Friday, August 19, 2011

Why I Call Chicago Home

At the age of 27, I left San Francisco and moved to what I consider to be one of the great cities of the world. It is a metropolis, but, unlike some cities such as New York, Paris and London, a metropolis where a comfortable life is affordable. Our home is modest but entirely adequate for our needs. Most of our closest friends live nearby. In our neighborhood of streets shaded by massive overhanging trees, lined with vintage courtyard apartment buildings and victorian four square homes there is a sense of community. Friends and neighbors meet at the grocery store, bars and restaurants and on the street. Not only friends but strangers acknowledge and greet each other.

We are fortunate to live steps from a beach on lake Michigan in one of the midcentury highrise buildings that line the lakeshore like sentinels. A 30 minute bus ride carries me to a wealth of theatre world class museums and architecture and an occasional concert in Millennium Park. It's Frank Ghery designed bandshell resembles unspooling ribbons of steel. The state of the art sound system hung on a trellis above the lawn gives crystal clarity to every stroke of the piano keys and vibration of the strings played by the musicians within. The park's mirror like Cloudgate sculpture reflects the changing sky and cityscape as well as the crowds surrounding it.

There is the Lincoln Park Zoo which charms not by it's collection but it's lushly landscaped setting. At it's entrance, across an expanse of lawn, is the conservatory, a classical glass structure filled with a collection of plants that vary by the season. Ther is the Lily Pond behind the zoo, a quiet, secluded spot with Frank Loyd Wright inspired pavilions and natural landscaping. These venues are free and offer friends and family an opportunity to while away an afternoon sharing time with each other in the beauty of the park.

The city is known for it's restaurants and although we do not eat out often we have our favorite neighborhood places. The "burger joint" with the treefilled garden dining area or the tiny pizzaria with it's beautifully restored Art Deco interior.

All but one small portion of the Lake Michigan shoreline is public property. Beaches and rich green parkland dotted with playing fields, tennis courts, bird santuaries, fountains, statuary and winding jogging and biking paths all sharing views of our spectacular architecture form the eastern boundry of the city.

Michigan Avenue, the part of the city most familiar to tourists, holds a bounty of greenery, which again varies by the season, on either side of the street and in the median strip that runs down it's center. Jazz age skyscrapers, with influences ranging from gothic to art deco, abut more modern steel and glass highrises along it's broad airy expanse.

By contrast, our financial district is a grid of narrow streets made canyon like by the buildings that line them. I find myself, even after this many years, dicovering ornamentation and textures in these buildings I had not noticed before.

Our museums also have the ability to startle with new discovery. Wether you find yourself wandering through the galleries of the Art Institute, with it's amazing collection of impressionist masterworks, or the Field Museum, housing the world's largest collection of Native American artifacts, as well as the massive skeletal remains of a T-Rex affectionately named Sue.

The city boast an impressive colleciton of public art well. Our famous Picasso is a Chicago icon. There are also sculptures by Calder, Miro and Oldenburg, and a four sided mosaic by Chagall.

Ther are hidden, little know treasures. The Stained Glass Museum tucked into the back corridors of Navy Pier, many pieces rescued from homes, churches and public buildings. The world's largest Tiffiny Glass dome can be found in the Cultural Center, once Chicago's Public Library. There is also the Tiffany mosaic tile dome in Marshall Fields (now Macy's) landmark State Street store. At Christmas the 7th floor Christmas tree in Macy's is well worth a visit.
I feel both fortunate and grateful to make my home in a palce that constantly and consistently has the ablilty to surprise me, igniting my senses and replenishing my soul.

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