Lynn Voedisch: Finding friends in a giant crowd

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Character Take-Over

When you move, you make new friends. It’s imperative; otherwise, you’ll be shut up in your new place with no human contact. Moving from a house where you’ve spent many years and experienced many memorable events is tough enough. But what happens when you move to another state, to a big city instead of a quiet suburb, and don’t know a soul where you are going? I moved recently, but I’m still in the same basic community I was in three weeks ago. One of my characters has a much more interesting story to tell, having moved from a rugged community near Milwaukee, WI, to a high rise building in bustling Chicago, IL. She’s wrestling the blog away from me as I type….

Well, this is Veronica again, and I am not sure I made the best move of my life or if I really made a complete mess of things. I’m sitting up here in this high rise, looking down on all the little people and tiny cars, feeling 100 miles away from humanity. Just looking down there makes me feel immensely powerful and untouchable at the same time. How do I get those Lilliputian people up to visit me in my new domain. Going down to them means I have nothing to say, no way to share with them as they barrel along the street, late for appointments or hurrying to catch the subway.
I call my friends in Milwaukee and they all say the same thing: “If you have a special interest, join a club.” Oh, sure. I’m interested in reading books, but what am I going to do sit around reading with people? I did check out the Harold Washington Library near me, but there didn’t seem to be anything to do. Only book discussions of books I hadn’t read or didn’t want to read. Things with my late husband Matt were so much  easier. We loved the same type of fiction and nonfiction and together made a book club of two.
But I do like gardening, and I discovered at the Starbucks on the street-level floor of my building that the city lets you rent little plots of land in their community garden program.

You can grow whatever you like, from sweet potatoes to sweet peas. Surely you end up getting to know the gardeners who are in close proximity to you.
The first day I went out to garden, in April, it snowed. I could have laughed. Spring near the Great Lakes is always a dicey proposition. Milwaukee has the same kind of weather. As I got back onto the L to take a ride back out to the South Loop where I live, a man with a soothing voice explained to me that most people didn’t really get going with their gardening until Memorial Day, or sometimes a couple weeks earlier on Mother’s Day. He guessed that I was from out of town and I admitted that I was from Wisconsin.
I asked him how he knew all this, and he just laughed leaning on his shovel (he was just there to till the earth, not plant anything), explaining he’d been doing the community gardens since he was a young man. As we talked, I found out he was an accountant, and that he led walking tours of Chicago’s most unusual sites (“not the usual landmarks”) on various weekends. He said he had a tour coming up and said that I should tag along. He wouldn’t charge me, seeing as how I got caught in an April snow. He had a nice smile. I laughed and looked his card over. He also lived in a high rise, but one of the ones lining the highway to O’Hare.
Tyson. His name was Tyson, and he just put me at east with his whole manner.
As he was disembarking the train, and I faced a long ride to South Loop, he leaned over and said I looked like a scared bird. “Most people in Chicago are friendly. You’ll soon see that.”

Gosh, I really hope he’s right. And I never asked if he was single.

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On June 21, 2016
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