Why Chicago?

Why Chicago?

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People always ask me why I chose to move to Chicago for graduate school. Often, they complain about the weather and winters, but I just look at them like they are crazy. Why wouldn’t I choose Chicago? I mean, look at my above picture. I found a store that sells thousands of ugly Christmas sweaters (Ragstock on Belmont), and they even have Hanukkah sweaters.

Chicago is the third largest city in the US. It is full of culture, art, interesting people, amazing restaurants, great bars, festivals, and concerts. Let me run through a typical month for me (and I say typical because my months are always full of interesting things upon which I stumble or discover and in which I decide to participate).

On the last night of Hanukkah, I ran into a traveling menorah on a truck. There were some people celebrating in Wicker Park and they had a film projecting on the Walgreens wall near the Western Blue Line stop. They were dancing and singing in the street and on the sidewalk, and it was awesome (note: I’m not Jewish, but I think it is one of the greatest cultures out there and have family members that are Jewish).

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I was asked to write and read a story at World AIDS Day by a friend that was curating a show full of different artists and voices–positive, negative, queer, heterosexual, trans, allies–that all gathered to celebrate the life and triumphs of those that are HIV positive or who have succumbed to illness related to HIV and AIDS. In a city like this, artists meet each other and network, and you’re just asked sometimes to do great things like this event that was hosted by the Center on Halsted.

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There are great concerts every night in this city. In the past month, I’ve seen Third Eye Blind, MGMT, and Capital Cities, which I saw at a pre-show. My friend won tickets to a small, 80-person show. We stood at the foot of the stage and watched Capital Cities rock out while we drank free beer and danced. This city has free concerts and contests all over, and anyone can enter and win! I myself recently saw Ender’s Game for free at the IMAX theater because I won tickets (the only way I would have seen that film due to the politics of the severely homophobic Orson Scott Card).

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And then there’s just the strange things I get myself into as a result of being part of this city. My rugby team, which is predominately gay, was asked to sell T-Shirts at an event called Mister International Rubber, a convention for men into wearing rubber gear. We were given a free booth, so we thought, “YOLO”–we will sell shirts.  So I went to sell shirts one morning and there was this strange rubber cube. I asked what it was and the guy working that booth told me to get in. I did, and I put my head through a hole. My whole body was inside the cube and he sucked out the air. This made it so I was suspended, and then he flipped me upside down. It was…very strange, but very interesting. I will do anything for a good story, and going to this convention did not let me down.

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My friend wanted to go to a film festival, so we got tickets to the opening night and saw a movie called GBF. It was funny and I’d never heard of it, and apparently is coming out in wide release in January. There’s a film festival in Chicago almost every month. A few of the stars were there and did a Q&A after the movie.

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Needless to say, Chicago offers a backdrop of almost anything you could possibly imagine. I’m always doing something interesting, and they always lend to things about which I can write or from which I can pull for a story or novel. Chicago is truly the greatest, cold winters be damned!