Thursday, January 12, 2017

Midwest Is Best

My apologies for yet another long silence--I've been traveling! Surprise surprise.

For the past few months, I've been participating in a bi-weekly flash fiction writing project with Leta, Tim, and Tim's friend Laura--who I maybe met through Twitter before we realized we both knew Tim in real life? It's unclear. Though Tim obviously spends most of his time in Vegas working on his MFA, his family lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and that's where Laura lives as well. So last week I hopped on an Amtrak train and chugga-chugga-choo-choo'd a few states over to visit.

I haven't been to Michigan since I was about twelve, and even then, my family only did ultra-touristy things: staying at a beach hotel on Lake Michigan, hiking in the sand dunes, eating too much fudge on Mackinac Island. I'd never visited a city in Michigan, and I'm happy to report that Kalamazoo is a particularly charming one. Tim's family were wonderfully hospitable--as good Midwesterners tend to be--and I'm overjoyed that Laura and I are finally friends in real life, too.

Mostly we ate food and drank tea. (Coffee in Tim's case, but tea is obviously the better choice.) I especially enjoyed working in little independent cafes like Water Street and Fourth Coast. My last night there we went out on the town for some beer--as good Midwesterners tend to do. We started at Bell's Brewery, of course. Two of Tim's friends came with their adorable newborn twins, and my childhood friend Pat showed up as well. Nothing like making new friends and catching up with old ones at the same time. We made our way to Old Dog Tavern, and then to Shakespeare's Pub--and to be honest, that night ended a little hazily for me, even though I only had four drinks in all that time! My tolerance must have deteriorated due to quiet suburban living.

Aside from consuming food and various liquids, we also went to bookstores--because of course we did. I wasn't planning on buying anything at Bookbug, because I still have an enormous backlog of unread books, but then I glanced at the back cover of Colson Whitehead's first novel The Intuitionist and saw that it was about feuding groups of elevator inspectors. How can you go wrong with a novel about feuding groups of elevator inspectors? And then I simply couldn't resist buying something at Kazoo Books, a well-stocked used bookstore. Supporting local business is important, okay? I picked up a copy of Alix Kates Schulman's 1972 novel Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, which I'd never heard of and is apparently considered one of the first major fictional pieces of the modern feminist movement. Based on the subject matter, I think it will be good to read while I'm revising my novel.

While we're on the subject of literature, it's important to note that Tim and Laura also convinced me to come to the AWP Conference with them this year. So hey, writerly friends: I will see you in early February. It's in D.C. this year, and I'm not sure whether I'm going to register for the conference itself, or if I'm going to fill my days with museums and just attend the non-ticketed offsite readings at night. Will I be a history nerd or a book nerd? Can I do both? Only time will tell.

I left Kalamazoo on Friday, and the next day Tim began his drive back to Vegas. His first stop? Illinois, of course, to visit me. Laura was supposed to come, too, but sadly she had to change her plans. We had a writing retreat at my parents' place. Or, rather, Tim had a writing retreat, and I tried to have a writing retreat while also doing all my other freelance writing and research work. Yesterday we went down to the city so I could return the independent-bookstores-and-coffee-shops favor. We visited Myopic Books and The Wormhole, and we met Felipe for dinner at Pick Me Up. Yum yum yum.

Tim left today, and now it's just me and the dogs--my parents are in Florida. I have a about a week to relax. And then it's off to our nation's capital for the Women's March on Washington! As disappointed as I am that we even need a women's march in this country, I'm still excited to be taking part in this historic event. It's going to be a grueling trip--bus to D.C. overnight, march the next day, back to Chicago that night--but it's so utterly necessary that I can't imagine doing anything else. It's my civic duty.

Of course, I'm lucky enough to be able to afford a bus ticket. If you can't make it to Washington, there are several sister marches going on in different cities throughout the country. Hopefully you can find one near you. It's crucial that we make our voices heard, as the incoming administration appears unwilling to take our rights into consideration. The march is inclusive, placing an emphasis on LGBTQIA rights, civil rights, immigrant rights, and more, so don't hesitate to join just because you don't identify as a woman. The more the merrier. We need as many voices as possible so lawmakers can't simply look the other way.

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