Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chicago with Dr. Wolcott

I knew we were in trouble when Christopher called to see where we were. I burbled something cheerful about being almost to Union Station. Christopher was less than sanguine. "You're going to come out in a lot of tunnels down there. Just head for the daylight and then call me and tell me where you are."

Right. How hard can this be? I'll tell you how hard. We decided pretty quickly that if New Orleans is the Big Easy, then Chicago, 926 miles north, is the Big Hard. First of all, tunnels DO go everywhere down there, and we are not familiar with the layout. Second, we have arrived during rush hour, along with ten thousand Chicagoans heading to work from the double-decker commuter trains. We are squashed on escalators, bumped on concourses, and bumfoozled when we finally get to the light.

I call Christopher, but I don't know where we are, and there aren't any street signs. Finally I walk a block west to an intersection and figure it out. It's another fifteen minutes, thanks to the magic of rush hour traffic, before the welcome (and oddly familiar) sight of Christopher's silver Ford Explorer with a Yakima rack, pulls up in front of a line of cabs.

After that, Chicago got a LOT easier. Christopher drove us all over, from Hyde Park to Lincoln Park and beyond, while we looked at architecture and got caught up. We took a walk along Lake Michigan, and back around by one of many yacht basins, enjoying the blue sky and the company. We went to his and Kris's house, a truly beautiful garden condominium in the north Chicago neighborhood near Wrigley Field. We also looked at his office, which he designed himself.

After a yummy 100% organic lunch at a restaurant called Uncommon Ground (where Christopher knew everybody, waiter and patrons), he dropped us off at the Blackstone Renaissance downtown. From the window of our 17th floor room, we have a fabulous view of Grant Park, the Buckingham Fountain, and Lake Michigan beyond. This is so interesting, and so different, that I really wish we had a lot more time here. As it is, we'll be taking a cab in a few minutes to Navy Pier to meet Christopher and Kris for dinner.

The biggest thrill in seeing Chicago is seeing Christopher and how well he's doing here. It's also cool that he's Dr. Wolcott, and that his chiropractic practice has really taken off. He teaches two days a week at two different Chicago schools, too. He's going to Nepal in June to see David (his brother), who's been there for five months, living with a Nepalese family and teaching. I feel mostly caught up with him, but also really impressed with how much he has done and continues to do, and yet he's the same comfortable Christopher. With the same dry sense of humor, and no, Chip, he has not once mentioned that you wrecked his truck.

Some random Chicago thoughts: This is the third largest city in the U.S., after New York and Los Angeles. It does not lend itself as well to walking as some more compact cities we've visited; it could spread in every direction, so it did. On the other hand, I would hate to try and drive here. This is the sort of city for which cabs were made. I must remember on return visits to budget for cabfare.

Chicago gets its drinking water from Lake Michigan. You can just see the little artificial islands where the intakes are. On the plus side, there's a lot of water in Lake Michigan (whose vastness really has to be seen to be believed), but on the downside, a lot of that water is pretty dirty with things like PCB's and mercury. Thanks to the zebra mussel, the water is crystal clear, which makes looking into the depths off the jetties somewhat alarming, particularly if you're me, and you don't have great balance at the best of times, much less when you've been walking on a train for a while. Nobody had to fish me out, but I didn't walk too close to the edge, either.

And P.S., the photo above was taken out of our hotel room window. This is just amazing.

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