An Official Farewell to Chicago

It’s been a little over seven months since I said “Farewell” to Chicago and hit the road for new adventures in Nashville. Seven months since it snowed in March for the movers after seventy degree days in February. Since sitting in my car with my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and breakfast sandwich after my final packing/cleaning/walk-through/put our condo keys and parking lot gate opener on the counter/taking my time shutting the front door and looking wistfully like the final episode of a beloved sitcom. All with minutes to spare before the new residents received their keys and had their first walk-through before closing. I had no interested in accidentally meeting them.

Since basically my final shot of Chicago was, while filling Bud’s gas tank at the BP on Broadway and Irving Park, I see Honey West sauntering cautiously across the lot with her poofy pink winter jacket and big-gulp sized drink. Taking me back to a pivotal Chicago moment that first Monday after 9/11 out of our apartments and ourselves, and my dear friend MK (before he was “MK”) and I hit the Boystown bars and we ended up at Gentry and ordered one more drink we probably didn’t need and Honey sang the WWI classic “Over There” and I completely effing LOST it. Yeah.

Seven months of moving into a new house and trying to not rely on my phone too much to get around (I miss the Chicago grid!) and making my way into a new literary community and job searching and all that goes into relocating. And I finally have my new site ready, and I’ve been brewing this “Farewell” post in my head for a while. Because I kind of feel like I just “ghosted” out of town. Between Ernie’s moving down early to start his new job at Nashville Children’s Theatre that’s brought us here in the first place and the packing of life and work and all that, there just wasn’t a whole lot of time to see everyone and visit everywhere and get too sentimental. Even though I did find time to walk by all my apartments, including walking the ally to visit my West Barry coach house place. It would’ve been cool to have a big going away bash somewhere, inviting (most) everyone we ever knew in Chicago. But it just didn’t work out. We left once before, but not as far. South Bend, Indiana was close enough to keep our dentist. This time, not so much. This is it.

So, farewell to mine and my college mate Sarah’s first apartment (1998-99) down the road from Wrigley, a “garden apartment” with its cat pee soaked carpet and rat problem. To (re)discovering Boystown and to all the boys and friends I knew and loved and crushed on and all that, numbers written on Roscoe’s business cards with golf pencils that I maybe still have tucked in an old phone book somewhere (okay, I know where). To being single via landlines and answering machines and payphones, oh my.

A Thank you to all my peeps at Chicago Dramatists and the Living Room Project and NewTown Writers for all your inspiration and opportunity. To the Chicago Live Lit Community and all the writers I’ve shared a mic with or listened to from the audience–and to all the audiences who took ten minutes here and there to listen and maybe say a kind word after. You are all amazing!

To my DePaul University MAWP classmates and professors. You seriously rock! Thank you for getting me to the place as a writer I am today. Thank you also (and especially?) to the DePaul Writers Guild! I miss “stretching my tuition dollars” every Thursday (etc.) and am honestly still feeling a little lost without you. I know you still have my back.

I miss you, big fat Lake I could walk to or ride my bike along, stare into, get a sense of direction from. A particularly sweltering spell this past August, all I wanted was to be with you. The Cumberland River doesn’t quite cut it in comparison. I miss more daily biking and walking in general, late night rides down Clark Street from Andersonville, cutting across Sunnyside and its funny pedestrian-only way. Feeling badass riding Milwaukee Avenue home from Wicker Park.

I get my Chicago Instagram fixes primarily through @Chicagotod and @Chicagomotives. Thanks, guys!

I read my copy of Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology from a distance, much of it sitting on our back porch overlooking our sometimes overgrown backyard, early mornings, coffee, birds and bugs chirping, a train whistle in the distance, light (and sometimes not) city noises. Far away from our condo’s arm-span sized balcony that served as our outdoor space (for which I was grateful!) overlooking Sheridan Road from where my young nephew once shouted excitedly, “TWO AIRPLANES!” as he kept watch of our O’Hare flight path. I love the collection and am proud to be a part of it. But it made me miss the city: a Chicago I could directly connect with, sure, but also a Chicago just before my time there in neighborhoods that I only visited but never lived. And a Chicago that was not my version of Chicago. It kind of drove home that life in Chicago for me is now truly in the past. 20 years ago I was saving my dollars (literally–as a waiter!) to get myself there. But things end and it’s all a part of myself, ourselves.

As is Unabridged Bookstore and Joys Noodles and Melrose Diner (RIP) and the Golden Apple and all the coffee shops I wrote parts of my soul in (Dollop, “Cariboy,” and more) and the stages at the old Bailiwick and the Strawdog cabaret (also RIP) and all the theatres I went to with Ernie and before I knew him. And that moment when each night Charlie’s transitioned from cowboy bar to late night dance club. And walking quickly to Halsted without a coat in winter because who wants to deal with coat check? And both the romance and torture of all the CTA train lines. And the entertainment of the Broadway bus. And restaurant jobs and temp jobs. And the Art Institute on my birthday. And driving back into the city at night, the skyline lights welcoming us home. And, and, and more things I’ll think of and remember after I finish typing this.

I could think about things I won’t miss or places I never made it to. But maybe some other time for all that. I want to keep the glow nice and warm as the weather is finally (finally!) properly autumnal down here in Tennessee. Just in time.

I Am a Master!

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I started this site/blog during Grad School Phase 1 at IUSB in 2008. Five years and two addresses later (and of course our triumphant return to Chicago), I finally have that Masters. Cool. So a huge THANK YOU to everyone who’s been a part of it along the way. All my profs and peeps at Indiana who encouraged me and worked with me and helped me dive back into academia after a ten year hiatus. And to all my DePaul MAWPers (graduates and near future graduates alike) who I already miss even though it’s been only a little over a month.

Onward in life and art and scratching things off our summer to-do lists.

Cheers!

The Snackpot & School

Hello! Finally taking a second to catch up on a few things around here. School is finished for the year. This quarter thing took us into June, so after a while it was like What are we still doing here? But I rallied and did some solid revisions for my Speculative Fiction class (taught by the fabulous Rebecca Johns) which was a whole lot of nerdy fun. I knocked out my essay revision discussing nostalgia in Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story for my Independent Publishing class. I also finished my work for a Small Press Sampler project we’re working on. My essay on Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago plus other contributions will be included. A website for the project will soon launch, and eventually it will all come out in e-book and possibly print form. More to come! I also got an A on that Language and Style test I told you about in February. Winter also saw my interviews with Stroger Hospital trauma nurse Ernie Purnell all come together for a Chicago youth violence project. The narratives will be featured in a published anthology and a Steppenwolf Theatre production. More to come on all that as well! Finally, my play, Coffee Boy was included in the DePaul English Department’s Thresholds 2012 lit mag. Way cool!

So. The Snackpot.  I’ve been pestering my Facebook and Twitter peeps with links. But now finally, the official MichaelVanKerckhove.com announcement! 🙂 The Snackpot is a way cool new snack and culture site I’ve been writing for these past several months. The site is the brainchild of music publicist Jacob Daneman. I was recruited by the fabulous Keith Ecker to be part of the inaugural writing team. I’ve been reviewing snacks all winter and spring in preparation for the May 2012 launch. I’ve covered things from strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups to Maple Nut Clif Bars. The tone of the site is a healthy balance of information and snarky humor. There are news bits and longer form writings. I need to figure out some essay ideas for sure. The snacks I take on are little writing prompts which have also taught me a few things. It’s food writing with an edge. I’m digging it. To check out my contributions, visit my author page. Note: as of this posting, only the ten most recent reviews show up. Hopefully the interwebby content field thingy (a technical term!) can be expanded to fit everything. All reviews are available in the reviews archives. The site has been doing well, and I’m proud to be part of such a cool project. Please check it out and share with all your peeps. That’d be awesome.

Looking ahead to the next couple months, I’ll be catching up on various projects, reading, revising, and hopefully generating some new CNF material to share with the Chicago Storytelling scene. A little traveling and playing with my new “stupid” iPhone. 😛

Have a rad summer. More to come. Cheers.

Radio DePaul Reading & Interview

Hey friends, it’s finally this site’s official Radio DePaul post!  On January 20, 2012, I joined hosts Colin & Marcy and my classmate Bethany for this term’s second edition of DePaul Student Writers Series.

I read two of my personal essays, Dance of the Ring and More Than Words. Following the reading, we discussed the pieces and the writing process.  Definitely a cool way to spend a wintery Friday morning.

Listen via the show’s new site Welcome post, or go directly to the site’s embedded audio.  Please Note: the first couple minutes featuring announcements got clipped, but the main event is all there.  Also, I’m second guest in the line up.

It’s been a busy quarter, and I should be studying for my Language & Style test right now.  But I still have time.  I’m also involved in a really cool project for my Art of the Interview class.  More on that to come!

Be well, and enjoy the show.  Cheers.

Mortified, Memoirs, and More

This is not me. But you’ll be able to see and hear Mortifying things about me December 10 at Schubas.

Firstly, MichaelVanKerckhove.wordpress.com is now MichaelVanKerckhove.com.  Yeah, I went ahead and bought myself my own domain name, snatching it up from the two other guys on earth I know of with my name–they live in Belgium.  All things still point to WordPress.  Thought I’d take a moment to celebrate.  Take your own moment if inspired.

Secondly, I have a show coming up!  I’ll be returning to MORTIFIED on December 10, 2011.  I’m way excited!  This time around, we’ll be at Schubas.  I’ve seen concerts there, and now I get to do my own thing on that stage. Awesome.  I’ll be reliving the piece I did in March–hear me share excerpts from my 9th grade journals.  GET YOUR TICKETS as it will sell out.  Can’t wait to see you there.

Memoirsofaguncle.wordpress.com

Thirdly, my first quarter at DePaul University is officially over.  I am currently enrolled in the MA Writing & Publishing program.  My grad school re-boot is in full effect and going well.  My fiction workshop–Time & Place in Fiction–got my fiction brain back in gear.  I had the opportunity to workshop two first drafts.  One newish and one really new.  (More on the stories themselves to come, perhaps.) We read inspiring and relevant published stories, and got to know my classmates through their work.  My Digital Publishing class has pushed me to  get this site a good dusting.  I also launched a new site as part of my class work: Memoirs of a Guncle-adventures in gay unclehood.  The site is inspired by mine and Ernie’s new(ish) unclehood and my essay on my evolving attitude toward kids and fatherhood, An Ernie Yes or No.  I also want to add more Chicago focused posts on cool things to do with the young ones in our lives.  Please check it out and follow on the Twitter and Facebook and all that good stuff.  I want to get a new post up soon and keep it going beyond just the class. Wish me luck.  And to all my classmates and profs: Have an awesome break and see you soon!

Finally, I wrapped up my Marketing & Events internship at Open Books, the brilliant Chicago literacy non-profit.  All our work on Revelry 2011 paid off.  With this opportunity, I was able to get a cool look at the inner workings of a non-profit, broadened my awareness of the city (even from my desk), and picked up some experience points in event planning.  I also had the chance to experience an amazing Chicago event space–the Catalyst Ranch.   Check out the site!  In the weeks ahead, I’m going to re-post some of the more personal writings I contributed to the Open Books blog.  Now, I get time back to work with the kids–I’ll be doing another field trip on the 30th.  Looking forward to it!

More to come.  Cheers.