May 12th, 2011

Gettin' my freak on here in Chicago

I’ve just arrived in Chicago, checked in, stepped out onto Millennium Park as one does, then looked back at the city, to behold a sky full of squid's ink folding over the city. It was a mother of all lightning storms, turning dusk into night. The lights in the windows of buildings all looked like eyes. A minute later I was sitting in a bar looking out onto the street, at drivers queuing to drive home in a downpour. Cars scare me to death, which is better than not being scared and having them kill me. 

This city is even more awesome than New York in some ways. Every street presents a meridian of Death Star proportions. You must ask if these streets ever stop, or if riding far enough down one to the West might not bring you back to where you are now, only from the other direction. Flying in, it does seem as though every tenth street in the city defines square shaped farms further out. I’ll find out tomorrow what it’s like to cycle on such a grid, or if the river’s edge provides the only sane option.
Crossing California, the Blues Brothers view from my window and the my new walk-a-bike

On the way in from the airport riding the train, I crossed California. Hu? It’s the name of a Street in Chicago, and Crossing California is the name of a novel by Adam Langer. I rented his apartment from him in New York in 2006 while he was back here in Chicago. While I was there, I read Crossing California, then set about plagiarising it with a coming of age novel all of my own. A heartbreaking racket that novel writing can be. Not for Adam though. He’s got it paying the bills.

Oh, my luggage is in Seattle or Hawaii or Anchorage, but certainly not in Chicago. I have my bike. But the pedals I put in my luggage. So I used it like a 3 year old's balance bike. My first half hour in Chicago, searching for my hotel with no idea which way was North, was spent walk-a-biking with all my clothes on from the plane, a big bag on my back, my wide brimmed hat on my head while I craned my neck to check out Sears Tower etc, and my camel back nozzle flapping around. It is a look that says “Beware” to anyone thinking they're bad ass. No, I'm freakin' bad ass yo mo fo! Look and learn kids. That’s how you stay safe in big cities. Look like a freak.