Ten years ago this month I moved to Chicago after spending a post-college year in my hometown temping and drinking and temping and then drinking some more and then ... Well, to mark this auspicious occasion, I offer this timeline:
Summer 1996 About two days after accepting a job offer at a publishing company in my hometown, I ask for a transfer to their Chicago office. There is a job opening on their bulletin board. They are launching a new kid’s magazine with the Smithsonian, and well, they could have been launching a spaceship to Saturn, I just want to get the hell out of Dodge. Oddly enough, saying "uh all my friends live there" is sufficient to get out of the job I now no longer want. The general manager says about my soon-to-be ex-boss, "Goddamnit, Karen is going to be pissed!" then looks at my face and relents, "Oh, alright, I’ll make a few calls." And with that I’m on a train to Chicago to work for an art director who keeps a bottle of Jameson whiskey in his desk, and two of the smartest and funniest editors in the world. I rent a $375 a month studio on Kimball, and the fun begins.
Summer 1997 I move into a two bedroom, first floor rear (read: no natural light) apartment with my long time chum Kim in Little Italy. The landlord is an insane Italian woman whose belligerent, good for nothing children yell and scream at each other all day. Oh, and the woman is going through a divorce from her cop husband who left her for his goomad and you can hear her on the phone late night (gangways are like megaphones, fyi) detailing the situation to various relatives. It isn’t unusual for me to come home to them running up and down the stairs yelling "Fuck you! No Fuck YOU MA!" And then they turn to me, stop, smile and say, "Oh hi Ang, how’s your day?" Also of note, a fateful afternoon in a neighborhood park that summer involving me, my friend Jennifer (who lived just a block over), some piss warm vodka and lemonade, and a bike cop would prove to haunt me for some time to come.
Spring 1998 Kim leaves Chicago to become Mayor of our hometown and I move down the street into a cheap garden apartment with yet another unusual landlord. I love my little apartment, especially the laundry right out the back door, and spend the summer with Jennifer drinking in her coach house, holding two man dance contests, and then stumbling down the street to see the creepiest bar owner in Chicago, Ed, proprietor of what was at that time, the place to be on Taylor (this is written, dripping with sarcasm mind you).We also make plans for our future. We’ll raise cat and dog hybrids called either dats or cogs (we couldn’t agree) or marry guys and have houses with adjoining backyards.
1999 begins Michele, my friend from way back in the day calls me from Arizona over the holidays and says her younger sister Janel has just graduated college and suggests we could be roomates while she gets her shit together in the big city. I agree (thinking she’d only be around for a few months–little did I know that we’d nearly become common law wife and wife) and this wide-eyed, fresh face youngster comes into mine and Jennifer’s life during one of the biggest snowstorms in Chicago’s history. The three of us become fixtures at Dugan’s–so much in fact, one night a bartender tells me to deal with a drunk and disorderly girl who was throwing up in the men’s bathroom (not Janel or Jennifer). "You basically work here," she says. I shrug my shoulders and do as I’m told. Janel and I spend many Sundays on opposite couches essentially on a conference call with Jennifer trying to help each other piece together the evening and/or console someone on a bad choice for the Make Out Corner. This year also marks the weddings of three friends–Michele, Cassy, and Cathy–cutting the squad in half between the married and the single. Jennifer and I joke about that being our Y2K crisis.
2000 The new millenium dawns. And I think it was more of the same until that fall when I bail on my publishing job to go back to school. I hadn’t finished my B.A. and I get this insane idea that not only will I finish my degree, but I’ll hang around at Columbia for a while and become amazing journalist woman. Why not, right? I ended up having a cute copyediting teacher, so it was worth the bajillion dollars. Obviously 2000 sucked, because I can’t remember much beyond this. Maybe the election of George Bush has completely destroyed this year for me? Janel and I have fun watching the GOP convention that summer playing a game where you have to drink everytime someone says "children"or "America." And Janel discovers she really doesn’t like Lynne Cheney.
2001 I’m still in school full-time, and start working at the public radio station in town answering phones. I see a few famous people like Salman Rushdie and Gary Sinise, rub elbows with the hotshot producers like this guy, and secretly get drunk at some of their membership functions. Graduate school starts that fall, and of course we all know about that other memorable event 2001. I think it’s at this point when I decide that I really don’t want to be a reporter after all. I did start a journal–like a real one, not online–chronicling the last year of my 20s. It’s in a purple book and I have it under my bed so if I die or whatever friends, that’s where you’ll find it. The funniest things in there are these sketches I drew of guys I dated and or "dated" that year. I’d scan them and post them, but some of them read this blog and well, I’d hate to have to endure another one of these.
2002 This is the year I turn 30. I’m working for a neighborhood business, the owners of which said they’d hunt me down and kill me if I’d ever decide to write about them, and doing some writing and reporting for a community paper. I’m still taking classes and start to figure out what plan b might be. Or maybe it was plan c or d. . . whatever, I had no fucking clue. And Janel and I are still living together.
2003 A total blur
2004 Our landlord decides he wants to sell the building, Janel and I get separate apartments and I finally get a real job, again. As an urban pioneer, I move a mile south to Pilsen (not the super gentrified east part) but the real deal, and have a fleeting "I-can’t-fucking-believe-I-just-moved-to-Pilsen" freak out the day after I move in, but all my shit was in and I really like my place and there you have it, I live in Pilsen. In the spring I get a promotion at work after I give them my notice (I had been there for like five months) because the supervisor lady was a BEAST of a woman and said that I was a Miss Know it All (I was and I AM). The bosses fire her, I get a raise and her job. I rock.
2005 Two comrades fall this year as Kim and Jennifer take husbands. Kim has a lovely wedding in our hometown, that I think I was at, and Jennifer spares us all the pain and torture of yet another bridesmaid experience by shipping off to some island. This leaves me, Janel, and Nikki to continue to canoodle with potential Mr. Rights, Mr. Tonights, Mr. Right Nows, Mr. Oh Alrights, or Mr. Alright Alreadys! And I start blogging, so I can stop right now and you can just click away at the archives, lazy ass.
2006 Well, we’ve got exactly four months left of this year. A lot can happen.
And as always, I’ll keep you posted.