Thursday, January 12, 2017

That Moment Chicago Started to Feel Like Home

I've lived in the United States for more than eight years. During that time—the majority of which was spent in the decidedly Midwestern state of IndianaI was never entirely convinced that America was where I belonged in the long-term. Understandable, you might think, given that my true home had always been an overcast island just north of France.

Now if you're reading this and you happen to be a die-hard Hoosier, please don't misunderstand me on this. You yourself—armed to the teeth with Hoosier hospitalityalways, always made me feel welcome. 

I mean, you fed me corn until the cows came home. You even marveled at my incredulity as the cows did, in fact, come home. You entertained me with college basketball, with marching bands, and with a thing called colour guard (my sister-in-law was into it). You did all that and a whole lot more, and I thank you.

But deep down, there was one thing toward which Indiana and I bore vastly opposing attitudes: commuter rail. For my part, I've always viewed commuter rail as one of life's little pleasures. Particularly because, as you're riding it, you need not focus on the road, but on a rip-roaring novel or a secret flask of Cabernet Sauvignon. Mostly the last one. 

But aside from its quaint perks, commuter rail presents several monetary benefits too. Indeed, nothing satisfies me more than seeing the sizable cost difference between owning a car and owning a rail pass. Well, almost nothing: a sizzling hot pan dipped in cold water still gets me every time. But not having to pay for insurance, petrol (gas), or basic maintenance is what life is all about. I missed it.

Funnily enough, though, I had taken public commuter rail for granted when I lived in London, chiefly because the city is so remarkably well connected. Indiana, however, cannot say the same thing; nor for that matter has it taken any great strides toward doing so in the future. All things considered, this represented a huge factor in my decision to relocate to Chicago. And let me tell you about Chicago...

Chicago's 'L' Train is a breath of fresh air—and having commuted frequently on the London Underground, I can state that quite literally. You see, one of the L's appeals is that much of its service is located above ground (hence 'L' Train being the abbreviated form of "elevated train"). So instead of the scenically-bankrupt interior of London's tube tunnels you get the architectural splendor that is Chicago's skyline.   

Soon after moving to the Windy City, it became clear that I had regained an almost abstract sense of independence. Gone were the days when I relied solely on my chauffeur (my wife) to get me from one place to the next. I was on the move. And as each new day morphed into the next, the novelty of riding the train evolved once again into familiarity.

Of course, commuter rail is only half good to you if there is nowhere to go and nothing to see. Thankfully, Chicago is not afflicted with that particular problem, abundant as it is with everything you'd expect from a major city: world class museums, world-renowned sports teams, clean beaches, quality theatre, and people who mumble to themselves in the street. 

The thing I love most about a city of Chicago's size is the constant opportunity for surprise. Just as you think you know a place, 2,000 naked cyclists come soaring past you and you happen upon a statue of Hans Christian Andersen in the park. Life—perhaps unlike the weatheris never dull, and for now, Chicago is beginning to feel like home.

Sometimes, it's better hearing me in a British accent. Click the red button below.


Laurence Brown is a British man writing his way through the truly bizarre world of America - a place he sometimes accidentally calls home and a place he still hasn't quite figured out after seven years. Thankfully, his journey is made 12% easier by the fact that his accent makes him sound much smarter than he is. For evidence of this, subscribe to his popular Lost in the Pond web series over on YouTube.

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