Chicago has a lot of great features that are well documented elsewhere. Big city feel. Excellent shopping (department and boutique — for reference, see Michelle Obama’s wardrobe!), diverse first-generation ethnic population (after the Wall fell, hundreds of eastern europeans immigrated), Second City, sports (even if they are lacking at the moment), and terrific parks and transit. And of course the neighborhoods, each very distinct and with terrific histories.
But to be honest, what I really fell in love with was Nick’s friend’s apartment. It was a classic. You know those brick, medium-sized apartments in south Minneapolis, especially on the southern edge of downtown? Like that, but bigger. So you think, “Wow, it was built in the 1920’s, so I bet it is like living in an oven with all the heat retention in the brick.” But you’d be wrong. The apartments are arranged in such a way that there are windows on both sides of the unit, allowing air circulation. (This is easily the biggest problem with my current place. If you make bacon on Sunday, it still lingers on Tuesday.) Even though the temp was in the low 90s, there was a breeze pushing through the whole apartment all day. Heaven.
And for a one bedroom, it was huge. Large dining area separate from the kitchen and living areas. Living room had a sunroom off to the side. No longer functioning fireplace with built-in shelves, all painted white. Very crisp looking. If anything, the bedroom and its closet were a little small, but that’s my only complaint.
Bathtub? Old style claw foot tub. Decoration? Nick’s friend is a graphic designer, so he has impeccable, modern, tasteful, thoughtful taste. I was genuinely interested in taking a closer look. Everything from the choice of towels (slate grey) to bedspread (green leaf pattern) was deliberate and perfect. Knicknacks displayed obviously held value, and were deliberately placed, not just collecting dust.
And the absolute most important part of a Chicago apartment: the back porch. It’s one of those unique architectural features of an area that, if you were kidnapped and woke up in an alley, you’d be able to immediately identify where you are. The back porch community in his building wasn’t incredibly friendly, but as we sat out back and played cards we got to see so much of the neighborhood — woman letting her cat out (with precautions), man calling phone company to make changes, hanging plants being watered, etc. (Of course this is where my suburban friends would get all cringe-y about living so close to other people, having them see and hear your private business, etc, but I am a passionate believer in the strength of community and how that has been lost in suburbia, and society in general.)
The kicker: Nick’s friend generously offered to let me use his address on job applications I send out down there, so I can pretend to live there, in more ways than one.