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Published: October 30th 2018
Famed for over a century
Last night was really cold! The hotel windows were relatively new, but ill-fitted, and they leaked cold wind. The door was not tight, and the elevators created a draft drawing in more cold air. I wore my fleece all night. Even our group leader, Andrea, exclaimed that the weather was unusually cold for May. Fortunately, after breakfast the sun came out and the air warmed into a lovely summer day.
We had been provided with $10 vouchers for breakfast at the Corner Bakery next door. Unfortunately, all of their eggs are scrambled from a prepared mix that included milk and cheese. I ordered sides of bacon and toast and orange juice. Regrettably, the toast was barely warmed and the bacon was greasy. Maybe tomorrow, I will try a sandwich, if they will allow me to buy one at breakfast time. Their business is based on high-volume standard dishes, which does allow them to sell at reasonable prices.
A very comfortable tour bus drove us around much of the city. Joe, a university prof and experienced guide, had designed our route and gave commentary throughout the day. His focus was on the different architectures in different districts and how that
Reflections in the Bean
How can the world be defined!
reflected the history of Chicago
. Everything dates after the great fire
in 1871, and the “second city”, as they call it, was built more substantial and more beautiful. On the north side, relatively close to Wrigley Stadium
(home of the Cubs) were mostly wealthier neighbourhoods featuring large, graceful homes and hundreds of ethnically diverse restaurants. On the south side, relatively close to the renowned University of Chicago were middle class (our guide’s term) and lower income homes in lots of medium and big apartment buildings. To my eyes the middle class houses looked high-end, with huge treed yards and verandas fronting multi-storey houses. Examples of residents were Muhammad Ali, Louis Farrakhan, and President Obama.
In the centre of the downtown we visited the extensive Millennium Park, funded primarily by donations solicited from traditional and modern multi-millionaires. Frank Gehry
, inspired apparently by a crumpled piece of paper, designed the Pritzker Pavilion
, a stunning outdoor concert venue,. Nearby and more mind-blowing is the “Bean
”, an impossibly shiny elliptical rounded mass that reflects everything around. We and everyone else played with our cameras, in my case trying to get photos of myself looking at the elegant Michigan Avenue skyline. Finally, we marvelled at a sculpture installation
Locally known as "Faces", a much better name
by Jaume Plensa
, who also did Calgary's artwork Wonderland
, in front of the Bow
. Chicago's artwork is known as Faces
and features two tall thick walls covered in small tiles draped in waterfalls. Slow-moving videos of a person’s face in playful moods are shown on the waterfalls, teasing the watcher until suddenly the mouth spews water in an arc into a shallow reflecting pool. There are 999 ordinary Chicagoans shown in rotation – we saw only one. Of course children play in the reflecting pool, and everyone takes photos.
Our lunch was on the south side in a 1940s deli called Manny’s
. The set lunch served cafeteria style was half a sandwich (mine stuffed with tasty chopped liver), a bowl of soup (mine salty chicken broth with a large matzo ball), a side salad, a potato pancake with apple sauce (still don’t like potato pancakes), and a fountain drink (mine Barq’s root beer). Very filling! The ambience was authentically full of clatter at café tables. Lots of tables - maybe for over a hundred people. Aside from our tour group, most people seemed to be locals enjoying their favourites. The servers on the cafeteria were charmingly impatient with our slowness
The slow progress of tourists
in deciding on unfamiliar choices. Busboys whisked away trays and plates as soon as they were not needed.
The University of Chicago
campus was magnificent, with acres of green lawns and huge, architecturally important buildings. The gigantic Rockefeller Memorial Chapel
was built to secure founding funds for the university (called chapel because it is now non-denominational). We went into the beautifully light modern low-rise Harper Centre
, the business school’s MBA and PhD locale. In the middle was a wonderful winter garden where students worked and studied. Immediately adjacent was the Robie House
, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
in 1910 in what came to be known as the Prairie Style
, still looking very modern with its long, low, rectangular shapes executed in natural wood. A short walk away was a long boulevard-style park, known as the Midway, where entertainments were located during the 1893 World’s Fair
, whence comes the general term “midway” for the rides in any fair.
The city is geographically unified by a long, wide green park, the Lakefront Trail
along Lake Michigan
. In places, the city is invisible. In the early days, a law was passed to prevent development of the waterfront for any purpose other than public recreation. Some of the waterfront, particularly Grant Park
, was built on land
Robie House (1909)
Frank Lloyd Wright - Prairie School - still looks modern
created from the debris of the great fire. Twenty miles of pathways and the unending view of the Lake (“an inland sea”, said our guide) let joggers and parents and teens and picnickers and seniors and everyone else relax in an almost natural setting.
In our few hours of free time, I walked a couple of blocks to take photos of the “L”, the elevated transit train system. Our hotel is very near “The Loop” where the trains make a slow U turn, i.e., the end of the line. Photography was difficult because the structure was mostly dark rust, above my head, against a white sky, and shadowed by tall buildings. Even so, the experience of trains going overhead is a thrilling one (until you get used to it, I guess). Walking back I went into the historic first Walgreens
(since expanded) and was astonished to see that it was more grocery and liquour store than drug store. Perhaps the pharmacy was on the second floor, but I wasn’t curious enough to explore.
This evening was extraordinary! Although a free evening, our group leaders offered to take the willing (at our own cost) to Andy’s Jazz Club and Restaurant
. At 6:00 we
under the L
That is, Loop, where trains turn around overhead
walked about five blocks and entered a sizeable club with lots of tables and a live band already playing. Our guide, Rachel, comes so often with groups that we paid only $5, half the usual cover charge. The singer’s set came to an end, and we ordered. I tried a local Goose IPA, and had a open-faced catfish sandwich. The fresh fish was blackened in a peppery mix of spices, and the fries were absolutely delicious. The bread got lost under a big piece of lettuce, which held the “dry coleslaw” (finely chopped cabbage). The fish and fries were so good, I didn’t care about the rest.
The band came back for another set. In turn the pianist, the bassist and the drummer poured body and soul into their featured moments, drawing me into their musicality. When the singer came on, she polled our group about where we were from, and then extended the inquiry to the rest of the audience. The great surprise was that everyone was from all different countries, such as Hungary, Australia, Switzerland, Brazil, Spain, and a few Chicagoans. She said Andy’s always draws an international audience. Then she began to sing jazz classics. Her
Fine accompaniment to live jazz
passion and interactions with the band chased away all thoughts, to create a pure experience. Until she started in on “I Wish You Love” – a song I learned only this spring with Westwinds Choir. I was transported! My worlds came together in a tune I could sing with all the words – but only in my mind of course. I walked back to the hotel on a cloud! Watch the video of "I Wish You Love".
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