The Out-of-Towners

(Credit: Looper, for original photo.)

I suppose it’s rude to take stock of people you know in public. Luckily, I have no such reluctance. I’m from New York. And so are Vicki and Adam. Two thirtysomething New Yorkers living in Lower Manhattan, paying an obscene rent, and just maybe looking for a change of scene. Adam scored an interview with a Chicago firm a few weeks ago. Not knowing anyone in Hogtown, Adam Googled the city to get the lay of the land and found my blog.

He shot me an email to pick my brain about the city and my experiences as a former New Yorker having moved here three years ago. We both have urban planning degrees (Vicki’s in publishing). We both love the city (meaning “…of New York”). And we both don’t consider that city, wonderful as it is, to be the center of the universe. Adam perused my blog, read about Suburbasauruses, and Nudnicks, Gary Kimmel (really, can you help it?), and Devyn, and became intrigued.

So did I. I always say the New Yorkers who don’t think NYC to be the be all and end all never meet in NYC. They meet out here, in the rest of the world. I offered to show Vicki and Adam around when they came to town for his interview. Could have been stupid. Could have been nightmarish. Devyn and I had code words, just in case things got ugly (I believe they were, “Rozella’s parakeet”).

This past weekend, we all hooked up at Marina City at Noon on Saturday. We pretty much knew we’d all be friends by the time we left the roofdeck.

I remember from when I moved to Chicago the wonderment that filled my eyes every time I looked at the skyline. Discovering a new neighborhood was like finding a $20 bill on the street, and it seemed like Chicago was littered with $20 bills. I saw the city as kinder, gentler, a helluva lot cheaper, and nothing less than the place I had just left. I could sense from the start that the promise of Chicago, its brash attitude and all that it had to offer, compared favorably to Gotham – and in some cases won the comparison hands down (try finding a seat on the number 6 train before 8:00 p.m.).

This weekend, I saw that wonder in Vicki and Adam. It was palpable. Chicago’s a different town. We’re practically headache-inducing for New Yorkers, who I can vouch have a hard time at first seeing the differences through all the similarities the two cities possess. Our trash is out back. Our tall buildings stand apart instead of clumping together. Our hot dogs definitely do not require ketchup. Our locals will kill you with kindness (for better or worse). And Vicki and Adam were loving every minute of it. We bummed from the Loop to the lakefront, from Lakeview to Little Village, and seemingly everywhere in between, until late Sunday afternoon. We were like two-legged dogs gorging on a city-sized chocolate bar.

Frankly, it was kind of scary how well we hit it off. But not that hard to figure why. Adam and Devyn are both level-headed, polite, native Californians who prefer city life to suburban doldrums. Meanwhile, Vicki and I are from the New York tri-state area. We’re both home cooks (Vicki, though, in supermarket-bereft Lower Manhattan), and moreover both outspoken, opinionated, and possessed of a, well, zesty turn of phrase. I think we all saw a lot of ourselves and our relationships reflected back from each other. (And may I add, see Devyn, I told you, it’s not just me, it is ’cause I’m a New Yorker).

After much bonding, two particularly sore feet (Vicki’s), a whirlwind of neighborhoods, and a free-spirited ride on the iron bull in front of the Chicago Cultural Center (er, Adam’s), Adam arose on Monday morning to head to his interview. In downtown Chicago, as opposed to the Jersey City office he treks to every day from Manhattan. I hear the interview, a long one, went well. I hope so.

Adam deserves to walk to work in his own city’s downtown. Vicki deserves to have a set of kick-ass supermarkets at her disposal. And they both deserve to pay a rent check that doesn’t require a background drumroll or Greek chorus lamentation when the amount is written out. Not because I like them (I do, and so does Devyn). Not because they’re special (they are). Not because their hearts are in the right place (they are, too).

But simply because they’re two of the damned coolest people any big city could ever hope to have as new residents.

Vicki and Adam: Devyn and I wish the both of you the best of luck. We’ll be friends even if you don’t end up in Hogtown. But you’ll forgive us if we hope that you do.

And Vicki, if I were you, I’d keep Adam away from Bowling Green, what with that Charging Bull sculpture there and all. Three out of four people agree: one iron bovine photo opportunity per marriage is generally enough.

Mayor Daley, just drop that commission check in the mail anytime that’s convenient.

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