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Thursday, February 6:

It seems inevitable that every year around this time, and several other times,  I get an insatiable desire to get away from it all. Unfortunately, the first few months of the year are not a great time for travel, unless of course you are headed south towards beaches. The silliest thing someone looking to escape could do is travel from their own home to a more severe climate.

Well, that is exactly what I did.

I decided, on a whim, to travel from the quasi-sunny Southwest (though not really lately) to the frigid, and I mean FRIGID Chicagoland area. A friend gave me A Buddy Pass to fly free and a lot of my family is here so I always have a place to stay; so basically a free trip! But as I sit here staring out to eight inches of snow, I’m starting to question my sanity.

Coming back to Chicago has always felt like going home to me, even though I moved away at age seven. Traveling solo to stay with my Aunt and Uncle is something I have been doing since I was eleven, and became a summer tradition for many years.

Now my Aunt’s house is an escape. A way to cling on to something that has remained unchanged no matter what happens in my own life. This is the home where many of my dreams take place. This is the home that consistently smells the same - like dial soap and comfort. This is the home I was able to watch cable and drink pop at my leisure - a rare luxury. This is the home I like to burrow away into and avoid whatever is happening in my real life. And though I’m too old to admit it, this is the home that always makes me feel safe and young.

But this trip I am vowing to be more bold. I have grown too comfortable to come and eat at the same five places, to stay locked in and watch movies - how is this any different than any other weekend? I vow to write a ton and edit my MS, which takes place in Chicago for crying out loud, and during the winter. If ever there was a reason to be downtown in the winter, I think research for a book is pretty much it.

I am tired of escaping or ignoring the things that make me nervous. It is time to move boldly in the direction of what I want. And what do I want? To be a successful author. And a successful author isn’t afraid to take the “L” Orange Line downtown and walk around. A successful isn’t afraid of flying standby on a last minute trip even though she has never done it before. A successful author has her sights set on success and nothing can stop her.

UPDATE: A successful author, however, does NOT want to freeze to death before she gets published - so the walking around downtown may not happen. The news strongly advices not being outside for extended periods of time.

Thursday Night:

Hello Downtown Chicago! You beautiful, freezing bitch! As we drove into the city tonight, I was distracted and astounded by many things. Again, I know I’m from here technically, but it never ceases to amaze me that people LIVE here, like all the time and by choice. I mean, whaaa?

The snow is out of control this year, at least five people have already told me this is the worst winter in years, sixty inches of snow, almost breaking records, and temperatures that make Sochi look balmy. So that’s nice. But I chose this and I’m not complaining!

I have so many questions: Where does the snow go once it’s plowed? What happens to all those cars that get buried under the snow drifts left by the plows? Do icicles fall from skyscrapers? (I imagine a death spear of ice traveling from thirty floors up is going to kill somebody in a flash.) How do people wait for the bus when the snow reaches the sign?

We pass the University and I watch as students walk, completely bundled so that everyone is a matching form of scarves and hat. People look pissed about the cold. I don’t blame them. I am pissed about the cold for them. Mostly, I am learning that I will never be able to complain about the cold EVER AGAIN.

For dinner we went to Greek Town, (incidentally in the book I am currently reading called “The Silent Wife,” takes places downtown Chicago and the narrator just took one of his dates there, I love when real life lines up with fiction) specifically a restaurant called Greek Islands for dinner and it was a fantastic experience. Apparently, you need to be a lovable, grandpa-type with a foreign accent to even get hired there. We ate saganaki, lamb, stuffed chicken, bread, rice pudding, and baklava. We drink wine and then coffee, sharing stories and all around have a great time. The great thing about family is, no matter how long it’s been you can always come together and talk like it’s only been a week.

Here are some pictures.

 

Next day, Friday.

So here’s something awesome and also totally terrible that I just learned about.

Yesterday, as we were driving into the city, I noticed, along with many half-frozen pedestrians, what at first I thought was an odd occurrence, perhaps some sort of side affect from the plows. Along the side of the road, where the snow is piled up several feet high I saw an astoundingly high number of lawn chairs. They were often next to the curb or thrown up on top of heaps of snow. With the first one I thought little of it, perhaps they were forgotten by their owners, leftover from warmer months, a painful reminder to all that there are still months of this weather left, but by the time I saw the third or forth I knew I had a mystery on my hands. Too distracted by a million other things, I forgot to ask.

This morning at brunch - I’m not sure how - it came up in discussion with the server.

“Yeah what is that?!” I exclaim enthralled that I was not solo in my discoveries, “I saw a bunch on the drive last night.”

“It’s an unwritten law, left over from the first Daley. Hey, if you take the time to shovel your spot then you sure as hell don’t want some jerk taking it,” the waitress with perfectly drawn on cat eyes, and retro pinup hair shrugged, as though this really wasn’t a big deal.

But it a big deal, these dramas occur every winter out here and I’m not even privy to them. These are the things I need to know if I’m writing books that take place in this city.

“Ohhhhh.” It all became clear to me then. “Those chairs mark territories.”

They nod around me.

“But that doesn’t always work. People will move the chairs, and take the spot anyway.” The server says. “People have tried to put children’s toys - you know like those Playskool cars or tricycles? - out there too now.”

“But people will still take them,” my aunt warns.

“This is fascinating!” I proclaim, because truly, I was enthralled.

Still failing to see the intrigue in the story, the server adds, “People have slashed tires before.”

“People have been shot over this.” My aunt adds, while I stare slack-jawed and dumbfounded.

“Well imagine you take the time to shovel in this freezing wind, only to find someone else reaps the rewards,” my uncle explains.

But there is no need to try and sway me, I was sold. I have been here roughly twenty four hours and already I know I would easily cut someone’s tires who made me walk more than ten feet in this crap.

Single digits, freezing air off the lake, snow plowed several feet high from the streets so that the sidewalks are a joke. No, I get it.

It made me realize how thankful I am in my mild Southwest winters.

Here are some pictures from this morning on the way to brunch. I don't have any of the Lawn Chair Phenomenon, but if i see it again, you better believe I'll snap a shot!

Tonight we are going for pizza, I believe.  Expect more pictures!