Bicycle Diaries: Now this is winter!

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Now this is winter!

temps are dropping
in the windy city

Highs are expected to reach no more than 14 degrees over the weekend. But I won't be a hermit in my dusty apartment surrounded by mountains of books, empty pizza boxes, or unopened mail. before I get my office up and running I'm going to be hitting the local wifi enabled cafes.

When I first moved to Chicago, freshly divorced and without knowing anyone, I decided I wasn't going to become the creepy, lonely guy in my building. You see, this was the first time I had really ever been on my own. Until 2000, I had been been in one relationship after another, all of them nearly overlapping, going all the way back to junior high school. So what I had to figure out was how to be on my own without being lonely and, more importantly, how to create relationships (family, friends, lovers, etc.) on my own.

Reading in bars, restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops BY MYSELF was the answer. And over the last 6 years I've found a number of perfect places for outside reading.

What I need for a perfect place is:
a) natural light since most places dim their lights to preserve the bar-fly atmosphere for which Chicago is famous
comfy seats with plenty of space for my bag, books, palm pilot, notebooks, pens, and, of course, victuals,
an accommodating staff that doesn't immediately assume that you're a creepy, lonely guy,
a solid contingent of regular customers who also don't immediately assume that you're a creepy, lonely guy and don't take offense when what I'm reading is more interesting than the idle chit-chat, and
smoking which is getting more and more difficult with the creeping smoking ban instituted by our otherwise beloved mayor.
Beyond that, each of the perfect places I've found has its own unique and often peculiar qualities from outside reading. Feed the Beast, for instance, is my favorite by far. It opened early last summer, replacing a seedy sports bar that was really only good for finding late night, provisional hook-ups. The light is phenomenal, the seats comfy, and the staff as well as the regulars are very accommodating. The only problem recently has been it's growing popularity with the kind of folks, typically from the hipster'hoods, coming in to see and be seen.

When I get too many inquiries about what I'm reading; as if the book were an invitation for idle chit-chat rather than a request for solitude, I'll usually head up north to The Leadway. It too used to be a dangerous place before Frank, an affable Romanian sculptor, bought it. He's filled it with his huge metal sculptures and tons of watercolors done in the bar by customers for which he provides the materials gratis.

But the really cool thing about it is that the bartenders, mostly Romanians, and the regulars, mostly neighbors, are about as laid back as you can get in a local Chicago bar. If you read, no worries. If you want to talk politics, no hassles. If you want to watch heavy metal videos, you're in like Flynn.

I've been slowly posting about other perfect places and I hope to continue over the next couple of weeks.

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Blogger Dave Moulton said...

Being alone and being lonely to me are two different things. I was never as lonely as I was in one of my marriages, and on the other hand I have lived alone and not been lonely. To me loneliness is a state of mind.

2/2/07 16:43  
Blogger Ridwan Laher said...

I really enjoyed 'strolling' through your blog. I lived in Portland for 7 years and can relate to much of the content that regards bikes.

The story about the man who cycled to Mecca was amazing. In that I have just returned from 6 months in India I also related to the coverage of the India-Pakistan peace ride.

Best Wishes,
South Africa

3/2/07 04:18  

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