Tag Archives: Callie Lipkin Photography


Last weekend Trevor and I took a trip to Indianapolis. The trip was T.’s belated birthday gift because our primary destination was the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, but we made it a weekend full of wandering, cocktails, and small-dose luxury.

We started out Saturday morning with breakfast at Milktooth, a hipster heaven that had been recommended by T.’s coworker Leah. I had an a-maAAAaaaazing duck-egg grilled cheese (oh, you know, just a Gruy√®re grilled cheese on cranberry bread topped with a fried duck egg and drizzled with black truffle honey [OH MY GOD]). Trevor had something that was equally wonderful but I can’t remember what because all I remember is my grilled cheese sandwich. It. was. so. good. No pictures were taken during our meal because, well, because I had to immediately start eating my food. Because, cheese.

But while we waited for our table, T. made our first Vonnegut sighting and got a picture.

Vonnegut saying 'hi' while we wait for breakfast.

Vonnegut saying ‘hi’ while we wait for breakfast.

Vonnegut Sighting

After we ate, we headed to the KVML, but it wasn’t yet open because I’d been looking at their weekday operating hours, and it was Saturday. We had about twenty minutes to kill, so we wandered to the Indiana State Capitol just a few blocks away.

Instead of joining a tour, we just meandered up and down the floors and through the hallways, reading plaques and enjoying the loveliness and quiet of a 128 year-old bureaucratic building on a Saturday morning.

Indiana State Capital Atrium

Indianapolis Capitol Dome

Indiana AnimalsBut the best part of visiting the Capitol came as we were leaving. Since it was a Saturday, visitors had to come in through a side entrance on the lower level and take an elevator up to the main floor. The lower level — the basement — was dark and had a lot of hallways and ramps that just begged to be explored. Since the only security was in a hallway by the entrance, T. and I decided to peek around to see what we could see.

And we saw where the Indiana State Representatives and Senators wash their dirty laundry.

Capitol Basement 1

Yeah, we were really not supposed to be down there.

We saw where the Indiana Congress probably keeps any misbehaving guests.

They're behind this padlocked door.

They’re behind this padlocked door.

We saw where the Senate Committee 130 meets. They’re clearly the least-liked of all the committees in the history of the state of Indiana.

This is an unfortunate meeting room.

This is an unfortunate meeting room.

And we saw that some of the people working in basement offices have a fun sense of humor.

The Propaganda Machine

We finished wandering and headed to the library, which was open and waiting for us.

A replica of his home writing area.

A replica of his home writing area.

The space is small but well curated, with artifacts from Vonnegut’s military career and his writing and reading life, his original artwork, and artwork inspired by his work and about his life. The docent on duty was great to talk to and gave me a lot of extra information about Vonnegut’s academic career. Although Vonnegut had done undergraduate work at a number of institutions, he never got a bachelor’s degree; and he only got his master’s degree (from UC, where he’d studied for his master’s in anthropology but never got his thesis finished or approved) after he was told by the University of Iowa, where he’d been teaching in its Writers’ Workshop, that he kind of, sort of needed to have a degree to teach graduate classes. Oh, bother.

Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

After we exhausted the library, we headed back to our hotel to rest up before we got to formally relax with a massage at the hotel spa. This is a luxury we’ve enjoyed three times now — first for our anniversary and then as part of a Christmas present from Greg and Paula a few year ago — and it’s so much fun. We felt very fancy, drinking strawberry water and taking “aromatherapy journeys,” and we took zero pictures.

Saturday night we had dinner and drinks in the Fountain Square neighborhood. Highlights included cocktails at a Vonnegut inspired place called Bluebeard and an accidental run-in with the Virginia Avenue Folk Fest. It was a chilly night, so we didn’t hang out too long for many of the bands, but on every block there was some group playing something toe-tapping. One in particular, The Hammer & The Hatchet, who were playing outside of a little shop called American Beauty, were especially great. We came upon them when they were playing their last few songs, and we enjoyed each one. It reminded me of when T. and I were on our honeymoon in Spain, and, while wandering the streets our first night in Barcelona, we came upon a sort-of Spanish polka band playing in a square outside of a cathedral. There was a group of people surrounding them and everyone was dancing and laughing and having a wonderful time. So now I love The Hammer & The Hatchet because they made me happily nostalgic.

And that was our trip to Indianapolis!

But taking the trip and planning this blog post reminded me that I’d never written about our trip to Los Angeles in February, so you’re going to read about that, too. Ha, suckers!

The L.A. trip was piggy-backed onto a trip T. was taking for work. He’d been out there with Callie and Leah for the week to work on the Dad Time project, and when my last class ended Thursday afternoon, I headed to California to join him for the weekend.

Clearly, because we are who we are, books were a part of this vacation, and we went to the art book fair at the Geffen Museum of Contemporary Art. We spent a number of hours wandering around, and both of us found great stuff for our bookshelves.

T at Art Fair

Yes, that’s a slap-bracelet displayed on a potato in the foreground.

Art Fair


We also took an opportunity to visit some friends who live in L.A. Our first night we met up with a former student of mine named Arabella, who is working as a writer and having a lot of success. I am the most proud of her that I possibly can be. Even if she was just living in L.A. and working as a cat-sitter and trying to make it, I would be proud; but she’s, like, doing it. She was in the first creative writing class I ever taught at MCC, and she was my editor for the literary magazine for two years. She’s talented, smart, and, basically, the bee’s knees.

I didn’t take a picture of us in L.A., but here she is in my end-of-year class photo from 2009:

Creative Writing, McHenry County College, 2009

Creative Writing, McHenry County College, 2009

Our second night we hung for a bit out with my friend Tim (who I know from my days at Chicago Shakespeare Theater) and his wife Annie. We hadn’t seen them since our wedding in 2007; they moved out to L.A. the following year to see if Tim could be successful in Hollywood. And, well, he pretty much is. Annie teaches theater at a high school for the arts, and they have two cool little kids, who we got to meet for the first time. It was nice to catch up.

We also did our fair share of wandering, and the best place we found to people (and animal) watch was Venice Beach. We saw some birds.

Birds of Venice Beach

Birds of Venice Beach

Bird man.

Bird man.

We saw some surfers.

And we saw some skaters. They were hypnotizing and I could have watched them for hours and hours and hours and been very happy, listening to the sound of their wheels rolling back and forth on the concrete.

We saw some yard art and walked along the canals, and loved it all, even though our feet were tired.

Venice Beach LegsT on Canal

And our last night, while we made our way through other neighborhoods, we came upon the Hollywood headquarters of the Church of Scientology…

Church of Scientology

We were in a car so we couldn’t stop to creep around it.

…and the Echo Park Time Travel Mart.

Echo Park Time Travel Mart

Unfortunately, we found it after business hours. We will need to come back to Echo Park again soon.

Los Angeles is pretty weird and pretty wonderful.

So those were our trips! We have other news from Camp Crystal Lake that I’ll report out in other posts over the coming weeks, and I’ll be running another online writing group this summer, so you’ll be reading a lot about that. Prepare yourselves!

Trevor’s Adventures in Florida

For the past nine and a half days, Trevor was in Florida for work. While he was there for a shoot, he and the crew, led by the fearless Callie Lipkin and joined by the smart and feisty assistant Leah Fithian, worked twelve to fifteen hour days. The sun was hot and the culture was definitely Floridian. I have tried to piece together his harrowing true story from the pictures he sent me each day.

The crew for the photo shoot set up camp at a farm southwest of Sanford, Florida, where they would be shooting at various locations. All seemed relatively normal: the house they’d rented was fine; there was a pool; the owner’s fiance, Jude, had a mohawked poodle. The owner, Tracy, asked them to be careful of the horses, and told them that there might be a caretaker coming onto the farm to groom and feed the animals. Fair enough.

But they set out early the first morning only to find that nature didn’t seem to want them to leave the farm.

Natural Roadblock

Something sinister was afoot. But what?

They managed to get around the roadblock and set out to the first location: the critical flesh injury ward of Sanford General Hospital. They were there to document the effects of a mysterious caterpillar that had been found in the area. The caterpillars’ origin was unknown, but the effects of their bites were deadly and devastating. With one small bite, a caterpillar could stun an adult human into full-body paralysis. The paralysis might last for up to eighteen hours, during which time the caterpillar feasted on the human’s flesh until very little was left. Trevor was, understandably, nervous.

The Sanford General Hospital Critical Flesh Injury Ward

The Sanford General Hospital Critical Flesh Injury Ward

They documented a number of patients who had been attacked by these caterpillars. Though the faces remained relatively in tact, they each had a distinctly artificial, almost plastic pallor that was caused by the caterpillar’s venom.

Medical Dummy Woman

A young victim, Shirley, whose body was decimated by the flesh-eating caterpillars, lays unconscious

Bob, another victim of the caterpillars, was able to give Trevor his first-hand account of the horrifying attack.

Bob, another victim of the caterpillars, was able to give Trevor his first-hand account of the horrifying attack

Trevor and the crew got the shots they needed, and said goodbye to the victims, doctors, and nurses who they’d grown so close to that day. They wished them well and headed back out into the Florida heat, keeping their eyes constantly peeled for caterpillars.

Back at the farm, Trevor did some investigation into the mysterious larvae. Where did they come from, really? What did they want? Was it just the delicious taste of human flesh that motivated them, or did they yearn for something else, something bigger? What would they transform into once they’d spun their creepy little cocoons?

Trevor ponders the questions: How can we communicate with them? How can we harvest their tiny brains for science?

Trevor ponders the questions: How can we communicate with them? How can we harvest their tiny brains for science?

Without many answers and with even fewer hours of sleep, Trevor and the crew left the next morning to continue documenting the devastating impact of these tiny, furry monsters. The crew, a rag-tag bunch of heroes from all over the country, was spirited yet alert to the dangers of the caterpillars and to their own importance in the fight for the survival of the human race.

Three of the caterpillar fighters, getting reading for battle

Three of the optimistic caterpillar fighters, getting reading for battle

They decided that the zoo would be a logical place to look for the caterpillars. Wouldn’t the creatures want to be among their own slithery and furry kind? Very likely, yes. And the caterpillar hunters were not disappointed. No sooner had they stepped foot into the Central Sanford Zoo did they run into the fiercest fighter in this battle: Ara.

Ara, whose name was inspired by the Greek Gods’ defeat of the Titans, was, true to her name, a warrior. She soared the skies high above central Florida in search of the treacherous caterpillars, and picked them up one by one to bring them back to a giant terrarium housed in the center of the zoo. This terrarium, surrounded twenty-four hours a day by the nation’s leading biologists, entomologists, and cryptozoologists, was under top-secret clearance. Trevor wasn’t allowed near it, but he was able to get a shot of Ara, her handler, and some of the children who were listening to Ara’s tales of battle against the caterpillar hoard.

Janet, Ara's most trusted companion, listens along with the small Floridian children to Ara's tales of battle

Janay, Ara’s most trusted companion, listens along with the small Floridian children to Ara’s tales of battle

That evening, back on the farm, Trevor, Callie, and Leah talked quietly around the dining room table. Did they have it in them to continue? They hadn’t laid eyes on the caterpillar itself, but they had witnessed so much of the destruction the larvae left in their wake. They’d heard the tales of death and woe. Would they be next?

They needed to get out of the house and clear their heads, so they went for a walk on the grounds. They passed by the field…the field where the horses Tracy had mentioned were supposed to be grazing. But there were no horses. Curious, the trio walked to the stables, hoping to see the horses there. But the stables were empty. Where were the horses?

Up to now, the caterpillars had feasted only on human flesh — but were they getting hungry for other species? This was too much for the trio to handle, so they rushed back to the house and closed the door against the night. But there, in the middle of the living room carpet, were Jude and his mohawked Poodle, both being slowly nibbled away at by…a caterpillar! Oh NO!

They ran, grabbing what they could and taking their rental R.V. into the night. As they drove, caterpillars seemed to be falling from the sky all round them, littering the roads with their two inch-long wiggly bodies. Trevor was terrified, but brave. He knew that he needed to capture at least one image of the wicked creature, if only for science:

Caterpillar in Florida

Trevor bravely takes a picture of this evil little fellow when the R.V. stops to gas up at a covered rest area

They drove the R.V. all night and all the next day — all the way back to Chicago. And now, they are safe. Safe from the flesh-eating caterpillars. At least…for now.

Trevor Has a New Job

Trevor has a new job! Yahoo!

He’s the new studio manager and producer at Callie Lipkin Photography, a one-woman studio on the north side of Chicago. He’ll manage the day-to-day operations of the studio, organize locations, stylists, and talent for photo shoots, handle files and invoices, and get hands-on with a bit of assisting. It’s the perfect job for him, and we’re so happy.

The only issue is that there’s a taqueria near the studio and he’s able to get delicious fish tacos, burritos, and tortas whenever he wants to. So, I’m really jealous of this.

Otherwise, it’s perfect.

Callie got Trevor to smile in a picture! She's my hero.

Callie got Trevor to smile in a picture! She’s my hero.