Snapshots of Chicago

Today I miss Chicago.

I miss my apartment in Rogers Park at the corner of Sheridan and Pratt. The walls in the hallways of the building were purple and one time there was a guy passed out in the hallway in front of my door. I got mad at B who left first that morning for not warning me about him. I miss hearing Fresh Air for the first time in that apartment. There was an interview with John Waters about his Christmas album.

The first apartment

I miss eating Chicken McNuggets on the benches in Union Station while waiting for my Amtrack train to Memphis. I miss meeting B there at 8:40 in the morning when his train arrived. It was like a movie; we’d see each other from opposite ends of the great hall and then kind of pick up the pace to meet one another. Then we’d go to Lou Mitchell’s for breakfast and play footsy.

I miss the El. I would often take the Red Line from Loyola to the Chicago stop and then just walk up the Magnificent Mile to the Art Institute, which at that time was pay what you can. I felt classy getting off at Chicago because there were some colorful tiles on the walls of the subway. I loved the way the train slowed down and lurched around the Sheridan stop. I always felt like something must be wrong at first but there never really was, not there at least. I miss the heat lamps that you could turn on to stay warm on the platforms during the winter. They were awesome because they actually heated you up.

I miss Chinatown on my 22nd birthday. I have never felt so cold in my life. B and I took the train to Chinatown that Sunday. It was completely sunny with no cloud cover to lock any remaining heat in. It registered 2 degrees Fahrenheit but it was also very windy. We were the only people out and we ducked into each shop, all selling the exact same sets of chopsticks and bamboo plants. Then we ate at the Three Happiness Restaurant (or was it six?) That night we went home and ordered a pizza from Giordano’s because that seemed like the thing you were supposed to do in Chicago on your birthday.

I miss the Newberry Library book sale. I liked imagining where the books and tapes we bought came from. A bungalow in Hyde Park? A brownstone in Lincoln Park? We would each bring $30 in with us and leave with close to 45 books apiece. It wouldn’t matter if the books we bought ended up being crappy because we only spent like $0.60 on them anyway.

I miss brunch in Boys Town. And dinner in Andersonville. Once we had the same waiter at two completely separate restaurants on the opposite ends of town within the space of a week. He didn’t seem too impressed when I pointed out how coincidental this was and how amazing truffle fries are.

I miss the second apartment. When we saw it for the first time, the previous tenant who was still living there told us that it was a lucky apartment. Looking back, that seems like a pretty hokey thing to say but I didn’t think so at the time. It seemed 100% plausible that the place could be lucky. I moved in two weeks later.

The second apartment

I miss working in Evanston. I miss walking through the residential neighborhoods on Hinman to the restaurant where I worked. One time, I was walking on Hinman around 2:30 on Saturday. I walked passed a building with some condos. There was a couple lying on the front drive way, completely naked and doing The Do. It was one of the most bizarre things I have ever witnessed. I looked around to see if anyone else saw it. I was the only one around. I still kind of think it may have been a mirage or something.

I miss the restaurant culture. I never went to Alinea, but I knew enough people who had either worked there or eaten there that I felt like I pretty much got the gist of the place without having to spend my month’s salary to experience it myself.

I miss who I was when I lived in Chicago. I arrived a 21-year-old student who had never really lived on her own and I left a 26-year-old married woman eager to see the world. I love that city so much.

And I hate to admit it, but that Sufan Stevens song makes me tear up a little.


  1. clownonfire · · Reply

    Is it true that when you visit Chicago, you can take a tour of Billy Corgan’s ego?
    Le Clown

    1. Yes, I think it’s included in the all-inclusive museum pass.

  2. I really love this post. I feel the same way about St. Augustine.

    1. Thank you. There’s nothing better than having a second home somewhere.

  3. I am not a fan of shopping. At all. Until I go to Chicago. There is just something about the Magnificent Mile. My husband and I love visiting that city. He especially loves the thick, thick pizza. :)

    1. Yes there is! I used to go into Neimann Marcus and just look around. As if I belonged there. I never dropped $800 there, but I definitely liked dropping into Nine West and the Gap; much more affordable for me!

      1. You are my kind of shopper. If I can’t get it from Banana Republic, the Gap, or Target, I’m not likely to buy it. Which has more to do with my being boring than anything else…

  4. Emily, what a great post. I love to read about people’s likes/dislikes of places and you so did Chicago justice! I’ve only been there a couple of times and of course, don’t know it the way you do because it was only briefly, but you make it sound like a very eclectic and magical place. (that pic of the apartment looks very cool too). How long does an Amtrak ride take from Chicago to Memphis? Great post — thank you.

    1. Thanks, Brigitte! It was a fantastic place. The train ride took about 10 hours, I think. It was overnight, so you’d never lost time traveling. I loved taking the train. It was a lot of fun (and fairly inexpensive!)

  5. OMG! My husband and I managed an apartment building, The Pratt Lane, in Rogers Park many moons ago. We were basically impoverished but have good memories, none the less. Now we’re in the suburbs and I rarely go down to the city… maybe a few times a year? Funny how that happens.
    You’re memories are very relatable, not to mention very sweet. Good ol’ Chicago, it’s a great city. : )

    1. I think you posted on managing an apartment building, right? Ooomph, that is a job that I hear will put hair on your chest! But I loved living on Pratt and Sheridan! My place was only one block from the lake. I don’t think I appreciated that enough.

      Oh, how I love Chicago!

      1. I don’t think I did post on that…? Maybe you were just thinking about the hair on my chest! Ha!

  6. This makes me miss Chicago too. I always wished I’d hung out a little after I finished art school, just to be a single woman in a big city, have some fun. I arrived the opposite of you–in a relationship that I thought would be a marriage–and left a single woman, but with promise back home in NM. So, that’s where I went. You have some great memories of that fantastic city, thanks for sharing.

    1. I’m so glad I stayed after I finished school. I hated my whole time being a student there so the extra time I spent there taught me to relax and enjoy the city. It was (or rather, is) such a wonderful place. I hope to move back someday.

  7. I lived in Rogers Park! Right on the beach. People are so ignorant of Chicago. No one believes you when you tell them about Lake Michigan and the beach. I lived on Surf Street in Boys Town, too. Now, I live in Naperville, but when the kids are gone…..Thanks for a lovely post. Never heard the song before, but I think my son has. He was born in Chicago at Northwestern. Yes! On the lake!

    1. I know! I never even thought about the beach before I lived there, but I spent many hours there. I loved it in the dead of winter when it was all snowy and the first 500 or so meters of the lake froze. B and I would go down to the shore in Rogers Park and just listen to it creak. It was so eerie and awesome. Thanks for reminding me of that!

      If we ever return (which I really, really hope we do) I will look you up! I want B to get a job at one of the city colleges.

  8. Oh, and if you come back, let me know!

  9. I teared up reading your post….fantastic…

    1. Thank you! That place makes me so nostalgic!

  10. I love this post so so much. It’s so sweet, and I remember tromping around town with you and B, Lolita in my purse. I remember the pancakes we ate, and the pizza, and the Georgian bread. How young we were. I miss Oakland in the same way, miss going to Eric’s for Friday night dinner. I was just thinking about it last night. But I concede that falling asleep with his hand in mine is far better. ;)

    1. OMG, that Georgian bread was so good and we would have never gone there if you hadn’t have turned us on to it. We were SO young. Scary, huh?

  11. What a poetic trip down memory lane. I hope that one day you can share these places with C.

    1. Thanks, I truly hope so, although I have to remember that one day she’ll have to make memories of her own somewhere. I will heavily suggest Chicago to her though ;)

  12. i loved this little jaunt down your past. much love, sm

    1. Thanks, Moms! I liked talking a stroll down memory lane.

  13. It sounds like a great place (except for the couple doing it) and where you really became a proper adult.

    1. It was. I had so many adventures there! I miss it a lot.

  14. I was just looking through old pics last night and found one from your old apartment–you and B (wearing his Trogdor t-shirt!) in the purple hallway. Also, our adventures in actually renting that apartment, and how freaking cold we were in the middle of June. And how overjoyed I looked outside of Lou Mitchell’s! Anyone who gives me donut holes is my friend.

    You’re pretty much solely responsible for any time I have spent in Chicago, and for that I thank you!

    1. Yes! I know exactly what picture you’re talking about because I looked for it to include in the post! I only have a hard copy, though, and I didn;t have time to scan it. The trip we all took to Hyde Park was epic; that bus ride was like the REALEST moment ever. I thought we were going to die. Heh heh, not that day, not that day ;)

  15. bellissimom · · Reply

    I have only been to Chicago once but I loved it. Such a great city with so much history.

    1. It is awesome! I really want to take the baby some day!

  16. I loved visiting Chicago! Been there twice. It was also the first place I visited sans baby. But I pumped the whole time. So we went out in few hour increments or I would be soaked. It was right during the massive snowstorm a few years ago, so everything closed. But to Texans, 29 ” of beautiful white snow was magic. And Millennium park is pretty fun, too. Especially since I studied it in school. Yay Chi-town!

    1. That snow! Oh, that snow! I miss it a lot. I grew up in a place that never got substantial snow in the winter so I loved frolicking through it in Chitown. Driving and walking through it, though, isn’t as thrilling. I LOVED Millennium Park. The fountains are wonderful!

  17. Frank Sinatra agrees with you, “Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town…” Why not move back to it?

    1. Maybe when C is a toddler ;)

  18. Crista · · Reply

    awww… Chicago :) :)

  19. A spot on post about what it’s like when a city gets under your skin. Just the thought of leaving New York is equal to losing a vital organ. In my case that’s probably what’s left of my mind. I’ve only been to Chicago once — in spring 2007. It was a business trip; I was tethered to my boss so I did not get to do any sightseeing, but the little I did see impressed me immensely architecturally. I hope to one day visit again and maybe catch a play at the Goodman. One other thing, my dad was born and raised in Chicago but he moved to SF in 1941 when he was 14. Whenever I’d ask him what Chicago was like, all he’d mention was the wicked cold. I’m glad I got to see it at least once for myself at a time when the weather was beautiful.

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: