Nostalgia Takes a Ride

Sometimes I forget how few black folks there are in Los Angeles. And then I come to Chicago and, wow, there's black folks all around. Strolling down State Street in suits, bumping their stereos on Stony Island Avenue. Holding hands, popping gum, tossing weaves, rocking hot pink lip gloss and heels to match. All hues of skin, textures of hair.

I don't stand out. My children don't stand out. I miss that and, like a familiar lover holding your hand, it's nice to feel it once more.

And I've missed the El. I've missed riding the Evanston Express northbound out of downtown, electricity popping off the track as it rounds the curve at Sedgewick, the lean of the train letting me see both the front and back of it.

There's so many advertisements painted on the outsides of the train cars. I saw one whole train that seemed completely dedicated to Bank of America, another to iTunes. Are both companies paying enough to offset those fares... two dollars to ride the El now.

I caught people watching me on the train yesterday, and I've done my share of observation... like the guy downing FOUR cans of Jim Beam and cola between Randolph and Wabash and Howard... I suppose I should be grateful he wasn't driving a car.

It warms my heart to see all the Cubs gear everywhere. (Never the White Sox for me, sorry.) I love the humidity that causes my hair to spiral to epic heights off my head, even as I know it will be replaced by the winter's chill in no time at all, so fleeting are these summer days. And how wonderful it is to make plans to go see Stevie Wonder at the Taste of Chicago with friends who've known me for half my life or more. Folks who know me and love me for who I am, not for who they think I am or who they want me to be.

Remind me why I don't live here.

Yet, if I release the nostalgia, the reminders are everywhere. I know why I left and why I stay gone. It is easier to be away and just visit than it is to scratch beneath the surface too deeply.

Will I ever outgrow that feeling of needing to escape the past, even as I know it is probably for my own protection that I have been gone?


Anonymous said…
You really have perfected the art of people watching. Your writing also puts my own two-bit, white-trash bloglet to shame.

Thanks for continuing to inspire the blogging world.
Anonymous said…
I feel like that when I'm "home" in LA. Here I stand out like a sore thumb.

It's always great to go home! I hope your trip is going well!
Jen said…
I guess there's a bit of the old adage, "You can never go home again." It sounds like you're having a wonderful trip, though.

Sometimes returning for fabulous visits can be sustaining enough. Also, I'm still thinking about your post yesterday... my brain and heart are conflicted and I don't know what to comment, but I thought you wrote an excellent, passionate piece.

It makes my non-capital punishment and violent sides go to war against each other, if that makes any sense?
the last noel said…
You're in Los Angeles because we need you here! BTW, the sentence "I miss that and, like a familiar lover holding your hand, it's nice to feel it once more." is lovely.
Liz your first sentence reminded me of when I went to my sister's wedding in DC a few years ago. I lived in "the chocolate city" right after college and haven't been back in a while.

When I was walking around I thought, "hold up where did all these black folks come from? There are sisters with naturals? Brothers are making eye contact with me? What is going on?" :)

Your writing is so descriptive. As I read you post I could see the El in my head.
Unknown said…
Chi evokes so many emotions, doesn't it? Your passionate descriptions and experiences in our town are moving. Its in your soul wherever you "live". Stevie 2night! I'm takin the Pink Line in! (no chance of the humidity lifting)
Great post, Liz!
Anonymous said…
Great that you feel so at home in Chicago. These two ole whities are going there in a few weeks (J is presenting a paper at a conference) so we'll see how our experience compares!
DJ Black Adam said…
Cubs? Et tu Liz? Et Tu?
Anonymous said…
I just wanted to say that I loved this entry because I struggle with a love/hate for New York all the time.
Jameil said…
i love going back to charlotte but have no desire to live there again at this point in my life. i really miss professional black people living in pittsburgh. i never see any.
Nerd Girl said…
You really hit the nail on the head with this one. CA will always be "home," but I never cease to be amazed at the paucity of black folks at home. Here in MS, I cannot even conceive of going days, weeks even, without seeing another black face.

Hope you have a lovely time in Chi-town; I know you will.
Liz Dwyer said…
I won't say I've perfected the people watching, but I love doing it. I love doing it maybe a little too much. And the description of your blog made me laugh out loud! Fabulous!

It probably doesn't matter so much if you stand out if folks appreciate and love your differences, but it is nice to not be the sore thumb.

I don't think you can go home again. We had heaploads of fun over the past few days. I feel like I need to detox from it all for a minute. I'm overwhelmed! But there's so much of the city that is different that I don't even recognize it, so I'm really visiting someplace completely altered. All in a dozen years. Wow.

I hear you about the post I wrote. Now that my initial anger about the whole subject has cooled a little bit, I think it should be an option in extreme cases. Other cases, maybe just life in prison. I don't think the rinky-dink sentences that pass for justice now are cutting it.

I hung some clothes outside to dry overnight and guess what, thanks to the insane humidity here, they didn't dry! It made me feel a little homesick. And thanks for the compliment on that sentence. It really does feel that way!

Oh yes, brothers making eye contact! LOL! In LA, you don't exist but go somewhere else, it's a whole different story!

Oh, my heart broke over the RIDICULOUS crowds at the Taste. My kids were dying. I was dying! No Stevie!!! :( We went to the Cosi across the street on Michigan Ave. instead. Lame, I know.

You're going to love it! Fantastic you'll be presenting a paper! What's the topic?

That's right! Cubs!!! Whoo!!! It was the Cubs for my dad so he raised me up to love them. The White Sox are cool too but I have a love for the Cubs and this is gonna be their year! You'll see! ;0

I struggle with that love/hate thing with NYC too. I think I can take it in small doses (a few days) but past that, nope. Or if I was really rich and could have a penthouse with a garden, I'd love it!

And now that you're leaving, there really won't be any! But don't you go thinking it's your civic duty to stay and provide that for the city, mmkay?

Nerd Girl,
And where I live in LA, if I see someone else black in my neighborhood, I'm always wondering where they came from! Segregation is not cool.
Anonymous said…
Liz, I wish! No, it's Jenny who's presenting the paper, she's a lecturer. Something to do with housing and urban regeneration but don't ask me the details!
Mamita Umita said…
That - and like I told you yesterday being here in February or March. That's reason enough to stay away!
DJ Black Adam said…
Dang Liz, we were downtown all day last Friday and Staurday! Man, next time you come this way let a brotha know!

BTW, I won't mention that the Sox swept the Cubs this weekend ;-)
I beg to differ. I am positive that YOU always stand out in a crowd, no matter what.
Liz Dwyer said…
That is very cool! I wish I could come check it out because I'm always interested in those sorts of topics.

Yes, how nice it is to be able to sit outside in a t-shirt in February. That's a beautiful thing!

We headed back to Evanston a little bit after the end of the game on Saturday and I got to sit behind two depressed Cubs fans dressed as hot dogs. It was hilarious but sad that they lost! I will try to drop you a line... right now I'm out in Indiana!


Well, given the humidity, I'm sure that at least my hair stood out of the crowd! :)

Popular Posts