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Archive for June, 2009

On a radio program last week I heard the guest of a travel show recommend that American tourists take time where ever they may be headed, to venture an hour away from their destination.  The radio guest stated that what one will find an hour outside of any destination are people living with “other truths that are also self-evident”.

That phrase has stuck with me throughout the week precisely because it is such an ingrained American term.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident”, but within the context of the radio discussion, I remembered quickly that “truths” are subjective and localized to the same degree in other populations as they are within the American population.

For example, in Finland, a truth that is self-evident is that one will have access to life-long educational opportunities that are essentially free, though paid for through taxation.    Income taxes may be higher, but it provides for a richness that is not tied to ones production of personal wealth.  Instead, life-long educational opportunities enrich the nation as a whole.

In most industrialized countries a truth that is self-evident is that one’s health care needs will not require an entire family to be displaced for the sake of paying for the necessary care.  In the same industrialized countries a truth that is self-evident is that the aged are cared for by extended family, often living under the same roof.

A truth that is self-evident for citizens in many countries (and some US states) is that they can marry either a man or a woman, regardless of their own gender.  It is self-evident that their relationship is legally recognized and protected, even if the evidence is rather new to the law books.  In most major cities I know that I can hold my boyfriend’s hand and in doing so, not cause bring undue harm to either of us.  It is a truth that is becoming self-evident.

Sometimes the truths we hold to be self-evident are created by where we work and with whom we socialize.  Last week I told a story of how, when I worked for the airlines, I could travel anywhere and visit with any number of friends around the globe at a moments notice.  No-cost jet transportation was a truth I held as self-evident, as did most all of my friends.  For many years, my sense of self was defined by that.  When it ended, I had to learn new truths.

Today I met with a friend I’ve not seen since February.  On-line, yes, but face to face, it’s been four months.  We were talking about this topic.  The question he posed was how, as a culture, do we expose our own population to these other truths that are also self-evident.
“How, for example,” he stated, “would I convince my parents to travel to another part of the world to witness these truths?”  I told him that I didn’t think that one had to travel that far to learn of these other truths.

When I’m in Chicago, one truth I hold as self-evident is that I do not need to memorize transit schedules.  Because public transit runs so frequently, I only have to wait for the next bus or train to arrive.  I never have to wait “another hour”.

In Minneapolis a truth that is self-evident is that everyone has public access to water, be it lakes or rivers.  Laws require that every waterway have public access points.  Life in Minnesota revolves around lakes, even for the folks who live in downtown high-rises.  When I’m in Chicago, because I grew up in Minneapolis, I can’t imagine not having access to Lake Michigan.

These truths are not necessarily something we consider every day.  They are so true that we know them to simply be – we’re not required to think about them.  As today’s conversation continued, my friend asked this, “What local truths would we, in Columbus, hold to be self-evident?”

Are our local truths socially imposed or legally structured?   I’m curious to hear your answers to this question.

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Unfolding

It’s taken me awhile to learn that some of the most wonderful experiences happen when I take time to not make plans and rather, simple let the day(s) unfold as they may.  Take for example, my weekend stay in Chicago.

I arrived in Chicago at 6 am, last Thursday, took the train home and caught three hours worth of sleep before restarting my day.  A last minute invitation was extended to visit the Richard Nickel Archives.  Richard Nickel was a photographer who essentially founded the architectural preservation movement in Chicago.  For years he photographed the buildings and details of famed American architect Louis Sullivan.  His work is now archived in the basement of a small residential building.

Our host at the archives pulled out a box of documents to demonstrate the details of Nickels work.  The file he pulled was from a Louis Sullivan building that once stood in Salt Lake City, just a few blocks from where I lived.  It’s since been demolished – but all the while I lived in Salt Lake, I was unaware that there had once been a Louis Sullivan building.  Because of my intimate knowledge of the city, I was able to add information about the specific photographs.  It was a delightful surprise.

Temperatures in Chicago were such that sleeping with the windows open pulled a cool and gentle breeze through the apartment.  The sound of the waves of Lake Michigan crashing against the shore lulled me into a deep sleep night after night.

On Saturday I awoke to news from a phone call that our friend Eilesh was at the apartment of Ling, a friend of hers for whom she is house sitting.  Ling and her husband are in China.  Ling’s apartment is in a building that has piqued my interest as a place to buy so it was suggested that I meet up with Eilesh to see how the units were laid out.

Eilesh and I went out for coffee near her new flat, then took a walk past another building  that has caught my eye.

Saturday afternoon I met up with a friend who used to live in Columbus.  Traci is in architecture school and just returned from a three-week visit to China.  I told her about a little coffee shop I’d discovered earlier in the day while out with Eilesh and we determined that we’d meet there.

As Traci told tales of her various adventures while in China she made mention of her tour guide Ling and Ling’s husband.
“Are you speaking of Ling, who lives right around the corner from here?” I asked.
“She lives around here somewhere,” she said.  “On North Sheridan, I believe.”
“I was in her apartment just a few hours ago,” I told her.
“Wait,” she exclaimed.  “Are you telling me that you know Ling?”
“I don’t know Ling, but yes, I was in her apartment.”  I went on to tell her about Eilesh.

Over the course of a few short hours I went from never knowing Ling to interacting with two of Ling’s friends, separately, neither of whom know one another.  I took it as yet another sign that I was meant to be in Chicago on this very day.

Saturday evening Fish and I took in a film at the Gene Siskel Film Center.  Part art piece, part documentary, part memoir, the film – Of Time and the City – portrayed the life of a man who had grown up in Liverpool.

Later that evening I had a conversation with a man who is a producer – TV, books, events.  The topic of my book came up and he asked for more information.  “How have you chosen to monetize this memoir of yours?” he asked.  And so we talked.

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Local Pride

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It was the summer of 1999 and I found myself in Fairbanks, Alaska for work.  Having been away from Fairbanks for a few years, I went out for a walk to see what had changed.  Off in the distance I noticed a rainbow banner spanning a downtown street.  Colorful banners and flags are not uncommon during the winter darkness, but this banner looked recent – not as if it had survived the winter.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed a telephone number, so I dialed it and received a message.  I had stumbled upon, and was minutes away from the beginning of the Fairbanks gay pride parade.

In a small park at the corner of 8th and Cushman a handful of folks began gathering, then soon thereafter, a few more.  Then came a few more in convertibles and pick-up trucks.  A van filled with Christians showed up.  They weren’t confrontational, but they were conversational (I’d imagine everyone in Fairbanks knows one another).

Once a sizable group had formed, perhaps 15 or 20 people of which I was one, we headed north along Cushman – a couple pick up trucks loaded with a few drag queens and a boom box.  The rest of us walked.

At the time, downtown Fairbanks was comprised of the local TV station, one or two tourist traps and several dive bars.  Local drunks emerged from doorways in reaction to the commotion – because twenty people on a Fairbanks street has a noticeable audible presence, especially when combined with boom box blaring disco music.

From my mobile phone I called my boyfriend in Orlando.  “You will NEVER guess what I’m doing.” I said when he answered the phone.  Following the parade, the group reformed at Alaskaland Park (now known as Pioneer Park) for a cook out.  I was chatting with a woman who had traveled to Fairbanks for this event.
“Can you believe the turn out!” she said.  “It is so exciting to be around this many people,” she continued.

I think about that day whenever I encounter a pride-day celebration, because it took far more bravery for those few folks in Fairbanks to march through the city than it does for the hundreds that do so each year in Columbus.

Central Ohio is dotted with plenty of small,well populated towns where one will also find homosexual residents:  Newark, Granville, Lancaster, Circleville, Chillicothe, London, Marysville and Marion.  Imagine if, next weekend, the gay residents of these towns took to the streets simply for the sake of demonstrating their presence.   Nothing fancy – they could do it as simply as the folks in Fairbanks did.

When the local news broadcasts images of Columbus’  Pride Day celebration to the general population it’s easy for the viewing area to think that “that only happens in Columbus” (or Cleveland or Cincinnati).  There is a far greater connection made when rural residents understand that the gay population of Central Ohio is not just those who attend an afternoon-long parade in some large city but are actually their neighbors who live down the street.

There was a time, and perhaps it’s still now, when there was safety in numbers –  when a large turnout was considered a good thing.  There’s always talk about how many people attend a gay pride event – even when its spoken by a woman from rural Alaska.  Maybe it’s time to hear the same words spoken by the folks of rural Ohio.

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Cost, Location and Access

One of the (many) challenges with moving to Chicago is the variety of housing options from which there are to choose.  That’s true in any city but in Chicago I contemplate things like proximity to the lake and pubic transit.  Ideally, I’d like to be within walking distance of both Lake Michigan and the Red Line, although access to bus lines are seldom more than a block or two in any neighborhood.

Two locations have piqued my interest.  North Sheridan Road just south of Loyola University.  The east side of the North Sheridan is lined with high-rises from the mid 1970’s, though my favorite is 6101 North Sheridan Road.  A classic Beaux-Arts building from the 1920’s (it’s pictured in the previous post), it’s one-bedroom apartments start as low as $85,000 (~600 square feet).  CTA bus lines 147 and 151 stop right out front and the Red Line is three blocks away.  6101 is also a half-block off the lake, allows pets and the units can be rented out if necessary.

The other is Rose Hill, a quiet neighborhood boarded by Devon on the north, Peterson on the south, Ridge Boulevard to the east and Western Avenue to the west.  One development, a series of buildings in a co-op has prices that start in the mid $60’s.  The unit that I looked at there was a three-bedroom one bath with vaulted ceilings and radiant floors, about 1500 square feet with an asking price of $68,000.  Bus lines are two blocks away and the Red Line is about a mile east.  The Rose Hill unit(s) come with access to off-street parking at no additional cost.

Wolcott

Because the Rose Hill development is a co-op, there are unique hoops through one must jump, but there are also some advantages.  For example, I’d have to be approved by the board, which means disclosing a variety of financial information, even if I were to pay cash for the unit.  Renting the unit is forbidden, as are pets, except for cats.  On the up side, my monthly assessment would include gas, electric, water and property taxes.

So I contemplate location verses size – three bedrooms verses one bedroom with a minimum $20,000 difference for proximity to the lake.  Parking verses being put on a wait list of a $65/month parking space.

There’s also a building on Marine Drive which is across from a park and overlooks Lake Shore Drive.  I’ve yet to see any of these units, but one-bedroom units there are on the market in the low $80’s.

Despite the size, I did view a fantastic studio in the Imperial Tower building.  Priced at $119,000, this place had style, sizzle and lived like a one-bedroom.  While I may not like being confined to a studio apartment, the unit, with the south-facing views offered a distinct big-city, cosmopolitan feel.

There are obvious benefits to paying cash and having low monthly assessments.  Buildings with door men and elevators require employees and those amenities add up quickly.  An older building such at 6101 need more attention to exterior maintenance with regards to stone work and tuck pointing.  Three bedrooms or one bedroom?  Maybe a small mortgage is worth the location for a unit closer to the Red Line.  These are the considerations which I ponder.

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You’ve probably noticed that I’ve not been writing as much lately.  While there’s been plenty on my mind, most of it has stayed within, save for the few friends who have listened to my thoughts over the past couple of months.

The goal was to keep things quiet for a while longer waiting for the right time to release the information.  I’ve found, however, that I’m much more at ease with the world around me when my thoughts are fully expressed.

And so here we go…

I’m embarking upon plans to relocate to Chicago.  My house is on the market and the past month has been a mad rush to get ready for realtors.  It has not been an easy decision because I never thought I’d leave Columbus.  When I moved here in 2000, it was because I had discovered a city where I felt comfortable – a city where I could grow and a city that would grow with me.

Despite living in a great neighborhood (Merion Village), for the past few years I’ve been longing for a more urban setting.  The addition of new downtown housing piqued my interest over the past couple of years and I’ve watched, keenly, as a somewhat new phase of Columbus becomes a reality.  I’ve kept my eyes open for the right place at the right price – realizing that I’d know it when the time was right.

Little did I know that the right place at the right price would be Chicago.  All things considered, Chicago is priced about the same as Columbus these days, so for about what I’d pay here, I can get all the benefits of the city of Chicago.  I consider it the ‘gift with purchase’.

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From the arts to the architecture, to the level of pedestrian activity and having Lake Michigan at my doorstep –  there’s a feeling about Chicago that inspires me beyond what I ever expected.  And of course, the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority), a comprehensive public transportation system that operates around the clock.

Not long ago, in an interview with Walker Evans of Columbus Underground, we talked about public transit in Columbus.  When I listened to the podcast I realized that one of the reasons I moved here was because light-rail was on the city’s radar.  Nine years later, nothing has happened and I’m still waiting.

Understand that the CTA is not my only reason for relocating to Chicago, but it is one of the benefits.  Chicago without the CTA would be like Los Angles – and I have no desire to live like that.  All things being equal, housing prices and the standard of living, it just makes sense to put my money where my mouth is and live in a city with great public transit.  In the long run, I’ll be better off financially because of it.

As the process continues, I’ll write more about this relocation.  There’s a lot on my mind, frankly, because what I’m about to do is running counter intuitive to everything we hear in today’s media.  Moving across country is something with which I’m familiar.  Doing it, however, in the midst of wobbly world economics is new to me, so lets explore it together.  Doing so will keep me sane.

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