This weekend I decided to make more of an effort to get to know my city. Since I’ve been here I’ve stayed pretty close to the routes I know, i.e., the Belmont bus and the red line’s half dozen or so stops between Belmont and Lake. It’s not fair to complain about feeling let down by the expectations of what I thought living in Chicago would be like if I’m not giving it enough of a chance. I had this thought Saturday morning, staring out at Lake Michigan, and I decided to make some changes.
I went out after work as usual Friday, but I was in a weird place that day. I went out with the knowledge that I had to wake up at six the next morning to cover a 5K charity event for the paper, and I even set an alarm for myself on my phone in case I lost track of time. At midnight a reminder simply reading “GO HOME” popped up on my phone’s screen, but I decided to ignore my good intentions from earlier. I ended up closing the bar down and didn’t get home until after 2. Still in a funk, I just couldn’t let myself go to sleep even though I knew I had to, choosing instead to listen to shamelessly depressing music and wallow/relish my own misery for a couple of hours while the rest of the world slept like normal people.
I took what was essentially a two-hour nap and woke up to go to work. I startled Christina with my foul mood and I may or may not have loudly announced on my way out the door that I would rather punch a kitten in the face than go to Montrose Beach to cover a 5K at 7 in the morning.
I took the red line to Wilson and headed east. This was the first thing I’d covered for the paper that wasn’t in a suburb, a charity event one of the papers I write for sent me to, to interview participants from their readership. It was horribly hot and crowded, I couldn’t find my interview contacts, I forgot my monopod, AND I had failed to find an iced coffee on the walk over, so with all this on top of severe sleep deprivation, I was being kind of a pill. After I got the interviews I needed I walked north a little ways toward the 5K starting line.
I was cursing having to be there when suddenly I looked up and saw the lake: It was beautiful. I was floored. The race hadn’t started yet so I kept walking toward it. There were very few people there that early, just a few dogs and their owners. When I imagined myself living in Chicago, it never really occurred to me that there are beaches here. To be fair, my move to Chicago may have been one of the least researched moves ever made. But there I was, walking along a beautiful beach and seeing a completely different aspect of this city. I took off my shoes and stood in the water for a few minutes, thinking. It’s hard to be grumpy at the beach, it turns out.
Then I decided to not be a bitch all weekend and to take advantage of every opportunity the first Saturday and Sunday in June had to offer, with perfect weather and time on my hands.
After I got some footage of the race I walked back toward the red line. I remembered my uncle had recommended a hot dog place at the Sheridan stop called Byron’s, so I headed there. On my ever-growing list of things that will surely make me a True Chicagoan, surviving winter and eating my first Chicago-style hot dog top the list. I got there but they were closed, and I chose not to read much into this twist of fate. Instead I took some pictures so I could at least remind myself I’d tried.
A guy was sitting at a picnic table outside the place and asked what I was doing. I told him I’d come to get my first Chicago dog but saw I’d have to try again another time.
“You should go to Wolfie’s on Peterson,” he said. “Now THAT’S a sign you should get a picture of.”
On my way home I texted one of my friends from work who’d invited us all out to May Fest in Lincoln Square. I decided I wanted to go, so I asked him to keep me posted on his plans. When I got home I slept for hours, stopping only to take off my shoes.
I didn’t hear back from my friend about where I was supposed to go by 7, so I settled in for the night watching an episode of “Carnivale” with Christina and John. About two hours later, he got back to me. I had already given up, but part of me was determined to follow through and do the things I said I would. I really wanted to see what May Fest was like since I’d heard all about it since March, so I grabbed my stuff and left.
It quickly became clear to me that May Fest is not my thing, because if the throngs of pre-teen girls bumping into me at Montrose Beach’s 5K had been off-putting, it was nothing compared to the drunk adults spilling beer on me while I struggled to get a hold of the one other person I knew was there. Once I met up with my group they all decided to leave the festival and go to a sports bar near the Brown line. It wasn’t what I’d planned for the night but it worked out. Among the group was a really cool girl I’d never met before, and someone who came to Chicago under eerily similar circumstances.
I took the train to Belmont, making this my second time ever alone on the Brown line. When I got on the bus a weird thing happened to me when a guy sat down right next to me, even though the bus was nearly empty. He kept talking to me, but clearly that’s what I get for having the audacity to be alone at 1:30 in the morning in a short dress, which I was surely wearing with the hopes that a stranger would rest his hand on my knee and ask for my number.
I said I didn’t know my number and for some reason that answer wasn’t sufficient. I spent the next several blocks wondering what I would do if he got off at my stop and followed me home, but he didn’t. Sometimes it’s hard to be a girl, you guys.
On Sunday, Christina, John and I rode our bikes to a cook out hosted by one of their friends. I hadn’t ridden a bike in almost two years but I loved it. John has been fixing up an old Schwinn for the last couple months for me to use, which was extremely thoughtful. I think I might like riding around the city this summer, much to my own surprise.
Now in case you’re related to me and/or feeling weirded out by my bus story (please don’t), I’d like to end this insanely long post with a video of me snickering to myself watching a dog take a crap in the lake. Yes, I am a 25-year-old grown up.