An Official Farewell to Chicago

It’s been a little over seven months since I said “Farewell” to Chicago and hit the road for new adventures in Nashville. Seven months since it snowed in March for the movers after seventy degree days in February. Since sitting in my car with my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and breakfast sandwich after my final packing/cleaning/walk-through/put our condo keys and parking lot gate opener on the counter/taking my time shutting the front door and looking wistfully like the final episode of a beloved sitcom. All with minutes to spare before the new residents received their keys and had their first walk-through before closing. I had no interested in accidentally meeting them.

Since basically my final shot of Chicago was, while filling Bud’s gas tank at the BP on Broadway and Irving Park, I see Honey West sauntering cautiously across the lot with her poofy pink winter jacket and big-gulp sized drink. Taking me back to a pivotal Chicago moment that first Monday after 9/11 out of our apartments and ourselves, and my dear friend MK (before he was “MK”) and I hit the Boystown bars and we ended up at Gentry and ordered one more drink we probably didn’t need and Honey sang the WWI classic “Over There” and I completely effing LOST it. Yeah.

Seven months of moving into a new house and trying to not rely on my phone too much to get around (I miss the Chicago grid!) and making my way into a new literary community and job searching and all that goes into relocating. And I finally have my new site ready, and I’ve been brewing this “Farewell” post in my head for a while. Because I kind of feel like I just “ghosted” out of town. Between Ernie’s moving down early to start his new job at Nashville Children’s Theatre that’s brought us here in the first place and the packing of life and work and all that, there just wasn’t a whole lot of time to see everyone and visit everywhere and get too sentimental. Even though I did find time to walk by all my apartments, including walking the ally to visit my West Barry coach house place. It would’ve been cool to have a big going away bash somewhere, inviting (most) everyone we ever knew in Chicago. But it just didn’t work out. We left once before, but not as far. South Bend, Indiana was close enough to keep our dentist. This time, not so much. This is it.

So, farewell to mine and my college mate Sarah’s first apartment (1998-99) down the road from Wrigley, a “garden apartment” with its cat pee soaked carpet and rat problem. To (re)discovering Boystown and to all the boys and friends I knew and loved and crushed on and all that, numbers written on Roscoe’s business cards with golf pencils that I maybe still have tucked in an old phone book somewhere (okay, I know where). To being single via landlines and answering machines and payphones, oh my.

A Thank you to all my peeps at Chicago Dramatists and the Living Room Project and NewTown Writers for all your inspiration and opportunity. To the Chicago Live Lit Community and all the writers I’ve shared a mic with or listened to from the audience–and to all the audiences who took ten minutes here and there to listen and maybe say a kind word after. You are all amazing!

To my DePaul University MAWP classmates and professors. You seriously rock! Thank you for getting me to the place as a writer I am today. Thank you also (and especially?) to the DePaul Writers Guild! I miss “stretching my tuition dollars” every Thursday (etc.) and am honestly still feeling a little lost without you. I know you still have my back.

I miss you, big fat Lake I could walk to or ride my bike along, stare into, get a sense of direction from. A particularly sweltering spell this past August, all I wanted was to be with you. The Cumberland River doesn’t quite cut it in comparison. I miss more daily biking and walking in general, late night rides down Clark Street from Andersonville, cutting across Sunnyside and its funny pedestrian-only way. Feeling badass riding Milwaukee Avenue home from Wicker Park.

I get my Chicago Instagram fixes primarily through @Chicagotod and @Chicagomotives. Thanks, guys!

I read my copy of Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology from a distance, much of it sitting on our back porch overlooking our sometimes overgrown backyard, early mornings, coffee, birds and bugs chirping, a train whistle in the distance, light (and sometimes not) city noises. Far away from our condo’s arm-span sized balcony that served as our outdoor space (for which I was grateful!) overlooking Sheridan Road from where my young nephew once shouted excitedly, “TWO AIRPLANES!” as he kept watch of our O’Hare flight path. I love the collection and am proud to be a part of it. But it made me miss the city: a Chicago I could directly connect with, sure, but also a Chicago just before my time there in neighborhoods that I only visited but never lived. And a Chicago that was not my version of Chicago. It kind of drove home that life in Chicago for me is now truly in the past. 20 years ago I was saving my dollars (literally–as a waiter!) to get myself there. But things end and it’s all a part of myself, ourselves.

As is Unabridged Bookstore and Joys Noodles and Melrose Diner (RIP) and the Golden Apple and all the coffee shops I wrote parts of my soul in (Dollop, “Cariboy,” and more) and the stages at the old Bailiwick and the Strawdog cabaret (also RIP) and all the theatres I went to with Ernie and before I knew him. And that moment when each night Charlie’s transitioned from cowboy bar to late night dance club. And walking quickly to Halsted without a coat in winter because who wants to deal with coat check? And both the romance and torture of all the CTA train lines. And the entertainment of the Broadway bus. And restaurant jobs and temp jobs. And the Art Institute on my birthday. And driving back into the city at night, the skyline lights welcoming us home. And, and, and more things I’ll think of and remember after I finish typing this.

I could think about things I won’t miss or places I never made it to. But maybe some other time for all that. I want to keep the glow nice and warm as the weather is finally (finally!) properly autumnal down here in Tennessee. Just in time.

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