The Ways I See The Places I’ve Lived

Colorado, Chicago, London, San Francisco, and The South


Colorado

Sometimes I hesitate to tell people I’m from Colorado. I’ll say “Chicago,” or the suburb of Denver where I grew up, or I’ll change the subject to ask: “so, what’d you have for breakfast last weekend??” Just to avoid hearing That Response.

“Omg I love Colorado…!”

*Sigh.* No. You don’t.

You only see her as your personal playground. You like the bits and pieces and connotations (“weed” and “skiing” and “snow” and “The Great Outdoors!”) that bring you pleasure. And that’s not love.

Colorado is dear to me in the way everyone’s hometown is. I love her not as a point of pride (I don’t even smoke weed or really ski), but rather because she was a backdrop to the first 24 years of my life. We know each other like family. I love her in her vast ugliness; in her complexity and imperfect, barren bits, like the ugly stretch of I-70 just north of Denver and the Purina dog food factory. I see her history — like her open farmlands where many Republicans still live, over everyone’s shoulder, opposite from where they’ve focused their sight on her peaks and loins — and embrace her growth, even if that means traffic.

I see Colorado for everything she really is — the washed-out grays of pavement and winter fields, the dusty gray-green of pine trees, grays so bright it burns your brains out. And driving. A lot of driving.

And I love her enough to pick up the pieces and curl up with her at the end of it all, when everyone else is done.

I won’t go back any time soon — partly because she is everyone else’s playground, and partly because I’m off playing on my own — but I may eventually.

My favorite thing about Colorado: everyone I love most is still there

Chicago

A great, lumbering cow of a city that can’t get over its own past.

Chicago is heavy and old. Not the “cute, sweet-cranky little old lady” old like Boston, but old in a “just weirdly outdated” way. It’s that stale diner with brown pleather seats and formica counters and chipped, yellowing linoleum on the way to the bathroom — the place you keep going because they’ve got “the best burgers” and the waitress is always beaming like it’s the best day of her life and they’ve always got the game on. But mostly because you’ve always gone, so why stop now? Traditions are important. Who cares everyone’s still making the same jokes? (Goats, cheese borgers, Cubbies— daa Bears!)

I lived there for five years, though, and am very grateful for all the opportunities she gave me — if you want to build a career, it’s a fine place to do it. That, and the people are stupid friendly. Like if you somehow manage to get lonely (or offended) in Chi-Town, you are definitely doing it wrong. You can’t not make friends. They won’t let you.

Chicago is drinking. And eating. And socializing — mostly small talk, but you can talk about the important things like boating and sports and work as well. Then more drinking, and eating. And working. Chicago is nothing if not a good “work hard, play hard” mentality. Because Chicago is also a golden retriever.

My favorite thing about Chicago: the people — and by that I mean the men. Midwest men are, as a whole, crème de la crème, salt of the earth sort. (I’ll include Colorado men in that.) Not all of them — there are still bad eggs — and not that there aren’t great men elsewhere, because there are, so don’t @ me over this — I know it’s not scientific. But, overall, men west of the Appalachians and east of the Rockies are pretty great.

London

No thank you please, London.

London is the old, weird uncle in the room whom everyone is pretending is still relevant (except that one adoring niece, who is legit impressed with his glassware collection and pronunciation of “aluminum.”) It’s that oddball, older woman still wearing fur and drinking G&Ts but also has some serious upper lip hair and fake pearls and lipstick on her teeth. (London is also pissy I would even say that — “total bollocks!” — so you can see how they are a people who could also forget “time” and “change” pertained to them.)

London is a caricature of itself and they either don’t know or don’t care.

Between the price point, the exchange rate, the bad food, the lack of culture (for a watered down, stolen version of every other country’s culture, simply visit any British museum), the tourism, and the men (and their idea of “flirtation,” which is: to insult), I can’t say I’m eager to ever go back.

My favorite thing about London: how easy it was to get out of London. You can fly to Any Other Place In Europe for like £17— huzzah.

Oh, and their yogurt! They use like 1/100th the sugar America does and it was so good I couldn’t eat ours after I got back. (Also, muesli ftw.)

San Francisco

She’s a one-size-too-small, ragged, old, smelly, lumpy sweater from a thrift shop, but the weave is fascinating and the wool was once high-grade, so it’s charming even in its grossness.

She’s an introverted woman, both young and old all at once, who’s a little cool to the touch, with unkept hair and roughed up knees and an absent-minded gaze but a biting tongue, and she’s all wrapped up in that gross sweater, weirdly nonchalant about all the mostly socially-inept guys (we’re so far from the midwest…) making the room a little unbearable all around her.

My favorite things about the city, in no particular order:

  1. The hard boiled eggs in baskets on the counters of most coffee shops and convenience stores
  2. The texture and feel of it (see above)
  3. The mind-bogglingly-massive industrial structures in the water off of the east bay, with their big cranes and shipping containers from Asia, stacked higher than small cities… I could stare at them forever and just get lost trying to measure all that
  4. The healthy food options… I barely have to try and I trip onto these incredibly good fresh mixed salad places with local prod and seasonal shit and it makes me so happy.
  5. The hills. I lived in Nob Hill and worked in SoMa and walked to and from work each day. I hadn’t been there even a couple weeks when I noticed my butt and legs had taken on definition I’d never seen. (As an aside: in San Francisco, it really can be “uphill both ways.”)
  6. The motorcycles.

My least favorite things about the city aren’t nearly as interesting, because they’re the same as everyone’s least favorite things about the city. It’s gross. It’s full of phlegm and human feces and syringes and trash. That, and it’s expensive. But mostly it’s gross.

The South

If you found my review of the other cities negative — or you were hoping for a real good curve ball — you’re in luck, because: I weirdly adore the south.

The south is a sweet little dog — either dirty from being outside or only outside when it’s nice out — but either way, ever-ready to roll onto her back and show you her belly for a rub. She’s a honey-suckling lamb.

I don’t know what it is, man…

First of all, the weather and trees. Man, do I love me some humidity (seriously. Don’t make it weird) and I love me some trees and the south has both in spades.

After that? The south makes me laugh. Everything in the south is so damn funny. Mostly I’m laughing at them, but they don’t even care, and it all endears me to them more.

What’s funny, specifically? Dude — everything.

Their idea of “snow” — and their reaction to it. Their idea of a “city” and “traffic.” The way they stare at me, unable to compute, when I say I rode a motorcycle from Chicago. The way they rush to assure me “oh, sweetie —don’t worry! It’ll happen soon!” when they find out I’m not married, leaving me laughing “lol, oh god — bless your heart” because I’m in no hurry to get hitched. Their accents. Their terrified (and terrifying) driving. Their food. (Dudes, the south adds sugar to everything. They have “balsamic vinaigrette” so thick with sugar it barely pours. How is that not hilarious??)

My least favorite thing about the south is the lack of gritty, authentic, diverse culture. But you can’t say so, because they’re so eager to point out, “honey — there’s a Popeyes and a Cracker Barrel just down the street!” Which, of course, has to make you laugh.

My favorite things about the south: is, first, what many other transplants hate — there’s “nothing here;” nothing to subscribe to; no even real “tourism” to speak of. Unlike many other areas (especially cities), which give off a feel of, “Welcome! Here’s your sports jersey and your new favorite drink,” the south doesn’t really give a damn. If you want to hang out, you can. If you want to do something cool, have at it. Ain’t nobody gonna fight you off with a bat over it.

My real favorite thing about the south, though, is that my partner’s here — I moved here for him, and wouldn’t be here at all if he wasn’t.

The first time I visited Chicago (at the urging of my then-boyfriend who wanted to move back there), I realized: “I don’t want to live here.” I obviously did anyway— and I never stopped feeling that way about the city. For five years.

By contrast: the first time I visited the south, I asked myself, “could I live here?” and was flooded with the thought of my now-partner and realized,

“I’m already here.”

It’s not like I’ll be here forever, but the south makes me pretty happy for right now. Well, that and my partner (who does even more, and will for longer.)

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