One of the drawbacks of this “blog a day” business is that I work at home. Subsequently, I lack my former pre-pandemic benefit of working downtown. The commute was a pain in the ass, but at least I was guaranteed to see something new and different every day. On my 25-minute stroll from the train station to the office and back again, I would see such strange sights. Familiar figures, like the “FBI RAPES ME DAILY: HUNGER STRIKE DAY X” guy near the Daley Center or Walking Man (RIP) in any number of places. The lampposts and walls were papered with street art, kook rants, and other ephemera. There were great places to eat, buildings to admire, free newspapers to peruse, museums to visit, and of course, the staggering vastness of the lake to the east.
Not always, of course. I worked in the Loop for some 21 years (and for two years in the early 90s). When I started working the steady decimation of the old city had been in play for several decades. You could still see and experience some of what used to be in the early part of the 21st century. But every day I watched more structures coming down, more chains moving in, and more unnecessary touristy and upper-tier inhabitant crap installed. I made a goal to walk the Loop from end to end before it was all gone, and I recorded as much as I could. I only wish I’d had a digital camera earlier on in my walks. By 2020, most of my favorite places were gone.
And yet, I still had the Art Institute, Grant Park, weirdo buildings like the I AM Temple and the former Medinah Shrine, Mallers Deli and the Pittsfield Cafe, many different pretty lobbies with friendly guards who let me look about, and so on.
Now I sit and work and look out the front window of my home, wondering who the hell half these other people are walking about MY neighborhood (I am a grumpy middle-aged man; this is my charge). I sometimes stroll to the lake, now a mile east, not just outside my office window. I get a coffee at Astra or a brownie at Sally’s Nuts and look at old Jens Jensen’s memorial to Augusta Rosenwald in the park named after him. It’s nice. It’s quiet. Occasionally too quiet.
I need more new.