The day after the party, I drove up to the Twin Cities to visit my parents and sister, while my husband flew to Seattle to visit his mother.
Every time I go to the Cities, I stay in a different hotel. This time I stayed at the Sheraton Midtown, which agreed with me. I particularly liked the view out my window in the morning, the early light gradually warming an ordinary urban scene, of people waiting for the bus and the still cold cars waiting for their owners.
Three years ago, the South Pond, one of the ponds in Lincoln Park (just south of the children’s zoo), was renovated. The pond was emptied. Its bottom and banks were regraded, new boardwalks were built, new plantings put in. The pond had fallen into sluggishness and disuse.
The revitalization has been a great popular success. Its appearance has been changing dramatically from one season to the next, as the new plantings have grown in.
This is what it looked like the other day, as I rode by on the bus. Of the three ponds near my home, this one is the farthest, so I’m not able to visit it easily, though I wish I could.
The backlands: this is the Chicago you only see from the el. Its alleys, fire escapes, backyards, and balconies are unselfconscious because all-but-invisible, save for the instant you peer down on them from the frigid el platform or a moving train.
There’s a gnarly, ugly, decrepit, character to much of the terrain: the untrimmed vine, the dying tree, jumbles of wires or garbage cans. But with them come offerings of the unexpected, the whimsical or ingenious: the gardens people devise on tiny fire escapes; the signs meant for you to read as you rush by.
You glimpse the unwanted but, with it, many other things that keep the city running: the electrical grid, garbage trucks, construction crews. Secret parking lots. Boarded-up doors and graffiti bespeaking adventures and openings now inaccessible and archaic, layers of life quilted on to the city’s bricks and boards, congealed into something more enduring than little ol’ me.
The sun strikes the top of the Fisher Building and the flat modern facade of the CNA. The light strikes the city, whose landmarks are the creations of different ages and mentalities, the works of egotists and humble builders unknown. We live among these warring monuments, counting the years of their lives, wondering, perhaps, which is greatest and the dearest, and why. Myriad sights like this one flow in through our eyes, pulling crosswise at our affections and allegiances. We live with their deeds.
It was the enormous window that sold me on this office, as well as the fact that (though in an ancient building) the space was in like-new condition.
You might not think the view would amount to much, but near the window the sideways views are pretty decent, especially in weird weather, or when the daylight fails, and the buildings outside begin to light up.
The Fisher Building is quite a glorious thing, with a facade fairly encrusted with fancy old glazed brick and terra-cotta. To be honest, I waste time looking at it each day.
What I have is a real urban view—with nary a tree or blade of grass in sight—but with enough atmosphere to give a Dreiser novel like Sister Carrie a run for its money.
The Chicago Skyway has always fascinated me. It’s a high-arching toll bridge that runs over the industrial hinterland hugging the Lake south of the city. It’s nearly unavoidable if you want to go to Indiana or Michigan because it’s by far the fastest route there from the city.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to take good photographs of the Skyway scenes. It’s wouldn’t be safe to pull over on the bridge itself, and its structure obstructs many of the views. The approaches to it are steeply sloping, so the resulting pictures are angled in funny ways.
It’s too bad, because the area around the bridge is an ungodly mix of aging industrial and maritime sites. There are marshes and canals nearly invisible in the thicket of hoists, bridges, and junk heaps. The area, so strewn and cluttered, nonetheless foregrounds interesting views of the Lake and city skyline. So I always do try to take pictures when I’m on the Skyway, even though they don’t usually turn out.
I managed to take this one that isn’t too bad. It shows some strange little buildings that are somehow necessary to a massive hoist that is near the Skyway and, for some reason, nearly as tall as the Skyway itself.
Someday I would like to go see this no-man’s-land at ground level, but for now this one picture will have to do.
PS This picture on Wikipedia shows the location of the hoist next to the Bridge.