So, Chicago doesn’t really stink, at least not where I was. But one of the many interesting facts I learned during my weekend visit is that “Chicago” is thought to be a derivative of a Native American word meaning “smelly onion.”
I went to Chicago to visit my friend Naomi, who is there for the summer.
Naomi standing at the doorway of her son’s tall, skinny row house. The neighbor’s door is right next.
When I was a child and my family drove through Chicago on the expressway to visit my grandparents in Indiana, I always looked down at the tall, skinny clapboard houses smashed up against each other and felt sorry for the people down there. They could never see trees, except for lonely spindly ones surrounded by cement. Never run across a field or sleep out on the trampoline under stars so bright they pricked your eyes.
How terrible to live such a cramped and drab existence. And dangerous, too. You’d be surrounded by people who would shoot you or rob from you if they got half a chance. Young as I was, I’d heard the stories.
However, visiting Chicago in my adult years has given me a different view of city life. I love the masses of people passing on the streets, love the beggars, the street artists, the Libyans, the Pakistanis. There is so much richness there. Stories as colorful and varied as life in a tropical ocean. Sometime maybe I’ll go back alone just to strike up conversations with people, to sit down beside some homeless man jingling a cup and ask him what his life is like and why he chose this way to make a living.
There is beauty in the city. I have found that man as well as God can produce beautiful things. Although of course the skyscrapers would lose their beauty if they had no sky to surround them.
Naomi took me into the Loop, Chicago’s beautiful center district, strung between the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.
Here we stand on the walking bridge that spans the Chicago River. The water’s cloudy green color comes from the clay that lines the riverbed.
It was a beautiful time of year for a visit, with the flowering trees in full, glorious bloom.
Chicago is mother of the skyscraper and the architectural capital of the United States. Naomi took me on an architectural boat tour down the Chicago River. It was ever so interesting and informative. Sadly, with so much knowledge thrown at me so quickly, I have retained only a fraction of it.
Here are my favorite tidbits:
- It costs $60,000 a year to park in the ritziest Chicago residences. The fact that I remembered that first and foremost showcases my poor, awed, little country girl background, don’t you think?
- Chicago residents used to dump their sewage into the Chicago River, which would then flow to Lake Michigan and pollute the water they drank. To solve the outbreak of typhoid and other diseases that came from drinking bad water, they decided to dig a canal to reverse the flow of the river. It worked, and the river today flows down the Mississippi and past New Orleans into the ocean. New Orleans, as well as other cities of that day, were understandably not impressed.
- Contouring is an architectural term which means the wall of a building follows the shape of the river. It is a simple concept and lovely in practice.
- The Carbide and Carbon Building is a skyscraper designed to look like a champagne bottle. It was built during Prohibition.
- Chicago gets its nickname, the Windy City, not from lake and prairie winds but from the loud-mouthed politicians of its past.
I think my favorite part of Chicago will always be Millennium Park.
And possibly my favorite part of Millennium Park will always be the Bean.
I mean, what a unique and intriguing landmark, right?
Who wouldn’t want to walk beneath it and look up into a swirling vortex crazy mirror?
And who wouldn’t want to snap a photo of their reflection in the side?
On that note, with Naomi and me grinning at you from a wavy world that is actually the stainless steel side of the Bean . . . good-bye!