Monday, February 1, 2016

There's No Place Like Home

Spring break at the school where I teach is still more than a month away, but I've already started planning what to do during my time off. I think I might be able to afford a few days off to travel, and I've been thinking of making a brief trip back to Chicago.

I've grown (somewhat) accustomed to living in Small Town now. There are only a couple coffee shops in town, but I've already picked out my favorite cafe and often go there to write. When I feel particularly claustrophobic, I drive to one of the larger towns or cities to go shopping or try a new restaurant. Despite my usual "leave me alone unless you have food, in which case just give me the food and THEN leave" attitude, I have started socializing more with people my age who live here.

But I'd like to visit Chicago again, even just for a few days, especially because I may never live there again. The job I have in Small Town is not a tenure-track position, which means that eventually I will have to move on to another school, either in this state or maybe in some other town halfway across the country (such is the life of the untenured college teacher).

There are some things about Chicago that I miss a lot, and some things that I'm happy to be free of:

I miss the Chicago-style stuffed pizza, and the way that Chicagoans often insisted that their favorite pizza place was the best and would even get into arguments with each other about it.

I don't miss the prices at many Chicago restaurants, which apparently have the motto, "Why make things affordable when we can overcharge you weaklings who cannot resist our food? HAHAHAHAHA!"

I miss walking around Greektown, where old men sat on chairs outside the restaurants and called out to each other in Greek. I also miss the fact that I could walk down almost any street in Chicago and hear at least four or five different languages being spoken.

I don't miss random creeps who called out to me when I was walking down almost any street in Chicago, because apparently they go by the following motto: If I yell out as many offensive things as possible and/or try to grope women that I think are attractive, surely ONE of them will want to hook up with me, and I have NO IDEA why this hasn't worked yet.

I miss the neighborhood festivals, like the Chinese New Year's festival in Chinatown, where I used to watch the dragon dancers, the Taste of Chicago in Grant Park, where I ate toasted ravioli and other delicious food from local restaurants, or Northalsted Market Days in Boystown, where I looked wistfully at all the good-looking, muscular guys dancing in colorful briefs and think, "And they're all gay, darn it!"

I don't miss the crowds at those festivals (or any popular event or place in the city), where there was sometimes the risk that I might get robbed/knocked down/thrown up on (and yes, all three things happened to me at some point or other during some of these festivals).

I miss riding the CTA trains and buses, because I dislike driving in Small Town; I dislike parking, and I dislike all the drivers who apparently don't know how to drive or park.

I don't miss the weird, annoying, or scary people on the CTA trains and buses, like the guy who took off his pants just because I glanced in his direction, or the people who would delay the trains by holding the doors open for their friends, or the people whose solution to crowded trains and buses would be to make them even MORE crowded by squeezing themselves onboard.

I miss riding rented bikes by the lake, window shopping on Michigan Avenue, and the free admissions' days at the museums.

I don't miss the aggressive bicyclists by the lake, the protestors who yelled at anyone who didn't protest with them on Michigan Avenue (and there are a LOT of them in Chicago right now), and the mob of tourists at the museums who walked so slowly (because they were appreciating the scenery) that I always had to mutter to myself, "Don't yell at the tourists don't yell at the tourists don't -"

On the other hand, part of me is thinking that maybe I should just save my money and not go to Chicago at all, or maybe I should go somewhere else for my spring break (I am considering a road trip to explore more of the surrounding area this summer).

What about you? What do you like best/least about your hometown, or what would you miss most about it?


  1. I hope that you get to go back and visit Chicago during your spring break! My husband and I went there on our honeymoon, and about three minutes after emerging onto the streets outside of the Amtrak Station a guy offered to sell us shrooms, and I knew I would love it there. (For the record, did not make that purpose. I had my sights set on the Lego Store.)

    As for my (adopted) hometown of Memphis, I miss the skeezy little dive bars, the sprawling zoo, Huey's, and more importantly, friends. But I absolutely adore Tucson, where we have TONS of coffee shops. And not just Starbucks.

    1. Hi Caitlin,
      I went ahead and booked my ticket; here's hoping that all goes well! Your story about the guy selling shrooms made me smile, especially because I could totally see that happening in Chicago; there's always someone trying to sell something weird there.
      I'm jealous of all the coffee shops that Tucson has; I don't understand why the people in Small Town don't seem to like coffee that much.

  2. I don't really have a place I would call my home town, so I just like exploring wherever I am at a given time. :-)

    1. Hi Misha,
      Technically, my hometown is the one I grew up in. But when I moved to Chicago years ago, it became my hometown because I felt more at home there than in the other place. But I like your way of exploring the places where you live, especially because you're likely to find interesting things that even the guidebooks don't mention.

  3. I'm back living in my hometown but I miss where I was living when I left my honetown. Seems I can't be satisfied. I like the memories the most. I hate that I can run into people I went to high school with, and don't want to see, when I'm at Wal-Mart or out-and-about.

    1. Hi Chrys,
      One of the reasons I haven't been back to the town where I grew up is because I don't really want to run into the people I went to high school with; I liked several of them, but I'm not really into the whole class reunion thing (that's why I never attended any of my class reunions). So I know what you mean.

  4. I miss knowing everyone, and being known.

    1. Hi Melanie,
      There is definitely a sense of comfort in that familiarity, but I must admit that I often preferred the anonymity.

  5. Gosh, I keep having flashbacks to NYC while reading this. So many similarities. I ended up in a small town after that too, and it was a difficult adjustment, but I really appreciated the blue, blue sky. Now we're in a nice suburban area without all the crazy tourism just next door, but with all the perks--like Giordanos. Yes, Orlando is the only other area that has Giordanos. The area isn't as big as some places we've lived, but it's adequate. And we don't have to shovel snow or compete with freezing winds. I'll take both of those any day.

    1. Hi Crystal,
      Yum, Giordanos! That was actually my favorite pizza place in Chicago. Unfortunately, the people in Small Town don't seem to like stuffed pizza very much. I remember that I didn't always notice the sky either when I lived in a big city, because I was often focused on what was happening at ground level, like making sure that no one tried to rob me or knock me over.
      I've only been to Orlando once, when I was a kid, but I'd like to go again someday. The idea of being someplace warm, especially now during the winter, is definitely appealing.