Thursday, August 26, 2004

Chicago Happy Blues

Leaving the City

The righteous laugh at me. Sweltering and aching up and down last night in a Dutch House habitation capsule, I would have given anything to be back in my queen-size triple layer super firm-but-soft bed overlooking Lake Michigan, with her winds rushing through the windows. If I were still in Chicago, I would have awakened this morning to a damp, cloudy day-typically a brilliant rarity in summer but comparatively frequent this 2004-with a 20th-floor view on axis with the Museum of Science and Industry and the vernal lushness of Jackson Park's mature stock of arborlings beyond. I moved away from Chicago yesterday, with two monolithic duffle bags of all that was left to be taken. On my way to the commuter train I took countless times into the city for work and play, I walked a last time along the edge of the park with its tall canopy of street tree-tops, passed my favorite restaurant in the city (and little did I know ten years ago when I first visited it that I would one day live a block away), and waited briefly one last time for the University Park express train on the 55th-56th-57th Street Platform in lovely, vintage Hyde Park, where the streets smell of Lakescent, dreamy streetscapes compell you to nap, and where it seems that folks should walk down the street in fedoras and summertops and twirl from the lamposts and talk of mild scuttlebutt--trading the news on Old Man Peabody, Eleanor: Hyde Park's favorite bank teller, the five-and-dime, the South Shore Line on the Chicago and South Bend, Alderman Bailey, and the day's dooseys. Didja see the Herald this morning Bert? By golley! It will take time to adjust to not swimming in the lake every afternoon after a long workday just north of the Loop. The revetement at Promontory Point where I dipped into a clean
and soft Lake Michigan as the sunlight got thick in haze and the din of Lakeshore Drive fused with the breezes, and where old men sit on the benches under trees in straw hats smoking pipes and sharing stories backgrounded by somebody's jazz on an old radio, became so quickly emblematic of Chicago my home. I have long argued that a sense of place its place in the continuity of our experience makes an environment home. Living in Chicago always felt like home, not only because I was integrated and rooted so quickly in the fabric of the neighborhood, city, and region at large (think Lake Michigan), but also because it was explicitly and inherently another corner of my dear Midwest, another depot for those swell Midwesterners and their sense of scale, assuming and enacting their lives with a sense of regionality that starts "out there" and "around here" in surrounding, and then moves in to the city, the neighborhood, the block, the building, the household, the self, the nature of self, only to bounce back and reverberate along the same path outward again. Out East, they think the region exists to serve, to define oneself with self-interested selfness. The Northeast? It's what makes me important, they say. It's what makes me better, they say. But here in Chicago, and here in Michigan and among the native non-Metro-Detroiters in Ann Arbor, we have a sense of territory. Territory v. zone; cultureshed and identityshed and attitudeshed v. the region exists for me. Because I take root in this territory, a landscape of collectivity, even though it is often weakly conceived of or ignored, Chicago was another place for me, a branch of my rootedness, and a story for me to adopt, partake in, and then leave not with angst and oblivion but with a realization of consequence and continuity, and with another story in my metastory (*wink* that one's for you, Alex). Alright, I'll stop gushing. The point is, Chicago: adopted me, I adopted it. It's sad leaving,but fulfilling, because living there was in no way detached from my experience at large.

Chanson d'installation: Arvo Part, Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in the mirror)