Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Back in the city

 

 
     West Fulton Market is not actually all that close to Franklin Park. A solid 45 minutes to the east and south. But circumstances Monday dictated that I be in the near western suburb at 11 a.m. sharp, and then down at 111th St. in West Morgan Park at 2 p.m., on the dot, and I had to concoct something for us to do during the two hours and change in between. Going back home would be pointless.
     It was close enough to 12 noon. So I pointed our party toward Bonci Pizza. You really can't get pizza like it anywhere else, outside of the Vatican, and I had only had Bonci once in the past year. I parked right outside on Sangamon Street, went inside, ordered three inches of red and orange peppers for myself, then waited outside. A helpful employee not only brought our hot pizza, but a towel to dry the seats off, and we perched, and ate and talked. I thought this was my first meal at a restaurant in Chicago since ... last September, when we went for our 30th anniversary to Gene & Georgetti. 
     I'd paid for 60 minutes of parking, and thought I'd get my money's worth by strolling east on Randolph, across the river. 
     Walking down the street, looking at the storefronts, the construction workers—lots of buildings going up, cranes in every direction—felt great. A word bubbled up that I seldom think, never mind feel, or write. But "joy" came to mind. Truly, it started blinking like a flashing neon sign. It was joyous to walk down the street in Chicago. I know a lot of people are wondering whether the city will regain its pre-COVID mojo, or whether people will just stay put and not venture out of their deep cocoons. I think they will. Some really good pizza and a half hour walk. It gave me a lot of hope. We're going to come out of this thing.
     The assumption is that regular, pre-COVID life will return in some huge event, a concert, a festival, that life will come back with a gong and ceremony. Maybe that'll happen, for some. But it can just as easily be a small moment. For me, I'll always remember, walking down Randolph Street on an overcast day, thinking, "What a lovely city. I've missed being here so much. I'm so glad to be back again."





16 comments:

  1. I'm finding any joy of late to be even more joyous than before. Deeper, richer. So there's that.

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  2. Had my second shot at the Lake County Fair grounds. In a big barn usually home to horses and pigs. The nice lady who handled the paperwork said it was the best kind of volunteering because everybody seemed happy. Can now look forward to a first train ride into the city. But not quite yet!

    Tom

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  3. A nice post. Taking pleasure in simple things, being joyful -- there's a lot to be said for that. We live in the city, so I won't be experiencing the particular circumstance described, and I'm not sure that we could approximate the episode by heading out to a leafy suburban paradise. Though I enjoy our visits to the wide open spaces.

    In the last couple weeks, Mary Schmich wrote in the Tribune about taking the El downtown, just for the fun of it, after not being on it for a year. Then Laura Washington wrote in the Sun-Times encouraging everybody to get back on the CTA, which desperately needs the ridership and which she's been using throughout the pandemic. I'd say I'll know things are approaching normal when I venture onto a train without giving it much thought, which we haven't done since the before times. I wouldn't say I miss it *that* much, but I'm a window-seat guy on airplanes, and always appreciate the view from an elevated train.

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  4. The pre-Plague "normalcy" we experienced up until a year ago will never return. Not completely. Oh, most of it will slowly trickle back, but not all of it. Countless restaurants and other businesses are gone, concerts and festivals will be different, and some of the new coping mechanisms we've adopted (Zoom, working from home, masking up) may remain for months or years, or even permanently. This was a life-changing, historical event, almost like a major war.

    After I got well, I found joy in just being alive and able to breathe. At one point, I was afraid I wouldn't see another spring or summer. To be able to go outside and walk down my street. To hear birds chirping and to see passing clouds. And grass and trees. To feel the warmth of the sun. But I did get to do all that, during a very mild and snowless March.

    Here in Cleveland, everything is blooming and sprouting and greening up, weeks early. Grass will soon need mowing. The forsythias are out. There's already a green haze in the trees. Yes, we did have four inches of snow, and temps in the 20s, on April Fools' Day, but that was just the typical sick joke we get every few years. Now it feels like May, or even June. Our magnolias got a bit browned and scorched from the chill, but they've recovered nicely.

    After five weeks of take-out Lenten fish fries, we finally ate the last one in person. First indoor meal since August 26th. It was in a former diner called George's Kitchen, which has been expanded and enlarged. So now it's like three diners, side-by-side. Every other booth was closed, to facilitate distancing. But they still let a group of six occupy a single booth. Go figure. One of them wore the uniform of a supermarket chain. I hope to hell he's been vaccinated. We got our second shots ten days ago.

    I grew up near the "L" (it's the El in New York, and rode it regularly to work and to play, for half my life. Still miss it. Cleveland has but one rapid transit line (known as "The Rapid") that stretches across the city from the airport to downtown and then out to an eastern suburb. There are also two light-rail lines that extend still further east. I haven't been on a train since last August. Haven't been downtown in over a year. Maybe it's almost time for this "juicehead" (electric railroad junkie) to start riding the Rapid again. Or even to visit Chicago.

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    1. I know that "L" is the official designation of the CTA train system, and I'm pretty well versed in the "L" vs. El squabble. Personally, I consider the former the proper name and the latter akin to a nickname. Generally, I choose not to type two quotation marks in a blog comment if I don't have to. Though the CTA and history are on your side Grizz, and I believe Neil is too, I side with his buddy Bill Savage on this one.

      Savage, who teaches English at Northwestern, has written: "... it was 'El' for Nelson Algren and James T. Farrell and other poets and writers, and so it's 'El' for me; folk usage trumps officially-designated discourse for me every time."

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    2. Ugh. Don't want anything that "trumps" anything. I'm hoping his last name will one day acquire the extremely negative folk usage it deserves. Like Quisling's did during World War II.

      The CTA's usage of "L" (or is it 'L'?) goes way back. When my grandmother lived off Touhy Avenue in the Fifties, all the underpasses in that Rogers Park neighborhood had BUY AN L PASS stenciled on the walls beneath the tracks. Right next to the graffiti reading I LOVE ELVIS!

      There were no passes available from the the CTA in those days, except for those issued to employees. So those stencils were probably placed there in the Thirties or the Forties. Maybe even earlier, as those structures are now more than a century old.

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    3. Yeah, Grizz, it goes *all* the way back, to the 1890s origins of the Chicago setup. As I said, history and the CTA are on your side. I'll try not to let that bother me.

      As for the twice-impeached, big-time loser, among his many crimes is the besmirching of a swell word. I always liked the old-fashionedness of using trump as a verb -- it reminded me of my parents' card-playing days. I think I agree with you about that.

      https://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/May-2019/Once-and-for-All-Is-it-the-Chicago-El-el-L-or-L/

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  5. Between your baking posts and ones like this: this blog always ruins my dieting plan. ;)

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  6. Orwell welcomed spring almost as ingeniously as Neil:

    https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-foundation/orwell/essays-and-other-works/some-thoughts-on-the-common-toad/

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  7. Wonderful. And hear, hear Private re: now I want pizza.

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  8. Apart from hearing about the old 3rd Avenue El, growing up in NY I never heard any part of the transit system referred to as the El. Whether below or above ground, it was the subway. In Chicago, the subway is the underground stations, not the trains, and even the El runs underground.

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  9. Sometimes we don't know what we have until it's taken away. I think everything is slowly coming back at the perfect time; Spring. And I do think we will be back, maybe not 100%, but I would think about 95%. See where we're at around Labor Day.

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  10. Interesting how a column on "coming home" elicited comments on what to call the train.
    Welcome back Caren. Glad you're off to a great start. Things will keep getting better.

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    1. If Neil's not gonna tell you, Les, I guess I will. He wrote this post, not Caren. It's about the joy of returning to the big city after a year largely sequestered in the leafy suburban paradise, not about moving home from Texas. : )

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    2. Whoa, thanks Jakash. I simply assumed. That almost always gets me in trouble.

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