Chicago writer and blogger. A place of general musings and creative writing.
Our kids need uniforms!
As you know, it’s back to school time. I’m doing a school uniform drive for kids at Meade Park Elementary in my hometown of Danville, Illinois. The school is 96% free and reduced lunch and these kids are in need.
Could you imagine not having clean clothes or the right size or color to wear on the first day of school?
The kids need polo shirts in either green or white, boys and girls all sizes and khakis in all sizes.
You can ship directly to:
Meade Park Elementary, 200 S. Kansas, Danville, IL 61834
Please help make a difference to these kids.
I’m starting a new show! Save the date my loves!
The Hoods is a new variety show centered monthly on a different Chicago neighborhood. Each month, local artists with ties or stories about the featured neighborhood will gather and share with neighbors and visitors.
Chicago neighborhoods define our city, and we define our hoods.
Save the date for the debut on Thursday, September 18 in PILSEN. The show starts at 8pm at Modern Cooperative at 1215 W. 18th Street.
It’s Chiberian winter currently, and like most Chicagoans, I did not leave the house for 48 hours. During this little cold spell, I decided to binge on some GIRLS and watched the entirety of seasons 1 and 2 in a day.
And after re-watching it, I’d like to say that Lena Dunham is a goddamned genius. She is strong, unafraid, a risk-taker, and I admire her greatly. Though she’s 6 years my junior, I want to be her when I grow up.
As the premiere of season 3 of the show is on it’s way, I’d like to take some time to address all the haters out there.
"I just don’t identify with it." This comes mostly from older Millennials and Gen-Xers who complain that Lena and the rest of the girls are self-centered and spoiled. I’d like to remind you that it was you all who invented the, “What Sex in the City girl are you?” quizzes and buying shirts that say, “I’m a Carrie.” Oh yeah, because you totally identified with getting paid $4 a word at Vogue, wearing $600 pairs of pumps, and living on Park Avenue. Ok sure, maybe you had a dude who was mean to you that you let douche you around for 10 years, so you totally get the Mr. Big relationship. Congrats, you let a guy be mean to you, but you sooo loved him, so you’re a Carrie. Sure, SATC totally set the tone and opened up conversation about what it means to be a single woman and for women to actually be able to talk about sex without being deemed a slut, but come on now.
People have always asked me what SATC character I identify with most, and I continue to claim that I identify with none. I don’t live in Manhattan. I don’t have any money. And I don’t make men the total center of my universe (or at least I try not to). What I do identify with is being from a small college town, moving to the big city. Getting HPV (one in three women have had it), living with a roommate in an affordable apartment in a real neighborhood, having my parents have to cover my cell phone bill, being a struggling artist trying to figure out what I want to do with my life and how to find my voice. I get the struggle of modern female friendships and the jealously of former classmates who always seem to be doing better. That is real. This is what GIRLS has shown us and shown an entirely new generation that it’s okay to wear an Ann Taylor suit rather than a pair of Monolo Blahnik’s.
Lena has never claimed to be representing all women or all of a generation. In the pilot, her character Hannah claims, “I could be the voice of my generation. Or well, a voice of my generation.” And she is, A voice, not THE voice. So maybe you don’t identify, and that’s okay, but if you tell me one more time you’re a Charlotte I’m going to punch you (okay, maybe I won’t get violent, but you feel me).
"I don’t want to see Lena Dunham naked." I hear this quite often from men, but hear it from all people who have watched an episode or two. Even the TCA berated Lena about it at a recent interview.
Both on the show and off, there is nothing more I admire about Lena than her ability and willingness to own her body. And not just own it, but be vulnerable about her struggles and honesty with her own body image, and get naked in front of a camera anyway.
The media displays perfect body after perfect body, many of them airbrushed or digitized, and we take this as the ideal image, striving to have that body ourselves, though most of us do not. The amount of body shaming projected on Lena is disgusting. We should be celebrating her every naked move as she puts on screen a real life, real woman’s body, and not in a shock value sort of way, but in a raw, true way. Curves and flaws are what make a woman. And Lena Dunham IS NOT FAT. Plus size models these days are a size 8, which is still smaller than the average woman you find on the street. Lena is only deemed “fat” because she’s been put after decades of tiny, “perfect” women on screen who have been manufactured in our Hollywood eyes. Lena has courage and fearlessness and ownership of her body, while I barely can go out on a Friday night without Spanx up to my boobs. Go ahead girl, and get naked.
So if you’re not into the show, that’s fine. I don’t really get the appeal of Breaking Bad, though I know it’s a great show. P.S. I bet you don’t identify with making meth in an RV either, just sayin’. But let’s give Lena the credit she is due for bringing a relevant and raw story and having the courage, voice, and body to do so. Take a note from her, take chances, get naked, and eat a cupcake in the bathtub.
No, Molly isn’t my cousin or my sister. She’s my doll. And she has officially been archived.
But really, this is a tragedy. I received Molly for Christmas, who shares my surname, in 1992 or so. At the time, there were 3 American Girls, Samantha from the early 1900s, Kirsten from the 1860s, and Molly of course from the 1940s. Okay, so I haven’t read the books recently, and I’m sure they’re not like 100% accurate, but we little girls actually learned something from these dolls and books.
All of us consumed those books and knew every story of every American Girl. You’d fight to get those books out of the library at school or at the tiny library of the town where I grew up (where you didn’t need a library card, you just wrote down your phone number on the check out card). We learned about history and about overcoming things like immigrating from Sweden, World War II, and the Victorian Era.
As far as I remember, the American Girl dolls were created by some doll maker in her basement with a trunk she found from her grandmother or something. The dolls were expensive at the time (still are), and a little girl was incredibly lucky to have one. You got the catalogues in the mail and you’d pick out which accessory you wanted for your birthday or Christmas and then you’d spend years building up your collection of her camp gear and her Christmas outfit.
Ok, I looked it up—Pleasant Rowland, the founder, visited Colonial Williamsburg… no not the neighborhood in Brooklyn… and thought girls would actually want to learn about history. So she created the dolls coupled with their historical stories. She was a schoolteacher and philanthropist. She promoted reading and literacy programs. She sold the company to Mattel in 1998, therefore ending any hope for education or reading or literacy for little girls.
Just like the rest of the American world, consumerism got the best of the American Girl doll and now they’re literally dead, Samantha, Kirsten, and Molly. And I’m sure just like Disney, I’m sure they are “archiving” them so they can bring them back in 10 years and sell them for hundreds of dollars as a limited edition. There are still historical themed dolls, but that is certainly not the focus any longer of the American Girl line. Get a doll to look like you, because yeah, let’s teach young girls that it’s ALL ABOUT THEM.
And it’s sad because the importance of history and especially Molly’s era is dying. Anne Helen Peterson wrote on The Hairpin:
I had a Grandmother who subtly modeled her [Molly’s] values, which, ultimately, was far more instructive than a doll and her six stories. The problem, then, and the real reason I’m mourning, isn’t that Molly is retired: it’s that my Grandmother, and the rest of her generation, is gone.
In the stories, Molly’s mother’s name is Helen McIntire. She shares the exact name as my grandmother, who I continually miss every single day. I have a photo of her staring back at me every day. (Coincidentally, Anne Helen Peterson’s grandmother is also named Helen.)
I’m sad for young girls everywhere that they will not know Molly or our Helens like we all got to.
P.S. But I guess I know how I’m funding my retirement. I have like ever piece of accessory that ever went with her.
Started a new project.
Yesterday, I read a story at Write Club at SPACE in Evanston. I was competing for FLY vs SAIL. While I didn’t turn out a winner, I think this essay is one.
At Pitchfork music festival, I am jammed into Union Park next to 10,002 hipsters. I’m lost in this sea of ironic haircuts and tattoos and every single one of my friends has vanished. Thank you to ATT and their shitty service, and all of those 10,002 hipsters attempting to use their iPhones at the same time, modern communication has subsided. I’m drunk, and not in the good kind of way, but in a “I’ve been sweating and dancing to MIA” kind of way. And then the rain starts coming down.
But then suddenly there are loads of white doves flying and slowly floating above Union Park. The audience ooos and ahhs and gazes upward. The crowd starts screaming, waving their hands above their heads. No, this is no religious or cult experience, and maybe they’re just balloons shaped like white doves, but all is now right in the world. Because chanteur Mr. R. Kelly has just launched into the all time best tune in the world, “I Believe I Can Fly.”
And we do. I give up on trying to find my friends, use my phone, or stay dry and just take it all in. Maybe some because of assistance from special substances or maybe it’s just pure nostalgia that comes with seeing a controversial Chicago icon perform a jam from our childhood, but at that moment, all of the 10,002 hipsters believe we can fly.
Many of us have dreams of flying. According to the highly prestigious and erudite researchers at dreamflyer.net, 80 percent of the population dreams of flying. These dreams correlate with creativity and imaginative personality. Poets, musicians, writers, painters and the like tend to have a higher percentage of flying dreams than their average, non creative counterparts. Christopher Nolan, creator of this little film titled Inception, author Stephen King, Albert Einstein, and Chicagoans the Wachowski brothers, creators of The Matrix, are all known to have lucid dreams of flying.
See, I have pure confidence I can sail. Sure, I don’t have much experience, but if you gave me a lesson or two on a sailboat, filled me in on what the words ‘astern’ and ‘bollard’ meant, handed me one of those ridiculous sailor hats, I would practically be a sailor. I don’t have to tell myself to believe in sailing. The most difficult part of sailing is finding a friend who can afford to dock said sailboat in Belmont Harbor. This would be a true miracle.
You know who believed they could fly? The Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong, and my personal favorites, Maverick and Iceman. Can you name me a famous sailor? I can, and his name is Popeye.
In 8th grade, we were forced to pen our own autobiographies, because teenagers in Catlin, Illinois, a town of 2,000 people in the middle of the state, had so much to say about our lives thus far. “My favorite hobbies include walking to the IGA and gazing at corn.”
Our 13 year old selves were coerced to write about the future careers which we dreamed and planned. And this, by the way, is totally why millennials are unhappy and unsatisfied. Like anyone at 13 or even 31 knows what they want to do with the rest of their lives. And while we were told we could do and be anything we wanted to be, a quarter of my contemporaries in the county would not go on to finish high school, as Vermilion County holds the title for highest drop out rates following Cook. Many of my dreaming 8th grade classmates would be pregnant by the time they were 18, as you guessed it, the county holds high teen pregnancy rates too. But nonetheless, here we were, determining what we thought would be our future life careers.
My choosings were as follows: author—which I’d like to say I am; lawyer—my dad and grandfather were lawyers, so it was kind of the family business; and finally, an airplane pilot.
Never in my life do I recall wanting to be an airplane pilot except for that moment in my thirteen year old head. When I made that list, I believed that I could fly. Pilots were cool. I wanted to be like Amelia Earhart. Pilots can travel faster than the speed of sound. A pilot transports the leader of the free world in a little thing called Air Force One, you may have heard of it. And supposedly, you can totally take a nap and have a drink on the job!
Airplane pilot wasn’t the only dream I had in the ‘90s that involved flying. Mostly, I wanted to follow in the likes of homegirls Rosie Perez and Jennifer Lopez and become a Fly Girl. For those of you not familiar or who were born in the ‘90s, the Fly Girls were the resident dance troupe on the hit 90’s Wayans Brothers’ sketch show, In Living Color. They’d wear these cool outfits that involved midriffs, velvet, neon leotards, and feathers. And those moves they had! I was in awe. The Fly Girls were the definition of ‘90s fly. One always got to dance next to the DJ, which was probably the beginning of my personal DJ fetish. The closest I ever got to being a Fly Girl was being a member of my high school dance team, the Danville High Pompettes.
So while I never became an airplane pilot, flew Air Force One, did not get the chance to dance with J.Lo and the Fly Girls, I’d like to think I’ve grown up to become a pretty fly person. I became a writer. I moved out of Catlin, Illinois, graduated top of my high school class and have never been pregnant. And this summer, I got to see R. Kelly live.
It’s just about Bold Moves October, and turns out I’ll be displaying my Bold Moves all over town this month. Come check me out:
Write Club, Monday, October 7th, 7PM, SPACE Evanston
Solo in the 2nd City, Wednesday, October 9, 8PM, Beauty Bar (I’m reading the infamous lace curtain story, yo.)
The God, Sex, Death Variety Hour, Friday, October 18, 6:30PM, The Hideout
Stoop-Style Stories, Thursday, October 31, 7:30PM, Rosa’s Lounge
Pretty excited! Hope to see you out.
I know I haven’t blogged on here in awhile, but I’m going to in order for some shameless self-promotion. Come see me at the Seven Deadly Sins next week.
The next night come see me at our September Solo in the 2nd City show, featuring authors from Curbside Splendor Publishing.