Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Life in Illinois: Update for May

Classes ended, I got a job as a page at the local public library, and I visited Baltimore. The library job is only part time, but it's just enough to pay the bills. Plus I like being back in the library regularly. I've also checked out more books and movies than I'd ever have time to read/watch during the school year (or even now that school has ended; admittedly I've returned a few things unread). It's an easy job -- put books, movies, and CDs away, shelf-read and clean up -- though they've started giving me more to do now that I've caught on to the initial job. There's a whole army of pages -- a couple dozen -- who range in age from high school to grandparents; in fact, most of them seem to be in one category or the other, though there are a few closer to my age.

I went back to Baltimore to see the UB MFA reading and thesis presentation and to visit friends that still live there. I flew in from Chicago on a Thursday and stayed with Maureen for the weekend; I hadn't made any real plans with anyone in advance but managed to find a friend from the library to hang out with for the evening and then met up with another friend/former classmate, Roger, for wine in Little Italy Thursday night. I was quickly reminded, trying to get back to Maureen's, of the public transit's shortcomings; the free buses stop running at 9pm on weeknights, and the light rail by 11pm. It became a recurring problem throughout the weekend, and even trying to get to the airport on Monday to fly home (luckily for me, my flight was delayed a bit). I had forgotten how hard daily life in Baltimore is in general -- not just getting around, but having to pay attention and to constantly be aware of what's going on around you. Nothing bad happened; in fact, with the riots having occurred so recently, there were more officers and security guards around than usual. It was a bit weird walking into the Rite Aid I used to go to all the time and seeing a security guard hanging out at the kiosk by the door. But it was a reminder in general of how different life is in a city like Baltimore vs. a town in the Midwest.

I was reminded of some of the good things too; I visited campus and saw former professors and classmates at the reading, and ate at my favorite pizza place in my old neighborhood with my friend Dave. Maureen and I spent Friday afternoon in DC at a WWII commemoration and visited a great market and used book store there with her friend Nora. I also got to spend some time writing at one of my favorite coffee shops Saturday afternoon and go to Maureen's birthday party that evening (where I caught up with a friend I hadn't seen much of even the last couple years I lived in Baltimore, which was an unexpected surprise). On Sunday, I had brunch with my friend Mike, then Maureen and I made it to the beach (though it turned out to be a private beach, so we didn't get to swim; it was a bit too cold anyway). I went back to the shop on Sunday night to hang out with Maureen and my friend Dewey.  And Monday I had brunch with my friend (and former Spotlight UB supervisor) Kimberley before heading to the airport. 

It was a good trip, and I'd like to visit again, but I think I'll rent a car next time. I don't think I'll ever move back to Baltimore, though. It definitely felt like that chapter in my life had closed, at least for now.

One other less exciting thing happened in May; on the night of my last final exam (for theatre history) I was driving my new car to meet my friends Nick and Sami in Urbana for a celebratory drink, when the battery and gauge lights came on and I lost power/power steering. I turned off the busy road I was on and mostly coasted on to a side street while the engine sounded like it was struggling to stay running. I turned the car off, and it wouldn't turn back on after that -- it acted like it was out of gas. It was, in fact, leaking gas onto the road. I called Jake and he came and checked it out and called a tow truck; in the meantime, I talked to Sami and told her what had happened. "Do you want us to come hang out with you?" she asked. I told her no, thinking it wouldn't be very fun for them to hang out on a side street next to the apartment complex where I'd stopped, but a little while later they showed up anyway. Which, I discovered, actually meant a lot to me, that they were willing to stay and keep me and Jake company while we waited. It was sad to watch Fiona be towed away, but we found out next day that it was only a bad fuel pump -- a relatively inexpensive fix, in the grand scheme of things. I had my car back by noon on Friday.

Also in May, most of my stage management friends (so basically all of my friends here in Chambana) went off to their various jobs and internships out of state (or at least out of town), so I got really good at spending time by myself. I did work my first Krannert event -- commencement, actually -- as an events stage manager, which took up most of the day on Sunday the 17. The university had one huge commencement on Saturday in the football stadium, then department-specific commencements scattered throughout Krannert Center's theatres the next day. I got acquainted with both the Great Hall and a couple of the other Events SMs. The job mostly involved me telling students when to walk in and occasionally opening the door to the stage for a guest speaker or musician; I spent a lot of time during the actual ceremonies (I was there for three of them) reading Sherlock Holmes on my phone.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Jake and I met my mom, her husband, and my sister in Indiana and drove out to Pennsylvania with them, to visit my grandpa and step-grandma where they live in a tiny former mining town called Wyano. It'd been probably 15 years since I was there last and almost that long since I'd seen my grandparents. It was interesting to catch up with them and see the town (if you could call it that -- about all it has is a post office and a truck repair shop) as an adult. We went out Sunday and saw the site where United flight 93 went down (it is quite literally a patch of grass in the middle of nowhere, though they've built a memorial and have broken ground for a huge Welcome Center. I have mixed feelings about that). We also saw the site where they rescued the miners at Quecreek (it's more or less in someone's yard) and drove past the house my mom lived in as a kid. It was generally a relaxing weekend, though we spent a LOT of time in the car. 

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