The call came in the morning. There was space in the van for me, well, they’d make room. “You might have to sit on a bag.” Sure, no problem. But Chicago! It had been far too long.

Not long after I was standing on Wacker Drive, a forest of skyscrapers around me. The Lady is here as well, patroness of the City by the Lake. The sheer exuberance of Chicago was astounding, more of a garden for buildings than anything else. We were in the Hyatt for a convention over the Memorial Day holiday, my friend was a vendor and I was there as unpaid grunt labor. When he didn’t need me I was free to do whatever I wanted.

Just like my recent exploration of Indianapolis on foot, my exploration of Chicago was a revelation. Just south of the Hyatt a few blocks was Millennium Park which includes a huge grass-lawn amphitheater with a stage pealed right out of a tin can. there is also a very odd fountain. And people – crowds everywhere! Indianapolis tends to roll up at 10 PM most nights and is not a walkable city , but the section of Michigan Avenue that we patronized was busy at 10 PM and later for dinner, everyone on foot.

I remember the Art Institute as an isolated, solitary building divided in two by a commuter rail line. My memory was faulty, except the part about the rail lines. The moment I stepped into this building I was yearning for the free admission policy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art – the Art Institute’s $18 seemed steep, considering the endless sterile corridors, clueless staff, poor signage, an expensive and parsimonious cafeteria, and the most obvious and intrusive armed security presence I have ever experienced in such a setting. There were armed guards outside the Art Institute itself, and stood in the doorways of some galleries, so patron’s would have to squeeze past the doorjamb and the armed guard in the middle, oblivious to your presence. These people are serious. They would kill for art without any hesitation.

I came to the conclusion that, yes, I’d love to live in Chicago and not have to own a car, where using transit all the time, or avail myself of the oceans of cabs everywhere, carries no shame. It’s a more expensive city, but it’s on the map businesswise that Indianapolis is not. Indianapolis will always be the holy city, closest to my heart, but I have miles to go before I sleep. Sad to say I think I can travel further the farther I am away from Indianapolis. <sigh>. And so it goes.


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