I recently visited Chicago. It's one of the few large cities I have ever visited for any length of time. City visits, for me, have been few and far between. What experiences do I take away from a city?
First it has to be the busyness of the streets and sidewalks. Day or night, the sidewalks are filled with pedestrians going from place to place. Taxi cabs zip down the street at death-defying speeds in the heart of the city taking people to destinations near and far. Cars seem to be going pretty fast for the middle of the city, but slow to a stop to allow the hoards of people to cross the streets. Traffic flows and ebbs with the color of the streetlights and people surge forward when the light is in their favor.
The cacophony of sounds, the blare of taxi horns, the wail of sirens and the constant "thump," "thump" as cars hit potholes, filled your ears with clamor. For this country gal, it's was a far cry from the sounds I usually hear such as roosters crowing, cows mooing, cats meowing and the song of wild birds.
Taking a cab is almost like taking your life in your hands as they swing in and out of traffic, barely missing the cars nearby as they surge forward to your destination. Several times our eyes got a bit round as our cab careened down the streets, turning corners and zipping along, seemingly knowing Chicago like the back of their hands. I think they blow their horns not only to get traffic out of the way, but also as a salute to other cab drivers they may know.
The sidewalks are full of people shopping, or on their way to enjoy a meal or some entertainment. Dress and cultures range from far and near. It's a hubbub of languages, looks, cultures and cuisine.
Here and there musicians, some very good, some mediocre, play on the streets for donations. Drummers playing on buckets and other odd objects kept a rhythm as pedestrians flowed by.
Architecture was also a focal pint with many famous buildings in your view, some survivors of the Chicago fire of 1871. That fire destroyed most of the buildings and even the Chicago River burned due to all the debris and pollution in its midst. Still standing after the fire was St. Michael's Church, the Water Tower and the Chicago Avenue Pump Station. The Harold Washington Library Center has to be a favorite architectural point with its huge decorations at the roof corners representing the bounty of the Midwest.
Although I enjoyed visiting some of the stores, and enjoyed the dining experiences, my favorite thing was taking a break beside the Chicago River in a riverside park. Fewer people, green grass, trees, birds, more familiar to this country girl.
One of the things you notice is how dark the streets are with tall buildings blocking the light from every direction. Even on a sunny day, sunlight only reaches that valley between the buildings for a short time of the day. On cloudy days it is very dark and dreary. A few green spots might meet your eye, small trees, flower beds and shrubs, but they are outnumbered by asphalt and concrete.
One of my sisters, who has lived in a city for many years, has always missed seeing sunrises and sunsets. How I would miss these, as well. Its one of my favorite things to do, rise up early enough to see the sun rise in a glow of pinks and reds, with blues and purples mingling in the clouds. It's repeated at night when the sun sets, glowing in the west until it finally slips below the horizon while the silhouettes of trees and branches are backlit by the glow.
My view from my hotel room was pretty dismal, looking out over rooftops filled with the mechanics of keeping buildings warm or cool with good air circulation. No trees were in my view, just buildings, lights and cityscapes.
One has to marvel at some of the apartments you find around Lake Michigan, rising up many stories, with balconies for the residents. I would hate to know how much they pay per month for their lakeside views, but I know I would cringe at the cost.
It's true, there are some lovely parks with trees and shrubs, green grass and a view of the sky. Lake Michigan spreads to the east and north adding a dimension of grandeur. It makes a nice break from the caverns of buildings in the downtown area. There are many places to visit and all types of entertainment like all city's can boost about.
It's always fun to visit, but I'll have to tell you I breath a sigh of relief as we leave the busy streets behind us and head out into the country to come home. A traffic jam to me is seeing three or more cars ahead or behind me as I head into town. I guess I like to see my horizons and keep my noise levels low.
Jeannine Roediger has lived on a family farm all her life, first as a farmer's daughter and now as a farmer's wife. She writes weekly for the Times Bulletin and enjoys gardening, quilting, cooking, bird watching and writing.