I often say that Dave and my first date not only included him and I, but also one of Canada's most beloved artists/storytellers, Stuart McLean. As I got to know Dave, I also got to know the Vinyl Cafe on CBC Radio, McLean's forum for sharing the stories of the made-up characters Dave and Morley and their life in Canada. Our first date was a fantastic introduction to one of Canada's most incredible gems and I liken it to NPR listeners affinity for "A Prairie Home Companion." McLean's voice came lilting over the stereo speakers and I was hooked as he told the story of a mom named Morley, a jock strap, and what "athletic support" really means. Needless to say, the Vinyl Cafe has become an institution in our relationship and a Sunday morning tradition. The week isn't complete without it.
Like PHC, the Vinyl Cafe goes on the road and one of the hardest tickets to get is the one for their Christmas show. A Christmas show that brings light, laughter, and good cheer to tons of Canadians as the tour bus criss-crosses the country toting stories, singers, a Christmas tree, a piano, a bass, and a partridge in a pear tree (okay, maybe not so much the pear tree part). The Christmas stories are truly wonderful and they MAKE the holidays here. Luckily enough, a group of us from Moose Jaw (the gents clad in their traditional and wonderful (read: awful) Christmas sweaters) were able to snag fantastic seats at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina to see McLean in action, hear the songs of Christmas sung by the incredible Matt Andersen (seriously, check him out), catch up with Dave and Morley, and settle into the holiday spirit. It was a magical evening..in part because it is something I had built up in my mind for so long and then finally saw it come to life right before my eyes. It met every expectation and I couldn't have been happier.
That night occurred right before I was off to Chicago -- to settle into my other kind of favorite holiday cheer -- the city! I landed and was immediately whisked by the Chicago El system to the office on Wacker Drive. As I walked from the train among the buildings, I caught scent of mulled wine from the Chicago Christkindlmarket (a fabulous holiday tradition put on by the City of Chicago that comes close to the real thing I experienced in Germany). There were folks walking with packages, a chill was in the air, there were holiday decorations on anything that could stand, and I knew I was back...back in the city I called home for nine years. I was going to be there for a week, to work, see friends, and reconnect with my beloved Sweet Home Chicago.
The week was excellent...holiday gatherings, dinner with friends, new restaurants (a winner in Publican), old favorites (Volo Wine Bar and J. Alexander's), and reconnecting with myself as the snow swirled outside the apartment windows. I visited the Christmas Market and soaked in the sights with a cup of hot chocolate. I sat with friends at Stanley's for a three-hour brunch among their kitchsy decorations laughing and catching up on love, life and our respective pursuits of happiness. I traveled via bus and El watching the buildings and twinkling lights swoosh past the foggy windows. I shopped at small corner market groceries, admiring their small selections of food from exotic places and wondering how I could smuggle some goodness back home. The city welcomed me with open arms and I let myself be wrapped up in a big Chicago bear hug. It was good to be back.
So, as we near Christmas, it is clear to me that I live in two worlds...both of which I am grateful for and appreciate to no end. I have Moose Jaw to explore and Canada to live in, offering me new experiences and a chance to re-connect to myself in different ways while making new friends and forging new connections. I also have Chicago and my love of the city -- full of friends and familiar haunts to remind me of where I have come from and who I am becoming as a result of the foundation I laid there. I am incredibly lucky to be able to experience and live in these two places, to feel as though I belong in both, and to have people surrounding me to accompany and help me along the journey.
In late breaking news today...
I am officially official as a Canadian permanent resident! My PR card arrived in the mail as an early present for Dave and I. This was a fast and furious process and I think we might hold the record for PR speed! Cheers, everyone!
STUART! I screamed like a teenager at a NKOTB concert when he came onstage!
The ugly...erm, FESTIVE sweater trio.
The Chicago Christkindlmarket
Publican's yummy interior and breakfast below.
Home again to a wintry wonderland.