Monthly Archives: July 2012

in which I take part in the great american pastime

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As you may or may not have guessed based on all previous entries of this blog or any prior knowledge you may have of me, I am not what you would call “into sports.” In fact, my career as a sports fan is limited to Aggie basketball by principle, Manchester United by proximity, and the little league team of that kid down the street from me, because they are adorable.

So it may come as a surprise to you that today, I, the worst sports fan in Chicago, went to a Cubs game.

Not only that. But I enjoyed it.

My limited experience with baseball before tonight comes from young adult books and John McCutcheon1. Everything I know about baseball was taught to me by Michael Chabon2. I cannot name a baseball player alive today, but my personal baseball heroes are Jennifer T. Rideout3, Brian Regan4, and the NPR softball team5. So I went into this not really knowing what to expect. I anticipated only that, on a scale of one to awesome, it would fall somewhere between Aggie basketball6 and every football game ever7.

But really, it was an overall exceptional experience that I genuinely enjoyed. The Cubs won spectacularly, which, given their record, was a pleasant surprise. But more than that, the whole game experience had all the stereotypical baseball things that you would hope for. There were home runs. There were fantastic catches. There was a crazy foul ball that a kid in the stands caught with his hat8. There was a random appearance by Gloria Estefan. There was a marriage proposal after the fourth inning. There were drunk people, and fan boys, and five dollar sodas. I loved it all.

Even though I am not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination, I am actually really good at being a sports fan. I don’t go out of my way or pay big bucks to go to games, but sit me in a stadium and tell me who to root for and I will scream my lungs raw with the best of them. I definitely did that tonight. Several of the boys we were with even asked me if I was a closet baseball fan. I said no, to which they replied, “Oh…you’re really into the game.”

So I will be checking Cubs game off the list of stereotypical Chicago things I want to do before I leave. I will also be adding it to the list of things I enjoy.

Baseball. Who would have thought? 

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  1. A folk singer
  2. A novelist
  3. A character from Michael Chabon’s young adult novel about baseball
  4. A comedian
  5.  A group of unathletic nerds with zero hand-eye coordination
  6. The epitome of awesome
  7. Boooorrrrriiiinnnngggg. (I should clarify, I mean American football, since my stats page informed me that we do have at least two international readers.)
  8. Sadly, it wasn’t Ferris Bueller. But I did say “Schawing batter” a lot during the game.
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in which i fight for my favorite accessory

My personal philosophy is to never do anything by half.

Which is why I get into something, I get totally, annoyingly, way-too-obsessed.

I cite, for example, this past May, when I did not have a conversation that did not include mentions of Sherlock1, last summer when I thrust the book One Day upon everyone I met, the year I was in England when every night ended with an episode of Chuck, and the fact that I can recite (500) Days of Summer in its entirety.

So it will come as no surprise that I have recently thrown myself head-first into the deep end of another obsession.

Hello, my name is Mackenzi Lee, and I’m a Downton Abbey addict2.

My first encounter with the Crawleys was last year at Christmas time, when my dad was doing his daily shirt ironing/TV watching. Usually he watches Chuck, but on this particular night, as he smoothed out the creases in his purple button up, Downton Abbey was playing on low volume in the background. Being right at the peak of Christmas vacation boredom, I flopped down on the couch and started watching with him.

I spent most of the hour with absolutely no idea what was going on. At the best of times, I can barely keep track of who everyone is and how they’re related to each other. Coming in blind, it was a crapshoot. The whole time, I felt like my mom at most movies – “Who’s that?” “Do we like him?” “Why is she the only American person?” – but my father was patient, and answered all my questions. Which made for quite a pleasant first Downton experience, and it left me wanting more3.

But then I got distracted by other obsessions, like John Green and Benedict Cumberbatch, and Downton went off the air for the time. And I forgot about it.  But then, six months later, it floated back into my life in the form of a Jimmy Falon skit from last year that I discovered while doing research for an interview with Brooke Shields on the radio show I work for4. And now I am completely sucked into a vortex of Edwardian soap opera from which I can’t extricate myself.

There are so many things I love about Downton. I love Maggie Smith’s one-liners. I love Lady Mary’s eyebrows. I love Bates and Anna being adorable.

But my favorite part of Downton? The hats. Oh, the hats. I pine for them. All of them. Even the servants’ hats, I’d take any of them. And I don’t understand why we don’t wear hats anymore. They are the epitome of refinement and class. They polish off any outfit.

Now, observe while I artfully change the subject.

Yesterday, I went to the Randolph Street antique market here in Chicago. It was basically the most awesome Saturday morning of all time. As someone who was almost certainly born in the wrong century5, nothing makes me happier than antiques, and this fair had some of the most amazing and lovely things I’ve ever seen. It was good that I have no money or permanent place of residence. I could have easily blown my life savings on a set of restaurant booths from a 50’s diner and a tandem bike from 19356.

At the Randolph Street fair, I stumbled upon a booth selling nothing but vintage hats, run by a friendly white-haired woman7. She must have noticed my fingers twitching as I examined them. She could probably sense how I pined to touch the hats. Caress them. Try them on. She could also probably tell I was a little bit scared to ask, especially since I knew I couldn’t afford any of them. So she approached me tactfully. She lifted one off the hats off the rack. “Excuse me,” she said. “Would you mind trying this hat on for me? I’m not sure how it looks on.”

So I tried on the hat for her. Then another hat. And another. And another. And after being there for almost forty-five minutes, I had tried on every hat at her booth, from the Edwardians to the WWII plucky newspaper reporter hat8. She had stories about every hat that she was dying to tell, and I was genuinely interested in hearing every one of them, so we made a great team9.

Hats are awesome, friends10. Many of them are works of art. They exude class and refinement, and I yearn for the days when women knew better than to leave the house without their hat. A better time, in my opinion. So I would like to propose that we bring back the hat. This week, I implore you to wear a hat at least one day. In tribute to Downton. In tribute to history. In tribute to class and refinement and art.

This week, wear a hat. Because hats are freaking awesome.

  1. Can we also talk about the fact that I am currently in a coffee shop, and a stranger just came up to me and complemented me on my Sherlock laptop sticker. Man I love nerd solidarity!
  2. Yeah, I know I’m like three years late on this. The rest of the world is in Downton fatigue, I am just getting caught up.
  3. In retrospect, it kind of sucked that I watched the last episode first, and clearly remember everything that happened. I’m like an elephant when it comes to remembering things I wish I could forget.
  4. My life is complicated, okay!?
  5. Seriously, can it PLEASE be 1890, but without the cholera and poor sanitation?
  6. Also – ALSO! – I found a hook for a hand! In real life. Those of you who know me and my weirdness well (so basically the MT) know that my favorite plot device of all time is a hook for a hand. Captain Hook. Buster Bluth. Snape in “A Very Potter Musical.” And I found one, in real life, that was actually used at one time. Meaning that, at one time, there was at least one hook-handed man wandering this world. I wish that I could have met him, to shake his hook.
  7. I am like my mother in that I end up making friends everywhere I go. They are almost always women older than my parents. With my aforementioned nostalgia, it will come as no surprise that we relate well to each other.
  8. Unfortunately they didn’t all fit, because I am cursed with an abnormally large cranium.
  9. Some of the hats had come from the estate of the wife of the Chief of Staff of President Eisenhower. They were divine.
  10. First draft of this post, I left the comma out here, so the sentence read “Hats are awesome friends.” Which is also true. Hats can keep you company when you are lonely. They are great listeners.
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in which the countdown clock ticks onward

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“Family killed by pigeons. Need bb gun for revenge.”

Today, I got to spend the day with the lovely family of my best friend 14! They came to see the live show last night, and then visited the office and took me out to lunch today. It was, in a word, lovely. The only thing missing was 14.

I was fairly proud of how well I steered them through the city, though when you consider the fact that everything we went to was either on the Pier or on Michigan Ave, it’s far less impressive. Next week, my tour guide skills will be truly put to the test when my friend Sondheim comes to visit.

My time here in Chicago is winding down. As soon as I settle in, and am able to tell the difference between Wacker and Wabash, I am leaving. With two weeks left on the clock, I have begun to mentally brace myself for routine to become memory. I experienced the same phenomenon when I moved home from England – it is the transformation from ordinary to exceptional, simply because it is no longer available. I love Chicago. I have loved Chicago almost from the moment I arrived. There are so many things I will miss about this city. Even the things I hate – the abundance of revolving doors, the preposterously daring pigeons, the insane bikers, the aggressive pedestrians, the alarmingly high murder rate, the way the city always smells like hot dogs – I will sort of pine for.  I don’t think there will ever be a time that I don’t miss this city.

So I’m not really certain what the point of this is. Just to say that the Chicago chapter of my life is closing, and yet I still don’t know which way is north. But there are more important things to know about a city.

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in which I discuss the finer points of interning

Before we being, let me start with a disclaimer: this post is in no way intended to come off as ungrateful or entitled, and I apologize if that tone comes through. I realize that I am in an incredibly fortuitous situation, and, to quote Charlotte Bronte, “I hold myself supremely blessed – blessed beyond all language can express.”

But let’s be serious. Internships are hard.

Not hard because the work is necessarily challenging. I wouldn’t call reading news stories and watching YouTube all day particularly hard work. In fact, I’d call it down right enjoyable. And the whole idea of an internship is wonderful. It is a chance to try out a career the way you’d try on jeans at the mall.

But I say it again: internships are hard.

Working for NPR is the second internship I have had; I previously interned for Utah State University Press. Both experiences have been invaluable. I have learned a lot, met some infinitely lovely people, and overall been incredibly pleased with my experience, and yet at each office, I have found myself in the same awkward position of feeling placed in the corporate friendzone.

Internships are hard because you have an expiration date. And, just like it is hard to get invested in a relationship when you know something is inevitably going to split you up, it is really hard to settle into a job where you know you are going to be leaving in three months. And it’s not just the fact that you will be leaving that is off putting. It is also the fact that you are part of an infinite cycle of interns.

In any office, interns are a rotating cast. I can only assume that everyone knows not to get attached to the interns, because, much like my favorite British nanny, they’ll be gone before the winds change. As much as I appreciate the care and attention that is given to me each time I meet a panelist or a producer, or someone at WBEZ, each time, there is a nagging in the back of my head, reminding me that they roll out the welcome wagon for everyone. Every three months, they prepare to go through the shaking of the hands, the changing of the emails, the new face at the corner desk. They tell themselves, all I’ve got to do is remember this girl’s name for three months. Then we can move on to the next one.

And it’s not that I think I deserve any sort of praise or adoration above what former interns have received. But I certainly would like to think myself something worth remembering. It is hard knowing that you are destined to be forgotten.

On occasion, stories from the tenures of former “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” interns get tossed around the office. They are generally nondescript and unenlightening, things such as “Remember that one intern we had who always fell asleep?” or “Remember that one intern we had who was neurotic about keeping things clean?” Which left me with generally no clues as to how I was expected to behave. Was I talking more than other interns did? Sending more emails? Not sending enough? I hoped for some sort of guidance from above, preferably in the form of a story about how I was better than everyone else who had come before me.

Then, a few weeks ago, my predecessor sent thank you notes to everyone in the office. They were well received. Very well received. Everyone took a moment of “Aww”ing to fondly look back on her, share their favorite memories of her, and comment on her wisdom, and what a great job she had done, and the smart life choices she had made since her departure. They all seemed very invested in not just what she was doing, but what she had done.

And I couldn’t help but feel a little overshadowed1.

I wonder what they will say about me after I’m gone. I don’t think I have been very memorable. Perhaps memorable only in my follies.

Like most humans, I have become obsessed with the legacy I will leave behind me, and my current preoccupation is the legacy I will leave at NPR. In a few months, when there is a new intern at my desk, will the producers tell them things about me? Will they say, “Remember that one intern who was sarcastic to the point that we thought she was an idiot2?” or “Remember that one intern who always filled Peter’s water cup really full?” or “Remember that intern who spontaneously dyed her hair pink?”

But most likely it’s going to be, “Who was that one intern we had – the one who almost never said anything?3

Being an intern is like looking at a jigsaw puzzle that is already complete, and still trying to cram yourself in, even though you know you might not fit properly.

It is about walking a fine line between being recognized for the good work you do while simultaneously not overstepping your welcome. It is doing work that you often don’t feel qualified or necessarily equipped to do, and trying to pretend you are much less panicked about this than you actually are. It is knowing that there have been other interns before you, and there will be others after you, and many of them will be infinitely better at this than you are. It is trying to get invested in a job that you know you are about to leave, and knowing that in a few months, they might not even remember your name, but doing your best anyways.

But mostly, interning is about awesome. Every day, it really just gets more awesome. I get to surround myself with people who are cleverer and funnier and wiser than I am, and work with them on things that really matter, things that are heard by millions of people. I learn things every day about the creative process, and collaboration, and working under deadlines. I am so grateful for the people I work with, and the chance I’ve had with NPR4.

  1. If interns were colors, I would be beige and she would be flaming red.
  2. I am often so dedicated to my sarcasm that I come off as being stupid. Leaving me a legacy of, “Remember that one intern we had who owned a shirt that said ‘to be or not to be’ but didn’t know Hamlet was from Denmark?” Because that happened.
  3. Because I’m not a naturally chatty person, particularly around people who I think are awesomer than me. I generally stay quiet, because I now that when I open my mouth, something stupid will probably come out. I have no idea how my chattiness, or lack there of, compares to other interns, but I sometimes feel myself to be rather bland and quiet.
  4. Hopefully ending on a positive note didn’t make me sound too grumpy or spoiled. Because seriously, I love NPR. I love “Wait, Wait,” and I loved University Press. I just find myself in a point in my life where I seek permanence. I am tired of drifting. I want to find something stable that I can hold on to – job, apartment, friends – something that does not come with a sell-by date. And I think that feeling has subconsciously seeped into my work and reflected there.
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in which i catch you up on my weekend

When I lived  in England, and blogged about it, I was quite good at writing about all the variety of activities I engaged in, ranging from the extraordinary to the mundane.

Sometimes in Chicago, I forget to do that. I get caught up in being a pretentious smart ass who takes existentially fraught free throws at a variety of subjects because, well, this I my blog, so I can.

But this week, I did do some awesome things, and then neglected to share them with my blog because they usually caused me to get home late or be tired afterwards.

So let’s do a quick roundup of things I’ve been doing this week. In pictures! Because that’s way too many words, and many of you, such as Nevada, have confessed that you really aren’t just good at reading. Besides, I would really like to finish my “Downton Abbey” episode and I can do that a lot easier if I’m not writing so much.

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1. Saw an amazing, amazing, amazing play called “Death and Harry Houdini,” in which a guy escaped from a tank of water after being locked in upside down. It was the most stressful three minutes of my life. But the play was brilliant. This is a picture of the lobby, which was almost as awesome as the show itself. Since pictures weren’t allowed during the show.

2. Three friends from the YSA came and saw our show taped! It was really awesome.

3. I went and saw “Frankenstein.” Again. Man, I love the Music Box.

4. Attended the Printer’s Row Ball, which is this sort of quasi literary festival held at an old print shop. It was basically a room full of hipster nerds giving out poetry magazines and books and playing music and I got to print my very own page of poetry.

5. Went to the Eastland memorial. Timely, after the show I saw about it.

6. Walked the Southport Street fair. Heard a great Mumford and Sons cover band, ate some good food, and watched some ridiculous antics that involved water balloons and slingshots.

7. Ate this sandwich. Bacon cheeseburger with grilled cheese sandwiches instead of bun. Promptly had a heart attack. But at least I died happy.

8. Oh yeah. And this happened.

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in which i look both ways before dashing madly across the street

It has been said that you are not a real New Yorker until you have

a)      Stolen a cab from someone who needed it more than you

b)      Cried on the subway and not cared who saw you

c)      Killed a cockroach with your bare hands.

All true.

I would like to submit that you are not a Chicagoan until you have crossed a busy street against the light, then stood on the island in the middle waiting for traffic to slow while you get honked at.

Crossing the street in Chicago is like playing Russian roulette: one in six times, you will probably die. I’ve been told all my life that drivers from my home state of Utah are some of the worst in the nation because of their ineptitude. Which is true. I’m fairly certain a large chunk of people behind the wheel in Utah often spontaneously forget how to drive. However, I would like to submit that Chicago drivers are equally as dangerous because of how skilled they are. They skid, then swerve, they shimmy down alleys, they parallel park like a boss. They make impossible turns, drive at impossible speeds, and sit on their horn behind anyone who dares to not drive as well as they do.

Chicago driving is awesome. It is also perilous, particularly to pedestrians. Which is mostly what I am.

How people cross the street is a great way to spot who is from Chicago, and who is not1. The tourists will stand on the corner and patiently wait for the light to change. Chicagoans cross at the first opportunity, not matter the color of the light. They sprint as traffic speeds towards them, dodging between cars and narrowly avoiding being flattened like the pizza they take so much pride in2. They will cross if there are cars coming in only one direction, then stop half way, and wait in the middle of the street, even if there is no island on which to wait. It’s fine, they’ll stand in the turn lane. Anything so that they get across the street fourteen seconds sooner.

Being of sound mind and rather cautious instincts, when I first arrived in Chicago I was immediately overwhelmed by the driving. Crossing the street felt like a footrace against death, even when I was in the crosswalk with the little white man3 signaling to me that it was my turn – my turn taxis, not yours, MINE! Even when I looked both ways and saw nothing coming, I wouldn’t cross unless the little white man told me it was okay. Even if all the other people around me did, leaving me standing on the corner looking like an idiot, I would not cross.

At all the crosswalks in the city, there are countdown clocks, which tell you how long you have to get across before the light changes. When I first arrived, if the clock was anything less than ten, I would wait. Even when other people sprinted across with two seconds or less and made it. I would stop. Like a good upstanding citizen that I am.

You people are crazy, I thought. I will never be like you.

But as I have become more practiced at navigating Chicago’s landscape, I have started crossing the street more and more like a Chicagoan. I don’t always wait for the little white man to blink at me. Sometimes I run across with three second left on the countdown clock.

And then yesterday, I found myself standing on that little concrete island in the middle of Michigan Ave., with a green light and cars speeding by me.

And I thought, I have arrived.

Though whether I had arrived at true Chicago assimilation or a state of pure idiocy is yet to be decided.

  1. Fanny packs, giant cameras, and socks with sandals are also good indicators.
  2. Though it occurs to me Chicago-style pizza is anything but flat. ‘Robust’ would be a better word for it.
  3. How has there not been a racial discrimination lawsuit over this yet?
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in which heroes rise

Note: I wrote this as a post for the NPR intern edition blog. They opted not to publish it, and suggested I write an article about modern nuns instead. But I am quite proud of it, so I thought I’d share it here anyway. No footnotes, because, as said, I didn’t write this for my blog. I wrote it for another, normal blog. And normal blogs don’t use footnotes. 

Last night, at 3:02 am, the screen went dark, the lights went up, and The Dark Knight Rises crowd in auditorium 19 at the AMC River North went berserk. People stood up, they cheered, the flung their bat-masks in the air. Then they swarmed towards the doors, leaving a trail of empty soda cups and half-eaten popcorn in their wake, and out into the night.

As I joined the mass exodus through the lobby, I listened to the many opinions about the film we had just watched flying around me. Most of them seemed to be along the same theme, namely:

OHMYGOSHTHATWASTHEBESTMOVIEEVER!!!

Except it wasn’t.

It wasn’t a great movie. It was a good movie, sure. It was entertaining. It was engaging. It was exciting enough to keep me awake in spite of the fact that I was watching during that awkward time between late night and early morning after a twelve hour day at work.

But it wasn’t a great film. There were plot holes, unbalanced storylines, a villain with a speech impediment that gave him the diction of an intercom announcement on the subway. And let’s be honest – it’s a movie about a guy in a suit that looks impossible to put on, with a flying tank. Come on.

And yet there were twenty-two theatres with sold out shows in the AMC River North theater alone, and I felt myself to be the only person there who hadn’t really loved it.

We experienced the exact same phenomenon a month ago with Spiderman, and earlier this year with the Avengers, and we will again with Man of Steel next year. We are emptying our pockets to watch ridiculous movies with cheesy dialogue about people who wear spandex.

What is it about the superhero movies that draw crowds like that?

This morning, I read about the shooting at a Colorado movie theatre just like the one I had sat in, and a creeping nausea settled in my stomach. As I watched newsreel footage and grainy cell phone videos from the scene, I was sickened by how closely they resembled Gotham in chaos from The Dark Knight Rises. What I had just hours earlier watched with the thought, “Thank God I don’t live in that world,” was suddenly reality.We are Gotham, I thought. We are that population who turns against each other. Who murders.

So where was our Batman last night?

The shooting last night in Colorado, no matter how horrific, is an illustration of why we are obsessed with the idea of superheroes: it is because when things go south, we wish there was someone to drop out of the sky in his flying car and save us. We wish for our own superhero.

As a human race, we seek out saviors. We want people to look to, to rise to, to aspire to be like, but are secretly grateful that we never will have to be. We want permission to be cowardly because we know that there is someone else out there who will be brave. We don’t always want to be the heroes of our story, but we want there to be a hero none the less.

And, as unrealistic as superhero movies are, the largest and most appealing element of truth within them is that in times of tragedy, people will rise. They always do. Horror creates heroes, and ordinary people prove themselves to be extraordinary through their actions. Superheroes and the movies that feature them reflect the hope that lies within every heartbreak: the hope of transcendence. The hope that we can rebuild something better than we had before.

And I have no doubt in the days following the shooting in Colorado, heroes will emerge. They may not wear capes and spandex, but we will know them anyways.

Our heroes don’t choose us, we choose them. We decide who to worship, who to idolize. We choose the morals upon which we build our foundation, and we choose who we look to to protect that morality.

We keep going to see superhero films so that we remember that there will always be people around us who, like phoenixes from the ashes of a tragedy, will rise.

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in which i explore the turf of a masked vigilante

I’m pleased to report that tonight, I, along with thousands of other fans across the city, will be donning my cape and bullet proof armor and lining up to see the midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises. Though I’m not really a Batman fangirl, per say, or a comic book fan at all, I am a Chris Nolan admirer, and I just have a general policy of supporting all the nerdcentric events that I can. It’s nice to be among your people.

I also feel an increased kinship to Batman because I recently learned that Nolan’s re-imagined trilogy was filmed right here in Chi-town. Seems appropriate, that the US city with the highest murder-per-capita rate should double for the crime-ridden stink hole that is Gotham.

I learned that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight1 were filmed here probably the second day I was in Chicago2, but I assumed that I myself would never cross paths with the locations for the film. I assumed I would have to go looking for them, something that I didn’t really have time to do, even though few things give me greater pleasure than standing where movies were filmed. Then yesterday, after a long discussion at work about how to talk about Batman in the show, I decided to look up shooting locations for Dark Knight in Chicago. Turns out, they filmed most of the movie in places I walk by every single day. If I had been here just a few years earlier, I might have been plowed down by the Batmoblie as I crossed the street to work.

So, in honor of the opening of the Dark Knight Rises tonight3, let’s take a little tour of filming locations from its predecessor, The Dark Knight, around my apartment. Let me emphasize that all of these places are on my walk to work.

1. Lower Wacker Drive. Wacker is a street within a street, much like Taming of the Shrew is a play within a play. There is the above ground street, and then there is a lower level on which people can drive, but it is creepy and tunnel like, with lots of iron pillars holding up the top half of this street sandwich.

In normal life, as I pass by it along the river, it looks like this:

Though in the past, it looked like this:

Yes, this is the very street where semitruck riding Heath Ledger chases down half-eaten face man4  and then Bruce Wayne goes plowing through on the Batcycle5 in an attempt to save him.

2. The Chicago Theatre. Last week, it hosted Nikki Minaj6. A few years ago, it was supposed to host the royal Moscow Ballet, and Maggie Gyllenhaall was going to attend with creepy half-face man, but unfortunately, millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne decided to run off with the entire company. Man, he ruins everything!

3. Hotel 71. Normal hotel on the outside.

Inside, it was the shooting location for the Wayne penthouse. Ya know, for the view.

Swanky.

4. Navy Pier. Ah, my very stomping grounds! And here I thought it was nothing more than a tourist trap with the “Wait, Wait” office tucked in. This is my view from work:

This is also where ferries full of people were transported out of Gotham, then stranded in the middle of the harbor and told they had to blow each other up. Somehow they neglected to get the ferris wheel and children’s museum in the shot.

5. Monroe and LaSalle. I don’t usually go here, but funny, I was this morning on an errand.

This is the exact spot where this happens.

And then they fight!

LaSalle is also where the funeral procession for…er….someone happens. I wanted to say Gary Oldman, but he doesn’t die….he does get shot though. Spoiler alert!

There’s plenty of other places – the Chicago Post Office was the bank the Joker robs, and the hospital that gets blown up is here too – these are just the ones I pass on my way to work.

And, I would be remiss if I did not include Batman, perched on the Sears Tower, surveying his city. My city. Our city.

It’s okay, Batman. We can share.

“When Chicago is ashes….you have my permission to move to Boston.”

  1. And I’m assuming Dark Knight Rises as well.
  2. my friend Ms. Bennet shared with me the experience of working at a theatre in the city that doubled at the theatre where Bruce Wayne’s parents are killed in the first film. She said it was an interesting experience, working in a theatre whose facade was completely redesigned to read Gotham Playhouse and look all creepy.
  3. And then my subsequent battle to stay awake at work tomorrow after staying up all night watching it,
  4. I am obviously very familiar with the Batman canon.
  5. That’s a thing, right?
  6. Pardon me while I throw up in my mouth.
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in which one fear is conquered, another realized

Fears. We all have them.

Mostly, they suck. They hold us back, they cripple us, they keep us from doing things we want to.

Me, I don’t have many conventional fears. Spiders? Not a problem. Rats? Fine. Heights? Bring it on! Snakes? …okay, yeah, I’d rather not. I have other things that terrify me, things like oblivion and anonymity and uniformity, but as far as normal, rational, tangible fears go, I don’t have many.

Except one. But since moving to Chicago, I am proud to say that I have almost completely conquered it.

However, it has been replaced by a new and even more crippling one.

Friends, I am no longer afraid of elevators. But I am now terrified of revolving doors1.

Let’s start with the elevators. Until about a month ago, they scared the crap out of me. My irrational fear stems, as most irrational fears do, from a childhood trauma: when I was eight years old and my parents took us to Disney World for the first time, where I faced the Tower of Terror. Though I did not even ride the Tower of Terror, I watched the little information video that comes with your travel package, and that was enough to turn me off of all elevators2. Even those that aren’t in lightning-struck hotels trapped in time.

I’m not entirely sure what it is about elevators that bother me so much3. If I’m in an elevator with a group of people I know, I’m generally okay. Riding elevators with strangers makes me queasy. Riding an elevator alone reduces me to borderline panic.

In Logan, Utah, a city made up of buildings exclusively four stories and shorter, the elevator thing wasn’t ever a problem. In Chicago, a city of high rises, conquering my fear quickly became a necessity. After only a week here, I had already been in countless situations where I had no choice but to ride the elevator. I knew that my summer was going to be much less productive and much more tiring if I wasted large chunks of it walking up miles of stairs when I didn’t have to. Plus then I’d never make it to the observaiton deck at the Sears Tower.So I became determined. My love for Chicago would not be dampened by my hatred for elevators.

And I am proud to say that, in a mere month, my fear of elevators has all but vanished. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s because I just barely found the stairs in the WBEZ building last Friday, so I have been forced to face my fear twice daily, and facing fears generally helps you get rid of them. Maybe because I am, in the words of the Book of Mormon heroes, fixed in my mind with a steadfast resolution. Maybe because I just realized there are some things that are much more worth the fear.

Like, for example, revolving doors.

As a child, revolving doors were a most wondrous thing, probably because there are only like three in the entire city of Salt Lake. When I was a kid, I could spin around a revolving door until the security guards dragged me out. Then, between the ages of ten and twenty, something inexplicably shifted, and I have ever since been gripped with a paralyzing fear of revolving doors.

Because, let’s face it, revolving doors are terrifying.

Anything could get caught in those things; purse, clothes, hair4. Worse – hands, legs, noses. I could have an arm ripped off, 127 Hours style, on my way into Wallgreens. And who the hell knows what you’re supposed to do then? And it gets worse – dart between the spinning jaws of death at the wrong moment and you could find yourself sliced in half like Darth Maul. Even worse are those jail ones in the subways that I’m certain could slice me like a meat grinder. To make things worse, they lock behind you, creating the very real possibility that you could get stuck. The image of me trapped in revolving doors in the subway keeps me up at night.

Revolving doors also create no end of awkward situations. How do you know when to get in? What do you do if someone is coming out as you’re coming in? What do you do if the person ahead of you gets something caught in the revolving doors, or gets their arm ripped off ala James Franco? Do you pick it up for them before you go through the doors yourself? What do you do when your roommate Nevada jumps in behind you and you have to ride the whole way around with her giggling behind you?

Chicago has an inexplicable love affair with the revolving door. They are on every. freaking. building. It really makes no sense to me. I cannot think of a single argument for revolving doors over normal ones. And yet, they are everywhere. There are also normal doors, oh sure, but when I beeline for those, I always discover they are locked. Why, Chicago? WHY!?

Are they more efficient? Cheaper? Do they look spiffier? Seriously, why do you torment me?! Why do you lock your normal doors? At least give me the option of keeping my extremities intact! This is borderline psychological torture!

In the end, conquering my fear of elevators has been a big deal, and I’m rather proud. Not great for my fitness, sure, because now I don’t take the stairs as much as I used to.

Now, on to the next enemy. My archenemy, as it were.

The revolving door. I shall vanquish thee yet.

  1. I googled the term for both fear of elevators and fear of revolving doors. Neither of them exist. The closest to elevators is “sursumdeorsumphobia,” which is a fear of up and down. When I googled fear of revolving doors, answers.com told me that’s most likely classified as an anxiety disorder. Awesome.
  2. I have since ridden this ride on multiple occasions. Though fun, it is the only theme park ride that has ever genuinely freaked me out beyond the point of the typical theme park adrenaline rush. For emphasis, please enjoy the look of absolute fear on my face in the following picture, taken on the Tower of Terror, especially compared to the rest of the car. For further amusement, observe the Noah Puckerman looking bemused on the other side of the shot.Image
  3. It’s not, as you might expect, the enclosed space thing that bothers me. It definitely has more to do with that little sliver of light you can see between the normal floor and the elevator floor.
  4. Observe, Heidi Klum:

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in which I betray my friend for theatre tickets

At one time or another, everyone does something terrible.

We eat things out of the break room fridge that do not belong to us1, we don’t recycle, we cut in line, we talk during movies, we text while someone is trying to have a conversation with us.

You know, things that benefit the individual, but bite the collective good in the pants seat.

Yesterday, I did something that tops the list of terrible things I have done.

It was also totally worth it.

A little background to set the scene: There is currently a show playing here in Chicago. It is called Eastland and it is at the Lookingglass Theatre. Eastland has been blowing up. It is a new musical having its world premiere here amid a slew of good press. It got a glowing write up in Time Magazine in an article that basically began “We never write up theatre outside of New York, but this play is so awesome it needs to be shared.” So of course I thought, I need to see this show!

Unfortunately, so did the rest of Chicago. Meaning that tickets for this show have become very hard to obtain. Especially if you aren’t willing to pay full price, but instead opt for student tickets purchased an hour before performance time, which was my situation.

About a week ago, a girl in the YSA I’m going to call Everywhere mentioned to me that she was also interested in seeing Eastland. “Call me when you end up going,” she said. So when I found out there were tickets available for the Saturday matinee, I texted her and asked her if she wanted to come along.

That was my first mistake. Not because there is anything wrong with Everywhere – she’s a perfectly lovely person. I just don’t like going to theatre with people. I get too worried about what my companion is thinking about the show. I would much rather just revel in my own experience and enjoyment. Or unenjoyment, depending on the show. I shouldn’t have invited Everywhere. Not because I didn’t want to go with her – I just didn’t want to go with anyone.

The other problem with this situation is my obsessive punctuality. When they tell me the box office opens for student tickets at noon, I am there at quarter to noon, first in line, taping my foot anxiously and worrying that I did not powerwalk down Michigan Ave. fast enough. Everywhere, though she seems responsible and punctual, is not as obsessively on time as I am2. So at noon, she was not there. But you know who was there? Four other people behind me in line.

As I watched the box office employee take down the CLOSED sign and start to fire up his computer, I weighed my options. One, wait for Everywhere and risk not getting a ticket yet again. It is important to remember that I am also rapidly running out of time here in Chicago to see this show. Two, don’t wait for Everywhere, be guaranteed a ticket, but have to live with crippling guilt over abandoning my companion.

The box office guy said, “Hi, what can I get for you?”

I looked from him, to my phone where a text from Everywhere was still glowing3, to the super large poster of Eastland hanging on the wall with this haunted looking boy with big blue eyes.

And I said, “Yeah – one ticket please.”

And then I got my ticket. And I left. Without Everywhere.

And then I went to the show. And sat in my seat. Which was not next to Everywhere. I watched the show4. Without Everywhere. And then I left. Without Everywhere.

Part of me felt terrible. Most of me felt like that was an amazing show that was definitely worth betraying my friends for.

But Everywhere, if you are reading this, apologies from the bottom of my heart. It’s just, I don’t know you well enough to put you before theatre.

And the show really was just extraordinary. If it hadn’t been, I would feel worse.

 

  1. Or, in a more relevant example, drink a diet coke that doesn’t belong to them. Still irked about that.
  2. No one is, frankly.
  3. “I don’t know when I’ll get there – traffic’s awful!”
  4. “Watched” is a relative term. I mostly sobbed my way through it. It was one of the more beautiful things I’ve seen in a long time. Beautiful like emotional, and beautiful like “oh my gosh there is a guy suspended twenty feet above the ground with this amazing lighting effect that makes it look like he’s swimming!”
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