Exhausted from building IKEA furniture (or trying to) (or watching my dad try to while handing him the wrong screws because why did they make so many types of screws) I realized I needed a MEAL. OK well a Wendy’s 4 for 4, but when you’re moving across the country anything not gas station snacks and a large Coke (not pop, sorry) kinda qualifies as a meal. I am an east coast rat through and through. I spent summers on the boardwalk eating snowballs, fall at pumpkin patches and corn mazes, winter sledding and waiting for snow days, and spring taking claritin everyday to try to survive lacrosse season. Eventually I was going to Philly or DC like every month, taking the hell of a thing that is the Greyhound bus to NYC (that is A WHOLE DIFFERENT STORY we just don’t have time for (but i can smell tuna just typing this), and just trying to be the best DJ / co-pilot I could. So the Midwest is a totally new concept to me.
I love the east coast. And i appreciate it so much more now. The gas stations in the north east are everything. I spent so many humid summer days walking to Royal Farms (see also: RoFo) for chewy ice and those dang western fries. I stopped before too many college classes to get slurpees. I don’t think me and my friends ever took a road trip without stopping at Wawa or Sheetz. Especially after a gig, you literally are required to go to whichever one is closer (or which one you prefer but like I am not trying to fight anyone on this especially you jersey kids i respect you but MAC N CHEESE bites come on!! And TOTZ ugh ok ok not now but listen I respect the Wawa teas hard).
So what is this about exactly? My first blog post and I am talking about…grocery stores, actually. That is right. Ok well kinda.
This is partially about my strong connection and adoration for the magic and culture that is Chicago grocery stores and how my (almost) year here in the windy city has been tied to them because I think it is just a really human thing to talk about and it can be kinda a relief to just feel really human.
Let’s go back to that first day. Early March ‘18. Me and my friend Jena went out to get Wendy’s but also decided we needed fruits or vegetables, but we got so much more. Pete’s Fresh Market. Their fresh produce boasted the most color I had seen in days. I explored through the bakery, the hot bar, the wine section, past the gelato and mochi, and through the check out to the sit down section. I remember – very distinctly – staring at a $6 loaf of fresh baked Brioche bread and thinking once I am making enough money I am going to buy this bread whenever I want.
I moved to Chicago without a job which I cannot say I recommend. After starting to settle, I decided I needed to make some sort of money while I did interview after interview and cried from rejection after rejection. So I signed up for Instacart knowing nothing about the city and having had my driver’s license for all of 3 months. By some glitch in the matrix I was approved and was excited for what seemed like a very simple pickup then drop off situation. Wrong. My first day I ended up downtown on State and Lake crying in my car that I could not park for long enough to deliver 8 bags of Whole Foods to a 23rd floor apartment that had orange and lemon water sitting out for its residence. It was my hell. But I got up the next day determined to cheat the system and drove to the area I thought might send me to the pick up goal: Mariano’s.
Mariano’s quickly became my spot of choice. It had a community feel and the workers started recognizing me enough to put aside samples of cookies or milkshakes or muffins. I was relieved to be living off more than my savings account but there was something defeating about delivering bags of fresh groceries while I was trying to figure out if a can of soup could stretch to two meals. But I persisted, pulling over my lil red rocketship of a car to take phone calls about jobs I would not end up getting while other people’s dinners sat in my back seat.
It was the end of April when I finally got a job. And that first grocery trip after getting a real paycheck had me like a kid in a candy store, but thankfully I was more practical. I remember feeling guilty buying the name brand waffles. But it was my full circle moment, where I was like ok I made it this far. The food store was my safe haven. It’s where I would call home and give myself permission to admit when I did not have it all together – after all, these places have all already seen me at my worst. In pajamas listening to Post Malone out loud while struggling to car 8 bags to my car. It is where I could zone out and listen to podcasts or full albums as I wandered the aisles and people watched. And I think in retrospect the reason I keep going back for longer than necessary is because it is where I can feel the most human when I do feel so disconnected from myself and the world around me. Moms telling their kid to put the Oreos back. Couples trying to figure out who is buying the laundry detergent this time. Magazine covers with the latest headlines about politics and celebrities and tragedies. The flower section with arrangements for funerals and birthdays right next to each other. My therapist told me this was healthy, even if I cried in the chip section or started laughing to myself at misplaced items – a bag of lettuce in the ice cream fridge. I was connecting and feeling and thinking and being when I had been going numb for so long just going going going don’t stop don’t think too long to stop too long to feel it feel everything don’t be quiet too long to hear your thoughts don’t think too much about how you got here or how you’re doing or what come next just go go go and it is okay right it is okay because you don’t have time to realize it’s / you’re not ok…
Oh but that’s the problem – just because you’re not processing it mentally doesn’t mean it is not happening. And the thing with numbing the pain? You numb the good too. You don’t flinch at the sound of the door slamming or the glass shattering or the phone call ending but you also don’t feel your heart beat faster when your hand is touched and the sun is on your skin and the song starts with the beat coming through the floor. You don’t feel anything at all. And I never want to do that again. So much is going to hurt like hell but it’ll heal it’ll heal it’ll heal. You will hate watching them lose you but my God will you love finding yourself again. You won’t have to use rainy days as permission to feel and cry and scream. You will feel it all. You will be here and feel here and maybe even love it here and I hope so because it is where you’re supposed to be.
And if you ever need a break and or permission to stop and breathe for a second, I say go to the grocery store. Maybe try Cermak and learn about all the different international foods. Maybe go buy some daffodils from Trader Joes. Or try to find the best off brand name at Aldi. Life goes way too fast and we rarely get time to stop and check in with ourselves. As crazy as it may sound, the grocery stores in Chicago are what helped me adapt to this new and changing environment. Really it can be anything or anywhere that time just slows down a little. A record store. The passenger seat of a car. A gas station mart. And empty parking lot. A playground at night. A bowling alley. Wherever that is for you – don’t feel silly. We need the little things more than anything and there’s nothing wrong with that.
So there it is. Scatterbrained as ever blog post 1. I never wrote because I wanted to so much as that I have to – if you know, you know – it is just part of who I am. Hopefully some of what I share helps you or heals you or just makes you stop for a minute or maybe even teaches you something new. But I hope you feel. That’s what I hope. (and yeah my sign is Cancer see ya next week)
“I miss Saturday morning, rolling out of bed, not shaving, getting into my car with my girls, driving to the supermarket, squeezing the fruit, getting my car washed, taking walks.”
*disclaimer: being able to grocery shop at all / where I do shop is a privilege