Monday, October 20, 2014

Open House Chicago: New Regal Theater

It might look like I traveled to the Middle East to take this picture, but I only traveled to the far South Side of Chicago to peek into the interior of the New Regal Theater.

If you've looked at my Our Chicago book, you know that Open House Chicago is my favorite public event in the city. Hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, buildings all over the city open their doors to the general public (for free!) for one weekend in October. Each year I squeeze as much Open House touring into that weekend as my family's schedule allows. So yesterday, by happenstance of other obligations I had to fit in, I toured sites on the far north and far south neighborhoods of the city.

The lobby of the New Regal Theater was the title photo of this year's event guide, and it was so enticing that I simply had to get there.

Luckily, the New Regal Theater is located not too far from where I live. In fact, I've driven by many times as the access ramp to the Chicago Skyway swings by just a block west of the theater.

I can't believe I drove by hundreds of times without even knowing about the gem that lies below that Moorish style tower you see from the highway.

Even if this kind of opulence is not your style (it isn't mine), you can't help but be impressed by the fact that someone built something as ornate and elaborate as this. The New Regal Theater was originally called the Avalon Theater and built by architect John Eberson in the Moorish-revival style. It opened its doors in 1927. Not only is the interior stunning, it can also seat up to 2,250 people.

The New Regal Theater was the most stunning site I visited during Open House Chicago this weekend. Afterwards, the friend I was touring with and I kept racking our brains as to how this unbelievably beautiful theater could be a functional venue again as it still seems to be in better shape than you'd expect. To the naked eye, only the roof clearly needs repairs.

Sadly, the neighborhood is in disrepair as well. Fortunately, however, the theater is currently owned by a Chicago investor who wants to restore it to its former glory of a vibrant cultural venue. In any case, I'm thankful that I got to see it, and I sincerely hope it will be around for many years to come and remain a living example of the lavish styles of the past.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Challenge of Daily Walks

For October I've given myself the challenge of going for at least a 20-minute walk every day. This is part of me digging deeper into Julia Cameron's book The Vein of Gold, which in turn is part of me continuing to home in on my creative core. Cameron contends, and many, many writers concur, that you can walk out just about any problem, and that, while walking, ideas can percolate and your mind can sort itself out. And then, of course, a daily walk is good for your body. Lastly, a daily walk is also part of my mission of savoring fall. What better month than October to be outside every day, ideally walking through the brilliance of fall foliage?

Nevertheless I was reluctant to take on this challenge, mainly because I typically don't like challenges like this, and if I do take one on, then I want to be able to succeed, and I know doing something every day is a big challenge. Why? Why would a daily walk be hard? I actually love walking, and I love being outside. So that's not it.

Mainly, for me, it is a scheduling challenge, meaning I have to prioritize something I want to do. On some days one obligation chases another and by the end of the day, when it's already dark outside, I have to co-opt my husband to go out for a walk with me. That's nice, actually, as it's not something we would do if it weren't for my daily walk challenge.

A daily walk is also a mental commitment. I'm on day 16 now, and there have been a few days already when I almost forgot to go for my walk preoccupied as I was with lots of other things. So again it'll be 9 p.m. by the time my husband and I head out. However, we have thus gotten to enjoy some of the neighborhood Halloween decorations that can only be appreciated glowing in the dark.

Natalie Goldberg warns against taking on a practice that you can't keep up, because a practice is all about doing it every day. It's precisely about overcoming that inner resistance and all the excuses one can come up with, and making the commitment to do it, even if it's already 9 p.m. and you're dead tired. The reward, according to Goldberg in her book The True Secret of Writing, is confidence in being able to do whatever you set out to do. That confidence comes from having overcome, consistently, that inner resistance. It also comes from demonstrating to yourself that you can do what you set out to do. It comes from mastering your own mind (I'm getting Zen here, I know! That's Natalie Goldberg's fault...).

Embarking on my daily walk challenge I reminded myself that I'd already succeeded at a daily challenge three times before by doing the Blogathon. Come to think of it, however, in blogging you can "cheat" by preparing a few posts ahead of time and scheduling them to publish one day after another. I can't do that with the walking. I simply have to put on those hiking boots and head out every day. So that's what I'm doing. If you have any tips on how to make it through a month-long daily challenge (and maybe continue on?), please let me know!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Paper Pumpkin to the Rescue

My daughter who's been in Israel for a while now misses pumpkins. It's fall but there ain't any pumpkins to be found in that desert land. She's been on the lookout, but I doubt she'll find one, especially not a cute little one for decoration. What to do? I can't mail her a real pumpkin; it might rot before it arrived, if it even survived the shipment. Plus postage would be exorbitant.

I noodled around Target in hopes of finding a glass votive pumpkin but I had my doubts about that, too, since that might break in shipment, and I wasn't sure she could light one in her army barracks. Then I remembered: What about my little book paper pumpkin that I bought two years ago and have been delighting in ever since come pumpkin time? I could easily buy her one of those! It's darling and easy to ship! So, that's what I did.

I bought mine (pictured above) on Etsy from AnthologyOnMain, but they currently have a back log due to high demand, so I ordered a slightly different kind for my daughter from HBixbyArtworks. I can't afford to wait as mailing something overseas can take anywhere from one week to five weeks in my recent experience. And that paper pumpkin gotta arrive while it's still pumpkin season, right?