I love going to places alone.
It’s an odd hobby that I must have picked up when I was 18 years old and had just moved to the city for the first time. I remember how I was then – so young and fresh and wanting to experience everything – the people; the places; the day; the night…
I’ve come back to that girl it seems; the one that goes out on her bicycle late at night alone to check out the open mic night and perform for people that won’t ever know her name. The comfort about strangers is that you don’t ever have to live up to anything. You just share in a moment without clinging to identity…
This is one of the many reasons I love to travel alone. I love traveling because of the complete uncertainty of where the journey will take you or who you will meet along the way; the exoticism of new places and the seduction of a moment in different vegetation and landscape.
So Chicago: how do I experience you as a tourist instead of a resident?
Let’s start in Bridgeport, a southside neighborhood not too far from Pilsen. I walked into Bernice’s Tavern
’s open mic night because I wrote a poem
I was dying to read to a room full of strangers. I was disappointed to find that it was only music. I then scanned the room thinking about how poetry would probably not fly well here as I eyed the décor. Signs that read: “work is the curse of the drinking class,” and “never trust a man that doesn’t drink,” permeated the walls. I could hear thick Chicago accents over the Neil Young cover songs. The Sox game was on in a tiny t.v. in the corner of the room. Bridgeport is Sox country, make no mistake about it.
I knew immediately that there were two things I would not do here today:
- Tell anyone I’m vegan
- Read my intense feminist poetry
Instead I noticed the little things one tends to when in a new place.
As a writer, it’s the external stimulation that drives you inward to put it all into words. It’s overhearing a conversation that inspires a poem or noticing the way the light dances on foreign walls over music. It’s reading the silence between the words; it’s contemplating life’s riddles as you watch the man and the woman in the corner whispering into each other’s ear…
Or, if you’re Bridgeport, it’s scanning the bar full of burly men in Bears and Blackhawks jerseys and baseball hats wondering if anyone is a secret Cubs fan.
More Chicago adventures to come throughout the summer!