Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thinking of winter

"The vibrant girl Chicago seems to be in the summertime is a lure, bait, because if you live in Chicago, sooner or later winter and reality are going to set in," - Ralph Wiley.

And so I came to fall in love with Chicago during four luminous days in late July. It would be hard for anyone to resist the charms of Chi-Town, especially during the idyllic summer and particularly with lots of free time. How cold must those winters be?

I had the pleasure of visiting Chicago for the quadrennial UNITY convention, a wellspring of ideas and enthusiasm for more than 5,000 journalists of color across the country. The convention allowed me to congregate with old friends, network with new ones, summon strength from my mentors and explore a city that defies simple observation or limited analysis.

I briskly walked the lively streets of downtown, enjoyed a fantastic deep-dish pizza, partied at the infamous Crobar, journeyed to Wrigleyville (but, alas, didn't see a Cubs game), talked shop at the Sears Tower and closed out my stay with drinks and dessert on the 96th floor of the Hancock Tower. My friends were there, the air was cool and the conversation was enlightening.

This was offset, however, by the nagging feeling that things were awry here and elsewhere: morale was particularly low among us journalists bracing for more bloodshed in our newsrooms, with the Chicago Tribune at the center of this new misery; the cost of savoring the city eventually took its toll on my meager savings; I wondered how people could afford unleaded gasoline at the price of $4.50 a gallon; some people inside and outside of the convention center seemed to lack any measure of home training; and I was aggressively accosted by homeless men three times, the latter incident forcing me to briefly consider the implications of coming to blows to protect my lovely travel companion - a first for me.

I left Chicago an ambivalent man. Love is not an endorsement. My memories are overwhelmingly positive but I returned to Tampa with the feeling that the winter was soon to come and that I had escaped before the cold swept into the city. I don't think I want to experience any sort of winter in Chicago - I hope Barack has departed by then, too.

"It was in Chicago that I realized I would die one day myself. ... This was where I learned there was no such thing as heaven," Wiley once wrote.

It's good to be home, folks.

1 comment:

Donecia Pea said...

You know Joel, I agree with your take on the trip to the Chi, except for this underlying tone of sadness you got going on. I mean wow, that last line was so depressing! Lol.

Anyway, I know I'm late to the game, but I'm really enjoying this False Hustle business, lol. (Well I'm enjoying everything but the sports stuff. I'm just not that into that, lol.)...Meanwhile, keep 'em coming!

Btw, I'm still lmao, yet pissed off about that Harold's Chicken experience...dannnng.