2006.01.19 Chicago, USA

David at Pizzeria Uno Yesterday afternoon I flew from Seattle to Chicago's second airport, Midway. This was my first time touching down there--I found it something of a surprise: the airport is smack-in-the-middle of a residential neighborhood.

On final approach, the airplane seemed to be getting dangerously close to the roofs of houses. Street-level details became so clear: outdoor swimming pools, people on the street, even vehicle license plate numbers came into focus before any airport was visible. Right as I was sure something must be wrong, we touched down onto the runway.

Midway isn't the most residentially situated of airports I've flown into. I recall flying into the old Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong a few years ago. On the approach coming in, planes had to weave between tall apartment blocks. I remember looking out the window from my seat during one flight, to see a man in his underwear, brushing his teeth--on a floor above the level where my plane was flying. Sadly, Kai Tak has been replaced by a more modern, remote location.

After arrival at Midway I took an L to Oak Park to stay with Aunt Kathy. She and I caught up for a couple hours before I headed into the Loop for dinner with Yun-Tzu, an acquaintance I met several years before in Seattle.

I hadn't seen Yun-Tzu since the summer of 2003, back when she was enrolled in an English-language study program at the University of Washington. We'd kept up occasionally over the Internet, the last I knew she'd been working again back home in Taiwan.

Just a couple days ago I saw her logged onto an instant messenger program. We chatted: it turned out that she'd just arrived in Chicago three days prior, she's begining graduate school out here. Connecting with her was completely random: I thought she was in Taiwan, she thought I was in Xinjiang. By chance we not only happened to be in the same city for a few days, but happened to get back in touch with each other shortly beforehand. We had last chatted a year or so prior--it seemed so random that such a rendezvous should take place.

We met up at the original Pizzeria Uno on the corner of Wabash and Ohio. The pizza and beer were good, we strolled around downtown to find coffee after dinner. Perhaps if I knew Chicago well we would have found somewhere better for dessert, but it surprised me how dead the Loop is after hours. The only place we found open past 10:00 was a Dunkin' Donuts.

Yun-Tzu's English has improved far more than my Chinese. We parted ways at the lobby of her flat, which was not what I expected. To me, life as a graduate student means sharing a run-down house for as little rent as possible. Yun-Tzu lives in a 49-story apartment tower right downtown.

She said she will come and see me out in Xinjiang later this year, after her summer vacation has begun. At one level I think it unlikely she will: before last night we hadn't seen each other in years. On the other hand, given how randomly things came together in the last few days, perhaps it makes sense that our paths should cross again.

I'll be driving down to Indiana later today to visit Grandpa. It's only a 90-minute drive, but a world of difference from the Loop to small-town farmland.