Category Archives: Travel

High in a Tower

Our recent stay at the Towers at Lotte New York Palace is worthy of another look. This may very well be the best view I ever get from a hotel in the city (though I do enjoy a look at the Empire State Building for nostalgia’s sake). This particular vista is what the 52nd floor allows you to behold on a sunny day (and clear night). It is even more striking in person, when those tiny dots representing people and cars are in motion, and the clouds scroll slowly across the sky.

Not pictured are the equally transfixing views when a storm has engulfed the city. We were unfortunate enough to have much of a day marred by rain and clouds, but it’s fascinating to see it unfold when you’re actually up in the clouds themselves. It’s like being close to gods fighting.

On the morning seen here, it was clear and bright – the view stretched all the way to the river. New York can be stunning when the light is right.

At night, the transformation is remarkable. A different kind of beauty is at hand then, and it carries the hand of God and the hand of humankind gloriously intertwined. The winking lights of a city that never sleeps keep company with the brave and restless souls who stay awake.

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On Broadway With Mother: NYC Part 6

Over twenty years ago, my Mom and I caught one of Glenn Close’s last performances in the original Broadway run of ‘Sunset Boulevard‘. We were in the very last row at the Minskoff Theatre – one of the largest theaters on Broadway – but her performance was so big that it felt like we were right in the middle of the mansion at 10086. On this night, as a gift for my Mom, we sat in the front row at the Palace Theatre. It was a full-circle moment, and just before the lights went down, the disembodied voice of Norma Desmond sounded in the theater:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Glenn Close,” she began, in what I assumed was a recorded message to silence our cel phones. She continued, ‘Thank you for coming out on this rainy night…” Oh shit, this was happening right now. My one fear had been that Ms. Close wouldn’t be performing on this evening, and I held my breath for the remainder of the announcement. She said she was battling a cold, but was going on to do her best at navigating the wonderful score, and asked our indulgence. Before she had even appeared, she was greeted with thunderous applause. We were already on her side.

Had there not been an announcement, I’m not sure I would have noticed, so great and grand was her performance. There was one pause for a cough, and she made it through ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye‘ without holding the big notes forever, but that only added a poignance and vulnerability to the proceedings. It was another bravura performance, and the perfect culmination for our Broadway weekend 2017.

We had a nightcap until the Uber situation cooled down, then returned to our hotel for a final night in luxury. The next morning marked Mother’s Day, and we were scheduled to have brunch at Villard, conveniently located right at the Lotte New York Palace. It was the perfect way to celebrate the day and finish up our long Broadway weekend.

My Mom is the one who taught me how to travel, and we do so quite well together. This was a special Mother’s Day weekend on Broadway, something that has become one of my favorite traditions over the years. I’m already looking forward to next year.

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On Broadway With Mother: NYC Part 5

On our final full day in New York, the rains came, and they arrived with full-force. The wind accompanied all the water, making walking and outside travel difficult to impossible. That didn’t bode well for our dinner and theater plans, so I bit the bullet and finally downloaded Uber on my phone. It was the best thing I’ve done in a long time.

After an early lunch at a typical New York diner (turkey club sandwich and fries) I returned to the hotel while Mom did a little more shopping. When the Towers at Lotte New York Palace offer champagne in the middle of the day, it makes the rain bearable. And sets up a dinner at 21 Club in fine fashion.

Before that, however, we made a quick stop at the hotel lounge, where I had a Last Word and Mom had a Manhattan. Two classic cocktails for our last night in NYC.

I’ve been wanting to have dinner at 21 Club for some time, even if it seemed to be a favorite of our Fake President. (I recall he made promises to lower the taxes of rich Republicans in a meeting there.) Being that it was the weekend, and he was out golfing, I felt safe that we wouldn’t run into such an undesirable.

We had been seated for a few minutes when my Mom looked over my shoulder in horror. I jumped a little, expecting a spider or bug to be on the wall when I turned around. It was much worse.

We were at the Fred Trump table, and both of us were mortified. Had we noticed just a few minutes beforehand, we would have asked to move, but our order was already in. When the table beside us was seated, they made similar groans. I tried to understand why the Fake President had to ruin our dinner. On a visit to the bathroom, I understood the appeal of the place to someone like Don the Con.

I got it. #TrumpLeaks indeed.

Despite the affiliation with such an awful person, dinner was marvelous, and we shared a slice of chocolate cake that made up for the stain of that pisser.

The night was young, and the rain persisted. We hopped in another Uber and made the slow, traffic-heavy trek to the Palace Theater, where Norma Desmond awaited our arrival…

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On Broadway With Mother: NYC Part 4

Shopping is second only to the shows in New York as far as my interest level is concerned, and I learned that mostly from my Mom. We made a few excursions on a fine, sunny morning, then refueled at the beautiful Café Sabarsky, where German and Austrian fare was served right out of another century. A glass of Gruner Veltliner and a platter of bratwurst made for a charming lunch, and a slice of Klimttorte (named for the gorgeous collection of paintings in the upstairs Neue Galerie) was perfect for sharing. That Galerie surrounded us, beckoning with its decadent ‘Woman in Gold’ and other towering Klimt works, and after lunch we toured the upstairs rooms, re-fortified by beauty and reinvigorated by art.

The day was so beautiful that we stayed on foot, walking back over twenty blocks until we reached the St. Regis. That evening we were scheduled to see ‘War Paint’ and a few key scenes take place in that legendary hotel, so we stopped for a cocktail in the King Cole Bar. Suzie and I had enjoyed a birthday lunch here a number of years ago, and I remembered the classy old-school vibe

With its famed mural and tried and true ambience, it made for an elegant pause in the day. We made it back to the hotel, where a platter of cookies awaited our arrival. The Towers at the Lotte New York Palace sure know how to welcome a guy home.

After an all-too-brief siesta, we headed back out for dinner at the Lamb’s Club. Previously, we’d enjoyed cocktails there before a show, and it’s one of the hidden gems in the midst of the insanity of Times Square that I’ve been reluctant to share for fear of droves of people discovering and spreading the good word. Those fears are unfounded (all twelve of you can spread it far and wide) and we headed into the dining room area for a special meal. Soft-shell crabs were in season, so I ordered them up and enjoyed their crunchy yet soft exterior.

We finished dinner and headed into the Chatwal Lobby while awaiting curtain time for ‘War Paint’. Its shiny art-deco style gave sparkle to an already-enchanted evening, and the anticipatory enthusiasm over seeing two Broadway legends – Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole – lended additional excitement.

They did not disappoint, and we walked home on a cloud of euphoria that only a Broadway musical and its original cast can produce. The library glowed, and though there was a breeze, it was not cold. New York was magical at such moments.

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On Broadway With Mother: NYC Part 3

An auspicious beginning to our Broadway adventures occurred when we ran into Michael Xavier, star of ‘Sunset Boulevard’ on our way to dinner that first night. He was about to cross the street and I stopped him like a crazed teenage girl, blubbering that I had seen the show and we were going to see it again and this is my Mom and a few other nonsensical things that left him looking sheepishly flattered. I wish I had been brave enough to ask for a quick phone pic with him and Mom, but I didn’t. Next time.

Our dinner at Becco was superb – everyone knows I adore Lidia Bastianich, and this Restaurant Row staple did not disappoint. The Sinfonia de pasta was insane, and they will happily keep filling your plate until you are full. (I’m happy to report I was filled with one round.)

Our first show was the one I agonized over choosing more than any. There was a heated debate (in my mind) between ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ and ‘Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812’ – and it really was a crap shoot because I basically used an eenie-meenie-minie-mo selection method. It turned out rather well, as this is one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while. It’s a completely immersive experience, and not in a hokey, forced way. Just go see it.

I must say, I was never a Josh Groban fan. It’s not that I didn’t like him or anything, he just didn’t register on my admittedly-pop level of (lacking) sophistication. That changed when I saw him in this show, and I’m now an official Grobanite.

PS – For those coming to find Andrey, you’re in for a wonderful awakening.

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On Broadway With Mother: NYC Part 2

For this NYC trip, my Mom indulged me in a booking at The Towers at Lotte New York Palace. If you scroll down to the end of this post, you will see our view from the 52nd floor, which is probably one of the best views I will likely get from a hotel room in Manhattan for the rest of my life. One does pay a pretty penny for such a view, and such amenities as the beautiful surroundings, but once a year we all deserve a treat like this.

The grounds of the building originate from a mansion, and our last brunch of the trip would take place here, but that’s not for a while. Right now, I’m remembering the respite of being so high above the city, the remoteness and connectedness that seemed to occur at once.

I’m also recalling the plate of macarons and the bottle of wine left so kindly by the hotel on our first night. Client considerations like that elevate a typical hotel stay into something extraordinary. It’s the sort of luxury that could make someone start to love New York.

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On Broadway With Mother: NYC Part 1

The train ride into the city was blessedly uneventful. This was the start of our extended Mother’s Day weekend in New York, and the sun sparkled over the Hudson River as the train sped along the water’s edge. I’d booked one of the earlier rides based on the fiasco that occurred the last time I visited New York: a derailment at Penn Station forced our train to backtrack for an hour before being re-routed to Grand Central. We encountered no such troubles on this fine day, and arrived far in advance of check-in. After storing our luggage, we walked around the Upper East edges of Midtown, settling on a browsing lunch at Saks.

The spring windows were in full effect, filled with groundbreaking florals and fancy shoes. Given our early reservation for a pre-show dinner, we began with lunch at their café. I settled for a decadent avocado with house ricotta cheese toast dish, which came topped with a duck egg and a side of marinated tomato salad. It was the perfect light lunch to tide us over until dinner.

As an accompaniment, and a stunning kick-off to the weekend, I ordered the always-fashionable Aviation. With its fanciful purple tint and herbal-tinged sweetness, it was a glass of spring. A proper justification for having a bottle of Crème de violette on hand. Our Broadway weekend had begun

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A Place in which to Luxuriate

Our annual Broadway mother-son trip to New York is slated for a couple of weekends from now, and while I’m looking forward to the shows and time with my Mom, I’m also keenly anticipating our first stay at The Towers at Lotte New York Palace. In a city like New York, most people seem to consider the accommodations an after-thought, more of a place to sleep and shower than a destination unto itself. I’m somewhere between the two, though that may change with the the promise of these Towers.

Located at Madison and 50th, the location is ideal for our purposes – within reach of Broadway, but safely removed from the annoying aspects of Times Square. Billing itself as a boutique hotel within a hotel, The Towers at Lott New York Palace is the fancier section of this wondrous property, and looks to be the perfect home-away-from-home as we enjoy a long weekend indulging in Broadway and fancy dinners. (Stay tuned for a more indulgent review after we experience all the luxury.)

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Waving Good-bye to Chicago

Some tour stops have a little bit of everything: drama, fun, surprises, tears, beauty, sorrow, food, art, fashion, shopping, friendship, fights, theater, and hotel lobbies. My trip to Chicago was one of them. To be honest, I could have done without a third of those things, but life doesn’t often filter out the best bits. That’s what a blog is for.

As I wave to a larger-than-life version of Abraham Lincoln along the Magnificent Mile, let’s recap the Chicago adventures.

It began in the air.

Soon enough, though, I found my footing.

I also found a place beneath the sea.

It was a place of revolution

a revolution of lost love.

A time of pain

 …a time of healing

 …and a time of beauty.

It was like one could hold the world in the palm of their hand.

Finally, the last image is from the Palmer House Hotel, which comprises my very first memory of Chicago. We’ve come full circle. Who wants to start drawing the next one?

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The Day the World Shrunk

At the Art Institute of Chicago, there is a section of miniatures, displaying these miniature replications of room styles of the United States. It’s almost too precious to take seriously, but there is such painstaking detail in each one, and such historical quaintness to them that I was moved. If you enjoy a dollhouse, and who doesn’t, this is the place for you. I can’t give you an accurate scale (they frown up visitors trying to get a hand behind the displays, go figure) but these are about a foot and half of cubic space. It turns out that lot of really tiny things can fit in that kind of room.

Something about these rooms appeals to me. Maybe it’s their pristine order and immaculate execution. They can never be messed up because they aren’t real. No one has to live in them, tracking in mud from a spring day or leaving a dish on the counter (guilty and guilty). They stand here suspended in time, these little glimpses of perfection.

Be sure to notice the lighting in each of these. It manages to capture a certain point in the day, and then hold it there. How often have we tried to still time like that, to freeze a frame or a moment that we wish would go on for just a bit longer?

These little rooms do that. While the rest of the world rushes by them, they stay forever in place, forever young. As the chubby digits of little kids smear their grease and dirt across the viewing panes, the rooms stand stoically and unperturbed in their splendor.

My little window into Chicago is about to close. I will shrink the city into the smallest compartment I know – a memory – and it will reside there, unbothered and no longer bewildered by what came before.

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Lunch Amid Art in Chicago

Ever since happily stumbling into  Bravo at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, I’ve been more amenable to trying out the finer dining options at other museums. The Art Institute of Chicago, with its airy eating establishment in the modern wing, offered another opportunity for that, and I rested my museum-fatigued feet for an early Sunday lunch. Looking at art can tire a person quickly, and I say that only half-jokingly. Surely I wasn’t half as tired as this fine lady and her pooch – they’d been standing like this for hours, with no sign of a break anytime soon.

It was about noon, but rather than the traditional mimosa or Bloody Mary, I opted for a special cocktail – the Mantuano – sort of a tequila-based twist on the negroni. Whatever it was, it was wonderful, and the perfect appetite teaser for the main course of smoked salmon on an avocado spread and a 63 degree egg. Art museums seem to like the 63 degree egg, as I had a similarly-cooked concoction at Boston’s MFA.

This was similarly delicious, and a runny yolk will make any dish that much better. Only a few other tables were filled, leaving my dining experience a pleasantly quiet one. Maybe it was best that Chris wasn’t up yet.

I walked back to the museum entrance, passing at a few more paintings and pieces along the way. A series of polished marble statues guarded a rotunda of sorts. Out of reverence or awe, or both, I stop to stare.

Even the simplest objects gain a finer glean when housed with such finery. (Especially when arranged in the colors of the rainbow.)

Certain pieces called to me with their vibrant force of life, and I thought back on the previous night. Had I gone out and partied hard, I might not be able to be here now, and the here and the now was breathtakingly beautiful. Moving, too, and I felt a familiar tug at my heart.

Outside, the day was at its height.

The sun was warm.

This was spring.

How could I miss it?

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Beauty & Forgiveness in Chicago

After the darkness, morning came. Chris had only been asleep a few hours, so he skipped out on going to the Art Institute with me. There were only three things I wanted to do on this Chicago trip, and he opted out of all of them. I was more than a little miffed, but it wasn’t because I was left to my own devices. It was just disappointing to think about all that he was missing. (That’s the clean, pretty version of events, anyway.)

The day was perfect. It had warmed up and the sun was shining brightly in a blue sky. I arrived a few minutes prior to the Art Institute opening, but there were already people in line, so I joined the assembly between the two sentinel lions. The last time I was here was for a story I had been assigned on gift ideas from the museum gift shop (they provided a bag of goodies including a lion-topped pen that I have to this day). I hadn’t known at the time that my relationship was going to end, so it had been a happy occasion. This was another one, as I embraced another opportunity to brush up against beauty. Art museums, and beauty in general, will always calm, or at least mollify, a raging mind.

This balm began before I even entered the main building, with the spring bulbs in bloom around the nearby courtyard. So many people think that the art on the walls is the main draw for a museum – for me it’s always been the whole experience – all the incidental space and architecture – that serves such a satisfying end. On this day, the flowers and the sun and the sky conspired to craft a memorable entrance to the Art Institute, and I was grateful to witness the co-mingling of prettiness.

I’m never quite sure what to make of some pieces, even the classics. Do we like them because we were basically told to like them from years of historical adulation, or simple ubiquity? A Social Psychology professor once said that if your first reaction to an entity is indifference, or a non-feeling one way or another, upon repeated views we grow to like it more. Familiarity as a designer of friendly feelings, or at least more positive ones than indifference. I sometimes doubt my taste, unsure of whether to give in to my instinct to love one piece over another or shoot a middle-finger to the whole damn process.

Today, those conflicts are far from my frame of mind. I take it all in, wandering leisurely through the Sunday morning crowd, which is rather thin around some of the better-known works.


Is this what the big deal is? I wonder to myself as I wander.

Strolling.

Contemplating.

Discussing memories evoked, techniques employed, historical context, or simply whether or not one likes something or not.

I do it all in my mind.

“Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper.

Is this loneliness or happiness or apathy?

And then the most famous piece in the Art Institute (at least for fans of musical theater).

So many things are at work here, so many layers over which to puzzle and solve, and just as I’m enjoying the play of shadows and light, I realize I need a new bustle in my life. And a parasol for sunny days. The use of it has gone out of fashion for shade, and I cannot fathom why.

A requisite Monet, filled with waterlilies, as my mind fills with recent remembrances of spring flowers just outside the doors. Everything is connected. The larger questions of life, however, are put on hold as I seek out the restaurant on premises for an early lunch.

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Night to Day, Chicago-Style

After the darkness of my journey back in time, the lights of downtown Chicago were welcome. Even more of a comfort were the lights of my hotel room. They always feel so much brighter than home. (In fact, I’ve taken to turning on both bedside lamps in my bedroom at home to replicate the comfort and safety of a hotel room. Strange, I suppose, and not the wisest thing to do before bed, but I need that light, especially in the winter.)

On this night, I step off the train at Grand, back where I began earlier in the evening. By the time I got back to the room, it was only 11 or 11:30, and Chris was texting me to go out, but I didn’t want that. I was at a different place than I was even just a few years ago. A different place than Chris too, who, despite plans to accompany me to the Art Institute the next morning, would sleep in again and miss it all.

I was in bed by midnight. I wanted to greet the day early, and make the most of a Sunday in Chicago…

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Chicago, 17 Years Later

The sprawling expanse of it never ceased to impress me.

It was a “city of neighborhoods,” everyone had said.

We only ever needed one.

The apartment was a ten-minute walk to the train – the Granville stop of the red line to Howard (14 stops from downtown Chicago). One of the last on the line, so far north was it. Near the lake too, though I only went there once or twice. It would not be warm enough – not during the limited months of fall and winter in which I’d be there. (I didn’t know that at the tail end of summer when we moved in, else I’d have gone a few more times.) We found the apartment earlier in the summer. It was one of the first we looked at, and, somewhat frightened we might not find another, we took it without exploring others. It was huge, but rather far from the downtown and other places of population. We’d forgotten the main tenet of any real estate interaction: location, location, location. Still, the space was immense and airy. A sunny living room with an expanse of windows (in which we draped silk saris and a bright accent of orange fabric) was where we set up my writing desk and the television. A dining room, which we used maybe once or twice, was luxuriously plopped in the middle of the layout. There was a cozy kitchen in the back corner of the apartment, in which I cut my cooking teeth, and two bedrooms. He would move into the smaller, second one right before we ended it.

I sat on the train, not reading a book or looking at my phone, but simply existing, inhabiting the moment. This was important to me, I don’t know why. I’d long since made peace with my ex-boyfriend. We were friends. The past was done. I was returning for something else.

The train ride went swifter than I recalled it going. Back when I lived here, I could not get to and fro quickly enough. Every time I sat on the train, I wanted only to get off it as soon as possible. On this night, I sat and breathed in the moment. As each stop ticked by – Addison, Sheridan, Wilson, Lawrence, Argyle – I remembered a little more. Frigid nights, waiting on the platform for the next train… The first flush of snow that fell so furiously in that first and only awful winter… The happy trips downton in the beginning… The lonely trips near the end… And this trip… which would it be? Lost in thought, I looked up as we were pulling out of Thorndale. The next stop was mine.

It came too soon. I wasn’t ready.

I stepped off the train and walked down to the street. Vaguely, it began to come back to me. I sensed direction more than I recognized anything specifically. A bar I recalled was still there beside the station, and I ducked into it for a drink. A toast to the past. A glass of fortitude. A bit of warmth as the night grew ever colder.

Back on the street, I walked in the direction of my old apartment. It was more difficult to remember in the dark of night, but I still knew the general way I was headed. It was quiet here. I always liked that about this part of the city. Tonight, it was haunted.

Do you know the scene in the Harry Potter books when he returns to Godric’s Hollow? That’s how this night felt. There were ghosts here, phantoms of the past scurrying about, and each shadow held a promise and a warning. I hastened my pace, and realized I had overshot my turn. I asked the only soul I saw along the way where Thome was, and he directed me back to the street I had just crossed. When you’re 41, things are fuzzier than when you were 25, especially at night.

Back on track and righted for the instant, I approached my former apartment from the opposite end. It was fitting, I suppose, coming at things from a different angle. It also happened to be the first way we approached the place on the day we moved in.

An August day, summer in Chicago, at the last half of the end of the century. The year was 1999. Everything was about to end. It was hot, as expected, but there was a different kind of heat in my throat, which felt like it was closing up as a sickness hit me the moment we drew into the city. A bad omen, to be sure, but I was still hopeful. I’d go to the hospital a day or two later to figure out what was wrong, and then I would heal. An inauspicious beginning to an early end. Something wasn’t right.

We both knew it. I felt it in my heart, but was too afraid to admit it. On our first day moving in, I’d seen our mailbox, and we put both our names on it. It left me with such a feeling of promise, and a burden as well. In a changing world, we were a couple now. A gay couple, and certain eyes would focus on us as an example of what was to come. There would be shame and a victory for all the worst people if we were to break up. That’s no reason to have or end a relationship. But it was in the back of my mind the whole time. I’d be lying if I pretended it didn’t matter. I’d also be lying if I pretended it wasn’t unfair.

We settled in nonetheless. He took a job at a dinner theater place, the way most actors do. I sought freelance work and got a couple of articles published in the Windy City Times. It was my first encounter with an editor who cut me down to size, and it was the most embarrassing and helpful bit of guidance I would receive. (Thank you, Neda Ulaby.) Growing up means acknowledging what you don’t know, and having the courage to accept criticism and advice with grace, and with an eye toward improvement. Ms. Ulaby gave me some much-needed wisdom about leading with a striking sentence, and setting up the reader to want to read more. I had never thought about writing that way, and in so many ways I owe her more than I ever told her.

It was a small moment of personal advancement in a time when I settled into the homemaker role. My boyfriend was out and about at work and auditions. I cherished the role, and I started cooking for us – walking to the local market and coming up with dishes from a cookbook that my Mom had given us. It was an empty job, as most homemakers, male and female, ultimately realize. I shouldn’t say that. Some find fulfillment in it, and I will be the first to defend the difficulty and nobility in it. More accurately, it wasn’t for me, not then, not so soon. I’d kill to do it now, but back then it wasn’t me. I wanted it to be, but he didn’t want that. We would always be different.

He saw that first, and he had the prescience to end it then. I wanted that discipline and forethought and courage, but I didn’t have it. That’s why it broke me. Still, as much as I was heartbroken, on some level I knew he was right. Those are always the saddest break-ups. Because there had been good. There had been romance. There had been the beginnings of a life together. I was devastated when it ended. But I understood.

Suzie had come on that last day and we drove a rented truck away from my first true love. I remembered that now. In the dark of night, I approached the walkway to that apartment. No one else was around.

Tonight, I pause at the open gate and remember my first day and last day at that apartment. I walk by the privet hedge and the yellow brick of the building, and approach the entry-way. This was it. How strange that it felt like the end of the world at the time, and yet I feel so little right now.

At the end of the walkway, near the door, I see the buzzer box listening the current inhabitants. I remember when our names were next to each other there. I peer inside at the row of mailboxes, and to the right, where the stairs led up to our old apartment. There was darkness there now. Darkness of night, and darkness of memory. It wasn’t my home now. It never was.

Turning around, I go back into the night. Walking to the train station, the route I had taken so many times, so many years ago, I found myself crying. It caught me by surprise. The church that once inspired a short story stood before me. A monolith of gray stone, it rose into the sky. I always felt dizzy as I followed it higher with my eyes.

The street was empty. I was grateful for that.

I cried for how young we were, how much we knew but didn’t know, and how much we had once loved each other. I cried for the way life did this to us, how we grew past it, how we forgot and moved on and all that we shared here seemed like nothing. I cried for the young man I left behind in this city, for how much he once cared.

I cried for the beauty of this night, for the dark solitude in which I found myself seventeen years later, for the way I walked past the block the first time because I had forgotten so much, for the gentleman who turned me in the right direction, and for the couple suddenly walking their dog behind me. I don’t know why, but I cried for it all.

I slowed my pace as I neared the intersection near the train station. It was brighter here.

The light at the end of the tunnel.

Back in the street lights of the main road, I wipe away my tears, almost laughing at them. Maybe this was the delayed weeping from having seen ‘Hamilton’ and forcing myself not to bawl in front of anyone.

…The moments when you’re in so deep/ It feels easier to just swim down…

And maybe they’re just the tears of the past that I never cried.

 

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A Revolutionary Return

My friend LeeMichael had been in Chicago a few weeks before my visit and had advised me to try to get day-of ‘Hamilton’ tickets. To be honest, I’d never been enthralled with the idea of a hip-hopera lesson in history, but the hype and hoopla of the musical had largely been reported as justified, so I was open to giving it a shot. Tickets are notoriously difficult to get, and even when available they sometimes begin at the $800 mark. I won’t even pay that for Madonna, so I wasn’t counting on much. Yet there was a small line of four people at the ticket counter, and I hopped in to see if any cancellations for the lottery had taken place. Twenty minutes later, I had two second-row tickets at face value, and was frantically trying to reach Chris who still had not woken from the night before.

The show was due to start in a couple of hours, so I made my way to the nearby Palmer House Hilton, where I stayed on my very first visit to Chicago in 1995. Another memory, back to that summer visit over two decades ago. After a tumultuous train ride, my friend Kerry and I arrived to a heatwave in the height of August. The cool, dim opulence of the Palmer House was a balm on my overheated agitation, and I settled into the sumptuous lobby with relief, then and now. The memories were overlapping, but it was good. Despite the overbearing heat of that first trip, it had been a happy one. Now, we were about to see ‘Hamilton’ from the second row (I had to get the hotel to call Chris directly since he had his phone off and there was only an hour and a half to performance time) and I bellied up to the Palmer House bar for a quick lunch before the show.

For some reason, I had never ventured here when I lived in Chicago. I’m not sure why – hotel lobbies are my comfort zone, and this one was especially gorgeous. Maybe on some level I knew not to soil such magnificence with my frame of mind at the time. I was glad for that now. My memories were only happy ones, and I was making a new one with the American Revolution about to happen a few doors down.

The show was phenomenal (review to come) and after it was done I wanted to walk leisurely back to the hotel. Chris was in a rush for some reason, wanting to order a car to get us there quicker, but I was adamant. The afternoon was beautiful, and it was a manageable distance. We got back to the hotel and after suggesting a dozen restaurants, and having him turn them all down, we settled on a couple of options nearby. I’ve done this sort of dance with Chris before, and I wasn’t about to do it again. Without a plan, he would wander and waffle and in the end we’d have to settle for something neither of us wanted. But I was too tired to argue, and agreed to the first place we found, then suggested we go our own way for the evening. I had one more place I wanted to go, and he was agitating me with his FOMO. (More on that later too.)

I wrapped my scarf around my neck. The night had turned cooler, and the light had drained from the sky. It was only 8:30 or so, but my journey was a long one. I thought I could find my way, but I wasn’t sure. With a small sense of hesitancy, I hopped on the red line train and headed north. To the apartment where I’d lived with my first serious boyfriend…

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