Home from Chicago

We’re back. It was a great trip, but it is good to be home.

On Thursday, we visited the Shedd Aquarium, one of three museums (along with the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium) that make up the “museum campus” on the lake, next to the newly mangled Soldier Field, where the Bears play. Soldier Field was a beautiful neoclassical stadium, but it was old–first built in 1924, and not much changed since, as far as I know. So it lacked the widgets and gewgaws of modern stadiums, a lack that somebody decided needed to be fixed. Whoever’s in charge was, to his credit, unwilling to tear down all of the old stadium, which is nice as these things go. What they wound up doing was keeping the neoclassical bits and dropping an enormous alien battlecruiser on top, which spills over the edges and dwarfs the original structure. The effect is bizarre.

I hadn’t visited the Shedd since I was a kid. It has expanded quite a bit, with two new exhibit areas. Getting into the original museum and the new areas is alarmingly expensive–$21 for out of towners, $14 for Chicago residents. We splurged, and we did enjoy ourselves, but not $21-worth.

After that, we went to my favorite place for stuffed pizza, Bacino’s, took a siesta, and went out to see the Magdalene Sisters (op cit).

Friday, Gwen, Lissy, and I went to the International Museum of Surgical Sciences, which was fascinating and unsettling. Lots of very old and beautifully crafted surgeon’s kits, which consisted largely of amputation tools, and in many cases, trephination tools. Medicine in the 1800s was surprising for the level of advancement in some areas, and the crudity in others. The museum building itself is quite amazing, modeled on the Petit Trianon and built for a Chicago socialite. After that, Gwen and I wandered downtown to ogle the buildings and for Gwen to try on more shoes. That night, we got together with the rest of the family for more pizza.

Saturday was our return date, but it was an evening flight, so we had some time to spend in town. We went over to Wicker Park, a neighborhood that was “transitional” at best when I lived in Chicago. Today it is a funky hipster neighborhood that butts up against un-transitioned areas. Milwaukee Avenue is notable for having one bad furniture store after another. But it also has a Fluevog store, and after having tried on countless shoes everywhere else we looked, Gwen finally found a pair she liked, and bought them. We wandered around the area some more, had coffee, marveled at a restaurant that serves fried twinkies, and pushed on for O’Hare. The security gantlet went smoothly, as did the flight.

It occurred to me that if I lived in Chicago, my life would be very different–I’d live in a different kind of place. My friends would be different sorts of people. I would do different things with my time. Not necessarily better or worse, just different.

3 thoughts on “Home from Chicago”

  1. Yes. Your life would be different. You would be fabulously rich and call your left hand “Maurice.” You would dress the mayor on Tuesdays and French kiss the fire department on Sundays. Most importantly, your nose would not sweat after eating the fire bean. Impossible, but true.

  2. “different” – I know what you mean. This same kind of thought often crosses my mind when I spend time in Tokyo. I could very well live happily in Tokyo, but my life would be very different. Almost like I’d be a parallel-universe version of myself.

  3. (I tried to format paragraphs, but the preview doesn’t show them, so I hope this makes sense as a run-on.)

    I have lived in so many different places that I have come to the conclusion that I’m the same person no matter where I am. Yes, I will have different friends when I move back to Chicago (although the current plan is to only be there for six months) but they won’t be all that different from the friends I have now.

    It turns out that the closest friends I’ve made in Austin are similar to the people I associated with in Florida, New York, Rhode Island, Germany, and Chicago (before I went off to college). And it turns out that after six months to a year of checking out the new scene, I always gravitate towards the things I enjoy doing, no matter where I live.

    Along those lines, in Germany I learned to speak German, in Rhode Island I said things were “wicked cool,” in New York I took public transportation like everyone else, and in Austin I take public transportation like no-one else. It’s always still me, finding my niche in each place.

    So I guess I agree and disagree with the idea of having a different life just because I’m in a different place. Yeah, I’ll do less rock climbing outdoors in Illinois. But the people I choose and the things I do have less to do with where I am and more to do with who I am, which is pretty consistent – despite my regular attempts to change it.

    I’m not saying I won’t do more of some things than I do in Austin, or whatever, just that even though I’m doing different activities, my approach and the things I care about are not going to change.

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