Tag Archives: Chicago

My end of 2012 homework

In 2010, Jamey assigned me some homework, ordering me to reflect on everything that I accomplished that year. So, I did and I wrote a post about it. It was really helpful. So helpful that I did it again last year and I’ve been writing 2013’s homework in my head pretty much all year long.

The 12 Achievements of 2012:

1. I turned 30. I watched the Saints-Lions game at a neighborhood bar with a bunch of friends who decided the only way to make me feel 30 was to encourage me to drink like I was 21. The Saints won, I got to spend time with friends while celebrating the start of my thirties and everybody was happy. At least, we were all happy that night. Darker times were ahead for the Saints. But, thus far, my thirties are still going well.

2. I got my 5th tattoo and “finished” my birthday tattoo project, undertaken between the pivotal years of 25 and 30.

3. I attended a local premiere of 21 Jump Street with cast and crew, which was a really fun experience and the movie was hilarious. Then, I spent the first three-fourths of the year working on two more movies I’ve very proud to have been involved with (#1 and #2).

4. I went on a road trip with Mamma Mia!, after I evacuated for Hurricane Isaac and stayed with some friends. Since we visited both of my grandmothers in Columbus, Ohio and Chicago, I called it The Grandma Road Trip. Not only did we get to see a lot of family members we hadn’t seen in years since we’re all so spread out, but Mamma Mia! and I spent more time together than we had in probably a decade. And we both survived.

5. I wrote a skit for The NO Show, Helen Krieger‘s new-school old-fashioned radio show, then got to see it produced. Helen was looking for material, I said I might have have some and next thing I knew, we were writing a 5-minute version of my idea. Then, there was a table reading and a “punch-up” draft with the actors and other funny people. Then, one of our actors couldn’t make the re-scheduled recording and I had to step in and voice one of the characters! It was a rollercoaster ride, a fun one, and I hope it keeps going.

6. I freelanced for the last quarter of the year. It was really tough, but it was also one of the most important things I’ve ever done. I continued to write for 225 Magazine and also continued some editing work I’ve done for a while. I worked for a friend of my dad’s in the industry I grew up in (conventions and trade shows) and discovered I’d picked up a lot more as a kid than I’d realized. And I wrote. I freelanced on another movie and recently accepted some new work on a tv show, which I won’t be able to talk about for a long time.

My obsession with tango continued. There were a lot of firsts this year.

7. I bought my first pair of tango shoes. This coincided with me dancing as much as possible, at least once or twice a week, and sometimes more, so my dancing improved a lot.

8. I danced in new communities, in Atlanta (three times) and Chicago (once). I hope to go back and dance with them more in 2013, and also, I plan on checking out new places to dance as well.

9. I performed for the first time. I almost didn’t, then changed my mind at the last minute. It was a terrifying and utterly satisfying experience and I hope to do it more. I’m glad I made the decision to be bold and dance.

Photo by Shari Stauch

Photo by Shari Stauch.
Partner is Casey Mills.

10. I won NaNoWriMo. This year, it was easy. I was freelancing, so I had the time to commit. I had a great, fun story. I watched Saints games, tv shows, movies, went out with my friends. Even with voting, Thanksgiving, my shower exploding and getting sick, I still finished early.

11. I won my first major literary prize. My essay “Tango Face” won the essay category of the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Literary Competition. In my “end of 2011 homework” post, I said I was submitting my work diligently and promised I would brag on myself when the submitting paid off. So, as promised, when it paid off, I bragged on myself.

12. I achieved better balance. Literally, with my dancing, I achieved better balance, working on my core and maintaining my own axis. There’s still lots of room for improvement, but I’ve come a long way. Figuratively, I sought out and achieved better balance in my life, between work and play, between paying the bills and passion. I fought for and found better balance within myself. I talked about balance in both my 2010 and 2011 end-of-the-year homework assignments, each time with more clarity and cohesion. I mentioned balance by accident in 2010, unaware of it’s importance. I knew I needed balance in 2011 and I was looking for it. In 2012, I achieved it for glorious patches of time, which convinces me that it’s attainable. It’s still the goal.

2012 was a banner year, not only because of my 12 personal achievements, but also because the world didn’t end. And since it didn’t end, I’m looking forward to all the experiences and achievements 2013 has to offer.

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Filed under Atlanta, bragging on, coolness, family, freelance work, Friends, musing, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, New Orleans Film Industry, random rant, tango, The Grandma Road Trip

The Grandma Road Trip – Leg Five

Leg Five: Chicago to Acworth, 685.8 miles

Monday, September 10th: We met Norm and Trouble for breakfast at Delia’s one more time and said our last round of goodbyes before heading out of Chicago. We passed striking teachers (and/or their supporters) on the overpasses as we exited the city and we honked our support as we went.

After passing through all the toll stations, we settled in to finish our second fluffy Janet Evanovich audio book, then started the looong audio book Mums had chosen, The Thirteenth Tale. It wasn’t long into the story before I realized we weren’t going to finish it together and regretted that we didn’t listen to it first.

I almost wished we were beginning the trip all over again. But, it was long enough as it was.

We tried to stop at a place called The Thirsty Turtle in Indiana for lunch, but it was closed and we ended up at a Steak N’ Shake instead. We fared better with dinner,  at The Oasis Southwest Grill in Kentucky.

And though the audio book was extremely engaging, it seemed like we were in the mountains of Tennesee, sharing the dark road with 18-wheelers, forever. It was pretty tense, probably most of all because we were exhausted.

We made it home pretty late, but I stayed up to do laundry and pack for the last leg of the Grandma Road Trip, then got a few hours of sleep.

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The Grandma Road Trip – Leg Four

Leg Four: Columbus to Chicago, 355.8 miles

Thursday, September 6th: We made a pit stop at Tim Horton’s for coffee and doughnuts, then another at my Aunt R.‘s work to say goodbye, then got on the road for Chicago. For some reason, we were a bit more distracted on this trip and stopped several times. First at the amazing Amish Cheese Shop, where we got gifts for folks, some goodies for the fridge in our Chicago hotel room and a sandwich for lunch.

I drove a lot of this leg of the trip, but we switched out shortly before Chicago, in the land of the wind turbines.  They’re beautiful, but they also kinda freak me out. There’s something about their enormous size and how slowly the blades turn, and that they turn at different speeds.

We got to Chicago just in time for rush hour and about the only smart thing we’d done was switch drivers. At least Mums was fresh for that hellish experience. Chicago rush hour is no joke – and we know Atlanta traffic. Between the multitude of tolls and the suddenly-upon-you barriers that you can easily t-bone yourself on, we were quite aggravated. Chicago has three or four different events most nights and I had been thinking about finding a milonga since we were getting in pretty early and didn’t have plans with family yet. But after the 6+ hour drive, traffic getting into the city, the less-than-fun experience of unloading the car and getting everything up into the room, then taking the car to the lot a few blocks away and walking back to the hotel, I was pretty tired. I let Mums talk me into a quiet dinner at the hotel restaurant and an early evening.

A word about our hotel. The hotel we’ve stayed at before was sold out one of the nights we planned on being there, so Mums scrambled to find another place while we were in Columbus. She found The Write Inn, in the “Frank Lloyd Wright historic district” of Oak Park, across the street from a Hemingway museum and full of “old world charm.” (Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway are the dueling scions of Oak Park). There were such mixed reviews online that we were a bit uncertain, but we decided to take a chance. We ended up being very glad we did. It was inconvenient in a few small ways which mostly related to getting our things in and out and the parking situation, but we really enjoyed it as a home base during our visit.

The Write Inn

And that first night, we had such an amazing meal at Hemingway’s Bistro, inside the hotel. It was a bit expensive, but the food was incredible and the atmosphere was really relaxed and elegant. Even when somebody put on a bunch of Bajofondo tango music, just to taunt me. If I’d had any energy left, I would’ve figured out where to tango and gone that night, after listening to that. As it was, we watched President Obama’s speech at the DNC from the comfort of our hotel room. I didn’t mention this in the Columbus post, but I noticed the big campaign push while we were in Ohio, which is always an early indicator of how the election’s going to go. And now, here we were in the President’s home state, just in time to watch his speech.

Friday, September 7th: As usual, Mums woke up early, which meant I woke up early. We walked around, discovering the area around the hotel, which is packed with great shops and restaurants, but we had some trouble finding a hot breakfast. We ended up having coffee and quiches at this awesome coffee shop called Red Hen Bread. We continued our walk, finding the post office to mail our postcards and a movie theater and an amazing book shop called The Book Table. That place is dangerous! We both ended up buying a few books. Me, Victor LaValle’s Big Machine and David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary. Then, we had the best Indian buffet lunch I’ve ever tasted at Khyber Pass and saw The Words at the Lake Theater. We missed the first couple of minutes and both of us were a little stunned at the end. I could feel it coming, but I still felt surprised when the movie was over.

Me in love with the food at Khyber Pass

Then, we went to my aunt and uncle’s place to see everybody. My brother and his girlfriend had just gotten into town and my dad came up from the city, where he was working. Two of my cousins were off at college, so we didn’t get to catch up with them, but their younger twin brothers were home, and learning how to drive! I haven’t seen them for a few years, so it was hard to believe they were old enough. They are two of the most intelligent and conscientious kids you have ever met. They’ve had their own business for years, in fact. Whenever I worry about kids these days, my cousins reassure me that there are some good ones out there.

It was amazing to spend this time with our family, but my tentative plans to tango in the city flew out the window.

Saturday, September 8th: We met Norm and Trouble, my brother and his girlfriend, at Delia’s Kitchen, a great place we’d found on Lake Street the day before. There are so many great places in just a few blocks of Lake Street. Afterwards, we did a little shopping for Grammy‘s birthday dinner that evening. We dropped them off at the house, but ended up staying the rest of the day, ourselves. Except for practice driving sessions with both of the twins (funniest experience ever) and picking up my dad from the L station, I spent the day hanging out and helping prep for the Big Dinner. Grammy‘s 88th birthday was quite the event. She didn’t know that Norm, Trouble, Mums or I would be there and she seemed so completely thrilled to have almost the whole family together.

Between dinner, pictures and Norm (guitar) dueting with one of the twins (piano) on “Greensleeves,” we were all together till almost 1 a.m., so tango didn’t work out on Saturday, either. The twins were determined to help me get to tango, however, so earlier in the day, they’d helped me hatch a plan to finally, finally, tango.

Sunday, September 9th: On my last full day in Chicago, I met the twins and their dad at Red Hen Bread for breakfast. I did some work, finally catching up on a few things. Then, there was a flurry of plans and then a hectic pulling together of those plans as Norm, Trouble, the twins and our younger cousin and I all met at the L station and went into the city. My brother and I are different as night and day and I was a bit stressed wrangling the cousins while he was more laid back. It turns out there was construction on our line and we had to switch and then walk a few blocks, but one way or another, we made it to our destination. Which was the Art Institute of Chicago’s south garden where the Tango Guerillas have a free, public class every Sunday.  Chicago also had a summer dance series going on as well – they are absolutely spoiled for dance. This Sunday, they had a class featuring Enriqueta Kleinman, which was pretty amazing. Several members of the Tango Guerillas quickly took me and my posse under their wings, especially the cousins, which was really nice of them. After the class, Norm and Trouble took the kids out for dinner and I stayed for the milonga, having an absolute blast.

Later, I saw that I missed a flurry of phone calls from various family members. It turned out one of the cousins was late for a family obligation  and we all had to rush back to the suburbs. I ended up taking the L back on my own while the others caught the train from another station and my dad tried to meet up with all of us from a third station. It was really comical, but we all ended up getting back about the same time. Late, but happy after our day in the city.

That night, Mums and I packed and watched the news, waiting for word about whether or not the teachers would strike. We had to call it a night before we got our answer.

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Filed under family, Friends, musing, tango, The Grandma Road Trip, travel, world news