Chicago, Illinois and Dangling Eyeballs

The “L” passengers…

I just wanted to find Filene’s Basement.  I had been there a few times before, but always by happenstance.  Michigan Avenue is THE Street to go shop in Chicago, and Filene’s, also on Michigan Avenue, has the best deals in town on just about everything retail you can think of.  It takes me months to really find my way around a town.  In many ways, I’m lucky to be alive considering some of the places I’ve been lost in.  Realizing I’m map challenged, I did what any self-respecting woman would have done – I asked for directions.

Was it the Green line, or the Red line?  I knew I was close, as Chicago Avenue isn’t that far from Michigan, but my sense of direction was off, as usual.  Crossing the street and heading up the crowded stairs to the Red line, I was stuck standing behind a huge man wearing a short fur coat and climbing the stairs at a snail’s pace.  I decided to ask if I was headed in the right direction, yet again.  I tapped him on the back and said, “excuse me sir.”  Turning towards me, the first thing I noticed was his left eye.  It was hardly attached to the socket.  It bulged out so much, I thought it might fall to the stairs and roll down, lost for good, like the meatball from the kid’s song, On Top of Old Smokey…..”and then my poor meatball, it rolled out the door”…..   Bruises marred his swollen face and his once white tee-shirt was covered with dried blood and dirt.  He answered, “yea?”  “Is this the way to Michigan Avenue?  I’m trying to get to Filene’s Basement.” I asked, trying not to stare at the eyeball dangling in front of me.  “Yea, you wanna go up here, take a left and hop the Red line ‘n get off two stops.” he answered politely.  “Thanks,” I said, and went about my way to Filene’s……

The Woman Behind One Street Shy – Jennifer Allison

Virginia Woolf once wrote an essay entitled Street Haunting that resonated so deeply within me,  I read it over ten times.  She described leaving the confines of her house as a sense of freedom, as, “The shell-like covering which our souls have excreted to house themselves, to make for themselves a shape distinct from others, is broken, and there is left of all these wrinkles and roughnesses a central oyster of perceptiveness, an enormous eye.”

My photographs, writings, drawings and paintings are simply the stories and images behind my “enormous eye” and I hope you enjoy them. You can find more of my writing at The American Mag: InItalia online at under the column Lost in Translation.


Burlingame, California and Unicorns

Burlingame, California: a quaint, yet posh little bedroom community to San Francisco, where I dream of one day owning a cozy bungalow.

As I walk the streets, in whatever city I inhabit for that day, I am the most comfortable being me –  simply watching the world go by, while my mind is free to wander.  That said, while most people I know who travel to the bay area head straight for downtown San Francisco, with its plethora of ethnic restaurants and vintage cable cars, I prefer to meander through the lovely Burlingame neighborhoods filled with quiet, tree-lined streets, and pocket gardens overflowing with Bougainvillea.

The “downtown” of Burlingame is loaded with boutique shops, big name clothing stores dressed as boutique shops, coffee houses and cafes galore.  One in particular, The Crepevine, has come to be my standby;  a cafe-style restaurant with an open patio adorned with a fireplace, potted plants, and a menu which allows me to create my own scrumptious savory crepes filled with anything I desire, never lets me down.  After sipping my fresh squeezed orange juice, and filling my belly while relaxing on the warm patio for a while, I head straight for the Farmer’s Market across the street, which is always bustling with locals.  Fruits, vegetables, flowers, breads, deserts and fresh honey greet every sense I have and literally scream at me to touch, taste and smell them all.  It is what every Farmer’s Market should be; locally grown, locally owned and locally loved.

With my bag filled with fruits and vegies to take home, I walk the half block to the small, but very full, Books, Inc, where I’ll easily spend the next hour or so perusing the aisles of books and daydreaming even more.  Bookshops always smell good to me.  Even used bookshops smell good.  It’s a different good, but a good nonetheless.  Likewise, I find the most peculiar interactions always happen in, or around, a bookshop.  In fact, during my last visit to Books, Inc, while I was thumbing through the Best Sellers shelf, an elderly woman standing beside me picked up a small stuffed unicorn off of the shelf next to the books and began studying it.  At that point, another woman (older, but not quite as old) who wore all black and had long curly grey hair walked up to her and said, “My niece has a real unicorn, and it’s quite lovely,” then turned and walked away.  That was it.  No conversation about unicorns – nothing – just threw the statement out there and left.  The elderly women simply looked at me, gently placed the unicorn back on the shelf and walked away herself.  I glanced at the unicorn, raised my eyebrow, then decided to go check out the mysticism section…..

Alain de Bottom, The Art of Travel

“It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.”
-Alain de Botton

From the book, The Art of Travel, Botton’s ability to bring forth the central role of travel is spot on – to find who and what we may be.