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."