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maura @ 10:19 pm

We had a lovely time on our midwest vacation recently, plenty of opportunity for relaxation plus surprisingly pleasant, even coolish, weather. The adults slipped off to Chicago for a couple of days too. I’ll never turn down a visit to Chicago, though as I get older such trips tend to come with All The Feels. I still love the city as much as I ever did in college, which means nostalgia of course, but also I feel concern about recent troubles that the city’s going through. Driving in I feel like a huge nerd from that first glimpse of the Sears Tower, ogling the industry and trains in Gary, past the beautiful Chicago Vocational School building on the South Side, up the expressway next to the El and past IIT, over through McCormick Place and up Lake Shore Drive. Even with traffic it’s amazing.

I think the fact that Chicago’s probably the place that most explicitly falls into the Road Not Taken category for me adds to the emotions when I visit. There are the Actual Roads — like when I didn’t go to grad school there just after college, or didn’t apply for the Assessment Librarian job there a few years ago (still the only job I’ve even passingly considered applying for since I started at City Tech). Then there are the Possible Roads — like pretty much anytime either Jonathan or I was at a job change point, a time when we could have picked up and moved someplace new without too much disruption beyond the hassle that is moving. Chicago could have been a logical place to move for any number of reasons.

All of this means that I walk through the city feeling like there are other, ghostly versions of me hanging around as well. Of course the ghostly me wouldn’t be doing all of the touristy things that visitor me does. Really, sometimes touristy me just wants to ride the Brown Line on the El for a couple of hours (Best Views Evar), or take my laptop down to the Mansueto library reading room at UChicago (as the kids call it these days) and get some writing done. But touristy me who is not alone does other things, which is okay (and more social).

This time we did the self-guided donuts, art, and books tour. We started by taking the Brown Line to Merchandise Mart and stopping for breakfast at a donut place we’d never been to called Glazed and Infused. Flavors sampled included coffee glazed, maple glazed w/bacon, old fashioned, and chocolate frosted banana cream filled (yuck, that last not for me). I still like Do-Rite’s bacon donut best, but this one was pretty tasty. The next morning before leaving we went to Do-Rite and all they had was one gluten-free maple bacon donut, which is just not the same, I’m sorry to say, mostly because it’s a cake donut rather than a cruller. But the cinnamon sugar old fashioned was terrific.

Then it was off to the Art Institute for much of the day. We spent lots of time in the European galleries which we hadn’t seen recently, but also hit some old (and new) faves: the Chagall stained glass windows (still incredibly gorgeous despite their oddly-uninspiring new location in a dark corner near the bathrooms), the Cornell boxes in the (still) new to us modern wing, and the Ando room in the East Asian wing. On our way down to the ever-amusing Thorne Miniatures we swung through the kind of hilarious paperweight room — who knew there were so many different artistic paperweight eras?

For the books portion of our trip, we stopped by the new location of the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Hyde Park, where we are still members despite not having purchased anything since the mid-90s (judging by the address they had on file for me). I’d forgotten how nice it is to browse a bookstore with both loads of fiction as well as scholarly books — two whole shelves of Anthropology! And the realization that I am now more familiar with the titles on the two shelves next to them, which held Education books. Course books are still in the basement, mostly empty now for the summer. We had to restrain ourselves from buying all of the new Oxford “Very Short Introduction to…” books (we got: Math, Archaeology, Probability, and Nothing [which is mostly Physics]). It was rad.

And eating, woah, did we eat. Aside from the aforementioned donuts we had dinner at Endgrain, where the sprout kimchi and pork belly appetizers were highlights. We also ate at Publican which was super meaty and delicious: harissa pate, boudin blanc, and head cheese, yum, though also tasty peas and avocado spread on toast. Then breakfast at Little Goat on our last day to top it off, with pork belly, kimchi, and eggs on a biscuit (and my realization that I can rarely resist ordering kimchi or pork belly if they’re on a menu). Then we rolled on home, all at once fat + happy + sad.

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