Chicago: A Day in the City
The summer started out slow and steady, lazy and uneventful, simply filled with home cooked dinners, late night beers and afternoons at the pool. Tim, my boyfriend, promised a road trip to his hometown of Chicago and as the summer dragged on, we both began anticipating the vacation like a cold glass of water in the middle of a sweltering afternoon heat.
The Trip Begins
We left Athens, Ga. at 1 a.m. after Tim closed up the bar, and he took the first leg of the grueling 11 hour drive. We switched up somewhere after Tennessee and I drove us into the Land of Lincoln, otherwise known as Illinois. At 1 p.m. we finally arrived at Tim’s grandmother’s house in the south side of Chicago, which is in the same neighborhood as R. Kelly— and yes, it is as huge as you would imagine. Actually, probably even bigger than you would imagine.
Arriving in Chicago
The next day would be our big day for sight seeing. I had never been to Chicago and I wanted to see everything – Sears Tower, Wrigley Field, Field Museum, Millennium Park, Grant Park, the Buckingham Fountain, and Michigan Avenue. We decided to start the morning at Field Museum and when we walked into the lobby, the marble floors glistened and a full-scale brontosaurus skeleton loomed behind the welcome desk. But… Tim forgot his wallet. I was broke and had little more than 20 bucks in cash and even less than that in my dwindling bank account, but I offered to pay. Tim refused. (I think his man pride was flaring and would not allow it— very typical during the beginning stages of a relationship). He had left his wallet in the car when his dad had dropped us off in the city that morning. But, when he called his dad, we found that he would not be able to come back and bring it for at least six more hours.
We were frustrated, upset, I can say unequivocally that I was considering throwing a tantrum and storming off. Today was one of our very few free days that we could spend in the city because family obligations would be occupying Tim for most of the other three days we would be in town. But, we decided to just stick it out and make the most of what was seemingly a wasted day in Chicago. “Let’s just walk,” I said. So, we did.
Walking and More Walking
We walked for hours, bypassing the streaming lines of tourists atop segways and the crowds of Chicago natives going about their daily lives. Tim had a good grasp of the layout of the city and navigated us through the grid, pointing out landmarks like the Chicago Tribune building and the Sears Tower. Mostly, we people watched, enjoying the breezy weather which was a welcome respite from the humidity of the South that we had unavoidably become accustomed to.
We walked and walked and began to see a pattern of stores- a Dunkin’ Donuts, a McDonalds, a sub shop, and a pharmacy posted on at least every block. We walked through the Broadway district as little girls, hand clasped with their mothers, raced excitedly to a matinee showing of Wicked. We walked through Michigan Avenue and admired all the glamorous fashonistas darting in and out of the Burberry store.
We finally met up with Tim’s dad who triumphantly handed Tim his wallet and we made our way to the Sears Tower. We still had a couple of daylight hours to hit some of the tourist spots that we couldn’t earlier. As we walked through the glass doors, we caught the tail end of a conversation between a guard and a tourist. “It’s too overcast right now- you probably won’t even see that much,” the guard explained as the disappointed tourist gathered up his family. “What do you want to do?” asked Tim. I thought about our options and realized that more than anything, I just wanted to walk around some more- exploring the city intimately and searching out those nooks and crevices that a tour bus could never highlight. “Let’s just walk around some more,” I said. And we did. We walked until night. We walked and walked and caught the last L train out of the city.