Saturday, January 8, 2011

My first day in Chicago

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I’ll never forget the time that I went to Chicago for the summer. It was for a Journalism Fellowship that I had gotten into and I had a lot of mixed feelings about going at the time. I had heard so much about the city—that it was windy (Duh, it’s called the windy city, a hur hur hur), that it was dangerous at night, and that it’s the home of improv comedy—and I had a mixture of both fear and excitement about going. Add to the fact that it was going to be my first time on a plane as an adult, and you can tip the scale more into the “fear” category rather than “excitement.”

When I got to the airport, I really started to get the shaky knees. What if the plane crashes, I kept thinking to myself, What if I’m in that one in a gazillion percentile of people who get on a plane for the first time that actually crash lands in some farm somewhere? What if?

The logical part of my brain kept telling me, Shut up and just listen to your music. You’ll be fine.

But anybody who knows fear will tell you that logic usually always loses when you’re afraid. My teeth couldn’t stop chattering and my collar was drenched in sweat. I looked like I had the flu.

Throughout my stay at the airport, I kept having to go to the bathroom. And when my flight number finally appeared on the big board, hoo boy, I nearly wet myself right then and there.

When I finally got on the plane, though, I found out that there was nothing to be afraid of. My ears popped once, but besides that, nothing happened. I had been such a wuss.

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When I finally stepped off the plane in Chicago, the first thing I saw was, believe it or not, a Chicago hot dog, and man did it look gross. These hot dogs weren’t like your standard, New York dawgs. Naw. These beastly looking things had like, a pepper on it, a tomato, onions and it was served in a poppy seed bun. I seriously wanted to vomit. It looked like it came from some turd planet or something. Or possibly Trenton. I passed it by thinking, Hmmm…maybe next time, and was then worried about there not being a taxi outside because I was supposed to meet the other fellows from the program that night at some pizza joint, and I didn’t want to be late. But if you’ve ever stepped out of an airport before, you’ll know that there are about ten billion taxi cabs waiting for you outside. It seriously only took me about ten minutes to catch a ride.

When I stepped in the cab, I said, “Hyde Park, please,” and the cabbie said, “Sure, what side?”

What side? What side?!

Oh, crud, I never thought about that. There were sides to Hyde Park? Was it as big as Central Park? Worry set into me again. I thought I was going to be late. And that’s a good first impression to make with other journalist—I couldn’t even make my first deadline. I checked my watch and I only had an hour to get to the pizza place I was scheduled to meet the others at. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the wrinkled address.

“144 Lakeview,” I said, “Do you know where that is?”

I saw the cabbie’s eyes look at me from the mirror and he smirked.

“What, you kiddin’ me?” He asked me, “I know the city like this,” and he showed me the back of his hand, “That’s a nice part. You’re right by the lake.”

And off he drove, putting the pedal to the metal.

The trip was relatively quiet and I liked that. I got to see all the beautiful architecture of the city as it passed me by. Unlike the buildings in New York, which look all cramped together and uncomfortable, these buildings were spaced out a little, as if each building wanted you to look at it and marvel. And marvel, I did. I even took some pictures. I found out later that they all came out blurry.

I called my roommate in Chicago from the cab and told him that I was on my way.

“You better hurry,” he said, “If you’re late, we’re leaving without you.”

When the guy had dropped me off, I was sweating even more than I had at the airport. I looked at my watch again and somehow, because of all the traffic, the trip had taken us about a half an hour. I was definitely going to be late now.

“Have a good time, my friend,” the cabbie said when I paid him, “There are a lot of beautiful girls here.” And he made kissie faces in the mirror. Then, he sped off.

As I stood there with my luggage, this tall, white guy with glasses and a short mohawk came out of the building with this black dude who had this funky cool beard that hung down from his chin.

“Dude, you’re sweating,” the black dude said. I didn’t know if this was my roommate or not. I had never met him before.

“Yeah, I was worried I wasn’t going to make it,” I said, scratching the back of my neck.

“Did you really believe me on the phone before?” The tall, white guy said, “I was joking with you, man. I wasn’t going to leave without you. Come upstairs and see your room.”

Relief washed over me. If I was going to be late, then at least I was going to be late with two of the other fellows.

The black dude said, “Hey, I’m Phil, man. You got a nice room. I saw it already. It’s overlooking the water.”

“So you must be St. John,” I said to the other guy, who was my roommate for the summer.

“Yeah, but call me SinJin,” he said, shaking my hand while Phil helped me pull my luggage into the apartment front door.

Just got to Chicago and I’m already sweating like a hog, I thought, I need to take a shower.

We got to the pizza place on time that night and everything went off fine. It was a hectic time getting there though. I’ll never forget that first day. I was a wreck.


Anonymous said...

How was the fellowship?? learn anything interesting?


Rich Knight said...

It was pretty good. I actually sold a story there to the Chicago Reader about Parkour before it was all over American Ninja Warrior. I'll find it for you one of these days. It's on this blog somewhere.

Thanks for reading.

Jorge L. Moore said...

thanks that would be awesome