On Monday I came into the city (Chicago) to meet up with an old friend, someone I haven’t seen since she jumped the pond in the late 90s. The few times she’s been back I wasn’t able to come up and see her so I make sure to set the time aside this time. Our personal history is an interesting one, at least to me. Without delving too much into it, I will say that she and I used to date the same woman—but not at the same time! Though that woman is no longer with us, she and I have been able to form a friendship. Come to find out we have other shared interests than just our taste in romantic partners. Though, as to that, she also knows that I have a platonic/intellectual crush on her husband, a man I’ve never met, as he’s still on the other side of the pond, not being able to accompany her for this trip. I was glad we were able to spend time together without the intervention of a screen. Though, it should be noted, we are both vaxxed, boosted, and took in person precautions, so it was a safe meeting.
As I said, this meeting took place in downtown Chicago. She is in town this week visiting family and I came up from downstate. It was no bother for me, as I love coming into the city and do so every chance I get. But, if I’m being honest, over the past few months something has changed for me. It doesn’t give me the same excitement as it once did to come up here and explore. Now, I’m just left with the prevailing sense of how expensive the city is and how much my feet and hip hurt after walking all day. And I’m not even walking as much as I used to, so I have no reason to complain. But, complain I do, albeit silently. Maybe I’m just getting older and would rather be comfortable. This city is not comfortable. You are hard pressed to find a cushioned chair anywhere if you want to rest your weary feet. Instead, you are offered hard wood or plastic chairs wherever you go. I’m sure it’s to discourage “campers”, which is, admittedly, what I was hoping to do somewhere so I could rest and not have to spend money. I am taking Amtrak home tonight, where I will have a cushion, finally.
Other than my lack of a cushion, let me give you some highlights from my trip this week that are quintessentially Chicago:
- After my friend and I parted ways I hailed a cab to go to my hotel. While on Wacker, coming up on Michigan, there was a homeless woman standing in the middle of the street, yelling at the passing cars. I don’t know what she was saying, as the windows were up in the cab. She looked angry.
- I stayed at a hotel I’ve never stayed at before, as I always try to stay somewhere new. The hotel has a long history, and a beautiful ballroom. I’m a sucker for period architecture. But I didn’t see any of that. I just saw the small, nondescript room I was shown to. The bedside lamp didn’t work, the carpet was filthy, and once I adjusted the heater to a cooler temp, it no longer came on, making the room dead silent and hard for me to sleep. Bonus feature, I suppose, is the half side of the John Hancock, as well as the fire escape, which was next to my window. The last few times I’ve been into the city I’ve paid for rooms that were advertised to be in beautiful old hotels (the price reflected this) only for them to be unkempt and me to be stashed in the worst room possible.
- After a day of some light shopping and sight seeing of places I haven’t been before, I am now ensconced in Union Station. As I walked through the food court I passed a table with a woman of indeterminate age (30-40s I would guess) who was sitting at a table randomly singing. She wasn’t very good, just how you would sing along to music on your headphones. She wasn’t wearing headphones, the music was within her. I kept walking and found a table to myself. After sitting here for about ten minutes four police officers came into the food court to escort a woman out of the building. She was refusing to go. I don’t know what she did, if anything. She may simply have been homeless, but I really don’t know. As that was getting cleared up, the singer from further down in the food court left her table and took one next to me. I don’t know why. She was singing when she sat down. The singing has mostly subsided but she has randomly burst into song a few times since she sat down.
I know I just sound whiney, and I guess I am. Please understand, I’m tired. My feet hurt. And I want to go home. I was wondering earlier today if my weariness with Chicago might be because I’ve fallen in love with the idea of a city (and my old memories of it) but I’m not completely prepared for the city that it is. Maybe it was a surface love this whole time. Maybe I’m just getting older and less tolerant of being slightly inconvenienced. Whatever the reason, I’m not quite ready to call this affair over, but maybe it needs reevaluated. But, I really do want a comfortable place to sit.