This is where we used to live

Monk and I get off the Red Line at the Addison stop into a wall of cheering from the baseball fans that have taken over Wrigley Field for the afternoon. Turning our backs to America’s favorite pastime (just like old times) we walk up Halsted Street towards our (once) neighborhood. I struggle to swallow the fifth refrain of “I’m homesick," partly because Monk probably doesn’t want to hear it again, partly because calling it homesick doesn’t quite cover it. Up Halsted Street with rainbows flapping on the lamp posts, past the old thrift store, pausing to smile at our old video rental haunt- the only place I’ve known to be so dog-friendly they toss Milkbones at your pup as you try to steer her towards the new releases.

We near our block and realize that it must have been up-and-coming when we lived there, if the new restaurants and condo building are any indication. Down the street, slowly, savoring the amble towards what used to be our front door. One of the neighbors is out in front, and eyes us curiously as we approach. He’s lived next door to the place for probably a decade now, watched numerous tenants come and go as new leases were signed and the octogenarian landlords sold and moved out; I’m certain he can’t place us, but we sure do look familiar.

We’ll meet up with old friends in the evening, stay the night just off of Michigan Avenue, then wander The Taste with my father and brother. The day will go down in history as the only time I’ve participated in the town’s feeding/spending frenzy without overindulging and giving myself a days-long stomach ache. We’ll explore the new park and take pictures of new monuments, all the while looking for our homecoming parade around every corner.

Chicago is playing Ferris Bueller, cutting class and driving into the city to run around with friends, sneaking around the Loop afraid my dad will leave his building for lunch (see me, then kill me).

It’s The Palmer House for senior prom, a drunken boat ride later, a kiss that started something perfect, effortless, meaningless, confusing and ultimately damaging.

It’s having a direct connection to get VIP access to the Shedd Aquarium & Oceanarium, and always passing on a visit to the Planetarium because gawd, only geeks are into stars and shit.

Chicago is walking around during college winter break with a friend from England, laughing hysterically as she complains about the “snot-freezing cold.”

It's going 90 (in a 55) on Lake Shore Drive ten minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve, because your lead-footed friend is frantic at the thought of not being able to find a party in time for the countdown.

Chicago is moving into an apartment in the dead of winter and spending the first few months living on Budweiser and Hamburger Helper, wondering if we’ll ever be able to afford a life here. It’s discovering that part of Real Life is how impossible it seems to be to make friends outside of college, and staying at a job I hate which pays pretty well, and taking my discontent out on the only friend I do have in the city. Who happens to be living with me and loving me despite my Old Hag impression.

Chicago is drinking vodka tonics and talking about books with Ruth, one of our 80 year old landlords living above us. It’s a telephone conversation on the back porch, choppy from pausing every 5 minutes for the train to roar over my head. It’s looking down off that same porch in the dead of winter and seeing that Joe (the other 80 year old landlord) has drawn a big heart in the snow and scrawled “J O E + R U T H” in the center. Then looking to the right and noticing he’s scratched out a similar piece of art for Monk and me.

Chicago is running up the steps to the El platform, only to miss the train and be stung by the February wind chill as the next one fails to turn up quickly.

It’s walking down Clark Street to a bar with a fantastic courtyard that is never full, and admiring the very pregnant bartender for her…dedication?

Chicago is catching a cab when you’re in a hurry, walking when you’re not, and taking the subway when you have to. It’s Thai food and creative cocktails, a local grocery, liquor store and coffee shop all around the corner, and the best pizza in the country. It’s friends moving in as we're moving out (or maybe that’s just what they call irony). Chicago is the dramatic demolition and reconstruction of a relationship. It’s growing up, being let down, realizing that life’s a bitch and that sometimes that’s funny. Chicago is not appreciating what we have until we’ve walked away from it, learning when to fight and how to do it fairly.

Chicago is love, boredom, misery. It’s reunions, grand conversation, insecurity, public intoxication and private depression. Chicago is loneliness, creativity, pride, filth, goddamn fucking cold winters, and a dog beach in the summer. Chicago, still, is home.

To say I’m homesick doesn’t quite cover it.

3 comment:

Anonymous Huzz said...

that was perfect.

6:30 AM  
Anonymous skyhawk said...

Wow... great recap... and it really shows how strongly you feel about "home."

11:12 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I love Chicago. I think mah hubby and I need to get our butts back over there soon. Miss it.

8:11 PM  

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