Fuzzy impressions are all that I have left from the trip my daughter and I made to Chicago about five years ago. Our first stop was at one of several hotel bars that overlooked the Miracle Mile. I thought she’d like getting a view of the glitzy storefronts and mobs of shoppers to set the tone for the next few days. Plus it gave us a chance to grab a drink and a light lunch before our afternoon trek.
We had already checked-in at a boutique hotel a few blocks from Michigan Ave and the Oak Street Beach. The room had just enough space to get around the two twins beds and a desk below a relatively large window. We had an expansive view of the air shaft separating the hotel from its neighbor. Both buildings were tall enough to cast a constant shadow over the open space, making the dingy brick across the way a dull deep red. So, needless to say, we didn’t have any reason to spend time in the room other than to change clothes or to sleep.
We completed our pilgrimage to the EGG that afternoon. The stroll along Michigan Ave was a bit like walking the midway at a carnival. We passed every sort of person on vacation one would expect to see in the heartland. Stocky grey-haired, middle-aged ladies in vibrant variations of pastel pink blouses combined with white peddle-pushers toddled behind their husbands dressed comfortably in primarily kaki. Fanny packs and belly bags were still the trend and were the badge of the practical-minded tourist.
As can be expected when you’re alongside one of the Great Lakes, the weather was reliably variable. As the folks in Michigan like to say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait awhile cuzz it’s gonna change.” And it did throughout most of our short stay. Fortunately, it was late August so we had warm days and comfortable evenings even with the random showers.
We got caught in a cloud burst while wandering through Millennium Park the following morning so we ducked into a pavilion and were quickly joined by a husband and wife with two middle-school kids in tow. All four were dressed in New York Yankee garb with the classic NY cap and pinstriped shirt, complimented by matching navy blue shorts. I took the parents to be in their mid to late thirties. They both were attractive, athletically fit, and happily on vacation. It was vividly clear whose team they were on if and when it came down to a debate over whose city is best. The thought of broadcasting that I was from Detroit never occurred to me. But much like stereotypical New Yorkers, they didn’t hesitate to be loud and proud.
Chicago is all about waterways. We spent another afternoon strolling the riverwalk for a few hours, eventually getting out on the water. We discovered that the best views of the city are had when you’re not in it. The drone of cars and buses disappeared beneath the constant splashing we heard while bobbing on a sightseeing boat plowing its way toward the lake. Our ride along the river came to a standstill at the harbor locks as we joined a raft of boats clustered together. As captains tried not to drift into one another, a shirtless sailor used a paddle to maintain space between himself and a slender speedboat aimlessly adrift with three bikini-clad blondes enjoying cocktails and giggly conversation.
Once we were set free and beyond the enormous steel gates, our skipper headed straight toward Lake Michigan’s expansive horizon. We quickly left the weekend pleasure boats behind and were in the company of a cabin cruiser headed away from us and up the coast. We reached open water and began to turn back toward the Chicago skyline. It was a brand new sight for both of us. I thought of the other cities and sights that my daughter and I had shared during past travels. Like London when she was just beginning to prepare for kindergarten. And like Madrid when she was transitioning to middle-school. But those trips were taken while accompanied by my past wives – her mother, then her step-mother. Now she was in college and living independently. I was single and turning over a new chapter as well. Among all the impressions that trip left behind for me to mull over, the clearest recollection is of how much fun it was to share time together. Just the two of us.