This is what happens when you meet a Chicagoan. Or rather, this is what happens when you meet a fellow Chicagoan--who is no longer living in Chicago: You drop what you're doing. Your eyes bulge. Maybe you drool a little. The two of you begin to converse in an alternate universe while onlookers smile politely…and walk away.
Day before yesterday, I go to a friend's baby shower. I stay a few hours, catch up with great friends, help clean up, and start to say my goodbyes before I head out to meet with another friend. But during my goodbyes, the mom-to-be introduces me to someone. "She's from Chicago", she tells me.
"You're from Chicago?" I ask the woman, my voice going up an octave.
"Yeah, she responds.
"Why are you in LA?" I ask, bewildered (as I always am, that someone would actually, of her own volition, move out of Chicago).
"The weather", she responds.
We laugh and agree that aside from the weather, there could be NO other reason to leave Chicago. She tells me that she and her husband have been gone a few years now--but still love Chicago like no other. We talk about such and such on Division and Paulina, this and that on Clark Street, and so on and so on.
The next day, after church, I go have Thai food with my childhood friend and her coworker. Turns out the coworker is from the "Midwest"--and at one point says that there is no place in Chicago like being lakeside near the Adler Planetarium.
I can't talk for a few moments. I stare in disbelief, giddy that this person knows MY special spot in Chicago. The spot with the view that dreams are made of. I forget all about my pad thai for a moment as I enter the state which psychologists would likely call, Mutual Chicago Recognition. The feeling you get when someone just… "gets" it.
This past week, a columnist in the Trib wrote about Chicagoans who've moved away from Chicago--and how they cope. There were the requisite references to pizza. WGN. Baseball. But what cracked me up was one of the comments from a reader:
"Nothing worse than someone that keeps talking about where they WERE from.. to the locals.. can you imagine what they say behind these folks backs?"
Harsh. But probably true.
And so, to my friends in Los Angeles County, I want to take a moment to formally apologize. If I've driven you crazy throughout the years, talking incessantly about Chicago, I can't say that I blame you. I might feel the same if a friend of mine talked so frequently and passionately about a place that I'd never encountered.
Friends, I'm sorry. Truly. But consider this: Chicago may feel like a stranger to you now--but she's actually a friend in-the-making. Because I guarantee that you're only one Chicago visit away from falling as deeply in love as I am.
And if I'm wrong, well then I'll treat you to dinner.
I know a place in L.A. that serves some great Chicago-style deep dish…
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