Dear Sufjan, I enjoy your new album about my city and state, and I enjoy your marriage of the ecclesiastic and the vaguely erotic. I am wondering if you are available, one day in the future when you are less busy being a newly famous Christian troubadour, to drive around Chicago and listen to “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison over and over, and see who cries first, you or me. I do not know what “losing” would consist of—crying first or not crying. It wouldn’t be a date or anything weird like that, just a contest. Then I could show you the cool things around town that you did not sing about on your record: drive under the Green Line tracks where a car chase from The Blues Brothers took place, the fern room at the Garfield Park Conservatory, the top-floor atrium of the Harold Washington Library where the floors are marble and cool and very clean and no one is ever there so you can lay on them and look up into the downtown sky or just read the books you checked out, the Soul Vegetarian vegan soul food restaurant run by the African Hebrew Israelites, the Baha’i temple in Willamette which gets a lot of god in the architecture and has seven gardens. If you are not scared of dark isolated places there is always the train-line land bridge that runs through the industrial corridor to downtown where there are tons of baby rabbits and great discarded things—last time I was up there there was part of some old fair ride and the sign to some mid-’60s hair salon with those sequiny letters. We can sneak onto the elevators at the Drake Hotel and look at the lake at night—and if it’s fall they have apples in baskets in the hallways that are for decoration, but if you are me, they are for stealing and eating.
Maybe you wrote songs about that stuff for yr Illinois record, but they did not fit on the album, or the choruses were weak, or the song about Decatur was more fun to sing because of those half-funny half-rhymes (“aviator”?!). If you did not already write those songs, you are going to wish you had.
Yours very truly,