neighborhoods : downtown [part one]

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Downtown Chicago is the iconic Chicago. It's the area most people immediately envision when thinking of Chicago. Hell, it's really all I knew of Chicago before moving here eight years ago. I just assumed the skyscrapers stretched on forever... or at the very least, to Naperville. Visiting, it's what's people want to see. It contains all of the imagery of classic Chicago--the Sears Tower, the Hancock Building, the river, Watertower place, as well as a number of the larger theatres and more prominent museums.

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Patrick and I have decided to shoot downtown in pieces; we're kind of blending and dividing a few recognized districts of downtown rather than actual neighborhoods.  Our first portion hovered around the financial district but we stretched those boundaries a bit to the north and west.

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Visit this link to view Patrick's downtown shots.

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this must be it

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On December 30th, I began writing some kind of reflection post for 2014. I found myself thinking of all the uncertainty that loomed at the beginning of the year, both the dread and excitement of the unknown that lay before me. But I felt so uninspired to write that kind of post. I grow weary of looking behind at what has been and even more, I am tired of discussing it. I know the future is only an illusion and to discuss the future is a dangerous thing; you trick yourself into believing you've already done something that you haven't. Future projects, future plans: once you put those thoughts into spoken words, you're suddenly patting yourself on the back for simply thinking of what you could do. 

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But what did happen in 2014? A lot. Three-hundred and sixty five days of chaos and change, and it's been everything I needed, even when I didn't want it. In January at this time a year ago, I was still living in California, with a blank slate before me and not a single plan. By February, I was crashing on the floor of a friend's place in Chicago, trying to figure out my next move and the pieces have continued to fall into place to leave me exactly where I am today. As an artist, my attitude developed and matured to leave me entering 2015 with a healthier perspective and balance. I let go of the feeling that I must be constantly creating as well as the guilt that coincides when nothing of value manifests. I focused on pouring myself into outlets that felt more natural in the moment, such as writing. I spent a great deal of time reflecting on the work of the past three years and contemplating the best way to compile and share that work. 

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For the moment I gave myself to look back at what the year was, I tried to locate the lesson of it all and what I saw staring back at me was this importance of the present moment in my own life and what the prominence of my role is in my own life. I think we all have seasons that upon reflection, weren't really ours. We showed up, we witnessed, we even participated, but we weren't leading. We handed that power to another and we became minor characters in our own lives. These aren't necessarily bad times, in fact they can be cloaked in roses, but when that season ends and you try to regain control or grasp what actually happened, it is utter chaos. It's like waking up one morning covered in cactus spines—it was for me anyway. I spent a lot of the year pulling them all out and trying to remember exactly when it was that I jumped into the brush. 

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But now it's 2015. There's certainly a spine or two lingering that I have yet to extract but they've become tolerable. And anyway, my heart is full. At this moment, I'm excited for the possibilities of the coming year. There are a lot of things on deck that I hope come to fruition. Even if they don't, I'm not sweating it because I know now what is in my hands and what pieces are dependent on others. The clarity of roles alone makes the bigger picture so much more promising and I know, regardless, that the only thing that really matters is what I am doing today. 

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neighborhoods : chinatown

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Some interesting things I discovered about Chicago's Chinatown recently: Chicago is the second oldest Chinese settlement in America after they began to flee California, the Nine Dragon Wall (Patrick has some super photos of on his Flickr) is one of only three replicas outside of China of the original in Beijing, and the original Chinatown was located about two miles north, but was relocated to it's southside spot in 1911. I've visited "Chinatown" neighborhoods in four other United States cities and they're all a little different. One of Chicago's standout features is certainly the two story "Chinatown Square" which boosts a number of different commercial businesses and restaurants and homes a small sculptural park of the twelve Chinese Zodiacs.

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View Patrick's Chinatown photos here and scroll down on the blog to view the past neighborhood's featured in our on-going project.

 

neighborhoods: avondale

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Patrick and I followed Albany Park with a visit to Avondale, also on Chicago's northwest side. The neighborhood has traditionally had a high Polish population though the 80's brought an influx of Hispanics to the area. In recent years, Avondale has begun to feel the effects of gentrification though still maintains a hold on a distinct "Eastern Europe meets Latin America" culture.

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Patrick's contributions can be found here.

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This is an ongoing project; Albany Park, Pilsen, & Humboldt Park can be found below. Chinatown will be the next stop on our agenda.

neighborhoods: albany park

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Albany Park was the next neighborhood on the list in the project Patrick Burke and I have been working on. It is located on the northwest side of the city and is among the most diverse in the city, with more foreign born residents than any other neighborhood in the city. It is also home to some super (and inexpensive) falafel and hummus at one of the shops pictured in Patrick's captures. Those can be seen here.

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This is an ongoing project, scroll down for previous posts on Pilsen and Humboldt Park. Avondale will be next.