I’ve had my fill of chai tea.
I’ve had my fill of reading.
I’ve had my fill of muesli, baked apples and avocado toast.
I’ve had my fill of looking out my front window and seeing my neighbor’s front porch.
I’ve even had my fill of The West Wing.
This morning I could not sit for one more minute on my couch. I thought of hiking trails, but I was sort of sick of that, too. All I could think about was Christmas lights, holiday shopping and the Hotel Monaco. Chicago…. Chicago… CHICAGO began to beat in my brain. Mmmmmm… International Foods… Thai food from the Star of Siam sounded good. A cappuccino from Eataly had me salivating. And then I became obsessed with cannoli and an Eggplant Parmigiana sub from Damato’s Bakery. But, wait! A day trip was certainly doable.
I put on something besides sweatpants, grabbed Ashok, and we headed across the lake. On the way I listened to the audiobook, The Great Influenza. I’m at the point in the book where the pandemic has started, and, by the way, they think it started in Haskell County, Kansas not Spain. I guess the Kansas Flu just didn’t catch on. Pun intended. And it seems we were as woefully unprepared that time as we are now.
I arrived at Damato’s with my list in mind. I would order an Eggplant Parmigiana sub, get a cannoli to go, and pick up something prepared for dinner – either pizza or lasagna or something. They are cash only. Luckily, they have an ATM right outside for anybody that is unprepared, and I always am. The place is pretty small and everybody was moving around trying to keep ourselves 6 feet apart in the small area between pastry counters. We managed, but I remember the last time I was there. I sat at the counter to eat my sandwich, and I was practically sitting in the laps of a couple from Seattle. It definitely would be too close for comfort today. I ended up getting a slice of lasagna and a slice of eggplant parmigiana for dinner this week. I can’t wait.
I decided to drive downtown just to see what it looked like. Ashok was so excited, and I knew she’d never forgive me if we didn’t walk around. I walked past the House of Blues, stopped on the bridge over the Chicago River and then walked to the Hotel Monaco. None of the bellmen were outside, so I walked in and said hi to the manager at the front desk. I asked about Connor and Mrs. Gwen, and he said none of the regulars were working anymore. They only had about 40-50 guests at a time, and it was just the managers now. There was no tree in the lobby, nor any treats for my girl.
We walked down Michigan Avenue, and it seemed really somber. Michigan Avenue would be typically jamming two weekends before Christmas. There was no skating rink nor Christmas tree in Millennium Park. A few people milled about, but I’ve never seen Michigan Avenue so quiet except in the wee hours of the morning. Stores were open but almost completely devoid of patrons, some of the windows were boarded up and empty buildings had signs up “for lease”. The city put up some decorations, but it was definitely not the holiday Chicago I’ve come to know and love.
The city’s heartbeat beat less vibrantly. Sadness was palpable. I felt like I was visiting an old friend who is wounded but not yet down for the count. The Chicago Tribune building, Marina Towers, and the Wrigley Building were still magnificent. The Chicago River continues to weave the city together like a beautiful ribbon. Tents and heaters for outdoor diners lined the streets in a defiant fist to the pandemic. JoJo’s ShakeBar featured a Winter Wonderland theme that made me smile and wish I drank. The bones of the city are waiting for the healing to begin. Chicago is still alive. It was good to see you, old friend.