Oh, Chicago!

15 04 2012

One of the Dalai Lama’s rules for living a good and wholesome life is: Visit at least one new place a year. Or something like that.

So I went to Chicago.

The view from my hotel window on the 22nd floor.

I had never been to the mid-west, other than changing planes at O’Hare once, maybe 15 years ago. (With the exception of a week-long trip to Winnipeg for my best friend’s wedding in 2000. But that’s Canada. Doesn’t count.) And I will be honest, Chicago was not really at the top of my list of new places to go. It just so happens that the company I work for has its U.S. headquarters there, and the company sent me on a business trip. So I went.

As your typical Northeast-Mid-Atlantic-I-95-corridor-sophisticate, I never gave my country’s heartland a second thought. All these years I thought there was just lots of white space and corn fields and cowboys between where DC ended (Georgetown) and the San Francisco Bay Area started (Berkeley). Heck, until five years ago, I had never even been to San Francisco, either. So here I thought there was just 3,000 miles of nothingness between the left and right coasts. I guess I started taking note of Chicago when Barack Obama emerged as a potential presidential candidate in 2007-ish. But I never really felt like I had to go there.

So on my first trip to Chicago, I arrived last Sunday with zero expectations and was open for, you know, whatever. And I was really impressed. The first Chicagoan (or is it Chicagoite?) I met was friendly and  helpful, showing me how to use the ticket machines to buy a fare on the L. The second one I met, as I got on the train, wished me a great time in his fair city.

I called an old friend of mine I hadn’t seen in more than eight years – a native of the South Side who moved back after years away to work as a television producer for a major national network. He drove me up and down Lake Shore Drive, showed me all the sights – at least from afar – and fed me a Chicago deep-dish pizza (basically a cheese quiche with a half-inch of tomato sauce on top) in his neighborhood pizza parlor, as we caught up on each other’s histories.

On day two he took me to the 27th floor of some ritzy downtown hotel and we drank very expensive whiskey and prosecco while gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows, as twilight fell upon the bustling city below and all around us.

The Loop from high up.

(Yes, I did go to the office, too, and met lots of really nice folks there as well. Mid-westerners, mostly.)

What a great surprise, getting to know this cool city under brilliant springtime sunshine, as well the wind that gives the place it’s nickname. Giving rise to the thought that I’m not sure I’d want to spend a winter there.

And I realized once again that the Dalai Lama is a really smart guy.

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9 responses

15 04 2012
Leanne Shirtliffe

I love that. I’ve been trying to talk C into a quick trip to Chicago from WInnipeg when we’re visiting my folks. I’ve have artsy friends who adore the city. Maybe I’ll have to plan that for this summer. And maybe I won last night’s lotto, which I actually bought a ticket for (I do this twice a year).

There’s a nice unstated metaphor in your piece too. I think the same can sometimes be said about different people (or foods or _) as cities.

Love Dalai Lama quotes!

15 04 2012
Evelynn Starr

Summer definitely better than winter, I would say. But the wind is all year round. After being there for four nights, I definitely want to go back, and would put it on my “worth-a-longer-visit” list.

15 04 2012
Running from Hell with El

Loved this blog. Um, I’d e-mail you but I don’t have your address so just delete this comment–you have a typo on the word San Francisco. Paragraph 2. I’ve been to Chicago once when I was visiting law schools and I loved it. Reading this brought back great memories.

15 04 2012
Evelynn Starr

Hm. You’re right. Typos are human, I guess…. (Fixed it!) Thanks for pointing it out… and for reading! Glad I was able to evoke a positive mood!

15 04 2012
Running from Hell with El

You bet–glad I didn’t offend! And it truly is a lovely city.

16 04 2012
swisstiger

Glad you are having such a good time in Chicago!! New places are always fun and I feel always new energies to explore these places. Great! Let`s catch up in Zurich!

16 04 2012
Evelynn Starr

Had, my dear… I was only on the ground for less than 96 hours… Am back in Z now…

17 04 2012
Marianne

I love Chicago. I lived in the midwest for three years and went all the time. It’s one of my all time favorite cities because the people there are just so friendly.

17 04 2012
Evelynn Starr

They really WERE! It was amazing. I think I need to spend some more time in the Midwest. It would probably restore my faith in humanity.

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