Thursday, January 6, 2011

And on to Chicago

Iowa City to Chicago seems a far ride – until you’ve done 400-500 miles in a day, in which case 250 seems like a hop, skip and a jump. But it still seems far psychologically – and this is after living in Chicago for almost two decades and doing a lot of Midwest exploration from there.

I stopped in West Branch, Iowa at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and birthplace. The things that stuck with me from there were the depression and Hoover Dam. It had turned bitter cold the day before, so I didn’t walk around the grounds much. The birthplace was modest – similar to Nixon’s, but reflective of its earlier period.

I switched to I-88 (I-80 goes south of Chicago), skipping Reagan’s birthplace (as I had skipped his library in California) – the perspective of history may be enlightening, but I feel I know Reagan and his years well enough. Chicago’s outskirts are much more extensive than those of any city along the route since leaving the Bay Area. I knew that, but driving from so far away made the approach more dramatic. What sprawl! I took I-290, the route of my commute when I first lived in Chicago, and even though it wasn’t rush hour I felt the stress of that commute and that job at Keebler. I took the expressway all the way to Lake Shore Drive – the lake and the city looked beautiful. I had an unexpected wave of emotion when I passed my old apartment building; I do feel ready for a new place, but that was my home for many years, and I loved it there.

Coincidentally (well, while I still had the car), I saw one of my Keebler friends on the day I did the Keebler commute – met my friend Cynthia in Evanston at Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge. I guess the Ethelses have all closed, which is a pity – they were nice places to meet and chat, and the chocolate was good! We talked for hours. And then it was on to Edie’s, another home-away-from-home, for dinner and more talking and laundry (first since Lake Tahoe) and reorganizing my stuff for the weekend, leaving the big green suitcase and mail for my return….

The next morning, I returned the car - $1950 and 3490 miles later. Bye, Kia Spectra! It served me well for this part of the journey. My friend Helen met me at Budget and we had breakfast at Whole Foods. Then I took the bus (!) down Lake Shore Drive (!) to the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center (seeing for myself the new Trump building at the old Sun-Times site across the river – what a change!). There, I met with the administrator of my non-profit certificate program, which had been discontinued in my absence, to discuss the classes I would do to complete my certificate. I continued downtown to have lunch at CPK ASAP with my friend Karen, and then it was on to Union Station.

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