So I spent the day in Chicago … not in a touristy kind of way, but in a waiting for my husband to finish a class of his so we could continue our long drive up north to visit family, kind of day. (Yes … that was a run on.) In any case, I holed up in a corner of a Starbucks, got an “Oprah Chai,” considered telling the barista that I thought it was a stupid name for the drink, but then remembered I was in Chicago, Oprah’s home town, and decided better of it. (Let it be known I’ve got nothing against Oprah, she’s got some great things to say, but I don’t think anyone needs to be idolized to the point of royalty – even royalty.)
Besides Oprah, Chicago is such a centerpiece to this nation. Sarah Bernhardt described it as, “the pulse of America.” I don’t know if it’s the pulse, but it’s definitely a major artery at the very least. Michael Douglas said once, “I’m impressed with the people from Chicago. Hollywood is hype, New York is talk, Chicago is work.” And it really is. Everywhere you look people have an agenda that is completely their own. It is fascinating to me, and though there are many, many cool things about this city, I think one of my favorite things about it is the ability to become totally anonymous. Everybody could be anybody, and they probably are … but when you put that many people in one place, it kind of makes everyone equal. We all have to wait for the light to turn green, we all have to shuffle through the throng of sidewalk traffic and no one’s important suit, flashy stilettos or yoga pants are more important on the street than anyone else. There are as many people frequenting the Disney store as the Hancock building and tourists take themselves as seriously as the the suits do!
Cities aren’t really about status as much as they are organic, living, and constantly changing entities. It is so different from the little suburban world we live in, but I can’t say either are better or worse. The thing is, when I’m home, I am too much a part of it all. I never get to watch, because I’m too busy doing, but here, there are just so many cool things that I notice by looking around, and for once not talking, just looking. I’m such a talker that I tend to dive into conversation with strangers in order not to miss an opportunity at relating to people, but I think there’s a small danger in missing the view. “Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence,” is a Spanish proverb I like a lot. And I think that the city has a sort of “un-silence” that is worth listening to, and looking at. In some ways I feel like I’m watching a work of art come-to-life.
I’ll be honest though, no one lies about the driving in Illinois. It really is awful, because everyone in this “work” town of agendas thinks their business is the most important business to get to. I had a guy nearly skim the side of my car trying to change lanes and a blinker here, is useless. This is a city that adhere’s to to model, “survival of the fittest,” and means it. I had to laugh because a friend and I were down here recently and she drove. It was one of the “watch out the world is out to get you,” kind of driving days where she was: cut off, given poor directions, stuck in construction, re-routed by Siri and denied parking spots lot after lot. It would have been hilarious if it wasn’t so completely awful. She was a rockstar though and eventually, we … like all Chicagoans on a mission, accomplished what we set out to do!
The philosopher Plato said once of his ancient city of Athens, “This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are.” I think that’s really true of all places, and though Chicago may be a city in a hurry, when you slow down to watch, there is beauty in it everywhere – the quick-hugs of friends before the light turns green, the places where 1800s and modern architecture meet, the tiny plots of flowers in unexpected places, the families, the schedules, the dreams. You can see them all, from the corner of a Starbuck’s window.