I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts lately with a lot of transition in my personal life. After a long week at work, all I wanted was a beer, a burger, and a book.
Brought my homegirl Jane Jacobs and F. Scott Fitzgerald with me and squeezed into the last spot at a crowded gastropub down the street. You know, that bar stool at the end that gets the whoosh of the door from the kitchen traffic. I was ready to escape amidst the bustle.
On my right is a guy in his late twenties, early thirties. He has just polished off what looks like a half a chicken. I joke that I, too, am having a severe carnivore craving (it happens, even to former vegetarians). I don’t intend to talk to anybody longer than it takes to order another tasty looking IPA.
He nods to my books. I take the opportunity to poke fun at myself. After all, I am reading a mid-century tome on urban planning at a bar more designed for meeting up than meditation. A little banter turns into a deeper dive into the structure, magic, and malice of cities. He’s lived in over a dozen– a nomad who learned early from a transient military family. He talks about the mechanics and technical infrastructure of cities. I complement with the social fabric.
We dive deeper into Chicago. He’s relatively new, but he likes it having just moved into a diverse neighborhood down the street where I did some of my field work in school. Although we have much to talk about, our backgrounds are different. He dropped out of high school. Got bored. Was young and a bit misguided. We talk about San Francisco, a city I’ve been eying but he just moved away from. He shares his knowledge about its history and quirks.
I didn’t open my books until I got home that evening. And somehow I didn’t feel like I was missing out. I didn’t intend to make a friend or even say more than 50 words that evening. But somehow making an “us” around cities, books, and brews was refreshing. When I looked back, I realized I had unintentionally done my assignment for the week. And it worked…. for both of us.
- Agent M, Chicago