It’s story #250, just under a quarter through my quest to tell 1,001 tales of Chicago, but my mind couldn’t be further from the place.
It’s in Rockford, Illinois, where my parents are cleaning the wreckage of a big family Thanksgiving. It’s in the Quad Cities, where my aunt is returning to her routine of the night shift at the post office. It’s in Seattle, where my sister is starting a new life, and it’s on the train bringing my girlfriend back to me from St. Louis.
And it just texted me from O’Hare, saying it made it with plenty of time for the flight back to Florida and had a great time staying with me.
My cousin, the one who somehow turned into a grown man when I wasn’t looking, came back with me to Chicago for a guy’s weekend after our family Thanksgiving. We drank beer at the Map Room, played video games at Logan Hardware, played more video games at Headquarters, stayed up late shooting the shit and eating thin crust pizza (because deep dish is for tourists and the heart transplant patients of 2016) and generally Chicagoed it up.
He’s a born/bred Miamian currently studying music education at Florida State University in Tallahassee. We’ve got the DNA. We’ve got the shared interests (fine whiskey, ska and Batman). But we grew up half a continent away from each other, me among corn, he among palmetto.
He didn’t own a scarf or a stocking hat until this weekend. That’s just wrong.
It’s no secret that each spot on the globe has its own personality and culture. Its tempo and rhythm and local quirks.
I had to explain how Chicago streets are on a grid since the fire. My cousin had to tell me why all the buildings in Miami are concrete blocks since Hurricane Andrew.
He explained Florida drivers. I explained how Chicago bars claim to be “The Home of (Some College from a Completely Different Part of the Country) Football” to draw in extra business. Turns out that’s just a here thing.
Our most special conversations, the ones I’ll think of when recalling this visit in the future, had nothing to do with Miami or Chicago or cities at all. These conversations were private ones about life. You don’t get to read them.
I could write 1,001 stories of this Midwest metropolis I call home, and my cousin could play the music of the ages, giving his Mozart and Mahler a Floridian flare. But it would be the stories we tell or the songs we play, not the spot on the map they fall.
I love this town and am glad to have 751 more stories to tell of it. But my mind is in Rockford tonight. And the Quad Cities. And Seattle. And on a train from St. Louis. In San Diego, Copenhagen, Bangkok, Orland Park. Any of the places my family, friends and the other people who have made my life special have landed or sprung from.