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Chicago Views and Abroad Perspectives

Chicago Skyline


If I asked you about your birthplace, how would you describe it to me? Does your city, town, village, or neighborhood have a reputation?

Chicago is famous for blues music, stuffed pizza, professional sports franchises, cold, windy winters, warm violent summers, and more. Legendary musicians Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters played in Chicago. Giordano's perfected the pizza slice in Chicago. Michael Jordan put the Chicago Bulls on the basketball map. The unpredictable climate makes the city special for different reasons.

Seven years ago, my family moved away from Chicago. We spent two years in Mexico and then relocated to Antigua. Last week, I returned to my hometown with my daughter to reconnect with family and friends.

Much has changed in Chicago. On the food side, Dunkin Donuts no longer sells the Dunkacinno drink. And Portillo's doesn't make a grilled tuna fish sandwich anymore.

Much has not changed. On the struggle side, young brothers continue to hustle for resources in a city surrounded by a Gold Coast. While waiting on a Redline train platform, I witnessed a teenager sell a bottle of liquor out of his bookbag to a transit employee.

Girl waiting on redline train

Living abroad changes your perspectives. What was normal becomes strange and absurd. I explained this worldview shift to a mentor over lunch at a Panera Bread restaurant near the university I attended.

While my graduate school advisor finished his soup, I shared the following story with him. It was more conversational than formal but read on for more context.

On July 5th, I poked my head into the lush living room of my sister’s home. My mother sat on the couch with her gaze focused on the television. I asked her what she was watching, and she didn't respond.

Something on the screen had her mesmerized. I decided to join her.

The Channel 7 news shared footage from a July 4th party that turned into a street brawl. Fights escalated as the police arrived and disbursed the crowds. In the aftermath, several people escaped with injuries, one died from a gunshot wound, and bullet shells littered the streets alongside firework debris.

It was too much. I left the room and emptied ideas into my journal. I wrote.

When I lived in Chicago, the homicide spikes of summer months became an annual event. I never accepted the murders but learned to understand them as elements of warm weather and hot temperaments. It was almost as if more exposure to the sun triggered a desire to kill in some people.

Now hear me; Antigua is not a haven. It has challenges with violence, theft, and corruption. But to give you a scale, two people have died this year due to gunshot wounds.

On July 17th, Chicago reported 316 murders in 2023. It’s not fair to compare a country to a city when you can't control for size and population. However, I hope you can see how the peaceful reality of where I live now conflicts with my home of thirty-three years.

When I shared the story about the July 4th party with my mentor, he acknowledged that the violence didn't make sense. He also talked about how the need to survive pushes people into desperate acts.

Attractions like the Shedd Aquarium, Giordano's Pizza, and Garett's Popcorn remain the same. But in other ways beyond tourist traps and food staples, Chicago is different.

One question came up multiple times from family and friends. Do you ever see yourself moving back? I answered with some version of, “I don’t know; It’s not in my immediate plans; I won’t say never; and No.”

I don’t have any plans to move back to Chicago. As much as I love my family, friends, and everything that is Chicago, I can’t see returning to live there in the future.

Sometimes, you have to leave home to gain perspective.

Antigua is where I live now.

I will never deny my Chicago roots. Branches of the Lindsay family tree found rich soil on Southside streets and suburban cul-de-sacs. The highs and lows of the culture cultivated me into a man.

Sometimes, I wish that when you hear the name Chicago, you picture more joy than pain. Although we know both emotions describe the reality of the city.

Subscribe here for more abroad reflections that can arrive in your inbox at home. See the video below for a glimpse into an open water swim meet on the island of Antigua and Barbuda.


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