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Chicago, a Love Letter

View of downtown Chicago skyline from Lincoln Park

I’m gonna miss Chicago.

I’m gonna miss the usual stuff, of course. Friends, routines, my cute apartment. But I’m also gonna miss so much small stuff.

My barista at the pie shop, who remembers my name and that I like my coffee black, so always fills the cup to the top. My minutes spent walking near the River’s north branch, watching bumbling ducklings in the spring or Northwestern’s sleek rowing team in the summer.

I’m gonna miss the slant of sunlight coming through my apartment at sunset, the way my plants bend towards that one window over the course of months, no matter how many times I rotate them.

How I always snag a seat on the Brown Line in the morning, or the chocolaty smell of the Blommer’s factory when I disembark at Merchandise Mart. The dogs and puppies running up the hill at Horner Park, or the jangly folk band at the Saturday farmers market playing to an audience of wiggling toddlers. Sunrise yoga in Millennium Park. Sunbathers at North Avenue, Osterman, 31st Street beaches. Tacos from Las Barrilitos, 12 a.m. cheeseburgers at Red Hot Ranch, any open bottle at Income Tax. Drinking canned wine on the River Walk during a summer heat wave. The Lake gets plenty of love, but for me, my heart belongs to the ever-moving, ever-changing River.

I’m gonna miss Chicagoans, polite but direct with zero fucks to give. Like how, on a snowy day this week, another barista from another coffee shop asked me if it was hot out, because I looked like a sweaty mess. Or the bedside manner of my dentist, who couldn’t hide their reaction to my toothbrushing technique. I won’t forget the busker trilling “Imagine” at the Dearborn Blue Line station, a bard of the underground whose message may never reach the surface. The crowd at a recent Cat Power show, swaying and feeling their way through her seminal “I Don’t Blame You.” The drag queens and artists of Berlin like Lucy Stoole and Kenzie Coulee, who turned the idea of a circus freakshow on its head with poise, and grace, and holy fuck, so much goddamn bravery, their glittering existence a fuck you to every bigoted asshole this country has ever produced.

There’s always a bend in the river worth exploring.

I’m gonna miss the Chicago Tribune, my home for the last 2 years, 11 months and 3 days. Tomorrow, I walk out of the Tribune newsroom for the last time, taking a new job back in New York City, where I lived and loved 5 years prior. For the second time in my life, I’ll be leaving the city I love most.

Except for a youthful interest in geology and marine biology, I’ve only ever wanted to be a journalist and writer — I’ve never known anything else. From joining the high school newspaper to running the college magazine to landing bylines in publications as an adult, it’s always been my life’s goal to write and nurture my curiosity. Working at the Tribune has given me that and more. I’ve strived for inclusivity, covering queer food and brown food and all food, ‘cuz everyone has to eat, as both a writer and an editor. I helped start a union! I’ve strived to bring diverse voices into the fold, tapping my artsy writer friends and colleagues Jessi Roti for a piece on a food-and-music fest serving Chicago’s West Side, or KT Hawbaker for an interview with queer POC creating their own platforms for food and stories. My incredible, kind, generous editor and friend, Joe Gray let me do anything and everything, from every wild idea (taste testing weird internet shit) to helping style test kitchen photo shoots. My friends Sade Carpenter, Adam Lukach, Jessi, Marissa Conrad, Grace Wong, KT, Dawn Rhodes, Ese Olumhense, Louisa Chu, Alison Bowen and countless others kept me sane. Mentors like Joe and critic Phil Vettel kept me sharp. Of course, shout-out to my Food & Dining team Louisa, Nick Kindelsperger, Grace, Jennifer Day, Josh Noel and Kasondra Van Treeck for being consistently curious and challenging.

Along the way, I wrote about a chef who ran away and joined the circus, how chefs are grappling with sexual harassment amid Me Too, the great sommelier scandal of 2018, how to host Friendsgiving, a personal essay on my immigrant upbringing, and in the last few weeks, started a wine column even I didn’t know would end because, well, resigning surprised even me. I edited hundreds of stories about food and restaurants and chefs and talent in this amazing, supportive, diverse city. I’ve attended journalism workshops and committee meetings and college lectures and leadership conferences, always to be a better journalist, a better citizen.

I’ve always tried, and I’ll always continue to. I don’t believe there’s any other way to exist.

What’s next?

On Monday, I’ll be back in New York for my first day as senior travel editor at Thrillist. I’ll have some time to officially move back East, but for now, I don’t know quite what to expect, but it’s a new bend in the river of my own life. I can’t wait to walk along it, through its rapids and its shallows.

It’ll be a new flow, and I’m ready for it to take me away. Until then, thank you for everything, Chicago.

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