Friday, November 4, 2005

Moving to Chicago


I had more questions than answers when I left my native Danbury, Conn., and drove west. I didn’t know what I was going to do to earn money other than write. And I didn’t have a job? I didn’t know where I was going to live. I only knew one good friend, and he lived in the first suburb west of the city. I knew, however, I wanted to live in a big city while I was in my twenties. And I knew I wanted that city to be in Chicago even though I had only visited it for a long weekend that prior May.


So in late October, while the World Series was underway, I drove to Chicago in an SUV I had rented. I had sold my car before the move because I knew I wanted to live in the city and use public transportation. The SUV had plenty of room. I actually should have packed some more items such as pots and pans. They are useful.

At any rate, I moved to the Windy City with the intention of becoming a great writer. No one ever moves by choice away from his family to a big city to be less accomplished. I use the word accomplished instead of the word success. Modern society uses the word success to relate to one’s happiness and achievements in life. But success refers to financial well-being. I wanted to have the feeling of achievement that money can’t buy, that great feeling of accomplishment. I also was single and figuring there are over a million women in Chicago. I felt I might find someone that is compatible.


People asked me the same question before I moved and even after I was settled in. Why Chicago? Why not, I often remarked. It’s a big city with all the pleasures and problems that big cities have. The architecture and museums and sites are world-class. There is an endless amount of food and entertainment. And the people. They are friendly for the most part, and there are so many different ethnic groups and classes of people. There are millions of stories waiting to be written. For someone who wants to write, why not sounds like a good answer. The other thing was the people I met from Chicago who visited the hotel I worked for in Colorado. They all adored Chicago. They all said it was the best city to live in. I read about the city and came to the same conclusion. Chicago it was. Chicago it is.


I drove straight through, stopping for gas and food on the long monotonous drive. It began raining in Ohio and at times I could barely see the road, staring at the white lines on the pavement in order to avoid trouble. Neither the rain nor the lack of vision bothered me. I made good time.


When I entered the Dan Ryan Expressway and crossed over the bridge into the city I had to pay a toll. Twice. It didn’t make sense to me. Before I entered the bridge I paid $2.50 and then as I was exiting it, I paid fifty cents. I asked the toll booth woman, a black lady, why they didn’t require drivers to pay three dollars and only stop once. That doesn’t make sense, I said. “That’s the truth,” she said. “I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because the tolls are owned by separate companies.” She was very polite and answered my query with no arrogance in her voice. New York as far as I could tell had more of a chip on its shoulder than Chicago. Everything seemed more genuine and sincere in Chicago, which later I could verify was an accurate assumption. The Hancock Building and Sears Tower were lit up in light purple at the top.

I arrived at my friend’s house in Oak Park and told him about the drive and went to bed. He was excited I was there. So was I. We both were tired. He woke up at five every morning, and I had a big day ahead of me as well, or so I thought.




Finding an apartment is an important decision. After all, you have to live there. Sometimes, as I’ve found out from moving around the country, important decisions can be made quickly. That is what happened when I decided to move into the Canterbury Court Apartments on State Street, near the corner of Division Street. From talking to a friend who had lived in the city, I decided I wanted to live in the Gold Coast. I had five or six apartments on my list. They were close to one another and took me only ten minutes or so to tour. Canterbury Court had been my first choice after looking online and talking to my friend. Besides, I had a good vibe from the general manager. She was a middle-aged woman with short, straight brown hair and always seemed to be smiling and in a good mood. In less than three hours I signed a lease with her and moved in. The apartment was fully furnished and I signed a three-month lease. It was almost too good to be true. Sure, it was not cheap, but for city standards not bad. I chose the room on the fourteenth floor with a view of Lake Michigan and the Hancock Building. The apartment had been built a long time ago and had seventeen stories. There was no thirteenth floor, the elevator went from twelve to fourteen. So technically I was on the thirteenth floor.


My friend in Oak Park, Kenny, helped me move all my stuff in. He was my one real friend at the time and still is one of my best friends. The first couple weeks I settled in and walked around the city and bought certain items I thought necessary for my apartment. Certain things in the city made life outside it feel outdated, like stores and shops being open at all hours. The CVS across the street never closed as did the gyro shop a few blocks down on Division Street. It was a great time. The weather wasn’t too cold; I wore jeans and sweatshirts. I enjoyed watching people scurrying to work or to a convenience store. It was such a big city. Such big opportunity. Still, I felt like a small fish in a big pond.

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