I still remember the first night I came to Chicago.
For the first twenty-two years of my life up until that point, I had never set foot outside the state of Iowa.
The closest I had ever come to a night out at the club was last year when I convinced Larry, the crusty owner of the only bar in my hometown, to replace the usual Friday night line-dancing with a DJ night, put on by yours truly. After about thirty minutes of heavy hitting house music to an empty dance floor, I was chased out by a mob of angry Merle Haggard lovers.
That night, with all the lights and the noise that I seemed to be craving, was the night I realized that I was meant for the city – though I think my parents knew long before then. I would help out on my Pop’s farm, which was his dad’s farm before that, but deep down they knew it was only temporary. That’s probably why they were so supportive when I finally got my acceptance letter to transfer from the local community college to Northwestern University in Chicago.
That summer, my friend Fred and I set out in my old man’s truck to pay a visit to what would soon be my new home. My only source of knowledge of Chicago nightlife was from the musical, which, needless to say was a few years outdated.
As the cornfields turned to suburbia and then to the towering walls of glass and steel of the city, my heart raced with idealized dreams of everything Chicago could be.
We intended on staying in that night, but as we walked down the hall towards our room at the Motel Six, a flyer on the floor caught my eye. It was an advertisement for a special performance by Sebastian Ingrosso at one of the hot downtown clubs in Chicago. There was no way we were staying in.
I must have looked foolish showing up at 9pm and thinking that a collared shirt meant a wool flannel. But that early arrival, plus Fred’s bargaining skills, was probably the only reason we got inside.
Entering the club really was like stepping onto a foreign planet, the suede of the booths and the tight dresses and the colorful drinks, the lasers flying overhead and the bass pounding through my entire being – it was a night I could never have imagined and will always remember.
It was the Chicago I was hoping for and nothing that resembled home and yet I felt comfortable there, and after my drunken chatter with dozens of people, I finally understood why. Chicago was a refugee camp for people like me, where all the farm town rejects who dreamed of something bigger but knew they wouldn’t find it there funneled in by the train-full, and I finally felt like I belonged.
Travel diary shared by Daniel Hogan