Tag Archives: adventures in the windy city

in which I accomplish 101 things in 1001 days

Right  now, I am sitting out on my porch in the sunshine, listening to She & Him’s new CD, drinking lemonade in my pajamas.

Look at me. With all this free time. Blogging without guilt. It is a beautiful thing.

In all the excitement of the last month (finals, bombings, and what have you) I forgot to talk about something mildly cool in my life. So backtrack with me for a moment.

A little under three years ago, I started a project called 101 in 1001. This was where I sat down and made a list of 101 things I wanted to do in the next 1001 days. Some of them were silly. Some of them were serious. Some of them were travel related, since I had just found out I was about to jet set off to Europe for a year. Lots of them were theater related. Some of them were weird and random. But there they were, 101 things I wanted to do.

My 1001 days ended on April 14 of this year. I did not accomplish everything on my list (partially because some of the things were really stupid and others were impossible, for financial reasons or other), but I’m proud of what I did accomplish. It’s a weird list though. It makes me aware of just how much I’ve changed since I wrote it and how different my priorities are. And it’s weird to look back and think about where and who I was 1001 days ago, before I had done any of these things, and how that version of me doesn’t exist anymore.

But I like me better now. A lot of these things made me much more awesome than I was before.

So here is my list! The things in bold are the things I did accomplish. I took off a few that were rather personal, so as not to make anyone feel uncomfortable, so if you count them, you’ll realize there’s not 101. I also added commentary and photos to a few. Because that’s more fun.

Mackenzi Lee’s 101 in 1001

Bake a pie
Read Gone with the Wind
Direct a play


this play! Coriolanus! Aw Coriolanus….

Visit the Bronte home
Read the complete works of Shakespeare
Pay my own rent
Go to Paris

Paris 104

tiny, but it’s me!

Read the Book of Mormon
Visit three new statesMassachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut
Watch an Academy Award-winning film
Swim in the Mediterranean – I waded. I’m not really a swimmer. 
Apply to grad school – I am shocked I had enough foresight to put this on my list 1001 days ago. Back when I had no direction.
Volunteer for a cause I believe in
Plant a gardenwhen I worked at This is the Place Heritage Park, which feels like lifetimes ago rather than just 1001 days ago, I planted a vegetable garden, which yielded watermelon, gourds, and beets. I had to leave for England before most stuff was ripe, but I harvested and ate the watermelon anyways. It was not ready. But it still tasted like victory, because I had grown it and it was not dead.
Write a novel
Buy red high heels (and wear them somewhere)
Go to Italy


Not sure why Italy got preferential treatment on this list.

Fly a kite on the beach
Get a new and different hair cut
Go on a date with a man with facial hair you may remember this story
Go to a Kate Nash concert
Go to a She & Him concert
Go to a castle


one of many. But Conwy was my favorite!

Drive on a motorcycle/scooter – while I did not technically do the driving, a friend of mine gave me a lift through Logan a few days before I graduated      
See “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” live ah, three years ago Mackenzi. Little do you know that one day, you will not only see Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me live, but you will be part of creating it.


can you spot my name? Of course you can, because it’s fifteen letters longer than everyone else’s.

Buy a reliable messenger bag Duluth Packs. Seriously.
Make a friend at a coffee shop I’m not totally sure why this ended up on the list. Probably because I was kind of in my hippie phase, and I thought hanging out at coffee shops was hip. Either way, my antisocialness won on this one. 
Ride in a hot air balloon – I obviously had no sense of how much this cost before I added it to the list
Do service outside of the US – When I wrote this (again in my hippie phase) I was envisioning Peace Corps or something. But instead, I did service while I was living in England. I’m counting that. 
Drink a pina colada  virgin pina colada. I didn’t know what alcohol was when I made this list.

Greece 432

Go backpacking
Read a book in a day – yeah, I’ve only done this ninety-five times since starting grad school
Enter a poetry slam – alas, I am shy and my poetry is terrible
Go to a temple outside of the US
Learn 3 guitar songs – lol nope. 
Attend a ballet
See an iconic movie – Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I had never seen it until last year. It’s now one of my favorites.
Go to a pub
Go to a midnight showing of a movie
Go on a road trip – Scotland! Lake District! Wales! Woo!
Buy a whole outfit in one shot
Take a great photo and frame it – Special thanks to 14 on this one.
Go boating  – I’m gonna go ahead and count kayaking down the Chicago River and cruising down the Rhine
Go to a classy party
Enter a photo contest – luckily I did not write “win a photo contest”
Buy a crèche
Sew a dress
Spend a day at the Louvre

Paris 285

this photo could technically also be proof of the “new and different haircut” item on the list. Because have you seen my hair now?

Go on a cruise
Be in a Shakespeare play
Learn to change a tire
Write a song – I was going to do this after I learned the guitar. 
Kiss in the rain
Be in a musical – Jane Eyre woo!


that’s me. Lighting Rochester’s house on fire. As one does.

Climb a tree
Visit Stratford Upon Avon
See a Royal Shakespeare Company show

stratford upon avon 105

or four

Pay for someone else at the drive through
Buy a vintage bike – this was nixed when I realized how bad I am at biking.
Take a dance class
Draw a chalk mural


though I did not draw the Tree of Life in the corner. I’m not that religious.

Sleep outside (without a tent)
Build a snowman
Meet a celebrity


Authors count. This guy especially counts.

Go to a fashion show
Have a garden party
Start a blog
Go to an amusement park
Write to someone I admire/who influenced me
Learn to do the splits – ha. right. 
Do something that scares me – every time I sit down to write, I accomplish this
Read a Sherlock Holmes book – and to think I put this even before I was obsessed with Sherlock
Graduate from college

grad photos 033

I realize this proves nothing. But I did graduate.

Learn how to properly apply eyeliner – this was long overdue three years ago
Go a month without facebook
Visit the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Garden
Overcome my diet coke addiction – I have actually done this! In the last month! And I am REALLY proud of myself.
Make a film – this film!
Get a short story published
Cook a whole dinner by myself
See a Broadway play


among a few others.

Get a job
Go to a national park I have never visited before
Go to a film festival
Go horseback riding
Live abroad
Choose a career path
Visit ten countries – England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Greece…did I miss any?
Sing karaoke
 Ride a train
Read 100 books – ha. Yes. I did this.  
Lose 15 pounds
Move out

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in which I reflect on the awesomeness of the summer

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

By Mackenzi Lee


Chicago – until we meet again.

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in which i have a butterbeer with john green. everything else is irrelevant.

“Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.” – John Green

To borrow a phrase from Starkid, this weekend was TOTALLY AWESOME!

You know why? Because I got to attend LeakyCon, which is about as close to actually going to Hogwarts as you can get without magical powers. LeakyCon is a convention for people who love Harry Potter, and who love to share that love with each other. It is a convention for fans, by fans. Meaning that for four days, the Chicago Hilton was a sea of wizard robes and Pizza John t-shirts. And I couldn’t have been happier.

this was a pretty common sight.

Since I am not, per say, a crazy wild Harry Potter fan like most of these people, I primarily attended the literary part of the convention, more my style of nerdiness. Meaning that I got to hear and meet a slew of my favorite authors, including Laini Taylor, Stephanie Perkins, Holly Black, Margaret Stohl, Maureen Johnson, and John Green1. Seriously, this is the royalty of the young adult genre. These people are my rockstars. It was an exceptional and inspirational weekend that made me want to writewritewrite! Their panels were hilarious and delightful, and they were all very sweet about the nerdgirl freak out I had when I met each of them in turn.

Oh, and I also got to meet the girls of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, see the debut of “A Very Potter Senior Year,2” high fived Hank Green, got to see Mary GrandPre’s original cover art, and did yoga with Evanna Lynch.

And then at the end of it all, I had a butterbeer with John Green, and we talked about how much I love his books and how much he loves writing Sherlock fanfiction3. Which is a moment I will be adding to the top ten moments of my life list.

So yeah, not a bad weekend.

John Green with the MT’s drawing of John Green.

This weekend, I was reminded of how not great I am at meeting people I idolize. I got incredibly tongue tied around John, embarrassed myself in front of one of New York’s most important literary agents, and was a hot mess when I met Laini Taylor4. I just have such an admiration of people who are doing the things I want to be doing. The world is full of people who want to do things, including me, so to meet people who are actively leaving their mark upon the world as an artist and creator is an awe-inspiring experience. It makes me want to be an author even more, just for the chance to someday open a bottle of champagne5 with these people, and be one of them, instead of a crazed fan with her nose up against the window of the bar.

this is Stephanie Perkins. She is flawless. That’s me next to her. You probably didn’t notice me, because I’m much less awesome than her.

LeakyCon was awesome for a lot of reasons, but the best part was being around people who are passionately excited about everything. There is a lot of crossover in fandoms, so people who love Harry Potter also tend to love Sherlock, Star Wars, Dr. Who, and everything else that I love. And they don’t hide it. They own who they are, and, as a result, are much more open to everyone else around them. I loved being around people who got Starkid jokes, and understood my Fault in Our Stars t-shirt. I loved being around people who loved that I loved the same things that they did. The love that Harry Potter fans have for their books and their fandoms seeps into the rest of their lives, and they seem to love everything with an unbridled enthusiasm.

Because really, at its heart, that’s what Harry Potter is all about – love.

And man, do I love being around people who know how to love things, no matter what it is that that love is directed towards.

LeakyCon – thank you for a freaking awesome weekend. Maybe I’ll see you next year6.

  1. I will stop talking about John Green when you show me someone more worthy of my adoration!
  2. Complete with Darren Criss
  3. More importantly, Bald John Green/Other John Green slash stories. To fanfiction.net!
  4. Me: Oh my gosh…..you’re Laini….your books are so…..you’re so…..pink hair…..beautiful…..I love you so much. I just met you and I love you!  Laini: …………..thank you?
  5. Which I would then not drink.
  6. In LONDON! If only….
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in which I take part in the great american pastime


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? 


  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


“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 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.

















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 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.


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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