So, it's finally happened. After several months of searching, after quite a few setbacks from university housing, from the Chicago housing market, and two weeks of absolute craziness, I have moved into a new apartment. And today is the first day that I've managed to conquer enough of the unpacking that my apartment actually looks reasonably under control. I still have about 20 big boxes of books to unpack, bookshelves to buy, and tons of stuff to sort through, but for now I have a new home.
I suppose moving is rather routine for many people, but for me it's a bit of a dramatic event. I've only lived at two other addresses in Chicago - both run by the university housing office - and although I was only at the first for a year, I've been at the second address for most of a decade. In fact, I was informed about a year ago that I was the longest continuous resident in that building of 70 units. I'm not entirely sure why I've stayed there so long, although I have a tendency to settle into a place. And it did have a lot of things going for it. It was right near a grocery store, within a mile of campus, it had plenty of windows facing three different directions, great cross ventilation, one of the most wonderful trees just outside the living room windows, the sound of crickets at night while I slept, and great afternoon sunlight that would drift in through the western windows and settle on the sofa for perfect afternoon naps. But the place wasn't all that great. For one thing, the ceiling was falling apart, the furniture was broken even before I moved in and the university refused to replace the broken items, there were worries of asbestos, and I thought the apartment might be giving me a strange chronic cough. So I decided it was time to look for a new place.
The search lasted several months, in the course of which I consulted a half dozen different services, walked into two dozen different buildings, looked at just about every apartment building I could want to live in - which I actually find to be sort of fun, must be my inner architect/interior designer - before I found the perfect apartment building. And even then there were quite a few hassles. The upshot of it all was that it took about three weeks for me to find out whether or not I got the apartment I applied for, giving me only two weeks to pack up everything (while working full time), and then my previous landlord wouldn't let me stay in my apartment until the new apartment was available, so I had to do this annoying double move: once into a storage unit, and once out of the storage unit into my new apartment. That was really annoying, since I had to pay for moving twice, and a storage unit, and I also had to find a place to stay. Fortunately, one of my dissertation committee members called out of the blue and told me that she needed someone to look after her apartment and car. That was fantastic, since not only did I have a place to stay for most of the week, but I also had a car to use to do annoying things like purchase boxes, and to move those last annoying items after I returned the truck. I then worried about whether I could afford the place, but then out of the blue the research firm offered me a raise and appointed me to be the senior corporate and market analyst. And finally, my friends Katie and Paul offered me a place to stay for the remaining few days, and to cook me food. Actually, Katie and Paul really come across as the heroes of this whole move, helping me on both days to move tons and tons of boxes. The move really would have been impossible without them. Likewise for my friend Brian who drove me all over the place and moved boxes on the first day.
Let me just say what moving is. At least four times in the course of the two weeks I was packing boxes, and preparing everything, the people around me used the identical phrase: moving is a bitch. It really is the perfect way of describing it. Moving initially seems like such a wonderful companion, it promises you a new future, a new beginning, wonderful changes and possibilities. But then, when it's 3 AM and you have to move another 20 boxes out of your apartment in the next two hours, and tip toe them up to your professor's apartment without disturbing the neighbors so you can fill the car up again, and you have a list of all the hundreds of things you need to do, and you are worried about returning the truck on time, and where the hell you put those important papers, you finally realize what sort of a thing you've committed yourself to, and the only thing you can do is wish that the whole process will be over with. Yes, moving is a bitch.
But now that I've gone through it, I can say it definitely has worked out. I have a fantastic apartment. It's arguably in the best part of the city, right next to the bike path that will take me the eight miles down to the university without any traffic, with a bus that will take me right to the university - stopping right in front of the building doorway. It's in the same building as my favorite grocery store and café, one of the best wine markets in Chicago, and the new Delacosta restaurant and club. It's right across the street from the best new movie theaterin the city, and on the waterfront. It's also high up: almost the 40th floor, with a spectacular view. It's almost too good a view to imagine. I think that Katie described it best when she put down a box and said something like, "Holy Mary mother of Jesus." I mean it looks out over the lake with the endlessly changing shadows of the clouds on the water, with a view of the locks that let boats into the Chicago River, a beach to the north, a harbor to the south, and what I think is the best part: a view of the two main lighthouses of the Chicago harbor (I'm rather fond of lighthouses, having grown up with one across the bay in Provincetown).
And at night, with Navy Pier lit up and the fireworks launching nearby, it's pretty tough to beat. It's also big for a studio/convertible, with a large kitchen, and a library (well it's just a nook behind the kitchen, but it's going to be the library). And there's a washer/dryer in the unit, which for me is just about the most amazing thing. Plus the building has bike storage, a deck on the 16th floor with gas grills, an indoor swimming pool, sauna and steam room. In fact, it's such a nice building, that I've been told oftentimes movie stars stay here when there filming in Chicago.
So those of you that are in different cities, there's a new place for you to come and stay . . . although I should add that although there's parking in the building, it is sort of expensive, and you'll probably want to wait a bit, since I still only have the futon that Sheila gave me. I hope to get a real bed in the near future, although the futon actually is really comfy, and it is nice to sleep in front of the windows and next to the stereo. Actually, speaking about the futon: Sheila, much of my furniture in the living room is from your old apartment, so you may feel right at home here! Actually, I should probably add that there is a thin possibility that I won't be living in this apartment for the whole year. Yes, paradise has fine print. The only reason I can afford this place is that there is a rider on the lease that if the apartment sells, I'll have to move out within the year, and possibly as soon as a month afterwards. Considerations such as this even make me wonder how much it would cost to buy the place, but since I may be out of Chicago in as soon as a year, I suppose that doesn't make too much sense even if it turned out possible. But it's really a great apartment.
But of course, there will be things I'll miss from Hyde Park. Yes, it's an insular community that really tests one's willpower after five years, but it's a quiet place, with plenty of trees, perfect places to go running, plenty of places to eat breakfast, great used bookstores, the fantastic Seminary Co-Op Bookstore, arguably the best single shot espresso in Chicago (see my posting on espresso), and a beautiful park along the water. In fact, on one of the last nights that I was in Hyde Park I went for a bike ride along the water, and there was a beautiful full moon overhead, it was completely quiet, except for the lapping of the water, and the lights from the building on the point cast a soft glow over the water. A spectacular scene, and it was a nice farewell from my old neighborhood. And of course, I haven't left the neighborhood. I still will be spending most of my time down there at the U of C, and at the research company I work for. Fortunately, these places are only a short bike ride away, and biking along the lake is a fantastic commute.
Anyway, a new beginning in Chicago. And I firmly believe in the importance of geographical location. Terroir, if you will. And just as a bottle of wine can reveal important aspects of the place it is from, I think we all carry parts of our terroirs with us. This goes beyond our accents, and the information we actively learn about from the world around us, but it can be detected in even the most insignificant aspects of our personalities and lifestyles. I have no idea how I will change now that I've moved out of my old apartment, and into an entirely different part of the city, but the hope is that now with a change of viewpoint, it will be so much to the better, that I can finally get that darn dissertation done!