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Friday, February 13, 2009

One Fine Day in Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is one of those cities that you just love! We lived here before we moved to Sweden and have enjoyed a bit of a love affair with it ever since. We went to college in Chicago. We went to seminary in Chicago. We met in Chicago. We married in Chicago. I love the Chicago Cubs. We love our new president and he is from Chicago. Chicago has the best hot dogs in the world not to mention the pizza. It is a wonderful place and we are so lucky that we get to step back into the wonderful world of Chicago now and again. On our last day in the US we had a day to kill as our flight didn't leave until 10.00 pm. We have dear friends who live downtown so we arranged to meet up with them in the evening for a nice dinner before we headed to O'hare airport. Our friends were working during the day so we we wandered through Millennium Park which is one of the greatest city park constructions of all time. The famous bean that reflects the city and yourself is quite mesmerizing. Hard to pull yourself away. And of course, the famous architecture and the pulse of the grinding, working city that envelopes you is stimulating. From there, we ventured off in search of the perfect hot dog. We found it in this great hot dog restaurant. You gotta love a place that sells only hot dogs! I hate the hot dogs in Sweden and one bite of my Chicago dog reminded me why. Next on our list was the Art Institute. The dark under belly of Chicago isn't hard to spot. On our way to the museum, many, many homeless folks were begging for money, scrounging in the trash, and looking for a way to survive the biting cold of the windy city. It's always been a wonder to me that west of the el (the elevated train and subway system) is a city that struggles with poverty and crime and dirt. East of the el it glitters with the magnificent mile, cultural institutions like Orchestra Hall and the Art Institute and the beauty of the lakefront architecture. I think part of what has always drawn me to Chicago is that all things exist. It would be good to close the gap between east and west, but perhaps that's a topic for another day.
So with a Chicago dog burning in our belly, we headed east and entered the Art Institute of Chicago. We had not been there in years and most of our art experiences in the past 10 years have not included much American art. To our great disappointment, American Gothic was on loan to a place in Iowa. Crazy. Still, the portraits of the great American landscape and some of the city scenes were a wonder to behold. We've been to many art museums throughout Europe over the past 10 years, but it was great fun to wander through this amazing collection in one of the towns we call home. As we enjoyed the Impressionists and considered how lucky we are to have been to Monet's gardens in France and to have visited the great Van Gogh museum in Amesterdam, we felt truly blessed. A great painting still takes your breath away and we were culturally quite satisfied. Much to our pleasant surprise as we were walking back to our friends' apartment on the river, in front of the Tribune building, towering over us, was a statue replica guessed it, American Gothic! What a riot. Loved it. Loved the suitcase detail and the shoes and thought...hmmm, I never noticed those in the painting. That's because they are not's only waist up in the portrait!
We ended our fine day with a wonderful dinner in a little place around the corner from where our friends live. Delightful conversation and wonderful food after a satisfying day in one of my favorite cities served as a great bon voyage.