Out of the Box

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(Photo: It’s all about the lamp.)

I finally have a grown-up bathroom and I’m proud to say it. Four-and-a-half months is a long time to live in a cave, which is as much as I did this year. Separating in the middle of a move, as did I and my ex-partner in May, much was already boxed up, thrown out, or otherwise inaccessible when the deed went down.

In retrospect, there were signs that deed was on its way prior to my apartment prepping:

“Are you sure you want to throw away all your old picture frames now?”

“Don’t spend too much money on a new catbox with a door.”

“I wouldn’t ask your bank for copies of your rent checks unless they’re not gonna charge you for them.”

“I changed the lock.”

Hmm. My relationship myopia aside, I didn’t mind living with bare walls and boxes while I searched for a new life in New York City over the summer. But when I finally decided to stay in the city I really love (you know, the one with the colder winters), boy did my gun-jumping undecorating come back to haunt me. When you decide to dig in your heels and settle into home, it helps to actually have a home to settle in to.

It also helps first impressions with potential suitors to have books on your shelves and not bankers’ bins.

It took a friend with a car and a good sense of humor, a 20-mile trip to Ikea Schaumburg, a 10-minute bus ride to Target on Roosevelt, and a couple of days of a very confused Camoes (my Portuguese danger cat). But I finally have my home back.

Really, I have my home for the first time. There’s no denying I spent most of my two years and change downtown living vicariously through Devyn’s apartment and not my own. After all, I wouldn’t need all my fingers to count the number of times my cat- (and commitment-) allergic ex-partner ever visited my Marina City studio during our entire time together.

But my life and neighborhood finally being mine now, like it or not, I figured it was time to like it. So my color printouts of world metro maps are back on my walls in freshly stained frames, new Ikea tchotchke goodness graces my surfaces, and for the first time ever (I know, it’s a little pathetic), I have comfy, color-coordinated towels and a kick-ass cloth shower curtain.

And the hanging lamp that languished on the carpet for so many months finally hovers over my table. It’s kludged up there (you try drilling into a concrete ceiling), but it’s there. It’s the nifty new centerpiece of my fabulousified, ghetto-tastic, high-rise, low-rent, downtown Chicago bachelor pad. (Though until I get my butt out on the balcony with a bucket and a squeegee, please ignore the window wall.)

It ain’t much, mind you. And God knows, I certainly don’t own it. But for the first time since I’ve been in Marina City–or in Chicago for that matter–my Second City apartment finally feels like home. I haven’t had that feeling since I lived in Brooklyn.

A new acquaintance of mine (for those in the know, oddly enough a California Central Valley native first- and middle-named Kenneth Wayne and I am so not going there) reminded me of a quote from the end of The Wizard of Oz:

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

In my backyard, home is where the balcony is.

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