Monday, June 11, 2007

Walking: Chicago, day 2

I was told to wait to have lunch, so I spent some time in the room this morning, reading my book and lounging in bed. I finally shuffled toward the bathroom, ironing my skirt and dealing with hair and make-up.

Carrie, uncharacteristically scattered of late, returned to the room and said that she had a lunch meeting today that she thought was scheduled another time, casting a worried look to see if I’d be OK on my own. I offered that I’d be just fine and set off with my laptop and camera and a general idea that I’d like to get some food. I decided to head away from the lake and into town.

I timidly took my camera out, feeling oddly sheepish to be snapping photos in a city I’ve visited many times.

“I want to post them on my blog.” I would have offered had anyone asked what I was thinking. “I went places and saw stuff and I need to show the people online. You know, in case they haven’t been to Chicago recently.”

It was 11:15 when I crossed Wacker, and I stopped to smile when I saw the Chicago sign. I had wondered where it was and if I’d be able to photograph it myself. I stopped under the ubiquitous scaffolding for construction, skirted around a homeless gentleman shaking his change in a cup, and took a photo while the wind blew my skirt around my calves.

I paused when waiting to cross under the El, feeling suddenly threatened. I recalled visiting the city when I was younger and having Mom visibly tense around some of the men who were asking for change. She had offered one money when she was in high school and he followed her and a friend for three blocks. She was afraid of the men now, and transferred that fear neatly to Brother and me.

No, I decided, smiling briefly at one of the men who sat on the ground, resting against the side of a building. I was cautious, but not terrified. I would be fine. So instead of hurrying back to the safety of the hotel, I continued on in crowds of people. Shook my head over the Macy’s signs hanging on the Marshall Fields building, did some window shopping on State, then continued to wander while looking for a place to get a sandwich.

I ended up a couple of blocks away at Petros, chosen more for location (I was hot and thirsty) than incredible food. I don’t tend to eat out alone, but I brought papers to read and a laptop to use in case I needed to look busy while waiting for food. But I sat in the spacious corner restaurant, glanced at the menu before ordering a Diet Pepsi (Bless you, Chicago, for carrying Pepsi products so frequently.) and a turkey melt.

My body shaper was shaping in some uncomfortable way, so I inquired over the location of the restroom to readjust my outfit. Following detailed instructions, I headed toward the back of the restaurant, toward the exit sign, past the coke machine and down 2 flights of stairs, then continued to follow signs around corners until I reached the ladies room. I felt momentary relief that I didn’t watch horror movies, for a place that sent you so far away to readjust a silly outfit seemed to offer many opportunities for some psychopath to kill me. (Perhaps I was a bit too paranoid today.)

I had just settled back into my tiny booth when my food was placed in front of me. I nibbled at my sandwich, deciding I’d had enough before I finished my fries. As I ate, I realized I hadn’t the time to distract myself from being alone. So I was grateful for the lengthy trip to obtain enough privacy to make sure nothing was tugging strangely under my clothes.

I walked back toward the hotel, feeling pleasantly full and quite comfortable in the delightful temperatures of late. After debating mere moments while waiting for a walk sign to cross Michigan Ave, I entered Fannie May and bought a half pound of chocolates. I shook my head and smiled when the candy woman asked if I’d like the box wrapped. The pretty paper would just slow me down, I decided.

A thought made its way past daydreams of milk chocolate around vanilla buttercream centers and I realized we hadn’t hung posters for Carrie’s afternoon session. She’s normally exquisitely organized, but has a talk tomorrow that’s a rather big deal. I think the underlying tension is messing with her memory function to some degree, so I went to grab the poster tube, found a plastic cup full of pins, and dodged crowds of conference-goers to slap pretty posters on large boards. Pleased with my efforts, I found a seat in the lobby.

I got enough of a wireless signal to recognize that a network existed, but not to do anything with it. I therefore do love you enough to purchase $15/day internet. I was dealing with email and abstract submission when Carrie returned. We decided to walk around a bit and find a snack – our 8:30 reservation at a small Italian restaurant recommended by the concierge being a bit late in the day for either of us. So we talked and walked, shopped and snacked, then returned to the hotel.

I had to stop to sign for my travel award, an honor I certainly don't deserve. I continue to collaborate with Carrie and she was kind enough to give me a first authorship on a poster that ended up being very well received. Since the analysis I did wasn't used for the poster and the ideas and discussion weren't mine, I continue to feel guilty. But the ribbon I was given to affix to my badge is ever so shiny and lovely. I rather like it, though it - in this case - means I know good people rather than I do good work. (Not that I don't do good work in general, but in this case, not so much.)

Given that my feet are much more tired than my brain as we near Monday evening, perhaps the guilt is an appropriate emotion to feel. But I'm pleasantly sleepy rather than exhausted, I'm enjoying Chicago a great deal, and my chocolate is very good. So the guilt doesn't have much room to exist around the pleasure. But I do hope it will motivate me to try a bit harder to have an intellectual day tomorrow.


Estrella said...

Hope you have a good time in Chicago! A friend of mine (actually, the FS in one of my more recent entries) is there this week too. :-)

Earnest English said...

I am very glad you love us enough to buy $15/day internet, though I understand if you do not choose to love us that way again.

I LOVE Chicago. And I LOVE that you put up pictures and felt that was important enough to spend part of your day doing.

And though your writing is always quite descriptive, the wind blowing your skirt around -- awesome. Your alone-ness here sounds more fun and full and meaningful than lots of times with other people. Thank you for taking me to Chicago with you -- it's nice to have a day's excursion (and chocolates!) without having to get out of my PJs! Wish I were there -- but I sort of am.

adjunct whore said...

my home to see photos.

EA said...

Great trip down memory lane... thanks for the pics of Chi-town!

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