Chicago on the brain
Recently, while watching Netflix’s Easy, I grew increasingly nostalgic for Chicago. The show does an excellent job of accurately portraying my hometown – with its distinct neighborhoods and staple businesses and establishments like my beloved Old Town School of Folk Music, Dark Matter cafe, and New City magazine, to name a few. Good thing I’ll be back for a couple of weeks in a matter of days!
As my time in Korea draws to a close (less than two months left!), this upcoming trip has me feeling ~all the feels.~ I’ll return to Korea for the entirety of February then I’m off to backpack like I’ve wanted to since I was in university. I’m thrilled but also slightly anxious. There’s something inevitably nerve-wracking when we’re about to finally make something happen we’ve wanted to do for a long time…
But before I get ahead of myself with endless ruminations and what-ifs about the future, here’s a fun list of why Chi-town is perpetually on my mind.
Breadth and depth of music
When I left for Korea, I didn’t give much thought to the diverse and vibrant music scene I was saying goodbye to. Chicago is, after all, where house music originated. The city also played a crucial part in the evolution of blues and jazz. In my Chicago days I went to all types of concerts where I danced and danced. I find myself longing the most for the house music scene – booming speakers in a dark basement full of beautiful people dancing meditatively and uninhibitedly…
The vibrancy of summertime
Chicago is a marvelous city – cosmo enough but with the down-to-earth attitude of the Midwest. The only problem – and a major one at that – is the weather. It’s ungodly freezing. Winter and summer are the only seasons Chicago knows. Summer lasts approximately 3-4 months. Because Chicagoans appreciate the transient warm months, the city is in festive mode during this time. Free outdoor concerts at Jay Pritzker Pavilion, unending food and music festivals, movie viewings at the park, beer gardens, boozy boating (and beach) outings at Lake Michigan, and the list goes on about how we do summer properly in my home city.
Museums. Art. Culture. Communities. For the 6 years I lived in Chicago, there was never a shortage of greatly curated events to attend. Don’t get me wrong, Chicago pales in comparison to the diversity and vibrancy of art spaces in NY, but the Chicago scene delivers. My heart aches for Pilsen’s 2nd Fridays Gallery Night. Every second Friday of summer months, visitors can check out great local art while strolling through one of Chicago’s coolest neighborhoods. What’s not to love?
Views and aesthetics
Chicago is for design afficionados. Its architecture is world-famous as many renowned architects have left behind their print with their buildings. From tasteful skyscrapers (except the atrocious Trump Tower) to historical landmarks, to beautiful residential housing, to innovative public spaces, Chicago is easy on the eyes. South Korea simply can’t begin to compare in this area. Sigh.
Neighborhoods and people
Hipster Logan Square. Artsy Bridgeport. Obnoxiously yuppie River North + Lincoln Park. Bro-filled Wrigleyville + Lakeview. Indian food in Devon. Mexican in Pilsen and La Villita. Puerto Rican in Humboldt Park. Best ramen in Chinatown. Pierogi in Ukrainian Village. Most Chicago neighborhoods are uniquely characterized. Visiting a few of them in a day can be a dizzying experience. Each area is a microcosm within a macrocosm. I love this about Chicago along with its multiculturalism.
In Chicago, there’s something for everyone’s taste to indulge on. Tasty eats on the cheap? Check. Gourmet dining at world-famous restaurants like Alinea? Check. The wealth of food no longer at my disposal is enough to drive me into an episode of homesickness. Thankfully I’ll soon be able to enjoy Portillo’s chocolate cake shake. Why, yes, this restaurant makes a shake that includes a slice of cake in it. Brilliant. (Don’t leave without trying a Chicago-style hot dog). I’ll also be enjoying a dipped Italian beef at Al’s. Then I’m off to Humboldt Park, home of the jibarito – a Puerto Rican sandwich substituting bread for thin slices of plantains. And lastly, I’ll be on the chase for the ever popular Tamale Guy. This saint and angel of a man hustles hard by selling his exquisite homemade warm tamales from diver bar to dive bar. He’s considered a “mystical Chicago legend,” a “magical tamale fairy godfather,” and has a cult following. A Twitter account alerting people of his sightings was created by an avid fan, for god's sake! Yeah, he’s a hero to all those with a bad case of the drunken munchies.