Sweet Home Chicago: “Part VII – Only in Dreams”

This would be my last morning in Chicago for the foreseeable future. My cheeks had received the workout of a life from all the smiling, talking and laughing that I had done. For four days I did not bother to look at the clock. Or check out what day it was on the calendar. Time had no meaning. All there was and all I wanted to be in was the now. The only place I wanted to be was next to her. I had found after all these years the one thing that I had been missing all my life. The unadulterated love of someone that did not have to love me. I had never felt more alive than I did on that first trip to Chicago. And now it was over.

When I woke up that morning I couldn’t  motivate myself to get out of bed. I must have stared up at the ceiling in my darkened motel room for about an hour. Reality had been a good enough sport for allowing me to live uninterrupted in a fantasy world for 4 days. But apparently enough was enough, and it felt it was due time I snapped back out of it. In a few hours the Lake Shore Limited would be taking me back east. In less than a day’s time I would be staring at the ceiling above my own bed. Back to my old life. And every beautiful second that I had experienced during my time in Chicago would be relegated to memory. That was the single worst thought I could possibly muster at that moment. What exactly did I have to go back too? Granted my family was there. My mom, father, brother and sister who I loved with all my heart despite all the problems we had. Not to mention a small group of close knit friends that never allowed me to sink to seep into the abyss. But that wasn’t enough for me. I realized that. There was no future for me in NYC. As much as I loved that city, and the ten million characters that call it home, I knew I no longer belonged there. It wasn’t that I had fallen in love with the city of Chicago. It was a beautiful town. But compared to the city that never sleeps, Chicago was nothing more than a quaint, sleepy little town suffering from a big city complex. However Chicago had one thing going for it that New York did not. And that was her.

I knew Jess would be arriving shortly to pick me up at the motel. We had agreed that she would come over early so we could have breakfast and spend a few hours in the city before I left. After a lot of hesitating I was finally able to get myself out of bed. I hit the shower, put on my clothe, and crumpled all my belonging into my book bag and suitcase. I turned on the TV, sat on the edge of the bed and waited for the wifey to arrive.

I was scared. I’m not clairvoyant. But when you are a bit of an introvert, you spend a lot of time observing people. You live a little through them. You become pretty familiar with human behavior. And after a while you end up observing people so much that you can come up with some pretty good assumptions on how certain situations will play out. For months Jess and I had been talking on the phone and chatting online. For almost 5 months that had satisfied us. It was fun. It was something that we kind of did to fill the time. But after spending the last few days with each other, a new reality was born. Going back to chatting and talking on the phone would no longer suffice. We knew exactly what it felt like to be in each others arms. To be in each others presence experiencing life together. To try to go back to the status quo would be impossible. Perhaps we could make a long distance relationship work for a little while. I had no doubt we could make it work for a few weeks. Maybe, just maybe, if I was able to muster a few return visits every few months I might be able to make it last a year or two. But the cold reality was that our love would be to strained by the distance. Eventually Jess would tire of waiting for me, and some other guy would come along, someone that wouldn’t love her as much as I did, and would be willing to sacrifice as much as I was willing to sacrifice for her, but at least he was there, in the flesh. Or perhaps I would meet someone that was nowhere near as special to me as Jess had become. Someone that wouldn’t laugh at my jokes like she did. Someone that didn’t actually find me kind of cute like Jess did;  but who would allow me to play with her tits every now and then whenever she needed some attention. The writing was on the wall. It would only be a matter of time before the relationship that meant so much to me would be over. Unless I figured out something soon. It all felt hopeless.

******

After the wifey arrived, and I checked out of the motel, we followed the itinerary by going for some breakfast. I wasn’t hungry, but I was feeling devastated, which in turn made me want to eat. We drove toward the city and stopped at an IHOP along the way. We shared some more laughs while we ate our breakfast. I had gone with some type of omelet. I’m almost sure the wifey went with some fruity pancakes of some kind. We were both trying our best to hide the sadness that was slowly coming up from within. We reminisced and laughed out loud about the events from the past few days as if we were recalling an old memory from another life. It all felt bittersweet.

It was another beautiful day in the city. Jessie suggested that we should spend the last few hours by the lake. I thought that would be perfect and agreed wholeheartedly. We traveled down Lake Shore Drive that sunny morning. Music was blasting from the car stereo. Not much was being said. My mind couldn’t help but continue trying to predict the future. We pulled of on the Montross exist and found a parking spot right across the street from the entrance to Montrose Dog Beach.

We passed through the gate that is meant to keep the dogs from running away and walked down the concrete pathway that led onto the beach. Once there I was surprised to see dozens of dogs running around, playing and chasing each other as their adopted parents talked amongst themselves. I had never seen so many dogs just being free, with their goofy dog grins and wagging tales just having the time of their lives. The blue sky and equally blue waters of the lake just made for the perfect back-drop. We watched the dogs play for a little while. Laughed at some of the silly things some of them did. It made me wonder if their were any dog parks in NYC. I mean I was certain there had to be. I just didn’t know of any. There was so much about of my home town I had never bothered to see. Never went into the twin towers. I never visited Lady Liberty at Ellis Island. Never saw a Yankee game at the old Yankee Stadium. I never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. I’m not even sure if I had even been in a car as it drove through it. The thought made me feel like NYC was even less of a home than it already was.

After a while Jess suggested we walk down the length of Montrose beach. I took turns between holding her hand or placing my arm around her as we slowly made our way towards a building that was built to look like a grounded ferry boat. It may sound funny to you, but the fact that I was holding her hands and hugging her as much as I did really shows how much I loved her. I’ve never been big on public displays of affection. Holding hands and hugging always made me feel a little anxious. I read somewhere that folks with ADHD don’t like doing those kinds of things because it make them feel a little trapped. It brings on some anxiety. Off course I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew was that I wanted to hold on to her for as long as I possibly could.

I knew we didn’t have much time left, but I didn’t want to go to Union Station yet. So I asked Jess if it was O.K. if we drove down to road and see if we could find one last spot to chill until it was time to go to the station. We hopped back in the car and made our way down Sheridan Road. We drove past Loyola University and hit the hipster part of Rogers Park. I’m not exactly sure how exactly we came across the secluded patch of beach known as the Rogers Park Ave Beach, which was was hidden behind a row of apartment buildings right off Sheridan Road, but we both deemed it a worthy spot to spend our last hour together.

There we so many feeling bubbling up from within. I could feel it coming. It started like a little a trickle of water coming through a crack in the soil. At first it seem small and insignificant. But ever time I took notice of what I was feeling the emotions became stronger. It was if years of frustration, and heartbreak where being unleashed. And I had no way of containing it. The trickle turned into a pool, while the increased pressure building up down below threatening to unhinge me on the spot. This would be 5 years before I suffered my first anxiety attack. 5 years before I would know what it was like to lose control of my senses. When my grandmothers, my grandfather, my dog, my homeboy Angle, all died I failed to shed a single tear. I sat there and watched the events of 9/11 unfold like so many millions of people that day on the television. I saw the dark grey smoke rising in the horizon as the towers collapse and the fire raged in ground zero. Yet my eyes did not allow a single tear to be dropped. I’ve had terrible fights with my father, had suffered a number of self inflicted humiliations, and up to that day I never once cried. I could show anger,and rage. I could yell with the best of them. I could hurt myself in all different manners. But I could never, ever make myself cry. Yet as we walked into the little secluded Rogers Park Ave Beach that sunny morning that was about all I could think of doing. I wanted to weep. It would be only a matter of time.

Roger Park Ave Beach reminded me a bit of some of the small parks that I would frequent back home. It had a few benches where old folks would sit on and spend a couple of hours loading the local wildlife with an obscene amount of carbs. Where back home there would have been a fenced in black top, basketball court or a couple of handball courts, Rogers Park had a tennis court, including nets. Off course that was where the similarities came to an end. Because I knew of no park in NYC that had a rocky beach with an unobstructed view of an inland ocean that went as far as the eye could see.

There was no one in the park that morning. It felt like the entire lake was ours. We watched the gulls fly about without a care in the world. Just allowing the winds to guide them to wherever it deemed fit. I envied those feathered bastards. They could go wherever they wanted. They could stay if they choose to. I wished I could stay. We sat on steps leading to what I imagine was an old pier that had rotted away at some point in the distant past. We sat there and talked. It was the first time that either of us dared to admit that my visit was coming to a close. I remember looking over to Jess and thinking that I might never see her again. I told her that I would miss her more that she could ever understand. It was at that moment, as I heard myself say those words out loud, that the small emotional spring that had been developing within me for possibly years, exploded into a full blown geiser. I couldn’t catch my breath. The more I looked at her the more it hurt. The first tears came rolling down my cheeks.

*******

I had been a bit of an emotional wreck as we made our way to Union Station. I was trying my best to compose myself. But it was all for not. Something had taken hold of me. Something deep and primal and far beyond the reach of logic and reason. Whatever this was it needed to come out, and it would not cease until it felt it was well and done. I had a complete breakdown when we parked the car outside of Union Station. The waves of emotion were so powerful that I had no hope reigning it in. I probably hadn’t cried that hard since I was a small child. Imagine a 6’1 450lbs man crying uncontrollably. Sobbing as if he was mourning for the passing of everything that he held true and dear in his heart. I remember looking into the wifey’s eyes and she was both startled and yet very moved by my pathetic display. She hugged me as hard as she possibly could. I told her how much I loved her. I told her how much she meant to me. I told her I didn’t want to leave her. That I needed her. We kissed as our tears streamed down our faces like rivers of sorrow.

Time was speeding up. We only had a few minutes left. We made our way toward the line of passengers that were waiting the board the Lake Shore Limited. I had gathered myself just enough to keep it together while I was out in public. However my eyes were beyond watery, puffy and red. I looked as if had spent the morning trying out different blends from Seth Rogen’s secret gonja stash. Thankfully I was wearing a beyond unflattering pair of prescription sunglasses. I didn’t look cool in them, but at least I could see the world around me without the world having to see the sorry state I was in.  We held hands until I got up to the line. They would be allowing us to board the train momentarily. We kissed one final time. It wasn’t like one of those kisses that you see star crossed lovers share in the romantic film. It wasn’t a passionate one. It was very short. Very sweet. The kind of kiss you reserve for someone that you love but know you must let go. It felt like the kiss you plant on a lovers lips right before they close the casket.

It was then I told Jess that maybe I would be back in a couple of months. Hopefully before Christmas. She smiled sadly. We both knew I was laying. I didn’t have the means to make it back in that short of a span of time. But I felt the need to say it anyway. Maybe it would give her the glimmer of hope she needed, and buy me the time I required to come up with a way of coming back to her. I told her I loved her. She said she loved me too. Then she walked away.

I looked on as Jess walked away from me. She was steady and her step had a certain level of determination. I watched her. I could see that she had brought a hand up to her face. My guess was to wipe away a tear. I waited for her to turn around one last time. I wanted to be granted one last glimpse of the face that had made me so fucking happy during my time in Chicago. But she never did. She walked straight on and eventually turned a corner. And just like that she was out of my life. I had never felt more alone than I did at that moment. I turned around and waiting patiently for the boarding call to be made.

20 minutes later I sat alone in a partially filled train coach on the Lake Shore Limited. The seat next to me was not occupied so I was able to just plant my book back next to me, hoping that it would discourage anyone from sitting next to me. I wanted to be alone. Just me and my thoughts. I pulled out the discman. Popped on my ear phones and played a CD that Jess had made for me some month earlier. As much as it hurt me that day to think about her, I made sure I bathed myself in her memory. I wanted the hurt to course through me. I wanted to make sure that I never forgot that feeling. That pain would be my inspiration. It would become a spark. I would use that hurt that was tearing me and half and make it my own personal defibrillator. It would spark my fat ass back to life. I had something to work for. Something to strive. I had someone in my life that I didn’t not want to let down. I was going to be back with her. I didn’t have the slightest clue how I was fucking going to do it. Again, I had no job, no degree, no prospects. But I convinced myself I would figure it out. I would be seeing Jessie again. And when I did, there would be no goodbye’s.

To Be Concluded: Sweet Home Chicago: “Part VIII – On The Road Again”

Last day of my first trip. Rogers Park Ave. Beach. September 2002.
Last day of my first trip. Rogers Park Ave. Beach. September 2002.

Music to Get Lost in – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Cover of "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill...
Cover via Amazon

I was in the middle of my morning ritual of reading through the customary doom and gloom news stories that brightens nobody’s day, when I came across a small article that actually brought up happy memories. Apparently today marks the 15th anniversary of the release of one of R&B and hip hop’s greatest albums, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I don’t know how this album was received everywhere else, but if you were living in NYC at the end of the summer of 98’ you could not get away from it. But to be honest, I don’t know anyone that wanted to anyway. This album by the incredibly talented and yet probably deeply disturbed Lauryn Hill is a classic in every single sense of the world.

15 years later and the album still sounds just as fresh, powerful, soulful and gritty as it did when it was first released. How many albums can you say that about them? I won’t bother to try and write a review about a 15 year old record, because I’m pretty sure that everything that I could write about this work of genius has already been written. But permit me to suggest something to you. If you haven’t bothered to listen to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill from beginning to end in some time, then I propose you get yourself reacquaint with Lauryn’s seminal work. If you happen to be one of those young bucks who loves good music, but have never had the pleasure to actually listen to the album from beginning to end, or heaven forbid, you never even heard of it, then do your ears and soul a favor and stream that sucka’ like right now. I promise you won’t regret it.

I will end this post by featuring what was probably the most popular track from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, “Doo-Wop (That Thing)”

Sweet Home Chicago: “Part VI – My Kind of Town”

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I wonder if my family ever thought me insane as I was preparing to leave the the School of Hard Knocks aka Queens NY, for the friendly confines of the Windy City, to visit a girl I had met on line. Maybe they didn’t think I was crazy at all. Perhaps they were glad that I was showing interest in something other than music, comic books, and movies. They might have even gone as far as thinking that my little crush on Jess was down right adorable. I’m not sure what they thought at the time. I’ve never bothered to asked them about it either; and I was so self absorbed with this newfound love of mine that I wouldn’t had notice if the world had blown up around me. However I am pretty certain that they never thought that my relationship with Jess was going to be a long term thing. How could it? No matter how close we were in spirit, our bodies were still separated by what must have seen to them as an insurmountable distance. But none of that mattered to me. I was beyond infatuated with Jess. She had lit something within me. Something that was not tangible. I couldn’t place my finger on it. It was driving me. And it was advising me to “GO WEST YOUNG MAN!” So west I went.

My father was kind enough to accompany me to Penn Station on the day I was leaving for Chicago for the first time. It’s funny, but I can’t remember if he passed on any words of wisdom or any quick one liners that might impress the misses while we waited at the station for the boarding call to be made. I’m sure he did, since the man always did love to talk. But I can’t recall anything that may have stuck out. Then again I am pretty surprised I recall anything considering how excited I was. The only thing going through my mind was OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD!

My father was kind enough to hook a brotha’ up with a box of condoms, $300 of spending money, and my round trip Amtrak tickets that cost an additional $66. That was an insane amount of money for that man. He was living a pretty hard existence, and I am sure that he virtually gave me every last cent he had to his name in order to make that trip happen for me. But he thought that it was totally worth it. He was seeing me off as a proud father. In his eyes I was going of on a noble quest. And when I returned, I would be coming back as a conquering hero, and a chip off the old block. He must have thought that once I returned we would finally establish our relationship, all wounds would be healed, and we would be a family again. It sad that things didn’t turn out that way for us. This would be the closest my father and I would get to being best friends again.

The only thing I remember my father saying to me before I went off to board the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, was that he was extremely proud of me, to be very careful, and to “Make sure you enjoy yourself heartbreaker”. I was planning on it. I thanked him for everything. I hugged him. I grabbed my roll on suitcase, my book bag that was carrying a couple graphic novels and my trusty CD player, and boarded the train.

I was about to embark on a 23 hour trip. I had nothing to do but sit on my ass and think. The whole thing seemed so surreal to me. What the fuck was I doing? I started to grow anxious about what I was getting myself into. I hadn’t traveled outside the borders of NYC in almost a decade. Besides Jess I didn’t know anyone in Chicago. I was not familiar with the city. I didn’t know what she had planned, if anything. And worse yet, what if Jess took one look at me and suddenly got a case of cold feet? What if she found me unattractive, unappealing, brash, awkward, fat, ugly, stupid? What if she just outright rejected me? Then what? What the fuck was I going to do? How could I face my family if she did? I didn’t know if I could go through with it. But it was a bit to late to turn back. I tried to push back those thoughts deep into the darkest deepest corners of my mind. But I could hear their echo. I was sure I was setting myself up for a disaster. I loaded Radiohead’s O.K. Computer on the CD player, and quietly watched the world pass.

*******

If my memory does not betray me, the Lake Shore Limited arrived to Chicago Union Station on September 18, 2002, sometime between 11am and 2pm Central Standard time. My train had arrived about 2 hours late. I was tired, sleep deprived, cramped, and was very anxious to get off the train after being encased in a glorified tin-can for almost an entire day. A feeling of great relief came over me as they opened the doors. I grabbed my gear and wobbled my way off the train. My legs and back were as stiff as a board. I hadn’t showered in over a day and I was feeling a little self conscious about it. I was thankful that I had worn my favorite, non wrinkling, blue, Ecco, button down short sleeve shirt. or I would have looked a bigger mess than what I was already feeling. I walked off the platform with my few belongings and dragged my self over to the Union Station Waiting hall where Jess had told me she would be waiting for me.

I remember walking into the cavernous hall and being impressed by the look of the place. The hall had this tall arched ceiling with a skylight which bathed the entire hall with natural light. It reminded me of a smaller yet brighter Grand Central Station. I remember there being several large pillars by almost every doorway and entrance in the hall. I’m not a big architecture guy, but I will say I was digging the design quite a bit. The other thing that stuck out was how clean the whole place was. The entire place had a pristine look, as if I had traveled back in time to when the station had first opened back in 1925. I was also surprised by how deserted the whole place seemed to me. I looked up Union Station on Wikipedia cause I was a bit curious on the history of the place. And it mentions that the station is the “3rd busiest rail terminal in the United States, handling 120,000 passengers on a weekday.” But as whatever deity you prefer as my witness, I swear, I recall asking myself where was everybody. I remember there only being a few stragglers here and there. There must have been thousands of people still waiting around at Penn Station when I had left the day before. Yet here I was standing at what I thought was the main train terminal for the third largest city in the country and it was virtually deserted. Thankfully the lack of people walking about made it fairly easy for me to spot Jess; who was sitting at the far end of one of the benches across the Waiting Hall.

I was anxious. Very, very, anxious. I wasn’t breaking out on cold sweats or anything. But I could feel my heart beating in my chest as if it was trying to bust through my rib cage and hop out before it got ripped out. I made a mental note to get my shit together. I willed my legs to move forward. Jess was sitting on the bench quietly. She was staring down at her cell phone the whole time. I don’t know if she was texting someone who was advising her to keep her rape whistle handy in case anything got out of hand, or if she was just playing some mini game. Whatever it was that she was doing with that phone, sure had her undivided attention, because not once did she ever bothered to look around to see if I was in the room. This gave me the impress that she was just as nervous as I was. That revelation allowed me to feel a bit more at ease.

Jess was wearing basically the same style of attire she wore in the first pic I had ever seen of her. A blue colored short sleeve T-shirt, with another gray long sleeve T worn underneath. She had a pair of form fitting blue denim jeans on, accompanied by a wallet key chain that hung on the side. She had passed on wearing her face stomping boots for a pair of comfy sneakers. Probably to aid in her escape if she had to sprint away from me at a moments notice. Clever girl. And just like in her picture she wore her hair in a tight bun, but with her black curly hair parted straight down the middle. Despite the grungy attire, it was immediately clear to me that she was even more beautiful in person than in any picture that she had ever taken.

It was time for the moment of truth. I made my final approach. I dug deep down into my gut to bring up as much base in my voice as my 400 plus frame could muster, and simply said, “Hey Beautiful.”She looked up at me. Our eyes locked. What would her eyes tell me? Was she happy? Was she relieved? Would she still approve of me? Was I too unattractive? Would they be filled with regret? It was at that moment that she flashed on of the more beautiful smiles that anyone had ever beamed in my direction. She was happy. Genuinely, unapologetically happy to see me. She got up, and we hugged. I didn’t think it was good idea to use that moment to shove my tongue down her throat. After all I had just won my first major victory. I didn’t feel the need to push it. Why run the risk of seeing her go fleeing in to the hills screaming “KILL IT! KILL IT!” The hug would suffice. After the hug she quipped that it was about time I had gotten there. She had been waiting around for two hours 2 hours, because my train had been delayed. Once again the woman was busting my balls. God bless her wicked little heart.

*******

I was exhausted from the long journey and was feeling a little unkempt; I had asked Jess if she minded if I could check into the my motel and possibly take a shower. She happily obliged. I loaded my bags in the back of her sisters CRV, which she had borrowed to pick me up, and we made our way to the town of Willowbrook where the Red Roof Inn I was staying at was located. During the drive we filled the time with the usual senseless small talk that fills conversations when you clearly like someone but don’t want to say anything that might make you come off as a complete idiot. I wouldn’t say that we were tense around each other, but we were being a little guarded.

Jess took the scenic route. I got a clear view of the gorgeous Chicago Skyline. The hustle and bustle of the down town area. The tree lined streets. The ocean like vastness of Lake Michigan. The climate was warm but with a cool breeze that made it nearly impossible to break into a sweat unless you had a grand piano strapped to your back. Chicago reminded me a bit of New York, but with a smaller less chaotic skyline, no syringe polluted waters, and no stab victims being loaded into the back of an ambulance ever dozen blocks or so. It looked like heaven. I complimented Jess on the look and feel of her home town. She joked that she had done her best to fix up the place to make it look good for me. I laughed.

We pulled up into the Red Roof in about 1 hour later. We had spent the whole time growing more comfortable in each others presence. Smiles where being flashed left and right and we had even held hands for part of the way. I was about to start making my move to open the door so I could go to the check-in office, but before I pulled open the handle, I turned back and politely asked “You mind if I give you a little kiss before I go in.” She smiled at me and shyly said yes. So I leaned over and gave her a small little kiss on the lips. We both smiled. I made the move if I was going to open the door for real this time, but I turned to her again and said “O.K. Maybe one more for good measure.” She smiled again and leaned in and kissed me once again. This time with a bit more feeling. I was all smiles. I’ll be back I told her, and I made my way to the office. For the first time I allowed myself to think that this just might workout after all. It was going to be an awesome 5 days.

To be Continued: Sweet Home Chicago Part VII – Only in Dreams

Sweet Home Chicago: “Part V – On the Road to Perdition”

Life can be a bit trying at times. Or a lot, depending on the person. There are so many disappointments to contend with. So many dreams get tossed out or plainly forgotten because of unforeseen circumstances. I’m pretty sure everyone looks around and see all the madness going on around us. Like the story of the 22 year old Australian ball player that got murdered by three teens because they were simply bored.  Then there is our own senseless disregard of the preciousness of every passing second. Every single one of us probably stop in our tracks at some point and ask themselves “what’s the point”? There are no guarantees. Especially for those of us that may not have been born in the most ideal of situations. What’s the point to getting up in the morning to do what it the end may have no real meaning. I think the point is hope. Not the kind of hope used in slogan by politicians. Not the silly hope seen in movies where the hero perseveres and the villain gets his just deserts. I’m talking about the hope to crack a great big chimp smile. Like the one you give an old friend or loved one that you have not seen in ages. The hope to be genuinely amazed by something that is so awe inspiring that it allows you to, if but for a second, to forget about the foolishness in obsessing over acquiring material wealth or climbing the social strata. I’m referring to the kind of hope that inspires you to walk through a minefield day in and day-out because you have faith that a life that is worth risking it all for awaits you on the other side.

That hope was all that I had 11 years ago. It was the thing that pushed me to get into a relationship with a girl that lived 5 states away. It was that hope that led me to reach out to my father for the first time in 3 years. I shutter at the thought about how bad it all could have turned out for me. I’m not sure if I could have recovered if things wouldn’t have worked out between the wifey and I. Luckily for me all the stars aligned just right and that part of my story had a happy ending. Sadly I couldn’t say the same about my father. But we are not at that point of the story just yet.

Cover of "Road to Perdition (Widescreen E...
Cover of Road to Perdition (Widescreen Edition)

It was mid July 2002. My father and I were making major inroads at reestablishing a relationship after 3 years of silence. I had invited him to go see Road to Perdition with me, a film starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig and Jude Law. I was interested in seeing it because I wanted to see what a non superhero comic book movie looked like. My dad wanted to see it because it looked like a great gangster flick with big time actors.

I had traveled into the city to meet up with my dad who was living in Spanish Harlem at the time. It was a warm summer day in New York. We both felt it was a bit of a shame to spend 2 hours in a dark theater when it was so bright outside. But we paid for the tickets anyway and made our way inside.

If I had known then what I know know, I probably would have suggested another movie for us to see. Maybe something like Blade 2  would have been a bit more appropriate for the occasion. You see, Road to Perdition is a comic book movie. It also is a gangster film with a lot of great actors. But above all else, Road to Perdition is a movie about fathers and their sons. About really shitty fathers trying to do right by there not so great sons. Which for us both, it hit a little too close to home.

One of the most important things you have to do when trying to establish a relationship with someone is to suffer a bit of self induced amnesia. You try to forget or at least cover up some of the perceived transgressions that we have suffered in order to get to a better place. Once you are both standing on solid ground, then you can backtrack and go through the long list of shit-tastic events and hopefully make your peace with them once and for all. But you have to get on some sure footing first. Or your attempts of reconciliation will be sunk by the weight of anger and guilt.

When we walked out of that theater there was an awkward silence that hung between us. I could feel resentment coming up from within. My dad was silent. We were alike in many ways so I’m sure that he probably could feel what was boiling up within me. I didn’t want to ruin the day by allowing my anger to get the better of me. I knew that if I started giving the slightest hint of attitude, my father would get upset as well,  and with neither at us being particularly good at defusing a volatile situation, I was sure things would escalation into an ugly argument.

I was trying to figure out how to get past what I was feeling. Even if it was only for a couple of hours until I had a clearer mind set. That was when I thought of her. I looked over to my father and said “So there is this girl that I’ve been talking to a lot lately”. He smiled. He asked me about her. I told him how I met her. About how she lived in Illinois but that we talked every day on the phone. About how I think I really, really liked her. And that I was sure that she really liked me.

We walked around the city that afternoon. Talking about this Jessica chick that had come into my life and who I was crazy about. This made my father share a couple of his love stories. About his first crush in high school. And how he and my mom had become an item. I was surprised by what he said. My father was demonstrating a romantic streak that I had failed to notice in him before. He was genuinely interested in everything I had to say about the girl. And it seemed to me that every few minutes my dad would look at me, shoot me a great big smile, and say “That’s my boy”. He was proud of me. The way he saw it I was showing that Gonzalez charm that he thought women couldn’t resist.

He asked me if I had ever met her. I told him I hadn’t. That she lived to far away and I just didn’t have the money to go see her. Before we parted ways that day, he told me, “I want you to go home and look up prices for plane, busses and train tickets for Chicago. If it’s not too expensive then maybe we can make something happen”. I didn’t want to get to excited. I’ve been let down by him on too many occasions to keep count. Yet I couldn’t help it. The thought of taking a trip to the midwest to met Jess instantly drove me crazy. I agreed. I told him I would do it that very same night.

My father walked me over to the entrance to the R train that would be taking me back to Queens. He told me he would be expecting my phone call the following day about those ticket prices. I said I definitely would, with an almost child like glee. He smiled, gave me a hug and said I’ll talk you tomorrow then you Heartbreaker you. Love you”. I told him that I loved him too, and I thanked him for wanting to make that happen for me. He told me “Anytime. You’re my first born. Never forget that.”

I went down the stairs to enter the subway station feeling as high as I could possibly get. I was going to get to see Jessica. And my father of all people was going to make this happen. I couldn’t believe my luck. All of a sudden the road I was on was paved in gold. And it lead straight to Chicago. I couldn’t wait.

Sweet Home Chicago:  Part VI – My Kind of Town