Chicago in a Nutshell

I’ve never considered myself a city person, but NYC makes me long deeply for LA.  I guess I’ve already accomplished a goal on this trip, then, to take a break form LA.  Once I got to work here, I started feeling more grounded, but while the city buzzes on and on, I sit solo in a spacious 1 bedroom Brooklyn apartment wondering how this place is possible.

But, Chicago is a city I’m comfortable in (minus the chill).  I wrapped up 8 shoots in 6 days, with one cancellation, fulfilling a creative adventure with like-minded artists, and making it everywhere (mostly) on time.  I departed from Phoenix on zero sleep, but felt fine after arriving, aside from an obviously limited brain capacity.  On my first full day, I slept in, worked out, and, on the condition that he come to my location, booked a last minute shoot (an interview on sexuality during which the interviewer talked over me most of the time despite “loving” what I was saying). 

My second full day, I was scheduled to take a train to Lake Bluff, a northern suburb, but my photographer misread the train schedule, and taught me an important lesson: to always check things myself.  I only had to wait an extra hour at the train station, but this is when my night of missed sleep really started to catch up on me.   The shoot, with a fine art photographer, was great.  It flew by and I didn’t want it to end.  I hope he sells lots of those photos (not only do I like the idea of myself as art adorning walls across the globe, but I make a 25% commission).  I laughed.  I loved it.  I promised to come to the opening.  I should have had lunch afterwards.

It being my first day traveling to shoots, I hadn’t yet gotten my bearings on how to best care for myself while running around.  Hungry, but with the promise of food awaiting me at my next shoot, I rode an hour train ride back to the city and was on my way back downtown when I had to get off two stops early.  I was so hungry, and still missing all that sleep, and sitting sideways on the train, I thought surely I’d throw up. 

I let my stomach settle until the next train came through and hopped back on, dragging my feet into an elite Downtown Chicago hotel where I slugged myself to the bar and ordered a chicken salad and mint tea, on the photographer’s tab (he offered).  Our shoot was cut a little short; when you get the shot, you get the shot, so what’s the point of overshooting for 4 hours?  Plus we were both hungry, so we quit, enjoying great conversation over a bottle (and an extra glass) of wine and good food at the hotel restaurant.

I knew it was good wine, too, by the way I felt in the morning.  A bit hungover, yes, but without the headache.   Plus, I could still feel the effects of the missing night of sleep.  My second full day led me back downtown, where I shot with a photographer who drove 2 1/2 hours from Michigan that morning just to shoot with me, and straight back afterwards.  I didn’t take any selfies or text at all during that shoot —  I really wanted to honor his time.  

Afterwards, I should have relaxed, had a leisurely lunch, etc, but instead I holed up in a local cafe for a few hours before heading to my next shoot to work on some tedious details of a video I need to finish for a client in LA.  I must have had a glow about me; the barista girl thought I was a local and gave me 10% off even after I told her I wasn’t, and the barista guy stayed for well over an hour after his shift was over, sitting kitty-corner and facing me, making sure I could hear his conversations with the guy next to him.  I guess I made a big impression ordering tea with my huge adventure backpack on, or looked really, really cool concentrating on color effects in Adobe Premiere.  After all that, and all he said upon me leaving was “have a good day!”  Not that I would have had a date with him, but come on guys, be braver if you’re going to make it so obvious.

I hopped the the train towards Logan Square and arrived at the apartment of my second shoot that day.  It was a fun, creatively colored avant-garde shoot with an artist named Victor.  While I feel completely comfortable changing clothes and being nude in front of strangers, it always occurs to me how bizarre it actually is that I do that regularly.  We shot for a few hours and I the loved looks we shot, but my toes were numbly cold by the end of it.  I contemplated taking the train back vs. calling an uber pool.  I knew I’d made the best decision of the week when I stepped outside into the pouring rain and, throwing my adventure backpack full of lingerie into my awaiting uber, clambered in.

The sun, a vibrant neon pink, set behind us as rain, prematurely darkening the city, sliced through dusty air.  Our driver, silent up until now, suddenly burst out with a folklore that his uncle apparently used to scare him when he was 8 years old:  “When the sun is out while it’s raining, it means the devil is beating his wife, and if you stick a pin in a tree and listen closely, you can hear her screaming.”  Well, I’m a polite person, so I took out my headphones and listened, agreeing how scary that would be to hear as a kid.  

Tired, hungry, and still feeling the effects of the Cabernet at the Renaissance Hotel, I longed to be in the front seat.  Nauseous, I leaned into the middle of the back seat, keeping my eyes glued fixedly in one place ahead of me.  Even a shift of my eyes set off a heavy need to throw up.  The driver dropped off the other passenger 15 minutes before my destination, and hearing his uber app ping him, I wished desperately I’d taken an uber x, preparing myself to ask him to pull over in a hurry in the instance I needed to throw up.  To my extreme and undying gratitude, he turned down 3 pools on that last leg of the journey and got me home as quick as possible, telling me to be safe as I flew out of the car and ran to my front door.  Could he read my mind?  Was I turning green in the backseat?  I will never know, but I tipped him well.

The next day, I finally started to feel a bit better, and when I arrived to a very nice loft for my first shoot that day, I knew it would either be “silly fun” or a complete nightmare.  I’d agreed to be part of a bachelor party that morning.  Not as a stripper, but as a model for the bachelor to learn how to photograph.  An interesting gig.  But, I didn’t anticipate the entire bachelor party being there.  I guess I didn’t ask enough questions about this one.  Instead of there being 1 or 2 guys, there were 14, and they’d just come from brunch and mimosas.

Half-full whiskey bottles and raucous, but respectful, dudes littered the loft.  My second shoot of the day never confirmed with or responded to me (asshole), so I joined the party, but didn’t anticipate being out so long.  When I finally made it back to my apartment, I was surprised to find myself sinking into a whiskey- and wasted day-induced depression.  Knowing I had to be up at 7, I despaired when I couldn’t fall asleep until 3.  I’m lucky, though, to have a dear guy back in LA who helped talk me down off the ledge of self-loathing.   Making it easy on myself in the morning, I ubered to my next shoot, for the 3rd time in Chicago sure I was going to throw up on the way.  Third time’s the charm.  I knew I had to seriously get it together and take better care of myself or I wasn’t going to make it through the next 10 stops on tour.  

This shoot, the very first I had booked in my initial planning stages, a group shoot of local (good) photographers who get together every month. I popped open a can of ginger ale and got to work.  Rotating a photographer every 10 minutes, they loved me.  It was interesting to go between so many different shooting styles so quickly.  When asked at the end what could be improved upon, I said “more breaks.”

My second shoot of the day was someone I clicked with instantly, even before meeting.  Weird how you know you’ll be friends with someone sometimes.  In this case, I could tell by his sense of humour in his messages. He helped me out in about 10 different ways that afternoon, first by picking me up from my shoot, second by driving me downtown to grab some items I had left at the bachelor party, third by taking me on a quick walking tour of Lake Shore Drive (after I told him I hadn’t down anything fun while in Chicago), 4th by treating me to an amazing Columbian dinner near his apartment, 5th by letting me take a nap in his living room for an hour before our shoot, 6th by giving me several awesome pieces of lingerie from our shoot, 7th by taking me to Walgreens afterwards so I could get vitamins for my trip, and 8th by driving me home afterwards.  Ok, so 8.  Anyway, I have a new artist friend in Chicago and I loved our work, too.

Then, I packed, which is quite the process.  Up until 1:30am, I set my alarm for 4:30 so I could catch my 7:30 flight.   I leapt out of bed at 8:30, my phone vibrating furiously.  I’d missed my alarm.  Strangely calm, I booked the next flight out, at noon, wondering why I hadn’t gotten that one to begin with.  This gave me enough time to walk to the bank and deposit my cash from Chicago so I didn’t have to travel paranoid to New York.  Travel is stressful enough without doing it with loads of cash on hand.  

And, that was Chicago in a nutshell.  Day 1 of shooting in New York is complete.  My first photographer loved me so much, he booked an extra 9(!) hours with me during my trip.  

More on New York to come.  What a whirlwind!

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