03 April, 2011

Spring in Chicago

In November, I moved to Chicago. Admittedly, November is not the best time to move -- alone-- to Chicago. I knew this and attempted to prepare myself for a long winter indoors; for months of learning my new city through windows and hurried walks from one destination to the next. And, minus a few mild days that made being outside less painful, that is how my winter went. There are several things that eased me through my first Chicago winter: books, telephone calls, re-runs of the Golden Girls, latt├ęs, and one individual I am beyond grateful to have met.

But now, spring has arrived. Officially, at least. Chicago remains cool and, as yet, unadorned by flowers or green, but there have been a few beautiful, warm(ish) sunny days, and yesterday was one of them. And so, a walk was in order. Up calm side streets, back down against the chaotic human tangle of Michigan Avenue, relief at a dark, noisy bar with a big pizza and enormous margaritas.

It was a wonderful walk.

Before I moved, I was warned by multiple sources that living in a city can be horribly lonely. I don't disagree. If I had moved to Chicago expecting a warm welcome to the neighborhood, I would have been bitterly disappointed. But I'm not sure who would ever expect such a thing. Like relationships in other places, relationships in cities take time. Perhaps it is the sheer number of people in a relatively few square miles that gives some people the illusion of camaraderie. In Chicago, as in every other place I have been, people are busy living their lives. It is true that sometimes I find it off-putting and feel sorely out of place when I offer a smile that is not returned. And perhaps it is true that the view I have adopted, that of observer, is not conducive to any meaningful civic contribution. But I also like the idea of people just living their lives. Silence doesn't have to be unfriendly.

...At such times I begin to notice how many of us there are. The hurry of the streets is an illusion. The noises that rise in clouds, and the too-many suits of clothes and hats that sweep by--all these things are part of an illusion. The fact drifts through my tired senses that there is an amazing silence in the streets--the silence inside of people's heads.
                                                        -- Ben Hecht, 1001 Afternoons in Chicago