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  • Writer's pictureJeff Eaker

400 E. Randolph. Butterflies and urban skies.

Butterfly, butterfly.

Wings on an urban sky.

You get so high.

Yeah, you get so high.

In the urban sky.

Sweet butterfly.

When I got my first job in Chicago, everything happened super-fast. It was boom, boom, boom. I got the offer at our end of year critique. I accepted immediately. I graduated the next week and then I packed up about three suitcases worth of shit and moved to Chicago. The only two people I knew in Chicago were John and Iser (pronounced E-sir). We had all been in the same fraternity. They were a couple of years older than me. Great guys.

John picked me up at the airport and drove me to their apartment in Wrigleyville. It was about midnight and he insisted that my first meal in Chicago should be a couple of char-dogs at the Wiener Circle. It’s a fun place because the hot dogs are excellent and they yell mean things at you when you order. Everyone is drunk and happy and about halfway through their night of Wrigleyville bar hopping.

John and Iser had a nice two-bedroom walk-up about three blocks from Wrigley Field. In the back there was a small mudroom which was all mine, free of charge, until I found my own place. It was the dead of winter and the heat back there wasn’t so great. This was my first winter in the Mid-west. Up until then I had spent my entire life in Texas. My blood was thin. I shivered in my bed and slept in my clothes with my jacket and boots on. As soon as I got my first paycheck, I bought long underwear and a down comforter.

John and Iser had a friend who worked at Arthur Andersen. He was a smart kid and was being groomed for bigger things. A few weeks after I moved to Chicago, he got offered a chance to run the Arthur Andersen office in Moscow for six months. He needed someone to sublet his condo to quickly. It was a fully furnished one bedroom, on the 31st floor of the 400 E. Randolph building.

This place was fucking sick. It was right downtown about three or four blocks from the Leo Burnett building. I could look out my window and see the lights on at all hours of the night. I told him I could afford $700/month. The place was worth three times that. He let me have it. It was a major score.

He wasn’t much of a reader but he did have a few books lying around and one of them was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I spent my nights reading about architecture and staring out at the skyline of downtown Chicago. It pisses me off that the book has been co-opted by certain right wing political movements. I loved it and it was the perfect thing for me to read as I set out on my own to carve out a career and make a name for myself.

I was so high up. Thirty-one fucking floors. That’s really high. There was a balcony. It scared the shit out of me to stand out on that balcony. Sometimes I’d go out and there and just sit though, and that was nice. In the springtime there were butterflies. Which I thought was pretty amazing. I didn’t think butterflies got that high.

Firecracker, firecracker.

Shell shocked.

Huddled against a biting wind.

Your wings arise and you fly again.

You fly again sweet butterfly.

In the sky.

You fly again sweet butterfly.

My buddies and I had spent much of our college years taking long road trips to go see Grateful Dead shows. It didn’t matter where the show was, Texas is a long way from anywhere because no matter where you’re going it takes a long fucking time just to get out of Texas.

Wherever we’d go we’d find the cheapest supermarket in town and buy as much Mountain Dew as possible. We’d set up camp in the parking lot and sell “dollar Dews” alongside the people vending veggie burritos and grilled cheese. Those shows were a blast and we’d usually make back all the ticket and gas money from the soda sales.

But now I lived in Chicago and that summer the Grateful Dead played three shows at Soldier Field that I fucking walked to. After years of driving 1000’s of miles, suddenly I could walk to a Grateful Dead show. Man, I was the luckiest dude in the world.

The shows were on July 7th, 8th and 9th. People came in a week early to parlay the festivities with 4th of July weekend. There was a massive fireworks show downtown and because we were so high up, they practically exploded at eye level. It was amazing.

Everyone ate mushrooms and I worried about the butterflies.

The show on the 9th was the last show of the tour. Everyone went home and a month later Jerry died. That was the last Grateful Dead show.

Hey, why don’t you drop me a line?

‘Cause now that you’re gone.

I’m hanging on.

I’m hanging on to a butterfly.

In the sky.

I’m hanging on, with all my might.

I’m hanging on.

I’m hanging on to a butterfly.

In the sky.

Sweet butterfly.

I had gotten hung up on a girl in college. Big time. I was madly in love with her from the first moment I saw her across the room at Jaime’s Mexican Villa on Red River Road in Austin, TX. I had absolutely zero game when it came to meeting women but I was so gob smacked by her that I forced myself to go over and start up a conversation.

We ended up talking for the rest of the night. I hung on her every word. All I wanted to do was sit as close to her as she would allow me to and listen to her talk. She had no idea how totally and frankly, obsessively, in love with her I was. She just thought I was a nice guy who liked to talk. I didn’t care as long as I could be with her.

We became friends. Then best friends. And after that, sort of better than best friends which was hard for me to wrap my head around. And finally, when I let her know my true feelings about her it freaked her out and she totally backed off. It was pretty torturous for me. All I could ever think about was her. And all I felt was disappointment in myself for not being good enough to win her love.

I had hoped the move to Chicago would free me of her. But even from far away I pined for her even more. I reveled in the sadness. It was the only part of her that I could have. So I took as much sadness as I could and held on to it as tightly as possible.

I wrote about her all the time in my journal. She was my muse. The great unrequited love of my life. My own personal Love in the Time of Cholera.

I’m wiser now about love than I was then. Love is an energy and I spent a lot of time wasting it. At first the sadness can fuel you and even inspire you. But eventually the sadness becomes an addiction. And just like any addiction it is best to let it go before it consumes you.

When the six months were over, I moved out of the condo and got a place in Lakeview—just north of Wrigleyville. Every morning I would walk to the train and take the Ravenswood into downtown and go to work. I’d stare out the window and think of her. And the butterflies. In the urban sky. Sweet butterfly.

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