The Christmas I was fourteen, I was the last remaining child in mom and dad's house. That was Janell's first Christmas with her first husband and instead of the usual gathering at mom's, we ended up at Randy and Katrina's. At least I think we did. I just remember the depressing car ride back to mom and dad's. Dad had taken the back roads that skirted the Tulsa Airport and as we passed one of the runways, dad said "Why don't we fly to Chicago tomorrow, just for the day?". So we did. We got up really early the next morning, flew into O'Hare, and then took the train into Chicago. We spent the day roaming around the Museum of Natural History. It was the first time I'd ever been to Macy's. We ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and then we took the train back to the airport and flew home. I have no memory of what Chicago looked like as we were flying in or out. I have no memory of Lake Michigan.
As my plane flew into Chicago Thursday morning, I had a perfect view of the city and Lake Michigan. I saw the Sears Tower (now it's the Willis Tower, what you talkin' about?) and that building the little girl slid down in Adventures in Babysitting. All of this was wonderful, but I was positively awe struck by Lake Michigan. I knew it was a big lake. I just didn't realize how big of a lake it really is. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought it was the ocean. There are beaches and waves and piers and big boats. I was floored by the shear enormity of Lake Michigan. As I rode the train towards my hotel I also noticed how New York like Chicago can be. I passed rows of houses that reminded me of Queens. I heard people talking in accents that reminded me of Brooklyn. When I got off the train my instructions told me to take a cab to my hotel and I no longer felt the New York vibe. I suddenly had no idea how to hail a cab in Chicago. I know that in New York, you step out daringly close to the street and put your hand in the air. I wasn't sure if it was done in the same fashion in Chicago. I tentatively waived at a few passing cabs with no luck. I walked a block up and stood next to a Starbucks talking to Michael on the phone and when I looked up there was a cab sitting at a red light right in front of me. I made eye contact with the driver and we both nodded to each other. Then he waived me over and I jumped into the cab. I sat back with relief and pride at successfully getting to my destination all on my own.
After meeting up with Kizz, we walked over to Navy Pier to find lunch and a good place to leave Chris's ashes. We settled for tourist fare and walked the length of the Pier looking for an appropriate dumping place for ashes. Navy Pier was full of tourists, so we ended up leaving Chris under a "No Trespassing" sign with a view of Navy Pier and Lake Michigan. And this would be all of Chicago that I would see for the two days. The rest of my time was spent being shuttled between the hotel and the conference center, attending workshops and sessions, and filling up on inspiration. On our last evening there, Kizz and I took a cab ride out to the famous (well, famous in the vegetarian world any way) Chicago Diner for dinner. The drive took us up along Lake Michigan before cutting over into a neighborhood. I stared out the window looking at the vast open water, struck by the endlessness of it. Kizz said that they had had surf warnings earlier in the week. Surf warnings on a lake. For some reason I expected to see sharks. As the airport shuttle took us back to O'Hare the next morning, I realized just how little I had seen of Chicago and was a little disappointed that I didn't get to see more of it.
My time was not wasted though. I picked up some new skills that I may be implementing on the blog. I've already updated Wordpress without blowing up everything, something I had been avoiding because I wasn't sure what that would do to my blog's theme. I have a plan for getting a project that's been trapped in my brain out into the world. I met some great people and got a bunch of free stuff (I ate two Haagen-daz ice cream treats in one day). And I spent some quality time with Kizz. I did the important things that I needed to do for this trip.