Archive for July 15th, 2007

Breathing Room

el train at belmont station, chicago. photo by sealine76.

Here in Madison, amid the haze of a lazy summer, the exodus has already begun. Yesterday a friend of mine flew out bound for Japan, tomorrow another couple will head out to Boston, and two weeks from now yet another will leave for Los Angeles. Within a month, friends will have departed for destinations as close as Chicago and as far-flung as Berlin.

It’s the nature of this town – playing host to a transient population, forever experiencing some grand influx and outflux of students.

In August I’ll be departing myself, though only briefly, for a month-and-a-half long journey along the west coast – the details of that trip will emerge in future posts. October will see my return to this vacating city; though my residence here is surely temporary, life on this strip of land between two lakes has got me feeling claustrophobic.

Last Wednesday a friend, my girlfriend and I took a day-long jaunt down to Chicago and wandered the streets of Wicker Park, a booming hipster neighborhood, and Boystown, a gay enclave that is home to various vintage clothing shops and trendy restaurants. As we sat outside a pub on Division, I felt for the first time in a while that I had room to breathe – finally at ease in the expanse of a roaring urban landscape, I had broken out of the routine. My eyes were greeted by the sight of a fresh and unexplored environment.

I’ve begun to embrace the fact that for the extent of my life I will be hopelessly addicted to travel. While Chicago was a good quick-fix (I even felt pleasantly comforted driving back into Madison late that night at having arrived “home”), early the next morning I felt the faint pangs of withdrawal. Watching so many people leave only exacerbates the itch to get out of dodge, and the dull pain of staying in place.

Though perhaps it’s just the city I need, the beautiful concrete madness in which one can as easily connect with others as can escape to the isolation of anonymity. It’s an odd paradox – even as I lament the departure of my friends, I’m irked that finding a cozy cafe corner on the isthmus where I can read uninterrupted by friendly interaction is a task (everyone needs their time alone).

Whichever it is – travel, the city – what I surely need from them both is space. Space enough to examine myself against unfamiliar backdrops, and space enough to just get lost.

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July 2007