Take commuter train into Chicago: some looks familiar, much has changed. Overall, though, Chicago retains its vitality: its streets and sidewalks busy, its human energy palpable.
Wander up Wacker Drive, amazed at how many skyscrapers line Chicago River. Delighted to see kayakers and cruises taking advantage of a bright, warm, sunny day. Old Marina City remains; a new and architecturally imaginative Christian Science church sits cheek-by-jowl with a high-rise office building. United Airlines, Brittanica, and a host of lesser names vie with restaurants and hotels along both river shores.
Another surprise as a black silhouette morphs into a statue of Irv Kupcinet, a great public relations writer for Chicago’s Sun-Times, lo, these long decades ago. (Kup was a “player” in my young life: in return for bon mots he would then put in the mouth of visiting “stars”, he granted my uncle and I, his season tickets to Chicago Bear games from 1947 through 1949).
In a nostalgia moment, chase back into an alley to photograph Chicago Theater stage door: a reminder of when, as young teenagers, a school buddy and I would seek autographs from stars appearing in stage shows interspersed with first-run films. (Am saddened to see old State-Lake and Wood theaters gone; and Oriental Theater now a live venue). Along State Street, am a bit put off realizing Marshall Fields, and Carson, Pirie Scott have been corporately transfigured. (Although the absence of old Rialto burlesque venue just south of the “L” comes as no surprise)
Segue over to re-baptized “Millennium Park” (hey, folks, this is GRANT Park, for my money) with its Frank Gehry outdoor band-shell, lovely pieces of sculpture scattered about, its whimsical Crown Fountain, but, most remarkably, Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” which captivates young and old. Step into what was once Chicago’s Main Library, which has new functions within old loveliness.
Continue along Michigan Avenue’s “Magnificent Mile”: old London House jazz venue now a savings and loan; Fort Dearborn markers still incised into a sidewalk where Chicago River is bridged. Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower continue to dominate river’s north shore, and an array of chi-chi boutiques capture my eye (and pocketbooks of many others). Verify that iconic Water Tower has not disappeared, but notice Esquire Theater (site of my introduction to post-WW II Brit comedies) has been subsumed into a chain drugstore.
Find myself with mixed feelings: MY Chicago seems overwhelmed by a newer, admittedly more vibrant, but somehow less elegant and more crass excess and flamboyance.
It was ever thus.
(For more photos, check out “page” 2012/08/31 – Chicago/IL)