Monday, September 15, 2003

Something has happened over the past few days which I did not think possible so soon: I am beginning to feel at home here.

It certainly can't hurt that most of the boxes are gone, furniture is more or less in its rightful place, and the air mattress on the floor has been swapped for a real one (still on the floor). But really I think it's that Chicago is starting to wrap me up in its big brawny arms.

I haven't quite known what to do with my feeling of homecoming that isn't really homecoming--coming to Chicago felt disturbingly like regressing, like when I go home to my parents' house and spend five days straight sitting on the couch watching TV, and yet the city itself was a strange blank to me, the big unknown looming over the suburban horizon.

Over the past few days, though, I've come to feel that this is the best of both worlds. I know the area well enough that I can, say, drive around without getting lost--I can take a hometown boy's pride in knowing what all the expressways (note, Californians, not "freeways") are called, how to navigate around downtown, how to zip up to the North Shore and back again in a single bound. But at the same time I can experience the pleasures of exploring a new city; my local friends are helping me with one of the best things about going to a new place, which is learning the utterly weird names of neighborhoods. Sure, I knew Wrigleyville and the Loop when I was a kid. Hyde Park, even. But Bucktown, Pilsen, Logan Square...these are all new fetishes, names to conjure with.

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