If I truly hated someone and had Zeus-like powers, I would bestow upon my Sisyphus the following punishments:
1. The stomach flu, five times a year at occurring randomly with the first wave striking whilst en route to a function or something – either way, far away from the home toilet
2. Have only $.58 in his/her bank account for two weeks
3. Pack to move a few states away once a year
Except for the stomach flu (which admittedly, I live in near-constant fear of after experiencing once), this has been my life for the last month. Packing to move is I think one of those Top 5 Most Stressful Life Events, if I’m not mistaken. Boy howdy. Since 2001, this is the ninth time I’ve moved. Nine times. And even now my stuff is mostly going into storage so there’s a tenth move coming down the pipe eventually.
I knew that Cleveland was going to be temporary, in spite of how much I’ve come to love it in the last several months. I often roll around in my head how to adequately articulate the differences between Chicago and Cleveland for those that ask, and I think a lot about the stuff I know I’ll miss (not to mention the people, don’t even get me started there). The best way I can explain it is this: when people meet in Chicago there’s a particular urgency to form connections and relationships because there are so many people, and finding some that you get along with is vital and precious thus the effort to keep them around. In Cleveland (and I’m sure other smaller cities and towns worldwide), it’s a long game. Because transplants are rare, the urgency to make connections and new friends simply isn’t a factor. It takes a long time to break into circles even if you’re greeted by grins from the same faces over and over again.
The difference is quality. Once that particular ‘stranger danger’ wall is broken through, the friendships are definitely legit. Casual high fives turn into do-anything-for-you caliber relationships whereas by contrast in Chicago, you’ll never be short someone to go drinking with but if you had a crying bad day you most likely won’t call the same people to talk about it. I remember when I moved away, people were bummed out but these were people who almost never called to see what I was up to or that I’d make plans with. It was more that a person was leaving a giant flock instead of This Person is Leaving, so I began to resent people who were all, “Awww, you’re LEAVING?!”, it seemed so empty. Here, they’ve come out of the woodwork to say goodbye. They’re avoiding their 11pm bedtimes just so they can meet my girlfriend who’s flying in tonight to help.
It’s true that you find out who your friends are during a move. Moving SUCKS and unless you’re Rockefeller, you don’t have a ton of cash to spend on beers and pizza in appropriate “thank you” amounts (which also sucks). Thing is though – this week and last I’ve had offers of cars to run errands, more boxes than I can handle with more being set aside (not true, there are never enough), lots of hands to help pack up the truck tomorrow, a girlfriend flying in tonight to help me and then drive back on Friday… it’s overwhelming at times.
I tend to think I’m alone a lot in everything. It’s part of some weird isolationist thing I have in my brain where it’s a cross between thinking people aren’t including me and me sometimes simply wanting space and while that’s not always wrong or bad, it does become a problem during times of actual need such as this. I needed to ask for help and I don’t do that well. I didn’t need someone to drive back with me, but it sure will be nice. I don’t need to borrow a car in an hour to run my VCR and all my VHS tapes down to a chef I’ve come to know (who collects them), but I knew that I could ask and it would be there. It’ll be my last little jaunt down the Detroit Shoreway and glimpse of Cleveland’s skyline which having a photographer’s mind, is important for me to see.
It’s not that everything’s cheaper or the apartments huge and beautiful. It’s not the seasons because I’m used to those. The food and drink are amazing here and it is perhaps the best thing it has going for it right now. It’s not the all-day Sundays at my corner bar with my new friends or Monday night trivia (which we dominated, thanks). It’s not the quaint newness of living in a city many times smaller than the one I came from. As I sit here during what may be the last time I’m alone in my very own apartment for what may be a long while to come, I store up the memories and hold them close. A few established relationships fell by the wayside during my tenure and while part of that is sad, what I’ve gained in knowledge of myself and the experience of a new town is priceless. I’m ready to go home. I’m ready to have another Christmas with John and walk around the city during snow and lights and Bears game Sundays and all that comes with December in Chicago, my beloved Chicago. It’s time to go home but Cleveland, you have meant as much to me as the most major events of my life to date. I love you, I will visit and I will preach your gospel of awesomeness to everyone that asks. Thank you, thank you, thank you.