Tonight I spent the evening with a good gay bf - Ben*. I picked a place just off the "El" for us to meet. A straight bar with 50% off the entire menu. He is, in some ways, like my brother. I've always had a special feeling for him. He's just a special, kind-hearted, thoughtful guy. This is the first time we've actually said we were going to get together and made it happen. Although there was an impending blizzard we still made it happen. And of course, with the blizzard everyone goes immediately home, so the place was dead. We ordered a buffet of Korean tacos, tempura shrimp (which wasn't actually tempura but fried - still yummy), tomato bisuq soup (eh, it was so-so) and some cocktails. It was so dead that the cook brought us a complimentary dish of bacon-wrapped dates in a vodka sauce that was to dah fer!
Ben is the kind of person who is the voice of reason. He's the one you can talk about anything to and he totally gets it. He's self-aware, and aware of the world around him, and tries to live a life that makes a difference, as most of us do or aspire to do. Ben is my sounding board. Someone I trust deeply and I know will never judge me but ask questions that provoke my thought (yes, I know he's reading this!). So, it was an awesome evening of sharing, asking and telling. Ben is the kind of guy who, when you're leaving says "You know, I'm going to tip the waiter/bartender more because it was half off night." For me, who worked her way through college as a waitress and bartender, I feel terrible I didn't think of it. But Ben did. And to top it off, he walked me the few blocks to the bus stop, across from the "El" cuz he's a gentleman like that.
Tonight feels like December or the beginning of January. This storm is late, in a our terms. However, it feels like Old Man Winter is saying You haven't seen the last of me and this is my last chance. Indeed, we're never sorry to see him go, but if it weren't for the winter, summer just wouldn't be so great in Chicago. People around the world wouldn't talk about how amazing this city is in the summer. While we rarely let bad weather keep us down, summer is when we are all at our best. We'd take it for granted, like they do in the South and Southwest. People wouldn't live every day to the fullest, caring less about sleep and more about being out, about and present in the warmth still radiating from the city sidewalks. No, it just wouldn't be the same.
As we walked down the street, we are bombarded with small snow bits (not even big enough to be flakes) that dance in the wind and chill our faces. Both of us covered from head to tail in winter gear and snow. As always, I give him a kiss on the cheek and we agree to do this again....soon. two and half hours and we still didn't cover everything.
Once off the bus, I begin the trek down my block. I've written about it before, but tonight it actually happened - one of the things I love about the city - a snow covered street. I wish I could take a picture so you could see it in it's beauty. The block is silent and I have a spiritual moment (shutup! it is!). It's spiritual because of its beauty - pure - and no matter how many times I experience it, I'm still filled with wonder at it. I do not take it for granted. The sounds of nearby city vehicles muted. It's as if a blanket has been laid down over everything quashing the sounds of the city. The street lights bounce off the snow and it's suddenly brighter, not to mention a wee bit safer. The snow continues to blow into my face and only momentarily blocked by a house or four. I. Feel. So. ALIVE. I slow my pace, knowing it's just a few blocks to my house and I want to enjoy it; savor this feeling. It's a high. I want to enjoy it because I'm blessed to have a warm coat, hat and gloves on. I want to enjoy it because I have a warm, dry house awaiting me. I am blessed. If there's ever a time to realize what you have, it's now. I can only imagine what it would be like to be out there now, waiting for the several inches to fall into place, and no where to go. No warm home. Only a crowded shelter. (Now, those of you who know me, know that I've worked with the homeless for 20 years. There are those who choose, those who don't and those who don't know the difference. I reflect and pray for the latter two.) And, I'm super blessed to have no where to go but my home office and out to shovel in the morning (my back! hahaha).
Even now, as I write, my face continues to sing from the chill and life that was soft burned into it walking. I already have a rosy color - thanks to my heritage, and one I've spent a lifetime trying to cover. It's only been recently that I've embraced my naturally rouged hue and now feel the life within those cheeks. You just don't get this same feeling when you go from garage to car to parking lot to building. You just don't. You can only feel it when you spend real time outside, walking, playing with the dog or kids. You have to enjoy it. It's not a burden but a reminder that while the sun makes us feel alive with its warmth, that the snow, it's beauty and chill, can do the same.
To those of you in the path of the storm, be safe, stay in and go out when you must. You know who you are.