Chicago & Back

For work, I have to travel occasionally.  Most trips take a lot out of me, but the “BONZAI” trips (up and back in one day) really kick my butt, both mentally & physically.

I love to people watch when I am in a big city.  Taking the Orange line from Midway to the loop is no exception.  Tourists and business travelers wrangle their rolling luggage on and off planes, up / down stairs.  Watching them, I know that is exactly what I look like trying to get settled onto the train.

Do I have my belongings.

Did I turn my wedding ring in.                                  Do I know what stop is mine.

Are all the zippers of my back pack closed.

Am I prepared for my meeting.         Did I remember my hall pass?

When I don’t have luggage, I still have the same thoughts, but I can settle in more quickly for the train ride into the city.  I actually like taking the train more than a cab.  You know the exact fare.  They run predictably.  There is no traffic.  The favorite part about riding the train is looking at the city.

This trip was no exception.  The graffiti along the tracks looked like it had been recently spruced up since my last visit in May.  Pink and green hues on the new taggers stood out.  Their art is amazing to see.  The people waiting on the platforms.  Masses of people ants coming and going from their homes.  The stand in a collective but they are not.  On the ride back to the airport, a lady in front of me reached out to touch the person in front of her to ask them something.  Each time, I watch the jump and recoil of the human contact. The panic on their face of “why is this person talking to me!!!!” and the inevitable relaxation into what ever conversation needed to disrupt their “quiet time”.

Men and women alike, withdraw into their individual seat.  The earphones go on their head, they close their eyes.  I have seen people fall asleep on the train.  The old or indigent seeking shelter from the windy cold or sticky hot.  Their eyelids slowly do the flicker dance of a brain shutting down.

Chicago is a city of layers.  The regular people scurrying from one place of work to the next.  Walking in their “lane” to avoid contact with the other ants.  Along the side of the streets there are the “corner observers”.  This is their corner.  They anxiously look about for items that may be dropped or an opportunity to sell a raffle ticket to an unsuspecting tourist.  Buildings are constructed next to and on top of each other.  Layers of architectural history juxtaposed like oil and water.

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Old brick buildings show windows long since sealed in.  Hints that they were fire escapes or freight crane portals is evident by from the buildings scars.  Decorative cast carvings line my eye level looking out the train’s window.  Flickers of light show as we quickly pass tiny alley way’s.  Light refracts down from the tall glass giants that loom over the smaller & older brick buildings.  Windows down glimpses of a desk, computer or rows of books.  The paint of old signs bleeds thru or is flaking off.  Soot and dirt cover everything.

Just a day in the city is enough for me.  I’ve been up to Chicago enough that I no longer feel lost or stressed when I am there.  I can get to and from the airport, office and hotel with swift ease.  WHile I enjoy my time with my friends and teams, It is nice to hit the skies again and come home to Kanasa.

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2 thoughts on “Chicago & Back

  1. What a beautiful essay. You have captured the essence of the sense of a great city. People living their lives surrounded by other people, with occasional interaction, usually pleasant, sometimes not. I love that excitement. Having grown up in NYC (albeit Queens), that sense of excitement and vitality is part of my DNA. We haven’t “toured” Chicago yet, but it’s on my bucket list.

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