I love Chicago! (and today, we've been together for nineteen years)

I love Chicago! (and today, we've been together for nineteen years)

Why hey, Chicagobaby. Happy Anniversary! This is my little way of saying "I love Chicago, and I want the world to know!"

Now, come over here and sit by me.

On this day in 1995, I moved in with you. That was nineteen years ago. My Mom said, “Nineteen years? That’s longer than you were with me." Whoa.

In the past few years since the breakup, I've joked that my relationship with my hair stylist is the longest monogamous relationship I’ve ever had. But that’s not true. My longest monogamous relationship has been with you, Chicago.

***

You look beautiful, today. You clean up so nice, baby.

It was nice to see you looking so good. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you have kinda been letting yourself go, lately. Grey-black snow is not your most flattering look. I mean, I have dress-down clothes, too, but I don’t wear them for ten months straight!

You can be one cold bitch, Chicago. Ha ha! No....really.

Know what? Never mind all that. Today? June 1st? Today is about you and me.

***

In 1995, I was courting three cities: LA. NYC. And you. I knew New York was way out of my league. I knew I would spend my weekends alone, while NYC would be out wooing and charming the pants off everyone it met. Still, it was a dreamy prospect. It was a fantasy.

LA seemed to be an the obvious choice to bring about my then-presumed destiny the quickest, because that’s where they make movies, right?

And then there was you. You had the outward appearances of a big city player, but on the inside, you were a cheap date. Me and cheap are like me and cheap. It works.

I chose you, Chicago, because Winona Ryder told me to. (I’ve told you that, right? When she was Jo in the movie “Little Women?” It was weird, and a little hard to explain...) And now we've been together just shy of two decades.

***

From the start, you had everything a young, thirsty girl could want.  Culture. A Dazzling Skyline. Free concerts. Cheap taco joints. Clean-ish trains. A beach. An interesting back story. A bad boy reputation.

Mmmm mmmm. You were my small town big city.

On our first night together,  I remember sitting on the rooftop of my friend’s aunt’s condo. It was on Clark street, dangerously close to Rush street. I sat under the stars, and over the traffic din. I was absorbed by my thoughts, as the sprawl of city lights winked at me. It occurred to me that, “If I CAN’T make it here, I CAN’T make it anywhere.”  I laughed, then drank 30 more beers.

Nineteen years. Ho-ly shit. *ring* Hold on, Chicago. I have to take a call. I’ll be back. Don’t go anywhere. Ha. As if…

***

Hello? (whispers) Hey, you. I can’t talk long. It’s my Chicago anniversary. How are you? What's the temp, there? Oh lordy. You are so hot!

I mean it, I can’t talk long. Chicago has a bit of a temper. Oof. There a story for later. Okay, real quick: It was my first February. You can ask anybody: Chicago is a JERK in February. So, one morning, super early, I was waiting for the bus to go to work. I worked at Starbucks, because in the mid 90’s, it was like, law or something, that everyone in their 20’s had to work at least once at Starbucks.

And Chicago had been so cold to me that morning. Brutal. So bitter. So, at the bus stop,  I remember thinking, “Yes, early morning drivers. Yes I am sticking my hand as far into my girl parts as is humanly possible because, at this moment, I suspect I am only  warm in the very center of my stomach, and I fully intend to get in there. Haaaa!  Oh man. Okay. I gotta go. No. Stop. Don't do that. Don't you make me choose. I love Chicago, and I also love you.  Now Good Bye.”

***

I'm back. You know, I think I’ve changed more than you. My landscape is unrecognizable compared to what it was on the day we merged. So much has happened.

Nineteen years, nineteen lives. Starbucks. Theater. Street Festivals. The Age of Alanis began at the Metro. I had Gainful employment in institutions that should have been closed. Then they closed. Stinky the Tercel! Ugly scenes between beautiful people. Wild abuse of sacred connections. Seeking and reeking. Rock star Fail. The end of the liquid funhouse.  The real job. The chance. The fight to make it something it wasn’t. The kid. The MFA. The revival.

There’s a scrapbook, eh?

****

Your north side is your cerebral side. These days, I go there to shop. I go there for the logic. The order. The abundant parking.

I still occasionally go south to whip my mind into a frenzy of some kind, be it creative, cathartic, or curious. I go less and less, these days. I think it’s frustrating for us both, at times, that we rarely spend a night on the town.

But the truth is, those days when we boot scooted our way down the middle of the roads at midnight, as if the city ruckus was a line dance at the never ending reception following our union – those days are over. We have moved out of the Renaissance, and into The Age of Reason.

***

There have been hard times in those nineteen years, for sure. I have been very open about my amorous feelings towards Southern California, and have taken more than one trip west just to be there.  That was SoCal just now, on the phone. You more than anyone know that when I get back from California, I can give you a colder shoulder than you could ever give me. And you’re Chicago!

You always win me back. We’re tight.

But there always is, and probably always will be, a next Cali-Dalliance. A Calliance. A Cali-Dalli.

I’m not just going to up and go. I’m well aware that my days of reckless relocation ended when we started raising the boy together. You have been such a good provider for my son, Chicago. I love his school. I love the palette of skin color in his class pictures. (I keep bugging you about fixing that one park, but Nooooo….you just keep telling me you’re broke. You really are so bad with money…)

In the years since I stopped being a big drunk pig lady, you have, little by little, led me to higher ground, and I’m so grateful for that. But, and here’s the thing. You’re a prairie. Prairies are flat. The highest ground you have to offer is toxic landfills.

I might want mountains, boo.

I love you, Chicago. When I’m with you, it's like my heart is at room temperature. It's comfortable and familiar. With you, I live in a fearless boredom that, on most days, feels just right.

Okay, that doesn't sound so great, but...I mean....I have a mortgage with you!

*sigh*

How about this. Let’s go get Indian food tonight at Ghareeb Nawaz. Let’s celebrate! Nineteen years, baby. We have so much to be grateful for, and we still really enjoy each other’s company! Right? That’s saying something right there. Can’t say that about too many people/places/things! Like I said, "I love Chicago!"

But if the time ever comes, and I am given the right opportunity, I’m probably going to ask you for an open relationship. I think you know this about me. But I want you to really, really…..know that. Okay?

Okay.

Oh, and again, boo. You were beautiful today. So beautiful.

***

That's my piece, and that's my peace. Thanks for taking the time to read my silly words. It means the world. Carry on..

Old Single Mom

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