PUBLIC SMOKING, PUBLIC URINATION, AND THE JOFFREY BALLET.
Walking around in the Chicago night with the friends I’ve made, I notice the smoke wafting through our group. I watch it draw out from the cigarette held between fingers and passed from one to another. I watch the smoke, how it dances on everyone’s shoulders and hair before vanishing into the warm air. It dawns on me then, nearly everyone that I’ve made friends with smokes. In my group of friends back home, almost no one smoke, and some are are even against smoking. They dislike the taste, the smell, how its scent clings onto thread, and how unhealthy it is.
A few blocks later, another cigarette is lit and passed around. I don’t smoke for all the obvious reasons. I find it unhealthy, expensive, and unnecessary. But then I can’t seem to explain those moments where in great stress, I think to myself about how I want to drop everything and get a pack. How in the heat of a moment, in the frustration of an argument, I just want a cigarette. I think that goes to show what kind of thoughts cigarette companies and the media have placed into my head. My boyfriend jokingly predicts I’ll start smoking in Chicago. I deny his claims but it does make me ponder on how an environment and its inhabitants can change a person and their habits. I start to wonder what kind of things Chicago will do to me and I wonder if any of these changes will be permanent.
We jay walk across the street to get to the train station. Two people linger behind, taking the final puffs before stomping the cigarette out. Where do all the stomped cigarettes roll to? At the party, everyone is smoking. I take a long time finishing my only can of PBR.
On Wednesdays, I have an art history from 1 to 4. It takes place in the Columbus auditorium, which I have to pass by the Crown Fountain to get to. On a good, warm day, you can find a number of people (children especially) running amok in its water. Having passed it so many times now, I’ve grown accustomed to this sight. Except today, as I passed by the bushes on its edge, I saw a man holding a boy (I assumed his child) who was urinating. It was not strange because his son was urinating, but because of the way he was holding him. It was similar to watching someone drag a large bag of flour or rice.
Now I don’t know who else could see this happening and I’m not the kind to draw attention to such a strange sight but there was something about the whole situation that drew me in, that kept my eyes perplexed. Whenever I had to urinate outside a restroom, for whatever reason, I felt a certain discomfort. Even if I was in the middle of the wilderness, there was a feeling of being watched. A mixture of embarrassment and hastiness, as if the woodland creatures could be offended and gossip. In this moment, I felt connected to these two figures: the man and the boy. The kind of connection people feel when they watch a balloon fly away or when you spin a coin or roll a die and everyone’s eyes are fixated on it.
I shuffled through the crowded cross walk in a hurry to get to class. In class, we spoke briefly on Hinduism and the concept of destruction as rebirth rather than the end. Why do humans think that they are so important that their possible end must mean the end to the rest of existence? I wonder how many people are watching the slides and if this number is larger or smaller than the number of people who saw the man and the boy.
I live in 162 and on most days, I can be found lounging around in my friends’ rooms. I’m forced to find solace in their living space as mine is often preoccupied by my messy roommates. In the evenings, when our rooms turn blue from the setting sky, we can see into the Joffrey ballet across the street. The minimalist dance rooms lit by fluorescent lights, housing the tall and slender ballerinas who move their muscles with precision. As we watch the dancers, I contemplate on how ballet is such a distant and foreign world to me.
I’ve never been flexible, I don’t think I can even touch my toes without bending my knees, and I’ve never been to the ballet. Yet here it is, on bright display for me. For my film class, we had to record a time capsule of Chicago. I’m nowhere near a native of Chicago, having only been in the city for a month, so I drew from what I had experienced in my short time here. Almost immediately, I thought of the magic of the ballet. I thought of being behind the camera, following the ballerinas up towards the studio, watching the exchange of words and glances before practice, and finding patterns within the patterns of dance. Walking around my room in skivvies, I call the Joffrey Ballet’s artist department. From my window, I can see a class and the overcast sky. I leave them many messages before finally receiving a call back, denying my proposal and wishing me luck on my project.
Later that Friday, we shoot using a 16MM Bolex which requires manual cranking. We go to the Crown Fountain and are fortunate enough to find a family playing in the water, mocking the large LED lit faces. Behind the camera lens, I shakily follow a child as he hopscotches in the water. It’s like a home video, there’s no prediction to the movement but there’s a human quality to it none the less. A ballet all on its own.