Sunday, December 6, 2009

the embers never fade in the city by the lake

I've been really fortunate to have been able to travel fairly extensively by the age of 20. I have been to 14 countries; most of them I visited during my semester spent in Italy. I have an insatiable desire to explore as many different lifestyles and cultures as I can- I feel like every new place that I go changes me slightly and deepens this curiosity. I remember reading a quote once about how no part of a person is completely original or emerges solely from their own psyche, but rather is comprised of the effects and results of every place they have ever been, and every person they have ever met. In 'Invisible Monsters' Chuck Palahniuk wrote, "Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I've ever known." The internalization and comprehension of everywhere your life has led you up to that point. I think Palahniuk's quote is a perfect articulation of this. Every experience that I have, and person I hear speak contributes to my overall base of experience and knowledge, even if I don't necessarily subscribe to their ideas or belief system. I really believe in this, and I feel that the more places that I can go and the more people I can talk to, the deeper my overall skills to understand and empathize with others will be.

While I have this desire and appreciation for people with viewpoints different from my own and will never be content with a completely sedentary lifestyle, I don't think I will ever lose the fascination that Chicago holds for me. I had a conversation with my best friend once about how grateful we are to have been raised within 20 miles of a city teeming with diversity, adventure, and opportunity. I feel that the values and beliefs that I hold are often reflective of a Midwestern upbringing. Obviously, Chicago is a huge city and this could mean something completely different to each person that resides there. To me, though, the values that my family, upbringing, and Chicago have instilled in me are those of perseverance, an appreciation of and acceptance of diversity, and an admiration for people who are hard-working and down-to-earth. This sounds rather generic, and I guess these values could have been learned in many different circumstances in places all over the world. For me, though, they are representative of the life I have led in the Chicagoland area, and the intricate web of experiences and encounters that have moved outward from where I was raised. I say I hate cold weather, and winter in Chicago is bitterly cold. When people say you 'build character' doing things like shoveling snow or walking around in weather that constitutes a feeling of -20 F, I don't think it's just a sentiment of encouragement. I think they're right. If you don't have the ability to put a roof over your head in Chicago during the winter, you will freeze.

'i'm not big on rappers, actors, or models- if i had to dip, i'd probably skip to chicago' -atmosphere

Traveling has helped me to develop the ability to understand other ways of life and beliefs. It has built my ability to understand not only other cultures, but has made me more grateful for and appreciative of the place that I come from and the effects that it has had on me. No matter where I go in life, I will have had the opportunity to have grown up here, and certain aspects of my personality and beliefs will always reflect that. I will never forget the days and nights that I spent exploring the city, and the mystery and excitement that it often seemed to be teeming with.

You know what the Midwest is? Young and restless.


The night spent 'sleeping' in Grant Park to promote awareness for the civil war in Uganda. A night that wound on through discussions about religion and poverty, the global community and Chicago demographics through freezing early April rain and bitterly cold wind. The night of going to our first party on the North Side, not really knowing what we were getting into or how we would get home that night (or morning). The first time I volunteered in a soup kitchen in Chicago, not really aware of the poverty and hardship facing citizens that lived less than a half hour away from me. It is difficult to articulate the feeling that I get when driving north where 55 becomes Lake Shore Drive, and seeing the city unfolding- shimmering with as much promise and possibility as it had the very first time that I can remember going there.

all things go, all things go


Album: 'Come on, Feel the Illinoise' Sufjan Stevens
Album: 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' Wilco
Song: 'Dear Chicago' Ryan Adams
Song: 'Chicago X12' Rogue Wave
Song: hidden track following 'Always Coming Back Home to You' on Atmosphere's 'Seven's Travels'
Song: 'Tonight, tonight' Smashing Pumpkins
Song: 'Homecoming' Kanye West
Song: 'Slow Down, Chicago' Canasta
Song: 'Chicago Seemed Really Tired Last Night' The Hold Steady

By nights when the yellow salamanders of the EL bend all one way and the cold rain runs with the red-lit rain.
By the way the city's million wires are burdened only by lightest snow;
When chairs are stacked and glasses are turned and arc-lamps all are dimmed.
By days when the wind bangs alley gates ajar and the sun goes by on the wind.
By nights when the moon is an only child above the measured thunder of the cars, you may know Chicago's heart at last.
-Nelson Algren

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