Tag Archives: Chicago

sentimental journey


Chicago el


The weather in Chicago has been on the cool side, with enough of a breeze to make walking a pleasure, and to put me in the mood to contemplate the passage of more than 30 years.  One of the purposes of this trip is to find out if reality matches my memories of a time and place long ago.  It’s been a difficult process to remember the naive and confused young man I was in my early 20s, and to find traces of him in the middle-aged, and more cynical, person I’ve become.  Another question I’m trying to answer is just how living in China has changed me.  As you might expect, it’s a journey fraught with emotional baggage.

On another note, it’s been an exercise in photography and food.  Some highlights of my sentimental trip so far:



I’m staying at the Chicago Getaway Hostel on Arlington, on the near north side near Lincoln Park.  It’s quite comfy, although I’m in a dorm room with 12 people.




I’m within walking distance of my old stomping grounds, near Belmont and Broadway.  It’s officially called Lakeview East, although it’s also known as Boystown, since the area is the city’s gay enclave.




My old apartment building, 540 West Briar Place, where I lived after graduating from college in 1978. My first apartment was on the 8th floor.  If I remember correctly, if you stood on the edge of the bathtub, looked out the small bathroom window, and then twisted your neck, you could just see Lake Michigan.




Another sentimental journey:  Ann Sather, “Just good food.”  The Swedish restaurant was a staple of the old neighborhood, next to the Belmont el station, although today it’s been completely remodeled.




Ann Sather, dining room





The Chicago skyline from Diversey Harbor.



Next installment:  more food fun, and lots of walking.

sentimental journey

Autumn sun, Lincoln Park, Chicago, 1978

The above photo was one of the first that I took with my new Pentax KX SLR in 1978.  I bought the camera when I graduated from Northwestern University, and I still have it over 30 years later; I used it until I bought my first digital SLR a couple of years ago.

In 2 days I’ll fly to the USA for the first time in 5 years, in honor of my father’s 85th birthday.  I’ll visit my brother Kenton, and end my trip with 6 days in Chicago.  I’ll be returning to places I knew many years ago.  It will be a sentimental journey, but also a bit of a time warp and a culture shock. According to the internet, the Chicago temperature is in the 80s, but in my home state of Missouri it’s supposed to climb to 97 (36 Celsius) in the next few days.  Whew.  I’ll spend a lot of time indoors.

I’ll update my blog with photos, and impressions of my home country in the midst of an economic depression, joblessness, and attacks on workers, unions, and public employees.  I wonder what kind of place it will seem to me.  I’ll let you know.

Spring is sprung

 A distant memory of spring: pigeons above Michigan Avenue, Chicago, 1978
(texture added in Photoshop)

Spring is sprung,
De grass is riz,
I wonder where dem birdies is?
De little birds is on de wing,
Ain’t dat absurd?
De little wing is on de bird!

The Land of Nursery Rhymes

Ah, the conceits of childhood. For the longest time I thought I invented that verse. It goes through my head every spring, and this year is no exception, because Spring has truly arrived in Chengdu. During my first two years in China I thought that Spring Festival – the 15-day celebration of the lunar New Year – was basically wishful thinking, especially so this year since it began January 26. That’s, like, winter, isn’t it? It certainly is where I come from.

In the past 3 days, here’s what has happened: the weather has become warm, with a hint of breeze, so I could go outside with no jacket; green buds have appeared on the bushes bordering the local streets; there are flowering shrubs and trees blossoming. Now, Chengdu has flowering plants all year, hence the sale of (plum?) blossom branches for good luck during Spring Festival. Still, it isn’t really spring until you see green (show me the money).

Autumn comes late and spring comes early here in southwest China; the gingko trees (Chengdu’s official tree) didn’t lose their leaves until December, and in mid-February Spring has sprung. In between there’s “winter:” not terribly cold but damp. A new bloom of mildew developed on some of my apartment walls, by the bed, behind the curtains. Now that I’ve starting opening the windows again, a patina of dust blankets everything. You can’t win. As a former Los Angeles resident, seasons confuse me anyway; the running joke is that L.A. has two seasons: smog and no smog; there’s also a short rainy season, mostly in January. I once waded through a rushing river of foul water in the lobby of my Hollywood apartment building, not knowing that the manager had left a water-free side entrance unlocked.

So, the seasons are different from those of my Midwestern U.S. childhood. At least last year I got to experience snow. This winter has been mild by comparison, though no one’s forgotten the crippling winter storms that paralyzed parts of China during Spring Festival 2008.

I hadn’t intended to write a treatise on the seasons, but it seemed the thing to do, what with classes starting tomorrow and the students all returning from their holiday with their families.