I have never considered myself a social person by any stretch of the imagination. Last year, I could count my friends on one hand, and spent most nights on the couch doing homework and watching assorted trashy television programs with my roommates1. I spent almost every Saturday in various bookshops alone. The two weeks before the big move to the windy city, I was basically a book-reading hermit hunkered down in my living room, rarely emerging for anything other than diet coke.
And I anticipated my life to continue like that. I thought Chicago would just be a bigger city for me to be alone in. This summer of solitude would give me a chance to write every day, and I expected to read slathers of books in my first week alone.
But since arriving here, I have not picked up a book, and my half-written novel is exactly where I left it months ago. Because I have been busy. And not just like work busy. Social busy.
Which is weird.
Last night, I went out with an eclectic group of people with only one big thing in common – we were all Mormons. It should be noted that the YSA community here is amazing. They do more stuff together than any other branch I have been in, and it is mostly stuff outside of and unrelated to church that people organize and then send out a blanket invitation to. This particular activity was organized by Iowa and me. We went to Millennium Park2 for their free concerts in the park series, meaning I spent about an hour lying in the grass at the most beautiful outdoor theater I have ever seen, with a full orchestra and choir singing to the city, and people around me drinking wine and eating cheese. It was, in all, rather blissful.
Said blissful concert was followed by my very first taste of Chicago-style deep dish pizza, at the legne3dary Giordano’s Pizzeria. The place was hopping. There were people spilling out of the doors and into the plaza waiting for a table, and since our group was kind of large, we had to wait an hour. Which was fine.
Because the pizza….oh the pizza. It was the kind of pizza that ruins all other pizzas for you. The kind of pizza that makes you never want to brush your teeth again unless it’s with a toothbrush made of that pizza. The kind of pizza that you want to take home to meet your parents, buy a nice little place in the upper east side, and then start a life with.
I cannot emphasize how much I liked this pizza4.
Afterwards, with pizza sitting like rocks in our stomachs5, we ventured out onto the streets of Chicago. As twilight fell, we walked along the river, and then out on to the harbor of the lake, looking out towards the Pier with a fleet of yachts and sailboats speckling the dark water around us.
As we passed a lakeside restaurant where a jazz ensemble was playing, I turned around to behold a skyline dipped in starlight, framed by the river and luminous against the midnight sky. The only words that came to my mind were breathtaking and happiness.
And my uncharacteristically social weekend does not end there, friends. This morning, I saw the city bathed in rosy sunlight and sweating beneath the humidity, as my friend Ms. Bennet and I took a water taxi south6 to Chinatown, where we found an eccentric collection of bookstores, herbalists, and seedy restaurants. We ended up eating some of the best Chinese food I have ever had, with fresh shrimp that set off fireworks of flavor in my mouth, and sesame chicken so delicious it was like Christmas in your mouth. Meat and teriyaki Christmas. We drank honeydew smoothies, talked about books, and I convinced myself I didn’t need another ten dollar scarf.
This city is made of awesome. I am constantly amazed by its complexity, by the layers of people that inhabit it, and the spheres in which they dwell, all at once different and the same. This is a city that moves and lives, with so much to see and do that you could live here your whole life and never do it all7.
Last night, as we walked along the lake, I thought to myself, how lovely it would be to fall in love in this city. To write novels and plays and poetry on park benches in the summer, to drink tea and watch the leaves fall from a café window. To make music on the streets of this city, songs rising above the crashing trains, to paint this city in its every incarnation, and then decorate your walls with renderings of its architecture. How wondrous to pass nights meandering along the harbor and watching sunset bow to moonbeam as night soundlessly falls.
And how lovely it is to be young in this city, to be reckless, and wild. To be able to eat pizza until you can’t move. To stay out later than the stars and fireworks, to race the moon across the sky. To be young and untethered, with a misty future before you, about which nothing is certain except that it is bright.
Chicago, how I love thee. Don’t ever change.
On an unrelated note, at the end of the night, heavy with pizza and happiness, Iowa turned to me and said, “So are you going to write about this on your blog?”
Guys….Iowa reads the blog.
- AKA the friends I could count on one hand.
- Home of the giant mirrored bean!
- Wait for it.
- Those of you who followed my blog when I was in England will remember I have a thing for good food. For those of you just joining us, here’s a little fun fact about me: I love food. I write about food a lot. Prepare yourself.
- Warm, delicious, pizza flavored rocks
- I think it was south. Maybe not, but I’m going to say south because it sounds better than “In a direction that was not towards the lake or my apartment.”
- True to form, I am already having tremendous anxiety about doing everything I want to before I go.