These flowers grow in my family's garden back home, but if you take a closer look at the background of this photo you will not see a red house in the St. Paul suburbs, but the Chicago skyline.
What, you don't believe that I escaped the harrowing (only harrowing in terms of staving off boredom) suburbs for a weekend? Here's your proof. Besides my Dad would never let our lawn get that out of control.
Despite how the Sufjan Steven's lyrics to "Chicago" go (referenced in the title of this post), I did not actually drive to the city, but flew down last weekend to visit one of my good friends, Emma, from GW. The story of how I met Emma is one of my favorites. She was my tourguide when I visited GW in the spring of my senior year of high school. Throughout the tour she diverted from the typical "here's the library" chatter to gush about how she was an English literature nerd and I knew right then and there that I wanted to be friends with her. Sadly, we failed to run into each other in my freshman year, but by happenstance we were both at the same Andrew Bird concert in my sophomore year and the rest is history. Even though Emma graduated and I went to Scotland, we've managed to keep in touch through the miracle that is Facebook chat. But as good as we are at online conversation, I knew I was overdue for a real conversation so a visit this summer was in order.
When I got off the plane at Midway airport last Friday, I hadn't seen Emma in over a year and I hadn't been to Chicago in over two. For Emma and me the conversation flowed as easily as all the coffee we used to drink together back in DC. And throughout the weekend I fell in love with Chicago again, as the song says. Emma lives in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood which meant that our many jaunts to downtown took some feats of public transportation. Even if the bus system isn't always reliable, the skyline is always impressive. We may been running off to see some hilarity at Second City (definitely worth a visit if you're ever in town) or check out the new modern wing at the Institute of Art, but I couldn't help but stare at the skyscrapers for a minute or two. You can tell Chicago is a newer (albeit the third largest city in the U.S.) city because of much metal blocks your every view. It is a view in its own right though. Skylines have their own beauty, just as much as mountains.
[Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album cover]
The most surreal moment for me was when we evaded the sticky Saturday weather by going to the beach right in front of the Sears Tower. Surf and skyscraper, an odd yet awe-inspiring combination. Things are also interesting at street level, just check out the Quinceanera in front of the AIC below.
I won't lie, I find downtown Chicago a little overwhelming. Whether its being jostled through the crowds in the Loop or attempting to see every painting in the modern wing of the AIC (I spent nearly 2 hours there), it can be a bit stressful. Thankfully I had a local to help me navigate the best booths at the Taste of Chicago and take the time to point out the landmarks just as she did the first time I met her.
[I hope you had a fun and safe 4th of July. For my part, I saw an adorable parade in Hyde Park where one of the floats got stuck under a bridge.][The AIC lions have the best view.]
But this is just one part of Chicago. In my next post on the city, I'll show you around Hyde Park.