That Toddlin’ Town

“Doors closing. Pulaski, next stop.”

Still love crossing the Chicago River...

That was all it took to make me feel at home. To feel like the previous 18 or so months had just been a bad dream and I had never left this city I loved. The Orange Line chugged along on its way to the Loop, and the familiar skyline jazzed me just like it did so many times during those five long-ago years, when I took such pride and pleasure in saying, “I live in Chicago. This is my home.”

...and the water tanks...

It’s not the same thing, coming back as a visitor, no matter how comfortable I feel. I can’t claim that old feeling of ownership. I was in NYC last weekend, a place I’ve been literally hundreds of times, I bet, but I do not have the same bond because I’ve never lived there. And truthfully, never felt the same sense of belonging that I felt from that first day I moved to Chicago (July 1, 2004), till the gray day I drove away (July 1, 2009 – nothing if not symmetrical…), Callie and the Ex by my side in the cab of our rental truck.

...and the Corn Cob

Ah, the Ex. She figures so prominently in my personal Chicago story, hmm? Not really too much to say now about that. Only, that the flipside to feeling so at home last night and this morning is going by certain locales and having memories of her, or things we did, and getting a not-so-pleasant jolt. Not always such good memories, hmm? I’m sure those flashbacks would get even worse if I had more time to spend here and visited more of the old haunts. But just seeing the office building where she worked for several years, that brought memories of coming downtown and meeting her for lunch, or after work for happy hour and a play. Well, I suppose memories will come back anywhere I go where we spent time together (ah, the Glastonbury Elks Club; the back room at IO on New Year‘s Eve; the giant hole in the ground in Arizona – amazingly, I actually thought of some good memories first…).

My tiny--but cheap, comfortable, and clean--downtown hotel room...

...and the view of the Trump Tower from it

At least I have plenty of memories of Chicago separate from her, though it’s hard to avoid this overarching fact: She always hated it here, while I always loved it. That division added to the tension between us, certainly as time went on. This dissolution could have, maybe should have, come sooner, and I would still be a resident of Chicago, not a once-or-a-year-or-so visitor. Oh well.

I could come back. I think about it often, after the passing of my initial impulse months ago: No, I could not live there again. Why willingly return to the scene of the crime? But as time has gone by, I’ve changed my attitude. I do want to return, despite the corruption in the city and high taxes and ridiculous state finances that I railed against so often. Despite having so many loving friends and relatives in CT. Despite also feeling the pull toward Santa Fe; ok, a year there, then come to Chicago. That’s one scenario. A lot has to fall into place for that to happen. Too many uncertainties still ahead. But this I know: I will never come back here and not feel that in some small way, this is my city. This is home. You’re allowed more than one, right?

Later-day random thoughts: Meetup food was so-so, but company was great. Felt more relaxed reaching out to the strangers around me; maybe because I was alone and had no choice – could not rely on the Ex to do the socializing, as I sometimes did in the past.

Walked up Milwaukee Avenue into the heart of Bucktown (or is it Wicker Park? Never quite got right where one began and the other ended. Let’s say Bucktown), the hip-little-store area, looking to go to Piece for a beer. Stopped at Reckless Records for, I’m embarrassed to say, the first time. This location is just steps from the record shop set created for High Fidelity, and I would bet was an inspriration for that fictional shop. And there, at Reckless, I bought my first vinyl in more than 20 years. I was giddy!  (Shriekback and Spacemen 3, if you’re curious).

Then, arriving at Piece, the 20-something host saw the bag and asked me what I had bought. He seemed genuinely interested, and I was eager to share, so I took out the two records and gave him my spiel about them. Then he wished me well as I headed in. I tell ya, shit like that does not happen in CT. After the beer (OK, 2 including a very hoppy Dysfunctionale), I headed to Karyn’s Cooked for my usual jerk tofu wrap and some good companionship with old theater buddies. Turned in early, feeling like I ate way too much. But good conversation and great Chicago-in-February weather made it a memorable day.

And so to bed.

Another update: Snow this Sunday morning, adds to the usual slow-to-wake feel of this city after a raucous Saturday night. A trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art on tap, then lunch before a visit with another friend: my alter ego in the ill-fated solo show. We will catch up on all that has happened since my  pulling away in that rental truck those 18 months or so ago. Maybe I can recruit him for the sequel to the show, about the further misadventures of a certain guy who just can’t get it right with relationships. No, too soon for that play. And besides, who needs the threat of another lawsuit. No, let that sleeping dog lie, at least for now. Some day the time might come to write about this marital dissolution in a more complete way, than I have here at C?WC? But not now. Now, time to look ahead. To, perhaps, the next time I call Chicago home, so I can once again feel that sense of excitement and possibility that greeted me on July 1, 2004. We shall see…


~ by mburgan on February 6, 2011.

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