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My Kind of Town

3 Apr

Hello from the Windy City! It’s finally warm, sunny and wonderful Spring Quarter and I am SO ready to explore the city of Chicago to my heart’s content before I pack up and head for greener pastures for the summer. Having resisted the feeling of cabin fever while I was actually cooped up for the winter, I’m realizing retroactively how cooped up I actually was. This week has been 40s-50s and it has felt practically tropical.

On Thursday night, after my weekly dose of NBC sitcoms (reruns, unfortunately), I decided to officially ring in the new quarter with a walk down to the lake to take a look at the skyline from Fullerton Beach.


Sitting at the end of a practically empty Lake Shore trail, I was struck once again that I LIVE four blocks from… that. In fact, I live IN that. A big beautiful city where all kinds of big and little exciting things are happening. Over the past year and a half I have done a whole lot of exploring, but I still feel like I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg that is Chicago. I decided that this quarter I would make exploring new parts of the city a priority. It’s so easy to slide into a routine and forget to get out there and, well, you know: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLbWYHA5eUE&feature=related

So, wasting no time, I seized Saturday and did something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. In the fall, I picked up a copy of Time Out Chicago, Student Edition, which is a great listing of cheap, fun things to do in the city. They had a great series of articles on CTA city walks. The idea is, take the El to a stop, get off, follow the walking directions to landmarks, cool shops, little bistros and eventually back to another CTA stop. Brilliant! 1. Free 2. A perfect way to get to know a new neighborhood.

This week: The Gold Coast. The Fanciest Neighborhood of Them All. Red Line Clark/Division to Chicago.

The Gold Coast really is gorgeous. It’s a little bit nauseating to see 26 room, opulent mansions on prime real estate overshadowing areas of extreme poverty, but there is no denying that those 26 room mansions are beautiful to look at. C’est la vie, I suppose. Anyways, I really did love the walk. Tree-lined streets, beautiful architecture, and my handy-dandy page from Time Out Chicago to guide me. And perfect weather to boot! Here were some highlights.

The Charnley-Perksy House, an early collaboration between Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright

The Patterson-McCormick Mansion, designed by Stanford White a notorious womanizer who also designed Madison Square Gardens.

The Archbishop's Residence. Complete with 19 chimneys!!

Unfortunately, at this point my camera battery informed me that it was ‘exhausted’. So I don’t have pictures of the original Playboy mansion or Bernie Sahlin’s (cofounder of Second City) residence.

These were definitely the most imposing of the homes in the area, but really each building was something to see. The area has a very old-fashioned feel to it. I could just picture 19th century up-and-comers strolling down Astor Street, parasols and canes in hand. There was even one working torch-lit street lamp, which really set the mood.

After the residential tour I was lead down to the ritzy Oak Street shopping district. This is no ordinary mall. Think Prada, Harry Winston etc. very fancy schmancy. These are places I will only ever window shop. Although I did make one key purchase, macaroons from a Sarah’s Chocolate shop. Delicious!

Oak Street leads right out to Lake Shore, so I savored my chocolate macaroon as I strolled along beautiful blue Lake Michigan before turning down Chestnut through downtown to the Chicago stop (of course making a required stop at one of my favorite bookstores Europa Books, which is right off the El). All in all a fabulous day!

AN EXERCISE IN SELF CONTENTMENT, Part 4, Diving

17 Feb

Life is peppered with moments of supreme happiness. Living on my own for the first time, I’ve learned to appreciate the simple, solitary things that enrich and ennoble my life- that give me a spring in my step and a glint in my eye. My personal absorption of the world that allows me to relish my independence instead of wallow in loneliness:

Diving. I learned how to dive when I was ten or eleven. My first dive was a running dive all the way down a log dock, building speed in preparation for the plunge.  A final propulsion from the edge of the wood sends me head first at top speed straight down into the water. I’m not one for pools-the water is too blue, I am constantly aware of the chemicals. I grew up swimming in a small, manmade lake-cool clear and familiar. I also prefer diving to jumping. A dive is a moment of perfect solitude- a fleeting departure from the world. Cold, fresh, cleansing- a brief moment of uninhibited weightlessness. Perhaps the best part of a dive however is remerging to the world of sun and sound and the knowledge that as delicious as moments of solitude are, they are nothing but self-inflicted isolation without the equal opposite joy of coming back to the surface.

AN EXERCISE IN CONTENTMENT, Part 3, Theatre

16 Feb

Life is peppered with moments of supreme happiness. Living on my own for the first time, I’ve learned to appreciate the simple, solitary things that enrich and ennoble my life- that give me a spring in my step and a glint in my eye. My personal absorption of the world that allows me to relish my independence instead of wallow in loneliness:

 

When the lights go out in a theatre. You take your seats. Shed your coats. Determine how good or bad your seats are. You examine the theatre. It’s beautiful, must be old, recently renovated, and unusually small, where is the stage- something like that. You talk with whoever you came with- perhaps about the theatre, about the play, about other unrelated things. And then, always unexpectedly- the lights dim, and suddenly go out. Conversations end abruptly. Perhaps music plays. That moment never fails to take my breath away. I close my eyes and focus on the feeling. In that moment, the audience, in communion with the players is transformed. In that moment we all enter the world of the play. Until the lights come on again we are in that world- wherever it is for better or for worse.

AN EXERCISE IN CONTENTMENT, Part 2 – Driving

15 Feb

Life is peppered with moments of supreme happiness. Living on my own for the first time, I’ve learned to appreciate the simple, solitary things that enrich and ennoble my life- that give me a spring in my step and a glint in my eye. My personal absorption of the world that allows me to relish my independence instead of wallow in loneliness:

 

Driving home.Whether it’s NPR or Bob Dylan- radio or music is essential for the drive home. Whether it’s been a day of defeats or of triumphs the drive home never fails to carry with it few moments of emotional processing. The mechanics are second nature by now, requiring focus but without any nervous energy. The highway is stretched before you. You are in control. You decide where to go with the power of acceleration and the smooth fluidity of the steering wheel. You are both coming and going- life is in motion, the road stretches out in front of you.

AN EXERCISE IN CONTENTMENT, PART 1 – Libraries

13 Feb

Life is peppered with moments of supreme happiness. Living on my own for the first time, I’ve learned to appreciate the simple, solitary things that enrich and ennoble my life- that give me a spring in my step and a glint in my eye. My personal absorption of the world that allows me to relish my independence instead of wallow in loneliness:

1. Having an aisle in the library all to yourself. The air is slighty to definitely musty. There is no one around- the multicolored walls surround you. You don’t have a book in mind- just browsing. You scan each shelf- searching for a spine that catches your eye. You’ve already visited the Jane Austen section- just to look. There are hundreds of Diane Steele books, some Star Trek novelizations, bright pink and green spines that feature sunglasses and flip flops- ‘beach reads’. But amidst all this is Henry James, Chinua Achebe, Ursula Le Guin- the books I’ve picked up, taken a chance on and fallen in love with in the privacy of my own personal library aisle.

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