Friends #44 and 45: Jen and Dawn

After neighborhood basketball adventures, I took the train back downtown and met up with my pseudo-little sister Jen for dinner at Haymarket Pub in the West Randolph area of Chicago.  In a place like Chicago, I can easily get overwhelmed with the plethora of incredible food options, but Jen helped me navigate the neighborhood and it’s culinary choices, leading us to Haymarket.

Jen is the younger sister of my dear friend Catherine.  In recent years, the two of us have developed our own friendship, which I so thoroughly enjoy.  We had to reschedule our initial plans because she was being recognized for a women’s leadership award through work.  Awesome.  She is also a junior member on the board of an arts organization; she volunteers as a tutor; and she just (since our visit) got a puppy!

Jen and I are able to connect on a lot of levels with a depth and a length of knowing and friendship.  There is a closeness that we share that I so dearly treasure.  I met Jen when she was 12 (and Catherine was 14).  I walked with Cat through a lot during our teen years, but I more or less watched Jen from afar.  Jen had a lot to walk through herself, and she has emerged as such a delightful and beautiful woman.  Our time together flowed so effortlessly and had such a undercurrent of authenticity, a flavor of the things of walking through life with your eyes opened.

After our dinner, Jen and I hopped on the bus; she went to run an errand, and I continued south to the Pilsen area of Chicago.  As I continued on the bus, she and I continued to text back and forth: “That was too short!”  “I know, right?!”  It certainly was.

Jen and me on the bus

The Pilsen area is known for its numerous art galleries, and that night, I met up with college friend Dawn and a few of her friends.  This particular evening was a once-a-month artwalk event where the galleries all stay open later for people to peruse.  It was very appropriate for Dawn and I to catch up while looking at some good art, which I’ll explain in a moment.  But first, a few of the night’s special pieces.  This first one was lengthily and humorously titled “The Daring Young Man on the Rickety-ass Old Ladder”:

My favorite pieces of the night were a series of maps that were covered with ink drawings that related to the area depicted in the map.  This is Indonesia–the island of Sumatra is inside the hand drawn on the left side of the map. There was also a map of the Persian Gulf.

Map of Indonesia

The reason that it was so appropriate for Dawn and me to connect over art is that I have always admired her pursuit of creativity.  She is a multi-talented individual, most notably a singer-songwriter.  I have recently been struggling the juxtaposition of creativity and achievement.  I have a desire to pursue creative things, but I also have a desire to achieve, and most often, those desires tend to conflict more than they coincide.  Dawn has found a way to pursue the creative parts of her life and be successful at it.  And she has landed in a great community of creative people, who explore the links between artistry and spirituality.

I think there can be something fairly isolating about being an artist, whether a writer, a painter, or a musician.  The craft must be perfected in the isolation of a practice room or a studio, which is why it’s so critical for artists to be in some kind of community, to give and receive feedback and to gain inspiration from a connected human experience.

So Dawn and I caught up, and I got to know her friends, as we wandered the streets and the galleries, some of which were shared space with the artists’ or gallery owners’ homes.  There was such a vibrancy to this part of town as people were out and about on the streets and the galleries were teeming with new works.  After the galleries closed down, we headed to get boba in Chinatown, where we posed in a pagoda.

Dawn and friends in a pagoda in Chinatown

It was a great Friday night exploring Chicago!


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