A Tale of Two Cities

Chicago has grown on me. I’ve now visited the Windy City seven or eight times, and each time I’ve come to like it a little more. Living in DC, I consider myself to be living in a big city, but every time I’m in Chicago, I’m struck by what a city really is.

Here in DC, there are thousands of people, rushing to and from work and touristy activities every day. There is a [fairly] reliable and well-traveled public transportation system. We also have a beautiful landscape, with buildings no taller than 555 feet 5 1/8 inches and plenty of trees, parks, and monuments. And thanks to a mostly underground Metro system, it’s quiet.

In Chicago, there are also thousands of people, rushing to and from work and touristy activities every day. There is [as far as I’ve seen] a reliable and well-traveled public transportation system. On the other hand, the buildings are skyscrapers, and for a time, the city was home to the tallest building in the world. There are a few grassy spots here and there, but for the most part, Weasley had to learn how to “do his business” on the sidewalks and grates around the tree roots. And unlike the Metro, the “L” is aboveground and almost deafening. As my boyfriend put it, even in the dead of night, the city is at a dull roar. Even still, I get caught up in the beauty of the juxtaposition of the buildings against the skyline, especially as dusk settles in.

I could get used to a view like this.

I could get used to a view like this.

While DC is home to all the national monuments, the “New York City of the Midwest” also a lot of history, as I’ve experienced during my various visits. On my first trip to the city many years ago, my mom and I visited the first ever American Girl Place store. I’ve since visited other American Girl stores but none compare to the experience of the original. On subsequent visits, I’ve checked out the Shedd Aquarium (because of said visit my boyfriend now has a membership), Navy Pier, the Art Institute of Chicago, numerous Top Chef restaurants, hidden gems only Chicagoans seem to know and, most recently, the White City.

Last fall, my boyfriend recommended I read Devil in the White City, a nonfiction book that reads like a novel about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the serial killer that targeted its visitors. This is a great read and I’d totally recommend it (his other books are on my “To Read” list too). So, when the weather warmed up this spring, we made the decision to head out to Jackson Park, the site of the fair, to see all the sites we’d read about. It was surprising to me how overgrown the meticulously designed “Wooded Island” had become and that there was only one building remaining after all these years. Thankfully a small portion of the island, a version of the original Japanese garden, had been restored to it’s late 19th Century glory. It provided a nice photo op, and a glimpse into the beauty of the White City as fairgoers would have experienced it more than 100 years ago.

Enjoying the one sunny day of the weekend.

Enjoying the one sunny day of the weekend.

I think the unkemptness of the site of such an historic period in American and even world history – because of this fair we have Cracker Jack, Shredded Weat, Juicy Fruit, Columbus Day, the Ferris Wheel and the Pledge of Allegiance – seemed especially stark compared to my life in DC. In DC history is celebrated. Museums showcasing everything from the first airplane flight to Dorothy’s red slippers are free to the public. Often, I catch myself thinking about all the historic figures who trod the streets of the District before me and it’s overwhelming. Walking around the Wooded Island and what’s left of the White City, I realized that people just as influential as those in DC had walked the ground I was walking – people like Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Buffalo Bill, Hellen Keller, L. Frank Baum and even Walt Disney. A place like this deserved to be remembered and preserved like all the museums and artifacts in the Smithsonians, but alas, this great chapter of American history seems to have fallen by the wayside. It’s a shame that we push for new when what we have already is so valuable.

Sunset in Flight

Sunset in Flight

Last night, back in DC, I walked past numerous free galleries and museums and saw the monuments from the Metro as I crossed the river into Virginia. It was one of those moments where I realized that not everyone gets to see these sites every day and that I don’t take enough advantage of these opportunities. Ever since coming to the city three years ago, I’ve been saying how I want to see this or do that before I leave. Helping my boyfriend and another good friend check items off their respective bucket lists before they move this summer has encouraged me to actually compile my own DC bucket list. It’s still a work in progress; I’m slowly remembering and writing down all the “want to’s” I’ve had floating around in my head. I don’t know when my time in this city will end, but I think it’s time to start putting rubber to the road and actually doing some of these things before it’s too late.

As always, I’ll keep you updated.

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