Erikina's Blog

Archive for the category “Works in English”

Vignette Three: Andy’s Jazz Club and the EL

Mr. Shepard mentioned in one of his classes that the best place to buy Jazz records in Chicago was at the world renowned Jazz Record Mart, located downtown, so, one day, I decided to pay the Mart a visit.  While wandering around the store, as I sifted through the Pat Metheny vinyl, I overheard the owner having a conversation with a regular customer about how Paul Wertico, a drummer of in a band that I had always followed was performing just around the corner, at the touristy Andy’s Jazz Club on Hubbard St.

“Yeah man, you should check him out; he is only in town for this season. He will play this week at Andy’s Jazz Club. After that, he goes on tour for the rest of the year.” The owner said to the client.

It was right after lunch, on a weekday and I was a bit thirsty so I thought I’d stop by the club and get something to drink, since one of my favorite drummers was going to be there.  From outside, the bright red and blue neon lights read “Chicago Jazz,” and a sudden pulling sensation made me think of what it would be like to work in a place like this, surrounded by live music.  I decided; why not ask for a job application?

Once inside, I found the place empty and an old guy was tuning his acoustic bass on the tiny stage.  The orange neon lights of the Wall of Fame decorating the whole bar were almost the only source of light in the entire space, with the exception of the big window that faced Hubbard Street.

I sat by the bar, where a bartender served an old lady who was smoking and sipping a coffee.  The smoke and the steam from her coffee blended together, distorting her face.

“Hi Maam.  Are they currently hiring personnel here?” I asked shyly.

“Yes.  Let me getch ya a job application.” She said while chewing gum.

The old guy tuning the bass was in his own little world, humming a tune first, and then starting to play the now well-tuned bass.  He lit a cigarette that smelled of cloves mixed with vanilla, almost like incense, as he played some bluesy tune while retaining the cigarette with his lips.  A cloud of smoke covered him as his eyes shrunk.

The bartender handed me the application and I filled it out as my naked arms resting against the bar, felt sticky with grease from the dirty countertop.  I handed the application back to the bartender as I gave the best of my smiles before leaving the place.  She smiled back at me.

“They’re hiring Darlin’.  Come back soon.” She said and wished me good luck.

As I walked out, the speakers from outside played:

“Fly me to the moon

let me play among the stars

let me see what spring is like

on a-Jupiter and Mars…”

I looked up at the gray skyscrapers that arbitrarily cut the blue sky; a feeling of belonging to the landscape came over me.  As I descended the steps for the subway at Grand Avenue, my eyes read the headlines of a New York Times left abandoned on a bench: “The events that triggered Argentina’s crisis: Unemployment hits 18.3% in October, the highest since mid-1998, and unions call a general strike.” I felt pride seeing my country on the front page of such a prestigious paper.  However, that pride quickly turned to sadness. I knew that I was not going back to Argentina. I was stuck in Chicago for a while.

The lights coming out of the dark tunnel of the subway blinded me and the sound of sharpening knifes from the wheels against the tracks distracted my reading, sending the newspaper flying into the air with its speed. When the doors opened, I jumped on the train humming to myself the melody of that bluesy tune the old man at Andy’s had played. I fell asleep.

Vignette Two: Mr. Shepard, the ESL Instructor

Mr. Shepard was one of the first Americans I had a chance to interact with, since the rest of my classmates were from places outside of the U.S. He was the only American in the class. Because of this, he quickly became my model to follow, so that I could learn English. Shepard was a tiny fellow that wore flip-flops all the time, even during the cold winter. His crooked toes were purple and dry and he wore shorts when it was really cold, something that I still can’t understand. I wish I could see him now, to ask him why he did these things. I would have asked before but my English was not advanced enough to formulate such a question.

Mr. Shepard was the first person to take me on a tour of Chicago, along with the rest of the class. That was when I realized how big a city Chicago is, and all the secrets it has, its subversive history from the meat packing industries back in the days to the architecture, and the many waves of immigrants. He also took us to the Berghoff Café, a German restaurant that is known for being the first place to obtain its liquor license, right after the Prohibition Era. Since then, this place has been serving cold mugs of delicious Berghoff beer.

Throughout the year, Mr. Shepard introduced us to Chicago’s rich offerings, like when we visited the Chicago Cultural Center and he explained the different activities they offer there for free. He always promised to organize more tours around the city visiting the different neighborhoods, but when the end of the school year was upon us, instead, he decided to do a picnic for the last week of class. Since I didn’t own a car, I rode my bike from Granville and Sheridan to Foster Beach.

That day, Foster Beach was more picturesque than ever, as the Mexicans in my class grilled carnitas and passed the tamales around. An Arab lady brought some baklava, my Polish classmates brought some sausages and I brought my famous Argentinean empanadas with chimichurri. Mr. Shepard brought a cooler full of Budweiser’s and Miller Light cans along with the grill. He was so happy; he could not stop saying how much he loved the different dishes.

After most of the class had left, I ended up hanging out with the Mexican classmates. We walked along the lake and stopped at some point along the shore to witness a baptism taking place in the lake! I looked around; hoping to find someone to explain to me what was going on when my eyes fell upon a Latina woman in a white robe.

“¿Qué es esto?” I asked, “What are you all doing here?” I asked the lady in Spanish.

She turned towards me, tears streaming down her cheeks. “El Señor es tu salvación,” she uttered and gave me a tiny New Testament bible. Then she babbled something that I could not really understand with her thick and colorful Colombian accent. She sang and sang as she fell in line with the group of people from the church. They submerged their feet in the Lake Michigan water as they gathered in a circle there, wading deeper into the water and offering their loyalty to God.

The ceremony was accompanied by the metal jingling sounds of tambourines, chanting in Spanish, and lively clapping, as the people seemed to faint, trying to drown themselves with God. I looked at them, slowly glancing up at the Chicago skyline, its blurry horizon of skyscrapers far away, in the distance. I didn’t really know what this was all about, it seemed very bizarre, it seemed like there was life, it seemed like I was in Latin America again.

The last time I ran into Mr. Shepard, I told him that I was dating a Chicagoan, who lived in Beverly and was of Irish descent, to which he replied: “So he must be the son of a policeman and he might play in a Chicago Irish bag pipe band.” And he was right about it, because the Chicagoan I was dating had all these qualities. When I heard these words coming out of his mouth I realized that he was not only the first American I met in the U.S., but he was also the first true Chicagoan I had ever met.

Vignette One: ESL classes and feeling like a dog

My first neighborhood in Chicago was Lincoln Square, in a basement on Eastwood St. where I would often hit my head with the pipes that hanged from the roof and smell the paint thinner that fulfilled my nostrils and caused my head throb, even more each time I bumped my head with the pipes. To escape this feeling of claustrophobia, I would find ways to spend the day outside that basement. The perfect excuse was to enroll myself in ESL classes. And that is how I adopted Truman College as my second home. Most of my mornings would be spent there.
I remember clearly when I attended my first English class ever. I just felt like a dog that could hear what the professor was saying in English but not understand a word that he was saying. The only alternative I had was to make expressions with my face by raising my eyebrows and staring at the pages that he would hand out in order to avoid eye contact with him. I was terrified to participate or even to omit any kind of sound that he wanted us to repeat in class.
Truman College is where I learned that I wasn’t the only person going through this experience known as the syndrome of “being an immigrant.” My classmates were from many other countries such as Mexico, Poland, Vietnam, Algeria, and many other ones. It almost felt like I was in a UN meeting. I had classmates that where monks from the Buddhist Temple and would come to class in orange robes and their shaved heads. Others were Muslim. They would show up to class with their headscarf in the middle of the humid hot summer. I had a Polish classmate that would fall asleep most of the time during class. Embarrassed, after taking the nap, he would excuse himself by explaining to me the many long hours he had worked that week. I also had a Mexican classmate, who would bring tamales with hot sauce to class. That was one of the first times in my life I bit a jalapeño and burnt my tongue.

Becoming a ‘Stylish’ Writer Attractive prose will not make you appear any less smart

Becoming a ‘Stylish’ Writer Attractive prose will not make you appear any less smart

Writing frumpy, lumpy prose is the equivalent of showing up on a first date with unwashed hair and dirty clothes, and then talking about yourself in a way that leaves the other person looking at her watch and remembering she has to do laundry.

Emma Jean to Sula


Emma Jean

ran away
left her kittens
while she looked up
at the sky
rays of whiskers
inner freedom


To Like

I like you
like you
like your
leather jacket

and your key lime pie
in the summer love

You like me
like I
like my
Swedish clogs

and my frog legs
sautéed in teriyaki sauce

Barnyard Wedding

Barnyard Wedding


Is there life after head banging? At an eccentric wedding on an Indiana farm, old rockers, not-so-young punks, and more than a few Billy Goats gather to celebrate a young couple’s union. The narrator’s chance encounter with an old crush has her wondering how much change is possible from one decade of our lives to the next. The story’s answer is as sudden as it is unexpected, revealing this talented, up-and coming author’s gift for capturing the quirky ambiguity of contemporary love. Originally from Buenos Aires, Erika Buchancow lives in Chicago, where she is pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University and, in her free time, writes a blog on the arts and the artistic life.

Sheep in a Pen: On Being “Illegal” in the Global Economy

Please, take a moment to check out an essay I wrote which has been published by TheWriteDeal.  I want to thank editor Kyra Ryan for her advices and editing skills.

“Erika Buchanchow was born in Buenos Aires, where she engaged with student protests and the arts, and in a love affair with the city’s Bohemian spirit. In 2000, she moved to Chicago, where she found a lively community that supported her creative urges. Buchancow writes music and book reviews in Spanish and English and has recently launched her own blog, where she freely explores her insecurities, apathies, and uncompromising ideas. She has a Bachelor’s in English Writing and Political Science from Northwestern University and is currently pursuing a Master’s there in Public Policy and Administration. Her story “Barnyard Wedding” will be coming out on TheWriteDeal in February.” –  THE WRITE DEAL

Get this e-book free!

Get this e-book free!

Each month, the University of Chicago Press gives away a free e-book.  Please check the link above if you would like to acquire the current e-book.


waved from afar
like a figure of wax
in an altar
smiled, smirked and winked
all at once
as the flap of the velvet dress
traps the moist of the air
laughs, bubbles and blahs
that go nowhere

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