My once per decade visit to the windy city

I'm in Chicago to attend an event where my current memoir guru charge is performing. Staying in a very nice hotel. I was out late last night, sitting in a great restaurant, having interesting conversations with people who work in the film biz, on Broadway, and other far-flung but richly rewarding creative endeavors, and the weirdest thing about all that is that I kinda fit in.

So now I've had my Chicago for the first decade of the new century.

My 1990s visit to Chicago was on book tour. My first novel was a B&N Discover selection, so for a brief and shining moment, it had near FOS shelf space in every B&N in the US. I was determined to make the most of that moment, killing myself to visit every store I could get to during that six weeks, and I've been rewarded with great support from B&N ever since. The book was done by a small press, so I was on my own dime, and I stretched it as thin as a paper cut. Cheap hotel, el train and bus to get around, and a budget of $8/day for food. (Hey, it can be done with proper motivation.) I was here for one day, and I'll bet I walked 25 miles, hitting every bookstore I could map.

My 1980s visit to Chicago was on a whim. Rex Harrison was doing a tour of My Fair Lady. He was an old man, and I knew I'd never have another chance to see him. For weeks I did every odd job I could hustle so I could afford the ticket. I hitchhiked down from LaCrosse, Wisconsin, where I'd just dropped out of college. I was hoping I'd meet some nice people in a bar and crash with them for the night, but I ended up hanging around the stage door, waiting to see Rex exit, and by that time it was late for a 19-year-old girl to be bar-hopping with no money, so I sang on a street corner to panhandle enough money for a short stack of pancakes in a little diner, sat there until they told me to leave, rode around on the train until I got too cold, then slept for a few hours in a Salvation Army homeless shelter before hitchhiking home.

It's windy here today. And rainy. Classic Chicago. Walking under the el tracks on my way to get coffee, I tried to feel myself pass by. The grubby backpacker huddled in a passing train. The wannabe author on a mission, never mind the Sunday shoes that have blistered her feet bloody. To either of them, the Me Circa Now would seem ridiculously lucky and wildly successful. And looking at it that way makes me feel ridiculously lucky and wildly successful.

Confucius say: "No matter where you go, there you are." But it's where you've been that puts it in perspective.


What a great story, Joni! Those were adventurous days for you, in a totally give-your-mamma-gray-hair sort of way.

I did some wildly impetuous stuff in my younger years, but sadly, none of 'em for art's sake. :)
Elen Grey said…
Great post, Joni. Thanks for giving a nod to one of my fave cities. Chicago is where I met The One. He's still the one... ;-)

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