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NORTH AMERICA - THE “BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITIES” TOUR

Chicago Postcard

CHICAGO

“WHEN I SOUGHT THE WIND’S SECRET SHE TOLD ME TO BELIEVE”

I took the long journey north through the centre of the United States. From south to north I travelled; from New Orleans to Chicago passing through Memphis along the way.

It was another night’s sleep courtesy of the Amtrak accommodation service. What I possibly lost in zzzz I knew I would make up in the comfortable knowledge I did not have to spend any $$$$ on a hostel for the night.

Chicago was a city alive and abuzz. The 1994 football world cup was about to begin with the first game of the tournament to be staged in the windy city. The city was putting on a real effort to promote the event.

The city centre was all mid-west bustle without too much hustle. The architecture of some of the buildings was truly stunning. Chicago was my first taste of a big city with a big centre. What you might expect from an imaginary American big city such as tall buildings, yellow cabs and a fast pace. I was getting to the stage of my journey of witnessing a city which I truly could call larger than life.

The Board of Trade building

As I was on a tour to learn about money the first attraction I visited was the Chicago Board of Options Exchange. I watched the dealers in their brightly coloured overcoats wheeling and dealing on the trade floor at a frantic pace. They were quick thinkers who learned the secrets of money while on their feet. They could not turn their back nor look too far ahead for fear of missing their truth of life, money.

Say thy grace before thy redemption for we all are sinners when we stand before the unholy alter of greed and conspicuous consumption.

The Exchange was located in The Board of Trade Building. It was a tall, skinny structure which rose unto the heavens, attempting to pierce the low overhanging cloud.

Was the building symbolic of the new world order?

Are the dealers now the makers and breakers of our collective destiny?

Have we replaced our reliance upon god and government with the market economy?

God, I fear his wrath that we may worship the idols of greed when we are merely human.

Reach for the heavens to touch our god; not to replace or usurp him.

The next attraction I visited was the ground foyer of the Sears Tower, which at the time was the tallest building in the world. But for its size the Sears Tower was not as grandiose as The Board of Trade Building. Yet it still dominated the Chicago skyline, trying to be number one. No one shall be outdone.

I then went for a walk down the Magnificent Mile, along Michigan Avenue. It was a rich person’s shopping district filled with more architecturally stylish buildings; buildings which invited wealth and the previously mentioned outlay on conspicuous consumption.

Traders

I completed my walk along Lake Michigan, one of America’s Great Lakes. The sun said the time was early afternoon on a hot day. It had burned off the early morning cloud and now invited locals to fill the sands along the lake shore. I took up the invitation and went one step further.

In the depths of winter the Great Lakes are covered in ice. It was now approaching summer but still the waters of Lake Michigan were close to freezing. I therefore had a very short swim in the lake besides the shore, one to say I had been there and done that.

I had completed a good day’s exercise and my appetite for destruction was finely tuned. I had organised my stay to perfection. The hostel in Chicago put on a free keg every Thursday night. Guess what night it was, Thursday!!!

As the amber liquid was free, I partook in my first alcoholic drink in over two months. Easy does it. It has been a while. But one thing leads to another and it was not long before the keg ran out. Fortunately for my sanity some Australian backpackers organised another keg. Then that lead to a group of us saying we were off to a nearby pub.

I couldn’t wait for the group to organise themselves. I rushed out of the hostel with the aim of getting to the pub before the possibility that ran out of beer also.

But wait!

Where is the pub they were talking about?

If I wander down this street there must be a 25% chance I am walking in the right direction. Then if I turn down that corner, take a right turn …

I better wait.

Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field

By the time we got to the pub I had sobered up. The group all ordered some blue drink which was poured into a glass which looked like a fish bowl. I was living on borrowed funds. I therefore ordered a cheaper drink which fish actually swim in, called water.

That was it, my night out on the town.

A couple of days later the World Cup opener was to be staged at Soldiers Field Stadium. The stadium was a pleasant short walk from the centre of town, through the green fields of Grant Park and close to Lake Michigan. The atmosphere was carnival with many supporters dressed in their nation’s colours.

I went to a nearby pub to watch the game and ordered a coke. If I remember correctly the resultant football score line was a predictable 1-0. The better team won on the day.

Once the game had finished the locals quickly switched the television channel. I was then watching some guy been chased in his car along a Los Angeles freeway by the police. Some famous guy, O J Simpson, whose name I had never heard, had taken my escape route. My plan was not working, the police were catching him.

What now?

Perhaps he was not lost and that was the problem with my plan of escape when in Los Angeles.

In any event it looked like O J Simpson was going to be caught. Perhaps it was time for me to move on.

But not just yet!

Wrigley Field

Another sporting occasion I went to while in Chicago was a Cubs baseball game, held at Wrigley Field. By American standards it was a small stadium but incredibly historic. The Cubs hadn’t won a World Series Title since god knows when and had a history of losing most of the big games they should have won. It reminded me of home.

I sat behind the batters, in the shade, and could see Lake Michigan in the distance. The Chicago Cubs were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a great setting to watch a baseball game and fit in a quiet afternoon nap.

After the game I went to the nearby pub for a quick look around. A large number of blond American girls were getting groovy on the dance floor. It was Friday, 5pm and the Cubs had attracted 20,000 to their game.

What were the people doing at the baseball?

They should be at work, creating the new world order.

Don’t say it is going to be up to me to create my own little world by myself.