Friday, June 20, 2008

Oh, THAT Sears...

I don't believe I'm all that different from most people who live in Chicago proper (i.e. not the 'burbs) in that I rarely take in the downtown sights except in accidental passing or escorting the occasional out of town visitor. My relocation referrals and I are usually zooming by each landmark, three minutes behind schedule, taking a 'pass' on the touristy stuff in lieu of a Starbucks stop.

"Was that the Sears Tower?" They ask.

"No. Hancock Building," I answer.

"It looks smaller," They say.

"That's because we're going 72 MPH down a one way side street." I kid. I look down at my speedometer, an even steven 60 (hyperbole, still).

'Were you ever a taxi driver?' They wonder, I'm sure...

Chicago is a settlement of over 200 unique and cloistered neighborhoods (with Madison Street being the great divide betweeen north and south 'hoods and State Street sundering the east and west communities) and we Midwesterners don't like to stray to0 far from the homestead unless we really have to. Chicago was originally a city of parishes; Saint Gert's (Edgewater), Saint Mike's (Old Town), and Saint Pat's (West Loop) being but a few examples and historically, people socialize and procreate where they pray (I am told). But as usual, I digress.

So I am walking out of the Sears Roebuck store (shopping for appliances, not clothes, thank you) on State Street last Sunday when a group of foreign visitors approached me. I could tell they were foreign by their attire and I knew they were visitors by their cameras.

"Sears?" The tallest one asked me

"Yes." I answered.

"Sears?" A little more emphatically this time,

"Yes. Sears." I say again. I turn around and point up to the sign in the window. "See...Sears."

And in an instant flash of flashes; like a rapid spray of friendly fire, or a Tiger Woods 18th hole gallery, or a Lindsay Lohan papparazzi locust swarm--a half-dozen smiling, second city visitors turned their cameras upward and let loose a digital stream of gigs and pixels onto the side of the unassuming 4 story building.

They thanked me very much. I told them they were very welcome before attempting to explain for 5 unsuccessful minutes in my own broken English (I don't know why I always end up assuming the accent of the misdirected foreigner I'm speaking with) how to get to Navy Pier. They turned in unison and headed in the opposite direction. What can I say?

Mona and I had taken the Metra in from Forest Glen for a late Father's Day lunch and a little downtown Chicago shopping. As we strolled west down Adams Street on the way back to Union Station we stopped for a few minutes to check out the Rookery before approaching South Wacker Drive. There they stood, the whole group of them, heads tilted back at 45 degree angles, clicking their digital cameras 110 stories into the clouds above.

"I think they meant that Sears tower," said my wife.

The tallest one caught my eye and shot me a dirty glance. I pointed toward the exit ramp down to Lower Wacker, home of the homeless and the cardboard box Abandominium...

"Navy Pier," I mouth with an animated whisper.

Mona punches me in the arm for being a smartass as we run across Wacker, over the Chicago River bridge, and down into the diesel fumed catacombs with 3 minutes to spare before the 5:55 heads north.

Geno Petro

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