This photo was taken as I sat on the Brown Line last month on the way to see my oldest friend, Dave for dinner. This is a shot of the building where I worked my first job in Chicago as Advertising Coordinator at Online Access Magazine from 1994-95.
My first city job -- taking the Rock Island Metro in from Midlothian, a 5-minute drive from my hometown, Crestwood. This was the beginning of the internet age and Online Access was the first internet-coverage magazine. I could wear jeans to work, my kind of place. Standing most of the way on the train -- usually pressed up against the traders and law office workers; it was one of the last big stops for the morning commute. Arriving at LaSalle St. station, I'd hit Dunkin' Donuts and grab the 'L' north around the Loop to the Chicago Ave. stop -- which is still my favorite train stop.
The 900 North Franklin building sits one block north of the Chicago Brown Line stop in Chicago's River North neighborhood. Kiki's Bistro was on the ground floor and we had elevator operators who took us up to our office. A morning constant -- part of the routine -- opening and closing doors and pressing buttons. Some pleasant greetings, and then, a swift kick in the ass and shove out the door. You had no choice but to get off. It's like they knew I needed to earn that money for that first city apartment.
Working in this neighborhood also gave me exposure to art in the River North galleries where I killed time over lunch. I also loved the architecture -- industrial loft buildings re-purposed as creative office spaces, furniture stores and galleries. Some buildings had corner cafes and others had dance clubs in the basement. When the wind was right, the smells wafted in through the office windows from the nearby Blommer's Chocolate Factory. Rooftop water tanks dotted the skyline and Bar Louie had only one location -- at Chicago and Franklin. It was 1995, I was in my mid-20's and things felt fresh, energetic -- anything was possible in the post-grunge, underground music revolution. The art in the galleries and graffiti on their walls outside reflected this too.
The magazine was where I was working when I experienced getting laid off for the first time. I had just moved into a 2 bedroom garden apartment in Wrigleyville with my college radio buddy, Ketan. Monday morning -- my first train ride from the apartment to the job downtown. Finally - my commute shortened by 45 minutes due to my new home in the city. But that wouldn't last long.
After being pulled into an office with my boss, given some paperwork and a speech I can't remember -- the elevator operator took me down to the lobby from the 7th floor atrium for the last time. Sulking up the stairway of the Chicago 'L' stop to grab the train back north, I didn't realize how losing my job would be the point in time when I became an artist.
The lack of a day job gave me a chance to get to know my new home and neighborhood. I started to explore my new home in the city by bike, train or just walking different neighborhoods – taking photos of architecture and street scenes. The street was my studio. I also hit the art store and picked up some acrylic paints and canvas and started painting in the dark garden apartment.
Afternoons spent hanging out at Reckless Records listening to new releases and flipping through records and CDs for a couple hours. Coffee at Intelligentsia a few doors down on Broadway. This was when they still roasted the beans in the back area of coffee shop. Long bike rides down the lakefront path and through streets with no bike lanes. Helmets weren't needed like they are now.
I rode my bike past the old apartment recently. It's still that bright turquoise blue but looks like it's had some work done - a nip and tuck pointing job. A steel front staircase now - nose job for an apartment. Some new bricks too. A leaning, out-of-place Victorian on a street filled with new construction condos. An apt metaphor for how I've felt working in the suburbs most of the time I've lived in the city.
I am now -- for the fourth time -- laid off from my day job. The corporate bean counters found me once again. But this time it's different. This time I have 17 years of marketing and internet production experience; business skills I can apply to my art career. I am a full-time artist with a studio in the Cornelia Arts Building and create art just about every day. And for the first time in over 8 years, I can really get to know my city again -- a place for me to explore, create, and rededicate myself to art. Plus, Reckless and Intelligentsia are still just a bike ride away.
Reflections of 900 N. Franklin