If a friendship lasts longer than 7 years, it will last a lifetime.
I woke up this morning not remembering where I was. Oh, and with my leg splayed over my friend who doesn’t like to cuddle. Over dinner the night before, we all discussed what our strange sleeping habits are. I assured her that my only weirdness is somehow ending up diagonal in the night. But, much to her chagrin, I was wrong. I apparantly also inadvertently trespass on other people’s space! When we woke up, I asked her how her sleep was and she responded coyly with “Danny’s bed is super comfortable…..oh, and, you lied, you ARE a cuddler.” The smile on her face had meant she was taking it graciously though. I gave her permission to kick me next time. That usually works.
Our home for the next 4 days would be on the bottom level of a 3 story apartment in Chicago. Even though my phone displayed that it was 7am, the room remained pitch black. I pondered on how this was possible for a while, but upon looking around the room, I realized there were no windows. So weird! I did sleep well though, having recovered from the night before. Danny’s boyfriend Chris had cooked us an amazing meal for dinner (ending with some rum-soaked peaches topped with homemade whipped cream for dessert. Only I didn’t taste any peaches, if you know what I mean). The only home cooked meal I have had for a long time.
Flashback to when we first arrived at Midway International Airport: it actually was not a struggle at all. From Jacksonville, it was an easy 2 and 1/2 hour direct flight! What I was most worried about was using the trains. Or, as tourists from smaller cities know them, dreaded public transportation! I was already preparing myself to get lost in the subway. I tried my hardest not to look like a tourist. But it is hard not to when you are constantly looking around and jumping at the sound of every stop made. All I kept thinking was “Well, at least I have a change of clothes! Ugh, this luggage is heavy. No! Not more stairs! I wonder if they have any restaurants in the trains for the tourists who get lost on their journeys?”. Obviously I was confident. Per Danny’s directions, we took the Orange Line to the Brown Line. If you know what I am talking about, good for you. I am glad I had Elena with me because what I was imagining was a kid drawing literal orange lines and brown lines on the sidewalk. I don’t know what to do with that!
When we finally made it to Danny’s street, I was in awe of how cute it was! If you don’t count the constant clattering of the train tracks (which eventually turned into white noise), it is an incredibly quiet area. If Danny’s blinds weren’t open, I wouldn’t have had any clue that other people choose it as a route to their destinations. I couldn’t wait to make our home in a real Chicago abode.
I had expected to eat well in this city. If I had a shitty time or didn’t enjoy any of the architecture, I could live with that. But if the food was subpar? Take me back home. My first taste of Chicago was at a taco joint called…”Taco Joint” on North Halstead Street. And…it…was…GOOD. Ever had a salmon taco? Me either. But I had a delicious ceviche taco! We paired it with a beer-mixed drink called “Traditional Red”. We were disappointed because there was no wine it in, having thought we ordered a SANGRIA. But, when I read the menu again, I realized it said SANGRITA. So it all makes sense now.
One thing I will say about Chicago is there is FREE STUFF EVERYWHERE. Literally, the minute we walked into the FREE zoo, there were girls handing out FREE cans of Red Bull. It just so happens that all of this was taking place in a FREE country! Kidding. But I could not believe that the zoo was free: there were no gates, no entrance fees, and no one to check your tickets. It wasn’t a small, janky zoo with sad looking animals either! They had rhinos, penguins, polar bears, meerkats, and a lot of other exhibitions that the Jacksonville Zoo does not have. And I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to enjoy a zoo without sweating your face off in 90+ degree weather!
When the night winded in, we headed over to Chris’ house. Two words: Bachelor Pad. To the max. He had a chalkboard wall adorned with business plans and a list of “Places to Go”. In the bathroom, there was a makeshift lamp made out of an old wine bottle. It was so revealing of his lifestyle. More importantly, the man can cook. We were entertained with a cute ass cheese plate for an appetizer, sausage and brussell sprouts, and a salad that we had all made with love. Fresh from the herb garden on his rooftop. We spent a lot of our time out there – shucking corn, cutting tomatoes, and trying to differentiate between this green leaf and the other. “This one is rosemary … or sage….or….kale? I don’t know put that in the salad.” Despite our uncertainty, the salad was scrumptious. Didn’t even need the drizzling of a balsamic vinegar dressing like I usually like.
My first night in Chicago can be summarized into one, simple statement: there is more to explore. The aching in my feet from that initial day would not compare to what would play through into the rest of my trip. I say I wanted to explore, huh? Well, I got my wish…
Stay tuned for Day 2.