Q101 and Harry Potter: Saying Goodbye

The End of an Era

I know I haven’t written in a while. I have another huge writing project that’s been taking up all my time. However, I feel like if there’s any day to write, it’s today.

Tomorrow, my childhood officially ends. Okay, I know that sounds ridiculously dramatic. I wouldn’t risk saying something like that if it didn’t feel so very true. Now I’m sure that, unless you completely avoid your television and computer, you know that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 premiers tomorrow. I will be there, in line, in a plaid skirt and tie and my dad’s old graduation robes. Twenty one years ago, I was born and J.K. Rowling was a waitress living in her car, writing notes on napkins. Just as we were all turning eleven, the first book came out.

I didn’t read it. I actively chose to avoid it. Harry Potter? That sounds stupid, I told myself. A bunch of wizards in a school? I don’t really know why I rejected it so strongly. For my entire reading life, I had devoured every fantasy book I could find like it was crack. Assuming it was a type of swallowable crack. After wearing away the pages on my copies of Narnia and The Dark is Rising, I should have thought, “Oh, hey. British children with magic are whimsical and awesome. Harry Potter contains magical British children. Maybe I should read it and become obsessed with it.” Instead, I ignored all my pleading friends and refused all contact. Until finally, my friend Tracey shoved the first three books at me and commanded me to borrow them. I read them in a week.

Then there was the wait you all remember, between books three and four. I swear it could have been eternity. I was a heroin addict (yep, we’re switching drugs) and suddenly, heroin was extinct. So I got into fanfiction. Roleplay forums. Anything for a quick Potter fix. The fourth came out, another eternity to the fifth, sixth, seventh. Then suddenly, it was over. I cried on the last page of the seventh book (we’re pretending that the Epilogue doesn’t exist, by the way). But still, there was light. There were movies. Tomorrow at midnight, that all ends. The people (not characters, that’s not what they feel like) I grow up with are going their separate ways. No more stories. No more adventures. Harry and the gang are adults now, with lives and kids of their own. They don’t have time to be sharing their adventures with outsiders. They just want the quiet.

For all us misfit kids who never really made it to the upper social circles, Harry, Hermione, Ron (and Draco, if you were a girl and went through that bad boy phase, not that I’m admitting anything) were more real to you than half the people who never bothered to notice you existed. Wow, that sounded melodramatic. Really though, Harry Potter was more than a series of books. It was a world we all lived in. A place we went when the real world was too much. A group of friends we knew better than ourselves. Harry will always be there to go back to, but like the Beatles and Tolkien, he’s slipping out of the now. Already, there are teenagers who have never read a single book. Harry Potter is our generation’s savior. We won’t forget him, even once those final credits roll tomorrow night.

But that isn’t the only thing ending tomorrow. For all you Chicagoans, there’s another thing ending. For twenty years, Q101 has been Chicago’s ultimate alternative rock station. They started with “Friday I’m in Love” by the Cure–incidentally, one of my top ten favorite songs of all time. They were there counseling troubled kids when Kurt Cobain’s suicide shocked everyone. They fostered Disturbed, Local H, Fall Out Boy, and dozens of other local, now international sensations on Local 101. They’ve always been there for a song, a concert announcement, an interview, a dirty joke. Tomorrow, Q101’s DJs come off the air forever. After that . . . well, no one actually knows.

For twenty years, Q101’s djs have brought together rock fans all over the city. They’re more friends that are departing now, for a new life. Long ago there was Mancow, who used to shock the airwaves in the mornings. There are Sherman and Tingle, who kept me laughing all morning as I drove back to college for the first time by myself, fighting back tears over my anxiety over graduation. There are the Manno brothers, who greeted me every day after school. Twitch, god of the web page, offering up concert updates and silly videos. Tim Virgin and Pogo riffing about bands. Electra, ruling the airwaves with the Last Letter Game. Top 9 at 9. What’s the Point. Just to rub it in, Sarah and I missed the very last Q101 Jamboree. Lolla is great, but there’s nothing like a good, muddy Q101 show. Or there used to be. Rumor has it, all this will be replaced by an all news station. I think I could cry. The days of radio are over. Commercialism wins. Pick another platitude.

So tomorrow, I say goodbye to two icons. Millions will be crying with me over Harry Potter, but I hope there are a good few who sit around to listen while the Q101 djs share the best of the last 20 years. IPods and Grooveshark just can’t replace a whole community, listening to music together. I heard almost all my favorite songs first on Q101. I don’t know what I’ll tune to the next time I turn on the radio. I guess it’s time to do some searching.

Looking Back

Is there any excuse for the hiatus that has separated my last, casual attempt at a poem from now?  If there is I will strive to make it, and for the drabness of the title, but I promise you no miracles.  The first few months of disappearance may be accounted for by my adventures abroad, which took up the whole of fall semester and occupied my time, if not with writing here, then writing in my chronicles of my Roman days.  And since then?  Well, suffice to say the muse is a greedy little tart.  If the current work doesn’t feed her passion, she immediately drops off.  Not to say that I have not written.  I’m well through what seems to be the seventh version of the third version of Dark Moon, and ironing out those difficulties which for my pride’s sake I can’t publish for free here.  Then there have been my stories for Introduction to Fiction Writing, which may make an excerpted appearance here if I dare to show them.  And grad school?  Well, that beast and all it requires has been devouring my time all summer, with little more to show for it than a One Note labyrinth of resources and the probable beginnings of an ulcer. 

So there are my excuses, if any can be made.  But I care too much to abandon this, so I’ll start up again, in perhaps less ambitious fashion.  No need for a daily rambling, when my Rome blog is still awaiting its conclusion and three weeks will have me slumped over a desk performing statistical analyses.  So what has changed in nearly a year?  By my little list of facts, not much.  I’m still crossing my fingers for a Sox playoff run.  I still haven’t finished The Idiot, though I’ve chowed through at least a dozen books, not counting those for class, since I started it. I’m still listening to roughly the same music, I’m still tired and cranky, and ironically enough, or is that coincidentally, I’m still enjoying the sound of the rain.

So there is my re-introduction. Good to meet you again too. Now that we know each other, let us never speak of this absence again.


Later, Saint Louis

So, back from our brief vacation to the south of Missouri. (And only vacation this summer, sadly. Our usual week by the beach just couldn’t find time.) Though only four and half hours away from Chicago, St. Louis feels, in many ways, like a very different place. The highest structure in the city is the Arch at 630 feet, with the next smallest being its highest building at around 590 feet–a very different skyline for a girl used to a city housing the tallest building in North America. The traffic–well, let’s just say that, when we pulled into the city in our car, they had the streetlights all set to stoplight mode and I saw at least five cars drive half a city block in reverse to snag a parking space. They don’t build so tall. They don’t need to. Everyone is spread out here, like a wide country village with an urban face.

With a downtown probably comparable to Chicago’s and only a few hundred thousand people instead of a million, I felt like I was walking in a ghost town. I would cross maybe one or two people on the street every other block, except in the occasional restaurant outdoor seating. The economy downturn hit hard here. Fancy new storefronts are interspersed liberally with boarded up windows and “For Rent” signs. It is a mix of contemporary street art, modern architecture, country class, and urban grunge. A quiet, friendly kind of city, with the riverfront barges and factories still giving it that turn-of-the-century charm.

But St. Louis is not really your typical scape of concrete and gunmetal and grime. Go a little further, to the Forest Park, and the typical city scape is suddenly a vast stretch of green dotted with stone museums, fountain-fed lakes, and brick pavillions leftover from the World’s Fair. Larger than Central Park by 500 acres, and without a doubt more beautiful, the Park houses several museums and a zoo, and skirts an upperclass neighborhood and the Cathedral Basicilia, a gorgeous structure with the largest collection of mosaics in the world (worth a visit–every surface, ceilings, columns, cupolas, is encrusted with tiny pieces of glass and gilt that swirl into massive religious designs). In the Park, the city feels somehow more alive, and you can feel its borders slipping into the country.

And the Cardinals–well, the people of St. Louis definitely show their spirit here. With the Arch looming over Busch stadium’s off-center scoreboard, thousands of red-shirted fans file into thousands of red seats and cheer with a vibrant energy not seen on the daytime ghost streets. Here are their heroes, Albert Pujols (who, I had the good fortune to see, hit a home run) and Yadier Molina. A simple American pasttime in a simple city at America’s crossroads. A fitting vacation, I think, from the quick-walking citydwellers who won’t meet your eye, but with the same Chicago sort of ruggedness and midwestern values. St. Louis, I’ll see you again soon.

Da Vinci … Maybe Next Time

If there’s one thing all the great Masters have in common, it’s oil paint.  (Horrid generalization, but work with me here.)  Now, I’ve painted quite a bit.  Having a painter and former art teacher for a father kind of lends itself to that.  But let’s just say I have a whole new respect for all those old Masters.  Painting a landscape sounds really easy; then, all of the sudden, you’re half-covered in blue paint and throwing sponges across the garage because the bush you’ve been painstakingly speckling is now a green-crimson blob.  There is nothing more frustrating then getting all that perfect linework down on your canvas, only to start blending and, oh! look, you have a lovely blue-green-gray smudge.  It’s like trying to write a story in Italian and realizing that you don’t know any of the rules anymore. 

At the same time, it was amazing fun.  Having dad there to show me the tricks step-by-step didn’t hurt either.  It’s also amazingly freeing–in a way, more forgiving then acrylics, since it can take days to dry and mistakes can be rubbed away into the background or scraped off and filled in.  It’s like spending all your life writing on a typewriter and suddenly being given a computer with that magical Backspace key.  So for an obsessive-compulsive editor like me, it’s the perfect magic medium.  Next step?  Portraiture.  And maybe by the time I do my second painting, I’ll have gotten all the blue off my elbows. 

And now for something completely different.  (Oh, Monty Python, how I love you and your oddball antics!)  Third story submitted to fourth literary magazine.  Paper copy of first story still not mailed.  Butt still not in gear.  Fourth story . . . sort of kind of not really in progress. 

Hey, at least I’m thinking about it.  Cheers.

Over the Threshold

So, today I join the hundreds (thousands?) of other writers peddling their work on the good ol’ internet. Why, you ask? (Or maybe you don’t. You could already be sick of me at this stage. But let’s assume you still care.) Anyway, I guess if I want to be an actual published author some day, that means getting serious about writing. It means getting my work into the world and practicing until I get carpal tunnel.

Since so many writers seemed to have embraced this whole blog thing as a way of doing just that, I’m officially jumping on the bandwagon. And clinging to it until either I fall off and roll into a ditch or jump off into somewhere more productive than the stagnant water that is here.

So, hopefully-real readers, this is it. The beginning. (Sound dramatic, doesn’t it? I feel like I should be writing soaps.) Check back for ponderings, poetry, prompts, and . . . there’s really no way to make short stories start with a ‘p.’ Basically, whatever bits of creativity I can squeeze out of my brain on a regular basis. Enjoy the madness. Rock on.

P.S. Many thanks to “Karma Police” by Radiohead for the title of this blog, as well as Adobe Photoshop and stock photos for allowing me to create the banner. Cheers!