After I was invited to attend the JEA/NSPA National conference, my mother and I flew into O’Hare International Airport on November 1st. Once we landed and collected our bags, we joined Mrs. Harmon, my sophomore year journalism teacher, and took the train into downtown Chicago. After walking around, we checked into the hotel and I prepared for the first meeting of the conference. I was given the opportunity to listen to Pete Souza’s keynote speech and was able to meet him. I was able to ask him questions about his photography and he signed my copy of Shade. While standing in line, I met a couple sweet girls from Highlands Ranch, Colorado who later introduced me to the rest of their class from Mountain Vista High School.
I woke up bright and early the following morning. My first session started at 9:00am. The girls from Colorado invited me to lunch with them and their friends.We went to an underground burger joint called Billy Goat Tavern. I was really impressed by the food considering the location. The girls and I skipped the afternoon sessions to lay around and talk in their hotel room. Later in the afternoon, mom and I went to Cloud Gate, but she was not a fan of my “flick the bean” joke. We explored the city late into the night. We started with delicious pizza from Giordano’s. The 35 minute wait was so worth it. I’ve never had pizza like this, and I am afraid nothing will ever compare to the stuffed goodness of this restaurant. After dinner we looked at city lights, got some ice cream, then did some shopping.This was my first time inside of a Forever 21 that had three full levels.
On the final day, I woke up very late and missed my first two sessions, but was still able to meet some amazing photographers during my afternoon session of sports photography. Unfortunately, I missed most of the daylight by sleeping. By the time I got ready, it was time for mom and Harmon to go bar hopping. I was invited by their advisor, Mr. Newt, to go with the rest of the Colorado gang to the pier. The first thing we did when we split up was head to the ferris wheel line. I’m still blown away by how I actually spent $18 for a ten minute ride. The views were gorgeous although I wasn’t a fan of the guy who kept blowing Juul clouds inside of the box, leaving the other seven of us trapped by the Virginia tobacco stench. After this, we made our way to a mexican restaurant for dinner. On the walk back to the hotel, I talked to one boy in particular a little more than the rest. I ended up hanging out with him until one in the morning, when Mr. Newt walked in and made things very awkward. Needless to say, I’m still very, very terrified of his advisor.
The next morning, mom and I did some last minute touristy things. We went to a museum and looked at local gift shops. We mostly window shopped until we found a delicious donut shop (Stan’s Donuts will always have a piece of my heart). We were lucky to make our flight on time after rushing through security and having to argue with them until they eventually took my toothpaste.