Again behind about 4 posts but I have a legitimate excuse — I flew out to Chicago on Friday and have been at hotels without free WiFi. Again, excuses don’t excuse, so here I am with my post meant for Friday.
This is my second time in Chicago, and again I’m visiting in the summer, which is the most beautiful time for Chicago, apparently. I can’t imagine what it would be like in the winter still, despite having lived through a number of Boston winters in my past, but after living in Hong Kong the past few years, I can’t really stomach the concept!
The city is so beautifully laid out. The grid system and public transport makes the place very convenient to get around, and I absolutely love the time and attention put into incorporating culture into the city. Last visit I went to the Contemporary Art Museum and was really glad I did. This time I saw one of the most well thought out art exhibitions (not just in the explanations on the walls, the organization of the paintings, but also the audio tour) that I’ve ever seen at the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at the Art Institute. There are numerous parks and green spaces. Millennium Park is not only a wonderful garden but houses extraordinary public art. I also appreciated that the Farm in the Zoo at Lincoln Park was free to the public so that all the city dwellers could get an idea of where food comes from.
There’s also no shortage of theater or arts. I once again visited Second City to see its 100th revue, “Who Do You Think We Are?” and had so much fun. Always having had roots in political satire, the Second City Stage is no doubt having lots of fun with its beloved Senator-now-President Obama.
Then let’s not forget the architecture. Chicago is well known for being the home of many famous architects, and all the varietals of architecture tours are worth it – walking, boating, even segwaying (I imagine — haven’t done it yet). The city is just filled with so many different styles of amazing architecture that really symbolize America to me. When I see art deco detail on tall skyscrapers, I think of a wonderful time of growth and ambition that is purely American to me.
Walking through Lincoln Park, Old Town, then the Gold Coast yesterday, I found all the space so striking. Of course, anyplace after Hong Kong feels spacious (Times Square is just a playground to me now), but I really just could not help noticing all the space in these neighborhoods with primarily low buildings (no more than 4-6 stories), complete with gorgeous architectural detail. I thought how New York is so much more dense in comparison, and that come to think of all the US cities I know well (DC, Boston), this is more typical of American life – and I like it.
When I will return to such space remains to be seen, but as I walked through the charming neighborhoods of Chicago, I couldn’t help but feel a lightness in my step of not having towering residential blocks surround me wherever I went. Even the downtown area, with its many skyscrapers, feels less dense as the blocks stretch further and the streets much wider.
It also made me see why so many others think of America as some kind of paradise – because even in my few travels in Europe, South America, and more travels in Asia, no place feels so big, so proud, so storied, so hopeful. Or maybe it’s just my nostalgia.