It’s a wonderfully clear, breezy weekend in Chicago. I haven’t broken a sweat once, a welcoming sensation when you consider how living in Philly has almost convinced me that I will just always have a thin film of grease and perspiration perpetually on my skin between the months of May and October. Here, people cluster on their wide front stoops drinking Miller Lites, cold and wet; here, people set up bags tournaments in the sidewalks and play until after dark; here, every other car window sports a University of Illinois sticker. Here, people take to their decks in the back–sturdy and reinforced these days so no one falls through–and grill hot dogs, hold the ketchup! Here, you can wander into a bar in the summer and 80% of the men–and possibly a good percentage of the females–will be sporting a T-shirt in orange and blue, or red and blue, or black and white. Why encase your arms in a fitted Express button-down now that the weather is finally balmy and bearable? Here, every street has a biergarten thronged with people in the summer months. In the summer in Philly, bar crowds become paltry in number as people escape for the more breezy respite of the shore. Here there’s no Yuengling, but they do have Goose Island, and they’ll serve it to you in a plastic cup. Here, everyone knows each other, because if you didn’t go to college or high school together, or if you weren’t in the same house, then your sister/brother/cousin/friend/boyfriend/ex-boyfriend did. Here you can get cheap, tasty Mexican food after you leave the bar at 2am, or you can head to another bar that stays open till 4am if you so please.
Last night, coming home from the bar after it closed at 3am (!), a sorority sister and I went tripping over clean sidewalks flanking wide, two-way streets. Underneath a canopy of heavy trees, we walked past elegant and eclectic collections of brownstones set off by verdant lawns. “Am I in the city?” I wondered to myself. When we got back to the apartment, the wide bay windows were open, inviting the night wind into the apartment to dance with the streetlight reflections on the hardwood floor.
The next morning over brunch at one of a thousand Irish-themed establishments, the booths were clotted with attractive, corn-fed Big Ten alumni in their twenties, all looking like they’d rolled out of bed. The men were strapping, the women makeup-free. There was no line or wait. When my old roommate drove me home to my parents’ house in the suburbs, we rolled past glittering skyscrapers with utter nonchalance.
Why did I leave again?