Monday, September 23, 2013

Week 3, Part 3: Chicago!

Over seven years ago, I had a plan. I'd been living in a tiny town in Far West Texas (Marfa, pop 2424) for four years and was ready to move to a bigger city to pursue my dream of being an actor and to develop my cake design/decorating skills. I'd never been to Chicago, but I'd always had an idea it would be a good fit for me creatively. I thought Chicago was great at making great actors and performers, too. Also, at that time, I knew five people who lived there who were each very dear to me and doing interesting things in their fields. My mom suggested I move in with her in San Francisco as a stepping stone, as a way to save money so I could then move to Chicago and study acting at Steppenwolf Theater Company. However, right before I moved to San Francisco, my health collapsed, and I spent the first year in the San Francisco re-building my body from the ground up. By the time I was healthy again, I'd gotten distracted by the desire for secure employment and ended up moving to Merced, California for a full time teaching job. But the dream of Chicago never left my mind, so I knew we'd have to visit Chicago on this trip. Most of my friends in Chicago had either moved or I'd grown remote from by now. However, another friend--one I loved but hadn't seen in nine years, since she'd left Marfa, Texas--was now living there. When she found out we were coming to town, she invited us to stay with her and her husband.

Our drive from Northern Wisconsin to Chicago made for a very long day and we pulled in around 6:45 PM to find Kendra, Kapil, and their long-haired Dachshund, Chester, sitting on the porch of their sweet house in the great little Northside neighborhood, Avondale. We visited for awhile and then we sorted out what we were going to eat, which, it seems, is what one must spend the bulk of one's time doing while visiting Chicago, since eating options are amazing and so varied. We settled on Belly Shack, a Korean/Puerto Rican fusion joint not far from their house. After a delicious meal, Kendra took us all on a tour of Logan Square and the areas surrounding their house. The two and a half days we were in Chicago, we never did get our bearings and were often surprised at how lousy our sense of direction was. However, that will change, as by the end of the first night, Kendra and Kapil were asking us if we might house and dog sit for them for the month of December, when they are going to India for their honeymoon. We hardly had to talk about it and agreed to the request the very next morning. That first night, I was so excited to be in Chicago, I couldn't sleep. I was like a little girl the night before Christmas, tossing and turning and wondering what gifts this city might offer me. I really knew NOTHING about Chicago except about the theaters and Wrigley field.

Over a hearty brunch at a Logan Square restaurant and bar, Kendra helped us plan out our day. We'd decided we'd spend Sunday at a Cubs game, so this day--Saturday--with glorious weather meeting us, and with a decision to come back in the winter when we could do all the indoor sightseeing--we'd head downtown to the lake. She said we had to see the Millenium Park--the Bean and  Crown Fountain (pictured below) and to walk over the bridge to the Art Institute entrance for a view of the skyline. We took the blue line from Logan Square, getting off in Wicker Park and walking to the next train stop so we could get a feel of the neighborhood where Kendra works. She works at 826CHI, an off shoot of 826Valencia in San Francisco, a literary outreach project started by writer Dave Eggers.

The "Bean"

Our reflection in the bean

Everybody in the Bean

The Bean is an amazing reflective sculpture which creates a strange view of the sky and the sightseers. Then we walked through the park, and saw the band shell and Crown Fountain, has a shallow puddle of water below it that people were splashing in barefoot with their children. Then we walked over the bridge. I've been having these bouts of terror--mostly while riding in our vehicle in cities, but sometimes on highways--and I had a bit of a bout of this same panic as we crossed the bridge. I'm not sure what's going on, but Larry has been so patient with me as I work through whatever new things are coming up in my body as we experience new environments. He held my hand as we crossed over traffic and got a good look at the Chicago skyline. Then we walked down to the lake, took a left and kept walking and walking until we got to the end of Navy Pier. But then we had to walk back to the blue line train and I was starting to get blisters on my feet because I'd left the house in my cowboy boots, a mistake I usually make when I visit New York the first day. We walked and walked, back to another blue line stop, over a bridge traversing a river.

Band Shell in Millenium Park

Crown Fountain spouting

Crown Fountain

Crack the Whip sculpture across from Navy Pier

When we left the blue line at the California stop, near where Kendra and Kapil live, we must've looked shell-shocked or confused by the map we were staring at, because a woman stopped and asked if we needed help, saying she was a police officer. She was so nice to point us in the right direction. Next time, I'm bringing a compass to Chicago! I love the train stops, the wooden boards that make the platforms and the old staircases.

We found a burrito joint by the house, collapsed onto stools and ate an early dinner before an early collapse into bed. I slept so solid that night, rare for me, that I didn't wake up once all night. Sunday, we had tickets to a Cubs game and started the day with a walk to the Logan Square Farmer's Market, which was vital and full of beautiful vegetables, fruit, baked goods and other fare. Then, with full hearts, we found a bus stop that would start the quick trip to Wrigley Field.

One of the cool things about Wrigley Field, is it's in a neighborhood, and many of the condo and apartment buildings surrounding the Field have rooftops bleacher seats where people can watch the game from. Wrigley Field itself has an intimacy I've never felt in a ballpark before, with an old-fashioned scoreboard with a real human being changing the numbers. It's not a big computer screen like our own AT & T Park in San Francisco. Next year, Wrigley Field will celebrate its 100th year. We watched the Cubs lose pretty gloriously to the Braves, but it was a super fun time and we were surrounded by groups of families and friends all having a good time. Then we crowded onto the 152 and took it to Addison Street where we caught the 52 right to the block where we were staying. As we walked to the house, we saw an open house sign for apartments and on a whim, went in to see three gorgeously rehabbed apartments in an old brick building. We were shocked to hear that the prices for these gorgeous places, with all new appliances, were less than half of what they'd be in San Francisco. We had a great time chatting with the realtor. After a short rest back home, we went down the block to Urban Belly, owned by the same people as Belly Shack, and had good Korean food before calling it another early night.

Wrigley Field! 

Easily morphing into Cubs fans

Kendra and Kapil had a wedding Kendra was in that weekend so we thought they were especially generous to bring us into that whirlwind of a weekend. I was reminded at how creative, intelligent, knowledgeable, fun, generous, and engaging Kendra is--and was especially delighted she had found such a great match in those areas in Kapil. Kendra had been an incredible source of support for me during a difficult spell of my life, and I'm so glad we could laugh over those times now. We'd also been able to plan some creative projects together--I had curated a show of her art at Terlingua House Projects in Alpine, Texas, and we'd collaborated on planning a Shakespeare Camp for Marfa Studio of the Arts that never came to fruition and I'd always been incredibly moved and inspired by her creativity and concepts. It's such a gift to have reconnected in person and I am so looking forward to seeing her and Kapil in December when we return to tend to their super sweet pup, Chester, who we had the best time cuddling with while Kendra and Kapil were gone for the wedding rehearsal and wedding and who we loved walking and exploring the neighborhood with. Thanks for giving us an insider's view to Chicago!

Dawn and Kendra

Monday morning we had a lazy morning, walking Chester to get a late-start cup of coffee down on Logan Square. Then we headed out of the city by noon, aiming for a small respite from activity in the Amish Country of Indiana.

Chester the Cute

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