A Few Days in the Life, Chicago Edition

October 15, 07:33; On the Rails

I haven’t done one of these in awhile. I suppose my semi-crippling anxiety led me to believe no one gives a damn whether I do these or not. But I’ve received subtle encouragement here and there to keep going. That and I’ve finally reached the point where I can do things for me above all else. It’s quite liberating.

My second road trip of the year finds me headed “home,” to Chicago. Progtoberfest has come and gone. I hate that I missed it, but I just couldn’t work out the logistics. Yet one more reason I have to move.

I have next to no agenda for this trip. I just needed to get away. I will be doing one thing I’ve never done there before: I’ll be looking for a home. I’m actually meeting a real estate agent on Thursday. I’ve been talking about doing this for awhile. It’s time to see if I can truly make it happen. It’s more than a little nerve wracking. But it still feels like the right thing to do, despite a moderate drawback or two.

I’ll be headed to the same neighborhood I’ve stayed in three times before, albeit at the cheapest of the three hotels in the immediate area. Pity. Well, I may not be spending a ton of time there.

I’m pretty much over the “tourist” thing. I hope to spend very little time Uber-ing from here to there. I’ll put my Ventra card to use and ride the El train or the bus, like a resident. There are a couple of museums I want to see, but mostly this is about not being at home and moseying from here to there. And something tells me I’ll wind up at the Green Mill sooner or later.

I found myself in a progressive metal mood this morning. Damned if I know why. No matter: there’s some great new music out there, starting with a new album from Bent Knee called You Know What They Mean. The music might be their most accessible yet, but by no means have they lost their edge.

The Inside Out Label seems to have my attention the most, which meant I was checking out some other known favorites as well. Based on what I’m hearing, I’m really looking forward to the new album from Leprous as well.

I even managed to find something new in a killer instrumental from Long Distance Calling, whom I had never heard of. Well, they have my attention now. That much is certain.


For some reason, I found myself thinking about legacy. I suppose it makes sense, given how close I am to my planned transition.

I’ve given law enforcement 25 years. I’ve probably answered 25,000 “911” calls, written more reports than I can count, arrested who-knows how many people, attempted to lead countless more to a path away from disaster, and officially and unofficially mentored dozens of young officers (more than a few of whom are now supervisors and commanders). And through it all, I wonder if anyone will remember me after I’m gone?

People pass in and out of the station house at such a quick pace. Sure, some are there for several years, but even more are whisked off to their next assignment, choose to seek their fortunes elsewhere, or give up this line of work altogether. And within six months, when we’re sitting around swapping stories, someone will think of the subject of one of those tales and ask, “Man, what the hell was his name?”

How long before that guy is me? Did anything I’ve done truly matter?

I can’t help but think that something I write — a book, an article, a well-placed memo — will be what leaves my mark. Arrests come and go, after all. Young officers become their own person. Someone is always out there answering calls. My written words … maybe that’s where my name will ring loudest. I don’t know.

Anxiety, thy name is Retirement.

13:56, Hotel “You Get What You Pay For,” Chicago.

My room is a broom closet.

I wanted to stay at one of my usual hotels in this neighborhood. I also wanted to stay for three nights, making the third hotel (which I’ve seen but never visited) the best option, since it was cheaper. Luckily, the initial shock has worn off. And since 1) I’m here on my own; and 2) I won’t be spending that much time here, things will be fine. I still know the area, and already know where I’m headed shortly for lunch.

As an added bonus, I found my way here from Union Station using just my compass and my Ventra card, which gets me on the El and the CTA bus. You’ll pardon me if I’m briefly a bit full of myself. Once I figured out which was was west, it was easy.

There’s a record store about 3.5 miles away. That’s where I’m headed after a decent meal.


For the duration of my stay, I shall refer to my hotel room as The Closet. I have to have fun with this.

My ramen restaurant was closed. What a drag. I’ll try again later. Meanwhile, there was another noodle place close by. Not bad, but not what I wanted.

I Googled the “Best Record Stores in Chicago” and discovered I’ve already been to six of them. Luckily, Record Breakers wasn’t terribly far away, and it was my first visit.

It’s a cool little shop, and specializes in vinyl. Good timing, as I’m looking to increase my record collection.

Eric (who is rather camera shy) is a great guy, and we had a great chat. And I think I made a Bent Knee fan out of him.

I’m talking myself into going to the Green Mill for a set or two tonight. Seems like a shame to just hang out in my room. I’ll decide soon.

23:47. Back in The Closet

It’s been a long but great day. The evening worked out pretty nicely.

My ramen spot (Tanaka) was open for dinner. This is what I was looking forward to all day.

From there it was off to the Green Mill. Once again, I made myself proud by getting there via mass transit. And once again, it was quite easy. I’m definitely starting to get a little full of myself.

The band was a ragtime group called The Fat Babies. They were airtight, and I wish I could’ve stayed longer. But getting up at 04:45 this morning has finally caught up to me. I cheated and took an Uber home.

Tomorrow is Blues Day. Should be a good time.

October 16, 10:45; Pancake House.

Slept in a bit this morning. Dealing with a few aches and pains. Yesterday was a long day.

My daughter and I came to this restaurant the first time we were in this neighborhood. This is my fourth time here. A tradition has been born.

The last time I spent four days here, I programmed in a day to do nothing. I wanted to go to the Chess Museum today, but I may push that to tomorrow, and stick around the neighborhood. The Chicago History Museum isn’t terribly far, and there is a Reckless Records within half a mile. I think I’m saving my energy for going to Rosa’s Blues Club tonight. It’ll still be a full day.

Tomorrow I take a bold step by looking for potential housing. I can’t overstate how much I want to hang out in places around here and then go home. To my home. In this town. Here’s hoping …

22:32, The Closet.

I didn’t go out tonight. Too damned tired. I was out and about for 10 hours today, and I’m at that age where it’s starting to affect me. A friend of mine pointed out that “You can stay out all day, or you can stay out all evening. But you can’t do both and be in shape for the next day.” You know what? She’s right! I’m due to hang out with a friend tomorrow night. I’ll stick with that.

That being said, this was a pretty good day. After breakfast, I made my way to the Chicago History Museum, at the behest of a friend from work.

It’s an interesting place. It strikes me as the “greatest hits” from other museums I’ve visited, like the Abraham Lincoln and National Civil Rights museums, as well as the Chicago Art Institute. That’s not a complaint. It was still a good time, with some interesting displays.

I also met Larry, one of the security guys. He saw me come in and made a bee-line right to me. I asked him if I looked like a tourist when I walked in. He laughed. “Yeah, you did.”

Turns out he’s a music fan, too. I’ve often said that I’m magnetically drawn to music people. Our chat was further proof. We even half-jokingly discussed doing a radio show after I relocate. It’s not the worst idea. In fact, I think I’d enjoy it!

From there it was off to Reckless Records, which I forgot to photograph. Probably because I’ve been there before. I actually didn’t mean to go to this location. But everything happens for a reason, which would be proven shortly after.

I knew Decibel Audio wasn’t far from the record store. I’ve also been planning to upgrade my stereo components. I went in to get a couple of ideas. I walked out in love. I’ve found both the receiver and turntable I desire.

Cheap? No. But totally worth it! Talk about sturdy! You damn near need a crane to pick these things up! My original thought was to upgrade after the move. Instead, I see more than a couple of double-shifts in my future.

From there it was off to Dusty Groove, probably my favorite store in Chicago. I want to buy my jazz and blues on vinyl, and this is the place to go for just that. I’ve enjoyed all the other stores I’ve visited, and will continue to go to them. But Dusty Groove … damn! It’s like they know me!

Between the three stores, I’ve got a pretty good haul to take back to St. Louis.


The mass transit gods took me down a peg, as I managed to go 28 blocks in the wrong direction before correcting my mistake. But I made my way back. Lesson learned. I’m told taking the wrong bus is a right of passage when learning the CTA. Well, I guess I can cross that off the list.

Back to my neighborhood for a little local pizza. Thick crust, but not Chicago-style. It was fine, as it was the previous two times. But this was probably my last time going there.

By the time dinner was done, I knew I was done, too.

October 17, 10:44; Brunch-ish

Tried to sleep in a bit, but was awakened by a phone call at 07:40. Dammit! Didn’t help that I didn’t truly get to sleep until a little after 2. Oh, well.

The bank I needed was half a mile away. I rode for two bus stops, cursing myself along the way. It was a waste of time. I walked back.

Now a late breakfast. Same spot as yesterday. But this time, I’m going with an omelette. And this was a serious omelette!

I can’t meet with the real estate guy until 4, so I have a little time on my hands. I think I’ll go the the Reckless Records I meant to go to yesterday. A little break, then off to explore my potential neighborhood. Chinatown isn’t far from there. That just might be my dinner destination.

13:28, The Closet.

It turns out Dave’s Records is practically around the corner from my hotel. I wound up there instead. I managed to keep myself somewhat under control.

Came back here for a break. Back out to explore in an hour.


My last night in The Closet.

It’s been a week of “almost.” But I’ve learned enough to keep moving forward. My real estate guy had to cancel, and wanted to reschedule. Alas, I’m back on the train tomorrow, so I’ll have to see the interior of my potential condo in December.

I did, however, make my way to the location (once again without Uber’s help), and checked out the building and its surroundings. They made me pretty happy.

A lot of what I need is in walking distance. Downtown is only 10 minutes away. There is great potential here. I’m looking forward to coming back.

Packing is all but done. It’s a shame I have to go back.

October 18, 10:33; The Lobby.

I’ve checked out of The Closet. The worst part of checking in to a hotel is checking out. Come Monday, the real world returns. That’s the way it goes.

One of the things I love about this neighborhood is the Walgreens. Don’t get me wrong: Walgreens is everywhere. There are at least three within waking distance. But I really like this one.

It’s literally in the center of the three hotels I use when I’m here. There’s a nice little grocery on the first floor. Perfect for picking up late-night snacks or a bottle of water (mini-bars are a strict night-no). Alas, this particular store will be closed when I return.

An employee told me the place was losing money. Given its two-floor layout and the nature of what is sold here, I’m not surprised. Still, it’s a pity. There’s still plenty of other shops in the area. But I wonder what will be put here.

I was supposed to go to another gig last night, but I dozed off. No big deal. This trip was more about rest and home scouting than doing stuff. My December trip centers around The Pineapple Thief, but there will be other things to take care of as well.

15:58, Union Station

Time to go home.

Had a great late morning/early afternoon with a Facebook friend turned friend IRL, as the kids would say. We took in the DuSable Museum, which is geared around the contributions and art of African-Americans in the City of Chicago. Quite the fascinating place, with more than a little history to absorb.

Lunch at the Chicago Diner — where I experienced my second and equally wonderful vegan Reuben sandwich — followed. It was the perfect way to wrap up this road trip.

I’m looking forward to making more friends here during and after the transition. It will be nice to be able to call someone up and let them know I’m in town, so let’s go do something.

I understand the mindset will be different after the move. Chicago will stop being a novelty and just be home. I experienced the same thing while I was stationed outside Tokyo. Yes, it was Japan. And yes, I was 10,000 or so miles from my hometown. But that was where I lived. It felt a bit routine, even when I went out exploring. Well, no matter. I’ll live with it.

One thing is certain: Chicago’s architecture well never get old. No many how many times I see something, there’s always a little more detail to explore.

I feel a nap coming on for this train trip. At least, I hope so. Two more days off after I return, then back to the real world.

20:28; The Rails

If train rides do anything, they give one more than a little time to think. After all, I’m not driving.

My stares out the window are greeted by near complete blackness. There is nothing there to contemplate. And so, I find myself alone with my own thoughts, accompanied by the jazz coming from my Bandcamp purchases.

My daughter made a huge ask a few weeks ago, the details of which will not be revealed here. But it was definitely something that warrants careful consideration, lest the ramifications take a giant chunk out of both of us.

In the end, I said to her, “I’ll support you in whatever you want to do. But be damned sure you know what you’re asking. Because once we put it out there, there’s no coming back. And we probably touched off World War III.” It gave my child pause, which is exactly what should have happened.

As my train lurches forth — about a half hour behind schedule — I find that I’m making a similar demand of myself, where the coming transition is concerned. I must be damned sure I know what I’m asking of myself. Improper execution would be … well, potentially disastrous. A quarter century of work could quickly amount to absolutely nothing.

In more than a couple of ways, I’m still a 20th century man. My current thought process is to get home, pull out a few legal pads, and write my thoughts out. What exactly does the next chapter look like? How do I go about getting it?

I’m certain more than one person will chastise me for worrying too much. I am the very same person who said it was necessary to just take the leap. But even a cliff diver picks out the proper landing spot.


No one else may find this interesting, but it got my attention earlier today.

I went through four record stores in Chicago, and not once did I even consider looking at the CDs. Not once.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m still very much into the discs. I just ordered a small boatload from Planet Score. But this week’s shopping was about vinyl, period, even if I didn’t know why.

Did I miss out on some gems? Maybe. But I’m ok with that for now. Soon it will be time to head back to IKEA for another Billy shelf. My ancient bookcase (which has served me well for more than a decade) is developing a couple of bows under the weight of my albums. It’s a good problem to have.

October 20, 14:03; Home.

Chicago is more than a full day in my rear view mirror. I miss it deeply, but there is something to be said for sleeping in your own bed. So the question becomes clear: how long before my bed and I can both be in Chicago?

My condo scouting raised a couple of unexpected questions. This is not a deal-breaker by any stretch. I just need to truly consider all options before going forward.

Meanwhile, it’s back to life, back to reality, as the old song goes. Plenty of new material on my desk needs reviewing, which will happen between the many long shifts ahead.

In addition to what I brought home, this lovely little Abbey Road 50th anniversary re-issue box set was waiting for me at Planet Score.

Football is on, but it’s taking a back seat to listening for the time being.


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