As I’m watching the de-icing of jets on the Frankfurt airport tarmac, wrapped in a music playlist I put together a lifetime ago in Madrid, a strange realization comes over me: I don’t have a desire to live in Chicago again. I love that city so much. But in this moment, my time there feels complete.
The soft spot will remain, but I’ve carried around the regret of not choosing to move back there when returning to the US for years, possibly for as long as I’ve lived in Colorado. The beauty and grime that mix in the most uncontrived way possible has always captivated me. The other great American cities are actually great city-states, unique cultures in their own right. But Chicago, more than any other city, represents the good and bad of America: the friendly welcoming nature, excitement, opportunity, modern beauty, and livability, while also contributing the violence, wealth disparity, obesity, isolation, and god-fearing weather, that I’ve come to associate with the country where I was born.
Chicago is unmistakably American. And so it’s strange that here of all places, in this clean and sterile German airport, that my thoughts have returned to the Second City. Chicago felt comfortable in a way that few places ever will. I’ve wanted to relive my life in Wicker Park and Logan Square: slowly crawling down the blue line from The Whistler, Rainbo Room, Big Star, Violet Hour, until finally, inevitably, ending at Empty Bottle. But I’m not that man anymore, and I’m ready to feel that connection with someplace new.