I feel at home in Seattle without really knowing the city. It’s because we always stay in the same place and do the same things while we’re in town: More
The cold front that’s been sweeping the Plains reached here last night. Temperatures and humidity dropped, bringing delicious weather and dramatic waves. Too dangerous for swimming!
This was our view from the bus as it crept along the Drive toward Oak Street in the evening rush.
Celia loves going to the everyman beach between Montrose and Foster. This is where the landscape opens up and buildings recede, taking a back seat to the expansive beauty of the lake and sky.
Thousands of people flocked to the beach and surrounding park yesterday to fish, picnic, sun, play beach volleyball, test the waters; meet up with friends. Devotees come with plenty of baggage: tents, cardboard boxes laden with food, massive coolers that only the most strapping men can lift.
Ladies following the Islamic code lay on the ground with their husbands, eyes wary, covered with cloth from head to toe. Not so many yards off, nonchalant teen girls did their best to imitate Kerri Walsh, in skimpy bikinis whacking the volleyball.
Chicago architecture can be divided into two periods: the period of glass and steel we live in now, and the ‘stone age’ preceding it, which lasted from the Great Fire of 1871 (when Chicago swore off New England clapboard) until the 1930s. During the stone age, commercial buildings grew taller (‘scraping the sky’) but were finished off in traditional materials and styles.
From the perspective of south Grant Park, the fruits of these two eras of building can be seen. The old stone skyscrapers lining Michigan Avenue are quaint but massive. Among our most famous buildings, they are loaded with lore and personality. Their fronts are covered with ornamentation–fancy glazes and castings, symbols, and special decoration to emphasize the windows, roof-lines, and doorways. Many have fancy caps, whether turrets or curlicues, special windows, or “beehives.”
Dwarfing and surrounding them are newer buildings, with their reflective surfaces, bold blocks of color, and greater heights. While the older buildings may be more interesting, it’s the specific mix of the two types that gives our skyline its particular charge. Without the soaring glass boxes, we would lose our way. We’d be stuck in a bad period piece, with a city center badly dated and gloomy.
Chicago is problem-plagued, but we do take comfort in our buildings. They are the tangible products of talent and belief, the work of generations, created at considerable risk. Insensate though they are, they continue to charm, inspire, and guide, supplying everyone who hangs out here with a point of pride.
Click on images to enlarge them.
One of the benefits of our cold late spring has been a profusion of bloom. These densely flowering trees line the bottom edge of Grant Park. (For a picture taken from a moving car, it’s not too bad.)
Heading out of town, Celia looked back to see her city. The old and new skyscrapers ringing the park, the curve of the Drive like a turning page. Since then, the snow has melted. Perhaps winter has left town, too.