This spring I moved to Chicago and had the best, most revelatory summer ever. Here are some of the reasons why.
Me and 95th. Everyone who has been here a while makes fun of the CTA because it’s gross. It is, I guess, but what do you expect from public transportation? I love that it’s so easy to use and makes me less weird about going out. I wish this for every city — occasional pee smell and all.
Mermaids make good soldiers. This tattoo shows my friend who she is and what she fights for. It’s beautiful and so is she. Summer is the best. More inhibitions, cares, and clothes get shed.
Savage the muppet. Summer’s for the Marion dogs.
Capone’s bar. Justin performs at Green Mill, a cultural institution, where slam poetry was born and Al Capone partied. Every place in Chicago has some kind of gritty story turned glittery in the lens of time.
Caught in bed. This summer has been about rebuilding our friendship. These little moments of total comfort around one another and in each other’s spaces are my favorite. Those moments are the ones you don’t remember but wish you could. I plan to capture more of them as we move along.
Sox and 35th. The Cleveland Indians (the team I root for by hometown proxy) played the White Sox. Chicago won and there weren’t many people there, but we took a lot of selfies and got to bicker over who was eating more of the nacho cheese, thus ruining any chance of fair distribution for the chips.
Kid toss. My brother-in-law, niece and nephew nail farm parkour.
Mary’s room. I was home for my grandma’s funeral. After the calling hours, I went to the farm house where she had lived her entire adult life and where my dad’s family all grew up. Everything inside was frozen for a moment by the gravity of the day. Trinkets and totems covered this old dresser in my aunt’s room. She was recovering in the hospital after a brain hemorrhage that happened months before and couldn’t make it to the funeral for her mother, a circumstance that made the unpredictable cruelty of timing twist a quarter turn sharper.
Grandma’s room. The bed’s gone. A dresser and trunk and a rocking chair and lamp are all that’s left. The shell of the room is covered in reminders of their family, their faith or both.
Missy. I didn’t expect how sad I’d become inside the empty house. My sister and cousin were coming to join me but not soon enough. I headed to the barns looking for a kitten my dad had been telling me about, hoping to distract myself from what was coming up from deep inside me. But in the barn, I ran into one of the farm’s employees working that day — someone I was startled to see, I just figured I was alone. The surprise unraveled everything and I burst into tears. Dressed up in heels, sweating and sobbing inside the milk house. He was so patient as I gasped and sobbed gasped and sobbed gasped and sobbed trying to explain who I was and that I was looking for a “kitty my dad likes.” “Oh, that’s Missy!” he said. He took me to her. It was as if she had been waiting for me all along.
Dad and Honey. No one works as hard as my dad. His rough hands tell the working class hero story I worship, but he’s always so tender with animals. He’s got a farmer’s realism but respects an animal’s power. A few months after this was taken, he was thrown by several spooked cows and spent weeks in a hospital recovering from having his insides crushed, ribs snapped. He will always be the person I respect the most.
Chicago zen. There’s a circle of Buddha heads along Lake Shore trail. They’re part of the Ten Thousand Ripples project, an art-based program to spread peace in Chicago. They are there to remind passers-by to pursue calm and understanding, socially and psychologically. Lake Michigan geese love it as much as I do.
Spotted. I was shooting these photos from far away. This guy saw me though. He watched for a second to determine if I was a bringer food or if I was a threat. I was neither. He went back to pecking the dirt.
Concrete jungle. After a day at the Art Institute, I headed outside not totally knowing where I was or where I needed to go. Luckily, I exited the side that neighbors Millennium Park. There was a garden full of wild flowers going toe to toe with the skyscrapers for best scenery. As I kept walking, I happened upon an orchestra doing a dress rehearsal for a show later that evening. The city’s full of excellent surprises.
Dive in. A free beach volleyball tournament near my neighborhood.
Land ho. All summer long I’ve run along the lake. I’m alone here in a way I needed and sought; I’m making space so I can ask myself questions I need to answer so I can set the course of my life. This has been the perfect place to stop running from myself. Also, the view is unfailingly interesting. To one side you have a dangerous blue blanket covering secrets and seaweed. On the other you have a great American city’s towering skyline pulsing from the heat. It all makes chugging through two miles in 85 degree sludge feel not so silly. I always take an intermission at one of the beach houses and watch the water. (I still am giddy about the concrete stadium seating and open spaces for the public to use.) Seagulls fight for food or bob along the waves, a picture of peace. Sail boats dot the horizon in lonely, sunny succession. Each remind me of things I want to remember.