I was in Michigan last week on my way to a work errand in Chicago, and my grandfather said to me at his 90th birthday party "How can you stand to live in a place you aren't from?"
It was an interesting question. He was asking me about my new-ish job and Saratoga, and I said to him "I think you can like many places". I've taken to this new theory nowadays that there can be several happy endings to everyone's stories, instead of only one. Perhaps life is less fated, and more "Choose Your Own Adventure".
I went to Chicago where I met up with some friends of ours who are originally from the San Francisco area and moved to Albany around the same time we did. We went to a Starbucks that serves wine (what? what? see for yourself below! It was great fun actually!)
They talked about the difficulty of moving to a new area, the difficulty of making friends, finding work, and fostering a sense of community. They didn't seem to like Chicago as much as they thought they would. I actually ate at three Rick Bayless restaurants on my entire trip (including Xoco which was fabulous). Mexican food seems to be taking over. An art handler I met from San Francisco said the tacos have been better in the Windy City in recent years than in the Bay Area.
I sat on the shores of Lake Michigan my final day there and called my dad. Great Lakes vacations were an important aspect of my childhood, so much that I wanted to have "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" as our father/daughter dance (to my surprise no one else got the charm of it!).
It was interesting to sit on the side of a lake opposite my home state, with my grandfather's question still pinging around in the back of my mind.
Upon coming back, my boss and I had an interesting discussion about my friends' lack of friends in Chicago, and we came to the conclusion that you can't force true friendship anywhere - it just happens. I wonder that with places too - you either feel like you fit or you don't, and you can in fact fit into multiple places. I've heard people make arguments about this area, and say there is more of a sense of community in Brooklyn, or more tight knit neighborhoods in Manhattan (neither of which I agree with). I will say that so much about how you fit in somewhere has to do with you - making an effort, being yourself - but sometimes there are factors you can't control. Sometimes it works or it doesn't.
With that, I'll leave you with some trashy and awesome things. When I lived in NYC, and the second "Sex and the City" movie came out I didn't really want to see it, but I secretly wished I had a gaggle of tackily dressed women to go see it with. What I can say to my grandfather is that I might not be from Albany, but I have people willing to come watch Season 8 Premiere of the "Real Housewives of Orange County" with me and eat these awesome high heeled cupcakes I made. I think in some convoluted way, that is the answer to his question. For fun, you can check out my feelings about having moved here that I wrote around this time last year. And check out my cupcakes!