From Chicago with Love

I left The Windy City on August 14th. To be totally honest I had checked out from my life there long before wheels left the tarmac. The plan was to get out of Dodge while the getting was good. Life, and the things the kept me in it, was turning into a routine and that routine was closing in on me. I was building walls around myself every that day my passport went unstamped. My life in Chicago was not a life that deserves much paperwork from the complaint depeartment, and despite my best attempts to polarize Chicago Matt and wayfarer Matt I can only say amazing things about my friends, my work, and my city. I will do my best to ride the fence around First World Problemsville and as usual I will error on the absurdly overzealous side with a hint of sarcasm and inappropriate wordplay.

My good fortunes have lead me to meet incredibly interesting people at bars in Spain and alleys in Chicago. I will admit that when I am in Spain I am probably going to be on my way to La Tomatina to take part in one of the best examples of controlled chaos that I have yet to see with my own eyes. When I am in an alley in Chicago it is most likely because the line at the bathroom is longer than my bladder cares to wait. Judge not lest ye be judged, namaste, and cheers.My job is to paint as interesting a picture as possible around a fairly uninteresting life through a series of “Once in a lifetime,” experiences. After I finish with the story telling I am going to try to convince all of you to come along for as many of those “Once in a lifetime,” experiences as you can handle. For all of the hours that I put in behind a bar, a great bar where some of my best friends still work, I have been rewarded with sites, sounds, smells, and conversations that makes every single Jäger bomb worth serving. The faces of each dickbag that wanted to see manager, birthday girl who wanted a free shot, and all of the investors who just wanted us to treat them like a person almost immediately faded away once I stepped onto the sidewalk at O’Hare. That first step from my apartments backdoor was the culmination of planning, preparing, panic attacks, and finally letting go over the weeks before I finally left and the reward has been more than I ever could have dreamed of.

Before I find myself too far off my written path I am going to share a story about a friend. Herbert, his name is not Herbert but you will get the point, wandered into my bar on a friday like a guy who without an agenda and a smile like someone who was willing to talk to anyone around with ears to hear him. Herbert, in most environments, does not draw attention in a crowd, but my bar was not the kind of place you would expect to see someone like Herbert. With an above average height to match his above average age Herbert was not the standard patron at a Wrigleyville bar on a friday night. Herbert was my kind of guy.

From that night on, and most likely to this day, Herbert would wander into the bar, usually with a week or two in between sightings, and pull up a chair to start chatting up anyone lucky enough to be sitting near him. Herbert knew his whiskeys, drank Guinness and had a wife that no one would have expected. Well you would not expect his wife to be an African American clinical working at a methadone clinic from the far south side of Chicago. I can tell you that she has a personality and can carry a conversation like her husband and lets Herbert out to drink by himself from time to time. After spending enough time talking with Herbert I would not be surprised, or doubt it, if he told me that he was a billionaire. My friend Herbert is a rare kind of person who some people have the undeserving luck of meeting in a bar, starting a conversation and taking several years to finish.

That story brings me all the way back to a very old and very hard chair that can be found on the sixth floor of an equally old and characteristically hard apartment building inside of Changsha, Hunan, China. The windows have a blue film adhered to them in order to give the sky a blue color and mask the standard gray of the afternoon sky. The toilet is a squatty-potty. My stovetop is standard issue camping gear with a propane tank and my bed is comprised of boards and several blankets for a mattress. This is my home for now and more importantly this is where I can drink beer in peace while I submit my fantasy football lineup. My story in China did not start here, but this is where I will be telling it from through a cloud of shitty beer, Chinese wine, and smog.

Putting pen to paper took me longer than I had hoped, but shortly after I had started scrawling my thoughts I decided that they might be worth sharing.


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