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Curved-letter cities

12 Dec

Curved-letter cities

Last night, Dylan asked me where I would move if we didn’t have to worry about practicalities. “Brooklyn,” I said. “Portland. Berlin.” Cities that start, comfortingly, with nice rounded capital letters. There’s almost some aural symmetry in their pronunciation, as though they might sound the same if spoken by a tipsy Frenchman with a speech impediment. These cities couldn’t be more different, but I like all three of them, and it’s not just the lousy weather patterns that unites this trio. I love cities that fidget with creative energy, mostly because I hope some of it will rub off on me. I love these cities because parts of each remind me of Chicago, of home, and because they have rusty run-down things along with the shiny new ones.

Lately I’ve been sculpting a romantic notion out of going to Berlin in the winter. When you don’t live around snow, it’s easy to think of it as a beautiful backdrop to wonderful scenes. And maybe it is for a minute or two, but then it’s cold and your nostrils feel like tiny igloos, and you feel like you’ve been walking the tundra for weeks even though all you’ve done is take a three-block walk to a coffee shop. But I keep thinking that a Berlin winter cannot possibly be as brutal as its wicked Chicago sister. Wikipedia temperature information confirms this theory.

Realistically, though, it’ll first be Brooklyn in February and Portland in March; the Southern Gentleman and I need to save up some shacking-up costs anyway, so big trips are not in my near future. Berlin will have to wait, as will a more thorough explanation of why I like that city so much in the first place. (Been sick for six weeks, and can’t stay awake past 9 so well these days.)

Midwestern nice

26 Jul

Midwestern nice

This is one of the things I really love about Chicago and the Midwest in general: the land is enormous, but the sense of community makes big cities seem like overgrown small towns. I’ve been in San Francisco for four years, and do you know how often I run into someone I know here? Maybe once every two weeks. Maybe. But we go back to Chicago, and within the first day, there’s Christopher in Millennium Park, and John and his family at Lula. We go to Detroit for BBQ (at a place owned by a former Annie crush) and who works there but Zach? I miss this sort of coincidence, and Midwestern Nice, a lot.

I also find that when I’m home, I’m a much nicer person. Obviously, a lot of that has to do with not juggling 12 tasks at once while at work, but it’s also a reflection of the people around you. SG and I continued our tradition of renting bicycles far too small for him, and the woman who rented them didn’t even ask for a credit card. And sure, we were mean mugged (I forgot about that phrase!) in Detroit a few times, but we were also greeted warmly there. My point is, it’s easier to be more Betty than Veronica back home.

On glaciers

7 Apr

On glaciers

On some level, it’s hard to write about Iceland. A year ago, the island symbolized deep pain and anger for me. (I don’t want to go into the reason here. That’s why I pay a therapist. Ba-dum-tish) Suffice it to say that when Eyjafjallajokull blew its top, the volcano seemed to be providing the geological parallel to my emotional distress. Naturally, the eruption blanketed the news, so everywhere I went, all I heard was Iceland this and Iceland that. Iceland seemed to have it out for me. Even JC’s trip to Scotland was thwarted due to the ashen sky. “Fucking Iceland!” he wrote in an e-mail. I laughed; we stewed. But seven months later, I was on a plane to Reykjavik. (more…)

A picture of you and me in Brooklyn

6 Nov

A picture of you and me in Brooklyn

On a Saturday in September, the Southern Gentleman and I were in New York. It was sunny and warm, and after I finished my day’s work, I met him at Doughnut Land or the Doughnut Factory or Doughnut Lair. Something like that, on the Lower East Side. He offered me some sort of overblown doughnut that is probably more delicious than the chocolate-frosted cake doughnuts I prefer. But Opa always called me his little feinschmecker and, paradoxically, I’m sticking to my less-gourmet doughnuts. But this is not about doughnuts. (more…)

The flying squirrel

17 Oct

The flying squirrel

The weird thing about traveling so much is that I can’t finish anything. I start e-mails, movies, stories, and everything else, but distraction or exhaustion keep me from completing things. About the only thing I can finish is a book, which feels like a luxury. Given a five-hour flight, I can knock out a medium-sized novel (Little Bee most recently), and that makes up for the screaming children and turbulence and so forth. (more…)