I will leave Chicago with this feeling: thrill; this impression: awe. Here’s a city that runs on order and a certain edge. Walking the length and breath to where my feet could reach, I found an open eyed town that never stops demanding. Either going upward on an elevator onto the Skydeck of the Sears Towers, taking pictures there on the glass ledge, requesting for branded gift items at the Institute of Arts, getting a guided tour, getting a 4D Fantasea tour of the Shedd Acquarium, or getting onto the Ferris Wheel at the Navy Pier, Chicago never stops demanding. Here’s where a padlock costs up to $10. (A little riddle on that: Q: Which is safer, a padlock with number combinations or a regular one with jam and lock? A: If they both cost the same, they stand equal chance of being broken), and a bottle of soda could cost almost $3. It’s a shopaholic’s heaven, a traveller’s escape and a photographer’s playground. There’s hardly ever a place to turn without something memorable to see. The one advantage of this set of travellers was our preference for our feet as means of transportation all through the large city. There probably was no other way we could have seen so much.
New York has the Subway. London has the Underground system. Chicago has the “L”. “No, not the ‘El’. Only Boston folks spell it like that,” our guide says. “It’s the ‘L'”. It hardly matters that there are places where the train moves at ground level. It’s still the “L” which stands for “Elevated Train.”
The Great Chicago fire of October 10, 1871 that burnt down more than half of the old city and killed hundreds of people was reportedly caused by Mrs O’ Leary’s cow which had been said to have mistakenly kicked a lantern in the barn. A recent ordinance has now been passed to absolve the cow of responsibility, and other reasons have been accepted as causing the fire. And here’s the Chicago humour: The Fire Department of the city now stands on the site of Mrs. O’Leary’s barn, perhaps just in case another fire decides to start from there.
Lying at Union Station with a computer on the lap and an earphone plugging the ears, a stranger stops by, hooded and jittery. He needs a smoke and was ready to pay for it. Walking across the street, a woman with a scarf on her head is throwing up on the curb with no one taking notice. A policeman on small motorped warns squatting travellers to watch out for their bus or stand a risk of being ejected from the Amtrak station as soon as it is midnight. Coming in a cab for the first time during this trip, conversing with a Romanian taxi cab driver, sharing the words of exile. He will one day go back home, but not to become a politician. He’s now a Chicago citizen.
We’re now on the bus out, speeding through lights and wind. This city had its charm and its chivalry. It also had its chaff and chicanery. Bye Chicago. I will remember you.