This place really does want to make one sing, but at the moment, my frozen face won’t cooperate with that impulse until it thaws. And that’s just as well; I don’t have much of a singing voice. Yes, it’s that cold, even though I missed the polar vortex by a couple of weeks. I have just walked a mere ten minutes to catch the blue line back to O’Hare, and I can attest that the famous wind does really contribute mightily to the chill factor. I value my ears enough to have let go of the lament over perpetual hat hair for the duration of my visit.
The cold cannot diminish this city’s charm, not the least of which is that both of my boys live here now; one studies poetry, and one creates and handles/moves art.
On day one, they led me on an odyssey through centuries of amazing artwork at the Art Institute. I had two personal docents whose breadth and depth of knowledge revealed the breadth and depth of staggering beauty in those buildings.
I wandered on my own the next day, discovering treasures at the American Writers Museum and Chicago Architectural Center.
And then my youngest served as tour guide again, this time through his culturally rich neighborhood of Pilsen. Colorful murals cover many buildings with pride for the area’s rich Mexican roots. Tortillerias dot the landscape, and we tasted some at the Parkview Diner, where we had a delectable breakfast of eggs, rice and beans, and corn tortillas at the counter that provides the only seating in the tiny corner café. We wandered further through Wicker Park, exploring thrift and used book shops.
We filled our evenings with Chicago culture. The first found us at The Neo-Futurist’s Infinite Wrench show, in which an energetic and creative ensemble of five performed dozens of thought-provoking, sometimes funny, sometimes sad short plays in an hour. The Second City’s Best Of show was not dissimilar in that it featured an ensemble cast presenting short sketches. This incubator for some of the best-known and loved comic talents in our country is a bit larger, better funded, and more professional than the Neo-Futurists, but the fare was inconsistent. The real treat came at the end of the show when many alumni joined those already on stage to pay tribute to a departing cast member with a fast paced game of improve ‘freeze.'
On my last evening we congregated at The Poetry Foundation for an evening featuring two local professors and their students. This venerated space, known and accessed by poets and poetry readers around the world welcomed my firstborn on stage where he read his poems and sang his songs with a confidence and clarity of voice that I’ve not heard before. He rose to fill his 6’3” stature and the room with his moving words.
We couldn’t have celebrated our time together in any more appropriate way than getting some delicious deep-dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s,, reportedly Tina Fey’s favorite. I savored those last moments with my boys as much as the pizza, and as I look out on a snowy, messy O’Hare runway, feeling lucky that mine was one of the only flights not to be cancelled, I already look forward to my return to this toddlin’ town.
Photos by Diane Lowman