City Life – Chicago

Out the wide windows of the 20th floor apartment, I have a gorgeous view of the lighted towers lining the coast of Lake Michigan. I find the network of lights comforting like a safe haven standing out as a beacon to lost wanderers out in the dark. Behind each lighted rectangle is a family, a couple, a group of friends, or a solitary person, living their private lives amidst the bustle of strangers, acquaintances, and dearest friends. Although we have our privacy behind our windows, there remains a certain connection here in a city like Chicago.

After the confusion of arriving via car, complete with multiple accidents convolving before my eyes, I found a lucky spot right in front of the apartment building of my host. Looking for a way to limber up the legs after a long day of driving, I decided to take the 20 flights of stairs. As I opened the door to the hallway, I noticed a gentleman hanging out of his doorway with a rather confused look on his face. That would be my host, and he had been facing the other way expecting me to emerge from the elevator. I was equally surprised to see Dan and his husband, Romeo, waiting for me, a kind gesture that I’ve realized should not be shocking in this city.

With little convincing required, my hosts took me to an Ethiopian restaurant in Edgewater. It was only a few blocks but we decided to take the “L.” In an uncharacteristic bout of calmness, the winter air lacked the windy bite I was expecting. Passing a varied mix of people – some with their shopping bags, others with friends in tow – we strolled along the well-lit streets. As we converged at one particular corner as a lone woman and a man walking with his friend crossed paths. Heads down, they almost collided, but the man stepped aside courteously with a friendly, “Excuse me!” With a curt “thank you,” and a smile, the woman passed unimpeded, and we all continued on our way. It was a neighborly interaction between two complete strangers who share nothing other than the same current city of residence that I saw repeated in many forms throughout our commute to and from the restaurant.

With an exotic African atmosphere and a friendly family staff, the Ethiopian Diamond Restaurant impressed me from the start. In a communal style of dining, all of our choice dishes came out in little piles on a spongy bread on a giant pizza platter. They left us with a few more rolls of the bread so that we can make mini wraps of our selected meats, lentils, and steamed vegetables. The flavor was unique but certainly not too exotic for an uncultured palate.

As we walked back through the streets of Little Saigon, I  got to thinking about how much I miss the life that the city presents. My hosts do not own a personal vehicle. There is no need. They are only a couple blocks from the nearest train station, and most of what they need is in walking distance. A car would really only complicate things. Not only for the convenience of it all, but I miss the city for the density of cultures. In a just a few blocks, I can leave an African eatery and pass a lounge full of first and second generation Vietnamese immigrants enjoying time with their tight-knit community. In a city like this, there is a place for everyone. Even the Bosian-Herzegovinians have a community center! I think that is the reason I find the city so comfortable.

As I sit here staring out the window overlooking the sea of streetlights and room lights, I take solace in the idea that each of those lights represents another potential friend, a potential business partner, a potential lover. In its limitless array of possibilities, the city represents the constant variation and exploration I crave in life. From the soft chair here in my host’s living room, I can see the reading lamps and lighted trees in the apartments across the street. They probably do not know I am here, but I have this small connection with these strangers. Though we may be insulated in our little worlds, we are never completely alone in the city.

One thought on “City Life – Chicago

  1. Pingback: This is why.  | Cast Off, Set Sail

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