Aug 19, 2009

Challenge # 18 : Visit My Old Apartments

My First Apartment on Grace Street in Lakeview East

I consider myself a 'Chicagoan' more so than a Californian or a 'Michigander'. I cheer for the Cubs, the Bulls and Da' Bears. I feel goose bumps whenever I take that drive north on Lake Shore Drive into the city. There's just something special about this town. It's a sophisticated city with arguably the best collection of restaurants in America. The people are friendly. Her cold winters make you look forward to the best summers in the country. And there's the big Lake. Mag Mile. The Loop. Grant Park. The neighborhoods. The festivals. It's definitely My Kind of Town.

I took my wife on a whirlwind car tour of the places I lived in Chicago before taking the 2.5 hour drive back to Michigan. From 1988 to 1992, Chi-town was my home. My tiny studio apartment on Grace street is steps away from Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan. I threw my first BYOB blowout right here. Despite the size, dinner parties became a common event with my University of Iowa and hotel friends. My entire family visited me when I lived here. Even my cousin, Rhett Eala, spent several weeks here with me. He cooked eggs every morning. Rhett and I met up with my older sister, Batch Catino, for a Tequila excursion around the city this girl from California can never, ever forget. Younger college friends stayed here when they visited the city. During the winters, I would wait at the bus stop on the corner of Grace and LSD, and without a cigarette, I would watch myself blow 'smoke" rings into the frigid air before boarding the 6 AM "Yuppy Shuttle" to work.

My 2nd Apartment on West Sheridan Road

I moved a block away to a larger studio apartment on Sheridan Road the next year. I hosted my first gourmet dinner for twelve guests here. Every inch of that kitchen was used to prepare the dinner. More parties came with the increase in square footage. My best friend from Switzerland, Suzanne Heiniger (Imholz), religously came to this apartment every Tuesday night to watch The Wonder Years before going out on our weekly dinner adventures. My favorite cousin, Gigi Eala, visited me from the Philippines when I lived here. We hit around 63 bars and restaurants in the two weeks she was in Chicago. In the summer, I rode my bike down Lake Michigan to go to work.

Printers Row Loft

I got my big promotion to Assistant Director of F&B of the Mayfair Regent the following year. This bump in salary resulted in an upgrade in accommodations. My good friend and Mayfair Regent colleague, John State, and I moved to a brand new loft in Printer's Row, just south of the Loop. I stared at the Sears Tower each night before going to bed. Bigger parties and fancier dinners followed. The younger of the Eala cousins, Dennis, visited me here. This is where Dennis and I watched Michael Jordan and the Bulls claim their first championship. John and I rode our bikes to State and Division and partied with all the revelers after Jordan's winning basket. It was in this loft where I hosted the entire University of the Philippines Madrigal Singers and the Philippine Consul General to a Filipino Swing dance party. This is where I lived when I met up with Vincent Grey, my best friend in grade 6 at the Ateneo Grade School. Vincent convinced me to buy his maroon Chevy Spectrum for $1,200 on a $100 monthly payment plan before relocating to Barcelona. Two years later, my future wife would total the car when she hit a parked mail truck the day before our wedding. I sold the car to my secretary for one dollar.

My loft in the artist neighborhood of Pilsen

In my final year in Chicago, I lived in the artist community of Pilsen. A Polish developer purchased whole city blocks and converted each house into loft studios complete with shared courtyards in the middle of each block. Once a year, the neighborhood would open up its doors to an artist open house. This is the place where I spent my most creative year in front of the canvas. This is the place where my younger sister from Hong Kong, Haj Wilcox, was introduced to her best friend, Marga Grande. Because of the "artsy" neighborhood, I hired the hotel parking guys to valet park my friend's cars during our many bashes. My Filipino barkada (group) made up of Luigi Bernas, Billy Valtos, Leo and Michelline Suarez, Donnie and Crickette Tantoco, and Kevin and Roseanne Belmonte made this our party headquarters. Leo and Michelline's second daughter, Sam, would later become my god daughter. Michelline became my youngest daughter's godmother. Donnie and Crickette's twin daughters, Camille and Nicole, became the flower girls in our wedding.

Perhaps, this little trip down memory lane may shed some light on why it makes me so sad to leave this city. It was definitely a good way to share a rainy afternoon in the car with Elena.


Miguel said...

I know Vincent very well. I was living in Barcelona when he arrived and had some good times with him.

I still see him once in a while here in Manila.

What a small world.

George Aquino said...

Miguel, Very small world talaga. I saw Vincent last time I was home. He treated me to Cav - nice place and very good wines.

Miguel said...

Yup...Cav is a nice is is ok but I think a bit over priced.

Millie T. said...

Love this one Joji. It's always heartwarming to join you in your trips down memory lane.

Carla said...

As you enjoy having dinner parties with family and friends, I enjoy that too. Then thing is: I live aborad, so every time someone comes to visit, they stay with me for 15 days or a months. So my apartment has to be biiiig. I moved in to Argentina 2 years ago because my husband got a job here. A lot of people have come since then, so all of the buenos aires apartments we have lived in, had a balcony or a patio, to have meals outdoors, barbecues, and that sort of things!