The Story of Us

I came here in a U-Haul hitch with both my parents in late September, 2009. I had cried the majority of the preparation, almost paralyzed with fear. It was a big city. I had no job and not enough money to last that long. My boyfriend was going to grad school on the opposite end of the country. I am naive, but knowledgeable of the naivety so that I was simply super paranoid with just how naive I was going to be.

Moving to Chicago was by far the scariest decision I ever made in my life.

But boy am I glad I made it.

By the time I arrived, my parents and I were bickering enough that I was too distracted by my stress to gulp at my surroundings. A giant schoolhouse in this apparent neighborhood of Pilsen, that was low income but, according to google, “up and coming.”

For the record, the latter is not true.

Oh, the schoolhouse. My beautiful schoolhouse that I fell in love with. The Pink Line that I knew even upon arrival I was going to use as my compass. My seemingly intrusive property managers who on one end offered us coffee and chain smoked as I unloaded, but on the other end knocked and complained three times of the noise level as my folks and I cleaned and moved furniture.

Who would’ve guess that two years later they would be evicted due to harassment of tenants, namely me.

My parents left, and I recall my first night alone in the big echoing apartment. It was almost symbolic, really. Alone in a great big space, not knowing where to begin.

Of course, I wasn’t really alone. Lucky me to know a group of ASU alum who had already created a sketch troupe and had already booked us a weekly gig at this dive bar called Martin’s Corner right next to my Schoolhouse. Although the original ring leader of Honorary Degree, and I hardly speak anymore, I owe her a great amount of gratitude to my mental stability in the transition to Chicago. She helped find my place, and had me performing sketch comedy, my comfort zone, within four days of unpacking. Thank you Stacey. You made it so easy for me.

The rest has gone by so fast and with so much the rest of my memories kind’ve blur together in the topsy turvy bittersweet relationship I began to have with Chi-Town. Somewhere in these memory quips, there is a timeline.

I lived with two boys, then one got replaced midseason with a new craigslist boy, though to be fair, I was as close to original boy as I was with craigslister. It was Boy A who was my true friend in the schoolhouse. My new big brother. Kyle. Who would’ve known that Mr. Farce Side would be my best friend here. And, most certainly, someone I hope to know forever.

I got a job as a nanny, which was a scam. I got a job at a restaurant, which was horrible. Then Disney store, which was a delight. And finally a nanny gig again, which was not a scam and permanent.

The restaurant was right next to Michigan Avenue and thought of itself as yuppie and high class though I wished someone would tell it it wasn’t. I had to wear all black, but in a pretty way not a backstage crew member way, and heels. I had to ride the Red Line at midnight to get home. Scary but I feel a right of passage. As a hostess, I heard the beginnings of the common midwest accent, “Wehlcahm to Rahsebahd on Rahsh, Aylison will seat cha.” (Translation: “Welcome to Rosebud on Rush, Alison will seat you.”) The managers were always stressed and angry, the other hostesses snots, and it made me sad to be there. Not sad for me, sad for them. I was happy to quit.

The Disney Store was a fuzzy magical sort of story, filled with nerds and gay men galore. When we would close on a Saturday night (and I always closed on Saturday nights) the assistant would blast techno dance music as we counted how many Jasmine PJs we had to wheel out. I was there at Christmas, and it made me bubbly all over wearing Mickey Mouse Santa Hats. I was impartial to quitting. As silly as the job was, it was a chronic, albeit not intentional, headache to leave late with a loop of shitty Selena Gomez songs stuck in my head. Cute toys though.

The nanny job stuck, but more on that later.

Second City was so dazzling and ooooo ahhh worthy, that I think I blocked out my first set of classes in the Improv for Actors Program. I’m not sure if I was hooked right away as much as I felt that I should be hooked right away. I mean, comedy WAS why I came here, right?

I  kept wondering how everyone seemed to know everyone there. I felt like the new girl all the time. It would take a year of being an intern to see and understand the tally of new girls. Everybody’s new, honey, you’re not so special. And yes, eventually, I did know everybody, or knew who they were, or have seen them in something, and still was the new girl at stuff.

Third class of IFA-1 and boom, another excitement. Music Improv. That discovery gave my tummy a whole new tingly feeling of something. A confirmation of sorts that I made the right decision to be out here. That here I could flourish. That here I found something grand to be a part of.

And I did flourish. Along with learning the format of musicals in an attempt to make one up on the spot, I was transitioning from sitting on the Pink Line and gazing out the window at the skyline wondering how I was ever gonna get bored of the view to having my nose so shoved in a book that I would constantly miss my stop. Along with taking copious notes on character honesty and scene choices, I was getting annoyed with tourists with umbrellas (please look behind you before you open one, thanks). I was getting ideas, I was feeling inspired, I was writing and playing and… happy.

Yes, Chicago made me very happy, and don’t you forget it.

There were, however, darker times looming. Discovering that friends aren’t as easy to come by without a dorm room setting or a college lifestyle to relate to. Getting people to trek out to Pilsen never ceased to be a challenge (three failed party attempts), and the friends that I came packed with, my ASU crew, was dropping like flies. Moving away, quitting, grad school. There were many times I was lonely.

It seems ironic, really, to feel lonely in a big city. But alas, there I was, surrounded by big groups of people, and swallowing back tears knowing that at the end of this class, this shift, even this comedy show, I was hoofing it home to Pilsen with no one really noticing unless I said something.

That’s the nature of this beast I guess. Especially the comedy beast. Here you are allowed to have improv teammates and colleagues, but after that you can’t stay for a beer because you got another show to be in or they do. I always felt like I was missing the wave of classes with friends. Like every other conservatory class BUT mine hung out all the time and really seemed to care for one another.

For being lonely, I certainly became facebook networking popular. Floods of events with this comedy show at this place for free, or byob, or suggested donation or insert lame pun here. Comedy troupes have names as harmless as a bad band name, and almost three times as forgettable.

I am really gonna miss that.

I’m gonna miss the plethora of people who get what I’m saying when I debate whether it’s best to space work a car window opening by rotating my hand like turning a handle, just keeping my hand still to look like I’m pressing a button to get the window to go down automatically.

Wiping a scene, space work, battle rap, I wish number, denials, slow burn, quick edits, listening, out of your head, walk about the space, Del, Tennessee Williams genre, five point structure, midpoint, tag out, beats, TJ and Dave, game, gay balls.

All these terms are now useless to me when I get back to Longmont, Colorado. (Though I would love to use gay balls in my every day vernacular.) WHAT AM I GOING TO DO???

I almost can’t believer it’s over. No, it can’t be over. I have dreamed of being here since I was in the 7th grade and a teacher told me I should go here. But it is. I am sitting in my schoolhouse bedroom on an air mattress with boxes packed and fast food by my side.

Oh my God the food! Pizza. Kumas. Hot dogs. Kumas, Tamale stand. Kumas. Mac and Cheese Centrella Brand. Kumas. I get why so many comedians are fat now. Did they have to put in a Chipotle underneath the training center? Yes. Yes they did.

I worked every Thursday morning in the Second City Training Center for over a year. I loved meeting people and doing my homework and answering phone calls. That was great. I wish there was upward mobility in it. Like interning could’ve lead me to a solidified gig on Saturday Night Live. Oh well. At least I got to meet a lot of hilarious people. I got to be “in the know.” And I loved being in the know.

Honorary Degree was a roller coaster (Kevin even has a sketch called Roller Coaster). As people changed, and venues shifted, and we hit peaks (our own festival, selling out at sketchfest) and new lows (performing for four people) they somehow were my stability, and because of them mixed with ruminants of  Farce Side I went into the rest of the world confident in how to write a sketch. Thank you, HD, from the bottom of my heart. For those who lasted, Kyle, Kevin, and Joe, I don’t know if it will ever hit me that I am not performing with you ever again. I mean, six years of sharing the stage will be hard to shake. I’m gonna miss you, even if you did always drive me crazy.

HD played at a bowling alley for a while and we all got pretty good at the game if I do say so myself.

I will forever be proud of the HD sketches Wedding and I Can’t Read (even though you all call it Illiterate Girl. I can see you now reading this and saying ‘because that’s it’s name.”)

Thanks for the website too. Have you seen it? Gonna need some updates now that I’m moving.

Two years. And I am leaving now. With me leaving is this all going to go away too? My memories? My improv mind? Should I have journaled daily?

Alas, I think I always knew Chicago was a learning city for me. A place to train more, write more, live more, and once I felt ready, pack up and try an even scarier place. Los Angeles.

I do think I’m ready.

Eventually I signed up for iO’s writing program and I have to say it was also one of the best decisions I ever made. I was done with Music Improv, feeling the lull of learning a ton but not moving forward with all the music improv plans I had. (With failed auditions, I have yet to put my MI skills to use since graduation) And it was time to put together a portfolio for the inevitable move.

What I put together instead was a writing team. Jesus Christ what sincerely talented individuals that made up this iO class. Finally, I hit the jackpot on a class that clicked, that cared about each other, that were friends.

We began as a trivia group, Uncle Jizz, and went to Mullens after class every Wednesday and killed it every time. Hump Day became my favorite day of the week. UJ was finally defeated on Mullens final trivia night by a group called “Our Uncle Jizz Is Better Than Your Uncle Jizz” compiled of people set to take us down. And they did. It felt great. It made me feel like we mattered. We mattered enough to have another group compile people to take us down.

Then, with our trivia bond fully solidified, we moved on to more important things, like drinking a lot amid huge writing nerd discussions, and giving critiques and advice in our google group spinkled with youtube postings and debates as to whether Beaker DID flip off the camera in that Muppet movie.

Someone even in that group calls me Tafel. I like that.

Uncle J. This is not goodbye to you, because we are all certain one of us will make it for the others to follow. See you in LA? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

It seems surreal to leave now as I empty my memories on paper. It hasn’t been like a blip to live here. Two years IS a long time.

Am I ready?

It’s like Jerry Seinfeld said. You got to leave on top. I was part of Basement Dragon, a group name that no one debated because no one really cared, which made everyone awesome. My second city conservatory class was good, but I didn’t see how good we were until it became our final run of shows. We were damn good. And they taught me personally that I can collaborate with anyone on anything. They helped me find new parts of my funny bone, and gave me my proudest sketches in years, Women’s Rights and The Ben Affleck Song. BOTH being sketches that HD would never touch and BOTH feeling fully supported by this rather rag tag group of SC Conservatory students.

I can keep on doing sketch with anyone I meet in LA, Basement Dragon taught me that.

They also taught me how to do a South Side accent (Cari), how to fuck up on the violin (Lindy), how to be a creepy girlfriend (best song eva, Claire!!), how to come to class every week with a sketch (Chris),  how to be loveable (Rob), how to get over my giggly self (Ben), how to look much older than I am (Zach)  and how to just have fun with a stupid idea. And we had many stupid ideas.

Thank you Basement Dragon.

It’s hard to think I was lonely with this many people to thank. In the end, I guess I was not.

But, alas, it’s time to move on.

I have changed since the fresh young college graduate who bought her first CTA pass, and not solely because of my comedy overdose. (Seriously, what I am going to DO in Colorado??) The city itself made me grow. It made me tougher, smarter, more comfortable with myself, more relaxed to ask questions, and more capable to figure things out on my own more that I have ever been in my life.

I know how to get a taxi and approximately how much it will cost me. I know how to avoid the homeless when they suck you into a seemingly harmless conversation. I can pay bills, pay rent, fix the internet, change a lightbulb in car, record stuff on demand, find bootleg copies of tv shows online, google maps on my phone, buy the cheapest bottle of soap there is, the price of tamales, find byob restaurants, take visitors to The Bean, Skype my boyfriend, make a pie, budget myself, watch children and say “Yes and…” to life.

I never thought I would be a nanny or be any good at it or cry when it came time to  say goodbye for a final time to two children who I believe will change the world someday. I never thought that I would have a whole analysis on how to discipline (always listen to Supernanny) or whether or not I think The Wiggles get laid a lot for being a Wiggle. Never did I think I could get a kid to respond to the tone of my voice or have an opinion on how nannies should pay attention to their kids at a playground. Who knew?

I never thought I would spend two Thanksgivings away from home and with friends creating our own Thanksgiving that kicked so much ass.

I never thought I would stop a gym membership and come out of it alive without my inner-anxieties taking over and killing me.

I never thought I would cut my own bangs.

I never thought I would meet a DJ for Kiss FM in my Stand Up class and proceed to do comedy bits for him on the radio.

I never thought I would so easily get rid of possessions I have had since I was a child and be okay to let go because, hey, they’re just things.

I never thought I would get bored of Kelsey Grammar AGAIN filming something in front of my house.

I never thought I would watch the whole series of Lost right up til the finale that I watched with a group the night it aired.

I never thought I would be paranoid to finish a blog because I was too afraid I missed talking about another person or event that I loved while being here. I guess that just means I was spoiled.

I never thought I would leave so soon.

But I am. And I am ready.

That is the story of us, Chicago. This is not goodbye, because even though our time was brief you will always be my city. You are a part of me as I hope I left some trace of me on you. I am armed and ready for the next steps (relax in CO first and go hard in LA come January.)

I promise to come back and visit, and I promise to filter you into my work. You helped me change so much, the least I can do is use you in my ultimate plan to change the world.

This is the story of us.


–       One L

“Should I change my blog name even though I will no longer be riding the El?”

“Shout outs: Kyle, Kevin, Joe, Stef, Keri Jo, Meg, the girls of Will, Ren, Susan, Mike D of MI, Brandon, Gordy, Jay, Steph, Targus, Bryant,  Lindy, Keith, Tommy, Stacey, Little Juan, Emma, and Kumas.”


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