The Immigrant Sounds of Argyle Street


Bustling three-block street of Argyle

With the rumbling noise and vibration of a CTA train passing through the viaduct

Accompanied by the cacophonic sounds of the Vietnamese language heard

As it enters and exits out of the local grocery stores on a busy weekend day

The rapid chopping sounds of a knife slaying into the lifeless, barbecue-drenched duck on the stain-covered white table as the remaining pig carcass hung by its hook on public display to entice carnivorous customers to consume its remains at one of the local Chinese bbq digs.

The sounds of tongs clasping the body of a lone blue crab as it is pried away from its inmates and into the brown bag. The unforgettable sounds of machinery sawing through the frozen meat in the butcher section.

The sounds of coins shaking from a homeless man muttering for a few more as Vietnamese shoppers obliviously walk by

At Chu Quon bakery, the sound of a cash register impatiently printing out tiny receipts with faded blue ink and concluding with the slamming of the register door as customers take home their desserts filled with rice cakes, flaky wintermelon cakes, and moon cakes.

The slurping sounds from folks basking in the broth of freshly-made Pho at the Pho 777, Pho 888, and Tank Noodle (presumably the missing Pho 999).

The sounds of drivers angrily honking at the intersection of Argyle and Broadway as pedestrians unwittingly mistime their crossing.

The water hose being turned on to feed the mini Japanese bonsai plants outside on display in front of an antique store where walking inside is the sight of bamboo plants, Buddha statues in various poses, and incense used to awaken the spirits of ancestors past ready to be sold.

Walking by the mural, I see this street’s history.

The art depicting the welcoming arrival of my folks who came here to survive after having lost their community during the war, recreating a piece of Vietnam on that very street,and to be built on a place that didn’t carry the sounds of bombs and machine guns.

I step away, and hear the sound of relief.

 

Disenfranchised Souls

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“Have you ever heard of Dunning?”, I posed this question to a few of my friends in their fifties and above. All of them answered with a resounding “Yes!”. Dunning, to them, represented as sort of a mythological folklore that their parents told to them as kids.

“If you were bad,” they warned, “you get sent to Dunning.” It became associated with those that are permanently labeled as “criminally insane” or “mentally unfit” or “too poor and sick” for society.  That ominous threat from parents was a reality for many folks who once inhabited the Dunning area, located on the Chicago Portage Park neighborhood in the Northwest Side. It served as the site of one of the most prominent mental asylums in Illinois (Chicago Read Mental Health Center currently exists), and strategically located away from the heavily populace of downtown Chicago. Through the years, that area has undergone a transformation with major housing and retail development as the stories about Dunning have largely gone untold and forgotten by many. It wasn’t until a recent story a few years back on Chicago’s WBEZ site that ignited renewed interest about Dunning’s dark past, and the current national dialogue concerning mental health. It would also reveal that 25 years ago, a large number of bodies in unmarked graves were discovered in the midst of developing land for housing, retail, and Wilbur Wright College.

Dunning was originally built as a farmhouse for the poor who were unable to obtain a job in the city. As Chicago’s population grew during the massive migration wave towards the turn of the 20th century, the city faced overcrowding, fewer job opportunities, and heavy poverty. The farmhouse would take in many more poor folks, and eventually bring in those with mild to severe mental health issues. This would eventually lead to the formation of the Chicago State Hospital which covered a vast 300+ acres.

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Mental health treatment in those times were often neglected and barbaric as dangerous medical experimental procedures were often performed on patients. The facilities were overcrowded, the living conditions were horrid and unsanitary, and the lack of attention and care from the medical staff made it impossible for residents to get the treatment they badly needed. Like many mental asylums, Dunning was a permanent prison for these residents with almost no hope of being released. Mental hospitals were not seen as treatment, but as a place to ensure that those who were seen as misfits or outcasts from society would be kept away from them permanently. These patients would soon be discarded and forgotten, and live out the rest of their lives in isolation and confinement. 20160402_131718.jpg

Many of the Dunning patients had little to no family support. When they had passed on. there was no financial assistance for a proper burial. Instead, they were buried with other corpses in unmarked graves with no public knowledge that there was even a graveyard on the facility grounds. It is told that there could be an estimated 38,000 human bodies buried there which included unidentified / unclaimed victims of the Chicago Fire of 1871. With incomplete and vague record-keeping of patients who lived and died in these grounds, the full narratives of these lives will remain an eternal mystery. Recently, there’s been renewed interest in improving the awareness and honoring those buried in Dunning such as this Facebook page.

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VISITING DUNNING

On April Fool’s weekend, I decided to pay a visit to the Dunning site. After reading the article on WBEZ (posted earlier on this page), I became drawn to learning more of the place that housed so much suffering, and the patients that were rejected by society when they were living, and in death. I thought about our nationwide struggles in understanding mental health issues, and most certainly, in Illinois where it has ranked last in mental health funding. I still wonder about the well-being of people that I had once been connected to that have struggled with mental issues. Perhaps, visiting the memorial would give me a more intimate reflection towards the lives that were left abandoned into eternity.

The memorial park, located on Belle Plaine Avenue by Wilbur Wright College, is surrounded by middle-class suburbia. There were no street markers leading up to the memorial. In the background is a view of the bleak industrial buildings. This small land, about half the size of a little league baseball field, stands vacant and devoid of human interaction. Slightly overgrown grass, less than half a dozen damaged gravestones, a few round concrete grounds (that resembles a satanic circle) with memorial plaques commemorating those buried in these grounds, a park bench, a tiny narrow gravel path around the park, a tall naked tree, and a garbage can that stood by the entrance are all that is present at Dunning Memorial.

Five minutes into my visit, the calming winds soon turned blusterous. Snow flakes furiously pelted across my face as the winds resisted my advances to move forward. It’s as if these souls were telling me to leave them alone. I acquiesced , and left the park in the midsts of an unusual April winter storm. As I drove, there was a street sign called “Bittersweet Place,” a symbolic irony that for years, Dunning was a place for those considered to be misfits and outcasts of society, and now, it’s a bustling middle-class neighborhood with a senior residence building and community college in its presence. Though the park lacks the proper honor and dignity for those lives, there is something to be said that those souls lying in those grounds are now sharing their space with their living neighbors. I can only imagine that they are finally back in a community that they have long been rejected from, and perhaps, there is some kind of solace that comes with that.

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All Rights Reserved by Randy Kim

The Unbreakable Icon

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Entering her 4th decade, Janet Jackson has set the barometer of pop music success since her musical debut in 1982 at the age of 16. Along with her brother Michael and fellow peers Mariah, Madonna and Whitney, their work have often been referenced by current pop stars today. In recent years, Janet has disengaged herself from the public eye following the death of her brother. She has since been married and living a relatively low-key affair, until she reappeared this past summer to surprise fans with her upcoming album and a world tour (both for the first time in several years).

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This week has greeted Janet’s arrival to the Windy City for a 3-date show at the iconic Chicago Theatre. As a longtime Janet fan, I would finally get the chance to see her live for the first time in concert. In her last two tours, I was either unemployed (2008) or living in Korea where she didn’t make a stop there (2011). Growing up as a kid, I recalled hearing songs from the “Janet” album in the mid 90s such as her dance-rock workout “If” and her tearful ballad, “Again” dominate the B96 airwaves in Chicago. I was entranced by her futuristic sci-fi take on her collaboration with her brother in the music video, “Scream.” As the years went on, I connected parts of her music to certain events in my life. The song “Control” was Janet’s declaration of independence from her domineering showbiz father which resonated with my own problematic relationship with my father. Then there was the “Velvet Rope” album which took on depression and a pro-LGBTQ stance that came at a time when I was discovering my queer identity in high school, and the “All for You” song that I danced to on prom night that eventually got me voted as the Best Dancer in my senior class.

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With Janet soon approaching 50, she has taken a different approach with her new album “Unbreakable.” Unlike her last few albums, she is more focused on creating an adult-contemporary, R&B driven sound, rather than following the current trends that Rihanna, Ariana Grande are on now. She is back with longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and she has shunned herself away from doing interviews and public appearances to promote the album aside from her tour. With the new album and her tour, she is unconcerned about making new fans and reaching out for the teenage audiences, but instead, doing it for her longtime fans and reminding them as to why she was more than just Michael’s little sister.

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I arrived early at the Chicago Theatre at 6:30 pm with my ticket in hand. A small crowd calmly gathered by the entrance as folks were eagerly snapping selfies by the theatre’s sign illuminating the arrival of Janet Jackson. As I was about to have my ticket checked, I was asked if I was a part of the VIP list which had me do a double take. I was asked if I got the tickets to a presale and pre-ordered her new album which I said yes. I was told that it would qualify me, and they asked me for my name which was on the list. Much to my surprise, I could barely contain my excitement as I soon found out that I could visit the private Janet room containing many of her memorabilia (I.E. MTV VMA awards, Grammys, wardrobe). The theatre itself had a magical aura surrounding it through the opulent staircase, the bright tall chandeliers, and the lavish artwork around the walls. I got myself a t-shirt and a program which came with 2 copies of her latest album.

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The private Janet room featured wardrobes that came from her most memorable music videos and tours which included “Rhythm Nation”, “Scream” that also included a framed photo of the star with a handwritten message from Michael, and “All For You.”  Suspiciously missing from the room was the infamous “SuperBowl” wardrobe that led to the FCC uproar and the term, “wardrobe malfunction.” I also did a photo op which the Janet team made into a GIF and had it featured on their Twitter page. Fans were in awe and doing their selfie shots as they gathered around her costume displays

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I walked up 3 flights of stairs to find my seat located at the balcony level. Despite being located in the upper level, the view from the stage was clearly visible, and the venue’s intimate environment ensured that concert-goers would be able to feel emotionally engaged throughout the show.

As I was tweeting live updates about the concert, a young woman wearing a Janet t-shirt and lanyard approached me, told me that they would like to make a change to my seating arrangement. Puzzled, I asked “Why?” To her reply, “So we would like to have you sit in the front row, would that be okay?” Instantly, my mind froze and my conscience reacted like the grown-up Kevin from the Wonder Years. I started to stutter and dropped my jacket. She said, “I think you dropped something.” My instant reply, “That was my heart.” She gave me a new ticket, and suddenly, I was trembling with excitement. The tears started rolling down my cheeks. I grabbed my belongings and ran down several flights of stairs. I couldn’t process what had just happened.  I AM GOING TO BE STANDING IN FRONT OF JANET, MY CHILDHOOD IDOL!!! This was a bit too much for me to take in.

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I was escorted by the usher to my seat. There, I was warmly greeted with several hardcore Janet fans. I was busy wiping the tears off as a few of the fans were playfully teasing me. I was stoked; I have never been in a VIP section in all my concert-going years. The DJ opened his set and was playing a remix of Janet songs. Folks around me were dancing and taking in the atmosphere. I eagerly posted on my Facebook / Twitter / Instagram almost simultaneously.

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The legendary Miss Jackson took the stage at about 8:45 am. The speaker to the right of me was on full blast. The floor started vibrating as the bass was infiltrating through the ground. There, she appeared as a dark silhouette until she revealed herself as she sang her new song “BurnItUp” with a video cameo by Missy Elliot. The crowd cheered on wildly as she started working her way through the stage followed by her dance crew and her band. She briefly welcomed the crowd, and went right into her signature hit song, “Nasty”.

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For the first 45 minutes, Janet took on a furious run at her classic dance songs by giving them shorter abbreviations or short medleys such as “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”, “All For You”, “Love Will Never Do Without You”, “Escapade”, and bringing out the chair dance to “When I Think Of You”. She launched an assault of non-stop choreography reminiscent of her younger days, leaving nearly no time for her to rest in that span. Her charm was present, and her fierceness reminded folks of what made her one of music’s great performers.

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During the 2nd half, she allowed herself time to breathe as she sang some of her old ballads. She engaged the audience to sing the first verse of “Again” before she tearfully sang through the ballad. She struggled to finish the song as she wiped the tears off and would throw her handkerchief at a lucky fan. She continued to warmly slow down as she sang “Let’s Wait Awhile”, “Come Back to Me” before she got into her groove to sing her new hit song “No Sleep.” Janet paid homage to rapper Kendrick Lamar as he used his Janet-inspired song “Poetic Justice” and intertwined it with her 1993 hit, “Anytime Anyplace.”

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The tempo picked up as she went into her heavy dance numbers, “Throb”, the rock-driven “Black Cat.”  The steam machine blew up right in front of me, and nearly deafened me during her “IF” performance. She paid tribute to her brother as she sang part of “Scream” before turning into her innovative dance hit, “Rhythm Nation”, and managed to pull off one of her toughest choreograph numbers.

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In her encore, she focused on her two songs from her “Unbreakable” album proving that she is still focusing on her future, and reminding fans that she’s not restrained by her own past success. “Shoulda Known Better” is her current call to social justice and an answer she found 25 years ago when she heeded that call during “Rhythm Nation”. “Unbreakable” was her way of reminding people of how far she’s come along from the days of a child TV star, to the young adult making a name for herself, to the 90’s sex icon, and emerging from the aftermath of the Super Bowl mishap.

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In a show that lasted over 90 minutes, and surprisingly with no costume change, Miss Jackson kept the show flowing, keeping her fans mesmerized and moving. Unlike Madonna, Kanye West, and other stars who rely on using visuals, costume changes, and thematic elements, Janet kept it simple without the bells and whistles, and focused on celebrating her past while welcoming her present and future on her own terms.

After celebrating a night that had its unexpected twist and turns for me, I came home feeling honored to have been able to finally see an icon on stage, and gained personal access to her past works that played a soundtrack to my life.

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All Rights Reserved

Copyright by Randy Kim 2015

All Photo Credits by Randy Kim

A Night of Madonna in Chicago

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As a 30+ year old Madonna fan, others may consider that fairly young for her fan base. Ironically for Madonna, that age may be past her dating requirements, considering her recent dalliances with 20-something year olds ever since she became liberated from the British housewife era from Guy Ritchie. However, time has not been so kind to Madonna recently when her new album, Rebel Heart was ignored by the general public, and with her public mishaps with the #Capegate, #Drakegate, #Instagramgate sagas. Critics alike were ready to shove the Queen of Pop into a museum, and finish off the final chapter of her long-storied career. However, since she started her Rebel Heart Tour this past month, she has been able to steal that pen away from her critics, and add a few fresh pages to her current chapter.

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Earlier this week, Madonna rolled into Chicago, determined to keep her pop culture crown for the international world to see through her worldwide tour. I bought my tickets back in early March, but with slight trepidation that she may not be able to live up to her remarkably high standards set from her previous tours at the now age of 57, and that her constant mishaps on social media (appropriating hip-hop culture by donning gold grills in her teeth is one that comes to mind, or talking to a sock puppet in her videos) would become a distraction in her shows. Having been to her tours from Drowned World (2001) through the Sticky and Sweet Tour (2008), I have been a witness to many of the greatest stage performances ever from an artist / band, and it ranks much higher on any of my other concert-going experiences from the Rolling Stones, Radiohead, U2, Beyonce, R.E.M., AC/DC among others. The costumes, the elaborate stage set, her top-flight dancers, her long-time backing band, the visual effects on the big screen, and the unpredictable nature of Madonna herself have formed all the right ingredients into making her live shows one of the hottest ticket in demand.
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Since I was growing up, I have admittedly been one of those die-hard fans that have had to weather ridicule from friends, my brothers, and peers alike who couldn’t understand what I could possibly find appealing about Madonna. With her publicity acts, and her tendency to invade people’s consciousness (consent or not), there is no doubt that Madonna is one of the more polarizing figures in pop culture for the past 30 years. Having to deal with my own growing pains through my teenage years, I took comfort in her music along with Janet Jackson, Smashing Pumpkins, artists that I connected with to survive. Her free-spiritedness, directness, and ambition became qualities that I felt were lacking in my own life. She became instrumental in adding a little bit of that personality in my life.

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At the United Center in Chicago, the crowd, generally ranged from folks in their mid 30s to late 50s, came into the show, hoping for a nostalgic dose of classic hits that they grew fond of listening to in their high school / college years, while Madonna is still busy chasing after their kids to add to her fan base, though with little success and backlash to her brand. Is it necessary? Certainly not, given her 3 decades of Top 10 hits, and iconic fashion trends, and the never-ending influence she has on many of her younger contemporaries, she can easily rest on her laurels, and play mentor with the younger stars. Like Joan Rivers, she sees the younger ones as her competitors, no matter how much they have cited her as their inspiration.

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The moment came when the background music of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Starting Something” disappeared from the loud speakers, then the arena lights turned off. The large “Rebel Heart” drape cover came off the stage, and there stood a video screen depicting Madonna as the Joan of Arc getting ready to fight off the warriors as Mike Tyson made his video appearance declaring victory and defiance. Madonna entered in full view, locked in a cage to wild applause. Decked out in a heavy red warrior outfit as her warrior dancers drew their weapons towards her while she sang the new song titled “iconic”, which would lead into her next single, “Bitch, I’m Madonna” snapping her fan similar the way she did “Vogue” at the MTV VMAs back in the day. She took off the warrior garb, grabbed her electric guitar, and launched into a spirited throwback version of “Burning Up,” an early hit from her debut album. Meanwhile, folks behind me were loudly complaining that they weren’t hearing her old hits as she was playing “Burning Up”. This prompted me to turn around, and tell them, “This is one of her first songs.  Too bad you’re not a real fan.” The inner fan in me threw the shade down faster than the solar eclipse. When you spend $100 just to sit in the upper level, and then waiting months in anticipation for the concert, the last thing I need is to have my evening interrupted by a bunch of folks demanding what songs they want to hear. I thought to myself how much I would have enjoyed being in the general admissions floor, and to be around die-hard fans who know her songs in unison, rather than be stuck in the upper level with folks who know a couple of big hit songs, or those that were dragged to the show by their loved ones. Too bad, my income isn’t as big as my enthusiasm to shell out the several hundred dollars to be in that sought-after section.

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To close out her first set, Madonna and her dancers became nuns as they gyrated on the Catholic cross poles to the song “Holy Water” mixed in with “Vogue”. This is once again, vintage Madonna where the combination of sex and religion are put on display to provoke, which has been her repetoire throughout her career.

Never one to shy from flirting, the Queen of Pop made the moves on some of her well-sculpted male dancers in “Body Shop.” While she stayed the course with promoting songs from her new album, Madonna left enough room for nostalgia to appease her fans. With a ukulele in hand, she finally engaged the crowd to sing along to her old classic hit “True Blue”, a song she hadn’t performed live since 1987. Most notably, the song was originally dedicated to her then-husband Sean Penn. It was in that moment that she started to relax and joyfully take in the sentiments of her past where in previous tours, she would openly resist singing some of her most well-known hits to prove that she wasn’t glued to her past. This particular set would also bring back more nostalgia as she did “Deeper and Deeper”, an early 90s hit and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”, a largely forgotten 80s ballad for the first time live. She would then take on an updated version of “Like A Virgin”, and much like her first performance at the MTV music awards, she freely solo-danced through the stage, and writhed on the floor to the drum beats.

The Queen of Pop displayed her long-held affection for the Latino culture in nearly each of her tours. She came in with the cape during “Living for Love” and didn’t have to revisit another cape mishap. She pulled off the matador role which played beautifully into one of her favorite songs, “La Isla Bonita”. With a quick costume change, she adorned a colorful, flamenco dress as she did a medley of “Dress You Up”, “Into the Groove”, and “Lucky Star”. She continued to engage with the audience, and made jokes about marriage. She revisited “Who’s That Girl?” as an acoustic version, and much like what she did with “True Blue.” she happily got the audience to sing along with her. Her vocals continued to shine in her acoustic sets, as she became visibly happy and at times, emotionally raw in those intimate moments. One of the criticisms of her previous live performances is that she tends to keep her distance at arms length from the audience, and keeps her dialogue with them brief in order to remain focused on the technicality of her show. This time, she opted for a more refreshing appreciation of her audiences as she didn’t hesitate telling them how thankful she is for their support, and thanking the fans who made drawings of her that were put on video display during her upbeat acoustic guitar-driven song, “Rebel Heart.”
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The dancers were on full beast-mode between sets. Particularly memorable was the dancers lifted on a high-end pole and being yo-yo’d back and forth into the crowd. It was a dizzying array of display and brought gasps from the crowd. It brought enough momentum for Madonna to introduce the 1920’s mafia-inspired set which started with her dressed in a classic flappergirl look singing in a seductive, slowed down version of “Music” before it transformed into its original version with her dancers dressed as classic gangsters from the Al Capone era. She briefly stopped, and asked for the crowd’s approval before finishing off the song, and displayed the intense choreography that very few 50+ year old performers would have trouble accomplishing. At times throughout the show, her dancing has finally started to show some wear and tear, as her movements are not as quick and powerful as in years past, but nonetheless, understanding her limitations and working with what she’s got, which is plenty more than what one can say about other performers much younger than her, like Britney Spears who is now resorting to doing Las Vegas shows in her 30s.

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As the show started nearing its close, she performed her classic “Material Girl” and was covered in a wedding veil with a bouquet jokingly yelling out, “Who wants to get married?”, and then throwing the bouquet to a fan who couldn’t hold onto it which prompted her to remark, “I guess you don’t want to get married. Don’t worry. It all goes downhill from there.” She took on a daring cover of Edith Piaf’s legendary song “La Vie En Rose” in French which turned out to be well-received from the crowd. Before breaking out into “bitch-mode” for “Unapologetic Bitch”, she exclaimed, “I don’t smoke, but I like to start fires.” During her performance of that song, she brought out a fan cross-dressing as Britney Spears onstage, and proceeded to give a playful spanking. At the end of it, she jokingly mentioned that she wasn’t going to kiss her again, but instead gave her a prize for her participation with a gold necklace that says once again, “Bitch, I’m Madonna.” She came out for her final encore to “Holiday”, and was playfully living it up with her dancers until she was lifted in the air from the stage to finally say her goodbyes and thank you’s to the crowd. The show’s closer lacked the energy that was needed to match the intensity of her opener, but after 30+ years of show business, she did more than enough to secure her place as one of music’s greatest icons. Time may be selfish in robbing people of their abilities as they age, but in the present moment, Time decided to leave her alone. For the fans’ sake and for the younger generations, we can only hope that they can leave her alone for a little while longer.

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Liquid Healing Space of Chicago

I have taken a series of photos along the scenic Chicago lakefront over the past 2.5 years when I first moved into Rogers Park. Going back to my globe trotting times from several years ago, I have found peaceful refuge being in the near presence of water. It is a form of therapy for me. Drinking, bathing, feeling, and breathing the vapors of h20 is what settles me in times of angst and anxiety. As I walk through the lakefront stretching from as far as Evanston to Montrose, I have made it my own sanctuary, my escape, and as a place to inhale the freshness and exhale the negative toxins that tend to plague me. Everyday, I am thankful that I can live in a place where I can experience such beauty, calmness, and serenity.

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All Photos Taken By Randy Kim

All Rights Reserved © Randy Kim 2015

Post-Winter Sessions

Finally, a toast to the arrival of the post-winter era of Chicago! Chicagoans do not take their temperature increases for granted. I collaborated with my fellow friend / photographer Mary on capturing shots that celebrates the the post-winter arrival. Cheers to another successful post-winter season!

"Post-Winter Sessions"

3 different reflections of the city through the wine-colored glass

"Post Winter Sessions"

"Post Winter Sessions"

 

Toast to the City

Toast to the City

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2001 Randy Edition

Preface:

Earlier this year, I participated in a writer’s circle at Sage Community Health Collective, and volunteered to co-facilitate with a partner. Inspired by a fellow writer and good friend, Stephanie, I wanted to take on the topic of being able to “Thank Our Past Self.”  It came at a time when I was already burned out with writing. My previous blog with my former partner / friend ended badly. Writing has represented a significant part of my life, and has served as my go-to-outlet for my own personal expression. However, it also became toxic and emotionally triggering to me as I was writing about certain parts of my life that I was starting to acknowledge for the first time and still in the process of recovering from. I needed to regain my confidence in using writing as not just for my own “emotional purging”, but as a way to acknowledge, and celebrate the positivity and growth in my life. For this writer circle, I chose to reflect on a specific turning point in my life at the end of my senior year in high school. 

Dear Randy of 2001,

High school is about to end for you. You are almost at the finish line. I know you’re eager to race on out of there. You spent the last 13 years of being misunderstood, ignored, and bullied by many of the same classmates in the small community of Westmont.  Your peers had 13 years to know you, and yet made you feel as if your existence is invalid. You couldn’t remain anonymous in a class of 93 with a total of 400 students in our high school. Your fights with our parents are going nowhere; dad is demanding that you study to become an engineer or lawyer. He is becoming agitated that you’re defying him, and on the verge of losing his parental control over you. You’re going to turn 18 a few days after graduation, and unsure if you can succeed in college. Yeah, sounds like you got a few things going on, I get it.

Randy, I haven’t made a visit to you in quite awhile. I spent my college years working to undo the image of the “quiet Asian kid” that stuck with me throughout my childhood, and I might have overdone it with a few crazy escapades of my own in the good ole Chicago night scene.

Now, I come back to finally acknowledge and thank you for finally breaking out of your shell. It was long overdue, but looking back, you got the ball rolling for me. Towards the end of senior year, you showed our old classmates that they were wrong about you for all those years as they painted you as this silent, awkward Asian kid who would sometimes cry when being threatened. Instead, you showed off those wild dance moves at prom night much to everyone’s surprise, and forgetting about your girlfriend at the time. Oops..don’t worry, she’s not going to be in the picture very long anyways (just a heads up there). You successfully managed to grab the attention of everyone in the entire banquet hall, and turned it into your own private show. For the first time as I recall, you didn’t give a hoot about what your peers thought, and you were on the driver’s seat, in control of how much fun you were having. You were eventually named “Best Dancer” by those same peers because of that night.  That moment was your official “liberation.” I owe it to you for that prom night. You gave me the confidence I needed to be in front of my peers, and I can assure you that there will be plenty of those kind of nights in the future.

You stood up to dad when he tried to dictate your future. You managed to start pursuing your academic goals and your circle of friends without his approval. You avoided succumbing to the temptations of drugs and ended friendships that were becoming problematic for you. While you may not have had the best of times in those 4 years of high school, you are certainly making those last few months count.

In my current self, I look to you for inspiration when you took on the people you were most afraid of then. Also, I want to let you know that you aren’t a bad looking person despite what anyone thinks, and I wish I still have some of that crazy Gemini energy you were running around with. If you can do me a favor when you go to college, I want you to do me a favor, and take it easy on the Wendy’s and Taco Bell.

Getting ready to go to Prom

Getting ready to go to Prom