Where is home, and can you carry it?

“A Pilgrim in Chicagoland”

Coney Island was neat, but I missed Lake Michigan. I couldn’t find the right burger, the right beer, the right pizza. At MoMA and the Met, I mourned my lapsed Art Institute membership. Even when my beloved Improvised Shakespeare Company played in Manhattan, their shows were twice as expensive and half the length.

Going cold turkey on Chicago wasn’t working. Moving back wasn’t in the works, either. But I finally let myself visit last month. Even the distant glimpse of the Sears (yes, Sears) Tower from the O’Hare tarmac made me tear up. Being in my city—where the announcements on the trains sounded right and where the owner of my regular Chinese restaurant hugged me tight when I walked back through the door—was so restorative. Still, a fundamental problem remained: I paid rent in New York now. I had to leave once my week was up.

The solution was half ingenuity, half hoarding instinct. In the grand tradition of Supermarket Sweep, I filled my cart.

CityLab, April 18, 2016 • Art by Hiroshi Ariyama

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