2015 Year in Review

me-at-abiqua

Photo courtesy of Sam Matthews.

I ended it in a better state than I started it.

January: Told friends and family I was going to move to Portland, likely in the summer if not sooner. Started my intro level roller derby practices in Oak Park.

February: Started my Feminine Comique intro to stand-up comedy class. Took a sexual harasser to court. Hosted a fun Galentines Day brunch with 20+ women I like being around. Adele and I found out our apartment was being sold, so I had to find a new plan of where to live between April and July.

March: Did my stand-up class’s final show. Told my company I was moving and asked to keep my job remotely. Started the Addison Recorded podcast with Gina, a six-week project. Turned 29. Got rid of most of my belongings in preparation for the Portland move. Set a move date for July.

April: Started a video project in which I took two-second video clips of my last 100 days of living in Chicago. Visited Portland during the rainy season to make sure I wanted to live there, AND saw the Rose City Rollers play for the first time. Concluded the podcast. Started a personal email newsletter. Moved in with Christina and John, bookending my time in Chicago in the house where I began those five years.

May: Started an ASL class with Christina, who was interested in learning. Saw my first USARS bout. My brother visited Chicago for a work conference, and then came back with his whole family a couple weeks later. Did a radio interview with WGN about Shine Theory. Saw Jenny Lewis play. Went home to Ohio for Memorial Day.

June: I got to officially announce that my company was letting me keep my job, six weeks before my move date. Did two live lit shows. Threw myself literally five going away parties. Saw Best Coast play. Gave away and sold more of my stuff.

July: Spent most of 4th of July weekend with Stef, who was planning a move to Boston just weeks after my Portland move. Put most of my new remaining belongings on an Amtrak shipment with the help of the Beans. Went to a music festival with Liz. Picked my dad up from O’Hare and drove west for 2,400 miles. Bought a couch.

August: Made new friends at a coworking space. Wrote a bunch of my book. Started writing for The Billfold. Got an essay accepted for a print anthology. Hung out with Brianne in both Oregon and Washington. Saw Jenny Lewis play twice in one weekend. Went hiking a lot with Betsy, Christina, and Kiernan. Drove to Olympia to see Paul.

September: Saw Horse Feathers play with Sam. Went to Wreckers orientation so I could start skating for Portland. Wrote more of my book and had work published more frequently on HelloGiggles. Hosted the first of many girls nights with my new Portland lady friends.

October: Went to Chicago. Went to Salt Lake City. Went to Ohio. Attended three weddings in 10 days. Jeanne came up from San Francisco to stay with me for a week. On a plane between SLC and PDX, wrote an essay about the summer I worked as a hotel housekeeper. Laura came out to celebrate Halloween the Portland way.

November: Went to the Bookmark Ball with Sam. Attended a memoir writing workshop at Wordstock. Wrote a huge chunk of my book. Took a slightly-impromptu trip to Seattle to attend an investigative reporting seminar. Crashed with Evan, Blue Star donuts in hand. Got to interview the Gilmore Guys. Got walking pneumonia but didn’t figure it out for a while. Ran a Turkey Trot, kind of. Had Thanksgiving with Yeng.

December: Went to Chicago. Went to Boston. Went to Ohio. Went back to Boston. Got to interview Ann Friedman. Hung out with Eileen, Margaret, and Liz in New Bedford. Saw Death Cab for Cutie. Bought everyone on my Christmas list a book. Spent New Year’s with Stef.

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Chicago to Portland: The Logistics Of Moving Across the Country

Map showing the Amtrak Empire Builder route from Chicago to Portland.

I’ll be envious of my stuff’s train ride (image via).

Once you decide to move across the country, the next thing you need to decide is what all is coming along with you. It pretty much comes down to one big question: Will you get a U-Haul, or won’t you? Of course, there are a lot of options in between, and so I went with a combination of plans:

  • Purging stuff (do not underestimate this one!) (~65%)
  • Mailing flat-rate USPS shipping boxes (~10%)
  • Using Amtrak shipping (~15%)
  • Packing the rest in my Cavalier with me and my dad (remaining ~10%)

Did you know you can use Amtrak to ship up to 500 pounds of your stuff from Chicago to Portland for less than $300? The catch is getting an array of boxes to Union Station, but we’ll get to that.

Purging:

I’d done purges before, but the one I did this spring was a doozy. I held a yard sale in April (pissing off my building’s stick-in-the-mud condo association, even though I had the permit the city of Chicago requires). I got rid of most of my smaller furniture there — end tables, ottomans — and lots of clothing. I sold some larger, individual pieces on Craigslist, like my desk and my bed frame. I gave people back the stuff of theirs I’d borrowed (mostly — I still have some of your books, friends). Christina and John volunteered to give my couch a home. I made a Salvation Army pick-up appointment for the very last of the large furniture items, and some random bags of donations. The Salvation Army dudes took the bags, but refused to take the furniture because it was not in good enough condition to be displayed in a showroom. I thought fast and bribed them to take the items to my condo’s alley (further pissing off said condo association).

USPS Shipping:

But before that, one of the first things I did to prepare for my move to Christina’s back in April was to go through the books and other heavy (but small) stuff that survived the initial purge and pack them up in USPS flat-rate shipping boxes. The large ones are 12″ x 12″ x 5.6″ and cost $17.50 to ship, no matter what they weigh. That means, you can mail yourself a bunch of heavy stuff in 10 boxes for $175. That said, I might put these on my Amtrak shipment, depending on the total weight of the stuff I own NOT currently in USPS boxes.

Amtrak Shipping:

Now, back to Amtrak: 500 pounds is the maximum amount of weight they’ll allow for one shipment. I’m hoping to come in under that, but if I don’t, I’ll just mail some of those heavy-ass USPS boxes to my new apartment the week before I leave Chicago. The full 500 pounds would cost a person $274. That’s a steal, but as I mentioned, it means getting up to 500 pounds of boxes to Union Station in downtown Chicago. I either need a real good friend with a car to tag along with me in mine, or I need to shell out $128 + tip to use Dolly, which bills itself as “the Uber of moving.” I am fine with hiring a Dolly, but my big concern is, what happens if Amtrak refuses to take something? Will that Dolly fee double if they have to go back to my house with some boxes?

Amtrak doesn’t require you make an appointment to drop off your stuff, but I have no idea where in Union Station you’re supposed to carry it all. I’m setting aside Sunday, July 5 as a tentative Amtrak drop-off date. I don’t leave Chicago until the 13th, so that means I’ve got some wiggle room in case Amtrak can’t take something I need shipped. It will also mean my stuff will beat me to Portland — lucky for me, Amtrak will hold onto boxes for $3 per box, per day.

Packing the Car:

If Amtrak and/or the USPS boxes’ travel plans work out by Friday, July 5, that will mean I’ll have that last week to play some Cavalier Tetris. However, if my shipping plans go well, it also means I won’t have much to put in the car. (We’ll see how true or untrue this ends up being.) In any event, I’ll be buying this giant duffle bag I can strap to the top of my car — it’s got a capacity of 15 cubic feet, and is 44″ in length x 36″in width, and between 14-19″ in height. In there, I’ll be putting all my framed artwork and posters, plus cramming in whatever clothes I’ll keep with me for at least two weeks (July 6-July 20). Inside the car itself, I’ll keep my Kitchenaid stand mixer, record player and records, and my skates — all particularly precious cargo, trust me. Hopefully all this stuff fits, with enough room for my dad to be able to roll both front seats back. He’s a tall dude and I’m a short lady who doesn’t think about that stuff.

And finally, friends Matt and Carie were sympathetic to my cause and offered to give me their old car’s bike rack. I need to pick it up and test it out, so I know Scout will be secure as we head across several states. (I couldn’t part with my lovely bike.)

So, there you have it — best laid plans, right? Good thing Dad reminded me he’ll need room for HIS suitcase, or else every inch inside the car would have already been accounted for.

Transient

image via

image via

I have moved 14 times since 2007. My life has been dotted with weekends in all seasons, of paying friends and family in pizza and beer as they carted all of my things between points A and B. I haven’t lived anywhere for more than 18 months since I was a teenager.

Sometimes these moves were for good things, like new jobs and new cities and new boyfriends. Sometimes they were for bad things, like breakups. Mostly breakups.

The story of my Chicago

I told my dad I was quitting my job and moving to Chicago five years ago, while I was serving jury duty in Franklin County. It was March, just a couple weeks before my 24th birthday, and I was on a COTA bus going home after another day of not being put on a jury. I’d had time to think. Weeks earlier I had left my college boyfriend of five years after months of us growing apart. I loathed my job and had found the distance from it imposed by jury duty to be a strange relief. The idea of picking up and starting over elsewhere was intoxicating, and from the moment the idea planted itself in my mind, it dominated my thoughts.

My dad, on the other end of the line, was not thrilled, and gave me a list of reasons why my plan was flawed. He called back the next day and sighed.

“Do it anyway,” he said. “Now is the time.”

I saved up for six months. On October 25, I packed my Cavalier with two weeks’ worth of clothes and moved in with a relative in the suburbs of Chicago. Days later, I met Christina, my first Chicago friend and shortly after, my roommate and closest confident.

Give it time

I was lucky to have Christina, but I was incredibly homesick. This was something I had not anticipated — not because I don’t love my family, but simply because I had believed Chicago wouldn’t feel all that far away. I’d been so excited to live in a new place and I was ashamed for feeling afraid and maybe a little remorseful.

My dad, to his credit, didn’t tell me I’d made a mistake or tell me to come home. Instead he said, give it time.

I loved Chicago from the start, but I also expected a lot from it. Before I even arrived I had felt like there, finally, my life could begin — as if I’d been treading water just waiting up until that point. I wanted to right what I then saw as wrongs from my time spent in Columbus.

I fell in love my first summer in Chicago; I got my heart busted three years later. I spent the majority of my Chicago time making another person a large part of my identity and it backfired once he was gone.

Even though I knew it wasn’t fair to Chicago, I did hold it somewhat in contempt. It didn’t help that days after my ex-boyfriend moved out of our apartment, my car was vandalized. It didn’t help that I endured more incidents of street harassment and intimidation in the year I was without him than I had in my entire life previously. It didn’t help that I had 95 percent believed I’d met the person I was going to marry and while 5 percent of me knew I was wrong all along, it was still a harsh reality to face in the end.

A growing year

I made myself busy. I got a great job. I found a better apartment. I spent Saturday nights on girl friends’ couches and became a better friend. I called my dad more. I mailed care packages to my nieces. I wrote with relish and abandon. I cut my hair, I did standup, I took up roller derby.

I learned to forgive — not just other people in my life, but myself.

I took myself on a vacation. I spent several days in Portland by myself, where I met strangers and made them my friends. I rode a borrowed bike everywhere and stayed out late by myself, unafraid. I ate brunch on bar stools and struck up conversations with those beside me with ease.  I like who I am in Chicago, but I liked who Portland made me even more.

I came home to Chicago and found a parking ticket on my car’s windshield.

A plan for Portland

I thought about Portland for weeks. What was coming was inevitable, I think, but I still knew it was ill-advised. I’d written and said many times over that I’d never move to out of state again, especially not without a job. But I was suddenly beginning to feel like doing the hard stuff all over again really was the best thing for me. I could do it better, I would tell myself going to sleep.

I have gotten to know myself well in the last 15 months on my own in Chicago. But the more I’ve listened to myself, the more I have come to understand that my time in Chicago is coming to a close. It isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s just time.

Two days before Christmas, I made the decision to move in the fall — it would be capping off five years in Chicago, and I’d have until October to save money and apply for work. By February, I’d already moved the timeframe up twice.

When my lease ends this spring, I’ll be moving back to Christina’s, while I continue to save up and wait for July to arrive. I’ll have part of one more Chicago summer, and I won’t be in love with anyone this time. I will love only places.

Today, I told my boss. In mid-July, I will move for the 16th time with a U-Haul trailer hitched to my poor Cavalier. I will see the Badlands and I will take my time. I will give in to my own stubborn will again. I will move westward for miles and miles.

I can’t wait to see where I land.

2014 Year-in-Review

If each year since I started this blog had a tagline, they might go something like, “2008: The Year I Started a Grown-Up Job After Graduating From College” or “2010: The Year I Moved to Chicago” or even “2012: The Year of The Ear Surgeries.”

What would 2014 be? The year all of Chicago’s crazies/misogynists descended upon me at once? The year of my breakup? Or would it be the year I said yes? This is how I choose to look back on this year.

I wrote 18 blog posts in 2013. This is my 54th for 2014. I wrote more this year than possibly any other, save the year I was a full-time reporter. I also traveled more in 2014 than ever before, from California to Vegas to Portland to Salt Lake City to home.

It was a good year. I couldn’t see how it could possibly turn out to be so when it started, but it absolutely was. I started out this year feeling like someone’s ex-girlfriend. I’m wrapping it up with such a solid sense of self, and a clearer understanding of who I am and what I want for my life. For me, 2010 was a similar year of growth, when I made a life-saving recovery thanks to grief counseling, and ended it with the decision to hit re-set by moving to Chicago. This year was less dramatic, but just as eye-opening and productive and soul-feeding.

I spent the first half of 2014 in complete upheaval: breaking up with my live-in boyfriend; spending the first three months of the year unsure if I was going to get hired for a new job I was in the running for; and moving out of my apartment of more than two years to a new neighborhood with a roommate I didn’t know.

The rest of 2014 was spent smoothing things out, leveling them: I am no longer in a co-dependent relationship in which I feel shitty half the time; I love my job; and I live in a much better apartment with an awesome lady who makes me tea and buys me chocolate when I’m sad. The second half of 2014 was spent writing, whether it was an episode of a webseries, freelance articles, blog posts, or a travel series. It was at the start of the second half that I felt the undeniable need to go to Portland alone and experience that city and new place.

I said yes to lots and lots of things. I like myself a whole lot better than I did 12 months ago. So, as I’ve done since 2008, I present to you the inane; the important; the things I deemed worthy of blogging about this year.

January: My ex-boyfriend moved out of the apartment we shared. Was asked to be a contributor for the Addison Recorder. Got an email from an HR department about a marketing job I’d applied for. Enjoyed the company of Mango, a foster kitty that had been left in my custody.

February: Had a rough, cold winter and drove to the suburbs in a snowstorm for a job interview. Spontaneously decided to flee the polar vortex(es) and fly to San Diego to see Eileen and Tim.

March: Debated whether or not to re-sign my lease on an expensive one-bedroom that used to be paid for by two people. The day before my 28th birthday I heard I was hired for the new job, but signed my lease knowing I was going to need to break it in the summer to find somewhere cheaper.

April: A month of goodbyes: Said goodbye to Groupon, and hello to my current company. Said goodbye to Sarah and Evan, who moved to Salt Lake City and Seattle, respectively. Ran a 5K with Jaimi — my first in two years, her first one ever.

May: Said another goodbye, to Mango the cat. Ran another 5K, this time with Travis. Got horribly sick just before Memorial Day weekend, but recovered in time to go on an illuminating bike ride to Evanston with Becca.

June: Rode my bike everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. Made plans to move in with Adele in Albany Park. Was unfortunately assaulted by a cyclist in Lincoln Square just before moving. Began writing in earnest for the Addison Recorder. Ran my first 8K.

July: Went to Ohio for Fourth of July weekend. Threw myself a moving-out party. Wrote an episode of a webseries. Had a meltdown after procrastinating packing for weeks. Packed. Said goodbye to my home of 2+ years and cried a lot. Decided to visit Portland by myself in the fall.

August: Settled into the new apartment and was surprised by how much better I felt just by getting out of the old place. Got really into using Twitter. Tallied up my miles and realized I’d ridden more than 200 over June, July, and August.

September: Bought myself a tiny blue record player and held its importance close. Finally read at a live lit event, sharing an essay about moving out of the old place and away from the memories it was built from. Went to Vegas for work and began to feel mounting excitement for Portland. Ran my best 5K yet, this time by myself.

October: Flew to Portland by myself Oct. 1. Fell in love with a part of the country I was unfamiliar with and biked everywhere I went for four days. Took a bus to visit Evan in Seattle. Read at two more live lit shows. Starting making lists for NewsCastic. Began to imagine myself living in Portland.

November: Climbed all the steps of the Sears Tower with Jaimi, Becca, and Jodi. Felt the heavy weight of my mom being gone for seven years. Had an essay published on Hello Giggles. Saw the final version of the webseries episode I wrote. Flew to SLC to see Sarah with Stef for a very fun Friendsgiving.

December: Had a really effing terrible cab experience. Signed up for a January stand-up comedy class taught by a live lit woman I admire and respect. Took up roller derby. Got bangs! Went home for Christmas and was gifted the skates I needed for game play. Flew home thinking about what I want to get out of 2015 and began making some plans.

Cab Ride, Saturday Night

So I am just going to keep writing accounts of my own experiences of cat calling, sexual harassment and intimidation, and verbal abuse. I have to get these stories outside of myself.

Last night I thought I was never going to make it home. I was worried I was being abducted by my cab driver, who started out my ride by asking me if I lived alone. That should have been my first red flag. A lot of times, young guys driving cabs ask if I have a boyfriend, and I don’t think anything of it. This was not that conversation. I told him I was single but doing really well with that because I feel like I’m a lot more productive when I’m not dating someone. He asked if I was interested in a “short-term relationship” and I said that wasn’t my thing. He did not accept this answer.

I’d change the subject and he would ask a couple benign questions, but always come back to asking me about something short-term. He tried to flatter me and said he was getting off his shift after taking me home. I would say no again and again, but he would demand to know why. He slowed down the car each time, waiting for me to respond. Dumbfounded, I repeated variations of my first response but he wouldn’t let it go. It was too late when I realized he’d gone much further west than I live and I panicked, my stomach absolutely sinking. In that moment I honestly believed he had no intention of letting me go. I had written his cab number in my phone about halfway through the ride when his questions started becoming invasive but I didn’t know what to do with it in that moment.

I pointed out we were further west than where I’d said. He stopped the car in the middle of the street and asked me where he was supposed to be going. I told him, and he got annoyed with me and said I’d told him the wrong street. He turned around, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

He did drop me off at the intersection I’d originally given, but tried with me one last time. He asked for my number or my Facebook, and I told him I wasn’t comfortable with that. He didn’t say anything, and I slammed the door shut. I walked south half a block, looking over my shoulder, and hid in an alley until I saw him go. I stayed there for a couple of minutes, worried he might loop around the block. He didn’t. I am so glad I gave the intersection I did, which is not my block, but the intersection of the two largest streets closest to me.

I reported him to 311, giving the cab number I’d written down and any details about him I could remember. He said he had only been a cab driver for two months. He’s lived in Chicago for two years. He was intimidating and verbally manipulative and he should not be a cab driver.

In Perpetual Motion

Welcome back to Chicago!

Welcome back to Chicago!

So, here’s a thing I should probably address — a bunch of people have asked me if it’s in my plans to move to Portland. The short answer is, probably-not-but-also-maybe — the long answer is just as complicated.

I moved to Chicago four years ago this week, on October 25, 2010. I saved up for six months, quit my job, and came here to be unemployed and make all-new friends in a city where I knew almost no one. I freelanced for a newspaper for a few months before starting at Groupon, and I made fast friends with my new roommate and coupon factory co-workers. It worked out in the end, but it was extremely difficult. I promised myself I’d never move to a new city without a job again because it was something I hadn’t thought through enough before taking a huge risk. I was lucky it had panned out, and I knew it.

I love Chicago so, so much. I’ve made lasting friendships here, and a life for myself. It took a while, but I finally got my career back on track by getting a marketing position that I truly enjoy and feel confident doing. I live in an apartment I can afford and have at long last separated myself from a soured relationship. Once some stability comes my way, of course, my need for change is not far behind. I’ve always been a little like this — restless, and looking for the new big change, the next bold move, the future thing(s) to plan.

Portland is appealing for a lot of reasons. Tri-Met, Portland’s version of the CTA, mailed my wallet back to me the weekend after I got home. It remained untouched, from my Illinois license ID to the $4 cash I’d had tucked in it. I was astonished and thankful. I loved my time out there, and felt truly welcomed by strangers in a way I didn’t expect. It’s a city, but on a smaller scale, where maybe I could be a bigger fish in a somewhat smaller pond. Maybe I could found Story Club Portland? Or I could start a hyperlocal news site about a neighborhood there, handing off 60625 to the next wave of Albany Park and Lincoln Square writers?

Portland is bike-able year-round, and no one has to clear snow off of their cars. It’s also gray eight months of the year and last week I nearly had a meltdown because it rained in Chicago for five days straight.

Portland is far away from the places my ex and I used to go during three of my four years living in this city. It’s also 2,000+ miles away from my home, my family. Airfare to Columbus from Portland costs a lot more than it does from here. It’s worth noting that Portland is technically (very slightly) higher than Chicago in terms of cost-of-living.

There are plenty of reasons to move to Portland, but also lots of reasons why not. Many things would need to happen before I could make another, bigger move. If my work let me stay on remotely, that would be an amazing start, but that’s a pretty big ask coming from someone who’s worked there only six months.

Yes, I did get a welcome-home present from the city of Chicago in the form of a parking ticket for street cleaning. Yes, I did feel pretty disenchanted when men shouted obscenities at me twice before 9 a.m. while I rode my bike to Target the Saturday after my trip, after riding around unbothered for days in Portland. Yes, the idea of another polar vortex is surprisingly crippling. But this is something I plan to spend this winter thinking about. I have to hope this one’s nothing like the last, because I just don’t think I can take it. We never truly had a summer here, and now it’s about to get cold and windy all over again. That is not a cheering thought.

What IS cheering is that I’ve got the next few months to spend time with my friends here, all of us making each other get out of the house and resist hibernation. I’ve got live lit readings calling my name and a passion for something new to keep me motivated. I’ve even been getting tapped for paid freelance writing more and more lately, which is kind of unbelievable but extremely encouraging.

If I did move to Portland, it wouldn’t be until well into 2015, and as I said, a lot of things would need to happen before then. It would also be nice if I could visit there again soon, when it’s NOT 80 degrees and gorgeous — just to be on the safe side.

Maybe this is just how I will always be? Moving from city to city every three or four years — Columbus to Chicago, Chicago to Portland, and then what? Will I never feel content in one space? I’m honestly not sure.

That life sounds equal parts exhausting and thrilling and I honestly don’t know what to do with it. I just need to do what’s best for myself and go from there.

200 Miles of Summer

My bike at Montrose Beach in July

My bike at Montrose Beach in July

I wrote earlier this year about my newly-discovered love of cycling. I managed to keep loose track of my miles traveled via bicycle this summer using questionable metrics, and I’ve determined that I’ve biked more than 200 miles in three months.

The mild weather kept it from feeling like summer most of the season (I realize this was a major plus in many’s eyes — not in mine) but having my bike to get me around the city made for some great experiences. I rode downtown to do Zumba in the park; I went to the Empty Bottle to see my friend’s band; I made grocery runs by bike and backpack and wasn’t at the mercy of the Lawrence bus. I pedaled proudly and with independence. It was a great summer to get some added feelings of independence.

Thanks to Becca for getting me on my bike in the first place, and to Stef for answering my many questions, and to Brianne for giving me confidence and extremely handy knowledge for basic bike repair.

At the end of June, July, and August I looked at my Google calendar to see where all I’d been. If I remembered biking there, I used Google Maps to check distance. With this inexact data, I’ve compiled a (probably, maybe) complete list from June 1 until today, Aug. 31:

  • Saturday, June 7: Rode to meet Jaimi at Wilson & Broadway, then downtown to Millennium Park: 10.2 miles; then rode north to Belmont, then down to Diversey, then up Clark to Andersonville: 10; then Andersonville to home: 2.3 miles
  • Sunday, June 8: Rode to visit new apartment in Albany Park, then went to Brianne’s with Becca and back home: 8.1 miles
  • Saturday, June 14: Rode bike to Target at Wilson & Broadway, then to brunch with Kristen in Wicker Park: 13.8 miles, roundtrip
  • Sunday, June 15: Rode to Mariano’s on Lawrence and back: 2.8 miles, roundtrip
  • Rode to The Empty Bottle in Ukranian Village to see Saintseneca: 11.4 miles, roundtrip
  • Friday, June 20: Biked to Jaimi’s to stay the night before a race by her house: 3.1 miles
  • Saturday, June 21, biked from Jaimi’s to Montrose Beach run an 8K, then to Horizon Cafe in Lakeview to get breakfast with Liz, and then home: 4.0 miles
  • Tuesday, June 24: Biked to Stef’s and back: 6.4 miles roundtrip
  • Thursday, June 26: Biked down to McCormick Place downtown for an all-day work event, then to Lincoln Park to run a 5K, then home: 24.4 miles total (this was a poorly-planned day)
  • Friday, June 27: Biked to Stef’s and back: 6.4 miles
  • Sunday, June 29: Biked to Pride at Montrose and Broadway, then to new apt, then back home: 7.8 miles

June: 110.7

  • Sunday, July 13: Biked to the lake and back with Dad: 6.8 miles
  • Wednesday, July 16: Biked to Guts & Glory at Schuba’s to watch live lit with Christina and friends: 6 miles
  • Saturday, July 19: Biked to Target at Wilson & Broadway, then up to Foster Beach, then home: 8.2 miles
  • Tuesday, July 22: Biked to Starbucks in Lincoln Square, then home: 1.8 miles
  • Saturday, July 26: Biked from old apartment to new apartment: 1.7 miles
  • Sunday, July 27: Biked from new place to Davis Movie Theater and back: 4.2 miles
  • Monday, July 28: Biked from new place to Potbelly’s in Lincoln Square, then home: 4.2 miles
  • Tuesday, July 29: Biked from new place to Starbucks at Wilson & Kedzie, then home: 1.4 miles
  • Thursday, July 31: Biked from new place to Kevin’s to write episode of webseries, then home: 3.6 miles

July: 37.9

  • Friday, Aug. 1: Biked Park West to Stef’s house after Jenny Lewis concert: 3.5 miles
  • Wednesday, Aug. 6: Biked from home to gym and grocery store Lincoln Square, then back home to Albany Park: 3 miles
  • Thursday, Aug. 7: Biked to Pilates at Montrose and Damen, then to Melrose Restaurant in Boystown for writers group meeting, then home: 10.2 miles
  • Saturday, Aug. 9: Biked to Hamburger Mary’s to see live lit, walked to Fat Cat’s, then biked home: 6.9 miles
  • Sunday, Aug. 10: Biked from home to Lincoln Square; dropped bike off for repairs, which took almost two weeks (so much lost time!): 1.7 miles
  • Saturday, Aug. 23: Biked from On The Route Bikes to home: 1.7 miles
  • Sunday, Aug. 24: Biked to Lincoln Square to drop off a gift for friend, then walked bike home: 1.7 miles
  • Tuesday, Aug. 26: Biked to Holiday Club for trivia, then back home: 8.6 miles
  • Wednesday, Aug. 27: Biked to Women & Children First Bookstore and back: 6.8 miles
  • Thursday, Aug. 28: Biked to Stef’s, then downtown, then home: 19.1 miles roundtrip
  • Sunday, Aug. 31: Biked to Starbucks to write this blog post: 0.7 miles

August: 63.9

GRAND TOTAL: 212.5

Me and my bike, as taken by Dad in July

Me and my bike, as taken by Dad in July

Not bad for a first summer. We’ll see how long into the fall I can last.

Writing & Twitter

Part of my job at my association is to offer social media assistance to businesses, and it’s an extremely rewarding aspect of the work I do. It did, however, mean that I had to start a Twitter account. I’d had accounts in the past, including one for my news site. I knew how to use it, and I posted to it for 60625, but try as I might, I couldn’t train myself to check it often enough to make it worthwhile as a social media tool.

But now, after three months of use, I am here to tell you that I get it now. First off, you have to allow for text or email notifications or else you’re never going to check that nonsense in the beginning. Also, don’t follow every single person/spam bot who follows you first because it will just clog up your feed.

Anyway. Don’t get me started. I now see the value of Twitter, in terms of networking, research, entertainment, and — lately — finding freelance work. I’ve been writing like crazy in recent weeks, and Twitter has a lot to do with this burst of creative productivity.

I’ve been blogging for my friends’ pop culture site, The Addison Recorder, since January. But it was pretty cool to get tweeted at by the author of a book I reviewed for that site:

Additionally, I connected with a friend’s new magazine about the Midwest and expanded on an idea I’d written on here previously about the oil and gas boom in my hometown. I saw on Twitter a call for submissions, so I pitched my idea and got it approved. I turned it in a couple weeks ago.

I later found on Twitter that a friend-of-a-friend’s web series was seeking script submissions for the next episode of their show, so I wrote something and sent it their way. I just heard yesterday that they want to produce what I wrote into an episode. It’s really exciting.

I also started following tons of live lit folks here in Chicago, and now I’m trying to get in on some of those events. Longtime readers may remember that performing at a live lit event has been on my bucket list for the last couple of years, so hopefully soon I’ll be able to finally make that happen. Meanwhile, I keep writing down ideas and outlines of essays that might be suited for that platform.

I stand before you a (years late) Twitter advocate and convert. It took a few half-hearted attempts, but I can’t go back now.

Ode to the bicycle

I finally get to use the bell I bought last summer in Fort Collins.

I finally get to use the bell I bought last summer in Fort Collins.

I was still sick on Memorial Day, with a deeper cough than I’ve had since maybe when I was a kid, but I was determined to enjoy the gorgeous weather on a day off. Becca told me to bring my bike by her place that morning so I could air up my tires after having left my bike in my building’s basement all winter. I was glad she knew to do that, and that she had a bike pump, because I sure didn’t.

I hate to admit it, but I was honestly relieved that morning to discover my bike was still in my building’s basement. I stopped going down there months ago once Kevin left, after both washers and dryers crapped out and it occurred to me a murderer could pretty easily access that space since my building’s back gate has no lock and the laundry room door frequently catches.

All winter long I’d feel the occasional pang of guilt, worrying about my bike, all alone down there. I’d bought it last May, the same week a much-liked co-worker at Groupon was killed on his bike by a drunk driver. I took my bike out a handful of times last summer, but I never got past my own general four-block radius. I was too afraid to go near major streets like Lawrence, Lincoln, or Western, all of which border my neighborhood in pretty unavoidable ways.

Yet there my bike was months later, with both wheels still there and everything. I walked it over to Becca’s and after airing up, we ended up going on a 15-mile ride to Evanston and back. To Evanston and back. I couldn’t believe it. I suddenly felt like I could go anywhere as long as I took my bike.

When we got home, I carried my bike up three flights of stairs and protectively parked it in my dining room, as I’ve done almost every day since. I rode to my friend Stef’s and back. I rode to the park. I braved Lincoln Avenue and Diversey and Lawrence. I felt alive and powerful and confused by the strange sort of fierce affection and attachment I’d developed for an inanimate object. I started to describe this to my bike fanatic friend Brianne, and she interrupted me to tell me she knew exactly what I was trying to say.

(I think I’m gonna name her Scout.)

The funny thing is, my mom’s entire family was made up of accomplished cyclists.

My mom’s brother is 65 and nearly qualified as an Olympic cyclist in the 70s. He still rides today, although in recent years he has moved more toward competitive in-line skating. He owns a company that designs and makes cycling gear. My mom’s parents met through a cycling group, and the local paper once wrote a feature about my grandfather for riding to work at the factory every day for years and years.

I, on the other hand, preferred riding my pink Schwinn in circles in my parents’ driveway growing up. It’s weird that this love is only just now hitting me at 28. But that’s also kind of awesome, because it makes me feel like there are probably many other cool things that someday I’ll discover a love for, and therefore life will always be exciting.

And I love it! I want to bike everywhere now. If only I too could bike to work.

Helmet shopping.

Helmet shopping.

I rode at night for the first time this week. I asked an old co-worker from Groupon to show me how to turn on my lights since it occurred to me I’d never once done so. Another friend of ours walked out with us, whose brother had died in a bike accident a few years ago. He has since become a strong advocate for cycling safety and helmets.

“Where’s your helmet, dummy?” he asked, and I held mine up.

“Never,” I assured him. I don’t blame him — if something could have possibly been done to prevent my mom from getting brain cancer, I’d probably be a little bit of a stickler for whatever that would be.

I rode home, half-amazed at my own boldness at riding on Irving Park, even signaling and making a left turn onto Broadway. Granted, it was 10:30 at night and there weren’t a lot of cars on the road, but I felt so daringly bold.

I’m sad I didn’t feel this way about biking last summer, but I plan to make up for lost time. Maybe I won’t be using my new Ventra transit card that much after all.

The third year

The ceiling at Not-Marshall-Fields

As it so often is these days, Nov. 11 was the anniversary of the day my mom died. She’s been gone for three years now, and that number is only going to get bigger despite my best efforts. I’m getting further and further away from her, and sometimes I’m afraid of the things I might forget. I’d planned on spending the day by myself in a strange city, letting myself be melancholy and fantastically over dramatic with my musical choices, not telling anyone here what Thursday was. Fortunately, I changed my mind and mentioned the anniversary to Christina on Tuesday night, during one of our long, gut spilling conversations. She offered to keep me busy and distracted that day, and I took her up on it.

She asked me if my family had visited Chicago; we had. What about Chicago reminded me of my mom? I knew right away it was Marshall Fields. Even though it’s not there anymore, and it’s been replaced by the department store company I work at now, I have thought about my mom a lot with this new venture. I associate department stores in general with her, but I definitely have a memory of being at Marshall Fields with her, and her buying some of those famous Frango mint chocolates. Those at least are still around, so we decided to go to Not-Marshall-Fields (as Christina so affectionately calls it, like a true Chicagoan) and buy a box. She offered to take me on a tour of the city on her day off, and gave me a book to start in preparation. I spent the next day making a major dent in “The Devil in the White City,” a fascinating book about two important men living and working in Chicago in the late 1890s.

We went on our tour Thursday morning and hit Not-Marshall-Fields. Christina kept her biting indictment of the State Street store’s current tenant (and now, the folks giving me a paycheck) to a lull, and we went on a wild hunt for this ornate ceiling Christina remembered seeing a long time ago. We couldn’t find it right away, and for a while we were afraid Not-Marshall-Fields had unnecessarily removed a beautiful Tiffany-style ceiling. At last, we found it: an interior ceiling on the fourth floor in the women’s department. It was stunning. Christina breathed a sigh of relief.

We picked up a box of chocolates on the way out the door and headed to Miller’s Pub, an Irish pub on the same block as the famous Palmer House. We had lunch and headed north on Clark to a Christina-described hipster area with a ton of vintage clothing stores. We stayed out all day and headed home just before dark.

I was too busy to really take time to reflect, but I am okay with that. It wasn’t like I was intentionally pushing down my feelings, like I’d done for two years after she died; I was just living my life on a day mostly like any other day. I can think about her when I choose. I don’t have to disrupt my life and take a whole day to be sad.

I miss her, but I really do think she’d be pretty excited about my life right now. I think she’d think it’s pretty awesome I’ll be working at a department store and getting a sweet employee discount. She’d be proud of me for doing what I want with my life.