Thursday, September 24, 2015

2005 - 2015: The Day I Moved To Chicago

I moved to Chicago on a rainy Sunday.  It was September 25, 2005.  Ten years ago, tomorrow.

8/24/05 - first day home after surgery
The 10 days prior to that date were filled with mixed emotions.  My surgeon had given me a clean bill of health and I was healing at a fast rate, most probably due to my age and the fact that I was in, otherwise, pretty great shape except for some clogged arteries. So I bid goodbye to my parents, which proved more difficult than usual because we all knew that I wouldn't just be a 2.5-hour drive away - I'd be living in a new city in a different time zone where I would know only my roommate Ashley and this new friend, Kevin.  Visiting my folks now would be more of a production and cost, but I vowed to come back for Thanksgiving that year, which I did.

My sister and brother had driven me back to DC on September 15th.  My 5-week ordeal was finally over and I could now return to my life, although my life would be far different than it had been.  I spent the next several days seeing friends for the first time in over a month and telling them all the stories about what I had experienced.  I showed my scars to those who asked and was amused at the amount of interest everyone seemed to take.  What I found really funny were the rumors that had developed.  Apparently, some folks heard that I had died.  Imagine their great relief (I hope) when they saw me again.

I was also shocked by how many people knew what happened.  It surprised me that I was more popular than I realized.  This was before Facebook, so sharing info en mass was tricky.  Either people really cared about me or they just love juicy gossip.  Perhaps, it was both, but knowing DC, it was the latter.

My recent-Ex had a housewarming party the following Sunday, so I went to see the old gang.  It was fun to hang out with them, but I had a strange sense that I had somehow outgrown them all in that short span of time.  Most likely, I was distancing myself from them, knowing I was moving.  I felt more like a spectator than a participant - a feeling I would keep for many weeks.

Unbeknownst to my family, I planned a quick trip to NYC to see friends before flying to Chicago (my mom would have freaked knowing I was going off by myself into a city of 8 millions strangers, so I thought it best to not share the news).  I met my friend Poodle and his boyfriend, Jeff at Chipotle for dinner.  It was important for me to see Poodle because I had forgotten to include him as one of the people my sister was supposed to update on my surgery when it was over.  Poodle heard about my heart attacks and bypasses after-the-fact, and was hurt that something could have happened to me and he would not have known. He had a point.  So I owed him a visit so that he could see I was fine.

Me and Bam Bam, 2005
I also met my friend, Broadway's Michael Hartney, whom I nicknamed Bam Bam.  We had been chatting on AOL for a few months and this was the right time to meet.  In Bam Bam, I found a kindred spirit who was up for ridiculous fun.  We ate crappy food (which I was still allowed to do in order to get my appetite back) and we had the very touristy excursions of visiting the top of the Empire State Building (in the rain) and toured Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum on 42nd Street.  After which, we went to a bar in Chelsea aptly named "The Bar", where I was reintroduced to what it was like to be social again.  It was all silly fun - and just what I needed.

I returned to DC and finished packing the truck that Ashley would drive to Chicago.  Well, actually Ashley and his friends packed the truck.  I still wasn't allowed to move anything heavy.  On the morning of September 25th, Ash and I stood in front of the house and reminisced fondly about the transformations we had lived through and the fun we just KNEW was waiting for us in our new city.  We hugged goodbye and headed to Chicago - he in a rental truck with all our belongings, and me in United Coach.

I was off into the unknown yet again: I didn't have a job lined up, I hadn't seen the apartment Ashley and I would be sharing, and I wasn't even sure how I would get my suitcase in the overhead compartment, seeing as how I still couldn't lift anything over my head.  But it all worked out.

Once I landed, I called Kevin, who was performing the last night of his family circus show in Evanston.  So I dropped off my suitcase and got on the L to go see him.  I went to a coffee shop across from the theater and called him.  Seconds later, a barefoot Kevin came running across a parking lot and greeted me with all the warmth I'd come to expect from him.  And I knew then that everything was going to be good again.

Us, 2005
Maybe more than any other day in my "2005-2015 Retrospective", September 25, 2005 was the day that really changed everything for me.  In a year that would create ripple effects for the rest of my life, this day is the one that has given me the most reward.  I left behind the old life and started a new one.  And I have never looked back.  Moving to DC in 1995 was a smart thing for me to do.  Leaving it and moving to Chicago in 2005 was even smarter.

And tomorrow, exactly 10 years later, I board another plane - this time to visit Europe for the first time with the man I have been lucky enough to spend the last 10 years with.