Chicago was a gun city before guns were a thing in America. It was a gun city before people were shocked by guns and it was a gun city before people normalized and expected guns.
The first time I went to Italy and told an Italian I was from Chicago, they shouted, “Chicago! Al Capone. Bang! Bang!” If it weren’t for the Lake, I’d pack up my wagon. But the Lake is the glue, the mirage, the sanctuary. When I was young, we left our buildings and dove off the rocks into Chicago’s sea. Where would I go if I left the urban seaside?
New York? I don’t have a Cuomo-crush, though I love what he’s done with COVID. There are too many people like me in New York, but me if I were a hyperbole. A hyper-bo-me? Me with an exclamation point! Me with a highlighter. Me me me. I think I’d think too much about me there. The one thing this country doesn’t need is another narcissist.
I’ve got a friend who’s migrating to Maine. Maine is a good safe spot. Low COVID. Lobster. Not a lot of diversity. 95% white. Cold. The average low temperature in January is 12 degrees, so if you like frostbite, Maine welcomes you and your parka. It’s also where Jessica Fletcher lived and wrote her mystery novels. Love her, but she’s fiction. If I moved to Maine, could I be fiction? Is Maine fiction? Are there two Maines? When you get to Maine, do the people at the gate ask, “Do you want the fiction Maine or the non-fiction Maine?”
I could go to Austin. I have friends and family there, so I’m practically a native. But Austin is a city, not a state. I am not a native of Texas and they know. Once, I drove through Texas, and people kept asking, “You’re not from around here, are you?” I found out that means “I’m going to talk shit about you when you leave.” I also found out, that you’re not getting your heart blessed, when someone says, “Bless your heart.” “Marching to your own drummer” is not perceived as a strength. “You look so healthy” means you’re fat. And there’s that gun thing. I know that Chicago has a lot of guns, but it’s our shame. We don’t think it makes us cowboys; we think it makes us criminals. Texas also has that embarrassing COVID spike since their leader was two-stepping with Trump.
There’s the West, but I’ve never felt the call of “Go West young man.” Maybe cause I’m a woman. Maybe if they changed history to “Go West young woman,” I’d feel the tug.
Moving to Denver or Seattle as a middle-aged person makes you look like you’re trying too hard and too late. Like you got invited to a party after no one else showed up. Like you didn’t get the invite when you were twenty, and it showed up yellowed and musky when you were fifty, and you still went. Everyone else is already drunk and hooked up and you’re sober and tense, ready to party, but the party is over. So, you have to figure out how to chill superfast and blend in but you smell like Lake Michigan instead of patchouli.
There is the less-flocked-to-West of Montana and Wyoming, where I’d get afflicted with the opposite of Claustrophobia, fall into that big sky and never come back. I’d be that crazy lady howling at the moon and identifying cloud types. Cirrus. Cumulous. Altocumulus. Nimbostratus. So, maybe Montana.
Utah has Mormons and I only have one child, so I think they’d judge me.
California is too expensive and with my luck, The Big One would come the day after I moved in and destroy all nana’s crystal goblets. And there’s that land and gun thing. People think they can shoot anyone who comes onto their land, and for what land costs there, I can see their angle.
So, I’m staying in Chicago and I’m hoping Lightfoot and Pritzker have what it takes to keep us safe. I didn’t use to think so much about keeping safe, even with that gun thing Chicago has. And that corruption thing. And that COVID thing. And if Trump has his way, that National Guard thing. But Chicago has the seaside and once it’s drawn you in, there’s no turning away.