Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It's Back to Chi I Go: The Return of the Prodigal Daughter

Okay, so it's more like "back to the Chicagoland area I go", but that doesn't sound nearly as catchy in a blog post.  Or in a Disney song.  But it's hard to put this feeling into words.

After an epic (I know that word's overused and I'm 29 and not a teenager, but there's no better way to describe these shenanigans) road trip to Nashville with my friend Meghan (that blog post is forthcoming), I finally arrived back to Chicago on Sunday.  When we first told everyone that we were moving back here from DC, the first thing out of everyone's mouth was, "Oh my gosh, you're going home!  That's so awesome!  Polish sauuuuusaggggeeee"  So maybe they didn't say that last part, but you get the gist of it.  While I don't disagree that it is awesome to be closer to my family and friends here, I haven't lived here in 12 years, and I honestly was scared to move back.  Even though some things haven't changed with me, like the fact that I will defend Lou Malnatti's and the White Sox until the day I die, or that I will quote Bill Swerski until I'm blue in the face, in these 12 years I've been gone I've had to adapt myself to DC and make it my home.  So when Boo and I found out we were moving to Chicago, it honestly felt like we were moving to a new city.  I'm going to have to learn a new transportation system, neighborhoods, street names, where to find the best strip clubs (was seeing if you were still reading), and little things like "Where can I find someone who does good hair color?" and "Who has the best unlimited brunch near me?"  Fortunately, I have family and friends here, so I'm not totally at a loss, but it's still going to be a pretty steep learning curve.  I'm sure over the next few months I'll end up in areas in which I shouldn't have wandered, get a haircut that makes me look like Richard Simmons, and have some shitty brunches, but I know that over time I'm going to make this city my home again.  And that's the most excellent kind of adventure.

So how was my first week here, you ask?  I had a lot of jumbled and random thoughts this first week back, so instead of subjecting you to my stream of consciousness, it's easier for me to attempt to categorize them.

First Thoughts Upon My Return:

While driving on the Kennedy and Stevenson:  "I don't remember Chicago being this foggy.  You can't see anything, and it looks so gloomy.  Kind of like Gotham City.  Wait a minute...."

While running along the lake on Lake Shore Drive:  "Jesus, everyone is REALLY in shape here.  Ugh, skinny bitch.  Oooo Buckingham Fountain!  Ugh, another skinny bitch.  God, the lake look pretty.  Must.  Run.  Off.  That.  Chicken.  Fried.  From.  Nashville."

Traffic:  "Well, it takes me an hour to go five miles, so I still feel like I'm back in DC..... ::an hour later::  COURT SMASH!"

Hipsters:  "Note to self, stay away from Wicker Park.  I can't handle knee high socks in 90 degree heat."

Tourists (myself included):  "Yes, the buildings are tall, but it's not helping you or the rest of the world if you're riding your Divvy bike while looking up into the sky."

Skyscrapers:  "Everything is so TALL!!!!!"-says me while riding Divvy bike and looking up into the sky.

Although DC is a "big" (if you count the neighboring burbs) city, it isn't a TALL city.  It's law that no building in DC can be taller than the Capitol building, because "nothing can be higher than Freedom" (aka the Freedom statue at the top of the dome), so you can imagine that it's been awhile since I've had the sun blocked out by buildings.  It definitely has taken some getting used to, and I'm still in awe at just how BIG everything is here.  Even though I'm coming from another metropolis, I still feel like some small-town gal who's in awe of the big city while trying to make it as a songwriter and works at bar trying to get LeAnn Rimes to sing her songs.

Divvy Bikes:  "Well, this is convenient!" -initial thought.

-"Okay, I get it.  Obey traffic laws."-5 minutes later while still figuring out how to rent a bike.

-"Return the bike every 30 minutes?? What the heck?"-Still tapping buttons on the screen.

-"Ugh, how the hell am I going to figure out where to return this thing?"-Still at screen

"Oh!  There's an app!"-Yep, still at screen

"This is so convenient!!!!"-finally riding bike through the streets of the city

Sightseeing:  So I caved and bought a guidebook.  When I first moved to DC, I highlighted all the things I wanted to see in the city and created a spreadsheet that was taped above my desk to ensure that I actually completed it.  Believe it or not, I checked every box on that list (some several times, like "Get a Marine to buy me a drink".  Kidding!  Sorta...) and then some, and I am going to do the same for Chicago (minus the whole drink buying that.  I've got Boo for that).  That way, the city stays "new", and I don't fall into a rut of doing the same ol' thing on weekends.  This week alone, I rode bikes down to the Museum Complex, visited Millennium Park and Grant Park, walked along State Street, had lunch on Division, saw live music at a dive bar, danced with a group of 30 somethings at some bar in Wicker Park (no, they weren't wearing knee high socks), took pictures with Picasso's unnamed statue, and did a public art walk with Boo.  I feel like I've barely scraped the tip of the iceberg though, and I'm pretty jazzed to continue to check the boxes on my Chicago list.

Bars and Restaurants:  "I want to eat at them allllll!"

DC has some amazing restaurants (check out Rasika or Filomena's if you ever go), and there's a variety of cuisines, but they aren't really "known" for a particular genre of food.  There's one thing that I never forgot about Chicago, and that's how delicious the cuisine can be.  Walking through the streets of River North and Streeterville, every few feet you get the waft of Italian food hitting your nose and you immediately start salivating.  There are some places that I remember from growing up, but there are so many new places that have popped up that seem worth exploring.  My waistline is screaming at me right now.

While El and I were wandering around the city yesterday, we were trying to find a bar to watch the Uruguay-Colombia game.  It was starting to rain, so we ducked into the first bar that we saw.  It didn't look like much from the inside, the 'r' and 's' were burnt out on its neon sign, and they were advertising for people to "try their broiled salmon!", but Miller's Pub ended up being a legit place to grab a drink.  It was decorated with oil paintings of what looked like happy, old alcoholics, the bartenders (one of whom looked like he had one foot in the grave) were wearing vests and ties (not what we were expecting from a place with broiled salmon), there was stained glass everywhere, and they had one awesome beer list.  And it was PACKED at 3pm on a Saturday.  We didn't end up getting any food, but the plates that passed by us included some delicious looking spinach dip, an intense hummus and cheese platter, and wings that smelled amazing.  Couple that with the friendly service, and we found ourselves a stomping grounds!  Although it's in a touristy section of town, it's definitely a place worth checking out.  Miller's.  With a 'r' and 's'.

Street Fests:  Last night, we went to the Old St. Pat's block party on Madison and Des Plaines with some friends, and it was pretty baller.  For 40 bucks, you got four drink tickets with a choice of Miller Lite, Blue Moon, or Summer Shandy, and Third Eye Blind played.  You read that right.  As in "I want something else to get me through this semi-charmed kinda life."  As in "Graduate" and "Non-Dairy Creamer" (if you recognize that last song, you've got major props from me).  They put on a decent show, and Stephen Jenkins was all about showing love to the fans and wanting to "hug every single one of you" and moonbeams, rainbows, and granola, but everyone went nuts when they heard the first few chords of Semi-Charmed Life.  That alone was worth the price of admission.  And damn right, I knew all the words.  Definitely made up for having to hide out in a parking garage while it monsooned outside.

Midwestern Friendliness:  You can't beat it.

I've only been here a week, and I've reconnected with old friends and made new ones, began scratching the surface on exploring my new home, had some great beers, eaten some delicious food, gotten lost a bajillion times, and have enjoyed myself every second.  I think I'm gonna like it here.

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