August 1999-August 2001
1019 Dempster Street, #3E
A move is like a pair of shoes in that I firmly believe it has the power to change your life. The black brocade platform heels I bought on Belmont freshman year of college was supposed to turn some things around. I was supposed to start dating – or at least making out with actual guys – and I was supposed to choose a program. Instead, I spent Valentine’s Day on major number 4, watching student-theatre Tennessee Williams topped off by a coffee date with a lesbian and two gay boys, neither of whom were attracted to each other. It was the worst Venn Diagram ever, with 4 free-floating circles longing for a connection. And I fell down a lot.
But the act of buying those shoes was the same as looking for a Junior year apartment – the process itself hope in transaction form. Sophomore year I had a single and I loved living alone. I had a yellow rag rug, a red beaded curtain hung from the window and my double-tape deck/ 3-CD changer balanced precariously on top of my standard issue desk. It was a heady time in a very small room. I finally chose a major (Film!) and was beginning to find my legs in class. But having not entered college in the program, it was hard for me to break in socially. Though, honestly, I doubt it would have been easier if I had known those kids my entire life. It’s my least favorite feature (besides the ass), but I am still crippled swiftly and often by social anxiety. In any event, I was about to leave the security of my dorm to move in with 3 other people. Magically, we all chose the rooms we wanted, and like on Valentine’s Day, there was no overlapping. My room was a converted patio, a carpeted step down from the dining room, which was separated by French doors. I threw out the rug and beaded curtain – ready to move on to more grown up accoutrements.
We went to Ikea. I put up red christmas lights that I would often write by. After a rocky start, Junior year became my best year. A writing program I had applied to (on a total lark) last spring began in the Fall. It was 12 people, 2 years, 5 projects over 6 quarters. The best possible math. I hadn’t yet adapted to the pace and the casual dickishness some film students seemed to live. I thought I had found my meaning, my purpose, and I still felt like an outcast. But the writing program was too good an opportunity to chance. So I didn’t take a quarter off. Shortly thereafter, I fell in with a group of kids in my production classes who would become a support system. And I flourished.
When we moved in in August 1999, it was blazing hot. We lived on the top floor and my room seemed to be at the apex of the heat vortex. At that time, I would smoke a cigarette or two during shoots or at a bar. Thunderstorms would roll in and I would crack a window, blowing smoke out toward the sliver of sky. I was 20, a virgin, and deeply dramatic. Elliott Smith’s xo was in heavy rotation along with The Drive, an awesome radio station that played classic rock 24/7 with no commercial breaks. I fell in love with hits by Gordon Lightfoot and Led Zeppelin and the Moody Blues in tandem with Five Leaves Left, Kid A, Ziggy Stardust. How to Disappear Completely sums it up quite nicely. The apartment is still one I dream of. Greedy four bedrooms, a kitchen with both a pantry and a built in breakfast bar, great light. My rent was $350. It ruined me for apartments ahead.
Senior year was enabled by my favorite bar being within walking distance from our place. Nevin’s is an Irish pub with an attached restaurant where they would always fail to card. I had first gone to Nevin as a prospective student with my parents. My father had been in Evanston on business a decade before and he wanted to revisit. At that dinner, I knew I had to go to Northwestern. Because of the history, Nevin’s always felt like my place. I received a grant to make a film and, it was assumed, failed miserably. It was a learning experience for sure, but for a kid who had pegged her dreams on 17 minutes of cinema, the perceived failure was a heartbreak. I felt friends pull away. I’m sure it was largely imagined. But it rocked me. Every insecurity I have can be traced back to this time in my life. But also every strength. I didn’t have sex at all in college, but I found out who I was, even if she was a mess. Especially that she’s a mess. A special mess.
After my celebratory graduation dinner in the city, my parents dropped me off at my apartment. I layed down on my bed, switched on the red lights and felt the end of everything. It was quiet. I walked alone to a film party at Nevin’s and then made drunken promises to keep in touch. I heard a tornado touched down in Chicago that night.