It’s strange to think of a city as a layover—well, only strange, I suppose, once you have invested in it more than a ten minute run from one side of an international airport to the other. As I boarded the plane, a 727 out of LaGuardia, there were jokes to this effect—that everyone on-board was really destined for somewhere else. Most for Los Angeles, the plane’s final destination. Others for Bozeman, Montana, of all places—a fine destination, I’m sure, but odd that it might be one more in demand than the Twin Cities.
I’ve spent my entire life on two coasts—the lion’s share just outside of San Francisco, and the last half-dozen or so in the heart of New York City. Destination cities, I think. And I know that every city and town possesses within it the potential to be either a pitstop or a destination, but there’s a reason we arrogant coastal urbanites refer to heart of our contiguous nation, somewhat condescendingly as “fly over.”
I’ve not spent a lot of time in the Midwest. I visited Cleveland last year, and stayed in Michigan next to the lake for part of one summer as a youth, to visit my extended family. I have been told by a very reliable source that neither of these place “count,” however. Chicago does, apparently. I spent a little time there, traveling for business.
I liked Chicago. It was by sheer coincidence that I was reading Devil in the White City on the plane ride there, and in its own way, that book informed some grotesque sense of romanticism for the fractured semblance of a temporary kingdom on a lake. My preconceptions were also informed by a Dan Clowes strip. One from Eightball about weird Chicago, a city where’s it’s perfectly acceptable to run a store that specializes in individually wrapped brown eggs.
And true to form, there is a wonderfully vibrant oddness to the Windy City, one I’ve largely failed to properly relay to other in conversations—especially those who live there. I never found that store with the eggs, but I did discover a city that, at least in my brief experience, long ago learned to accept and perhaps embrace those qualities that have made it so unique.
I do find glimmers of this, from time to time, in my home of New York, but taken together, they don’t provide enough light to read with, in a city where habitual insomnia can, in part, be chalked up to the fact that the lights never truly go out. Good luck to those in New York City attempting to find a truly dark place to fall asleep.
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