|Thompson Center floor|
Chicago is not a round city. Just the opposite. It is a linear city, a grid, starting at 0/0 at State and Madison and marching out in a series of orderly lines, all perpendicular, with the occasional diagonal slash of a Ogden or an Elston vectoring off at an angle to make things a little interesting.
|Worse than Indianapolis|
No more need be said, though Indianapolis is not quite the bottom rung; Hell, remember, is a city too, and it has nine circles.
Chicago does have a Circle Avenue, but it is a small, obscure, egg-shaped oval in Norwood Park. Other than that, nothing. There is another Circle Avenue in Forest Park, though that is mostly straight, north and south, but describes a quick quarter circle before turning east and dead-ending into Harlem Avenue.
We used to have a Circle Interchange, the confluence of the Dan Ryan, Kennedy and Eisenhower Expressways. But that was renamed the Jane Byrne Interchange last year, a dubious honor for a dubious mayor.
|Covers are round so they don't fall in.|
So circles of any sort are not big in Chicago. I imagine Chicagoans would be hard pressed to name a prominent circle-shaped object in their town. The floor of the much ridiculed Thompson Center, above, comes to mind. There was the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, now between wheels as its new one is constructed. There was a circle prominent in the stained glass of the old Granada Theater; 900 N. Michigan has an impressive circle window. But that's gone.
|We've got the hole, now we just need a spire to go in it|
Though a hole cannot technically be a circle; a circle only exists on a two-dimensional plane, as the collection of all points equidistant from a center point.
Forest Park's Circle Theater, though not located on the town's main drag, took its name from the street and, according to its web site, "from the concept of infinity," which might not be that alluring for time-strapped playgoers.
But the duality of shape and symbolism has to be kept in mind with the circle. It represents unity, wholeness, both life and infinity, which isn't as contradictory as it might appear—life, not as in your or my definitely not infinite lives, but as in life in general, which does endure even as we individuals come and go. Hence the hopeful title of Studs Terkel's book on aging, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," a reference to the 1907 Christian hymn:
Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, by and by?
Is a better home awaiting
In the sky, in the sky?
A circle is also a group of associates—Gmail encourages you to identify people in your circle. Free Burning, Nigerian-born Chicago writer Bayo Ojikutu's novel, describes people who go to 12-step support groups as "circle fiends."
No matter, she isn't tricking off these days, not now—the old girl hasn't been to an Uptown circle fiend meeting since I finished high school.That seems to be a new locution — I could not find "fiend circle," obviously a play on "friend circle," used similarly in the sweep of literature, so hats off to Bayo Ojikutu.
Fittingly, circles are a subject that can go on and on. The more you look for circles, the more you'll find. They hide in plain sight. If I asked you to name the most famous circle in the greater Chicago area, you might guess at the Ferris Wheel. If I added that it is one of the largest machines ever constructed, perhaps the largest machine ever constructed, you might be tempted to hold wavering to your choice, even knowing that can't be. It isn't even the biggest Ferris Wheel around. A final clue— you know of it, it just isn't in mind right now— won't help at all.
The Tevatron Superconducting Super Collider, a pair of rings, the Main Ring, with a circumference of four miles, and the Injector Ring, at Fermilab in Batavia. Mothballed now after being rendered superfluous by CERN's Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Still, a very, very big circle, though not enough to change the inherent uncircularity of Chicago.