On Chicago, belatedly

Lately, my life has been one of those hectic, crowded places. Sometimes, I worry that there’s not enough room for me.

Last night, after work, I cancelled plans to meet a friend and took a long bath instead (apparently, it’s possible to literally steam the cover off of a Vogue magazine). Carlos has been very much not in the mood to love me lately, so I’ve decided that we both need a change of scenery and will be relocating back to my apartment this weekend. That was supposed to happen last night, but instead, I laid on the couch and did absolutely nothing. It was wonderful.

Tonight is a lot of rearranging. I haven’t had my car since I left for Chicago; it’s been languishing in Mom’s driveway. I need to get that back, obviously. Kevin is going up to the mountains this weekend, so he’ll need his car and I very much miss driving Simon, who feels so much less like a Mack truck than Kevin’s SUV. I need to get myself ready for the weekend. Sadly, I wish I had exciting plans to report, but instead, I’m babysitting nearly every moment that I’m awake. 3 families. 4 “shifts”. 3 days.

I’m always excited to babysit. I never view it as work, really, but it does tend to take up quite a bit of time. I’m going to put the money toward my New York trip next weekend, which I am absolutely thrilled about.

Anyway, I feel like I never get to properly describe my Chicago visits. I get too busy with everything else and reminiscing about the trip falls by the wayside. Chicago was wonderful. It was a perfect weekend. I saw a lot of people (of course, I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see, bummer), and had a blast.

I ended up helping with a music video shoot on Sunday, so that was exciting. I got to stand on the rocks in one of my favorite places in Chicago (no, not the Bean, the Peace Garden!) and dance around awkwardly while wearing a wig and some rather scandalous clothing. It helped that the weather was beautiful that day.

Between the shoot and the airport, I stopped at Swisher’s.  There’s nothing like saying hello to a friend’s parents while your makeup looks like you’re going clubbing at 3 in the afternoon. Thank goodness for makeup removal wipes – those things are amazing. Carry them everywhere when you travel. Just have them on you at all times. They’re all-purpose cloths sent from Heaven.

Saturday, I went to Wisconsin with Anne. We went to see the Mars Cheese Castle, which used to be this amazing, kitschy place but is now just a touristy castle – they seriously redid it to be a castle, but they do have $1.50 meat sticks, so you know I was happy. I also got some white cheese with cranberry in it, a 6-pack of Spotted Cow from my favorite Wisconsin brewery, and some chocolate. (I’m attempting to recreate the experience I had with the Fairview cheese from South Africa and can’t do it. The white with the apricots was some of the most amazing cheese I’ve ever tasted. I can’t get close.)

After we were done at the Cheese Castle, we were like, well, we drove all the way out to Wisconsin, we should probably drive some more. So we googled. Anne found http://www.custardlist.com, a website which lists the daily custard flavors around the state. Seeing that some place called Oscar’s had m&m and cookie dough, we were off toward Milwaukee. Yes, it was better than Kopp’s (although Kopp’s makes some darn good custard), and I got two scoops for less than $2.50.

Saturday night, I went to play with Patrick and Maddie, who had a hotel room downtown. (Maddie’s explanation of why they couldn’t stay at his apartment is one of the funnier things I’ve heard lately.) Anne’s apartment has a problem with hot water, so I was relieved to find that the Embassy Suites was fully stocked with towels and all the hot water I could want. (I did want, so badly.) Swisher met us for happy hour and then we went out to a bar nearby. I was exhausted, so we ended up back at the hotel with snacks and wine. It was the perfect night. I was sad because my friend Adrian was having his annual “Fried, Fried, Fried” party – it’s exactly what it sounds like – and I was looking forward to eating all the things. However, I would never make it up to the North side. Instead, I fell asleep on the couch at the hotel.

Being back in Chicago was like suddenly realizing that you lost something. I have lost my memory of the street names (not all of them, but finding myself staring at the Chicago theater on State street and wondering which way to walk was a disconcerting feeling); I have lost the flow of the trains, my balance as they stop. I felt my hand reaching out to clutch the pole in a panic as we slid into one of the stations. Being back was like going home. Swisher took me to the train, took me down Lake Shore Drive. I used to drive that every single day. This time, all I could do was stare around. The park. The lake. The river. The buildings. There’s something wonderful about the way the city looms above you, around you. It sinks into you, a little. You’ll never be able to take that bit of Chicago away.

I remember being in love when I was 19. I remember the way that I threw myself into it; the way that logistics stopped being paramount; that no distance was too far, no amount of separation too much. I want to love the way I loved when I was 19. It was pure. It was admittedly one of the most imperfect relationships you could imagine, but it was so real, and it was all-encompassing, and it was beautiful. When did I lose the ability to throw caution to the wind and jump in?

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