Bucktown/Wicker Park

I dipped briefly South of North Ave, but the bulk of my travels took me North of where I typically walk. I explored the streets north of Armitage, crossed over Damen, and wandered around until I hit Milwaukee again. Here’s what I found:

More notes scrawled on the city.

I saw the remains of a demolished house on Wood, while walking to meet Justin a few days ago. Part of why I walked around today was to take some pics of this lot.

No idea what this is, but found it cool. In my mind, this sticker was created by either a very awesome boyfriend, or a close friend who is madly in love with Sara. I could be wrong.

I tried looking around on Google for an answer (like when I found out about the You Are Beautiful stickers). But no luck.

What a stroke of coincidence. I happened to see a similar “Love” sign in a nearby restaurant window a few days ago. Today, as I happened to wander down Avondale, I saw two more such signs at someone’s house. My suspicion is that the person who made these lives here, but I fought the urge to knock on the door.

As a sidenote, I kept seeing similar bits and pieces of houses, the more I walked. In particular, the use of the same small lion and gargoyle statuettes, as adornments. I saw the same statues at two or three different locations, each time realizing that it served almost as more of a signature than as a good-luck charm.

At first, I laughed out loud to see someone had buried (and painstakingly marked the site of) their fern. However, as soon as I realized it was 45 years old… I was in awe. Thanks to Bryan J. Hyman, standing there for the briefest of moments, I felt an enormous rush of time and history. And love.

I was near Leavitt at this point, somewhere west of Damen. Wandering around, I noticed a woman shooting pictures of a building with her camera from across the street. I paused, hoping I was out of her range/view, and only continued when she seemed to be done photographing.

As I walked by, I figured she was interested in buying some property, and was just scoping out the building. Interested, I turned my head and looked in the direction she was shooting. To my delight, I happened to see several beautiful doors, and immediately started to take pictures.

As I was shooting, the woman I had noticed earlier came over to ask me a favor. She noticed my picture-taking, and we fell to talking. Turns out, this building is full of studio spaces for a bunch of artists (hers being one of them). Unfortunately, the owners have decided to sell the building. The woman (Suzanne) was taking pictures of her studio window, and wanted some snapshots of the exterior.

She asked if I wouldn’t mind taking her picture, standing underneath her windows. I snapped a few, but it’s not until now that I wonder about the cause for her request. Will she miss her space, as all of us miss the thing that we leave? Or does she know/worry that the building, once sold, will be torn down? There were several fancy/shmancy condos across the way (all painstakingly similar in look), and it would be a shame if this building had to leave to make way for more of the same.

Suzanne was nice enough to allow me to take her picture. I found out from her that most of the artwork on the outside of the building are the work of one of the owners. I hope, whatever happens, that the doors find a way to survive. If the new owner of the building decides to level it, I hope they have the good sense to keep these doors at least (although, truth be told, if the had any good sense at all, they wouldn’t be demolishing the building at all). I’ve half a mind to call the number in the photograph (above), and find out.

As we talked, I learned that Suzanne really liked the neighborhood. She mentioned the difficulty of locating studio space, and I sort of nodded. I’ve always been jealous of artists in this respect: painters, sculptors, any kind of creator who requires a wholly separate space in which to work. Often enough, I work where my computer is (typically a second bedroom in whatever apartment I happent to be in). It’s a small room, but perhaps that’s what studios are as well – small rooms dedicated to the act of creation. I guess I’m jealous for a space I actually have to go to, separate from where I live/eat/sleep. The problem with writing is that it only takes some paper and a pencil. And while I do most of my work on the computer, I do other things as well… so the space isn’t solely dedicated to any one particular task. The process of going to some different space, dedicated to art/creation, seems a wonderful thing.

For a short while at my first job (in Chicago), I worked from home for a period of time. It was good and bad. Most of all, I think my work suffered during this time because it bled easily into my everyday life. By being forced to go into an office, my attitude shifted. My mind was saying “I am here, to do this task” when I actually had to go in to work. In addition to having the luxury of space for art, I wonder if there isn’t some psychological gain to studio spaces… a literal, physical place to go to create. Painters often have studio spaces; I wonder how many writers do.

Here’s a shot of the condos across the street. This is behind the building, but based on what you see… the front is as sterile and boring. There’s a slight beauty to the symmetry here, but after hearing about Suzanne’s building, seeing this made me sad.

This sign was right above the spot where I first saw Suzanne taking pictures. I found this pretty hysterical, and imagined an army of talking animals, hanging out smoking cigarettes here during the day.

Saw this on Damen. Given the Polish Folklore Import Co., I expected to see signs for “Odin Industries” or “Red Riding Hood and Windshield Repair” around the corner.

I think I need to make a page specifically for bicycles soon.

I think that I’ve answered my own question about studio space for writers. After much walking around, I stopped off at Filter to settle in and get some work done. I’m not sure exactly how long I was there, but it was dark by the time I left.

When I first arrived, the place was JAMMED. It was so full, I asked for my drink in a to-go cup, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find a space to sit down. Luckily, I found an armchair, and settled there for a bit. The above pic was nice to shoot, especially since I didn’t feel nearly as intrusive (I still have issues taking pictures of people without asking). Besides, I seem to like taking pictures of when I work here.

I didn’t allow myself to leave until I had gone through that entire stack. I made some cursory edits here and there, but mainly looked over everything again, and separated my poems into two piles: stuff to either discard or rework, stuff I was happy with that felt close to done. To my delight, there were a few where I was only really editing punctuation.

I was once told an anecdote (by my first Fiction instructor, Cornelia Nixon) regarding Raymond Carver’s writing process, whereby he edited and edited to a point where he was simply adding in commas. And then, going through his work and editing yet again, proceeded to remove the commas that he had previously added. This was, according to him, how he knew a story was done.

Perhaps I’ll be as lucky. :)

My discard/rework pile wasn’t all that big, but there were several poems (in the keep pile) that need some serious reworking. Although, if I’m to trust Richard Hugo, I should be rewriting some of these from the start, instead of simply trying to repair what’s wrong.

Next steps? Revisions. And then the arduous task of sifting through various publications, to get a sense of the types of poems they’re after. And then deciding which poems to send where. And then a small fortune in stamps. Cover letters, printing addresses, creating SASE’s. And then a very small eternity of waiting around.

What a total pain in the ass this is. It’s exciting, don’t get me wrong. And a bit rejuvenating too, to be able to work on, what I’m realizing, is a pretty heft amount of poems. But still – this is such a tedious friggin process, I feel like I’ve just begun work.

And to top it off, I haven’t written a new poem in something like 2-3 months.

Ah well. Where was I? Oh yes, Filter. I left a good while after dusk, and by the time I walked into my apartment, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 8:00 PM. A pretty fun, productive day, all told.

Around 9:30 PM, my head started to hurt pretty bad. I attribute this to my not having eaten anything all day (sans coffee). I got some food in my system around 11:00 PM, and soon after stretched out on the couch, against all logic.

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