I am a walker, and Chicago is a very walkable city. When James and I left Greektown, we weren’t completely sure where we were going next. We made a conscious effort to not plan this trip, so we could be spontaneous and not feel the pressure of a schedule telling where we had to be next. I’ve really grown to appreciate this way of travelling lately. Earlier, I would have planned down to the minute to try to fit in as many sites as possible and get the maximum amount of activity in. This way makes some rational sense. After all, you’re only in Chicago for a few days. There is so much to see. If there is a way to see it all, why not give yourself that? It just takes planning, booking, scheduling, and a whole lot of stamina. In those years that I was doing this, I didn’t realize that I was forgetting–you can’t predict everything. You don’t know what you’ll enjoy most, what you’ll want to sit around for a little longer. You don’t know what you’ll pass and be intrigued by that you never heard of. One of the greatest feelings during travel is freedom, and if you deny yourself that because of the schedule you planned 1,000 miles away on your computer, you’re shortchanging your trip. It’s good to read about the place your going and be knowledgeable enough you have an idea of what you might do, but in the end, give yourself flexibility. It’s thrilling to control your destiny on a whim like that.
So we crossed the bridge over the expressway, heading in a sort of north/northeast direction. We passed Old Saint Patricks, the oldest standing church building in the city. It survived the 1871 fire, and from the outside, you can tell it’s been through a lot. I’ve wanted to go inside this church for a few years now, but it’s never been open. On this day, those plans would be thwarted again due to a wedding. We saw at least 3 weddings on this day. I guess it was a good weekend to get married in a public place in Chicago. James and I also started a video/poetry project that I thought up on this walking trip. James was good enough to be cameraman on this whole whacky thing. I hope to have something to share online in a few weeks. We passed through downtown, crossing one of the bridges over the river, passing the opera house. We crossed LaSalle, the financial district and saw the huge Board of Trade Building that deadends the famous street. When you’re walking and talking with a friend, it’s easy to forget how much you’re walking. We crossed another branch of the river, where Wacker bends, heading East. Then, we headed towards Old Town. In all, we had probably walked close to 3 miles. Nowhere to be, just seeing this great city, taping some of it.
Old Town is called such, because it began as a quaint little farming village settled by Germans. The Fire got to it’s northernmost and started going out in this part of the city. There aren’t any farms in site anymore. This part of town is just above the Gold Coast (a very ritzy part of Chicago to live in) and just below Lincoln Park (another ritzy part of Chicago to live in), so it is where an affluent set of people go to eat, shop for novelties, and be entertained. I wanted to stop off in Old Town to look for The Spice House, a store that is very accurate in it’s naming. Your sinuses begin to clear even as you pass this place on the sidewalk. If you want to check it out more, here’s a link: http://www.thespicehouse.com/. The last time I went to Chicago I did not see it and was worried it may have closed. Thankfully, I was wrong. James and I went in and immediately began picking up containers and smelling them. This is one of those places where when someone asks you to “smell this,” you don’t have to worry that they’ve just put their hand in their armpit or picked up a moldy rag. So many strong smells all at once. So many good smells all at once. I asked James if he was ready to go. “Whenever you’re ready, but I could stay here all day, so take your time.”
After so many spices, it was definitely time to eat again. We hoped the El, went to a Trader Joe’s in Lincoln Park, and bought meat, cheese, and bread. Then, back on the El to go back downtown. We feasted in front of The Crown Fountain in Millenium Park. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_Fountain will tell you what you need to know, but look up youtube videos if you’re really interested. This is a very cool place. Anytime you go to this fountain, you are bound to see kids running back and forth, splashing around waiting for the fountains to spew water on them again. You’ll see parents and older siblings on the sides watching and enjoying the show. And, periodically you’ll see the kids in adult bodies dragging someone or getting dragged out to play under the fountain too. It’s hard to sit and watch this and not feel a little better about humanity. A bunch of people splashing in the water, enjoying this moment in their life. It made our dinner of sliced meat and cheese with artisan bread that much better as the sun settled into its rest and all the city lights woke up around us. What a city. What a day.