Dear Chicago

Dear Chicago,

We've known each other for nearly ten years. Long damn time, no? Yes and no. Almost a quarter of my life, not even a blip in yours. I was thinner when we met (remember? you were, too), and quieter, and kinder, and less me. My eyesight was better; my finances were not. I think it was snowing. I had no idea who I was, or where, or what I wanted or how to get there. How to get anywhere. I could find the Jewel (over the river and through the woods of Four Lakes), so I started there, and I bought some cereal. Roadmaps were my saviors, as were Ogden, Maple, and 75th streets: my suburban arteries, with here and there clearly marked for the cautious of spirit. I stayed off the tollways for a long time; FIB drivers are scary.

I didn't know you—or anyone else—when I moved to the suburbs, so I spent a year alone. I don't remember feeling lonely, or maybe I blocked it out, but I'm pretty sure being alone isn't the worst thing in the world (foie gras is, obviously). I watched a lot of TV. I met people at work, and then more, and eventually we found we liked each other in the outside world, too. Most of the time; some ties were inevitably broken, some funsuckers released. Life is too short, and time really does fly. I think you taught me that, or I saw it on TV.

What did you give me? A wider world, once or twice a threatening one (remember that time in Naperville—#1 city in America!—when the apartment below mine was broken into by gun-toting bandits in search of drugs and trouble?), a sense of perspective and possibilities. The courage to step out and break things open. Game nights. Long meetings, long drives, long lunches. Trips to Vegas. Saugatuck. Dubuque. New York! The taco joint. The Patio. Max & Erma's. Bernard's. Ann Sather. Belmont Harbor. The Unabridged Bookstore. The Art Institute. Millennium Park. And Ravinia. Freedom. A chance to choose, to make mistakes, to pass out on the bathroom floor (happy Halloween!) and still keep going.

I wouldn't be going anywhere if I hadn't landed here first. But now it's time to go.

Anyway. Thank you for being my first big city, for the meat and smoke of you, for the lake and the green, what I know to be solid, unvarnished, steady, and true. We'll see each other again. In the meantime, be nice, play fair, and take care of my friends.


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