Newbie notes

Note: I realize I’m now a homeowner and have been here for 2 years, so I’m still really not a newbie, but, I feel like these little tid-bits may help, or shed some light on things I may have missed that didn’t dawn on me until I put down some damn roots.

When you register your address in Chicago, and your voter registration comes in the mail, I feel like it should come with a welcome packet. It would include a guide on the new and strange land you have decided to make your home. There are quite a few things that people tell you when you are moving from West to Mid-West, none of them actually informative or helpful, at as far as settling into a new culture goes (and yes, it really is different from the San Francisco, Northern-California lifestyle I came from). Mostly I heard about the weather, hot summers and cold winters, a little about Boystown, steer clear of the Southside, and eat pizza. What people conveniently left out (even Chicagoans that moved to SF and were giving me advice) was the rest of it, that i have summed up into a tidy little list.

  1. Drinking Holidays: Mostly here, I’m referring to St. Patrick’s day. It was actually the day that made me decide someone should really send out a memo to Chicago newbies about what happens here. The basic run down? This city turns into a huge white-girl-wasted mess, and the city dyes the river a brighter shade of green than it’s normal army green. In San Francisco, St. Patrick’s day is met with moderate excitement as people may visit one of the few irish pubs, exclaim themselves Irish for the day, and get wastey-pants. In Chicago, so far as I could see, the city loses its shit. Every bar is packed, college kids who apparenlty have never met a glass of water they liked, end up hunched over a gutter at 9:30am throwing up what’s left of the green beer they couldn’t get enough of earlier that morning. I can’t even really say that this happens  only on a weekend in March, it’s basically any excuse to find to drink, people here drink. It’s like they are beholden to every amateur day in the calendar and will be chastised if they’re not living up to the hype they create for themselves. 4th of July, drunk outside. Memorial Day, drunk waving flags. Labor Day, drunk on the beach before fall. Thanksgiving Eve, make sure you’re hungover for turkey. New Years, shoot guns, drink glitter and shout. Groundhog’s day, fuck yeah more winter/early spring, shadow, no shadow, doesn’t matter. All year people. All. Year.
  2. Running: Before people go out and get wasted, they like to run up and down the lake. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve walked out my front door to be accosted by people on the sidewalk covered in purple, green, red and blue paint. Apparently you’re not allowed to run without getting shit thrown at you. I’m guessing it’s because people who run figured out that it’s fucking boring and unless you’re running from something or to something, you may as well just stroll. I don’t know if it’s a Mid-Western thing, or just a “hey, this place is flat so running here is really easy, lets do that” thing, but I’d say 1 out of every 3 people I meet here runs on a regular basis. Not that I have anything against running for sport, or the people who do it, but it’s not for me. So I have a difficult time grasping the concept of trotting along the lake before the sun comes up every 3rd weekend with 50,000 of your closest running buddies for a t-shirt and paint in your eyes, but hey, I skate around a small oval and hit people for fun, so clearly, to each their own.
  3. Sports: Speaking of sporting events, I can’t write a helpful snarky guide list to Chicago without mentioning sports teams…or fans. Oh the fans. Now, in the Bay Area, people may love their teams, really, it’s one team or one sport. Raiders fans usually aren’t huge A’s fans, but they’d set their city on fire in celebration if either of them ever won something. The point is, there isn’t much crossover. In Chicago, it is pretty much expected that you are a fan of EVERY pro-sports team we have. Don’t like Basketball? Tough, you root for the Bulls and should know the players by name. Can’t decide if you like the Cubs or the White Sox? Tough, figure that shit out and learn your team, cause you’ll be grilled about it later. You want to get in good with a Chicagoan sports fan off the bat, one phrase will get you there “da bears.” Yes, everytime. It’s not even professional sports teams either. Where did you go to school? There’s a bar for you to watch your college games at. Complete with banners, flags, jerseys, and plenty of screaming fans. I can’t keep up. I’m not a sports guy, at least, not an all around sports guy. I don’t care who won the Super Bowl. Wrigley Field is an annoying stop on the Red Line when I’m trying to get home in the summer. And if anyone else asks me what I think about the Blackhawks this season, I’m just going to have to walk away. Because apparently “I’m not really into professional sports” is not an answer they are accustomed to hearing, nor do they understand, just like me.
  4. Transportation: Speaking of things I don’t understand, lets talk about the CTA, or rather, I’ll type, and you pretend you can hear my speaking to you in your head as you read. Like all public transportation systems in large cities, it provides endless hours of entertainment and people watching. If you aren’t entertained or think the people watching on the busses or trains isn’t great…thank you for being the entertainment for the rest of us. You can get everywhere on the trains and busses and a combination of the two. Just, don’t be in a hurry. Busses stop on every block, and train drivers seem content with the sunday afternoon cruise through the park speed at which they operate. I mean, I sold my car over a year ago and signed up for ZipCar (which I hardly use), so I obviously have learned how to deal with transportation around the city well. Not everyone agrees, and thats ok. I know people who have lived in Chicago for years and have never been on a bus or a train here. Which shocks the hell out of me, and then I remember they’re from LA.
  5. Real Estate: After spending seven years in the Bay Area, I got pretty accustomed to the bargaining style of, “offer them more than they’re asking or you’ll never get the place you want to live.” During the process of buying a condo here, and it proved more than unnerving than I thought. I’m not talking about the mountain of paperwork, or the constant searching on real estate websites, I’m referring to the bargaining process. While I was playing real life Monopoly in my head (ie: see a place, say you’re buying it and throw down a wad of cash before anyone else can), my realtor was nice enough to slow me down and make sure I didn’t get carried away.  After erasing a few texts that were along the lines of “JUST BUY IT, I WANT IT!” and replacing them with “if you think that they’ll go lower, why not” texts, I ended up with a condo at a price much lower than I would have paid had I got my way right off the bat. The threat of losing the place I’d fallen for freaked me out though. Hearing war stories from friends in the Bay who are going up against Chinese buyers with suitcases of cash, made me think they are nipping at my heels and on their way to chicago to buy my condo before I can. They are not. But the real estate panic does not carry over here, and the shock and awe of a plethora of options and low prices keeps my friends from the bay in a constant state of shock, myself included.

Obviously, thats not everything, just some of the stuff I wish people would have given me a heads up about before I moved. Then again, once you’ve been here for a couple years, I can see how it would all become second nature and you wouldn’t think to even tell anyone about this stuff. Plus, it’s nice for people to figure out for themselves, right?

The Single Life

So, a funny thing happened a while back, well, maybe not exactly “funny haha,” but more like “what the F just happened right now” kind of funny. A friend who really has gone above and beyond for me went to the San Francisco Court House, convinced the clerk to process paperwork so I wouldn’t lose my pending (at the time) condo, got a copy of it of the documents, and sent them to me. They were my divorce papers. Not going to lie, it threw me for a loop when I actually saw them processed, done, final, I’m now a divorcee (I prefer bachelor, but it’s not technically right). 

I wrote once about what being married to Laura was like for me and what it meant to me. Now I have to talk about it in the past tense although not a whole lot has changed; She’s still one of my most amazing and best friends; we’re still close and I feel I can confide anything to her; I still miss seeing her on a regular basis; and it makes me sad that we can’t share a plate of hummus and pita on the back patio of our favorite restaurant in Noe Valley randomly on a warm summer night. 

At the same time, a lot of what was awesome about our marriage, is now gone. For instance, not that I’m sure anyone would stop her, but she can’t come visit me in the ER at a hospital if something were to happen to me, or inherit anything from me automatically if that trip to the hospital doesn’t go well. My niece and nephew don’t have to call her Aunt Laura (not that they ever did), and I now am 1,800 miles from my family, the vast majority of my friends (whom I consider family as well), and sometimes I really feel alone. That is a first for me in a long time I think. It’s a feeling that won’t be changing anytime soon either. 

Why?

I think my marriage to Laura was the closest thing I’ll come to a long term relationship with someone. That’s not the bitter “dating stories” person talking here, it’s the “take a real look at life and the world and be honest with yourself” person talking. Not everyone finds someone. Not everyone ends up with a happy ending. I’m not trying to play the sympathy card, but I just don’t think I’m one of those relationship people. I think I want to be, but every time the opportunity comes along, I bail.

I’m not saying I “yearn” for a relationship or that it’s even something I feel like I need, but do I tear up at weddings, because I’m so happy my friend has found someone to share their life with. I’m not saying I hate couples because they look happy and I’m not but sometimes I need a hug that is more than a pat on the back. I’m not saying I hate dating, it’s supposed to be fun after all, but I would like someone not expect to round the bases for buying me two beers and a calamari platter. 

On the other side of that, do I make it easy for guys who are interested in me to get to know me better? Nope. Emotional walls up all over the place? Firm and in place. Do I sabotage good things with guys that I shouldn’t pass up? Sure do. I’ve fucked it up many more time than I choose to revisit at this point in time, with guys who actually would have/did treat me amazingly. Am I disappointed in myself for it? Sure am. Have I made an effort to change? Honestly, no. 

I don’t really feel like I need to change. Lets be honest, I’m a single gay man in my early 30’s. As far as society is concerned, there is no pressure to be married, or have kids, or be in a steady relationship (thanks stereotypes!). I think I’m expected to be “fabulous” (barf), travel (check), spend money (check plus), and party my ass off in a sea of shirtless hotties every weekend (check minus, like, serious minus, like I’ve done that like twice in my whole life kind of minus, like, may as well not even be a check). I’m not going to be disappointing anyone if I don’t get married, and I think it would shock to  people if I did. 

So I continue to live up to everyone’s non-expectations of me. Maybe one day, I’ll be sending out my wedding invitations and say to myself “What the F is happening right now”  and chuckle when I remember that I never thought it would happen to me. For the time being I’m a bachelor, dinner and a couple beers with friends will do, maybe a calamari plate once in a while. 

2 Years Ago

One Upon a Time…

But really 2ish years ago, a boy with a name that Starbucks baristas, restaurant reservations people, or his grandparents, couldn’t pronounce or spell, lived in a magical land of fairies, queens, prince alberts, and billionaires who thought it was trendy to look homeless. The boy and his friends had many adventures in and outside this magical place where tiny girls and asian boys (and once in a while a moo-cow) flew through the air with the greatest of ease. The boy’s family lived in a nearby magical land where people played tag with sharks in the ocean and everyone was the color of raisins all year round even if they didn’t try to be. The boy was happy, his life was easy and fun.

One day, the boy and his friend decided to time travel and they visited the 90’s. They spent time exploring a city full of ironic mustaches, it’s Voodoo doughnuts and got drunk and made new friends whom they cheered with when the clock rolled from one 90’s year back to another. On the long journey from the 90’s back to the magical land, the boy told his friend one day he would leave the this place of mission style burritos, and would see what life was like away from it all. The boy’s friend laughed and said that ever since they got drunk on elixir and yelled at people on stage (also known as the night they became friends), the boy had been saying he was going to leave but never did. The boy realized his friend was right, but he was ok with it because his life was fun. The boy’s friend said he should stop talking about it and set a date for this adventure instead of planning it, or it would never happen. In a moment of defiance and courage, the boy set a date to leave the magical land and find a new place to call home. He claimed he would leave by the time the clock struck midnight on the eve of his 30th birthday, and he put it in his daily planner.

Well that didn’t happen, and the boy was very sad and disappointed in himself for not being able to follow through with the specific date in mind (he was loyal to his planner after all). Then his friend took his planner, and moved the date. Suddenly the boy realized he still had a chance, and began telling everyone he was leaving before the big parade in the magical land. Well that didn’t happen. The boy marched in the parade and threw Asians, and got kissed by the sun too often and wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet. So he partied with his friends and family a little while longer. When the party was over, he put his most valued possessions on the street for someone else to value (mostly old shoes and a few tshirts that didn’t fit). He packed up his trusty steed Maxwell and they headed towards the sunrise and a new tomorrow. For 4 days they rode, though unexplored lands, deserts, valleys, the great continental divide, until they came upon a lake. The boy told Maxwell, no further old friend, we will make a home near this beautiful lake, as it reminds me of the ocean (but with less waves and there were very few people the color of raisins who played tag with sharks), and I will be happy here as well.

And the boy lived happily ever after. The end. But not really.

Not surprisingly, moving to a new place isn’t easy, it isn’t always fun and sometimes, you don’t think it was worth the effort. Mostly the thoughts of “this is totally not worth it” happen when you’re sitting bitch on a tin can flying through the air for 4.5 hours, and the pilot of the tin can tells you when you land, the temperature is going to either melt your face off or instantly give you frostbite. Thats when you’re like “seriously, why did I do this.” Then, you unlock the door to your own apartment, one which you never would have been able to afford in the city you fell in love with so many years ago and things change.

Seasons change. Seasons are awesome. If you’ve never seen them or lived in them, i highly recommend them. Spring is like, genius. I’ve never been so stupid happy to see leaves on trees as I am during spring. Summer, is amazing. People are out and about, everywhere (but not me, I prefer AC), drinking, socializing, making plans for fall. Fall, gorgeous. Can’t recommend it highly enough, a cool nip in the air and hoodies all day long, brilliant. Winter, is a cold heartless bitch. She is unrelenting, mean, freezing your contacts to your eyes scary, and it’s awesome. Do you have any idea how alive you feel when you step out of your house and your body gets a shocking dose of cold? It’s refreshing, revolting, and every part of your body feels it at one time, and you’ll love it (especially if you love jackets and scarves and boots as much as I do).

Seasons aren’t the biggest changes to your life that will happen. You’re going to miss people. You’re going to miss your friends, your family, the regular activities you participated in for so long. They’ll all be different. It’s awful, scary, and if you don’t know how to embrace it, it will ruin you. Moving to a new place and finding a new life isn’t about doing your old thing in a new place. It’s not about being the same you in a new place. It’s about becoming a new you. When you relocate, you can totally reinvent yourself. No one knows you. No one knows you’re a bitch. No one knows you hate going to large parties. No one knows you’re not 28. Maybe in this new place, you’re super nice. Maybe in this new place, you’re a person who is super social and loves it and loves attention. Maybe in this new place, you throw parties people can’t wait to attend. Then again, maybe not. The point is, you start over. Do you have any idea how insane that is? You start over.

That’s exactly what I did. Started over. Did I cry myself to sleep countless nights? Yes. Did I delight in finding new places to travel, new neighbhorhoods? You bet your ass I did. Did I take advantage of dirt cheap rent and pay off all my credit cards in two years? Sure did. Did that allow me to buy a condo, with a lake view, more space than I need, in a building that I love (yes, I’m bragging, but I don’t do it very often, so let it go). I sure did. Do I think moving was the hardest, yet best thing I’ve done for myself in the past 10 years…

Yes.

Would I do it again?

I plan to…

Dating Adventures 6

As the spring days roll on, so do the hits. People everywhere unburrow and get excited about dating and all that entails. Nothing quite strikes a chord with a new person as much as insecurity paired with a sense of entitlement to a stranger’s time. Which leads us into Dating Story 6.

Now, I’ve never actually gone out with this dude (I’ll call him 6, cause, he’s dating story 6 that I’m posting about), and based on the past couple weeks of interaction, it’s not going to happen. 6 lives on the West Coast and will be visiting Chicago for Bear Pride, so the opportunity to get to know him in person is quickly approaching and I’m afraid I’m going to have to let it pass.

Some of you of course are thinking, “oh Royce, as usual, over thinking reactions and keeping your standards impossibly high means no one will ever do anything right by you.” I assure you, they can, have, and will again one day…one day.

But I digress into the nitty gritty of this particular exchange. Allow me to flow some information your way. 6 and I have been chatting on and off for months, pretty standard, I don’t hold random dating website/app chatter in super high regard, so it’s always off and on with me. But, 6 and I did make the jump to phone number exchange, a bit more personal since a direct line could be had and there was no excuse of “I haven’t logged on for a few days.” Here is where our story gets going.

I’m pretty good when it comes to texting, I like to think I’m a good communicator (overall I mean, sometimes feelings are hard, but that’s different, when it comes to witty text banter, I’m about it). I have been working pretty harsh hours lately, and 6 knows that. He knows what’s on the line, what my schedule is like lately and how stressful and exhausted it makes me, and that only pertinent information in my life will be responded to when I’m under such duress. I laid that out on the table from the get go. I’ve also informed him that it’s not personal when I don’t respond to texts, sometimes, I just don’t because there is nothing to respond to.

This is a screen capture of a portion of our text conversation which has led me to just stop and be done, because I just can’t anymore.

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“Oh well…take it EZ”

Seriously 6? Seriously? Mind you, this is NOT the first time in the past three weeks that we’ve been texting that he’s gone the “oh well guess you’re not into me” freaking Eyore syndrome, which is why I’m done. Insecurity, not sexy. Also, just cause you send me a text message of a smiley, or the word “Sexy” doesn’t endear me nor require me to follow up in anyway, that’s not a conversation, nor a conversation starter.

Interactions like this happen all the time to me and they are just awful. I understand not being a super confident guy, hell, I’m insecure with the best (or worst) of them. That doesn’t mean that I automatically go all self depreicating and “woe is me” if someone doesn’t respond to me, in what I feel is a timely fashion. Their timeline, is not my timeline. I do not feel entitled to a person’s time or energy if the only thing tying us together is a few weeks of banter over text messaging, so I’m not sure why they do. And it exhausts me.

So sorry 6, moving onto 7, whomever that may be.

Day 01,13

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It’s great bike riding weather someone said. I’ve been lifting weights all winter, so it’s time to get outside I told myself. Well, I’m 3 miles from work and am contemplating throwing myself in a freshly melted lake to end it all. Starting off with a 7 mile ride was not the best idea.