A Place in the Story (or How to Get From My House to Being an Insider):
Multimedia installation, 2005
Video (7:58), C-prints
Published as text and images in Entelechy Magazine
I interviewed a dozen people across the city, asking them a series of questions concluding with where within the city they feel to be an insider. As they spoke, I transcribed their stories and, at the end, had them read the transcription of the final question back to a recorder, along with directions on how to get there from my house. I followed their directions as if following a guidebook, and went alone, repeatedly, to visit and photograph their locations. When displayed, the photographs are accompanied by a video in which I mapped the route from my house to their locations with their stories providing the directions and narrative voice over.
“All places exist somewhere between the inside and outside views of them, the ways in which they compare, and contrast, with other places … Finding a fitting place for oneself in the world is finding a fitting place for oneself in a story.” — Lucy Lippard, Lure of the Local
If you take the Red Line north to the purple line and that as far north as it will take you, you’ll end up at the Linden el stop — the new station. Exit the station to your left, you’ll be heading east, and before you have the opportunity to cross a street you’ll see a small brown, nearly cubicle building that looks like it’s not big enough to hold anything. That’s the old train station.
The Linden El Station:
There are places where I used to feel like an insider but now they’ve changed so much. Like the Linden L stop used to be a place I felt like an insider but the building I was comfortable in is now a bank. They were going to tear it down, but it was declared a historical landmark, so they built another station 100 feet away. And the old building was so small it’s now a branch with no tellers, just ATM’s. But when it was a train station there was a station attendant at the window, at a ticket window. And there was also a guy named Leo who occupied half the station with a little shop that sold candy, cigarettes, magazines and fireworks. It was a little kids dream. Leo was a hunchback and he would show us his tattooed numbers on his arm from when he was in a German concentration camp. The fireworks he had were illegal but he would quietly ask us little kids if we wanted to buy some fireworks and show us what he had. So even though I don’t know if I would miss anywhere if I went away, I definitely miss some places that have gone away. Maybe it’s something about being easily reversible and my choice if I go away — it’s different than knowing you can never go back to a place you love.
You can take Fullerton eastward all the way to Broadway and then turn left on Broadway. You can take the Broadway bus northbound all the way to Wilson. That’s where Truman College is located. On Wilson and Broadway.
I feel to be as an insider in the City Colleges and Afghan community here. And I think of myself as kind of a, well, I felt before as a marginalized person because of language, tradition and customs barriers and different attitudes barriers. In the City Colleges I feel a friendly environment and I get along with everyone. Classrooms are the main place, I think. I don’t attend any functions or anything. Let’s say Truman College. I take English classes there and social science this semester.
You can take the Red Line “el” to Sheridan stop and then walk north to the corner, that’s Irving Park. Take the bus going west about three or four blocks and then get off at the corner of Clark at the cemetery and there’s a yellow brick building and that’s the Rizal Center.
The Rizal Center:
We have the Dr. Jose Rizal Center. It was founded in 1974 and that’s our community center. We had a different center before that and it was sold and then we acquired this one. It’s the umbrella organization. I consider myself to be a neutral personality within the community, I have no reservations about attending events or going to the Rizal Center while some others have their own reasons for not visiting the center. some of the organizations I’m involved with meet regularly there regardless of their political perspective. One of the organizations that I’m with is the Filipino American Senior Citizens Club which is made up of members that go back to the first generation immigrants, men and women. Presently many of the survivors of the first generation are non-Filipino wives who have over the years remained active in the community and consider the community to be part of their homebase. Often when they come in contact with new Filipino immigrants they are met with the inquiry of what are you doing here. It used to be common for English to be the dominant language spoken but now with the new immigrants Tagalog is the main spoken language. People from my generation are more assimilated. They do not visit the center. This senior citizens group meets at the center once a month.
To get on it from around Fullerton and California you can get on 90/94 at Diversey going south to the Dan Ryan Expressway and then you can go south to 47th St. exit and go west to Ashland Avenue and north a block and a half. The restaurant is on the east side of the street, of Ashland Avenue, directly across the street from Jerry’s certified supermarket.
El Patio Restaurant:
El Patio Restaurant on 45th and Ashland feels like home to me. I’ve been going there for about twenty-five years. My older sisters had a double wedding two doors down from the restaurant. I worked in the back of the yards community where El Patio is located for a number of years. When I go there I reflect on many areas of my life so I like it there a lot.
I would take Milwaukee, southeast to Damen, right on Damen, past Division to Thomas, left on Thomas one block, you’ll see a neon sign that says Inner Town.
The Inner Town Pub:
I had a place that I don’t really go to anymore. The Inner Town Pub. I used to go there everyday and I knew everybody there so, yeah, there. I don’t go there now, but that’s just because it reminds me of a certain time in my life that I don’t want to remember so much. Even though it’s not a place that’s with me now it was very special and so when it ended it was a choice and basically just an artificial end. I miss it and I wish that I had that relationship with another place and I don’t.
It’s the corner of North and Rockwell, well, it’s not exactly the corner. Two blocks west of Western. From the Blue Line stop just walk down to North Avenue and then walk west two blocks.
North and Rockwell:
I would definitely say when I’m leaving work on North Avenue. I feel like this is my life. Although mostly I feel like an outsider. I think it’s that moment of the walk to the car, it doesn’t matter the weather, I’m done with my day and it’s always the same. I always park within the same block, I can usually park within a block of work. There’s always that moment when I leave work and I always have to remember where I parked the car and which direction I have to turn. Like if I should go right or left.