I don’t like waking up early in the morning, but I love having woken up early in the morning. I relish being one of the last ones to fall asleep in a house. I want to experience as much of the day as I can. If my body didn’t have so much say so in the matter, I would wake up earlier for the same reason. But, my body does have some say so in this matter. But, when you travel and sleep in a strange bed, you don’t tend to rest in the same coma-like habits that you do at home. So, I woke at early our first full day in Chicago and knew I had an opportunity to experience the city a little longer. James was still asleep, so I didn’t want to do anything too exciting. I settled to explore Greektown, which I discovered loses most of its Greekness the moment you step off Halstead.
Still, there is something to exploring a city early in the morning. You see it begin to wake up as if it is a living being. People are unlocking their shops, sweeping the sidewalks. The sun is still well shielded behind the high rises, and it’s strangely akin to waking up in the woods, only the smells and colors are vastly different. You view some of the most popular spots for the homeless population to sleep, and it’s hard not to wonder what it would be like to spend each night outside in a city like this. In so many ways, the city is stretching its arms and shaking out the sleep from its hair and eyes for the day.
I returned to the hostel for the complimentary breakfast and sat across from one of the other guests in our rooms. I noticed one of his books was in Italian and the other was a guide to Route 66. Being such an italophile, I struck up a conversation and got to speak a little Italian. The guy was leaving that morning to begin a two week road trip, following the old Route 66. He was from a town near Venice, and this was his first time in the States. His English wasn’t perfect, but it was way better than my Italian. We talked for a while about travelling about Chicago. I gave him tips on which areas to spend time in. I warned him about the seemingly endless drive on the Oklahoma/Texas plains. I reassured him that the Grand Canyon was definitely a must see. We talked about Allyson and my trip to Italy back in 2010 and how much we loved it. Just before we got up to leave, he realized we didn’t even know each other’s names. His is Natale (na-ta-ley), which means Christmas in Italy. He told me it is a very odd name, but it was his grandfather’s and he was really glad to have it. He asked if Troy was a strange name, and I said that it’s not common, but I have met others with the name.
It is such fun on a trip to cross paths with other travelers and share a little time. You will likely never see each other again, but parts of the conversation may hang with you for a long time. As we stood to go, we shook hands. I wished him, “buona fortuna,” and he set out on the open road not too long after. By now, he is probable back in Italy. I wonder what all he saw. I wonder what he thought when he first saw the grand canyon or finally made it to the coast of this huge piece of Earth we call America. I think about the well wishes we exchanged and how uplifting that is, though you hardly think about it at the time. And, to think that if I had slept in or walked somewhere else that morning, I never would have even spoken to Natale, never would have heard his story.