Full screen. FULL SCREEN!
People always ask me when I visit "Chicago" if I actually want to go "into Chicago" and I almost always say of course not. I prefer to leave one large city and immerse myself deep in the burbs of another: it reminds me of many happy former and hopefully future days. Sure the burbs (and America!) are filled with chain stores and strip malls and teens, but there are also good people and wide lawns and cool neighborhoods and tasty tacos and pizza and beer. Obviously, hating on the suburbs or thinking there's only one legitimate place to live a fulfilled life says more about the person doing the hating than it does about any geolocation in question, IMHO. OOO. YMMV! Your life is yours, dummies, live it wherever you want.
So I got to do many of my favorite things in the suburbs this weekend:
- Stay in a big hotel room overlooking both a shopping mall and a major expressway
- Lie on a hotel room bed for hours drinking free room coffee and enjoying hotel wifi while watching Fixer Upper & Friends & Search Party on an enormous flatscreen TV before meeting my actual friends for actual meals
- Drive around the suburbs for hours in a rental car with the air conditioning AND the radio cranked up way past the point of logic and comfort
- Purchase a lot of goods I probably don't need but probably won't regret, either, although I just read and loved this whole article about how every single thing you buy is future garbage. I spent my money wisely on quality items/future garbage that will see me through many summers and storms, and most of it was on sale. I'm not really a bargain shopper but this is America! and bargains never hurt.
- See actual friends!
- Eat in restaurants 3x+ a day
- Eat tacos
- Shop at Target
- Drive thru multiple drive-thrus
- See Neil Diamond!
I drove past no fewer than six of my former apartments Saturday morning while listening to XRT and knocking back a tall Starbucks Cold Brew (which isn't half bad!). Then I met CV for tacos at one of my favorite joints, and we each had two carne asada tacos and Diet Coke and shared the medium guacamole, and it was glorious. A family of four came in while we there and one of the little girls ordered her carne asada tacos with just carne asada, no fixin's, which was a bold move for a child who instantly became my hero, and my heartlight faxed hers a silent salute of respect. CV, who is equally bold but in different ways, ordered hers with onion and cilantro/no sour cream and I ordered mine with everything. We all made choices and walked away winners.
Here's a tally of things I've abandoned in hotel rooms over the years, deliberately:
- Bridesmaid dresses
- Ill-fitting shoes
- Useless, too-small luggage
- Crushed hats
I realize this is shabby behavior, but I can't feel guilty about everything. Sorry I'm not always the world's best person. I did buy a new hat at Nordstrom (America!'s greatest department store) this weekend: it wasn't cheap but it's woven with SPF 50 AND I can wear it with my glasses on (it's harder to find a brim that accommodates both ears and frames than you might think). HOWEVER, even though this hat strenuously advertises itself as packable, my mom is going to have to ship it to me next weekend, and now I'll hear for the next thousand years how expensive it is to mail a box. Sometimes I suspect that I am her albatross, but we both made our choices and walked away winners.
I look at a city like I look at a marriage: Right? Okay, then. I'm ready. I'm ready now.
Like a worker assembling a gift basket, the brain’s subconscious reward circuitry computes the collective value of all the different benefits that will accrue tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and ties them all together in a package. Even if the future benefits may seem distant and hence hold little value, they collectively can add up to something greater than a single moment of pleasure in the here and now. The mountain will always remain larger than the tree.
I finally, finally, FINALLY met anniemcq! I had dinner with her and Suttonhoo, and as you can see, we were meant to be.
I also had lunch with CV and coffee with CV and a beer with CV and dinner with CV ("You sure ate a lot on this trip!" –CV) and Axe and Groucho and The Old Man. Sometimes I forget what people's real names are.
*When I say "Chicago," I hardly ever mean Chicago. I mean Westmont and Oak Brook and Lombard, where I continued my great tradition of staying in shopping mall parking lot hotels. My room this time looked out over a Target! It was kind of a dream come true.
I know it's cool to hate on the burbs, but they've always been good to me. This time I stayed at Le Oakbrook Renaissance...it's no Regency, but it'll do. Esp. when they greet you at the door with a hot pot of coffee, then ask if you mind taking an "accessible" room with a bigger bathroom. Is that a thing? People who mind bigger bathrooms? I thought she was kidding, so I laughed, and then she laughed because she thought I was stupid. Oh well! Also, my rental car was a PT Cruiser, which is like driving around in a spaceship naked. What a sad machine.
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.