Chicago is a city that I’ve been to many a time. After all, I was born in what is, according to Wikipedia, the southern most suburb of Chicago despite being located in a different state (I mean that has to count for something?). Yet it’s funny how travels can make you feel so far away from something so familiar.
I’ve always had a sort of semi-unwarranted disdain for Chicago because it was just too close to home. It was where everyone I never wanted to see again from University moved to, clustered in the Lincoln Park neighborhood vying to relive college and never breaking out of their sorority and fraternity cliques. And while Chicago is incredibly aesthetically pleasing and certainly cleaner than other major cities, I came to disdain this superior commitment to hygiene as well. Everything from the city streets to the people to the clothes the people were wearing were too squeaky clean for me. Where is the grime and and angst that coats the streets of Manhattan? Where there’s grime and angst, there’s almost always good art.
But let’s come back to the present from my admittedly biased and unjust feelings towards Chicago. Being so far away opened my eyes a bit. A city I used to be too comfortable in to really notice things about, suddenly was a little foreign. As cliche as this is, I couldn’t get over how friendly people were. Maybe it’s a result of too much time spent in countries where I can’t speak the native language after long stints in New York followed by another stint in New York. Whatever it is, DAMN YOU CHICAGOANS ARE FRIENDLY! I consider myself a friendly person and I suppose it seems logical that this stems from growing up around here. It is just still amazing to me since I never noticed it before. Again, the wondrous effects of travel.
When I arrived I went to take the bus up to Boystown where my friend Alexis lived. I asked the bus driver if he went to my stop and instead of saying yes he explained the entire Chicago Transit System to me for my “future reference.” I was so confused by his attempt to over-help me that I had to repeat the question because I really just wanted a yes or no answer.
In the morning I went to walk around Boystown, which is the first officially recognized gay village in the nation. I’m not going to lie, though the previously jaded part of me doesn’t want to admit it, I like it much better than Chelsea (the district in NYC with a large gay population). I went to a local coffee shop called Saugatuck Coffee Co. named after a little lakeside town in Michigan with a vibrant gay community. The owner, a sweet lady who is oozing with Michigan hospitality, is from there and creates an incredibly quaint and neighborhood vibe. Filled with vintage furniture and homemade baked goods it is everything that most NYC coffee shops are not. There is only one location, the owner is the only employee and she makes everything herself. She gave me a dollar off because she said the muffin I bought “didn’t look as big as the others” and when the Fed-Ex man came in to deliver a package she offered him a free water bottle or “pop.”