Seizing the opportunity… Part 2

This the second post in a three-part series. My trip took place June 18-21, 2022.

So much anticipation, and now it’s here! My trip to Chicago for Father’s Day and Juneteenth weekend, and it couldn’t come soon enough.

Flying into O’Hare International Airport is an experience… one which many Southsiders choose to forgo if they can fly in and out of Midway. In this case, the price was right, the departure from Austin was good, and it offered a unique opportunity to start my adventure. My plan was to take my time getting to the Airbnb house to meet up with the family, to see some of the city via public transit, and ease into the trip. While many would avoid public transit at all costs, I eagerly awaited my chance to live like a native again.

Once my plane landed and arrived at a gate, I found my way out of the airport and onto a Blue Line train. Let the walk down memory lane begin, or The This Was Your Life tour, as I jokingly called it.

Photo by Albany Capture/Unsplash.com

My grandparents lived on Montrose and Kedzie when I grew up, and the Blue Line passes the Montrose exit on the Kennedy Expressway. Along the way, messages started pouring in from the family and they were in awe of my choice to take many modes of transit rather than an Uber ride to the house. I enjoyed the sunshine and the beauty of the Northside – memories of visiting my grandparents, concerts and comedy shows Husband and I enjoyed, the wooden porches, window box gardens, travelers and natives just going about their day. Thank God for sunglasses while I let a stream of feelings come and go.

Before I knew it, the Blue Line train arrived at the Thompson Center, which made for an easy transfer to the Orange Line. As rode the trains, all the news stories of crime and chaos on public transit and in Chicago came to mind. I saw none of the on this ride nor on the trip, not to say that it didn’t happen elsewhere on the trains or in the city. I was really enjoying this beautiful day, and I hoped many others were too. I took in the view of downtown as the Orange made its way south and west, all the way to Midway Airport – the one I didn’t fly to.

I soaked in the city as the train rolled on, and I thought about the countless times spent downtown and about all the great memories throughout my life. Always something new and exciting to see or do, good food to eat, and way too many choices… Art, music, the lakefront, sports, shopping, architecture, freedom, and escape. I know what Chicago has become in many ways, but I know what it still is and what it can be – corrupt, violent, nasty, the worst of the worst and yet, good, kind, hard-working, full of opportunity, beautiful, and the best of the best. There is nothing like it, hands down.

My ride on the Orange Line took me through many areas from my past life (before Texas), including past McKinley Park, one of my favorite places in the city. Lots of areas looked the same, save for a new Dunkin Donuts or other small changes, but I saw new construction many places, too – it almost looked like areas that needed opportunity were thriving. I hoped so. Stops at 35th St/Archer, Western, Kedzie, and Pulaski all reminded me of different times in my life and people nearby. Friends from high school, old co-workers, things that made me the hardy person that I am. As I neared Midway, I called Weber’s Bakery to see if cakes on display were still available – yes, they were. I excitedly hopped on the Westbound Archer bus, and I reminisced about late nights drinking, playing board games, and eating Villa Rosa Pizza with old friends… I loved seeing familiar businesses and news one I wouldn’t have time to try, at least not on this trip.

A Weber’s Cake to help us celebrate, and a clean slate to start fresh.
Photo by Chrell

I thanked God for the nice weather for my travels and was grateful the heat wouldn’t melt my Weber’s cake – whipped cream with strawberry filling – while I waited for my Uber to complete the final leg of my commute to the Airbnb house, mere blocks from my family home in Mt. Greenwood. I mentally prepared myself for the occasion – I would finally get to meet my nephew and reunite with my family, though unfortunately Husband was able to join us. I was excited and grateful, though I also reminded myself that people are complicated at times, and I can only control myself. All I could do was try to best the best version of myself and, while I was optimistic others would do the same, I would not put unrealistic expectations on this experience.

I will soon write a Part 3 to complete my story, but I will tell you that I am glad I took the trip. There are many moments that will stick with me forever, including the first time I held my nephew and made faces with him. No matter what apprehensions we all came in with, we hugged, laughed, and acted like a family – a rare and unexplainable feeling of love and belonging that I don’t know when I last experienced with them.

Seizing the opportunity… Part 1

I started this post at the beginning of June and did not have a chance to post it before my trip to Chicago. Below you will find the intro to my trip.

white airplane on mid air
Photo by John McArthur/Unsplash.com

I will be boarding a plane to Chicago in two weeks and a day, and it will be my first trip since September 2019. That trip, although great in many ways, was complicated and emotionally charged. The high points in Chicago: seeing Off With Their Heads and meeting the lead singer, going to the White Sox game, and visiting a few friends and family. The high points in New York: going to the US Open, spending time with my brother and his wife, and eating at various places. However, those positive moments were offset by the blowout with my dad at a suburban train station after he abruptly ended the visit at my aunt’s house and decided he was taking me to the train immediately. This, after he pouted and made many embarrassing comments in front of my relatives.

three assorted-color joy signage
Photo by Tim Mossholder/Unsplash.com

The short of that situation is that I let someone (my dad) not only get the best of me, but I allowed him to ruin what was otherwise a nice time for my mother and I with her extended family. There is/was tension, bad blood, etc. between my dad and my aunt (God rest her soul, she died in April 2021) to an extent of which I am not fully aware, I just know what has manifested in the past and continues with the remaining family members… I try to stay out of it the best I can, and I will not revisit that experience during this trip. My hope is that we can move on, and that we all take the opportunity to enjoy time together along with my brother, his wife, and their baby before life prevents another opportunity. With the ongoing insanity of crisis after crisis – real, imagined, or exaggerated – we all need to realize that life is short and so much is out of our control.

Chicago on my mind…

I was scrolling through my photos and reminiscing on my trip to Chicago last August before traveling to NYC.

Overall, I had a great trip. There were a few rocky family interactions, but lessons learned. I saw extended family, a few friends, one of my favorite bands, my White Sox, and got to eat my favorite foods. Best of all, I got to soak in the city, walking, taking the “L” (elevated trains, it’s what we Chicagoans call it), and enjoying beautiful, mild summer weather.

Even though I moved away and I have a life in Texas now, I doubt I will ever feel as free and as comfortable as I do hanging out in Chicago, whether downtown or in other parts of the city.

I love you, Chicago!

Nothing like Chicago-style food!

I heard about Wiseguys – A Chicago Eatery about a year ago but Husband and I were afraid to eat there. We have been disappointed while eating at other places claiming to have Chicago-style deep dish pizza and other items, and didn’t want to be disappointed again. But, we decided to throw caution to the wind and give it a shot.

The verdict… we were pleasantly surprised to each enjoy an Italian Beef with mozzarella cheese last night. The picture does not do the sandwich justice! We were out running errands today and decided to go back and each get a Vienna beef Hot Dog . Husband got a true Chicago-Style Hot dog with mustard, onion, relish, tomato, sport peppers, pickles and celery salt, while I broke the rules and got a Hot Dog plain that I then covered in ketchup. This is sacrilege for true Chicago-style hot dog aficionados, but I’m not a fan of mustard, nor tomatoes or raw onions. However, we both enjoyed our hot dogs immensely. We now have a place to go to scratch our Chicago food itch once in a while. If only we could find a local pizza to fill our void for Chicago Thin-crust tavern style pizza…

Going Home Part II

In just under four months, I am excited to say that I will be briefly returning to Chicago again, this time to watch the first session of the Laver Cup and to see the White Sox play the Cubs on the Southside.  What a surprise it was when Brother invited me to join him and his best buddy for some tennis and some baseball! 

The trip I took in March brought out a lot of feelings. I had, honestly, avoided going back to Chicago because of the conflicted relationship my parents have and because out of sight, out of mind is much easier than to admit feelings. I was pleasantly surprised to have any stretch of time during which my parents got along in my presence; sadly it was short-lived. Though most of the news focuses on the bad things about Chicago and I myself spent a good amount of time voicing my displeasure with the politics and policies of Chicago and of Illinois, it was tough to see all of the places I missed. Walking around downtown Chicago is awesome, with many great places to eat, things to do, and just seeing the buildings. I am truly grateful for the time I had to enjoy the city and to see my parents acting like people, instead of enemies. It was also great to see a dear friend, chatting with her for a few hours on my last day in Chicago.

I live in Central Texas for many reasons, though not for the food. Many people think that food in the greater Austin area is great, and I beg to differ. To each his own.  Also, there are some cool places and attractions in the Austin area, but Austin’s downtown is not on par with any of the major cities. You have to go to specific areas for shopping, movies, and other activities, not because it is a growing city, but rather this is the way it has evolved. It is my personal belief, that too many people in the  Austin area have a slacker mentality, lacking integrity and much urgency about anything. Obviously we have found enough to like about living in Central Texas that we have stayed for almost five years and bought a house, but one of the best trade-offs is the weather and not having to shovel snow as we did in Chicago.  We both prefer the sun and heat over snow and cold.

Anyhow, I look forward to not only seeing parents (we are all going to see tennis together), but my brother and his friend, and that we will get to enjoy our hometown together for the first time in five years.  It’ll be good!