Saturday, December 30, 2006

Powder Blue Skyline and True Green

After a fortnight in Chicago, I am settling in, and Morris is getting restless. I would be content to sit and knit and take walks into this neighborhood of coffee shops and cafes and a newfound treasurehouse of a knitting store. Morris, in contrast, has no cattle to chase or parts to get at the local agricultural store and has finished his Christmas book. He needs some diversion. So we decide on being tourists for a day. The more exotic tours require more planning or a different season, but the standard hop-on hop-off all day bus tour is available. So we set out for that.

Since this is more my territory than his, I somehow am supposed to know things like where things are and how to get there. I do my best to be in charge and Morris does his best not to be in charge and we bumble and grumble our way to the Red Line and off at Millenium park. I want to see and to show Morris the things I saw when I was in Chicago two years ago by myself. They are ice skating now where I had lunch with two friends I met on my segway tour. We wander a bit but have no luck finding the elusive hop on hop off bus until we cross the street to the Art Institute, which is a landmark for both of us now. There we find not one but two hop-on hop-off buses, or, in this case, trolleys.

I love knowing the inside story--what makes things work. Once, when I was a member of the Field Museum of Natural History and got a special invitation to an evening seeing behind the scenes in the museum, I drove from Champaign-Urbana, peeked into all the behind the scenes events, and then turned around and drove back home again. I must have spent 6 hours in the car for a couple hours behind the scenes, but it seemed well worth it to me. When I made my living as a technical writer, I got paid to see behind the scenes and then write up that insider's view for those who didn't get a chance to see it for themselves. Sometimes I got to see the marvelous blue of a nuclear reactor or the blueprints for a new industry; more often, it was the insides of a computer application to do things not nearly so interesting or dramatic. When that happened, I took satisfaction from being useful, a distant second.

On the bus, however, I am just a tourist. I have paid to find out such things as why the Chicago River is green. In case you wondered--algae, the color of the clay on the river bed, and not the supposed green dye dumped into the river for St. Patrick's Day create the green color. In fact, the dye dumped into the river is not green but orange, according to our guide, "to create a more intense green." I am struck first by the irony of that color choice, and then I try muddling through the physics of color. I thought opposites tended to dull each other out, not to intensify either one. I also failed the section in chemistrty on solutions so I do not even try to imagine the relative portions of one color and the other beyond the scale of what happened in my water color pan in grade school. In this case, no one was paying me to find out, so I drifted back into the patter of the driver---"the Wizard of Oz was written in this building on the corner. The White City of the World's Fair held here in 1893 was the inspiration for the Emerald City of Oz."

We get out at Navy Pier because for all the times I used it as a landmark as I drove to my daughter's house, I have never been there. When we stop, we discover that the water cruises that normally are over by this time of year are still running because the weather is unseasonably warm. I find a quiet corner in a restuarant for a glass of wine, a good burger, and time to knit a few rows. I love the city, but the energy of it takes a toll on me. By the time I have mellowed out, it is time to hurry to catch the last boat ride of the day. Even though Morris was noncommital about whether he wanted to go, I know that he is missing water and so I know he will be waiting anxiously to catch the last boat ride. I hurry as much as my newfound mellow will permit and get there with only seconds to spare.

It is 3:30 and the light is slowly fading into twilight. Over the water there is a haze that gives the skyline a lovely powder blue tint. I sit and take in the Monet-Manet impressionistic study of blues. An automated voice talks of buildings and water intakes and I let it roll over me. Today I am a tourist.


At 1:48 AM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

This is great! A displaced person now second-order displaced and at the same time back home. I also like it because it contrasts you and Morris and shows you two taking care of each other.

At 3:01 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

lovely. I like your style of tourism; not too frenzied, able to enjoy the moment. You make me hungry to be in Chicago again. I haven't been there for years.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said...

That's a fine account of your tourist life.

Happy New Year!

At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So glad you're enjoying your visit.

But I have to ask: You're the second person to mention a "segway tour" and -- in a modest burst of ambition -- I actually went on line and found a listing for one.

But I promise I've never seen one! And until about a year ago, my office was a block from the Art Institute.

Your plans for New Years reminded me that a bar on the South Side -- I think it's the Cork & Kerry Pub -- has a 6:00 pm New Year's toast, too: Dublin time.

That always struck me as quite civilized....

Now, while you were downtown, did you go to the real Billy Goat's?

At 4:10 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hello and happy new year all. It has been an interesting couple a days.
Cur, forgive me not responding sooner--a segway is that funky gyroscope scooter. It is actually fun to play with even tho the tour limits what you can do on it.
the Real Billy Goats?????

At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original Billy Goat's -- where Mike Royko used to drink -- the inspiration for the SNL sketches -- is on Lower Michigan Avenue, north of the Wrigley Building.

That's Lower as in under the sidewalk. There's a stairway.


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