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Seven Days

18 Apr

This is my last full week in Chicago. We’re leaving so early Wednesday morning it may as well be Tuesday. I have seven days left before I have to close the door.

I sort of run around in a haze of nostalgia on a daily basis, mooning and swooning over anything that can strike a memory. If I was nostalgic before, there’s no word for what I am now. I’m worse than an elderly cat lady with Alzheimer’s. Everything is making me cry. The last time I’ll shop at this grocery store. The last time I’ll eat this pizza, take this train, go out with these friends, work Saturday in this office. Even things that shouldn’t matter to anyone ever, like this is the last time I’ll go to this dentist or gynecologist. Who moons over the gynecologist?

I’ve always been the type of person to look back and mourn. I know there’s just as many firsts in the future as lasts, and everything is a new adventure. You can’t anticipate all the firsts, though. They’re new, exciting. In the moment you’re focused on the events but you can’t be sure what’s coming. It’s terrifying. You can wallow in the lasts, pull them around you and relive the things that have already happened. Grieve for the things you’re putting behind you. It’s comfortable to me.

I might be a smidgen more excited about if all if we had a place to live. I know, did your heart just fall out of your ass when you read that sentence and realized in one week I’ll be driving 1400 miles to nothing? I didn’t want to mention it, but welcome to my last month. We’ve been having some trouble finding both places that can accommodate the dogs, and places that even want to deal with us. It seems the rental market is filled with things available for you right now, and if you’re not standing on their doorstep with your moving boxes they’re not really interested in dealing with you. That means it would come to follow that once we get there, there will be more things available now and then everything will be fine. I have poor luck though, and don’t tend to operate in the realm of “fine” so much as the realm of “everything just blew the fuck up.”

So in one week, I’ll either be fine and in a lucky apartment that sprang up, or living in my car, showering with those rinse-off showers they have by the beach. I guess if you’re going to be homeless anywhere, you should pick somewhere sunny.

Shifting focus

28 Mar

I feel I need to shut up about moving. Or, more accurately, buck up and stop whining about it. So here are the main things I am not going to miss about living in Chicago.

1. My kitchen.

Honestly? Are words even needed here?

2. The plumbing in this apartment. This building… she’s just so old. I love it but it’s got it’s drawbacks. Notice the plunger in the above picture? That’s our special kitchen plunger. Yes, sometimes we have to plunge our kitchen sink. Also, I think it’s safe to estimate that I have spent more dollars on drain-clearing liquids and foams than I have on lattes. Not joking. Also for some reason we have no hot water and no water pressure between 6:30 and 7 AM, the exact time I need to shower.

3. Tourists. Oh, my god, tourists. You have no idea how much you annoy me, with your fanny packs and your getting lost and your asking me where the Hancock tower is when we’re right next to it. The way you stop in the middle of the sidewalk to crane your head up at the buildings and then I run into you. The way you don’t know how to ignore the people asking for your change. The way you ask the bus driver for directions. The bus driver is not your tour guide. His job is to drive the bus. Get on the bus if it is going where you want to go. If it is not, then don’t. Simple.

4. Trying to get anywhere in my neighborhood during Cubs games. I will always have a special place of hatred in my heart for the Cubs and their fans. With the drinking and the vomiting on my sidewalk and the wondering if they even know how baseball is played, or if they’ve just descended upon Wrigley en masse for the beer.

5. Perhaps it’s optimism, but people here are really dumb about dressing for the weather. It hits fifty and out come the shorts. Stop pretending you’re not cold! You’re cold. Your lips are blue and you’re shaking. Put on some damn pants.

6. Some of the beaches on the lake here shut down from time to time due to high E Coli levels, especially if we’ve just had a big rain. Then they open again. Where does the E Coli go? You expect me to swim in the water just because the E Coli has spread out? I’m going to need a better explanation for that. Also a full-body, waterproof wetsuit. If you expect me to touch the water.

7. At least one time a week, I nearly get run over by a cab. Cabbies here are crazy muthas. They swerve all over the place and run red lights and don’t care if you’re in the cross walk. Leaving the area will definitely lessen my chances of becoming road kill.

8. They renamed the Sears Tower the Willis Tower. I refuse to acknowledge this change, and this is something that might be easier to accomplish outside of the city. Here, everyone keeps reminding me. Screw you, Willis Tower. YOU DON’T KNOW ME.

9. The wind. I know, I know, the wind is not why it’s called “The Windy City.” But the honest truth is this bitch is windy. I sometimes lie awake at night and wonder if tonight is the night the wind is going to break in and steal my soul. I’ve been blown over flat on my ass multiple times. You hear that? Wind has pushed me over to the ground. Normal wind. I’m not even talking about a storm or bad weather.

10. The hot dogs here are weird. They have on them: yellow mustard, chopped onions, relish, pickles, tomatoes, peppers, and celery salt. The fuck? You know what I want to eat on a hot dog? Ketchup. You know what nearly gets you stoned here if you eat it on a hot dog? Ketchup. I definitely look forward to eating hot dogs without judgement.

Perhaps, when I am sitting on a non E Coli infected beach, eating my hot dog with ketchup and thinking about my normal sized kitchen, I will be more at peace with the world.

Lunch break

21 Mar

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I really hope the palm trees help make up for the lack of gorgeous buildings.

Farewell, my friend

14 Mar

We’re having some unseasonably warm weather here. I’m pretty sure that’s the case everywhere. Somehow it seeped into my brain and convinced me to walk home today. That wouldn’t be so ridiculous if I didn’t live about five miles from work. I didn’t have anywhere to be though, so I wasn’t in a rush to get there. The lakefront was crawling with people happy to be sprung from their winter captivity.

It was gorgeous and it was peaceful. Whenever I’m out in the city, I just feel so at home. I almost feel like anyone could come to Chicago and click with it – it’s just so wonderful. Not that I’m biased or anything. I’ve just loved everything about my time here is all. Spending some time alone with the city, pounding the pavement, gave me a long window of time with which to think.

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I’m really beginning to think I shouldn’t be leaving. I know I go back and forth on everything. I’m a waffler at heart. Everything is a good decision until I make one, then immediately everything else makes so much sense. I don’t think it’s a case so much of the grass being greener as it is never joining a club that would have me. If I’m making the decision, it must be the wrong one. I mean look at me, I’m a neurotic mess most of the time. It’s surprising I can get up in the morning and choose a cereal and leave on time and only have one hissy fit over what to wear in my closet. Saying hello to someone I pass in the halls at work is a five-step process.

So I made the decision to leave my home and I’m back to doubting it. It’s not like Florida and I are entering some sort of contract. Almost any decision is reversible. If we like it, we’ll stay. If we don’t like it, we’ll move. In the meantime, we’ll live life. Just like everyone else. But I’m still chock full of self-doubt and self-loathing and regret. For something that hasn’t even happened yet. How can you regret the future? I feel with equal intensity that it will be wonderful and horrible. Ideal and deeply flawed. The best and worst thing I’ve ever done.

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It’s hard to remember exactly what I was feeling when we moved to Chicago five years ago. For some reason 22 is soft around the edges for me. I have the memories. I remember punching a huge hole in our U-haul due to some misguided advice from some strangers who helped us back it directly into a dumpster. I know the sleeper couch we bought specifically for our studio apartment didn’t fit in the door of the building. I remember walking Kobe around our neighborhood for two hours that first day, just waiting and pleading and begging for him to just pee anywhere. I remember him peeing the minute we stepped inside the door. I can see the tears of frustration when I look back, but it’s hard to remember the internal. The feelings, the drive, the motivation. I remember my first day of grad school, but I don’t feel the anxiety.

I feel like I have more of a handle on what I was like at 17 even though it was further away. Senior year and it’s twists and turns are vivid. The emotions are easily recalled and gut-wrenching, at times. Is memory an inverted bell curve? In five years, will 22 sharpen into focus, only to smear out the details of 27? I like the recovery effect but not the loss in the meantime. I’d like to talk to 22, ask her if she was nervous. How she knew she was doing the right thing. If she had any doubts or fears about getting up and leaving almost everything she knows. If we have anything in common, if we can commiserate about all the ups and downs of new adventures.

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I can’t ask her how she knew it would work out, if she even knew it would. I can’t get tips from her about how she kept it together. I can only trust she made the right decision the first time around, and I have no reason to doubt her now.

Bwah?

30 Jan

I’m very neurotic and quiet, and I’ve definitely made my views on small talk known far and wide. I’ve tried very hard to perfect my blank, vaguely staring past you, closed-off stance so people don’t try to talk to me on the street. (Is there ever a good answer for “Do you have time for gay rights/the environment/abused animals?” If I say no, I’m a horrible person. If I say yes, I end up signing their petition and handing over all my money and probably being late back from lunch.) No matter how hard I try it doesn’t seem to work. It’s one of those things that I’m not sure if it’s exclusive to me, or happens to everyone and I just don’t see it.

We had a surprisingly nice day today, so I took the dogs for a walk in the park. As we were coming down the path, a man on a bike was coming towards us. He stopped his bike just in front of us and half hopped off. I made the mistake of stopping and looking back at him, because I was slightly confused.

“You’d better make sure you got a hold of those dogs there.”

*blink* *blink*

I look down. My leashes are firmly in my hands. One dog is quietly sniffing and the other is making adorable confused tilted face at the crazy man. I look back at him.

“You sure did shine ‘em up good though, huh?”

*blink*

“Heyyyfiaaahuppchaaa!”

*blink* *blink*

And he rides away.

I’m not even sure how you shine a dog.

Do other people get randomly accosted? Should I maybe stop walking about the city so much?

Flashbacks, memories

22 Dec

I’m on the bus, staring out the window onto Michigan Avenue. The people are bundled up and en masse, toting shopping bags, finishing buying Christmas presents. The lights are bright, the night is cold, and the bus moves slowly through the traffic. I’m transported back to one of our high school Chicago trips, junior year.

We had just finished shopping and we all went outside to get a cab to go back to the hotel. I had just bought my prom dress from Lord & Taylor. Sparkly, blue, I considered it the prettiest thing I’d owned. I was pleased to go to prom with a dress that came from the city. There were maybe six or seven of us. We had no other plans for the night. His name was Jay, he saw us trying to hail the cab. He drove a limo bus. He flagged us down, offered a ride to where ever we were going, no cost. He said he’d dropped one group off, had a few hours before they needed him again. Did we maybe want a tour as well?

We were 16, 17, 18. Unsupervised. We should have been wary but this man seemed legit. So we went with him. It’s all a blur, now. I couldn’t even pretend to know where he took us, or what he showed us other than the Planetarium. It’s all sparkly lights and tall buildings, giggling, wonderment at our good fortune. We took pictures, even took one with the driver himself. We asked a stranger to take it with my disposable camera at the Planetarium. It’s grainy, dark – you can’t see anything behind us. The thing that stands out the most is the gigantic smiles on our faces.

It was sort of magical, unreal. At the end of the tour he dropped us back at our hotel, reiterated he didn’t want any money from us. We’d pooled all our cash on hand, came up with 45 dollars we gave to the oldest male member of the group to force Jay to take as a tip. He refused. We went on our way, he went on his. I wish I knew what he was thinking. Did he often pick up groups of tourists? What prompted him to pick us up that night?

I think of the night often, and I wonder what I’m nostalgic for. Is it preemptive, do I miss the magic of the city I’m sure I’m leaving shortly? Is it the age, our naive trust and the ensuing adventure of it all that I miss? Is it the people themselves, most of whom have fallen off my radar in the years since? Probably all three. I do know it is a sweet sadness, and I look back on very few times that are cast in such a magical glow. It was perfect then, it seems perfect now.

I wish I had a way to find him. I hope we conveyed our thanks in a way that let him know how much it really meant to us.

The freaks come out… all the time

18 Dec

I was on my own for lunch yesterday and I ended up going to Chipotle. This is the norm, because inexplicably the husband does not enjoy Chipotle. I know, I don’t know how we make it work either sometimes. I ended up behind the bossiest burrito bol orderer ever. I’ve heard people with five minute long drink orders at Starbucks sound less pretentious.

“No, more rice on that one. Okay, now vegetables on the side. No, no, the other side. Okay, now the chicken on the opposite side. Less chicken. Okay now the salsa… a DRIZZLE. Now cheese, evenly. No, evenly, you put too much on there. See, right there. It should be like the cheese snowed. Can you put the sour cream in three dollops across the bowl?”

I just couldn’t handle it. I”m neurotic about many things, but the placement of food in a bowl? Food that all goes together as a burrito? I could not stop laughing. It was one of those bubbling laughters you usually do when you’ve just caught someone’s eye and know what each other are thinking and trying to keep it a secret. Except I was alone. Since I was trying to stifle it, it likely looked like I was about to throw up. I tried to catch the eye of the girl when she came back to make my burrito, see if I could share and pass along the funny. She just looked weary. Fussy McPrissyOrder looked mildly annoyed, like he couldn’t decide if I was laughing at him or just a nutter-butter.

I calmed myself down and sat with my burrito. I proceeded to then catch the eye of a rather large, bald man. He was alone but he had a myriad of plates and baskets, wrappers and drinks all in different states of consumption. So either he ate multiple meals through the day at that table, he had had lunch with others who left the table, or he came in, ate no food, and sat at a table that hadn’t been cleared off. His lunch arrangement was inconsequential, however, when you took into account the fact he was sharpening one plastic knife with another. Continuous scrape, scrape, scrape. Examine the blade, run it across thumb. Scrape scrape, scrape.

I should have been terrified. I’m afraid of brain-eating amoebas even though I’ve never used a neti-pot, I’m frightened of open windows and bridges. He was quite scary looking, and he was doing a good job on his knife sharpening – I could see the blades had been altered pretty well from my booth. Except I just immediately started laughing. Loudly. I couldn’t help it. Maybe I was just primed for laughter. Maybe I was feeling bold because I was wearing my ridiculously puffy coat that I am confident could stop a plastic knife – no matter how well sharpened. All I know is I was loud, I was obvious, and the man was looking right at me and knew. And I couldn’t stop looking at him. And he continued to sharpen his knives.

I couldn’t handle it. I re-wrapped my burrito. I didn’t have a bag, so I put it in my purse, so I looked just as ridiculous as anyone else I encouraged that afternoon. And I left.

The burrito was still delicious when I got home. And there was no one with scary eyes and plans to shank me in my living room. So, win-win.

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