Day 3: Chicago, Illinois, Part 1
One of my favorite books is The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. (If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it! Just make sure to have a box of tissues handy.) Most of the book takes place in Chicago, and there are plenty of references to real Chicago locations and landmarks (e.g. Millennium Park, the Lyric Opera, the Field Museum, Lake Shore Drive, and North Dearborn).
So it’s safe to say that I was ecstatic upon entering the city. Please bear with me as I pepper this post with excerpts from the book.
We went to the Field Museum first, which was gargantuan and polished and simply everything that I had hoped it would be.
“Here all of nature was captured, labeled, arranged according to logic that seemed as timeless as if ordered by God, perhaps a God who had mislaid the original paperwork on the Creation and had requested the Field Museum staff to help Him out and keep track of it all. For my five-year-old self, who could derive rapture from a single butterfly, to walk through the Field Museum was to walk through Eden and see all that passed there.” – The Time Traveler’s Wife
Then we went to the Adler Planetarium, where Ben and Caroline and I managed to crash a simulated moon landing. Pluto still has its own planet display there, a fact that was not lost on Caroline.
It turns out that Chicago is experiencing record high temperatures today and tomorrow. We dragged ourselves through a scorching 100+ degrees, which only barely died down as we explored Millennium Park in the early evening.
There was an indie rock concert going on, and the lawn in front of the Pritzker pavilion had a very eclectic mix of Chicagoans situated on it. The setting reminded me strongly of SPAC, except that many of the audience members had brought wooden tables with them, and were sitting on picnic blankets, enjoying wine and cheese. I like Chicago.
We didn’t stay for the concert, but proceeded to Cloud Gate (which we referred to as The Bean, not knowing its official name), and played the role of overenthusiastic, camera-wielding tourist. As you can see, Caroline and I had a field day.
As the evening wore on, we meandered over to Navy Pier, Chicago’s #1 tourist destination, and had some hideously overpriced Haagen-Dazs café food for dinner.
We rounded off the night with a fantastic architecture cruise of the city. The tour guide was wonderful, and she taught us everything we could want to know about the city—apparently Chicago is nicknamed the “Windy City” not for its weather patterns, but because of the politicians who inflated the reputation of the city in the 1800s in an effort to have it chosen to host the World Fair.
Also, we learned about the man who built the Lyric Opera, whose daughter wanted to become an opera singer. It turned out she was dreadful at singing, and was rejected by all the music schools in New York, so her daddy built her an opera house. Interestingly enough, the Lyric looks like a giant golden throne, with its back to New York, as a “message to the people who rejected his daughter.”
A lot of skyscrapers in Chicago are postmodern buildings, meaning that they reflect what is around them. This was especially fascinating to me—if postmodernism in literature centers around creating your own story, it’s hugely interesting that postmodernism in architecture seeks to do the opposite!
I fell in love with Chicago today. I’m applying to medical school in a year, and if the medical schools here will have me, I would happily pack up and move out West. There’s something about a city that makes me feel like I can do anything, which I’ve experienced in New York and Boston, but Chicago was nothing short of magical. Until then, there’s nothing to do but to keep studying for the MCAT!