3 September, Clowning in Chicago
Carly had some interviews with inspiring women, so I left the apartment for the day. I spoke to the Afro American guy down at reception to ask his opinions. He told me about the regular beggars he saw on the street. He gives small change, although he did give to one and had it discarded, he decided to offer them food. He said ‘I’ve asked a mother and children to come to MacDonald’s and I’ll buy whatever she wants’. Apparently it was declined. He does believe there is real need but also he sees them sitting there and doesn’t believe they are motivated to do anything. He talked about his wife’s family and all of them had come to stay when nowhere to live. There was one cousin he chose not to help as he felt it was not in his interests. However, he had a family member staying. He struck me as a very kind guy. Again, I feel there are real issues underlying American society. I think any cultures that are not the dominant culture always suffer prejudice. You just have to look at advertising of Caucasian images. I was also struck by the signs so focused on success and money. One even said that happiness and freedom were linked to a Home Loan, I had to get that photo as I am so amazed they are still promoting home loans after the sub-prime crisis. I don’t feel the US has progressed at all, certainly as you look into US politics in the previous era it has set the country back. Having said that, I see my own country as backward as well. I am not impressed by leadership that carries on the dynasty without challenging the sacred cows. We are in an environmental shift and it is clear regardless of those who think it is business as usual. The climate is changing and that will impact on human civilization. I feel change will be good for people as we are definitely stuck in old paradigms. Yet I sense people want change they just don’t know how to create it.
I went down Canal Street and came to an Italian café. I spent the day there. I did my photo’s which was a big job. I find it full on keeping up with the blog but it is necessary. I spoke with Rotary and they suggested I send a 5-10 page document for their online meeting. I wasn’t 100% sure what Larry was proposing as I have never attended an online meeting, but have a few documents I will send and they can discuss. It is more a vision coupled with my life and peace work. I just feel that whoever resonates might get behind me financially, if they don’t I will go and make peace with the earth and live sustainable. I am always conscious this is the final year in the UN decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World.
Couch Surfing at Park Ridge
Said my goodbye’s to Carly and her husband and headed off to Ogilvy station via Union Station (got the wrong one), lugging my 10 tonne case and back pack… Must pack lighter but the clowning gear is my sacrifice and can’t let it go. So develop some biceps as well. I give myself comfort in working off some accumulated excess. I got onto the right train, they are double decker trains, silver and everyone is sitting facing forward. You can see upstairs from downstairs and they put their tickets on the top of the seats. I found that interesting. The ticket collectors have their captains hats which looks quite nice and their uniforms. I nice guy helped me get my stuff on the train and I got chatting with a lovely American girl who’s husband studied at Uni of Melbourne. She had been over a few times. We talked about the State of the World and where it is going. I told her about my peace work and that I do feel it is possible, it starts with each of us. When I got to my stop I said goodbye to her and she told me she enjoyed our conversation. I jumped off the train and chatted to a guy, I was after a cell phone so I can call William my Couch Surfing host (CS is where a person allows you to stay for free in their home). The fellow escorts me to the library whilst telling me about his studies in Mortuary – yes dead bodies. He said it was interesting and he agreed the human body is fascinating. He said his previous degree was psychology, I thought you can’t do much with a dead body, but then he said you talk with the grieving relatives. Of course I thought. Nice to see someone passionate about that, I find it hard but I haven’t had any proximity to death, so it is understandable. He ends up taking me to the police station and I use their phone. Nice police lady helps out. She rang William and he laughed apparently. I said to her she should have told him I was arrested because of my accent, or made up something. She had a laugh.
William picks me up in a Smart car, a tiny two seater with open sun roof, very snazzy I felt. He was able to get my bulky bag to squeeze down to half its size, thankfully the bulk is toys and clowny stuff. I stayed at his very lovely house in the suburbs of Chicago (8 miles out). It was an American suburb you would see on t.v. It was clean and the houses quite big. He showed me my room in the basement. It was like a little apartment/computer space. Had my own shower/toilet. I was exhausted. We had a wine and discussed life. Both of us had humanitarian perceptions. He had been married for many years and separated the last 5 years, he felt he wanted to go his own way. Too many years going to the wife’s in-laws. His two boys are 14 and 17 (I think), really great kids and I could see he was a loving father. Raising kids costs a lot of money and you can see how easy it is to work all your life to support your family. Although I think William was feeling the call to do something with his life that had meaning for him. He told me about his son’s friend, a quirky kid, apparently he looks up and says ‘do you live alone’, William says yes and he says something to the effect of ‘you are lucky you have no one to tell you what to do’. I laughed at that. I felt for the kid, they are not there own person until they leave.
The next day I got up and did some washing (yay washing machine). I was feeling a bit grumpy and noted that I was extremely tired. I tried to figure out the computers and that increased my grumpiness and then I decided to sleep and let life work it out. At 1.30pm William came back and fortunately I was able to use his computer as I needed to find out if I had a place in Mexico (Cancun), this is winging it, trust me. Thankfully Leon responded and I had a place. I checked emails and then got myself organized. I had to go clowning, I was exhausted but I wanted to give Tola (Arts student) a go. So had a stiff coffee and packed my bag (for flying out as well).
William gave me a lift to the station. The train didn’t leave until 3.55 and I was due to meet Tola at 4pm. I rang him on a borrowed cell phone, I tried to determine if he really wanted to go, he was so easy going that I couldn’t really find a reason not to go. So I pulled my energy together and caught the train. I had to walk 12 blocks to Grant Park where the Art Institute borders. I came into reception and chatted with the Afro receptionists, they can appear quite tough, maybe being an Australian I have an edge. I chatted with them. I found their ID system interesting, people flash their student cards and their image appears on the screen, so no one can use someone’s ID to get access The Art Institute of Chicago is private, so it is not open to the public. You cannot even go to the toilet. So as a clown I had privileges they let me in and I dressed up as a clown.
I got him dressed up and gave him a few tips. We headed for the Chicago Jazz Festival in the park. We walked past some geese which Tola scared off with my puppet, he squarked at them and I tweaked my nose. I laughed as they made noise and moved away, looks like we didn’t have an audience there. Then we saw some soccer people and gate crashed their game. I would run up to the player and rather than kick the ball I hugged him. They didn’t know what to do, this was a one off. A couple of times I did a good footy kick but mostly stirred them with hugs. Then we waved goodbye and headed to the park. We greeted and chatted to every one as we went, got a smile out of the traffic police.
We walked into a field of thousands of picnics there for the jazz festival. So we chatted, juggled, squeaked, blew bubbles, played pretend cricket and baseball, played with kids and generally had some fun whilst there. It takes time for people to trust you are there for free and enjoy your presence. There is always the undercurrent ‘what do they want from me’. I taught a couple of women to juggle and then met a wonderful juggler who really showed me what to do with those clubs. So I filmed him. I hugged the security personnel. I remember seeing a little girl between two serious parents and her face glowing at seeing the clowns.
Tola and I went for a coffee to debrief. He said clowning was hard work and he wasn’t sure sometimes what to do. But he did learn from the experience and met many people. Whilst we were there I met a theatre director who is involved in impro, he said he would invite me to one of his events, unfortunately I was leaving. Another guy came in a bit pickled and smiling at us. He was so thrilled we were clowns and said orange was his favourite colour. I said it was the clown chakra and laughed. He chatted with us for a while and then left smiling and waving. It was nice to just touch people without doing anything. I feel the presence of the clown is important. You don’t have to be the greatest entertainer it is having the courage to engage the public and break down the imaginary barriers we all create.
So he walked me back to the Art Institute, we got changed, then he walked the 12 blocks to the train station. I went into get some food and met another lady who was chuffed I was Australian. She worked with disadvantaged children and said she would look over my website. I may be able to get funding to return.
Caught the train back to Parkridge, William picked me up. I put my stuff away, finished packing and had a nice wine to finish my day. Met his two boys. One made me eggs which was lovely and told me about life as a teenager. It sounded hard work, he trained in gridiron 5 days a week. It sounded like an Olympic sport to me. He was a sophomore (year 11, 12). He had no idea what he wanted to do when he left school. The other boy played guitar really well. So he played for us. They both looked at my pictures and we had a good chat. I am sure they were laughing at my expressions and accent, this is the beauty of cultural diversity we are all ‘same same but different’. This is what opens us to other possibilities, when we open our minds.
Next morning got up, to the airport. I have a plane to catch to Cancun, Mexico. This is the Central American part of the journey. A little daunting but exciting as well.
Now where did I put my sombrero….