Had a great most-of-the-week in Chicagoland. First part pleasure, second part business, which was not unpleasant. The only negative? You guessed it –
The high Sunday was 22. We got to our hotel – a Residence Inn just north of the river on Dearborn – around 4, stretched our legs and relaxed, finished watching Florida win the SEC title (big surprise) and then…well…the sun was still shining. So why not? Out we went. And honestly, it wasn’t too bad. (This post’s photos are from that day.)
We have been to Chicago many times, before, of course, but the last was, I realized, almost six years ago. It was the summer before we moved to Birmingham, and I took the little boys and my daughter over for one last fling.
I really like Chicago. I love the architecture and the layout of the city. I don’t love the cold weather, though. Oh, I remember the one Christmas we went over there to see all the pretty Big City Christmas Decorations. Brutal.
Living in Florida (as I once did) means living among Snowbirds, many of whom have left their nice old, solid, vintage homes, and their lives behind up north, in order to live in one of the thousands of manufactured housing units or “villas” that range over the Florida landscape. I remember thinking, “How could you do that? How could you leave everything and everyone behind for Florida, which has its charms, but also has horrible traffic, and, if you’re in the interior, oppressive heat and not much of interest to look at besides pink-and-aqua trimmed strip malls?”
Well, after our first winter in Fort Wayne, I said, to Mike, “Yeah, I get it now. I get how you could live in this for 60 years and then, when you retire and have the chance, leave it all behind without a second thought. I absolutely get it.” No more window-scraping or sidewalk-shoveling, and never again another depressing early March where everything’s either muddy or still frozen and they’re STILL predicting snow next week…..
(Really. I got home this afternoon, immediately set the coat aside for the dry cleaner’s. Tossed the worn-out boots in the “donate” pile. JOYFULLY.)
Since it was, indeed, so cold, this was a museum trip. The Field and the Art Institute on Monday, and then the Museum of Science and Industry on Tuesday. The fantastic thing was that because of our science center membership, we didn’t have to pay admission to either the Field or MSI. How much did we save? Maybe close to $120? Yup. Plus, the Art Institute doesn’t charge admission for children, so score there, too – three major museums for a total of $23 for the three of us. Sweet.
As jaded as I am about “science” museums…yes, MSI impressed me. I thought the “Science Storms” wings was really fantastic. What really set it apart from others – even the Exploratorium in San Francisco – was the fact that the hands-on exhibits almost all necessitated more than one step of engagement. You couldn’t, in other words, just run about slamming buttons. For anything to happened, you are required to make predictions and form hypotheses. Very good.
And the U-505? Amazing. I don’t remember seeing it on our previous visit. Perhaps we thought you had to pay to even see the exterior – you don’t, of course – that’s only for the interior tour. The vessel is enormous – the largest sub I’ve ever seen – and the story of the engagement, capture and retrieval of the sub is fascinating and extremely well told.
So, the cynic gives Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry a big thumbs-up.
When we purchased our ticket to the Art Institute, the sweet man behind the counter eyed the boys and said, “The Arms and Armour exhibit is in gallery 236…”
So of course, we went in search of it.
Well…let’s just say that two boys who have been through the insane collection of the same at Les Invalides were sort of….puzzled at the..what…3 suits of armor at the Art Institute?
Oh well, that wasn’t their main interest, anyway. Michael, who has been taking art classes, found one of the several versions of the Van Gogh he spent three weeks copying…a big thrill for him…
(Sadly for me…Nighthawks is on loan….)
(12-year old had to photograph this.)
And…food? Well, I introduced the boys to Potbelly, and they LOVED it. The first night, we hit Eataly – I had no idea there was an Eataly in Chicago (I went to the NYC Eataly last summer with Ann) – and that was fun. Pizza that was surprisingly no more expensive than “artisanal” pizza here in the ‘Ham, and good gelato. Thanks, Mario!
We were riding the Red Line somewhere…perhaps down to the Field. Yes, that was it. On Monday morning. I kept up a constant, lively stream of conversation with the boys so they wouldn’t overhear the young man at the door loudly talking to his companion, a young man who wished his friend, “Save me some p—sy!” as he got off at his stop.
But then everyone shifted around, and there were seats, so we sat down, the three of us in a row.
At this same stop, an older man pushed through the door, lurched down the aisle and stood near us for a while. He sported a hat that had “JUDGMENT DAY” appliqued in felt around it, and a vest with another word – I don’t remember what. He carried some signs which I couldn’t read because he held the printed sides together. He was shabby, and the couple of teeth he still had were gold.
He repeated himself endlessly. Perhaps, if you ride the Red Line, you know him. I’m guessing he’s a familiar sight.
You all think you’re so important. But you’re spending money on nothing. You’re throwing your money away. You’re no better than anyone else. Every family is a royal family. But you just throw everything away and someday you’ll have to answer for it. You spend your money on nothing.
The boys squeezed in tight against me, but then they always do. I never made eye contact with the fellow, until it was our turn to disembark. I walked past him, our eyes met, I smiled, and he said, “Your family is a ROYAL family!”
As per usual in that kind of situation, all the boys had to offer as we walked away was a nervous, “That was weird.” Remembering the most important things I learned from Mike, and remembering my determination to pass it all on, somehow, I shrugged. Something (or someone) pushed me to keep talking, striding down Michigan Avenue. “Not really. That man might have problems, but he wasn’t dangerous. And everything he said was true. We do spend money on nothing. We will have to answer for it. And God does love us. Every second, through every person, we can hear God reaching out to us, if we listen.”
And then today.
In O’Hare, in the security line, the TSA agent, for some reason, started talking about the tradition of the St. Joseph’s Table that she’d just enjoyed the previous night – as had we (in a different place, of course!). She went on and on and on, enthusiastically and joyfully, in front of this group of about twenty….
Oh…..okay…not much In Our Time this week, since trudging through Chicago and its museums was my exercise. But in case you want to understand the War of 1812…this episode will do the trick for you!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!