Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Few More Impressions of Chicago


You know, I've visited a lot of big cities and have liked them all.  You may find that shocking as I'm a small town boy at heart.  Still, there is something about a big city that appeals to me too.  I've been in New York, Manila, Tokyo, Montreal, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Vancouver and Washington DC.  All have their charm and appeal.  You won't find me dissing on any of them.  Even so, I have to say that Chicago is a big favorite of mine.

Chicago is clean, but so are Tokyo and Vancouver.  Chicago is vibrant but so are Manila and Los Angeles.  Chicago is diverse but so New York and San Francisco.  I think Chicago is a cut above the others because of the sheer joy it exudes.  People in Chicago are upbeat, friendly, boisterous, opinionated and enthusiasically joyful.  It is in their faces, their places, their food.

Chicago is a hard place to live.  I was glad to see it in the winter.  Winters are harsh in the upper midwest.  It gets cold and the wind blows.  There in the city, with all the sky scrapers, fierce canyon winds develop.  Blowing off the lake with frigid humidity and sometimes serious force, the wind is tough to reckon with.  You have to bundle up in Chicago.  Couple that with the fact that people walk in this grand city.  Back home we dash from the house to the car, from the car to the store, or work, or school, or church.  We're only out in the elements briefly.  In Chicago, with precious little place to park, people don't drive.  They take the bus or train.  Often that requires a few blocks of walking to reach a destination.  There is no Mall downtown.  If you wish to go shopping, plan on being in and out of the wind and cold as you move from store to store.  Even on the Miracle Mile, which might be a shopper's paradise if you were rich, the sidewalks are filled with people braving the elements as they move from store to store.  It's amazing! 

Chicago is a family place.  Little mother's with bundled up kids are everywhere.  In the stores, restraunts, out on the sidewalks people with kids, bustling around like they're having the time of their lives. Perhaps Christmas time brings out more folks than normal, I can't say.  But, it became quickly clear, that cold and wind do not deter these hardy people from enjoying abundant, active lives.

Chicago is known for its food.  We, of course, could only scratch the surface.  We enjoyed Chicago style hot dogs at Portillo's on the North Side.  Served on a poppy seed roll, this hot dog rejects ketchup for mustard, neon green relish, onions, peppers and a dill spear.  It is a delicious combination!  Even the dog itself tastes better than any I've ever had.  Another night we ate, mostly for convience, at the Hard Rock Cafe.  It was good as always, but typical, so for desert we walked across the street to eat chocolate cake made with Mayonaise.  I don't like Mayo all that much, but is sure enhances chocolate cake.  I'd like the recipe.

For lunch on our first day we went to the Walnut Room at the old Marshall Fields department store, now Macy's.  Chicagoan hate that Macy's had to put their name on their long time establishment; host to so many memories and traditions.  One tradition is to eat at the Walnut Room.  Especially at Christmas when a 40 foot Christmas tree graces the elegant, yet cavernous room on the seventh floor.  Crowds were gathered, but wow, could the feed a lot of people!  The menu was tempting from top to bottom.  Sweetie chose a Walnut Room tradition that dates back to it's inception in 1890, chicken pot pie.  It was delicious.  I wanted a little adventure and selected Swedish meatballs.  Made from beef, pork and veal and served in a wonderful light brown sauce and adorned with Lingon berry preserves, this delicacy is priceless!  We went back the next day for more!  Their Asiago encrusted chicken was superb as well!  I'll bet they seat 300 people in that room and the place was busy from morning until night.  A Christmas fairy wanders the room, sprinkling pixie dust and granting Christmas wishes with a poof!  Old and young, everyone was having a great time!

Too cold and tired to do more walking, we spent a great afternoon in the Shedd Aquarium.  Their sea mammal show was delightful.  Beluga whales, Pacific White-sided dolphins, a California Sea Lion and a cluch of pengins deligted us all.  This was the first show I've seen with White-sided dolphins.  Their grace and agility far exceeds the Bottle-nose.  They were a wonder to watch!  The big show tank, set with Lake Michigan as the back drop, seemed to extend right into the lake through enormous windows.  What a top notch facility, with wonderful displays and a refreshing respite from the cold.


The architecture in Chicago is beautiful, diverse and a great source of local pride.  I love the skyline all of these buildings present.  You'll be interested to know that the Sears Tower is now the Willis Tower, another change Chicagoans reject loudly.  The stories associated with the city's buildings are amusing and worth taking a tour to hear.  I love stories.  I enjoyed stories of the buildings and the city's history.  As I watched the multitudes of people moving about I couldn't help wondering about their stories.  I wish I could hear every one.  All of these wonderful people and the city they have built around themselves seem to have open arms saying, come, be part of us, bring your story to the table that is Chicago and lets celebrate together! 

3 comments:

Aleen said...

I enjoyed the tale of your journey to the big city of Chicago, Candleman. You're an excellent writer and I appreciate your art and the time it takes to describe the details of your adventure. I lived just south of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, for five years. We attended the Chicago Temple, but sadly never took time to experience this exciting city that you appreciate, due to the busy constraints of raising a young family.

These wonderful, typically conservative, "Bible Belt" religious people, so typical of the midwest and south are "salt of the earth" kinds of families. They are family centered, hard working, honest, and love their basketball, softball, and football in various venues; local, state, and national. We spent countless hours at summer baseball and winter basketball practices and games, rubbing shoulders with dedicated parents and children from this glorious area of our country. Myke, thank you for reminding me of their virtues and opening my eyes to the joys of Chicago!

Candleman said...

I once had a friend who moved from Brigham City, Utah to Evanston, IL, just north of Chicago. I'd never been to Chicago at the time. I supposed he'd be experienceing some culture shock. I asked him what the biggest surprise Evanston presented to a small town boy like him. His answer shocked me. "In Evanston, all the stores are closed on Sunday." Quite an indightment for a Mormon town like Brigham don't you think?

Cindi said...

I spent a lot of time working in Chicago several years ago but I didn't get to see much more than the Miracle Mile. I had a lot of fun enjoying the food but I definitely need to go back with the family. The aquarium looks especially fun.

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