Top 10 Sensory Details from My First Night in Chicago

  1. Scent of the ham and cheese sandwich and fries Mica got to go from Earwax Cafe. She ate them out of a styrofoam container on North Avenue just north of the North/Damen/Milwaukee intersection, sandwich in one hand while she hailed a cab with the other. I could tell the fries had seasoned salt on them, and wanted food even though I wasn’t hungry. Food memories are embarrassingly vivid.
  2. Worn, soft polyester-cotton blend maroon shirt I wore enough that the armpits were starting to get threadbare and the hem was stretched out. I kept wearing it anyway. It had a picture of an anime girl across the chest and I thought it was sooooo cool. I was stuck in 1999 fashion-wise, and to be fair 1999 was less than five years ago. Still.
  3. The hard inside of the cab thumping against my arm as we jolted along North to California to Fullerton, not that I knew any of those street names. I was really lost. I asked if the area we were going was okay, and Mica made a so-so hand motion. “It kind of varies block to block.” I nodded. Months later, I would blurt out something about Damen being really far west, to snorts and laughs. Geography is relative.
  4. The girl working the door, who was chubby with black curly hair, bangs, and a kid’s blue t-shirt with a rainbow and a star on it.
  5. World/Inferno Friendship Society, who was all ska-punk-soul crashing and horns. They were pretty great. I haven’t seen them since. At one point during the show, the lead singer danced with a girl in a red slip dress while the band played on.
  6. I can’t remember who else was with us. Her younger friend Mark? Our friend Sarah, who later moved to San Francisco? That’s not a sensory detail, but this is: the cigarette smoke that converged outside, about a foot away from the building, and the faint hint of smoke on the inside.
  7. The bathroom. Foul. The sensory details of this part of the night are best left unexplored. I peed quickly.
  8. Mica’s voice, high and slightly fast, talking about how some guy who ran some venue was a dick. He sounded like a dick. Mica was my college roommate for one year. She got me into a lot of shows.
  9. The scent of cheap beer I really wanted to drink. I was always too cowardly for a fake ID.
  10. Cool late summer night air as we walked along Fullerton. I feel like we walked all the way back to the Red Line but I can’t be sure.

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