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Wait + Chicago + Saturday Boy + Great Plains

February 21, 2010

Twice tonight on television I heard the Kills song “Wait.”  Here it is; listen to it as the soundtrack for this post:

I quit smoking.  Fifteen days tonight.  I’ve got a piece of Nicorette gum in.  My lungs feel, newly, like a bellows.  Breathe in, breathe out, very deeply—lungs fill up like a strong balloon.

From Wednesday to Friday evening I was in Chicago for work.  (Here’s a picture.) I love the people in New York City—nowhere has better diversity; you look around the subway or the street and you could be anywhere in the world, from the faces—but for triumphal, Manifest Destiny, American architecture, the Windy City can’t be beat.  I remember, and I told my work people this when we were walking to dinner, that Chicago was the first city I fell in love with.  It all happened in one night, too: A friend and I had driven up from Fayetteville, Ark., my college town, to see Bob Dylan play in Normal, Illinois.  We took a northern detour and visited Chicago first.  We got into the city, it was snowing, and we checked in at the YMCA hostel and got ready and went out and big fat flakes were falling in February.  We walked along the streets and I was surprised to see all the people still out, walking around and being out in the evening.  I remember very distinctly a man and his son buying tickets to see a movie at one of those old-style movie theaters where the white marquee, with the movie names in black letters, juts out over the street.  I thought, “I want to live in a place where people live like this.”  That was in 1998.  I have done that—lived in a place where people live like that—since 2001.  I love it.

I also love this Billy Bragg song (“I’ll never forget / the first day I met her / that September morning was clear and fresh / The way she spoke / and laughed at my jokes / and the way she rubbed herself against the edge of my desk”):

I finished the book The Great Plains, by Ian Frazier, in my Chicago hotel room, at the Peninsula.  An amazing book about the history and myth of the Great Plains, Crazy Horse and settlers and trappers and buffalo and grasslands and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

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