Friday, June 22, 2012


     I like walks. I like the wind in my hair, the feeling of the ground under my thin flip flops, the noise they make as I wander, the feeling of the outdoors, and the freedom to go any where.
     When my family moved to our current home in Sacramento we were excited to be closer to the bike trail. "We will go every weekend now its so close," we said. "We can even bike to the lake," we said.
But the thinking of going biking all the time is very different from actually doing it. We constantly ran into excuses. "My bike has no air in it." we said. "It's too hot" we said. "We're too busy," we said. "I don't even have a bike," I said.
     As much as we originally said we would go biking, it just never happened. Then on my 16th Birthday my friend came over, we wanted something to do, but we didn't have a car, and Sacramento isn't exactly known for its public transportation. So we resolved to for a walk to curb our restlessness.    
     As we reached the bike trail, the sounds of the city faded away. Long gone were the sounds of cars whizzing by on the pavement. Lost were the sounds of kids and their dogs. We left the scent of freshly cut grass and boiling asphalt behind. We had barely walked half a mile and the only trace of humans was the bike path and the neat yellow line running down its belly.
      Along the trail we saw wild flowers bursting through the grassy meadows, dear grazing and pausing to see who was passing through their emerald lands. We heard the calls and chirps of finches, crows and magpies, working a symphony with the ra-ta-ta-tap of woodpeckers and the constant wushing of the river.
     As we reached the river we were greeted by the uneven and smooth stones under our feet, the cold tickle of the water under our toes, the smell of fresh earth in our nostrils, and the sight of this beautiful oasis tucked into the outskirts of suburbia.
     Since then my family and I have made the short trek to the river many times. During the summer its our weekend ritual to walk down to see the sunset, and feel the cool breeze as we escape from the heat of Sacramento.
     This summer is different. I decided to spend it in Chicago to continue my studies, and I am working for SAIC as a Summer Resident Educator. (its like being an RA, but for the high school students who are studying here for the summer) So i've been missing the escape the river had always brought me.
     Chicago is a much bigger city than Sac and also boasts its own river, but it is surrounded by concrete and even had its flow reversed in the 1900's because it was polluting Lake Michigan. I crave the escape the calming summer sunsets the river brought, the escape from noise and people. In Chicago its hard to get away from city life. The beach is fake, its sand imported, it lacks a tide, and the people who visit it take no regard for others so its littered with every thing from wrappers, to broken liquor bottles and even clothes. Its noisy with seagull calls, car honks, and police sirens. The shores of the beaches provide no escape for me.
     The only place that brings me peace is a gated park just north of Navy Pier, Olive Park.
 -Its named for a Chicago native Milton L. Olive III, who served in the Army during Vietnam. He gave his life for his fellow soldiers when he threw himself over an enemy grenade he was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart.-
      Its such a peaceful place, the tree lined main path reminds me of the bike trail back home. The cool breeze from the lake washes over you and takes the sticky humidity of the city away. Deeper in the park is a fountain long drained of its water, providing a gathering place for water after summer showers. Its here that reminds me most of home. I sit on the edge of the fountain with my toes in a puddle, leaning backwards to lay my body on the dewey grass that surrounds it. If I close my eyes and put on my headphones, I can forget everything on my mind. I can ignore the noise of the city. I can escape the smell of warm sewage and sweaty tourists. I can leave the taste of dirty air behind. I can forget all my worries, and my homesickness for my river path. I can forget how much I miss my parents, and my dog. I can forget all things I have to do, to remember whats important, and for a moment I am back home sitting on the edge of my river with my toes in the water my body on the grass, and my head in the clouds.

Monday, June 18, 2012


    The best piece of advice my father ever told me wasn't  really advice at all. It wasn't "never wear white after labor day", "or always look people in the eye", it was more of a philosophy.
      "The worst thing someone can say to you is no,"
    It became one of those pieces of fatherly advice that became cliched. When he begin to speak those words and my sister and I would butt in and finish the line before he could. We had heard it so many times that by the time we were in high school we just wished he would stop giving advice at all. But when it came time for college applications my junior year of high school all I wanted from him was advice.
    I had decided when I was very young that I was determined to have a job that I loved. Not just a job that I could survive and paid well, I wanted a job that made me excited to get up in the morning and sad to leave at night, no matter what the salary was. The only thing  I had found at the age of 16 that made me feel this was was creating art. Art being art, I knew money was something I was going to have to sacrifice for the joys of being an artist. So when searching for colleges I always cross referenced ceramics and fashion, my two real loves at the age of 16. This led me to the discovery of Art colleges, institutions where everyone was after the same thing I was, the dream of being paid to do what you loved. As much as I loved this idea of going away to study with those who also loved creating, expressing, and showcasing their thoughts and experiences through art, I was terrified of telling my parents I wanted to go to art school.
    My parents had saved money for my sister and I to go to college since before we were born. In every christmas bonus and birthday check they selflessly put away money not so their dreams of taking a Parisian vacation or an Alaskan cruise could come true, but so our dreams of becoming A helicopter pilot and the President, (my sister and my future careers according to out uncle) could be a reality. However this "dream career" my parents presented to us came with the idea that we would surpass our parents, make lots of money, and make them proud. At the age of 16 I slowly began to dread talking with my parents. Every dinner conversation, car ride and neighbor hood walk, I feared they would ask, "So, have you decided what you want to do about college?" I feared this question more than failing a math test, more than taking the drivers test, more than I feared the SAT's. Because in my mind telling my beloved parents who had sacrificed so much for me to be better than them that I wanted to go to art school was like me telling them, "I know you want me to go to school get a good job make lots of money and be happy and not struggle in life, well instead of that I am going to make stuff and try to sell it, be famous and maybe homeless in the process." I saw art school as a pipe dream, something that everyone has in their back pocket that they know will never be, like sleeping with a playboy bunny, or solo sailing across the globe.
    Then one day after my father picked me up from swim practice and we began talking about how I wanted to ask one of my teachers for a letter of recommendation for a scholarship I was applying for. However I knew my teacher was a very busy man and had a general "No" answer for these types of things. My father being my father, he started off with his usual rant, and like an epiphany had struck me I actually listed to him and his obnoxious advice for the first time in years.
     "Well, the worst thing he can tell you is no."
And it hit me, truer words were never spoken, it was true my teacher could only tell me no, he couldn't deny me the scholarship, or fail me for asking such a ridiculous question and so I realized that the worst thing my parents could say was no, they couldn't crush my love of art or take away my creativity, they could only tell me that no, they wouldn't pay for art school. This was the first time in years I had actually listened, I mean really listened and saw the sense in his words, to a five or ten year old this phrase was just the sputterings of a weird old guy, at that age the worst thing some one can say is , "We're not getting ice cream" or "You are not going to that party." But at 16 I finally made sense of his madness.
     I finally had the courage to tell my parents that I didn't want to enter college "undecided" or reply to their queries with the standard "I'll get a degree in business" I could finally tell them "I don't want to get a degree in business, or go to a UC or even go to a regular college I want to go to art school, " and know that the worst thing they cold say to me was no.
     So that night after Jeopardy, and reruns of Star Trek I told my parents that I had decided what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I nervously told them and my mom being my mom said,
"You know we will love and support you in what ever you decide to do in life."