As I’ve learned over the years, absurdity is oftentimes at the core of creativity. I am reminded of this every time I take a trip home to visit my family. My father is the premiere example of someone who finds happiness in the wacky. One of the things that excites him the most is the mold-a-rama machine that dutifully churns out colorful plastic toys at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. But I’ll get back to that. After visiting home, I’m filled with a creative rush of energy because my parents’ personalities are full of inventive and playful momentum. I want to channel and share that energy with you and pinpoint how to recreate it again and again. Along with a few highlights from my sugary outings, I’ll try to touch on a few tricks that I’ve gleaned.
- I recently failed a self-imposed challenge at the restaurant Black Tap. In other words, I tried to drink one of their mammoth shakes and failed miserably. I was only able to plow through the cotton candy and the ice cream before accepting defeat. I should have brought a little bag to haul home all of the shake’s other trappings, which included a lollipop the size of my face and crystal rock candy. I’m not sure if I’ll want to accept the challenge again anytime soon… even glancing at my picture makes me feel too-much-of-a-good-thing queasy.
- Cha Cha Matcha was described to me by a friend as being on the garish side of kitschy and a bit too trendy to tolerate. I visited and was hammered by a pink and green color scheme that the cafe sticks to down to the last paper cup. Sitting at Cha Cha Matcha was a surreal, festive experience. It felt like I was sipping my drink on the set of a Wes Anderson movie. The tea shop was inspired by the green tea of Uji, Japan. Uji is located right outside of Kyoto; it is famous for its tea and all of its corresponding tea-flavored products. At Cha Cha, order the matcha latte sweetened with agave, and you won’t go wrong.
- Shifting to my recent visit to Chicago, I was able to resume my obsession with Chicago’s eye-popping street art. Nothing jolts you out of the gloom of a November day like fluorescent yellow-on-red paint. This bold study in zigzaginess is located on a garage door in Logan Square, almost directly under the train tracks. It’s very close to the postcard-themed Chicago mural that borders a parking lot strewn with broken glass. Check out Jennifer Lake’s blog for a full listing of Chicago wall paintings and where to find them. I’m inspired to hunt for a new one each time I visit.
- Most of you have seen the ’60s era mold-a-rama machines next to the penny-presses at museums, zoos, and other tourist destinations that are swarming with kids. My father is delighted by the process of these jukebox-sized contraptions. Colorful hot wax is poured into a mold to make fun souvenir toys right before your very eyes, all in a matter of minutes. My dad loves their crayon-smell and in the blustery cold zoo, he raved about their fresh-from-the-press warmth. He encouraged each family member to get one to serve the dual purpose of a hand warmer and memento. I’m drawn to the bold colors of these toys and my father’s infectious enthusiasm for them.
Wrapping up, here are some takeaways for fostering and maintaining more creative spark in every aspect of your life:
- Identify the things that make you happiest and pursue them with vigor. Whether it’s paying two dollars for twenty cents worth of colorful plastic at the zoo or finding fresh bursts of passerby-color in your city, embrace your fancies, old and new, as you would a mewling kitten.
- Immerse yourself in as many situations as possible where you can see, taste, and experience new things. Obviously, I’m most drawn to the tasting!