Monday, March 17, 2008


I'm going to stretch this Chicago trip out a bit so y'all can "go there" with me. On Thursday, we drove north on the same highway for 7+ hours. (that's a somewhat unusual journey right there, very few complicated directions to follow!)

I had the first shift as driver, and just about flew to Indianapolis to meet my editors. Yup, the editors for the book are there, and it was fabulous to be treated to lunch with them. Tapas, a classy downtown restaurant, and a long and juicy fun conversation. While the quintessential three martini lunch is usually in NYC, mine was in Indiana, and it was just as fun. (just one glass of wine though, and the professor drank half!)

On to Chicago. After our deep dish pizza on Thursday night, I felt ready to take on a big city. When we got off the clean and quick commuter train, I was greeted with this skyline. This is one big city. Folks who are from the coasts of the country forget about how big Chicago is. How big? Well, we walked right past the Sears Tower. From the ground? It looks like any other skyscraper...and we joked about how all our appliances and mail-order clothes purchased this. (My mom ordered from Sears AND JC Penney!) The professor grew up across the street from a house that was mail ordered from Sears. Those people could put anything in a catalog!

We scuttled down the street to have lunch at the historic Berghoff's. Although the restaurant's segregated male-only bar days are long over, it's still filled with men sitting cheek to jowl at lunch. From our table (served by a waitress) we had a great view of this long and historic bar. Everyone's faces were reflected in the bar mirror and in the shiny old brass fixtures. I watched businessmen, and a very few women, line up at the carvery to get their sandwiches and beer. Every bar stool and every long communal table was full. There were old-fashioned coat racks in every corner,and suit jackets, winter coats, and stoles alike were all jumbled up. It was democratic, every man equal in his shirt sleeves with his corned beef or roast beef on rye... and I found it slightly moving. The workers (mostly men in suits) had lunch.

We didn't know about the bar and its line, (and I wouldn't have fit in with the crowd anyway!) so we spent more money on a waitress and had pierogies, too. The professor had one of those big sandwiches while I ate Alsatian onion apple soup and salad.

Seeing all this made me think of Chicago as I'd read about it, and that made me think, nearly immediately, of Carl Sandburg.

Remember how, in school, teachers would prepare you for a field trip? Read this, so you'll know what you're seeing? Listen to this piece of music, and consider this piece of art? Suddenly, all this poetry I'd read on my own, of the Midwest, made sense in a new way. The Art Institute visit was a whole 'nother chance to finally have this "study" pay off. This trip north inspired me. I saw this poetry of Sandburg's come alive.

More soon about the Art Institute, and other excitement.
Ever had something come alive long AFTER you'd read or studied about it? Tell me all about it, please!


Anonymous Janet said...

Face it. You really want to be a Midwesterner, too. ;-)

March 17, 2008 at 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...

I know exactly what you mean - living in London after decades of reading English literature. I still get a thrill when I re-read an old favourite and realise, Hey, I know where the Serpentine is!

I think it's a big part of why I feel so at home here.

March 18, 2008 at 3:56 AM  
Blogger Mrs J said...

Sounds an interesting place but your question is even more interesting. I really 'got' Mt St Helens when I visited there in Easter 2001, after reading & teaching about the 81 eruption for 20 years.'Lazy Beds & the Scottish Crofting system' and the Jacobite Rising & Highland Clearances meant so much more after a few summers in Western Scotland. I am sure there will be more as I ponder.

March 18, 2008 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger renaissancewednesday said...

Oh, your trip sounds lovely! Chicago is on my "top US cities to visit" list.

March 18, 2008 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Where fibers meet mud said...

Chicago is the best. My daughter lives near Irving Park and I do not visit near often enough. We lived there for 6 years and I loved every minute of it except the days we got 48 inches of snow!

March 20, 2008 at 6:36 AM  

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