Saturday, March 19, 2011

New Website

I've moved my whole operation over to my new website. Soon I'll be bloging there, too. Please visit that website for any future Dylan Heath news.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sick Day [SotCISoaJ]

I am sick.

I hate being sick. It feels like my body is rebelling against itself. I feel like I’m regressing to a younger age; back to a time when I was winy and helpless. I am usually very healthy. Not that I take good care of myself, but I very rarely get sick. So when it does happen, I’m reduced to a quivering mass of phlegm and other unmentionables.

The other night, I wavered between a death-like sleep and a fitful weakness brought on by fever. I swung back and forth between chilly and sweaty; conscious and unconscious; stiff and numb. The next morning, with most of the illness baked out of me, I regained some of my composure. But I still wasn’t well enough to make another trip to Chicago. I had an assignment up there. Well not really an assignment, but a possibility of one. If the photography gods were smiling on me, and the municipal workers were fast enough, I could take pictures of the holiday decorations. But instead I spent part of the weekend in a semi-coherent state.

Sure, I was disappointed, but I suppose I can take one weekend off from thinking about work. I wouldn’t do very well if I wasn’t healthy. And I need to take care of myself by sleeping and what-not. But I sure would have liked to see Chicago in the winter time again. The lights are beautiful against the gray sky and the snow. Although there’s probably no snow yet.

As of now, I am through the haze of fever. But my nose is still leaking and my head is still pounding and my cough is still rasping. Perhaps this just means I’ll be able to make the trip in a few weeks. Maybe by then my pictures will be full of lights glistening off of freshly fallen snow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Upturn [SotCISoaJ]

Working at the front lines of a cafe, you really get a good understanding of the financial times. I sling coffee, a luxury people think of as a necessity. And it's an expensive one at that. A $2 coffee every day before work can add up real quick.

From my vantage point behind the counter, I get to watch who's spending too much money and who has too much money to spend. The strugglers bring in their own cup or buy refill after refill to save. While the ones who can afford it, will buy the thousand calorie sugar bombs.

What I've been able to watch over the last few months is the slow growth of a struggling economy. When I started, the cafe had been quite slow. Morning was quite, lunchtime was empty, closing was deserted. The store was not struggling, but it wasn't doing as good as it should.

Then over the last few weeks, more people were coming in and ordering coffee. More coffee beans have been ordered and more pastures were made in order to fill the customers' needs.

Don't get me wrong; people are still suffering from job loss and poverty. This is just an anecdote for an area that is fairly separated from the problems of the rest of the world. And too often we forget the difference between an anecdote and the real world. But this shows me that something good is coming. Soon we all will be able to feel better and breathe a sigh of relief.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Break (SotCISoaJ)

Looking for work is exhausting and the job, after you find it, is the same. One of the bits of brilliant sayings that runs through my family is that looking for a job is a full-time job. With all that work looking for work, you need a break to relax, calm down and think of something else.

For some reason relaxing for me usually involves food. At least that’s why I found myself walking into Urbana’s Courier Cafe for lunch. To me, a meal is not just what I’m eating. It’s the environment I find myself in, the person who cooked the food. It’s the whole experience of eating that I enjoy; the taste, the smell, the look.

This is what I was hoping I would enjoy when I walked into the restaurant and picked up the paper. I ordered a coffee and an chocolate egg cream. Luxury, to me, is having multiple drinks with my meal. I enjoyed reading through my paper and eating my burger.

Honestly, the burger was good, but not the greatest I’ve ever had and the egg cream embarrassed me with its extravagances, but break made me very happy. There is an old time feeling to the place that slows time. The wallpaper, the wooden tables, the menus, all feel like they exist outside of time.

After lunch, I sipped my coffee and finished reading an article about a candidate running for the Mayor of Chicago. I sat quietly enjoying being in the present for a moment. When I left, I would be back in the real world of worry, but for a moment I could be content with calm.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Drilling Threw (SotCISoaJ)

Perhaps I have lofty goals, I usually do. I am not content with being passable with any project I take up. Instead I need to be the best I can, in the best places. Sometimes this leads to lack of sleep, my eyes blurry and my head foggy with exhaustion. And sometimes it leads to a lost project or two. I figure if I don’t want to throw my whole self into a project, it might not be worth doing. This is how I see my job search. I have a goal in mind, a specific place to end up, but I have no plan on how to get there. I run head first into the world and whenever I hit something too hard, I rout around.

I feel like I’m drilling through the earth. Sometimes it’s easy going, I hit a pocket of sand or an aquifer. But sometimes it’s impossible, the rock is impassable, and I have to regroup and move around. It’s hard work, but I don’t know any other way to get through life.

That being said, this is my bullheaded way to live. Everyone is different and everyone works through things differently. Some need more planning, some need less. It is important to review yourself and learn how you work, especially when looking for a job.

My ultimate job goal is still not fully realized, but it is on a break. I ran into a wall of rock called having no money. To rout around, I picked up a job at a cafe. It gives me money and time to write other projects. I also enjoy the people I work with. But, it is at the same place I worked before I moved to Chicago for school. It feels a bit like I’m regressing back to my younger self. This is another rock to hard for my drill bit. When I get through it, I’ll let you know.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Faith (Sense of the City: In Search of a Job)

I'll admit it, my column has become a bit self-referential and depressing at times. I've been so wrapped up in my own troubles that I stopped observing the community around me. I started focusing on my own problems and eventually became blinded to anything else. It happens to everyone, the only cure--a little perspective.

My perspective came in the form of a long email a woman sent to me after a particularly selfish column. She asked me not to share her name because she is a privet person. So I will call her Elaine.

"It is Sunday morning and I just read your article and my heart goes out to you, for it is hard times for a lot of people," Elaine said in her email.

She went on to tell me to stay positive and that I will get through these difficulties in life. Her concern touched me, especially when I read on.

"I wish I could work. I am in a fight . . . I battle cancer," she said.

In early 2009 Elaine had knee surgery. Afterward she felt sick. Nothing came up on any tests, so doctors misdiagnosed her illness. It wasn't until November doctors found the Melanoma. She had part of her leg removed and is now fighting the after effects. Elaine is 45.

Her physical energy is low. Sometimes she can't even get out of her chair.

"My good days, I can get up for 15-20 mints and clean the house," Elaine said.

At the time of her knee surgery, Elaine worked as a administrative assistant with a nursing background. She loved her job and worked through the pain and the sickness.

"I went to work throwing up. If I threw up--I threw up," she said.

Eventually her job let her go. Elaine was out an income provided by her job. But most impertinently she was out of what she loved to do.

Before leaving, she set up programs to help her co-workers.

"When I left I was like: 'Man, I hope those programs still go through'," Elaine said.

Her lack on income is affecting her life as well. Elaine was on unemployment, but that has run out. She is now fighting through the paperwork for long-term disability to help pay for her mounting doctor bills.

The other day, I called Elaine to see how she was doing. She was laughing and up-beat. I asked her how she could stay so happy.

"Faith, that's the only thing that's pulling me through . . . with out it I'd have been dead already," she answered.

She went on to say: "My mom--she's my pillar of strength."

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Success Story (Sense of the City: In Search of a Job)

We, as people, tend to get stuck in our ways. We think of ideas and eventually start to believe that's all there is. At least this happens to me. Sometimes people find their way out of the tunnel and see the other avenues available.

After I posted my column online, which I do at, a friend posted her story, which I am ashamed to say I didn't know. She spent two years looking for a full time job.

"I thought that's what I was supposed to do in order to become an 'adult'," she wrote in her comment.

She realized she was starting to make money doing several different things she loves, including singing. And perhaps she didn't need a full-time job to support herself. She started looking for a part time job and found one amazingly quick.

"I've been here almost a month at a place that I love, that is exactly where I'm supposed to be . . . It's the most amazing experience I've ever had working," she said.

She took something that we all take for granted as wholly true and did the opposite and found something that worked. It's a scary thought, to go against the grain in such a way, but it worked for her.

My friend found her own path to support herself. Her way may not be able to work for everyone, and probably wont, but it worked for her. Perhaps we don't need to have the traditionally sought after jobs. Perhaps our jobs could be more like our clothes, tailored to our lives.

"Open your mind to other possibilities that might not have occurred to you," she said.