Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chicago Tourist

Yesterday I stayed overnight in Chicago for business, which turned out to be a really pleasant experience in an unexpected way. During the 90's, I lived downtown and vowed I'd never return to the monochrome malls and homogeneous housing of suburbia. Of course, that all went out the window when I met Jim and we bought a house together. And it took quite a while for me to adjust to life in the burbs.

At first, I'd go back to the city as if I were returning home. There was a sense of relief to be back. However, over a couple years, I grew to like my new house and the garden and all that. And then, when I went into the city, I felt like a visitor not someone making a homecoming. My overnight stay last night represented a new feeling. I felt like a tourist, and that's infinitely better than being a visitor because a tourist experiences something as if it's brand new.

I stayed at a hotel on Wacker with a nice view of the river. I was by myself and had dinner at McCormick and Schmick's, where I sat outside to people watch. I was wearing some nice clothes, it was a beautiful evening, and people were still headed from work to home and just filtering into the restaurants. All of the sudden, I realized that I felt the same way I felt visiting London or Athens or New York. I was looking at the buildings and watching the people going by and felt excited to be there experiencing it.

If I'd had some postcards, I would have started writing to friends and family!  Then the waiter might have asked where I was visiting from.  What could I say?  Maybe I'd say New York.  Or I could fake a weird accent and say I was visiting from Lichtenstein or Malta or Singapore and make up some crazy story about why I was there and what my impressions of Chicago were. (These flights of fancy are not at all uncommon for me).

I took a walk after dinner, just enjoying the energy one always finds on the streets in a big city. And that's really when it really struck me that I was a tourist in Chicago now. Even though I knew this city very well, I had been away from it for long enough so that it was like new again. Now I'm thinking that it would be fun to take a vacation to Chicago. Find a nice place to stay, check out museums, do Mag Mile shopping, see some shows, etc.

Very odd to think of Chicago in this manner, but there it is. I'll have to start making some plans for a return visit. And get my story straight when some waiter sees me writing postcards I'll never be loopy enough to mail and asks: "So where are you from?"

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