I love to laugh. My friends are really funny and witty; and I laugh a lot when I am with them. I truly believe it’s one of the keys to my youth. I wish I could write down all the moments where I laughed.
I love to love. My family and friends are easy to love. And I find when I am with them, I love that much more. I wish I could write down all the moments where I loved.
I love to live (which is a funny thing to say). I am that much more alive when I am with the people I love. I wish I could write down all the moments where I lived.
And so it was this past weekend in Chicago, a city where I laugh, love and live more than I do in most other cities. And it’s home. Living away from it for almost twenty months has not changed that sentiment one bit. And there is something magical about Chicago during the holiday season. Aside from New York City, I cannot think of a better place to be. It is just that much more festive than anywhere else. This time of year only adds to the strong feelings I have for this city.
And that feeling started way before I even saw anyone. The Chicago skyline is breathtaking. Driving on the Dan Ryan when you first catch a glimpse of and then when you turn around the bend just passing the exit for the Stevenson, when the city literally pops onto your line of sight, that view of Chicago rivals any city view of any city in the entire world.
When I took the exit off Washington and saw my building, I instantly got chills. And Taylor perked up like Smarty Jones knowing he had come back home. Taylor settled back into our condo like we had never left.
I had quite a night; and quite a weekend. A weekend filled with family and friends and their kids and bars and restaurants and parties. My first stop took me to the bar next to the escalators on the second floor at Ogilvie Train Station where I saw Raym, Mindy & Dan, Redden and Damon, and Ana. Times had changed; there was a time not too long ago where a night out would be at a fancy place. Those days are still alive with some, but with others living in the burbs makes more sense to raise a family. And so it’s not where we are that matters anymore (and maybe it never did) but who we are with. A couple of us then left for Vinyl in River North, where my buddy Jason is the owner. Business was good. The place was hopping. And the food and drinks were great. “It was a Festivus for the rest of us.” My brother and his wife came, as well as some of my closest friends and biggest characters including DaveRisner who I had spent a day hiking in Utah the previous week and Dru who makes the best faces in pictures and Jason, Alex, Chris, etc. The next day, for a late lunch, I met up with Dominic & Meg with their kids Stella and Little Dom at Commonwealth at Roscoe Village, where they had a great burger and the best Bloody Mary I’ve had in a long time. And then I enjoyed the company of the Kemper family with Scott & Susan and their kids Stella & Dylan, surrounded by the holiday cheer of their home. That night I met two other dear couples – Paulie & Lynn with their daughter Mikayla, and Gil & Michelle – this time at a place called Jane’s in Bucktown that I had always wanted to try. Living up to their billing, the angel hair pasta was amazing (as I heard too were the steak and the grouper); and they made a mean Old Fashioned. And then closed the night with more friends Jenn, Jess & Chris at a holiday party. House parties in Chicago are just more fun than house parties anywhere else.
In looking back, I did Chicago better than Anthony Bourdain could have ever done it. My moments here rival Bourdain’s anywhere.
My buddy Raym calls these moments “windows in time”, a concept I just love. I often think about coming back. I loved living here for twenty years. And then I think about all the adventures yet to be had, not in Chicago. And so Chicago will forever more live in my heart, the place where I became a man. My adventures here will now be as a visitor instead of as a resident.
Then again, you just never know.
As my buddy Gil says, “Keep talkin’, man!”
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