Part of what makes Chicago an amazing city is how many people have come here to get a new handle on their lives. I truly do think that what makes you a Chicagoan is not whether you were born here or how long you lived here, but how alive you feel about being here.
That said, I also truly do think that being an expat gets incredibly annoying come the holiday season. Seriously, you’ve got two family holidays a month apart. One of them you’re expected to spend time with your family, the other you’re expected to spend money. So after you’ve already made one trek to sit around and play the game of pretending Facebook doesn’t exist and asking each other “So how have you been?” you have to make another one a month later.
Because no matter how many holiday specials (brought to you by Walmart) tell us that Christmas isn’t about presents, if you show up and tell Aunt Karen you’ve brought her the gift of love wrapped in a hug with a lifetime guarantee, and she bought you a $35 Moleskine journal because she remembered that you were a writer or something, you’re going to be getting some dirty looks over the eggnog that night.
But suitcases have only so much room, and god help you if you have to fly home. Sure, a Walmart gift card is versatile and usable pretty much anywhere, but did you really fall in love with Chicago to throw money at a corporation based in Arkansas?
One of the easiest ways to get around this is to shop digitally. Local indie bookstore favorites like The Book Cellar or Women and Children First let you buy ebooks while keeping your dollars local, instead of slinging them into the Cayman Islands offshore account of a corporate CEO. You can further support the local literary scene by getting your so-called friends and called-so relatives ebooks like Megan Stielstra’s “Everyone Remain Calm,” The 2nd Story collective’s anthology “Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying Duck,” Patricia McNair’s “The Temple of Air,” Joe Meno’s “Office Girl” or “Windy City Queer,” edited by Kathie Bergquist. You’re not limited to just plain text prose either; you can find Mike Norton’s award-winning comic “Battlepug” in an ebook format, as well as autobio-graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown’s memoir “Funny Misshapen Body.” You can spend Black Friday in your lounge pants at home, even!
Failing that, you can always check your favorite local fooderies like Pastoral or Fox & Obel and see about sending a little “Taste of Chicago” ahead of you.
Actually, that sounds pretty good right now. (Greg Baldino)