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Some of the Things You Worry You Might Miss About Chicago Once You Leave

Here are some of the things you worry you might miss about Chicago once you leave for New York:

Splashing around in blue slosh of Lake Michigan off of Promontory Point, the warm-in-the-belly feeling of descending toward the yellow-orange grid of streetlights on final approach into O’Hare, cherry Italian Ice from Miko’s, the screech of the Blue Line, the windy emptiness of Milwaukee Avenue on a below-zero January night, frozen beards, staring philosophically at winter’s last snowflakes deep in April, the deep green quads and ivy-wrapped stone of the University of Chicago on the last day of classes, the Gospel Music Festival, ping pong in the damp and low-ceilinged back room at Happy Village, glimpses of the skyline framed in orange leaves from Washington Park in October, the sound of kids playing at Mis Angelitos Daycare below your second floor apartment window, the illicit hipster rooster two yards over that crows in time for brunch at 11 AM on Saturdays, talking shit about New York (the rent is so high!) and California (the people are so dull!) and Indiana (it’s Chicago’s New Jersey!), emphatically not voting for Rahm, dancing to blues at Kingston Mines and drinking buckets of iced Schlitz, celery salt (and also chopped onions, tomatoes, hot peppers, mustard, and green relish) on late-night hot dogs, the Wilson Avenue bridge that spans the slow sludge of the Chicago River, the chintz of rooftop bars in the Loop, Rachmaninoff at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for fifteen dollars on a Thursday night, grizzled Bridgeport artists talking about painting on a panel discussion moderated by a Chinese immigrant gallery owner who wears a five-gallon cowboy hat and leather pants, falling in love with Gina for the second time on a park bench in Palmer Square with heat lightning flashing in the electric air (running your fingers through her red hair, feeling like something big in your life is about to happen, etc.), El Ranchero corn chips and translucent plastic tubs of homemade pico de gallo, trying to explain on FaceTime to your east-coast family what it feels like to walk around in negative 40 degree wind chills, walking around in negative 40 degree wind chills, not taking off your long underwear all weekend, bumping into a sighing Chris Ware on the Green Line and Jesse Jackson ordering breakfast at Café Valois, the smell of photo emulsion in the dark room at Spudnik Press, the century-old carpeting and polka music at Moe’s Tavern, losing track of the score in the sixth inning of a Cubs game in June at Wrigley, throwing a soda at a Cleveland Indians fan in the sixth inning of a June game at wherever it is the Sox play, Benny the Bull, taking your father for steak and martinis downtown when he visits (putting him to bed drunk and slurring in his tightie whities after an Uber ride home), the Humboldt Park Lagoon and the guy who gives out shoes at Fireside Bowling Alley, Lao Sze Chuan and the water taxi to Chinatown, turning your car down garbage alleys to avoid traffic, reading “We Real Cool” with seventh graders after school and listening to them tell you what they think it means, the clang and hulk of Metra trains at grade crossings in Fulton Market, the smell of Chocolate from the Blommer Factory that overhangs the West Loop, the gaping mouths of fanny-packed tourists looking up from their tour boats, Chances Dances, holiday lights on the balconies of Marina City, the clamor of moms wrangling their kids at the 35th Street Beach with the sun coming down, writing all day at Café Mustache wordlessly sitting next to the dude who paints fantasy creatures, joggers in jeans and sheer button-down shirts on the Bloomingdale Trail, pickup trucks that sell crates of mangoes for five dollars, derecho storms that beat against your window or trap you in a Target when you’re out buying toilet paper, elaborate sweaters on Lincoln Park dads at the Green City Market in October, every apple or peach you’ve ever eaten from Michigan, imagining what Sarah Jindra (the traffic announcer in the morning who used to be on WBEZ) looks like when you’re stuck in traffic on the Dan Ryan Expressway at 8:30 AM, the 1970’s upholstery on South Shore Line trains, extra giardinera, Illinois Resident Night at the Art Institute and that one Willard Motley painting that makes you exhale, the solitude of Northerly Island and the silence between its knolls, prairie landscapes dotted in purple and yellow and green, river otters at the Shedd Acquarium, fireworks over Navy Pier from a rooftop and claiming that you’ve never actually been to Navy Pier (which is a lie because you went to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater for Twelfth Night on a Tinder date, but you hardly think that counts), the number 55 bus down Garfield Boulevard to Midway, the phallic rainbow street markers in Boystown, Women and Children First Bookstore where you bought your copy of Studs Terkel’s Division Street, pierogi from Staropolska, bad poetry at Reading Under the Influence, sunrise at Diversey Harbor after closing down karaoke at Alice’s at 4:30 AM and eating breakfast across the street at the 24-hour Belmont Snack Shop—but most of all living in a city that groans when The New York Times spends 36 hours, whose storming, burly, brawny, hulking beastliness melts away like butter by June every year, a city whose hurts it wants no outsider to fix, whose pains you wish you had an answer for, and which you know probably won’t miss a single thing about you, but you secretly hope it will anyway.

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