I moved to Chicago in June of 2010 after a largely wasted postgraduate year at my parent’s house in the suburbs. I had no job prospects, but my folks were making me go insane, I think on purpose. So I rented the cheapest room I could find on Craigslist, a shoebox sublet for $325 a month in a North Side neighborhood I’d never heard of called Roscoe Village. I moved in with a boy and two girls. I was 23. We would share one bathroom for the next three years.
Sometimes it feels like it’s all gone by so quickly that it couldn’t possibly have happened. But it really did, and I am so deeply thankful.
Here’s what I’ve been up to:
I met and befriended the most amazing people who have ever lived. I got drunk more times than I care to or can remember. I ate everything there was to eat from as many countries of origin as I could find in as many neighborhoods as I could visit. I rode my bike thousands and thousands of miles. I danced for days, probably weeks. I played basketball with Chicagoans of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds, including one 10 year old who punked me pretty bad one time. I woke up elsewhere, fell in and out of love, threw excellent house parties, moved three times, owned a car for two months and then never again, holed up in winter, declared myself the king of summer, got made fun of a lot.
In no particular order, here are the 100 things I’ve loved most about Chicago:
1. Pho Thai on Lincoln Ave. There’s no better or spicier Thai food in the city.
2. Doughnuts from Dinkel’s Bakery, also the best in town
3. The dogs of Montrose Ave beach
4. The neon ass sign at Baby Atlas
5. The jukebox at Cody’s
6. The chilaquiles at Cafe El Tapatio
7. Riding bikes over the Damen Ave bridge real late at night, Sarah Gouda my only companion
8. Sitting in the living room of my first apartment with the Christmas lights plugged in and overhead light turned off, listening to records with Shuhei
9. Writing with Brandon
10. Pretending to be married to Rachel for forty years
11. Tuesday night basketball at Wicker Park Field House with the yetis
12. Michael Madsen’s Halloween parties
13. When Hallie and Kyle cook for me, specifically pasta with key lime pie. When Hallie and Kyle drive me places, specifically all the places that might still be serving ice cream at this time of night. Playing Ticket to Ride at Hallie and Kyle’s, specifically the one time I won.
14. Seeing Jen Jackson improvise comedy
15–20. Lunch Club. Faschion Club. The Other Fashion Club. Writing Club. Movie Club.
21. Joe Maloney. Every last goddamn thing about him.
22. Drinking in alleys with Raf
23. Late-night pick-up soccer games with taxi drivers
24. When everybody is hungover at work at the same time
25. Sitting next to Eddie, Andy, Jorie, Zac, Jill, Shelby, Krista, Lexi, Molly, and Lisa for four wonderful years
26. Horchata and al pastor tacos from El Palmar
27. The Art Institute’s modern wing
28. Garfield Park Conservatory in winter
29–32. Hamlin Park. Seward Park. Humboldt Park.
33. Every late-night slice of pizza, taco, or gyros I ever ate
34. The night we drank for free at The Aviary, Daddy Warbucks made a pass at me, and Rachel threw me to the sharks
35. The night we took a party Uber from beach volleyball to Logan Square and polished off a bottle of vodka en route, much to the dismay of the DJ in the backseat
36. Andrew Barr the Barrtender
37. Every Soul Night I’ve ever attended
38. Annual excursions with the Michigan crew to Adam’s lake house
39. The first time I rode the CTA to an interview downtown and felt a little bit grown up
40. The three months I more or less lived at Dollop Cafe in Buena Park
41. St. Patrick’s Day when Greg and Bobby were in town and a pair of moms gave us a ride in their mini-van when we couldn’t find a cab
42. Long walks and talks with Scott Hirsch
43. The year I belonged to a boxing gym
44. The quarter-chicken combo platter at Chicken Hut
45. The 80s prom party with Mark and Plou, the subsequent shotgunning of beers in a Jimmy John’s bathroom
46. Shane and Julia’s wedding
47. Waking up early to watch soccer on mute, so as not to wake anybody in the house
48. Whenever Liz Riggs and her merry band descended upon the city
49. The time James Guthrie sent us 100 Totino’s Party Pizzas
50. The chicken at Khan BBQ on Devon
51. Every bowl of pho I ate alone on Argyle
52. When we took a limo from Logan Square to Burrito House
53. Those first few golden months at Groupon, when it felt like my life was finally starting in earnest
54. Late night reverie at The Green Mill
55. Late night sessions with Tess
56. Playing the sport of footgolf, specifically the time the godly buck emerged from the forest and specifically not the time I kicked the ball into a river
57–68. The National at The Aragon. Kendrick at The Aragon. Vampire Weekend at Pitchfork. Wilco at Pitchfork. R Kelly at Pitchfork. Belle & Sebastian at Pitchfork. Chance at Pitchfork. Robyn at Millennium Park. Future Islands at Lincoln Hall. Local Natives at Lincoln Hall. Pet Lions everywhere.
69. Shaking Michael Chabon’s hand at Harold Washington Library
70. Wearing my fake wedding ring
71. Superhero movies with Sam Young
72–74. Sauvie the dog. Savvy the dog. Marnie the dog (not technically a Chicago dog but this is my list).
75. Attending bougie literary salons at rich people’s West Loop condos
76. Really anytime I had occasion to wear my suit
77. Bears games with my dad
78. Museum days with my mom
79. Foodtown, my beloved bodega
80. The time during a blizzard when Shu and I worked from home and Shawn made us hot toddies
81. When it got so cold that boiling water turned to snow when you threw it from a pot
82. Every goal I ever scored in rec league soccer
83. My good-natured slumlord, Allen, who remains on the lam
84. Running home from work on the lakefront trail
85. Jane Flotte’s candid interview for my soul night story
86. Matt Present’s unbridled support for everything I do
87. Greg Kester doing the worm on the floor of Slugger’s
88. Gospel Ball on Sunday mornings in the old-school gym with stained glass windows at Hamlin
89–90. Dan Days 1 & 2
91. Every Bulls game I ever watched, specifically when Joe bought tickets for my birthday, the time my dad and I had great seats, and the time the yetis won tickets to a luxury box
92. The night Raf gave me a press pass to the opening of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel and we saw a private Buddy Guy performance, went to an arcade
93. The years when we were young and naive enough to patronize Mad River and the Hangge-Uppe
94. Fourth of July weekends when we never left the beach
95. Hot dogs
96. Hanging out with my many excellent Chicago cousins, specifically Adam and Melissa, who took me under their wing when I first moved to the city and have kept me there ever since
97. Every year when my sister comes home for two weeks in December, specifically when we sneak out of the house to buy cigarettes and when we order Italian beef and giardiniera pizza
98. Every rooftop, patio, deck, stoop, landing, or balcony I’ve ever drank on in nice weather
99. Every chance I’ve had to show Chicago off to visitors and newcomers, to watch them fall in love
100. These last few weeks, which have been some of the best of my life. Thanks to everybody who has made it so hard to leave.