Home, sweet home

Yes, I had a good time in Chicago. Yes, it was great seeing my peeps and scarfing down my chicken Kalamata and seeing the Christmas decorations in the windows of Field's Macy's on State Street (brought to you, like everything else, by Target). Despite my fears going into it, I also had a good time at the (god help me) debutante ball that was my nominal reason for flying back to single-digit temperatures during the worst travel time of the year: the girls looked beautiful, the Chicago Hilton and Towers looked beautiful, even the Cardinal looked rather fetching in his lovely ruby robes. (Note: when meeting a cardinal of the Roman Catholic church, do not kiss his ring or bow to the ground, but shake his hand and greet him either as "your Eminence" or "Cardinal So-and-so." Also, put down your drink before you approach the White Wall of Deb Gowns, or suffer the wrath of a really scary Deb Mom. No, I'm not kidding.) But I've got to face facts: I just don't like hassle anymore, and traveling by air, especially in the post-9/11 universe to a cold-weather destination during a peak travel time, is a gigantic hassle. Too much unzipping of too much luggage filled with too many coats and sweaters and everything else in your closet because your L.A. tenure has outlasted the life of your Chicago winter wear. Enough, I say! (And I did say, to all my beloveds: see me in L.A. or see me some other time of the year. Buh-bye.)

I also don't like people encroaching on my space. Maybe it's a form of mild claustrophobia (I still have nightmares about the time I was carried off in a crush of people waiting for a city bus in, you got it, sub-zero temperatures in Chicago). Maybe it's the noxious omnipresence of mile-high flatulence, that peculiar cocktail of disinfectant and methane filterered through foam cushions into poorly recirculated air. Maybe it's the loss of control (I'm always working on the control thing). But about halfway through the FOUR HOUR Chicago/L.A. flight, packed to the gills with people who never see the inside of a plane except on the four highest-volume travel days of the year, I wanted to beat the vodka-swilling, armrest-hogging pituitary case in the seat next to me senseless with his own oversized Dell laptop. The only thing that stopped me was the realization that if I did, he would not suffer the slow torture of hearing loss brought on by listening to Top 40 Pop at full volume on his shitty headphones.

Yes, I know I'm being unreasonable. Yes, I have a sense of my own intolerance and foolishness. (A healthy one, so back off, Jackson.) But last night, I also had the first really good night's sleep I've had in a week. I like my 12.5 cubic feet or whatever it is of personal space and I'm not zen-mistress enough to be a good sport when it's encroached upon and the reward at the other end is either a week of insomnia and cold extremities or a fruitless half-hour at the baggage carousel (nimrods stuck my bag on an earlier plane without telling me) and an hour in an overcrowded SuperShuttle ("no more than 3 stops," my Aunt Fanny).

But part of getting where you want to be is accepting where you are right now, and I accept that I am so happy with warm toes in my little apartment in Los Angeles that I could weep for joy. Except that...it's just that...


I miss Chicago already.

xxx c

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.