My Chicago

As I walk through the city of Chicago, I always admire the towering giants that touch the clouds and sing of human ingenuity, achievement, and a constant stride towards the sky. I love the city. I know without a doubt that this is the world in which I belong. I love that you can travel the length a breadth of it on established transit. I love that a bus is rarely more than a twenty minute wait to go wherever your heart carries you. A train no more than ten. Getting where you are going is never a problem. Choosing where to go offers seemingly infinite possibility.

Chicago holds an intoxicating blend of old world grace and craftsmanship with the new, bold, and practical. On the block where I walk from the bus stop into work there is a building that practically shouts, “I was cutting edge in the sixties.” standing next to it, a building that quietly says, “Al Capone once met a girl for drinks in my lobby.” Then as you cross the street there is another building that may have once been a factory, but now houses students whose parents pay their tuition. To get to the park across the street from my apartment, you pass through a concrete tunnel under the expressway. It sounds like it should be a dull walk, but there are beautiful murals painted by a local art studio, all of which have mosaic tiles woven into each unique piece. There is a stream of flowers caught in the air, followed by an octopus, followed by a proud eagle, finished by a 1920’s style painting of people in a park. When you emerge from the tunnel, you see a fountain-empty now for the winter, but I imagine flowing and graceful when the garden thaws. This is the peace garden, which is connected to a lovely nature path that leads to the marina. It’s name does it justice. I find it very peaceful to walk here, and often do.

Lately I’ve been feeling rather cut off from the world though. It’s amazing how a place so filled with people can be so alarmingly lonely. I find I have nobody to talk to when things don’t go as planned-as lately they really haven’t. When my work life makes me crazy and I want to vent, there is nobody to listen, save my cat, and I’d rather not dive down that particular rabbit hole just yet.

In these moments, I wonder if I made a mistake moving so far from everything familiar. It isn’t that I want to go home exactly; it’s that a wish a bit of the home feeling had come here with me. I want this place that seems to mesh so well with who I am to be somewhere I feel I can hang my hat and stay. I know I ought to have more patience, as I have only lived here 5 months. Already I have an apartment, a job, and tentatively a writing group- though I haven’t been able to go in some time due to work. My schedule will be freed up a bit in March (so I’ve been promised) and maybe then I won’t feel so melancholy. Until then, I’m going to do my best to keep my chin up. That’s all anyone can ever ask, right?

New Schedule

I have been working strange and varied hours lately, which has made blogging a bit of a challenge. I have decided my new post days will be Sundays. I know it is less often than I was posting before (not counting the missed weeks of posts since I arrived in Chicago) but it is a schedule I may have an easier time adhering to.

As far as Chicago goes, I am settling in. I have learned which trains to take, which areas to avoid, and where the best shopping is. I am earning a regular paycheck-something I have not had in several years- and am enjoying life in the city.

I have had adventures that I would not have had back home, such as apple picking, shopping in the loop,

Seeing random, beautiful sights while wandering the city, and of course a brand new experience for this SoCal native: living in the snow.

The first snow was quite an experience for me. It is so beautiful, and I seem a bit touched in the head when it falls, because I can’t resist stomping through it to leave my footprints, all the while giggling uncontrollably. My roommate is also from Cali, and so we share this ridiculous and childish desire to play in the stuff. His boyfriend thinks we are very strange, and tells us so, which leads to the inevitable snow fight. I say “snow” and not “snowball”, because we just scoop up handfuls and fling it at one another. We end up wet and freezing, but somehow it still makes me happy.

I thought Christmas would be a sad day for me, but my mother, in her infinite motherly wisdom, knew I would have a rough time my first Christmas alone and sent me a box of Christmas cheer. She sent a miniature tree, a strand of lights, and some stockings along with a box of presents. It warmed my heart and made me feel so very loved, even from so far away.

Though I worked on Christmas day, I put a pot roast in the slow cooker, and had a wonderful Christmas dinner with my roommate and his boyfriend. It was the first time that Chicago felt like home.

Now, as the snow sticks to the ground, and I finally have a day off, I am catching myself daydreaming about Jeremy, Fairies, and what is in store for Sidhee.

Like any storm that catches us unaware, my writing block is passing, and I find myself ready to open the shutters, pick up the pieces, and rekindle my literary efforts.

Happy writing.

apples
Apple Picking in the orchard
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Inside the Macy’s that used to be Marshall Fields. Quite a bone of contention between Macy’s and Chicago natives. Still, it is beautiful.
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A dramatized image of my first snow day. I took this with my cell phone on the corner of my street at the bus stop.
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The Gluten, corn, and soy free Christmas dinner I made for my Chicago family.
my buidling
The view of my building from the street. I never though I would live somewhere so tall.
my view
Just across the street from my apartment is a walking path that leads here. It is one of the best views of the city I have seen so far.

Updates and Reflections

Dear Reader,

I know I haven’t been on much. I apologize for the silence. If you have been following along, then you know my move to Chicago could only be permanent if I found a job. I am very pleased to announce I have found said job, and internet service (and my life) has been restored. I celebrated my 30th birthday last week, and I have decided the universe gets credit for my birthday job (I got the call for my interview on my actual birthday). The first step in finding my happy place in the world has been taken. Let us hope more leaps forward are forthcoming.

As for my books, I wish I could say I have been writing up a storm. Unfortunately, I seem to be completely out of synch with my creative inner voice. Perhaps it is that I am preoccupied with the enormity of how my life has changed in the last month- or perhaps that is what I am telling myself to let myself off the hook. Either way, my mind is in a different place than I would like it to be right now.

Recently, a writer friend of mine passed away. She was elderly, and she knew it was coming. Still, at my age is comes as a shock when someone leaves your world. More so when you learn about it via e-mail. Since I am not feeling particularly creative, and since my friend is on my mind, I will tell you the parts about her that left a mark on my life.

The woman who I will miss was named Evelyn McGraw. When I met her, she was already 90 years old. She attended the first writing group I was a part of, a group focused on indie writers that are new to the world of serious writing.

Evelyn wrote lovely, old fashioned poetry. She often wrote about growing up on a farm, the novelty of her grandmother’s home when she was a child, or observations of the beauty in nature all around us. She had a great fondness for than changing of the seasons. Every piece she wrote was a lovely, positive reflection on the world. Her writing really made you appreciate the world through her eyes, though she never gave herself a single ounce of credit for the craftsmanship of her words.

I often sat next to Evelyn in class. She was hard of hearing, and so I would repeat the advice and critiques that her peers offered up for her from out of hearing range. She always took advice and criticism gracefully, and applied that advice to her works. Some of those works can be found in A Tapestry of Verse, published by The Word Weavers Guild- edited by our fearless leader John Kelly. I was told they put out a second book this summer. I have yet to get my copy, so I am uncertain if Evelynn’s work will be in that book.

click to find A Tapestry of Verse on amazon.com
click to find A Tapestry of Verse on amazon.com

Sitting and talking with Evelyn helped me to get to know her. I found out she got her pilots license in the 1930’s, when women rarely did such things. She never made a big deal of it, but when she spoke of flying it was always with fondness.

One of my favorite things about Evelyn was that she seemed to get me. I’m a bit weird, and I write bizarre poems and stories (which you know if you have read my work). It’s always made me feel like I don’t quite fit in, especially with a traditional writers, like memoirists and historical writers-which is the predominant style of writer in the town where I am from. Evelyn never once made me feel anything but appreciated. She always smiled and said she was glad to see me every time we came to class, and I often got a hug as if she were a favorite aunt or grandmother. She praised my work, and more than once wrote on the top of my submissions not to change a word.

I adored Evelyn, but it never occurred to me that I mattered to her too, until last April.

Evelyn told the class she wasn’t going to be attending anymore, because it was getting too hard to make the trip. She wanted to have a “Christmas rehearsal” party, because she said she did not think she would live to see another Christmas. I wish she had been wrong, but I’m glad she had the foresight to plan it.

John asked everyone in the group to write a piece in their own style for Evelyn, and I was asked to made a cover image for a notebook we gave her to keep all of our gift works in. Most people wrote really touching letters to her about all the reasons we thought she was awesome. It was like a birthday party, where she was the guest of honor. She was happy, and you could tell she was very touched by how much we all cared about her.

I, as I so often do, deviated from what everyone else did. I was asked to write a piece in my style for her, and that is exactly what I did. I thought about all the things Evelyn talked about in the couple years I knew her, and I recalled a poem she wrote based on an experience she had playing with old antiques in her grandmother’s attic. And so, I invented a story and set it to poetry about a little girl named Evelyn pearl (a play on the old fashioned term of endearment for someone you love or treasure) who goes up to play in her grandmother’s attic. I have posted it on my blog before, but I have included it at the bottom of this post so you can reared it in context of you would like.

After we all read our contributions to her, and she tucked each page safely in her notebook, Evelyn brought out presents she had gotten for everyone. She gave me a beautiful figurine of a fairy dancing around a rose branch. While people were eating, Evelyn walked up to me and said, “Do you know why I got that for you?”

I smiled and said, “Because it’s a fairy?”

“Because it’s a fairy, just like you. Every time I see a fairy I think of you. And when I saw that, I knew I had to give it to you, because she looks like she came from one of your stories.”

My eyes watered, and I gave her a huge hug.

That’s the last time I saw her, and it is a beautiful memory to me.

I love that fairy, and I still have her. She is all wrapped in bubble wrap back in California, soon to be sent to me here in Chicago.

It’s funny how much a single person can impact your life, and how you don’t even realize it’s happened.

So here is the message I want to share this week, reader:

Cherish the memories; even the small ones. Even if you are young. They always matter.

 

Evelyns xmas

 

The Attic of Evelyn Pearl

Tiny young Evy,

A six-year-old girl

Was named for her granny

Miss Evelyn Pearl.

She hasn’t young cousins

Her own age for play.

No brothers or sisters

To fill up her day.

When her family visits

Her grandmother’s home

She goes to the attic

Where she plays alone.

She’s never caught bored

When she goes up there

‘cause mystical wonder

Hangs loose in the air.

A porcelain doll

Becomes her best friend.

She tells her big secrets

For hours on end.

On Grampy’s aged flute

She’ll blow out a tune

And fancies they hear her

Out there on the moon.

Old buttons and beads

Become long lost treasure

That salty sea captains

Can count at their leisure.

A toppled old shelf

And a discarded oar

Becomes ship and rudder

That washed up on shore.

With musty gold curtains

She fashions a tail

And waves are comprised

Of granny’s old veil.

Stuffed teddy bear people

Play folk of the sea.

They go on adventures

‘Till afternoon tea.

When the moon starts to rise

And it’s time to head out

Tiny young Evy

Won’t grumble or pout.

Exotic vast kingdoms

Will wait for our girl.

‘Till then it’s the attic

Of Evelyn Pearl.

My Windy City Debut

So I made the big crazy move to Chicago. I got here in one piece, more or less, my poor kitty in tow. He handled the plane better than I thought he would, but I did take him to the vet to get a mild sedative before I left.  It truly is a different world than what I am used to. I’m from a small town with a majority senior citizen population, and everyone drives everywhere. Here everyone walks or rides the transit everywhere, and everything here is big.

I mean, really big. I now live in a 16 story building, and it is dwarfed by the buildings on either side.

Finding my way hasn’t been easy, and my roommate has been really patient with me, guiding me wherever I need to go.  I don’t have a lot of pictures yet, because I haven’t done any sightseeing of any kind. I sometimes wonder if I have done something insane. I probably have, but Eff it! I’m here. I’m going to make it work.

With that in mind, yesterday I joined a new witting group. This was my first time venturing out alone in the big city, unless you count the coffee shop a couple doors down from my building. And of course, I had to go to an evening writing group, because I never make anything easy on myself. Navigating home in the dark, luckily, was not scary at all, since one of the folks in my writing group lives in the same part of town as me, so I walked with him.  I am in a reputable part of town, so it is unlikely I would be mugged, but still. I like the statistics better when I’m not on my own.

Like everything in this foreign time zone, this group operates differently than the ones I have attended in the past. In this group, peer review has nothing to do with it. First they write independently of one another for about two hours give or take, then they gather for a discussion. My writing groups in the past would read six pages of a manuscript, then have a discussion where critique and review was offered, and then we would read the next manuscript. I even had one group that had a writing prompt at the beginning of every session. But hey, new city= new life + new method.

I have to admit, reader, than I have not been inspired to write at all lately. Mostly I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. First with the last minute decision to uproot my whole life and move halfway across the country, and the chaos that ensued in my household. Then, the day after I got here I came down with a stomach flu. YAY. Also, I don’t have internet in my apartment, so I have to go downstairs to the coffee shop. Their Wi-Fi only seems to work in the front half of the building, which is always packed with laptop-mesmerized patrons. I lucked out on Monday and got a spot, but I couldn’t update my blog because I needed to use my precious internet time to apply for jobs. Nobody seems to use paper applications here anymore. So don’t be surprised if there are interruptions in my regular postings. I will try, but life happens.

My friendly editor has the first draft of The Gatestone Chronicles: Fayling. I have some more work to do on the ending, but we are nearly there. Provided, of course, that I can find my way back to the world it takes place in. Hopefully things will settle down soon, and I can get back to my usual groove.

Kristin Swartfager is working on the art for Timmy Tommy Tum, our collaboration project for kids. There have been a few delays with that, but never fear, we are still working at it.

Well, that’s all that’s new in my world.

Happy writing!

Adieu

Goodbye house where I first learned to talk,

And begged, “Read it one more time, Dad!”

Goodbye school where I learned to read clocks,

And grew every year, just a tad.

 

Oh classic theater, I bid thee farewell!

There inside I watched my first toon.

Heartbreaking fire left you a shell;

Restorations came none too soon.

 

Farewell to summer burning my skin

And freckling up my pale face;

I went to work and held up my chin

While my friends all got on my case.

 

Goodbye to the books that filled a store

In the job I held in regard.

Hard casualties of an e-reader war

My love for you never once marred.

 

So long diner where I met with friends

For talking, or crying, or beers.

Over finding true loves, or true lover’s ends

You stood without judgement for years.

 

So long kind critics of written intent

Who taught me for who or for whom.

Your tore me apart, not without consent,

But to see my talent seeds bloom.

 

This town, the place I learned to mature,

Has left it’s strong mark on my past.

But now I am ready, able, and sure

To embark on my journey at last.

 

I’m venturing out, moving along.

I can’t take it all, more’s the pity.

I hope to succeed, hope I’m not wrong

For heading to a big Windy City*.

 

*While this poem auto-posted, I boarded a plane to Chicago with a one-way ticket in hand. I am attempting to make it in the big city. Should I find a job before my savings runs out, I will become a resident of Illinois. Should I run out of money, I will return to California knowing I gave it my best shot. There may be a few interruptions in my blog posts, but for the most part, I will continue to write as usual; I am after all,  a writer first, a human second. That being said, expect pictures.

 

Chicago Part 5, The End

 

 

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On my Final day in Chicago, Robbie took me to see the historic Wrigley Field. There was a game going on, So I got to see what it is like on a game day. We had walked past it several times on our way home from the subway, throughout my visit, but it was always at night so I hadn’t really  experienced it yet.

 

One very interesting thing was the stadium seating on the rooftops of apartment buildings near the field. There is no big parking lot, or any grassy fields near the stadium. It goes from apartments and businesses on one side, right to the stadium on the other. It’s an exciting feeling, being right in the middle of it.

 

We decided not to actually go to the game, since I’m not much of a sports fan. There was enough history on the walls around the stadium to suit me just fine.

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Robbie also took me to a mystic shop where I picked up some Chamomile tea, and a Hematite ring on the cheap. Finally we stopped at a Chicago diner, where the waiter tried to talk me out of getting on the plane home. I’m not going to lie, I really wanted to say, “Okay, I’ll stay.” He even hugged me and said, “I hope to see you again soon.”

Robbie’s roommate offered to let me live there, and I was assured by multiple people with the appropriate authority that a job was mine if I decided to stay. It was a hard to say no. But there was an adorable dog and a loving husband waiting for me back home, so when the time came, I did get on the plane; but not without a long and tearful goodbye with Robbie.

Boy was I sorry I got on the plane once I landed in Huston! For some reason, United scheduled barely an hour between my flight from Chicago and my flight to Ontario. My first flight took too long to taxi to the gate, and by the time I could get off the plane I had 12 minutes to get from gate E3 to gate B85. For those of you who are not familiar with Huston, you know that that is FAR, FAR apart. I ran, literally, through the airport. No Stops, strait to my gate. Luckily the signs are fairly clear. By the time I actually got to the gate, they were paging me. I told at the United employee that I was the person she was paging in between pants- I am really out of shape.

“I don’t know what you’ve been doing. The planes been here since 9.” She grumped at me while scanning my boarding pass.

“I was taxing on the runway. It’s your plane that took too long!” I snarled back. Since when is being rude considered customer service? FAIL United. Total Fail.

Before I even got out the last word she rolled her eyes at me and waved her hand to shush me. ” Well you’re the last person to board. They’re waiting.” She said in the most snarky tone I’ve ever heard.

I growled (yeah, I was that pissed off) and stomped down the ramp to my plane. The crew on this plane made up for the cow that I talked to in Huston.

The Flight attendant called over the intercom, “has anyone lost a wallet?”

Everyone immediately looked around.

“Now that we have your attention, please pay attention to an important safety announcement.”

Everyone laughed, relieved their wallets were safe, and paid attention.

Even though my entire visit to Huston consisted of a jog through the airport and an interaction with one employee, my view of that city will be forever tainted by my bad experience. I don’t think I will ever visit there as a tourist. I can guarantee you I will never, NEVER book a flight that has a layover there, especially if I am flying United. Bad impressions tend to be more permanent than good ones. I’m not sure why, but it’s how the world works.

I arrived back in Ontario, and had lunch with my husband before driving an hour and a half home.  I had only slept three hours the night before, and was more than a little cranky. At my Husband’s urging I laid down for a nap, and didn’t wake up until the following day. Jet lag is apparently a real thing.

With that, my journey was at an end. I will definitely return to Chicago at the first opportunity. Maybe to live there, who knows.

 

Chicago Part 4

 

Half way through my visit I had the immeasurable pleasure of visiting the Chicago Art institute. It is an enormous museum that houses amazing pieces from all over the world, from Africa, to Europe, to Japan. Sadly the Egyptian exhibit was not open yet, but I honestly wouldn’t have had time to see it all anyway; Partially because I lingered at the impressionists, but mostly because the renaissance art nearly took my breath away. I actually had to sit in the room with the Italian renaissance art. It overpowered me. Just thinking of the mastery that these artists must have to create such exquisite, lifelike portraits staggers me.

 

Some of my pictures are below. Robbie limited me to two pictures per room, because he wanted me to see as much as possible and he knew I would spend three hours per room trying to catalog it all. In the end it was wise, given that the pictures do not begin to do any of it justice. To get the true experience, you have to be standing before these pieces in person. Nothing else will do.

 

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There was a park outside the Museum, called Millennium Park,  that was nearly as stunning as the inside.

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Chicago has this huge landmark that I will not pretend to understand. I am not a modern art person. But I was there, so what the heck, I took a picture of it.

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That night I got to tour the bars.  The first bar we went to was having a throwback to the early 90’s night. Barf. I despise 80’s and early 90’s music, with very few exceptions. But in the spirit of being somewhere new, I danced. After a couple hours, we walked to a new bar. It was a cute little dive bar with a seaside theme that I unfortunately don’t remember the name of,  and sang karaoke. This bar I loved. I am not ashamed to say I rock out, karaoke style. I got to hang out with a bunch of Robbie’s friends, who welcomed me and made me feel at home. I don’t really remember getting back to Robbie’s house. I vaguely remember a cab. You know why.

On my Second to last night one of Robbie’s friends was having a surprise birthday party for another friend, so Robbie brought me along. I felt a bit awkward at first, since Robbie was really the only person I knew. But again the good people of Chicago folded me into the conversation like I knew them for years, making me feel right at home. We ate at an Italian restaurant, then we went to a couple bars in Boys town. This is the primarily gay district of Chicago. I had a blast! I don’t remember the name of the first club, but it had loud dance music and the accompanying music videos on the walls. Nothing I’m used to, but I found it entertaining. I love how open and proud the gay community is. There are a lot of places in this country where being who you are is still not okay. I was pleased to find that Chicago is not one of those places.

The next place we went is a well known local hot spot called Berlin. There was actually a cover charge, something I have heard about but never experienced. The inside was blaring with techno music, with people of all shapes sizes and genders dancing together. I enjoyed dancing, but I only hung in there until about 2 am. The loud music, drinking and dancing are all not things I typically indulge in, so I was tired. Robbie was a good sport and noticed I was losing steam, so he was the one who suggested we take a cab home.

We crashed out until noon the next day.

Chicago Part 3

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The view from Robbie’s rooftop, Pictured above.  Various Buildings and sights I snapped shots of while walking around below.

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My first couple of days in Chicago were spent exploring the busy, touristy part of Chicago. On the first day we visited Willis Tower, which is more well known by its previous name, the Sears Tower. Interestingly, what it is called depends on who you ask. Robbie’s flight attendant roommate, who is also from England, says that it is the Willis tower. Chicago natives and transplants say vehemently, “I don’t care what it says on the front. It will always be the Sears Tower.”  That attitude seems to be more common than those who accept the skyscrapers re-branding.

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I had the pleasure of visiting the Sky deck, on the 103rd floor of the Tower. At $19 a ticket, the price seemed a bit steep. But, this being my first visit to Chicago, it would seem a shame to miss it, so up we went.

The lobby going up to the Skydeck has a lot of fascinating facts, and Robbie filled me in on any that they didn’t have posted on the walls.  For example, The Tower contains 76,000 tons of steel.  There is 44,000 miles of wiring within the Tower. There are 6 robots that wash the window of the tower, which takes weeks to complete. Sears tower was built in 1973, and held the record for the tallest building in the world for almost 25 years. On a clear day you can see for  50 miles out of the window.

The elevators to this deck are extremely fast. It only took about a minute to reach the top. It felt much like it does when an airplane is taking off. As someone who enjoys heights, I loved it.

There are these glass boxes that stick out from the side of the building, allowing tourists a view strait down to the city streets below. Standing in this box unnerved me just a bit. I know that the builders would never risk a lawsuit, so I know that these boxes must be able to take the weight of a an elephant; but the thing is, there were a lot of people piling into them, and I’ve never looked straight down through glass that far.  I have a picture below, But the glair off the glass masks the overwhelming feel of the view.

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Once I had my feet back on solid steel and concrete, I got some really beautiful pictures of the city out the window.

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The writer in me couldn’t resist getting a picture of the Chicago sun times Building.

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In the gift shop downstairs there were these cool little museum-like displays about different Chicago events. I gravitated to this one about the Great Chicago Fire, history being a favorite subject of mine. The fire burned for roughly two days in 1871. The Windy City unfortunately provided the perfect conditions to fan the flames. The damage spanned across 4 miles and did an estimated 2 million dollars in damage. Roughly 300 people died. Looking at these silver spoons melted together was as eerie to me as seeing images of the Titanic wreckage.

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I bought a postcard and a magnet, and then we headed out to see more of the Windy City. For dinner, we had to get a Chicago deep dish pizza. Robbie is a vegetarian, so we ordered spinach, artichoke and cheese. Yum!

My impression of the people here was mixed. When walking around or sitting next to someone on the subway, everyone acts like you aren’t there, even though you cannot help physically touching the people next to you. Not in the creepy, “I must touch it!” sort of way. More like, there as so many people next to you that your arm and hers are pressed up against one another. Your other leg is touching the guy on your other side. I am not accustomed to being close to strangers at all, so this was something that took a bit of getting used to. But some people were exceptionally friendly. Throughout the week I was hugged by numerous new acquaintances. More than one person told me they would like it if I stayed in Chicago. A not-so-small part of me really wanted to stay.

By the end of our first day, My legs and feet were killing me. I estimate that we walked at least 7 miles. I don’t even walk to the store where I live. It’s too far away. But Robbie took no pity on me, and rightfully so. I was not about to wuss out on seeing as much of Chicago as I could. The moment I saw the city from the top of the Tower, I was in love. My feet had little choice but to get on board.

Chicago Part 2

My flight arrived at the San Francisco airport on schedule, descending over breathtaking views of the Bay. My first thought upon landing in San Francisco were of sheer delight. The plane was small, and the person in front of me had their seat back for the entire flight, crunching my legs into space only a 2 door Honda sedan would dare to call sufficient.

Once I disembarked, I felt a bit overwhelmed. Everything I expected of Ontario airport I got from San Francisco. So many people, such a big place. Finding my flight information was easy; there were monitors all over the place. My flight was delayed. I expected that, having heard about the Huston flight back in Ontario. The reason cited was “awaiting aircraft”. I figured this meant that it would get there when it got there. I tried to find my gate right away. I didn’t want to be lost when my plane finally did arrive. I got turned around twice, but eventually found my way.

I passed dozens of shops. See’s candy. Tortilla shops. Cellular shops. Neck Pillows for $34.99. Thank god I brought mine from home.  Once I got to my gate, I felt the familiar High-school uncertainty of finding a place to sit. It was very artsy, with odd shaped chairs and round ottomans mixed in with traditional airport rows. There wasn’t many places empty, and dozens of people were walking around looking for places together. My flight had not been the only one delayed.  I found a seat near a power outlet, where I could plug in my laptop and fiddle with Photoshop while I wait.

I will give San Francisco airport this; it may be very confusing, but it has plenty of places to plug in mobile devices.

It amazes me how so many people can be in one place, all making noise and yet no one talking to anyone. The whole row where I sat people didn’t even make eye contact. I made use of the extra hour, and avoided the other people back by doodling the picture below.

airport doodle copy

It was inspired by the guy sitting behind me talking loudly on his cell phone about being excited to go back to Hawaii from a semester stay in London. He was stuck in San Francisco waiting for his connecting flight. He kept talking about how warm it was in the airport. I thought about how relative warmth or cold is to people based on where they are from. Here I was wearing a sweater and chastising myself for choosing to wear sandals. I was cold the entire flight over, and I had all my closed toe shoes in my checked bag. I think he noticed I was listening in, becuase he moved a few rows over and started talking more quietly. Oops. If I ever thought I might run into him again I might have been embarassed, but there is zero chance of that, and if he meant for his conversation to be private he might not want to be shouting into a phone in a room full of people. Just saying.

When they finally announced our flight would be boarding, a collective sigh went up, along with a few cheers.

This flight was completely full, and it was one of the larger planes. I waited 20 minuites for my group to be allowed to board. I crammed into the window seat with a magical view of the engine. This flight would be nearly 4 hours, crossing 2 time zones. It took forever to taxi onto the runway, but when we finally, finally took off the excitement of being on our way  again took over, keeping me from sleep.

I was over being crammed next to two silent strangers, sitting next to a noisy engine, and having ice cold air blasted at my feet before it even began to get dark outside my plane window. At that point, we still had two hours of travel ahead. I hadn’t bought a snack on the airplane because it was way overpriced, and I was afraid sliding my debit card would lock it up for my husband back home (we have been having an issue with our bank thinking everything we do is unauthorized, even though I have told them my husband’s job cover’s three counties. They lock our card and we have to call to unlock it before we can access our funds. Can’t do that from a plane.) So I was really hungry, really cold, and really tired. Travel is not nearly as glamorous as I thought it would be.

We landed at O’Hair Airport after midnight Chicago time, just under two hours late.  I walked what felt like a mile to the baggage claim, trying to coordinate a meet up with my friend on my cell phone.  I saw him before he saw me, and I couldn’t help but feeling overjoyed. The discomfort and hassle of travel suddenly didn’t matter. I told him to turn around, at which point he squished me in a bear hug. After all that disappointment, there it was. The Hollywood perfection of seeing someone you love after a long time apart.

My Chicago friend and I, We will call him Robbie, have been friends since we were 11. Both of us have flame red hair and pasty white skin. For most of our school years, people assumed we were brother and sister. We don’t actually look anything alike, save our complexion, but redheads are rare in my corner of the universe, so people make assumptions. Over the years we have been roommates several times, coworkers, classmates, and the dearest of friends. Even When Robbie was in the navy we stayed in touch through letters, all of which I still have. I don’t know why we have always been so connected, we just are. Robbie had a really ugly break up, and he wanted a fresh start, so he moved to Chicago, his favorite station when he was in the Navy. Once he was settled, he invited me to visit.

So here I was, being crushed by my dearest Robbie, finally seeing the Chicago he had been raving about since we were teenagers. I squashed him right back. A few moments of no air, and a bunch of people shoving past us made us realize we were blocking the path to the baggage claim.  We laughed and retrieved my giant pink Hawaiian print luggage. Then Robbie asked me if I wanted to take a cab or if I was up for the subway.

“which is cheaper?” I asked. Silly me.

“Subway is always cheaper. But do you think you can handle it? We have to walk a ways.” Robbie warned me.

“It’s fine, let’s do the subway.”

When Robbie said it was a ways, I though he meant, two maybe three parking lot distances.

No. You descend into the bowels of the airport, and walk a very long ways until you get to the train. Robbie bought me a card that you use to pay for the subway. It makes an entertaining, “Bing-bong” noise when you hold it over the reader. Very new age stuff.

The train, however, was ancient. We were in the very last car, and it sounded like it was going to derail about every 15 seconds. Each little bump in the track lurched us into one another. Across from me sat a rather loud African American homeless man singing the blues off key. He stared at me the entire ride. I ignored him and tried to talk only to Robbie.

When we approached our stop Robbie jumped up and said, “come on this is our stop.”

The train lurched to a stop, and the doors opened only for a moment. I leapt out, feeling as though I’d jumped off a boat. The doors closed behind me and the train took off. Now I understood why he got out of his seat before the train stopped moving; Chicago subway trains only stop for about 20 or 30 seconds.

I thought that we would be on our way to his home from there, but instead we got on a bus. Robbie was my personal tour guide, talking to me about all the neighborhoods we were going through along the way. The sheer size of Chicago was staggering to me. It was hard to be impressed by the architecture just yet, since it was so late at night.

Finally we arrived in Lakeview, one neighborhood of Chicago. We then walked 6 blocks to Robbie’s apartment building. We took the elevator to the 12th floor. He made me a bed on an air mattress, and I sacked out for the night.

In the morning, I woke up to this amazing view out my window.

The view was just the first of many I would see over the next week.

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