as they travel through the air, cutting through the joyous atmosphere of the cramped building. We walked down the sidewalk laughing at the absurdity of entering a sketchy alleyway to locate an exclusive table tennis club, and as we laugh and laugh, a thought fabricates in my head: why hide a table tennis club behind an alley and two buildings? Perhaps to only attract the most passionate of table tennis players—ones that are willing to actively seek out and locate this hidden commodity. I might just head to the nearest bookstore and purchase a copy of “Table Tennis For Dummies.” After learning the tips and tricks, I might finally be able to confidently swing a paddle. Perhaps I’ll even knock on the white and yellow door a second time. To play a match with an exclusive, dedicated member of the alleyway table tennis club—it would be an honor to lose.

(By Holly Barras/Student CoS)

Young Chicago Authors

It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I developed an appreciation for poetry.

In my creative writing class, when I found out we were going to spend a whole unit on poetry, I was pre-emptively rolling my eyes. I was the kind of kid who always appreciated structure and form in writing, and from my limited perspective, I thought of poetry as being formless. Then, my writing class gave me the opportunity to dive deeper into the mysterious, foreign wonders of poetry. Once I had to invest myself into it so that I could succeed in class, it started to click.

Part of that process was watching the 2010 Louder Than A Bomb documentary,
which chronicled the lives of three young poets competing in Chicago at a renowned poetry slam. Seeing kids roughly my age using words so beautifully, telling such incredible stories, opened my mind to the possibilities of the form and inspired me to create my own. Obviously when I moved to Chicago, seeing a Young Chicago Authors open mic was one of my first priorities. I got a few friends together, and off we went to their hole-in-the-wall headquarters in Noble Square.

The room was packed. The air conditioning was… not working well. A Chance song blared through the speakers as dozens of young poets scrambled to get their name on the set list. For the first hour, host Jamila Woods led us through a workshop where she encouraged us to find the symbols of oppression in our daily lives, and isolate them so we can fight back. Once the session was over, the real fun began.

A YCA open mic is like nothing else you’ve ever seen or experienced.
Imagine: a soft-spoken Chicago high school kid steps on stage and introduces
himself, but he’s too quiet to be heard from the back of the crowded room. He hands his phone off to the DJ to plug it in so we can hear the original beat he recorded in his bedroom a couple hours earlier. Behind him, a window through which you can see the city, there to remind you where this all came from. The beat plays, and the soft-spoken kid on stage disappears. Now, he’s a rockstar. He’s a rap artist whose material wouldn’t sound out of place on the radio. He’s probably the next Kendrick Lamar. Oh, and he can sing. And by the second time his catchy chorus comes in, the whole crowd is singing along with him.

You’ve never seen this much raw, unfiltered artistry, gathered together in one shared space. You’ve never seen a community this close, this warm, this welcoming. You’ve never seen this much magnetic, energetic, free-flowing inspiration, like a radiant aura of creativity that bounces off the walls and lands in your soul and follows you home through the city. It’s mad, it’s wild, it’s over-the-top, and it is fucking awesome. You don’t have to like slam poetry, you don’t have to like rap, but I challenge you to visit this open mic and tell me you aren’t hypnotized, or that you don’t leave amazed and inspired.

(Lawson Smead / CoS Student)

Evil Dead 2

 I haven’t seen the first Evil Dead, but apparently I didn’t need to to understand this one.

My friends had the night all planned out. We’d eat some place up the red line, and then we’d go to the theater to see the movie, a midnight showing of a 35mm print of the cult classic horror film, Evil Dead 2.

We got off the CTA at Addison and started walking towards the theater. We walked through the sparsely populated lamplit streets on a dry windy night. Fallen browned leaves blew across the wide streets and rustled as we passed. The moon peeked through wispy cobwebbed clouds and hazed the sky. We turned the corner.

I saw this magnificent neon lit sign. It read “The Music Box Theater.” The aged bulbs flickered. I walked into the lobby of the theater. Deep reds and gold touches covered the walls and the rugged floors atop the dark stained wood. A yellow tinted sign read “Theater 1: Evil Dead 2.” I walked into the theater and saw a velvety red curtain dramatically lit from above, shadows sprawling across it with every fold. As I kept walking, I noticed the tall walls with ornamental pillars and the high curved ceiling. This theater had so much character to it. I had never seen a movie theater with so much individuality.

I felt transported to 1929: the year it opened. Chicago movie theaters usually held 3,000 people, but the Music Box holds roughly 800. At the time it was described by Theater Architecture Magazine as “ the smaller, though charming and well equipped, sound picture theatre which is rapidly taking the place of the ‘deluxe’ palace.”

The curtain slowly reeled up and some 35mm trailers were shown. A super 80’s “Streets of Fire” trailer was met with cheering and laughs. Another equally hammy trailer for “Judgement Night” was met with laughs as well. Then, the feature presentation. The crowd cheered on our heroes, and hissed and booed the evil. They laughed at all the slapstick humor, and were frightened by the gloomy atmosphere and jumpscares.

Being in such a colorful theater with an active and participating audience was such a special experience. I was surrounded by fans and lovers of the cult classic. After the film was finished, it was about 2. We walked back out to the dark and gloomy streets and hoped the way home wouldn’t be too long.

(Aidan O’Connor/ CoS Student)

The Nine Floors of Chicago

Downtown, in my home city of Akron, Ohio, was where the Akron Public Library was located.

It was a huge library, with three large floors, one of them dedicated exclusively to teens/young adults. I would always go there after school, since it was only a few blocks from my high school. It was not so much that I was a huge reader, but I loved the quiet environment that it became to me, a way to escape the stress of the outside world. I had yet to explore the Harold Washington Library, but after an extremely stressful weekend, I felt it was appropriate to give this place a visit.

Sam Dispatch Pic 1

Sam Dispatch Pic 2

The Library felt larger than life, with nine floors total, each floor dedicated to endless categories of books, magazines, archives, records, and so much more. But it was more than just library. The lobby had excellent décor, it looked more like Gatsby’s mansion than a library. The third floor was home to massive computer lab, and a public engineering workshop. On the sixth, there was an endless supply of puzzles and table-top games available for anyone to play, if they had the time. The eight floor was completely filled with fiction books, including a “short stories collection” tunnel.

Sam Dispatch Pic 3

I have always found that libraries represent their respected cities, and where their futures lie. For Akron, the vastness of the library’s size speaks to the city’s priority on education, while its modern look shows an innovative outlook on the city’s future. Chicago is no exception. The Harold Washington Library showcases the rich culture and history of Chicago, while also highlighting the people of Chicago, and resources like libraries can help us grow as community. This is something I feel Carl Sandburg would agree on, as his portrait is proudly displayed on the seventh floor.

Sam Dispatch Pic 4

(Sam Thomas Flick/ CoS Student)

Chicago: A response to Carl Sandberg

They tell me you are wicked and I

Don’t believe

How can I believe

 

Is a good person

Who has witnessed tragedy

Wicked?

 

You praise her lifted head

Her tall bold slugger

Yet agree to wickedness?

 

The first place I have understood

Why Dorothy needed

Red slippers

 

Problems, issues, difficulties, pain

I can agree, but

Wickedness?

 

Chicago is not green

Laughing and pointing at her people

Luring outsiders to poppies

You cannot give them back the sneer

When you yourself

Curl lip

 

When reading Sandberg’s poem, there was an initial anger. He continued to insult a city he claimed to love. Even though he tried to use what is said about Chicago to further his point, I don’t see it that way. I truly love Chicago, I love the feeling of this place, the old wisdom of a city who has seen so much. I frowned as I read the word “wicked” applied to Chicago, I recoiled at the idea of this beautiful city being blamed for the tragedies of her streets. She cannot control her people, and for those who do not see that she weeps as much as us at blood on the streets and innocents behind bars: they clearly do not know this city at all.

(Georgia Drost/CoS Student)

 

A Connection Starts with a Question (and Good Beer Helps): Dovetail Brewery- Ravenswood, Chicago

I was recently invited back to Chicago by Sam Weller to speak to his City of Stories classes at Columbia College Chicago. I was more than familiar with the class having been the lead Graduate Teaching Assistant for this class and a contributing editor to the City of Stories Blog in 2016. As Sam put it, he wanted “to have my energy” brought to his classes.

I was thrilled to have a former professor and boss reach out to me like, dare I say, a colleague. I was eager to stand in front of hundreds of young artists and tell them, in so many words, that they were at the beginning of great things just so long as they took their work seriously (while at the same time not taking THEMSELVES too seriously). I was anxious, however, about the whole “energy” bit. It seems my excitable self had set the bar high.

In February of 2017 I was accepted into the English PhD program at University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee and in the following August I moved out of Chicago, a city I’d called home for three years. I was a country kid when I moved to Chicago, and afraid of the silliest things, seriously, read my first blog post and see who I was when I came to the city. I worked my ass off when I was living in Chicago. I had been wait-listed in the program, received less-than-stellar funding, hadn’t published in years, remained unknown to the then head of the department, and, heaven forbid, was a tall blond blue-eyed white male sports fan who wrote about the working class and was embarking on a writerly journey into Fine Arts College Land. Needless to say, I felt I had something to prove. To the program. To my peers. To myself. To Chicago.

I took my energy and channeled it into my writing. Then into submitting to journals and competitions. Then into enduring the social minefield of a cohort of big personalities with even bigger egos. By the end of my first year, I was able to sit back and see what my hard work led to.

It led to a lot, let’s leave it at that.

But the hard work also left me tired and I have been tired ever since. I’m writing this at quarter to ten at night but it feels as if it is four hours later than that. I have a can of local brew sitting next to my laptop and, let me tell you, it’s bitter. It comes from a Milwaukee microbrewery just down the street from me. It’s fine for what it is. It comes from close by. Compared to literally everything in Chicago, it’s also cheap. But when I was living in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago, I was spoiled. Three residential blocks from my apartment was the Holy Grail of beers in Chicago. Dovetail Brewery.

20171017_180852

(Above: The Dunkelweizen. PC: RS Deeren)

            Dovetail Brewery is a newcomer to the Chicago craft beer scene, having opened their doors and tapped their kegs in 2016. However, Hagen and Bill, the masters behind the beer, have been hard at work on their art for decades having studied brewcraft in Munich, Germany. As they put it, they “brew like monks (minus the vows).” Maybe it’s this dedication to hard work when it comes to art that drew me to these folks. Maybe it’s how they cut their jib, making their industrial taproom home in a ninety-year-old warehouse along the southbound side of Ravenswood Ave. The bar itself is made from reclaimed wood found in the building and the walls are made up of the same. Maybe it’s the rotating selection of local artwork for sale on the walls. Maybe it’s the relative quiet I can get to write here on an idle Wednesday afternoon (and all the electric plugs for my laptop!) Maybe it’s the dog-friendly atmosphere. I say “maybe” to these signifiers but I know the answer. I love Dovetail for these and everything else it has to offer: a cozy nook on a not-too-hard-to-get-to, not-too-much-on-the-main-drag corner where I can get amazing, European-style beers from people who don’t just give a damn, but from people whose love for their work, their art, makes me give a damn.

Besides the back porches of my apartments while living in the city, Dovetail is my absolute favorite place in Chicago. When I moved to Milwaukee, I knew I’d be back. Even if Milwaukee is Brew City and SUPER German, I knew I’d already found THE place to bend my elbow in Ravenswood.

Fast-forward to Sam’s Tuesday City of Stories class. I was recovering from a Nyquil dose from the previous night, had just started Midterm Student Conferences with my Milwaukee students, and had back-loaded my schedule so I could speak to Sam’s students. I remember almost tripping on the stage as I walked up in front of ~150 young artists. I talked about my great grandfather, my love of cemeteries, and the hard work a young artist needs to put in every. Single. Day. I told the students to get out of the Loop, for Chicago is her neighborhoods. I talked about how Chicago scared me when I first moved in and how I was like most people who kept my head down as I walked to the train or stood at the bus stop. I urged these curious, creative minds to recognize these tendencies in themselves and to push against them and forge a connection to the communities throughout this city.

While planning this mini-lecture, I also had a strong feeling that Sam and I would make our way out for a beer afterwards. I also knew that he lived close enough to Dovetail so that it would be easy for me to deter him from suggesting we grab a cold one at the South Loop Club (and also, the SLC does a great job itself of deterring people from going there. You’ll understand this jab when you’re older). And given that we just spent an entire class talking about exploring the city beyond the Loop, I knew when I said, “Let me take you to my favorite place in the city,” that he’d be onboard.

We took the Red Line to the Brown Line and got off at Irving Park. We walked along Ravenswood Ave past Begyle Brewing (another great spot) and entered the old warehouse of Dovetail. We sat at the end of the bar. By the turntable. Unlike how it was a year ago, the place was busy. Good for business. At the curve of the bar, where I usually see her sitting, was Adrianne Dost, a part-owner and head of special events. I enjoyed my first beer (pictured above) and bragged to Sam about all the things I had no part in creating. All the things listed above. But as I’ve said, Dovetail and her people make me give a damn. And like how people do when they start drinking, especially two authors with big personalities like Sam and myself, we roped Adrianne into our conversation. I asked questions I knew the answers to, “You’re dog friendly?” “You give tours, yea?” just to have her answer for Sam’s sake. Sam asked questions. Adrianne answered. The bartenders came and went. It was a lovely time.

Then Adrianne told us about the second story of the brewery, something I did not know anything about, and described the first wedding that they had recently hosted up there.

“Would you two like to see the loft?” she asked.

“Of course,” we said.

“Then grab your beers. I’ll show you.” Just like that. No beer left behind and away we went to explore.

20171017_183236

(Above: Adrianne shows Sam the wedding hall. PC: RS Deeren)

            The room smelled of grain and coarse wood. The polished hardwood floor was perfect for intimate occasions, especially weddings. And the practicality of the barrels was, to my practicality-loving heart, a beautiful touch.

“What did this place used to be?” Sam asked.

“A machine shop,” Adrianne replied.

Just like that, I went back to the long history of working people and beer. The monks who worked the fields and brewed their saisons. The autoworker who came home to a few Bud Lights. The millennial author who sits at a micobrewery in Chicago to write about the crappy jobs he’s had. It was all connected in this warehouse

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(Above) About a quarter of the barrels stored above the bar. PC: RS Deeren)

            I need to cut this short because if I don’t stop now, I’ll start talking about the menu, the rotation of visiting food trucks, the seasonal street festivals, etc. I’ll leave you all with this: If you aren’t curious, you aren’t creative. If you aren’t creating, then what the hell are you doing? Curiosity leads to questions and these questions lead to connections to the world around you and the lives that populate it. Chicago is filled with enough nooks, enough attractions, enough park benches to make your own.

Even if your first question is “What am I doing here?”, at least you now have an answer to work towards. I would argue that every artist asks themselves this question regularly. They have to. They NEED to. It’s how they justify the long hours, the stupid amounts of coffee, the bouts of imposter syndrome.

I may be some nobody from the woods of Michigan, but I know hard work when I see. I know how it drives an artist’s creativity. I know how it can lead to something amazing. Without sounding like I’m being paid by Dovetail, I’ll end with this: I can taste the hard work art that goes into their beer. That’s why I love it.

Look to your fellow artists, see the work they are putting in. See the work you’re putting in. Is it enough to help you sleep at night? If it is, then you’re going to be just fine. Now stop reading and get back to work. (RS Deeren: Guest Blogger)

94 Floors Up

Hancock

360 Chicago at John Hancock Center

“If I was super-villain, this would be my lair.”

In front of me, a constellation of lights spread as far as I can see. In the distance, they twinkle and dance. Planes look like mere fireflies fluttering through silently. The lake looms dark and endless at night.

This is my second time at John Hancock Tower but my first time seeing it at night. Last time I went to Hancock tower was on my first trip to Chicago with my family. This time I am with friends in a city I feel like I know a little better. I don’t ever want to see the city during the day when the night is so brilliantly bright.

The elevator up makes my stomach drop and my ears pop. One of my friends is afraid of heights and looks very unsure about the elevator going 20mph up 94 floors. I do not suffer from any fear of heights; I suffer from a love of heights. The elevator doors open to a dark room lit by the city below. Two of my friends pay to do Tilt and I record a video of my them laughing and white knuckled as they are tilted towards the ground. I got to do Tilt last time I went and my heart aches to feel like I’m in the air again. My friend with a fear of heights and I go and sit looking over the West and South sides of the building. From here, the city is beautiful, if hidden. I can’t people watch the streets but I can watch a steady stream of red and yellow slither through the city. 94 floors up, we take photos for all kinds of people and everyone watches Tilt in something between amazement and fear. As our stomachs growl and our feet get tired, we pass through a jungle of souvenirs to get out. We are back on the ground again but my head remains up in the clouds.

(Rylie Smedley/ Student)