It all started this summer when it became clear that I would not see my family again this Christmas. (I haven’t spent Christmas with my family since I met my husband.) I was depressed, because I thought this would be the year in which we would have the means to do so, but still would not. That thought was short-lived as the job that would have funded my dreams dissolved almost as quickly as the dream itself.
Not only does this current job not provide the funds for a big trip, but it didn’t provide the time off, either. I knew I needed something. I knew that my spartan existance could only continue if I had just one break and I told my husband that we had to do something special for the holidays. I didn’t care if we just went to Catalina Island for the day, or Santa Barbara, I had to get out of the city.
I may possibly have suggested that the alternative was that I may go postal. The details are murky.
All I know is that it wasn’t long before my in-laws were talking of wanting to see us for New Year’s Weekend and what would we like to do? California was out of the question as they would be returning from Germany and it would be too much of a toll on them, and soon we all settled on Chicago. My father in law had attended the University of Chicago Law School, so Chicago was a favourite destination for the family as it was nostalgic and exciting.
We stayed downtown at the Renaissance Hotel so that we could walk everywhere. We only needed a car for church (as we decided to go out to the “old” Hyde Park ward which had decidedly changed since the 70s!), the Museum of Science and Industry, and to get out to the Airport Hilton for our final night. As with any chain, standards vary greatly from location to location. Paul and I had stayed at a Renaissance in Asheville, NC, for our 4th anniversary, and it was fine, but the one in Chicago was so much better it was hard to believe they were the same chain! (Of course, there is a difference of several years…)
(Note: this is actually the model from the train exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, but it shows our hotel! It’s right on the corner from the bridge on the left. It was on the corner of State and Wacker.)
We had a great view from our rooms, too. Here you can see the river, and across the bridge is the new Trump building, still in construction.
This is the other side, you can see the theatre district and an “L” train pulling in for a stop.
It was a really wonderful trip. We went to Navy Pier and the Chicago Children’s Museum. We explored downtown. We went to the Museum of Science and Industry (probably my husband’s favourite museum ever, and has been so since he was a child.) We ate at the Berghoff (Chicago’s oldest restaurant), Pizzeria Uno (incidently, the franchises don’t hold a candle to the original restaurant), and the flagship fancy McDonald’s for our big New Year’s Eve dinner.
We were grossly overdressed. We thought “we are Californians travelling to Chicago in winter” and packed appropriately. But it was unseasonably warm for Chicago (mid 50s) and we are not Californians, but both of colder climes. We were hot.
I got exactly what I needed: a few days out of Glendale. I was with my family and exploring and having fun. (and I wasn’t on the phone for a minute!) Chicago is an exciting town, busy, new and old, without pretense, and full of life. It has it’s own style, to be sure, but I feel so much more comfortable there than I have in Los Angeles. I returned refreshed and ready to handle my bleak life.
My husband, on the other hand, returned to LA with the depression I had left in Chicago. As soon as we landed at LAX it was clear we had re-entered LaLaLand. The superficiality was suffocating and the lack of a future for us was oppressive. The contrast of cost of living here to there was astounding. Finally, however, we no longer feel tethered to Los Angeles. For the first time since we’ve moved here we’ve felt like it’s okay to start preparing to leave. We have several ducks to line up first, but we are buoyed by the hope that we can escape, and finally make a life for ourselves.