I haven’t written a lot about what it’s like to be an Angeleno in Chicago, although I’ve thought about writing a dedicated blog just on this topic. I think it will be an interesting exercise, so I have a collection to look back to later, and realize how I’ve changed, how much of a Chicagoan I’ve become. Perhaps I will write more about this on this blog.
This evening, I went to the movies in Streeterville with my friend Julie. The movie we saw had a clever plot, and we had a few minutes to discuss it before we went to our separate ways as we boarded different buses to go back home. I realize that in L.A., since we mostly drive, our movie experiences are extended into lengthier conversations, in which we examine films more deeply. I remember late night drives with my siblings or friends, discussing a movie down to its last details. Dinners usually precede or follow these movie nights. In Chicago, I see less of this. Unless it’s a blockbuster, I usually don’t hear people talk about movies, and I’m surrounded by the types of people who would be more likely to talk about movies. If they don’t talk about them, then I don’t think the larger Chicago population does.
While we despise the car culture in LA most of the time, it does bring some value in terms of opening up the space for conversations. My bestfriend and I would always coordinate rides so we’re going to the restaurant or movie theater together, even when our homes are on separate sides of town. We value these “car conversations” enough that we would forego the convenience of driving our own cars for these moments.
It could also be an influence of the strong presence of the film industry in LA, but I get the sense that the average Angeleno is much more interested in discussing movies after watching them, than the average Chicagoan.
Last night was a different mood altogether, one of homesickness and yearning that does not know how to be satiated. I landed in Chicago and it was ice: while no snow was in sight, the feeling that threaded through the bright buildings and carried by the whizzing cars was that of arctic rigidity. I had forgotten what Chicago was like, in a span of two weeks. Los Angeles does that to you. I could not sleep last night. I was still in California time, literally and figuratively.
I woke up this morning and the familiar sound of Lincoln Park streets prompted me to wake up. While I had wanted to go to the gym, I was glad I was able to spend a few more minutes sleeping. I got myself to work on time, greeted my coworkers, then started the day that did not end until 7 pm. I was seated firmly in my desk, pushing work after another. I can barely see the bottom of my email list, and that’s only because I quickly skimmed through my inbox to check if there was actually an end to the madness. I had a meeting, set up other ones, answered questions from others, reached out for answers to my own, and so forth. My emotions were the intersection of the power of stress and beauty of focus. I was at the ready, tackling projects given to me, on the front lines. There was also serenity scattered throughout the day, palpable in intermittent burst. Focus is one of the main things I’m wishing for this year, and its first marking came to me so early. There have been times when I’m so intensely focused, and I reach a state akin to meditation. Ideas and energy originate easily, and I go through my tasks with such lightness and quickness that I don’t want to break from the flow. This is the ideal state. Sometimes, I experience negativity that I’m not aware of due to being overwhelmed, criticized, not getting what I want, disrespect, among other things. I hope the serenity I reached today will continue through each day, both at work and in my personal life. I wish to continue the search for peace and tranquility in stressful environments and times.
Since school hasn’t started yet, when I got home from staying late at work, I had dinner, chatted with a friend, and still felt I had time to spare. I changed into warm workout clothes and headed to the gym, braving the icy air from which I only realized then my apartment had been protecting me. Almost no one was at the gym, and I put in a good 20 minutes of running before I headed back to unwind some more. I still have my luggages from LA to unpack, and other things I could do, but I don’t want to burn myself out too quickly so I am setting a workable pace. I had the urge to write and I responded to it. Here’s to hoping I get to do this more regularly and seriously in 2013. Documenting the everyday is one of the most profound experiences after all, isnt it?
Another critical distinction in the Chicago/Los Angeles comparison: Los Angeles is a more inspiring town for the artist.
I feel more in touch with reality in Los Angeles. Being at the western edge of the country, it feels as thought it is able to pursue and run through its coastline the possibilities of how art can be pushed further. New York has probably the same motivating energy, but whenever I’m there I am too distracted by my sensory receptors to focus and too investigative of the material world that I am unable to detach myself from the noisy demands of life and allow time for my ideas to flourish.
L.A. pushes for a more progressive, artistic culture and it doesn’t apologize for any of it. Everyone holds a creative license, it seems like. Whereas Chicagoans want to have the same coastal aesthetic and feel, it produces something halfway. Chicago has its own appeal, a more sophisticated metropolitan orientation, but for it to nurture the same culture as Los Angeles, it is just not possible. Many Chicagoans try– from art to fashion evident in galleries and the streets. Every time I see photography in Chicago that evokes a seaside tone, or a freespirited mood, wherein the photographer hopes to capture the blithe wonder palpable in the corners of southern California, I do not imagine the transference the coastal culture of the west to Chicago nor am I transported to Los Angeles– I am even more aware of the fact that I am planted in this midwest town, with no ocean nor mountains to speak of, and I feel a sense of displacement.
The west coast is the place to be for those serious about their art. It nurtures not just the practice of creation conducive to the surroundings within, but also the pressure to identify the art you’re making and question what it is that makes it special in a place where that same art is likely practiced by the next passerby on the street or your neighbors on both sides.
It could be the ocean that creates this mood. The rhythm of the waves is a piece of classical music played by nature that encourages the meditative stance that allows the emergence of content on which you base your creation. Beyond its calming effects, it could be the concept of a moving entity that extends the contrast of constancy and impermanence at once.
There’s something about the mobility and strength of the ocean that cannot be captured by any other body of water, with or without a manmade shoreline.