Tuesday, August 09, 2005

mesmerized in the city

A quick annniversary trip.
As we drove into Chicago, Sunday afternoon, we arranged to meet some friends for dinner. A few hours later, we headed to Rush St. for 'Carmine's' italian cuisine with Rachel and her sister Tabby. We sat outside under strings of lights, savouring pasta, Chicken Milanese, warm bread, stories, and laughter. We met Tabby for the first time last night, but we managed to pry from her the details of her complicated romance...and offered our expert opinions on the matter. Sorry Tabby.

Returning to our hotel room on the thirty-first floor, we soaked in the beauty of our breathtaking view.

The glamour of the city always mesmerizes me. Theatre, jazz, music, art galleries, artists....upscale restaurants, hotels, shopping... I usually spend at least a few seconds looking up at the high-rise condos, imagining life inside.
My materialistic tendencies are heightened upon entering the "Magnificent Mile."
But I also love the energy of the city. So many people, moving, running, working. I wonder where they are from. Have they lived here forever? Or have they left home, family, stability, to pursue something? Love? Learning? Anonymity? Money? Adventure? a chance to 'make it' in the theatre? a fresh start?
Their willingness to risk so much, to really try, to abandon their fears inspires me. It makes me want to work harder at the things I love... music, teaching, learning.
But observing people isn't always energizing. Sometimes, my 'people-watching' habit leaves me with different, less gratifying emotions.
Whenever I visit Chicago, I always see the familiar hoards of little girls clutching expensive dolls and American Girl shopping bags. And teenage girls on shopping trips with their moms. Professionals dressed in suits in 90 degree weather. Runners with ipods. Well dressed, beautiful people. And not so beautiful people...sleeping on benches, standing on street corners, pulling carts (filled with treasures...or garbage?), holding signs expressing their most present need: "I'm just hungry."

Waiting for the stores to open, I watched perplexed and guilty as a frail woman, hunched over, wearing layers of dirty clothes, pushed a cart filled with bottles and bags. As I peered into windows of stores filled with beautiful things, she reached into her pocket, pulled out a dollar, and gave it to a man sitting on the ground, silently rocking back and forth.

Then, I walked into the Water Tower Place.

I wish I could say that I no longer felt drawn by the elegant designs, rich fabrics, diamonds, and books I saw inside. But I did.


Kim said...

How I understand your feelings about the city. My heart is beating rapidly just reading about your trip. Glad you guys got to get away and have a good time together. But, as always, so glad to have you back!

david rudd said...

next time talk to the hungry and dirty people. you'll feel so enriched... and even more conflicted!


Mary is living and working in inner city Chicago and has some beautiful thoughts on her blog at www.marmarllama.blogspot.com
I'm glad for your honesty...I think there's no simple resolution for the clash of opulence and suffering. Is it wrong that you were drawn to those beautiful things after seeing what you did? I don't know..but I know I've done the same thing and probably will again.

Andrew said...

As one of Dave's students that went to Chicago, I can understand the heavy conflict you experienced.

We talked with so many people from all kinds of situations. It was tough, but I enjoyed it so much. It helped me understand them a little better and how much we, as the Church, need to do there and here.