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Hollywood Jane in Chicago

February 19, 2009


So it would seem that no one is interested in paying for a middle-class white girl with two happily married, physically intact parents to go to graduate school and study creative writing.  God knows if I was legally blind and wanted a masters in crypto-biology or electrical engineering from some podunk college in the middle of  nowhere, there’s a number of places happy to oblige.

A newfound determination to go to grad school is about the only thing I got out of my weekend in Chicago.  Well, that and a bruised hand.  The trip had an inauspicious beginning when my hair care products were confiscated at the airport.  I guess Garnier Fructis is favored by terrorists.

When I checked in at the Chicago Hilton, the concierge informed me that despite my reservation there were no more king-sized beds available.  She offered to put me in a room with two double beds and two, count ’em, two bathrooms instead.  I know I’m high maintenance, but I don’t really need more than one toilet.

I didn’t have a lot of options, so I accepted her paltry offer, and after figuring out that only half of the elevators in the lobby went up to the 20th floor, I noticed that the first floor was deceptively elegant – the rest of the hotel was little better than the Best Western N. was staying in.

Then I entered the room only to find that the lights weren’t completely functional.  When N. and I went down to pick up our registration for the conference, I told the front desk about the illumination situation.  When I returned to my room, the lights were fixed, but there was also someone else in it.  When I answered the desk phone and the cord fell out – twice – that’s when I gave up.

The following day (alone in the room with two beds and two bathrooms) I took the CVS-equivalent of Zyrtec-D, and crashed for two hours.

Friday I had dinner with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, which was nice, but I didn’t really start to enjoy myself until Saturday night when N. and I went to see Second City.  Of course, in keeping with the theme of the trip, we were in the cab when I realized I bought tickets for the wrong weekend.  Fortunately the people at SC are really nice, and they just slipped us into the 8 o’clock show where I enjoyed a strawberry daiquiri.  No one carded us there (probably because there was very little alcohol in the drinks), but N. and I were both carded when we ducked into a pub to get a pizza.

Sunday morning we had enough time to play tourists, so we bundled up and walked to the Art Institute, where I hoped to see the Chagall window that had been taken down for restoration the last time I was in Chicago four years ago.

It was still missing.

After the Art Institute, we went looking for one last touristy thing we could do – and wandered past an ice rink in Millennium Park.  We just couldn’t pass up the opportunity, despite the fact that neither of us can ice skate.  We managed two circuits around the rink, clutching the rail, and fell a few times which was when I bruised my hand.

Despite the pain and subsequent exhaustion, I really love being able to say I went ice skating in Millennium Park in the middle of February.  Makes me sound tough.


Things I Learned at AWP:

  • despite having reputations as loners, writers travel in packs.
  • the primary purpose of the conference is for MFA students to greet each other and feel accomplished.
  • there are more journals for poetry than there are readers of poetry.
  • Tod Goldberg really does swear as much in real life as he does on his blog.
  • there is a war between hotel shuttle drivers and local cabbies that is very West Side Story without the singing or dancing.
  • Conrad Hilton looks like Walt Disney.
  • Making casual conversation while waiting in line or waiting for a panel to begin is easy – unfortunately, so is accidentally insulting the editor of Fourth Genre.

Quote of the Day:

“Any place you find pressure, that’s a great place to write from.”  -Don Waters, author

Link of the Day: Second City – world-famous improv.  If I lived in Chicago, I’d want to take classes there.

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