…and I looked at them in a single bound.
*insert rim shot*
Chicago can be a cool and interesting place, even to a small town bumpkin such as yours truly. Generally, even though I live within spitting distance of the city, a western suburbanite who prefers the peaceful serenity of the burbs, I turn up my nose at the city, pooh pooh the noise and grime and crowds and intrusiveness that comes with urban life. Until I get a chance to embrace city life, experience it vicariously through friends or an unique adventure, I bad mouth city life in the spirit of true ignorance. Saturday was a day where I was treated to an adventure that showed me the city in a unique light. Even though I will never want to live there, I can appreciate Chicago a bit more.
A friend invited me to join her for a trip into the city to take an architecture tour of Chicago via boat. She lured me by offering to pay for the day, a treat for my birthday. I’m old and cheap, so it’s easy to tempt me with
cheap inexpensive entertainment. Besides, the Chicago architecture boat tour has always been intriguing to me, so no real temptation was necessary, no pied piper. We took the train into Ogilvie station early in the morning, the trip not only fun because it’s not something I do every day, but it was unique in another way — for some reason the porter passed by us the entire trip. It was if we were invisible. We exited the train at Ogilvie, puzzled by the strange behavior of the porter, thankful to have saved $20 on the train trip. As it turned out, we had to buy tickets at the station for the trip home — $14.87, so our transportation was $5 less than planned.
Planning comes natural to Lisa, a certification administrator for a hospital network. She also is a Groupon junkie, thus the
cheap inexpensive boat tour. It was a deal. The walk to the boat was a fairly long trek from Ogilvie station, but Lisa knew how long it would take us to get there. Along the way, we would use a gift card to purchase coffee and breakfast, at an Einstein bagel restaurant on the route to the boat dock, a restaurant that Lisa had located prior to our trip together. As I found out during the course of the day, it was a much better experience to go to the city with someone who knows the city and has a plan.
Viewing Chicago from the river and Lake Michigan lends a whole new perspective to the city. It looks more wide open, for one thing, an opportunity to view the intimidating behemoths towering straight above from a much less restrictive view. I was able to see the characteristics of each part of the city, witness the inhabitants enjoying the city in a different way. The boat took a route that entered the river from the river side of the lock at Navy pier, east of Lake Shore drive. There are no skyscrapers save one east of Lake Shore drive, something that Montgomery Ward lobbied for nearly 100 years ago and what adds to the beauty of the city. So as we approached the city on the Chicago river from the east side of Lake Shore, we were able to take in the awesome approach of the expanse of the buildings from an outside vista, as if the city was a natural part of the horizon. It belongs there.
Even the Trump tower belongs. Built in 2009 to blend in with the curves of the river and the city around it, the tower adds an elegance to the view. Unlike its namesake, it’s neither garish nor rude. True to Chicago, it adds to the history, fits with the architectural era it was built to fill (post modernism). That is what makes the architecture of Chicago so rich — its buildings tell a story, show a little what life was like in each stage of its history. There are so many iconic buildings in Chicago — the Hancock, Willis (Sears) tower, Merchandise mart, NBC tower, River towers, Vista (will be the tallest woman designed building in the world), Monadnock,.. just to name a few. To be able to view these buildings from a historical perspective, often with several eras side by side, adds to the pure enjoyment of the tour.
The boat cruised the main channel as we viewed the expanse that surrounded us, yet did not encroach, turned south as we learned the story of the Chicago fire that devasted that part of the city, then turned north to witness some of the history of gentrified warehouses turned upper end residential. At the end of the tour, the boat swung out towards the lake, then back to give an excellent picture of Chicago’s skyline.
It was a treat. I have lived close to Chicago nearly my entire life, a suburbanite the last thirty or so years. Until now, my idea of the city was a large looming hodge podge that closed me in, that offered no true value in terms of peace or serenity. My opinion was closed minded, I knew and know. That’s just it — I am human, influenced by what I know, which is the open prairie with it’s flat, wide open, free space. The city made me feel claustrophobic. Now I see that someone who truly loves the city does not need to feel that way.
Tour over, we headed towards Navy Pier, a tourist area with a huge ferris wheel that extends out into Lake Michigan. I was promised a special surprise, a treat. When I saw it, my eyes became saucers — Rainbow ice cream, layers of different flavors scooped into one cone or cup. Chocolate, pistachio, butter pecan, cherry, strawberry, and topped by orange sherbet. It was INCREDIBLE. We found a place inside the pier mall to enjoy our treat, walked the shops. My other treat there was to ham it up on one of those screens with a camera that captures the viewer, places a goofy hat and mask on them. I probably spent way too much time messing with that.
From there, we walked to the Little Italy area of Chicago. Chicago is like many cities, with sections that reflect an ethnic flavor, one of the characteristics of the city that adds a richness. We had reservations at an old style italian restaurant, downed fresh pasta (gnocchi for me) with plenty of garlic spread on fresh bread and a little bit of wine. It was a terrific way to cap the day.
Instead of walking back to Ogilvie station to catch the train back to the western burbs, we summoned a Lyft driver. After close to 22,000 steps (nearly 9 miles), we both were beat. Our driver dropped us off at the station with ten minutes to spare before the train was scheduled to leave. We arrived home with an evening left to share, spent outside with more wine on my balcony, waiting for the bats to fly overhead at dusk.
Yes, bats. It’s not creepy at all. Rather, they are fun to watch as they weave towards the river close by, going home after a day spent away. Perhaps they are checking out the city as well?