Monday, August 22, 2011

Home sweet Chicago

I have arrived in Chicago!  After many months of planning, I am finally here and getting ready to start the photography MFA program at Columbia College Chicago.  I couldn't be more excited.

Last week, I packed up my pickup truck with my negatives, my computer, my cameras, my plants, and my friend Ely and headed west.  We left Boston in the morning and headed west on 90 until we came to Niagara Falls.  New York is a big state!  It seemed like we were driving through New York forever.  We found a little hotel and carted all of my negatives to our second floor room (the hotel had no elevator, might I add) and set out to find dinner, which turned out to be quite good despite a totally empty restaurant.  Luck would have it that there was a bowling alley right next to our hotel, so after dinner we popped in to bowl a few games and it turned out that games were only 50 cents each!  Coming from Boston, where games are regularly $5.50 each, I was ecstatic and couldn’t let the opportunity pass.  We took full advantage of this offer by bowling 8 games, and I was actually sore the next morning, which is not something that usually happens to me after bowling.  We packed up all of my negatives and computer equipment and headed towards Niagara Falls, but we were distracted by a thrift store for the better part of an hour.  We finally made it and went on the Maid of the Mist tour, which takes you on a little boat right to the base of the falls.  I had been once before but it had been many years so it was amazing to see it again.  

Me and Ely at Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls from above

From the boat

From the boat, even closer!

Ely getting sprayed with the mist

Later that day we headed west again through Pennsylvania and into Ohio, which all of a sudden seemed very flat.  I could tell we were no longer in New England, or even what I call “greater New England,” which includes much of New York.  We planned to spend the night in Toledo, OH and found a hotel with a first floor room available since we had learned our lesson the night before.  This time we just loaded up a big cart full of negatives and cameras and wheeled it into the hotel room.  Luckily there was a Mexican restaurant right next to the hotel, so we got some dinner and much needed margaritas (for $3.75!!!) before heading to bed.  The next morning we loaded all of my gear yet again (Ely is a very good friend) and drove the final 4 hours through Indiana (there’s a first time for everything) into Chicago where we found my new apartment and started to settle in, spending the first few nights on air mattresses with nothing but camera equipment and a little forest of jade plants.  

The first day in the new pad

 Once settled in Chicago, we set out to see the new statue of Marilyn Monroe, which apparently has caused some controversy, and Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate,” also known as The Bean.  


Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate

Me and Ely in the Bean

We also spent several hours in the Field Museum, which was amazing.  Lastly, we spent Sunday at Market Days, a gay street festival in Boystown, which is only a few blocks from my apartment.  

Ely at the Field Museum

Ely at Market Days

After Ely headed back to Arkansas, my mom and her partner, Chris, flew in from Boston to spend a few days with me helping me unpack.  We got my things all moved into my apartment and almost completely unpacked within two days!  It was quite impressive.  There is no shortage of good restaurants and cute coffee shops in my neighborhood, and the three of us had a great time exploring Lakeview.  My mom found a gelato shop that she went to three times!  We had intended to head downtown and see the sculptures in Millenium Park, but we liked just hanging out in Lakeview so much that we never left.  We also checked out the Brown Elephant resale shop, a thrift store that benefits the Howard Brown Health Center, where I scored some amazing apartment finds for super cheap.  It reminded me of Boomerang's in Boston, but about 10 times bigger. 

Thanks to the help from my mom and Chris, I am feeling mostly settled and getting ready for school to start in a few weeks.   

My old cameras, books, and my beloved TT Baum painting

I’ve got a backlog of negatives to scan, from both Transcendence (which is ongoing- I am looking for trans and gender variant people in and around Chicago to photograph) and Open View (for which I recently finished photographing and now need to make sense of my hundreds of negatives).   I plan to continue working on Transcendence while in grad school, and the next step for Open View is to put together an edit and start working on a book.  I am hoping to have all of my negatives scanned before classes start.

And, in the coming weeks before classes start, I have plenty of time to go check out some galleries and museums, of which Chicago seems to have quite a few.  I am excited to be here and am very much looking forward to beginning this 3 year adventure.

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