Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Chicago Room

Since my last post received many “likes” this has motivated me to share more of my writing with you folks.  Thank you for reading!

This is a descriptive essay I wrote for a magazine writing class. My teacher thought that I was describing a library or a room in City Hall, when really I was describing my father’s office in our basement. That’s what makes me proud of this piece, because no one would envision it to be a room in someone’s home, yet I captured the symbolism as well as the treasures it holds. This room contains decades of history and writing a description about the space doesn’t do the view of it justice.

Attached to the gray paneling there is a sign that reads “Chicago Room.” This engraved metallic sign was removed from a banquet hall at the Congress Hotel years ago. Since your bare feet haven’t gotten used to the concrete floor beneath them, take a seat in the rickety wooden office chair that spins in the corner. A person can’t miss the 1937 Black Phantom Schwinn Bicycle parked in the middle of the room, or the 4-foot long orange Oscar Mayer Wienermobile peddle-car lined up next to it.

A wooden desk wraps around the left side of the room and laminated underneath a glass base that extends as long as the desk itself is a detailed map of the city. On the wall above it is an enormous banner that reads “Join us in Celebrating Chicago.” The banner is black and all of the “I’s” are birthday candles. The banner itself used to hang above a terminal in O’Hare International Airport back in 1987 during the city’s 150th birthday year.

A rubber chicken hangs on a wooden post beneath a postcard that was autographed by Svengoolie. Across from the rubber chicken is a wall covered with various photographs of Chicago Mayors beginning from the year 1933 and ending with former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

On both sides of the room, red cast-iron, fire-alarm boxes stand 6-feet tall on fluted columns. The firebox on the right side of the room is a simple one from the 1880s. The firebox on the left side of the room has a little glass window that a person would break, in case of an emergency. Adjacent to this firebox from the 1970s, autographed baseballs, hockey pucks and other sports memorabilia from Chicago area teams are neatly stacked upon shelves.

Beside these mementos is the most comprehensive index card file cataloging most of the buildings that ever stood in Chicago. At the time of this writing, 21,617 buildings are on file. This cold-metal file cabinet has been collecting timeless keepsakes since 1977. Plaster casts, moldings, and actual bricks from buildings like the Garrick Theater, Chicago Coliseum and the Carson Pirie Scott building collect dust on top of it.

Historic collectibles clutter bookshelves; Chicago politics, world’s fairs and amusement venues are just a sliver of divisions that describe them. Doctor Who Daleks, outdated McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, and Wienermobile whistles fill the rest.

Strawberry Fields Forever

And for my 25th post…here is my kick-ass fiction story that deserved $100…contest or no contest.

During my first semester at Columbia College I took a Fiction Writing class. Our first assignment was to write an essay about a fictional dream. I remember sitting at the computer trying my best to let my creative juices flow. A few hours later, I finished this piece and I felt proud of this piece because I had finished what I had set out to do.

I had just gotten out of a hot shower. The bathroom filled up with so much steam that I could write, “Can you feel it?” on the mirror. Sitting on a comfy king-sized bed in a luxurious modern five-star hotel room, I wait. The room rests on the 75th floor of an 80-story building. The windows stand floor to ceiling and I left the shades open to watch the stars.

The mattress is covered in beige satin sheets. The pillows are soft, fluffy and smell like laundry detergent. I decided to eat a small piece of dark chocolate I had placed on the nightstand. The housekeeper had left it on my pillow. After tossing the cold smooth cocoa in my mouth I jumped out of bed and ran to the window. Suddenly, I started feeling a change.

It was a colorful kind of change. My senses slowly started altering themselves. The chocolate in my mouth had melted and I craved more. As I looked out the window for a bit longer the stars seemed brighter. The moon seemed so low to the ground that if I stepped out on the balcony and reached my arm out, I’d be able to touch it and it would feel like velvet.

It hit me like a rough slap to the face that I had to leave this hotel room to satisfy my craving. While struggling to pull my tight jeans up, I tripped over my feet and fell on the bed at least five times. After finally getting them on and fastening the zipper, the color contrast of the room started to appear brighter and brighter.

My red jacket that hung on the coat rack was sparkling; I put it on. The champagne glass chilled on the nightstand across the room but I could hear the bubbles popping as if they were fizzing right next to my ear. White paint on the walls made the room glow as if it was empty. I smelled roses in the air but I couldn’t figure out where the scent was coming from. I started sniffing everything in sight until I became face to face with the door. Opening it I tried to pull my mentality together as I walked down the hallway, but it was impossible. I thought, “Well, I hope I look sober.”

I took the elevator down to the main lobby. I headed towards the door happily waving goodbye to the man standing beside it. I was in the best mood I could ever dream of, but after stepping outside, the world didn’t seem so pleasant anymore.

I was in New York City. The world was turning upside down. Civilized life began to walk backwards instead of forward. I stood in the middle of the sidewalk with people on their cell phones passing by me talking like Yoda. “Business deal you have not.”

“OK,” I thought to myself. “I was in a good mood; why is it rapidly declining into extreme anxiety?”

I ended up in Times Square not remembering how I got there. All of the television screens on the buildings had gone blank and then started flashing psychedelic colors. As I lost myself in the radiance, buildings started to melt. I was on an actively animated apprehensive trip and it wasn’t a mental vacation anymore.

In my head I was questioning what was real and what imitation was. Fear and panic succumbed me. I turned around and witnessed people’s heads floating off their shoulders as they strutted down 42nd Street. Each head switching torsos as they drifted into midair. I bolted down the street as fast as I could and hit the ground running. I felt no pain so I got up quicker than I started. I felt like eyes were piercing through me. Everyone, the whole public state of New York was staring at me, even if I was just a blur in their tracks.

I slowed down and darted through the entrance of Central Park. Oddly enough when I started to recuperate the air felt cleansing. Sunlight peaked through the bright green trees in the surrounding atmosphere and although colors were still intense, I wasn’t panicking anymore. I had no uneasiness of anything. I was at peace. I noticed the path I stood on led to a monument. I followed it to the vestige and was taken aback by what I saw.

Unaware that I had left my hotel room on a quest for dark chocolate, ignoring my hallucinations of people walking backwards, their words jumbled as their heads floated from one body to someone else’s; I was on the grounds of “Strawberry Fields.” A black-and-white mosaic that read the word, “Imagine,” dedicated to the late John Lennon and named after the popular song, “Strawberry Fields Forever,” was decorated in flowers and candles.

I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out my iPod touch not knowing it was there to begin with. I placed the earphones inside my ear and played the song loud enough so I could feel the rhythm flowing through my bloodstream and pulsing in my veins. I looked beyond the memorial and my mind painted another optical image. I saw a field of green leaves standing tall, with luminous red strawberries hanging on the tip of each leaf.

I was having an out-of-body experience, watching myself frolic through the garden with the biggest smile I have ever seen on my face. As the lyric “Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see” played, I felt tranquil and inanimate. I concluded with confidence that everything in my life was going to make sense from here on out. I looked up at the magnificent blue sky and got the impression that God and all of my relatives who have passed on were laying in the clouds watching me smile and dance freely.

When the song ended, I closed my eyes and recollected my hallucination on the cement bench. When I opened them, I was back in my lavish hotel room. Everything was still placed just where I left it. The chocolate wrapper lay unwrapped on the pillow next to me. I sat up in bed, baffled pushing the pillows down and touching them excessively to see if they were really there.

I crawled out of bed and walked towards the balcony. I opened the door and stood outside for a breath of fresh air. When I came back inside I noticed the champagne glass was empty on the nightstand. Something was in it that wasn’t there before. A strawberry stem was at the bottom of the glass, and next to it on the hotel stationery pad was written, “In strawberry fields, nothing is real.”

Hashtag TBT to that Time I Won a Contest

Don’t ask me how I got involved in this. I don’t even remember. It might have been one of those nights I was browsing on Craigslist for writing gigs. What I do remember is that a woman named Eliza Gale was hosting a Fiction Contest and first prize was $100. Although $100 is the new $20 these days, I decided to say what the hell and entered. I didn’t get rich, instead I got “interviewed” if you want to call it that, to be featured on her website. Oh and the interview? I had to answer ten questions…so basically I interviewed my damn self.

Have you ever realized that the hardest shit to write is when it revolves around yourself. I mean, we’re all just so awesome that it’s hard to put into words sometimes…so thanks Eliza for the moments of self-reflection…

Q: What made you want to be a writer?

A: I have had a passion for writing ever since I learned the skill. I was the 8-year-old who would dress up in silly clothes and put on a show for my entire family just to make them laugh. I was a 4-year-old who would walk up to a homeless man just because I wanted to see if he was having a good day. I’ve always been a very extroverted person and I needed somewhere to put my energy. I mean what kid didn’t want to be a singer or an actress. As I got older, reality set in and I always found myself writing. At the age of 14 I already had it in my mind that I was going to graduate from Columbia College. It wasn’t until high school when I wrote for the school newspaper that I realized I wasn’t going to graduate from Columbia with an acting degree……………….plus I despise math.
Q: What inspired you to write your story?

A: It was my first year at Columbia College Chicago and I had signed up for a Fiction Writing Class as an elective. Our first assignment was to write about a dream that we’ve had or if we couldn’t remember one, we had to make it up. I had no idea what I was going to write about. I played with sentences and phrases on the train ride home, enough to where I had a topic. I’ll never forget the fact that I sat down in front of my computer and squeezed this out within an hour. I was shocked. I’m a perfectionist who edits my words to no avail……it usually takes me hours to write an article, let alone a story…..and these ones kept pouring out with ease. I felt so comfortable and satisfied with my story that I couldn’t wait to share it with everyone. It was my first A+ on anything at that school and the story holds a special place in my heart for that reason.
Q: What other kind of things do you write?

A: Lately, at night when I can’t sleep, I’ll get the urge to jump out of bed and write down my thoughts because I find that I won’t dwell on them for the rest of the night if I do. My motto has always been that “people judge you, but paper won’t.” So with those words alone my journal has always been filled with poetry, (typical teenage lovey dovey stuff) rhymes, song lyrics that I make up, and thoughts that I’ve always felt were sacred to me.
Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it make you want to do something creative?

A: For the past 4 years I have been working as a teller at TCF Bank in Chicago, Illinois. It’s more the type of job that enhances my organizational skills rather than my creative skills but compared to all of the previous jobs I’ve had, it’s my favorite. I recently graduated in May of 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a concentration in magazine writing. Since then I’ve applied for 14 jobs and like your typical college graduate…..no luck. I will say that I feel most creative when I get to embrace activities that I satisfy my soul. Things like reading a magazine, getting a macchiato from Starbucks or simply painting my nails on a Saturday night…………I have a passion for food. In fact I love writing about it almost as much as I love eating it. I’m inspired to write about restaurants when I visit new ones for the first time. My dream is to be a co-host on the WGN Channel 9 Series “Chicago’s Best.”
Q: Who are some of your influences and why?

A: knew they My parents and my grandparents are influences for always asking me if I wrote anything new, or had written something that they could read. It means a lot to me when someone cares enough to see my portfolio, or ask to read something I wrote, period. However my biggest influences are my two brothers Jason and Sean. Both of them are mentally and physically challenged and they have always inspired me to do my best in life. They can’t walk or talk so my goal has always been to do the things that they may never be able to experience. I am always eager to include them in my plans. After 21 years of being undiagnosed, their neurologist called us with the ecstatic news of a diagnosis. In fact my brothers are the only two cases in America with a genetic disorder of this particular case. I always were unique and they inspire me to be just as unique. One of these days I hope to write a book about them.
Q: Why this contest?

I found the listing for the contest one evening while searching for writing jobs on my Craigslist App. At first I was hesitant about entering, so I saved it in my favorites. After dwelling on the thought for a few days I remembered how satisfied I felt after writing this story, (which for a writer is not an easy feeling to come by) so I gathered up the courage to enter and I’m very grateful that I did. 🙂
Q: Why have the Beatles stood the test of time?

A: Beatles songs are timeless and not just because this generations parents grew up listening to their tunes and introduced Beatles songs to their kids, but because the Beatles were the first of their kind and took the music industry by storm because they introduced a whole new style of rock and roll that caught the attention of teenagers around the world.
Q: What makes for a really good short, short story?

A: You must be descriptive, straight to the point, and be sure not to ramble. It takes a lot of editing. It’s also true what every high school english teacher preaches….every story MUST have a beginning, middle and end, no matter how short or how long.

Q: What do you hope to express though your writing?

A: When writing fiction I hope to express imagination. I want to take my reader on a journey that they can relate to, but normally wouldn’t for-see on their own. When I write articles, my journalism is not just about conducting interviews and writing the story, to me, it is about communication and molding a person into a piece that justifies their words and emotions honestly. In poetry, I hope to relay my belief that I stated earlier………people may judge you, but the paper you’re writing on won’t. In the end you should compose something that you are proud of and don’t be afraid to share your work with someone else.
Q: If you could sing a duet with one of the Beatles who would it be and why?

A: John Lennon, no questions asked. He was an optimistic soul whose life was cut short due to a delusional mind and I believe the world would be a more open-minded place if legends like him were still alive to spread some wisdom. Honestly I don’t even know if we would get to the vocals because I’d be so curious to pick his brain about where, when and what inspired him to write. His lyrics are so enticing, and graceful that I would want to share my story with him and listen to his feedback so I could make improvements as a writer.

Should I Write a Book?

Jason and Sean
Jason and Sean

You know, I’ve always thought about it. As a writer I’ve always felt like it should naturally be one of my longterm goals. What has stopped me you may ask? Well, I don’t want to write something that long. There’s just something about knowing that you’ve typed up 10,000+ words that is mentally exhausting before you even start.

If I did write a book, it would be about my brothers…and because of them…I think I should.

On December 31, after 21 years of Jason and Sean being undiagnosed we finally had an answer. There is a gene called “BCAP 31” and they are missing six parts of that gene. So far, they are the only case in the United States. There are six others in France, the oldest boy being Jason’s age. The genetic disorder does not have a name, but I want to bring more awareness to it.

I want to describe the kind of life Jason and Sean have, because it’s a good one. I want to teach people to stop being so ignorant when they see a family with mentally or physically challenged children. I want to teach people to stop staring.

My brothers are amazing. They are normal kids trapped in bodies that restrict them. They can’t speak and they deserve to have their story told.

I need to do this for them, but I need help.

It looks like I have some research to do.