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  WINDY CITY TIMES

IN THE LIFE Lizzy Wolferman
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times.
2018-09-27

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Everyone's life is a journey. However, with Liz Wolferman—the front-of-house manager of the acclaimed local restaurant Mott St.—it's been a literal journey that's involved Chicago, New York City and even England, resulting in a life shaped by experiences and people both here and abroad.

Wolferman was raised in Schaumburg, Illinois, and moved to a garden apartment in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood her third year in college, and worked in a bar called The Grafton. She loved the apartment although there were some drawbacks—some expensive: "My heating bill was about $500 a month. My mom said I was paying for the whole apartment building," she said with a laugh. "[My roommates and I] also knew in Andersonville so we'd go to a bar for $2 beers," adding that friends would also visit or even stay overnight in their apartment, which was considered a safe space—or "a clubhouse," as Wolferman called it. "It was a very easygoing time."

However, even though things were satisfying on a personal level, Wolferman felt adrift on a professional level. I was asking myself, "What am I doing? I'm working at this bar two days a week, and I'm working during the daytime as customer service for a design studio—and I hated that job. I would show up late and they changed my hours so I wouldn't—and I STILL showed up late. I knew it wasn't sustainable."

And then, Wolferman decided to move to New York City. "I went there once, and I liked it," she said. "[In Chicago], I had just gone through a break-up and I just felt tired—plus my life looked exactly the same as it did five years ago." So she moved with two other people, ending up in Bed-Stuy ( in Brooklyn ).

Asked what she thought of New York City, Wolferman said, "When I first moved there, it felt similar enough that it felt comfortable, but different enough that it felt exciting." However, it wasn't necessarily a smooth transition: "My presence caused some hostility in my building; some liked me and some hated me, particularly when we talked about gentrification."

She started working as a brunch server at the now-defunct restaurant Martha—"and I made a lot of friends there, including a person named Jo. She saw me on OKCupid so she knew I was queer, and I knew she was queer; we became close friends, and she pulled me into her community." Subsequent jobs in NYC establishments included being a bartender, beverage director and general manager.

Her personal life changed a bit, too—especially after the 2016 presidential election. "Trump got elected. My wife is from Australia and was in the U.S. on a work visa; the day after he got elected, we decided to get married. Then, she moved out to London and I moved back to Chicago to do the visa process so I could live in England—which is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I was wildly depressed last summer because it's terrifying, with all the government jargon."

And then, late last year, Wolferman's life took another drastic turn. "I moved to London last summer and was there until last November, when my mom had a massive heart attack. She [suffered] a cardiac attack and it took an ambulance 20 minutes to get there. That weekend, [wife] Jess and I arrived—and that was the same weekend we were going to buy a house in a small seaside town in England, and I was going to open a little beer shop. Jess then said, 'We have to move to Chicago.'" Realizing her closeness with her own family, the couple relocated to the city, loving Wicker Park and now not as fond of Andersonville ( "It's all bar-and-grills." ).

Interestingly, with all of these twists, Wolferman said she's learned one important lesson: knowing when to leave. "I'm the type of person who will just make it work and will give it my all. I do that with my jobs, living situations and partnerships—but you have to know when to walk away to make a better opportunity."

STATS:

—Neighborhood: Wicker Park

—Age: 31

—Orientation: Queer

—Relationship: Married to Jess for almost two years

—Favorite snack foods: Charcuterie; banana pudding with Nilla wafers

—Favorite TV shows: Insecure and The Handmaid's Tale

—A perfect day would involve: Waking up early, a walk to get coffee; farmer's market; a nice lunch with rose; walk around water; old-school steakhouse dinner and cocktails; and back in bed by 9:30 p.m.


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