Don’t Look Back

I knew this was going to happen.

Random Chicago scenes

It’s like an addict who finally goes clean and understands, reluctantly, he has to avoid the places where he used to use and stop hanging with the old drug buddies. Because once you let back in the familiarity, the comfort, of the old patterns…

You are doomed.

from our five years there

So for these past five months and 12 days (but who’s counting?), I studiously avoided all things Chicago. Shut off all the emails I regularly got about upcoming plays, music, events. Wiped my bookmarks for favorite Chicago sites off my computer. Tried not to think about what might be going on during the weekends, and ignore, as much as possible, that I was basically a prisoner in my home when Samantha took the car for an extended period.

A prisoner, you say? Oh, come on. More of the usual Burgan hyperbole. And you’re right. I could walk down to the corner bar, where the Bud flows freely from the one tap, and too many guys seem to spend too much time from about 1 pm on. Or I could stroll to the video store less than a mile away. You know, that famous purveyor of media, Red Box, where 250 titles await your perusal. Why would I think I was missing anything by not being in Chicago anymore?

Most at Millennium Park, for no real reason

Any notion that I had gotten over the Windy City was all-too-easily demolished this weekend, as I made my first trip back. I hated being there as a tourist (or to be kinder, a visitor), and not a resident. Although I immediately felt at ease at O’Hare, where one of the people movers was not running. Nothing’s changed! Later I rode and walked amidst the skyscrapers of the Loop and smiled. Until I remembered it was only a visit.

Though a fine visit it was. Great hospitality and conversation with some of my theater buddies – the folks I was just getting close to before we left. Meals at some of our favorite old haunts, including, of course, the Village Tap, our neighborhood hang-out. Vegan options and 24 brews on tap – and not one of them Bud. How would someone from West Haven stand it?

except I always had a good time there

But I am not from West Haven. I am merely occupying space there for some unknown length of time. Trying, still, to find the positives, as I’ve outlined here before at C?WC? Trying also to forget what I loved about Chicago in particular and city life in general. Of course there is New Haven just a stone’s throw away, and that’s just like Ch – ah, no, don’t even jest about that. And New York is not so far, everyone reminds me. No, not in miles, but in the time and money it takes to, say, go see a show at a black-box theater – it’s not quite like the last-minute decisions I could make in Chicago to see a play just a neighborhood away.

and there sure as hell isn't anything like it here

And odds are, I’m not going to run into anyone I know at that theoretical NYC black box. I have no contacts there, and building them from this distance, at a time when I wonder if I can even continue to sustain this dream of theatrical success – the odds are not good. But last night, going to see a production of one of my short plays (a total serendipitous event, that the show was running while I was in Chicago), I saw folks from the producing company I had worked with before. I went with the star of my solo show, and he unexpectedly knew someone in the show. I knew another actor, from my stint  helping out on The Real Thing right before I left. The theater community is large there, yet not so large that you can’t run into people you know, or people who know people, at almost any play you see. Not to mention my attending the Chicago Dramatists’ Saturday afternoon reading and seeing fellow playwrights I knew from my time there, including a very talented writer/performer/filmmaker who was in the class for learning to write a solo show.

(Boy, did deciding to take that class lead to lots of changes/opportunities! I had been debating between that class and another, and a friend with “intuitive” talents encouraged me to take the solo class. I knew in my gut that was the one I wanted, too. So maybe next time I ignore the gut and the friend? Nah, taking the class was for the good, despite the disappointments. And legal hassles…)

or like Navy Pier at night

The trip this weekend highlighted what I always knew these past 5 months and 12 days, but tried to bury: I miss Chicago, I miss the friends I met, I miss cultivating the fiction that I have a chance to do something with playwriting – still. The fiction that becomes a cruel torment in my isolated state in West Haven. Give it time, friends there and in Chicago tell me. I will. I have no choice. There is no going back to Chicago, except as a visitor.

There was something of any irony here, this reaction to returning to Chicago. It came just scant hours after this conversation: Of course I’ve adjusted to being back in CT (if not totally happy about West Haven). No, I don’t miss Chicago, primarily because I don’t let myself think about it. I accept being here. I am an adaptable person. I have adapted.

A lie? The kind of denial the addict struggles with when the time on the wagon is not so pleasant? I didn’t think so then. I meant it, in that moment. But then other moments came, when I was walking around the old neighborhood, seeing the familiar sites from the L, taking in the Loop skyline from the new rooftop bar of the Wit Hotel, watching talented actors and directors throw together a night of entertaining one-acts in just a week. And in those moments, the pre-trip assurances of my adaptability did not seem like a lie, exactly, but something that needed to be said, for my benefit and others’, to try to smooth the rough spots in the transition to life in CT.

So, now I am on the train back to CT from Grand Central. Chicago is…back where it belongs, geographically and in my psyche. Distant. Would it be too self-tortuous to already begin planning the next trip? Or should I go back on the wagon, cut off all the thoughts and emotions, and once again try to immerse myself in the positives of Connecticut?

Yes, and yes.

But when that next trip comes, as it will, another relapse of an addict who never really wanted to abandon his preferred drug, the immersion will seem false, as it did so many times this weekend.

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~ by mburgan on December 16, 2009.

2 Responses to “Don’t Look Back”

  1. If you’re thinking of flying again why don’t you check out San Fancisco? San Antonio? Seattle? Miami Beach? Des Moines. Nah, forget Des Moines. Boston? Montreal? Quebec? Atlanta? My house.

  2. You mean flying for a vacation or moving? We will actually be spending a few days in Seattle next year. And I don’t have to fly to get to your house. Hope you’ll see ours when you do your pizza rendezvous.

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