Tale of two cities

It is freezing in Chicago.

No, literally: the temperature is freezing here in Chicago and should drop down to about 7, that's s-e-v-e-n, degrees Fahrenheit by Christmas. Without the wind chill.

This is a beautiful city, and never more so than around the holidays. The air is clear (a good wind will do that) and the fairy-lit branches of the trees flanking Michigan Avenue look magically delicious in a way Beverly Hills palms only dream of. There's the same old nonsense there is everywhere this time of year, with people overextending themselves both financially and time-wise, but the hustle and bustle is more picturesque when everyone is rushing around all bundled up against the elements.

It is one of the major reasons I think I am done with Chicago as a place to live (the Universe has kicked my ass enough times that I know never to say "never", even though I just did).

Yes, L.A. has earthquakes and mudslides and unavoidable traffic that grows more heinous with each passing year. But L.A. is warm, and as I'm staring down middle age, that is not to be discounted.

What's more interesting to me is the other reason I doubt I'll move back here: Chicago just doesn't feel like home, and hasn't for a long time. Whereas the first time I set foot in L.A. as an adult, I immediately felt at ease. Correction: I got a taste of what it would feel like to be at ease. Just getting over my homesickness took two years (yes, you can long for a place you don't really love and that is no good for you, and if you don't believe me, you clearly don't have enough girlfriends who get involved with lousy men). Really digging on L.A. took at least another five, plus a divorce; it's hard to be "out" about loving your city when your spouse openly despises everything about it.

But 12 years (and many litmus-test trips back "home") later, I realize that I love Chicago the way most people love L.A., for short stretches of time. I like to walk and I like to get my Kalamata chicken fix at Athenian Room and I really, really like that I can take public transportation from where I am to somewhere I actually want to go. And then I like to get on a plane and go home: the place where I feel most like myself, the place where most of my friends live, the place where I am free to release my inner wacko without fear.

And, oh, yeah, the place that's 65º and sunny right this very second.