Chicago

9:42am – La Colombe Torrefaction

Arriving two nights ago via a $20 plane ticket, I had just enough time to grab potato-gnocchi to-go from a place in Logan Square called Reno. I ordered my food from an extremely grizzled bartender with long silvery-grey hair, a mangled beard, and a lifetime of tattoos up and down keg-hauling arms.

Half a minute after receiving the menu, he swung-fell towards me, propping his arm up on the counter, and leaned in to take my order.

“What can I get’chu, man?” he asked in the same way he moved his body – fluid yet graceless and slightly inebriated.

“Do you have any sweet tasting pizzas, like anything with barbecue sauce or pineapple?” I asked, thinking of the buffalo chicken pizza from Mesa in Uptown.

“WHAT?!” he responded, as if I had said the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. “NO!”

His response was so dramatic that it made me question my own sobriety, as if his sleepy drunk character emanated an invisible world that had engulfed me in it when he swung over.

I told him I needed some more time. After further inspection of the menu, I saw that there was a specialty pizza with beets, another with squash, and one with sweet corn. Immediately, my mind went to my days of server training and learning the importance menu knowledge.

I did not really care, though. The hugs people gave him at the bar led me to believe that his rough edges are only external.

***

The next morning I woke up at 8am to catch the Blue Line towards downtown for a 9:30am visa appointment at the French Consulate.

The CTA was stuffed with well-dressed young professionals reading from books and tablets, staring straight ahead, mentally perusing daily agendas. The atmosphere felt ambitious, as if getting ahead were the collective consciousness of the car. Chicago definitely vibrates at a higher frequency than Minneapolis.

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I stuffed my face with an onion bagel covered in peanut butter before heading up to the 37th floor, the mounting pressure in my ears paralleling the nervousness I felt for the appointment. I never felt completely comfortable that I had done everything during the time before she approved my visa. An everything-will-turn-out attitude does not really provide a procrastinator any lasting comfort. Luckily everything did turn out. Twenty minutes after walking in I was back on N. Michigan Ave heading towards the Blue Line.

After 20 cups of coffee at Reno with Kristi, a visit to Uncharted Books, a used bookstore, and running 20 laps around a small park off of Kedzie Ave, we caught a matinee showing of Boyhood, a brilliant film shot over the course of 12 years with the same cast.

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You grow up with Mason, the boy whose life story the plot is centered on. You get a sense of what it might be like to grow up with a distant but loving father and watch your mother cycle through a parade of abusive, alcoholic husbands, all while making her way through graduate school. You remember your moments of disenchantment, when you first questioned the existence of elves, feeling self-conscious about a bad haircut in middle school, realizing your parents are not perfect, and asking yourself what the point of anything is. You cannot help but lose yourself in Mason’s life as well as be taken back to your own.

Afterwards, we went to The Chicago Diner, a completely vegetarian restaurant where the names of the entrees are written as if they were not vegetarian. I had the Karma Burger, a curried sweet potato-tofu patty topped with grilled pineapple and avocado, sprouts, onions, and Chimichurri. Around 10pm we hit up an ice cream/gelato shop called Heavenly and capped off the first full day with an episode of Battlestar Galactica.

***

My feet and Ventra pass have begun a day wide open, no place to be until my departure from the Windy City around 9pm, and one last meal with my beloved friend Kristi Del Vecchio, a name more satisfying to say in its full form.

Now, I am sitting in La Colombe Torrefaction sipping on a Mexican-style brewed coffee referred to as El Murador, or Steampunk. The brew is fairly acidic, and as I stare into the coagulated hemp milk swirling in my cup, I become half-convinced that the future will be revealed to me, or at least what I might do today.

The forecast is scattered thunderstorms, and I am headed to Myopic Books then the Timbuk2 store off of Damen.

***

1:33pm – W Chicago Ave and N Orleans St. – Starbucks

According to chicago.seriouseats.com, Little Goat Diner happens to have some of the best bagels in the city. I just so happened to pass it on the way to Colombe Torrefaction. I stopped in for a toasted onion-rye bagel with honey masala cream cheese to-go. If I ever move to Chicago, I have resolved to subsist solely on bagels and coffee.

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For some reason I thought that I would be able to get into The Chicago Tribune for a tour. I imagined on the train ride over there walking in with my collared shirt and Ray-Bans to inquire about internships and writing positions available. They would sense my youthful energy and eagerness for a job, briefly ask about my writing experience, but mainly focusing on that energy, and say, “Send us a copy of your resume. We may have something for you.”

If I did not get in right away, I would just lie to the receptionist and tell him/her that I have a meeting with Jane Hirt, VP/Managing Editor for an internship interview for 12:35pm.

In actuality, I walked up to one of the three receptionists and asked for a tour. He responded that the building is not open to the public. I then said that I was looking to inquire about internships, and he told me to apply on the newspaper’s website. And that was that.

***

4:57pm

Made it to Damen after a half-hour train ride. It feels a bit bizarre being on vacation while everyone around me seems to be working. After visiting an extensive used book store, Myopic Books, I stumbled upon The Goddess and Grocer, a gourmet deli, for a kale salad with beets, olives, and golden raisins. I wish there was more to report, but I am slowly running out of things to do. Travel writers must run into this problem as well, especially when they’re not interacting with any people. Maybe I should do that, strike up a random conversation with someone…

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***

9:52pm

I am at the front of the Megabus on the second floor. Everything is visible from up here. Hopefully the NyQuil I took will ensure that that is not much. T-minus 8 hours until I see Minneapolis again.

Kristi and I had dinner at a counter-service restaurant called Native Foods, similar to The Chicago Diner in that the majority of their entrées are either vegan or vegetarian but different in that the service is more fast food. I had a mock gyro bowl with quinoa, kale, seitan, and large steamed pieces of carrots, cauliflower, and bok choy.

As always, we had a pretty good discussion about complacency, happiness, and relationships – romantic and those concerning our families. She told me she was afraid of becoming stuck somewhere, of becoming the miserly old couple that cannot stand one another in Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.

We shared with one another quite a bit about our families, and we both held regrets about the way we treated our mothers. Personally, i was ruthless towards my own, finding her flaws and doing my best to hone in on them and follow with coarsely ground salt. Only in the past few years have we really begun to learn how to show affection towards one another.

Another interesting point made was the similarities we could draw between our mothers and the people we are both intimate with. Andreas, Kristi’s boyfriend, shares many of the same characteristics and tendencies as her mother, and I would say that Mary, the girl whom I have been dating for a little over four months, shares the same kindness and gentleness I see in my mother. In dating these people, perhaps we were seeking a second chance to vicariously treat our parental figures the way we wished we would have treated them when we were younger.

***

10:28pm

Not very drowsy yet, but it is still only 10:28pm. A couple of long days ahead, but it feels so nice to have the visa appointment out of the way. Vaccines, squaring away student loan repayments, and deciding how I want to spend my remaining month with Mary, my friends, and family remain on the list of things still to do.

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