On occasion, I will have a moment of clarity or realization that sends a satisfying—and sometimes manic—surge of energy through my veins. Chicago can do this to me at unexpected times. And I feel the need to thank it.
I have written about Commuter Tourism before. This was during my pre-Canon days, but luckily not pre-appreciation for my surroundings. Sometimes it takes a trip outside of the city to realize what I have here, and sometimes out of nowhere I am suddenly in-love with everything around me, even without the distance to make my heart grow fonder.
I am not a fan of strip malls and big parking lots surrounded by the same stores that you can shop at in nearly every town and city in the US. We have many of these lots in Chicago, but they aren’t immediately apparent and can easily be avoided, if you so choose. I think the “choose” part is key. Sometimes when I visit places outside of the city, I realize just how lucky I am to live and work around beautiful architecture and neighborhoods. My commute is really amazing when I think about it. I am lucky that it doesn’t involve a car, highway, or road that is flanked by miles and miles of strip malls. I grew up less than a block from said strip mall land back in Michigan. I didn’t really mind back then, but now I am spoiled rotten by my current city, and would have a hard time moving back.
A lot of the Midwestern towns, included Kalamazoo, MI and Bloomington, IN, have a downtown so cute that you could pinch them. Some of them look like a Rockwell painting. They have nice restaurants, wonderful storefronts, a central park, or a courthouse lawn filled with cherry trees. Drive 3 minutes from these downtown areas, and welcome to the same strip mall crap and big box stores that you see in any other city. It gets me down. There aren’t even sidewalks along many of these roads. Bill Bryson writes about this in his book I’m A Stranger Here Myself. By the way, he is a brilliantly funny writer. I laugh out-loud the whole time I read his books.
So to get back to my point, I love living in Chicago. And since I wasn’t worried about falling and dying on icy sidewalks as I walked to my train, I took a look around. Rubbernecking is not something you will see most hurried commuters doing, but I highly recommend it. Just along my normal route I captured the following textures from the buildings I pass on a daily basis: