Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Scribblings--passion

Sunset over Hancock

Sunday Scribblings prompt is Passion. Lately all the prompts seem to leave me, uh, passionless. I don’t think it is the prompts themselves, just the artist in me feeling sleepy. I thought briefly of talking about passions gone wrong, since I just bought a book about hoarding but then thought I’d talk about my home city, Chicago.
It amazes me that I can be passionate about Chicago. I wasn’t born here; in fact, I hadn’t set foot in the Midwest until I applied to the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis medical schools. I applied at the U of C in mid-November and found that, at 14 degrees, it was the coldest day of my life to that point. Not to mention that I decided to walk to my hotel by the lake shore and nearly froze to death from the wind chill. Trust me the wind chill doesn’t get mentioned in the Los Angeles weather report. You would have thought that this would have made up my mind against the Midwest. After all, I had spent nearly my entire life to date on the west coast of the U.S. where temperatures below freezing are rare unless you climb mountains in the winter.
However, my mind being more analytic than passionate, I decided to go to the best school I got into and not the best location. My first year in Chicago, the thermometer dropped to 27 degrees below zero with a wind chill in the minus 60’s. Cars wouldn’t start and I learned that breathing through a scarf gets kind of gross as one’s breath freezes on the cloth. I also learned that my eyes stuck transiently shut when I blinked and so too did my nostrils with each inhalation. I also learned to beware of high winds near high-rises after I literally was blown over. I learned the joys of dog leavings that freeze and thaw but never disappear and of watching cars slip and slide through intersections. Fortunately I had bought a coat that was trendy at that time. It looked like a purple down sleeping bag and was considered quite chic in LA where people try to look like New Yorkers in 80 degree weather. I stayed quite warm all winter even though I looked like Barney.
There were probably a few moments I wanted to move back to LA (which I hate) especially when my mom would call to tell me about the latest Santa Ana condition (when winds descend from the mountains and warm to a balmy 80 in January). But I didn’t and the roots began to grow in spite of the climate.
I think I was first seduced by the food. Chicago is a great eating town. I love ethnic food and there is so much of it here. My favorites are Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Thai and Italian. The Chinese food cannot compare with San Francisco, Seattle or Vancouver but it is pretty tolerable. I’ve also had French, Greek, Vietnamese, Korean, Pakistani, and Ethiopian food here.


After food, there is the entertainment, but I’ve always been either too broke or too busy to do more than sample it. I’ve been to a few plays, a couple of operas, the symphony once in a while, a comedy club—all of which were top-notch but who has the time? The museums are great too but try dragging a three year old into the art museums. More time has been spent in the kid-friendly museums and the occasional zoo trip.
The lake is wonderful. Sadly, it isn’t an ocean. If you close your eyes and hear the sea gulls you can almost pretend it is, but part of you will always know the sea is thousands of miles away. So are the mountains. The lake aside, the geography here leaves a lot to be desired. For geography, you need an airplane.
I like the people here. They are more laid back than most easterners, less materialistic than southern Californians. It is more multi-cultural here than any other place I have lived.
But Chicago really became a passion after I got my camera. I can’t look closely at things without wanting to know more about them. I accumulate knowledge like hoarders accumulate junk, passionately. So if I photograph a building or a work of art, I want to learn more about it. I’ve read books and websites on photography in general and more specifically on Chicago’s neighborhoods, history, art and architecture. I’ve read about its wildflowers and wildlife, its cemeteries and murals. For me the more you know about something the more you want to know. Today and yesterday I had a few minutes free and I drove, largely aimlessly, to and from certain obligatory errands looking at buildings. I now want to know what you call the ornamentation under the eaves of houses and more about neighborhood block clubs. You get my point.

Fixer upper

Fortunately for me blogs and Flickr encourage people with passions like mine so we can swap photos and information and keep our passions alive. And the more pictures I take the more I have to write about. Like this. I look forward to reading about your passions as well. Maybe they will be catching.


self taught artist said...

just talking about the variety of food you get to choose from makes me green with envy....vermont is beautiful but the food situation leaves much to be desired.
i love your passion for the city...the picture taking thing is certainly getting more interesting over time.

javacurls said...

Chicago is a great city with so much to offer. When I was there several years ago a friend & I took a neighborhood tour with the Architectural Society and it was one of the most interesting thing I ever did in Chicago! I have some amazing photos from that tour.

Thanks for sharing!

tumblewords said...

Thanks for posting this! I enjoyed seeing Chicago through your eyes...and wonderful photos!