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All photos by Patty Michels

Knit Hats
Light Breezes
Gale Winds
Loving Aunts

This is just a partial list of items I cannot abide. Why? Two words: Curly Hair.

Straight haired people don’t understand. They drive around in their convertibles, all carefree wearing knit hats through mist and wind and rain all the way to their old auntie’s cottage where they swim and she playfully tousles their hair.

At least that’s what curly haired people imagine. Meanwhile we’re wrapping silk scarves around our heads and ducking into doorways, trying to make it half a block without our curls: straitening/frizzing/poufing/insert your own screwed up curl activity.

And haircuts? I’ve been through breakups less traumatizing.

Once I asked for an inch off and ended up with my entire neck bare. “Are you kidding me? Curly hair shrinks, it shrinks,” I screamed (in my head.) “The back of my neck is private! Private do you hear me?”

Friends and family knew to avoid me after a haircut. Sometimes for months.

But that all changed when I met Rochelle Binik. Creative Director, stylist and colorist for Noel Rose Hair Studio, Rochelle is a thirty year veteran of the beauty industry but more important, she specializes in curly hair.

Our Town Why is it so hard for a curly haired person to get a good haircut?
Rochelle Binik Cutting curly hair is an art in understanding movement and texture. You need to really look at the different shapes and nuances of each persons curls. It takes a lot of practice and experimenting to get things right.

OT You’ve spent years honing your curly hair cutting techniques, can you reveal any secrets?
RB Being a great listener with a passion for curly hair is my secret weapon. Having curly hair myself I understand the unique challenges we face, whether it be products or climate. Each client gets an in-depth consultation to find out what their experience has been. I gather as much information,--good and bad--from the clients so I can achieve a great result they can reproduce daily.
OT In order to come away satisfied, what should a customer do to prepare for a haircut appointment?
RB Do your homework: find someone who is a certified curly hair specialist. Leave your fears at the door and come with an open heart. Bring in pictures of what looks great to you. You may have had a shape that you liked in the past that can help me know what works for you.

Photo by Patty Michels

The other day my Significant Other spotted something at Brown Elephant.

“Look,” she said, “a time clock.”

“As opposed to a space clock?” I rejoined, showcasing my aptitude for humorous observations. I know, how much fun would I be to date? With me no redundancy goes unnoticed. For every misused word, I supply a superior alternative. If, for example, you are splayed across the bathroom floor, damp with fever and confide you feel “nauseous,” like Florence Nightingale, I’ll nurse your word use back to health: “You mean, nauseated,” I’ll coo.

“No,” SO said, “it’s literally a time clock.”

Hearing the word ‘literally,’ I readied my sledgehammer, but not only had she used the word correctly, the device she referred to was actually an old fashioned time clock used for punching in at work.

I can’t tell you how much I wanted to buy it. How great would that be? Wake up, drink my coffee, change into my work pajamas and punch in? I’d totally make the dog and the werewolf punch in too. Maybe the scooter and the Christmas tree as well. They’re seasonal help, but they still count. But I didn’t, because buying some potentially broken gadget when you have yet to repay your student loans is probably irresponsible. Buying a sequin dress, however? Totally different story, a cautionary one in fact. About the dangers of Seasonal Affective Disorder. And Working From Home. And Whiskey.


Things you need to know:

1. I don’t drink. Ever notice how when you do drink, no one asks you to justify it? I on the other hand have been challenged so habitually I start shrugging and apologizing even before I’m asked. My reasons include:
-Expense, (see above re student loans)
-Obnoxiously Delicate Body Chemistry (My body responds to substances from sugar to caffeine to alcohol as if the substance were a side-eye and my body were a Real Housewife.)
-A general need to control everything at all times (See above re so much fun to date.)

2. I’m in the midst of some major downtime right now. Lots of deadlines met, and weeks to wait before I begin teaching my mind-blowing Story Studio novel writing courses which promise to make you wealthy beyond your wildest dreams and also clear your nasal passages. (Results may vary). In other words, the only things standing between me and a postapocalyptic nightmare of the sort described by Cormac McCarthy are "30 Rock" episodes on Netflix instant.

3. I believe feminism is about choices, and I choose to be a disgrace to feminism. Except that it’s not exactly a choice. See, I pretty much exemplify every sexist myth about PMS. Picture the most offensive commercial aired during the Super Bowl concerning the difference between men and women. Hello, my life. The other night for example, in the space of little more than thirty seconds I said this to SO:
“I want chocolate cake I’m so fat I want chocolate cake are you bored of me whatever I’m going to be so famous I won’t even remember your name what happens when we die?”

In other words, I’m not sanity’s poster girl. I’ll leave that to Courtney Love.


So, although I’m broke, I decided a night out with a friend was warranted. (Read: my SO told me I was upsetting the dog and I needed to leave for a while.) My friend and I went to Mary's Rec Room!, which was awesome mainly because their tables have bottle caps on them. Not like a server didn’t properly clear between customers, but like, the caps are lodged under a layer of laminate. I couldn’t get over it, which might have been because I hadn’t left the house in weeks. Swept up in bottle cap excitement, I ordered a whiskey, the only kind of alcohol I really like. I have a friend who says it makes her feel like a senator, but to me, it tastes like cream soda, so I guess it makes me feel like a small town boy in the 1950’s, the kind of guy who might grow up to become a senator. Whoa. Full circle.


After dinner, my friend said she wanted to go shopping. (Not the senator friend, the friend I was with. For the sake of simplicity I considered eliding them but we all saw what happened to Vivian Gornick and James Frey.)

“Akira is probably open,” I said. “But you have to be anorexic to shop there. Or Lady Gaga. Or, I guess, both would work too.” Despite the lashing wind I felt pleasantly warm. Clearly, I’d developed the ability to heat my body using the power of my mind.

Down the street at Akira, I instantly found the dress of my slutty, drag queen dreams. Bypassing the navy and champagne version (Navy sequins are pointless, the sartorial equivalent of taking a spinning class while eating onion rings.), I went straight for the red and black.

Photo by Megan Eckers

At seven I already felt certain of two things.

1. I never wanted to get married.
2. My wedding would be the biggest, bestest, most sequined and silky celebration ever to rock New York City where I would live in my penthouse while staring on Broadway and raising German Shepherd puppies.

I’ve always been comfortable with contradiction.

Here’s what I’m certain of now:

1. “Bestest” isn’t a word.
2. If I were to get married I’d employ Chicago wedding photographer Amy Beth Harkess.

Influenced by a strong background in nature photography, Harkess’ focus on details separates her from the pack. (Because there’s totally a roving pack of slathering wedding photographers in Chicago. I think they live under the viaduct on Western.) For the past five years Harkess has photographed weddings, commitment ceremonies and unions professionally in the Chicago area, as well as across the country. She spoke with Our Town about film vs. digital, her equipment and, randomly, Kanye West.

Photo by Amy Beth Harkess

Our Town Your website says “What I love most about photography is how it changes the way I look at the world, even when I don't have a camera in my hands!" Tell me more.
Amy Beth Harkess As I started spending more time taking photos, this strange thing started happening; I saw amazing moments everywhere. What had once been an annoying long commute because of a rain storm turned into seeing the most amazing reflections of headlights and wet cars in the puddles on the pavement. As a photographer, I'm often focused on an end result that I'm going to share with other people. It's been refreshing to remember that the passion I have for photography is often due to those little moments, and I don't have to have a camera to see them.

OT You were trained as a musician, what made you decide to work as a photographer?
AH I always enjoyed taking pictures, especially of nature and wildlife. After running into a throng of photographers at the Chicago Botanic Garden (who had been annoying me because I somehow feel my membership card makes it my territory), I joined their online photo club. Through that, I found and joined [another], run by photographer Gina DeConti of Imaginative Studios. [When] Gina asked if I'd be interested in doing wedding work, the wedding photography bug bit me and I can't imagine not being a photographer. Also, I highly overestimated the need for bassoon players.

OT What gear do you use?
AH My digital gear is all Canon professional gear. I have two camera bodies, an assortment of lenses including wide angle, standard/normal range, telephoto and macro [plus] supplemental lighting equipment. I've also adopted a lot of abandoned and unloved film cameras. The ones most frequently in rotation (and most likely to tag along to a gig) are my Canon A-1 (an old manual 35mm camera from the 80s), a Canon EOS 3, my Mamiya 645 and my Polaroid 440 Land Camera.

OT You work with digital and film. What are the pros and cons of each?
AH Digital photography has come so far. The pro cameras allow us to shoot in near complete darkness. Because memory cards are reasonably priced, you can take as many photographs as you'd like, without worrying about the price per frame. On the other hand, more files means more editing time. Digital is also a little unforgiving at the extreme ends of light. Ever have a photo that looked lovely, except that the sky was white, instead of the blue you remembered it being? Blame digital. Film can handle those extremes like nobody's business. Instead of a bright, white, almost glowing wedding dress, you can see all the intricate lace the bride spent hours choosing. And you can see all the creases in the groom's tuxedo instead of a big black blob. Film slows you down. You pay for the film and you pay for developing and scanning, so each frame impacts your profit and bottom line. This often means that a photographer takes better, more thoughtful photographs. But film photography is not cheap. Also, there are no color films that do well in low light situations. So if I am stuck in a dark banquet hall for a reception, and I want to photograph the gorgeous lilac table runners the groom’s aunt made by hand, I'll grab my digital gear. There are lots of photographers who stick to one or the other, but using the best of both worlds makes the most sense for my photography.

It’s hard out there for a writer. While anyone with borderline personality disorder and a fake tan can snag a reality show, we toil for years in obscurity and peanut butter-covered pajamas. Not only that but everyone thinks we’re ugly. Well, that changes today.

In addition to my much-lauded (by my dog) Crush of the Month Blog, I’m introducing a monthly Hot Chicago Writer post.

Because just like Snooki, we didn’t come here to make friends.
Just like that Real World Seattle girl from the 90’s, our hair is excessively curly and we have Lyme disease. (Well, maybe not that last part.)
But certainly, just like Khloe Kardashian, we tower over our hot sisters, but if given the chance we’d strip for Peta, plus we’re funny as sh*t.

The point is, you don’t need a sex tape to hit it big on my blog. Though if you have one, I’ll be happy to review it.

So without further ado,


October’s Hot Writer: Cristina Chopalli

My genre: Everything but country. Wait--this is not a question about music, is it? I’m currently studying fiction but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you creative non-fiction. You were my first love.

My literary influences: Any piece of writing which: is written in 2nd person, uses “lists” to further plot, or which allows me to live vicariously as Bastet: Egyptian cat goddess.

My favorite literary quote: “But you can’t teach writing, people tell me. And I say, ‘who the hell are you, God’s dean of Admissions?’” --Anne Lamott

My favorite book of all time: Season of the Body: Essays by Brenda Miller. Her essay "A Thousand Buddhas" inspired me to write my first essay. Each essay in this book kicks serious emotional ass.

I’m currently reading: Never Let Me Go (For my Novel VS. Memoir class.)

My guilty pleasure book: Beauty’s Punishment (Very guilty.)

I can’t write without: Sleep, sex and coffee.

Worst line I ever wrote: “Kelly isn’t sure who is going to attack Kailash first: the hooker who’ll be tapping on his window with her two dollar press-on nails, or the asshole who’ll probably turn his car around and retaliate for the sloppily tossed orange peels.”

Brief Bio: Cristina Chopalli doesn’t like writing about herself in third person. She will, however, continue since she’s gotten this far. Cristina recently moved from Chicago to San Marcos, Texas to attend Texas State’s MFA in Fiction program. She’s an essayist for India Currents Magazine and randomly blogs on her website. Cristina sends her love to Argo Tea and Iguana Cafe: her favorite writing places in the city. Once a happy Printer’s Row inhabitant, Cristina now lives behind a lumber yard with a robust intercom system: Earl, call on line one. Assistance needed in sheetrock. Attention y’all we’ll be closing in fifteen of them-there minutes.

Think you’re hot*? Know you’re a writer? Email, subject line “hot writer blog” to tell Our Town why you should be next month’s pick!

*Here’s a hand mirror, go check if you need to, I can wait.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Soft Skull, an imprint of Counterpoint Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

Photo by Andrew Nawrocki

Fashionable people astound me. Whereas others roll out of bed and into the perfect skinny jeans/plaid shirt/mussed cardigan/Converse combo, when assembling an outfit, I apply the sort of concentration normally associated with defusing a bomb, and still wind up realizing hours into my day that what seemed fresh and daring in my early morning mirror actually makes me look like I was styled by an Olson twin and K.D. Lang, each drunk and angry. Plus I almost always forget to brush my hair.

Amy Creyer faces none of these problems. Currently a DePaul graduate student studying the role of public policy in the fashion and apparel industries, Creyer eats sleeps and breathes fashion. As the owner of, a website dedicated to providing high quality street style photographs, Creyer captures Chicago’s most fashionable perambulators. A self-taught photographer, Creyer’s influence is two-fold. Not only does she showcase cresting styles, but by virtue of what she chooses to photograph, she also shapes trends.

Our Town First off, what are you wearing right now?
Amy Creyer My Proenza Schouler for J. Brand paint-splattered jeans, Erin Gordon for Sarca bracelets, a Graham & Spencer top, my black leather Chucks, and a Giorgio Brato leather jacket.

OT You grew up in Greenwich. Style-wise, how is NYC different than Chicago?
AC In New York, people are very concerned with wearing the right brands or the hottest designers. You see a lot of clothing straight off the runway. I love to photograph and wear designer clothing, but I find the authenticity in Chicago far more interesting. There is an organic and authentic development of personal style in Chicago that I think is directly related to the absence of a strongly entrenched fashion establishment.

OT Describe your website’s genesis.
AC I was the little girl who always wore dresses to run around the playground. My website is the culmination of my lifelong love of fashion and decade long obsession with street style. Every aspect of being a street style photographer, from stopping random people on the street to using social media to connect with my followers, came naturally to me.

OT How do you choose and reel in potential subjects?
AC I constantly scan my surroundings for anything unusual; perhaps a woman's unique hairstyle or the way a man tied his scarf. Sometimes there's skepticism, but I always cut through with my charm. As the art form becomes more popular, individuals are excited about getting stopped for a photo, and I am definitely seeing stronger style on the streets as a result.

OT Do you shoot daily?
AC [Initially] I had too many experiences where, grocery shopping or running errands, I saw someone I would have loved to photograph. Now, I'm always armed with my Olympus PEN and prepared to capture a subject to share with my readers.

OT You study the role of social media in fashion marketing. What role do bloggers play?
AC Bloggers are essentially innovators and trendsetters, early adopters in marketing terminology. These people hold considerable influence over their networks, and social media has dramatically increased that sphere of influence. Before the rise of blogging a trendsetter like Tavi Gevinson would have been limited to influencing people in her local community, but with the Internet she can set trends across the world. Her sway in the fashion industry stems from her authenticity as a consumer, which is extremely valuable to a brand. I'm really interested in how brands build relationships with bloggers and the role of authenticity in those partnerships.

A wise man once said, "Time does not exist."

We're betting that guy's out of a job now. If you're like most people, time is very real, and you wish you had a little more of it each day. Well, Real Simple magazine claims that it can provide just that. In honor of the mag's 10th anniversary, managing editor Kristin van Ogtrop hosts "15 Minutes and You're Done," from noon-7 p.m. (wait, that's not 15 minutes!) Friday at Union Station. The interactive event will feature stations and demonstrations from various Chicago celebrities (including Bachelorette Jillian Harris, NBC's Ginger Zee and others) on how women can simplify their lives. Even if you're not buying that, you might as well stop by for the free lunch, available from noon-2 p.m. Find more details here.

The event is part of a weeklong anniversary celebration, which also includes a 10-percent discount at participating retailers at The 900 Shops, and special lunch ($20.10) and dinner ($40.10) deals at the following restaurants through Friday:

Bistro 110
David Burke’s Primehouse
Epic (dinner only)
Fulton’s on the River
Markethouse (dinner only)
Rebar (dinner only)
Rockit Bar & Grill
sola (dinner only)

The NFL season doesn’t start for another week. But if you’re already sick of football, take advantage of the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago “Getaway from the Gridiron Package,” available starting Sept. 13 (Bears opener) through Super Bowl Sunday. The $175 package includes a 55-minute massage, a spa lunch (read: no beer or brats), a pool/fitness club passport and a free make-up application session at Bloomingdale’s.

Might as well relax a bit. It’s gonna be a loooong season.

Make a reservation at (312) 649-2340.

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Winter refuses to go away. The economy sucks. Grumble, grumble, grumble — you need a personal day. Treat yourself to a mani-pedi. You deserve it. And, heck, go out on a limb and try something completely different. Here's a video from NBC Chicago about a really fishy kind of pedicure ...

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