Heading into 15 years living, learning, and loving in Chicago. I moved to Chicago July 19, 2000, what? Where did time go? What have the last 14 years meant to me? When I graduated from Michigan State it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that I was moving here. Though I did not know anyone in the city, my parents helped me pack up the van and leave 10330 Lloy St. for the last time. What I know for sure is that I was raised in Portage, Michigan, but I GREW UP in Chicago.
I can only imagine the horror my mother, in particular, must have felt dropping me off at my apartment on Kenmore and Montrose, in “North” Wrigleyville as I called it. I’ve been mocked for years about that one, but who wanted to live in Uptown? I was a 24-year-old, Wrigleyville should have been my home. Haha. Though the neighborhood is way more cleaned up now, it still needs more and back then, it needed a lot. There were homeless guys lying around and certainly the Target, et al. were not there to spruce up the streets. I didn’t want to display my fear, so I stayed as strong as a 24-year-old boy could, shaking in his boots. I knew no one and I didn’t know what to do with my time. My second day some drugged up woman got into my building and came to my door asking for money or drugs. I had to shove her out and lock the door. I stayed for 4 days and called my mom crying. She told me to come home for a few days, which turned into two or three weeks. What I know now, 14 years later, is that I could have gone to a bar and sat there for dinner and drinks. I could have gotten out of the apartment and gone for a roller blade down the lake(yes, I still had roller blades then). However, I didn’t have the confidence. What do you do when you are alone, in a city where you know no one, and you have four weeks until work starts? Ah, to do it all over again, I would have stayed. Speaking of staying, I told my mother I would stay in Chicago for a year and see how things go. I have a sneaking suspicion she knew I wouldn’t return to Michigan. The big city is for me. Chicago is where I grew up!
Here’s to 15 years in Chicago with 15 classic, not necessarily classy, times.
TOBs (The OB’s) sorority we created and follow-up initiation ceremony of our ‘Lils.
THE Friendsgiving at Amanda, Jess and Shayna’s – making friends, losing friends, and Sure-Thing Schuering’s bedroom conversations – oh you remember, THAT one!
“Youhoo” dinner at Lucia’s with 15+ bottles of wine, Cary, Charlie, Carrie, Diane and Patty. “Youhoo” who’s taking me home tonight?”
Leaving Starlight Express at intermission to race home to Lesley’s apartment for the show Paradise Hotel. “Yahtzee game on!”
The “Pretty Woman” moment waking up in a hotel room downtown, by myself, opening the curtains and realizing I was at the Swissotel.
Wicked Keggers dancing out of closets (and from under tables) to “Last Dance”, keg stands, and flip cup!
The NSync concert and stalking Joey Fatone – I think I lived in my new Lincoln Park apartment for only a few days. I’d just met my roommate Laura. The night started by going to Soldier Field for the NSync concert with Amanda, Jess, and Deana. Following, we got “word” where the boys would be hanging out. One of the places, Kustom Night Club, was mere feet away from our apartment. We (Laura, neighbor Julie, and I)loaded into Julie’s car and we went on a hunt. Zipping through the streets, on Armitage, off Armitage. On Clybourn, off, Clybourn. We parked the car, then drove again. We sat in an ally until we saw the black SUV pull up. This is it! It seemed after all the twists, turns, and alleys that we were a distance away from our apartment. Julie parked the car again and we hustled to the club. It’s weird to me that we got right in, but we did. We got drinks and waited, waited some more, ordered more drinks and waited longer. Finally, AHHHHHHHHHHH, they arrived, at least that was the buzz in the bar. “OMG, I’m going to meet Justin. OMG!” Imagine all of our dismay when Joey Fatone walked by to the VIP lounge and brushed up against Laura arm. She was sort of excited and pissed at the same time. “OMG, he graced my arm. Why did it have to be Joey? Who likes Joey?” As we left, someone said, “I feel like we are right around the corner from our apartment.” Shortly thereafter, we got to the car and drove approximately 1000 feet back to our apartment.
Market Days 2009 positioning ourselves at Mini Bar both Saturday and Sunday (wash, rinse, repeat) for hours drinking vodka lemonades, meeting the boys from Atlanta, and yes, dancing the night away at Charlie’s.
My Hollywood Night! The Scene: August night, post kickball game, Kit Kat Club, “Dreamgirls” playing, drag queen performing – Dennis and me in our super cute “After School Specials” short red shorts uniforms and a few martinis deep….we enter Kit Kat and as if the spotlight of a Broadway show turned to us we immediately go into Dreamgirls performance mode. We sashayed up and down the bar, full crowd cheering us on as the drag queen was in the back room performing her heart out. The song ends, Dennis and I take a Dreamgirls pose (I’m obviously Beyoncé), and the crowd of people at the tables roar with cheers, they are on their feet yelling and screaming and clapping. The drag queen is on her way back up to the front ready to claw our eyes out. The bartender jumps over the bar and pushed Dennis and me out of the bar, “Get outta here, SHE PISSED!” Best, best, best moment EVER!
My 30th Birthday/Coming Out Party! The amazing, “Is It Gay In Here or Is It Just Me?” night ended with Dennis and me trying to find Charlie’s dance club, which we had been to countless times. “Dennis?”
“Are we at Lake Shore Drive?”
“Yes Matty, we are. How did that happen?”
The Running of the Bulls Halloween! Hands down, the best!
My first night ever out in Boystown, the “ah ha” moment of being in a bar with all men-what a “right” feeling and what a debaucherous night.
Completing my first Chicago Marathon in 2011. Truly the best day of my life!
Hitting on myself at Charlie’s at 4 a.m. I blame the sangria from Ba Ba Reeba. So what happened is that we had to wait close to two hours for our table. As we proceeded to drink more and more, the night got fuzzy. Some of us ended up at Charlie’s dance club around 2 a.m. In hindsight I should have left with my friends, but I stayed. Good thing I did because I met a guy that night. The scene: hot sultry August night, smoky dance floor, 4 a.m., boys sweating and dancing everywhere, and I saw him. We made eye contact from across the dance floor, through the smoke, and started to approach each other in slow motion. As I got closer to him, he got closer to me. As I smiled, he smiled. “This is it,” I thought. As I reached for his hand, he reached for me……then I ran into the mirror! I RAN INTO THE FUCKING MIRROR! I hit on MYSELF! MYSELF!!!!
What I Know For Sure
The last 14 years have flown by like a flash and mostly been one hell of a ride. When I moved to Chicago at age 24 to start my career, I did not know what to expect, and actually thought I might move back to Michigan. Right! After meeting friends of a lifetime, living into the gay man I am, falling in love with this city, and growing up, I now call Chicago home. What I know for sure is that life is a roller coaster, friends come and go, but they are always in my heart. Relationships start and end and new ones begin, but if we make it to the end of each day, “The Sun will rise tomorrow.” We are all dealing with our own stuff on a daily basis, but as friends and humans, we are here to support each other. Some days are great and some not as great, but when I sit back and reflect, I know, I have a damn good life filled with amazing accomplishments, amazing adventures, and amazing relationships. In this moment, right now, 15 years after moving to Chicago, I couldn’t be happier. Thank you Chicago for helping me grow up and Say YES to LIFE!