Monday, September 15, 2008

Diary: September 2004.

This was one for the books.

On the day last weekend of August I held a Housecooling Party at my small studio in McKinley Park. I was almost one year from being married and (hopefully) grad school, and one of my best friends, Sam, was moving to Chicago to be my roommate. We didn't have much by way of concrete plans, just vague ideas and a lot of optimism. I told him that there were only two Chicago neighborhoods where I was interested in living that year: Edgewater and Roseland. Sam said that he didn't want to live in a ghetto, so I started looking in Edgewater. About a dozen people arrived for the party and Sam showed up midway through. My girlfriend gave some of our friends home and Sam and I collapsed on the futon.

The next day we called and checked out four apartments on the North Side: a courtyard tenement in Rogers Park, a carpeted penthouse with roaches in Edgewater Beach, a really nasty spot off the Bryn Mawr stop that smelled like cat piss, and a slightly overpriced rehab in Lakewood. We went with the carpeted penthouse and filled out our application.

On the next day, we got up early and took the Orange line into the Loop to look for work. He needed to line up a job and I'd declined an offer to work with the Department of Orthopoedics because the pace seemed too frenetic there. We browsed through the easy access floors of the Sears Tower, but nobody better than Wendy's was hiring, and so we slowly made our way along Wacker. Sam applied at a Lake Michigan cruise ship; I decided to take a pass. We got back tired. We got a call approving us for the apartment. Sam got a call giving him jobs at the Lego Store and on the cruise. Things were looking good.

We'd prorated my South Side apartment for four days and so we spent a whole day making multiple trips in Sam's little car back-and-forth: Archer/Damen/Stevenson/LSD/Hollywood/Kenmore. Kenmore. Our joints were sore but by eleven the our stuff was mostly moved. We got back to the South Side, grabbed dinner at the New Archview and walked home in the sweet sweatfog of butchered bacon floating on the air from the Yards. The next day, I realized our cleanup job didn't really pass muster so while Sam left to start setting up the new place, I stayed behind and cleaned. I finished around mid-afternoon, got my deposit back, and caught the Orange and Red Line home. That night we drank beer, set up the computer on the windows, and played Worms until 2 AM. It was hot out, and kids in this new, strange neighborhood were shouting out on the street. Everything seemed bright and loaded with opportunity, and it was one of the best times I've had.

I spent the next week applying for jobs during the day and working on the apartment in the afternoon and evening. I finally had a room I could decorate as I wanted: with maps and papers from pillaged National Geographics covering every inch of wall. My view looked out on the Edgewater Beach skyline and while this was Chicago, it felt like a resort. Our building was 40% Bosnian per the landlady (she was a Bosnian Muslim, herself) and while the elevator smelled like pee, the halls smelled like heaven. We quickly discovered that we could access the roof, and sometimes I'd drive down to Hyde Park or Bridgeport for role-playing, with Beaucoup Fish blasting and the wind hard as the skyline rose like comb bristles over North Avenue ahead.

I was getting hate mail from Canaryville residents on a regular basis now, as well as some supportive notes. I was applying for jobs and not being granted interviews, and finally, reluctantly, asked Advanced to put me back on their assignment roster. It wasn't all great.

But it mostly was.

I attempted to walk to Joliet along Route 66 (take 2) but I only made it as far as Harlem. I was distracted into going to the Mall of the Impaled Cars and the Car Pelt art. It was a good distraction. That mall, a great landmark, had been demolished, but Joliet is still there (more or less).

I listened to the song Cryptorchid by Marilyn Manson.

I decided to read Gothic novels and I read the Castle of Otranto.

Sam's dad visited and took us out to Ethiopian food and then we walked north along Broadway to Loyola. We walked back home along the lake.

I went back to Michigan for the weekend and went to the Michigan Renaissance Festival with my sister, my girlfriend, and Lisa. Later that night I went back to the campfire and saw many people I had not seen in a long time. When I got back to Chicago that Sunday, I took a seat at a McDonalds on Bryn Mawr and wrote of my plans, and what I must accomplish that year.

I spent most weeknights in Edgewater Beach and a couple nights each weekend in Hyde Park.

I listened to the song Fingerbib by Aphex Twin.

I started to read the Mysteries of Udolpho.

Toward the end of the month, I left at dusk and walked along the beach south to the Foster Street light beacon. It was a horrible, bleak and angry night, cold and spitting rain from the sky. The waves were tremendous. I crossed Lincoln Park and Margate Park, followed Sheridan and Larry to Borders and closed it out reading about writing programs. I took St. Boniface cemetery to Clark and mulled over the possibility of law school instead of writing, before I turned north. I passed Emily just south of Foster and cringed and continued on through Andersonville and Edgewater. It warmed up but Rogers Park was desolate and I passed into Evanston. I wound up at a Burger King and finished the first volume of Udolpho, and continued north to the Bahai Temple. I exulted through its gardens, then I hurried back south through the lagoon and the tenements and got back home as the sun came up.

I was reading about Neanderthals and Mesopotamians.

All of this happened in September, which is why I call it "one for the books."

Where were you in September 2004?

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