Friday, December 10, 2010

*Insert Jumping Up and Down and Squealing Here*

It just occurred to me a few days ago that come January I really will be going back to Chicago. It took a moment to wrap my mind around this. Chicago really does still exist, my friends are still there, and in less than a month I will be too! Then I thought, how depressing is it that the thought of going back to a place where I once lived boggles my mind to that level? Clearly, it is time.

Idaho has not come without its benefits, however. It is beautiful here; I made some great new friends, and figured out what I want to do with my life. The time I spent here on my own provided space for quite a bit of introspection without distractions, and that is a good thing.

That being said, I can’t wait to get back to Chi-town! (pronounced “Shy-town,” I don’t know who came up with it.) I’m so looking forward to it that I’ve decided to make a list of things I will do as soon as I get back. Yay, lists! So much fun, and the reason why my pockets are always filled with annoying little scraps of paper.

1. I’ll arrive at my friend Elizabeth’s house, where after I throw open the door and say something to the effect of, “What up, dorks?” there will be much jumping up and down and screaming. As undignified as this behavior is, it is programmed into our ovaries and completely involuntary.

2. I will attempt to make conversation, but as I will be suffering from an intense case of “Road Crazies” from having driven for 8 hours a day for the past four days, I will first need to process the bits of BBC Radio podcasts and all of my cross-country driving music out of my brain. Also, an immediate shower will be crucial. The rest of the night will be a blur of squealing, excited chatting, and getting used to not being in a moving vehicle.

3. Riding the El, which is the city transit system, was always a nice little time-out in my day. Sometimes when you can’t get a seat or when a crazy person sits next to you it sucks, but my adorable old neighborhood was close to the end of the Brown Line, which is my favorite one because it has the best scenery, in my opinion. It was so nice to get to sit down and listen to music while staring out the window on the way to work. So I’ll definitely be charging my ipod and enjoying zoning out for a while.

4. Julius Meinl. This will be my first destination on the train. I will sip delicious Austrian coffee, eat delicious Austrian food and generally feel warm and cozy and happy. I’ll probably be meeting up with a friend or two, before buying several bags of their imported coffee, worth its weight in gold.

5. The Chicago Girls will be assembled once again, more screaming and jumping up and down will ensue, a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey will be sacrificed to the gods, and more groovy tunes will be enjoyed. Maybe we’ll bundle up and go somewhere, maybe we’ll stay in. Whatever we do is always fun because The Chicago Girls are down-to-earth and smart and funny and trustworthy and generally amazing in every way. You can always count on them to have your back. Once we were walking around somewhere downtown at night, and a man came up to us and started singing “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” We joined him, I think by the end of the song I was the only one left singing it with him, one of the girls videotaped it on her phone or camera or something, and then when the song was done the man demanded money. When I refused to pay him for what I had naively assumed was a shared experience of delightful randomness with a stranger, he called us mean names and then fled the scene amid the echoes of the girls cussing him out like a small group of adorable, well-dressed truckers. Ah, those were the days…

6. Nancy. Catch-up time with one of my two Chicago Moms. The other one is the mother of my friend Sara. Sara’s sister, Annie, lives about three hours from me in Missoula, Montana and is moving back to Chicago at the same time I am. Apparently when their mom heard I was coming back too, she said she was happy that “at least two of my daughters are moving back!” How cute is that. I’m excited to see both of my Chicago-based surrogate mothers who set me straight in person when my own mother can’t reach through the phone and knock some sense into me herself.

7. The Icelanders! My Icelandic Chicago friends are extremely fun. They also graciously allowed me to stay with them for my last two weeks in Chicago when I lived there before. We used to have what I came to call “rock’n’roll dinners” because we would eat while listening to various rock bands. It’s nice having people around who can pronounce my full name, and they are part of an extended circle of Icelanders in the Chicagoland area. I’ll also be back in time for Þorrablót in February, woohoo! Anyway, they party like it’s 1999 all over again, and we always have a blast and a half.

8. Ordering in exotic foods from many lands. Omg I’ll get to eat my favorite Vietnamese and Thai dishes and have them delivered right to my door! Then there’s the Chicago Brauhaus, famed Bavarian restaurant and bar, complete with a live polka band on the weekends. It’s like entering a time warp when you walk through the doors. A time warp filled with German and Austrian beer, dumplings and various pork products served with sides of foods whose names end in “-kraut”.  Then there’s the tiny Polish restaurant Podhalanka, an amazingly well-kept secret that serves inexpensive, filling, delicious foods from the Old Country. Also that sort of Belgian place in Andersonville, the Swedish neighborhood, with all of those beers and mussels and amazing food whose name I forget, I think it’s the Hop Leaf. And Ed Debevic’s, the touristy re-created 50s diner where the waiters get to be rude to you and they play oldies and dance on the counters while you eat your extremely greasy junk food. And the Peruvian place with the really good chicken! And dim sum in Chinatown! Holy crap, I have so much eating to do. Mmmm...food.

9. Lake Shore Drive. Sometimes when I was really bored and it was between rush hours, I would get in my car and drive down the length of Lake Shore Drive, affectionately referred to by the locals as LSD. “I took LSD the whole way there and it was really fun!” “Get off LSD now, you’ve gone too far!” “LSD again? Lose the habit!” It’s got a sick view of both Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago, complete with truly impressive architecture.

10. Trader Joe’s! Yes, in the spring of next year there will finally be a Trader Joe’s in Spokane, Washington, a mere 30 minutes away from Coeur D’Alene. But that’s not my Trader Joe’s. The one I drive to when I’m sick of walking to the ethnic market and I need to stock up on affordable yet tasty foods. Chocolate-covered pomegranite seeds! Four-flavors-in-one-package hummus! Lavender soap with the built-in scrubbing things! Garlic naan! Cheap wine! The list goes on and on...

Omg I’ll be in my favorite American city again! Swing dance night at that one tiny club downtown! Indian food! Poisonous air polluting my lungs! The Chicago Art Institute! Holding onto my purse tightly at all times and never walking down dark streets alone at night! Chorizo tacos after 2 am in the little Mexican place under that one train station! Taking an extra 45 minutes to get home because I got on the wrong train! Standing under the heat lamps with the pigeons in the freezing cold winter while waiting for the same wrong train! Forgetting where I parked my car! Bundling up in three layers of clothing and my snow boots before leaving the house! Having to moisturize my face with olive oil every night because the ice-cold wind is trying to burn off the top layer of my skin! Artsy movie theaters that show foreign films and weird documentaries and replay “Saturday Night Fever” every once in a while! Being only one day’s drive from my folks in Maryland!

Not that I’m excited or anything...   

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