When I moved on from my formerly beloved high-rise home, Marina City, last May, I never planned to be back. At the time, drowning in the watery surge of the tsunami of the Great Recession, I decided greener, more northern, and, er, cheaper pastures would be in my future. Lincoln Square seemed more bucolic. Edgewater was a lot closer to my temple. And after five years living in Chicago’s (in)famous, twin corncobs (regarding the ‘in’ part, just read through my Marina City archives), I needed a break from living in the dead-center heart of the middle of urban America.
Three months later, living with roommates at the foot of Milwaukee Avenue, tantalizingly close to downtown but not really in it anymore, I started to reconsider my decision. But I was still too poor to do anything about it, and too humble after my emotional and spiritual leaves (after forty years finally) turned over midyear to do anything about it. And spending time in Edgewater, I really started to fall for the neighborhood vibe of the place. In many ways, it reminded me of the local-neighborhoodiness I gave up when I left Brooklyn in the early 2000s.
By year’s end, I started a volunteer position managing the web presence of a major local nonprofit that very quickly turned into something more. (I’m not at liberty to flesh out further details yet, but suffice it to say, I can let my Link card expire now.) But I had spent a lot of time loving on the vibe of Chicago’s northern neighborhoods–and a lot of time doting on the noise, scandal, and troublesome condo board at Marina City. So downtown still wasn’t in the picture.
I had forgotten about the community spirit of the corncobs’ longtime-resident couch ladies, the comfort of knowing so many of your neighbors (don’t ask why, but Marina City in all its 60-story glory seems to promote neighborliness), the security of being on a first-name basis with building staff, and the sheer convenience of having five supermarkets and the entire Windy City transit system within a short walk from your front door.
I was reminded of all these things when Ryan, whom I love and–for once–whom you haven’t heard all about, suggested we have a living-room picnic a few weekends ago. We visited my old Trader Joe’s, on Ontario Street in River North, just up the street from Marina City. He almost had a heart attack from the crowded, Saturday evening bumper-shopping-cart action. But I started to remember how much I missed it, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot along with it. (Oddly enough, Jeff Tweedy, lead singer of Wilco whose so-named album featured the towers on its cover art, is a member of my temple.)
Gainfully employed, I had already started planning my move to Edgewater. At the same time, Ryan wanted to move closer to his Berwyn job than his current Aurora home. We decided to look for an apartment together and move in (now there’s a buried lede for you), and mused that maybe we should look downtown. But we really figured we were going to move in together in Edgewater.
Until Trader Joe’s.
So in February, for the first time ever, I’ll live with my boyfriend. And we’ll be living in Marina City’s West Tower. So remember all that yapping I did in 2007 about yearning to move home? Well, I’m finally doing it. Just not to New York. But back to where, in the end, I guess I really belong. Downtown Chicago.
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.