Ken Zinser

On home


Sometimes a thing speaks to you, it calls out, and you’re in a perfect state of mind to receive them. For me, this short documentary of an artist’s work in the Southside neighborhood of Chicago is one of those things. Here are a few excerpts and some deeper reflection.

When you walk past an abandoned building, it’s hard not to feel heavy. It reminds you of a kind of failure of a place.

You gotta be proximate to the problem, to the need, to change it.

It’s not about trees. It’s not about abandoned buildings. It’s, do we have the ability, the drive, the faith to make Chicago home?

Buildings can come and go, but what has been built up over a lifetime never disappears.

I watched it on my way back from a trip to Cincinnati. The images of Chicago remind me of what I saw in Price Hill, on this trip and also over years of visiting.

Makes me think: What could I make? What could I do in my neighborhood? But also, what are the inherent obstacles to doing place-based work in a neighborhood you’ve only recently called home? (This last point is certainly worth further investigation.)

All of it encourages me to change my frame of thinking, to expand the timeline, better understand what I want to do and what I want to be doing ten years from now. Maybe I should put more intention behind my personal goals, build a personal strategic plan of sorts.

I want to avoid the ‘shiny object’ trap, get away from the feeling I get thinking big. You can’t think your way to a life of happiness and fulfillment. So what does endurance look like?

(Separately, what’s the etymology of the word ‘town’?)

Philadelphia, Birmingham. DC, Seattle. Cincinnati.

My connection to the idea of place, there’s something there. Some inherent fascination I’m drawn to, like a magic ring drawn to its maker (as a fantastical example). I need to pull the thread and wave away the fog to see it more clearly and give it words.