CHICAGO Exponential!

chicago loop, panorama

      If you think of cities as energy, Chicago is an H-Bomb. Of course, unbelievably when one is standing here, there are cities of even greater megatonnage. All over the world, people are leaving villages and farms for cities, and even in 3rd world countries, wealth — along with extreme poverty — concentrates in urban centers. I've lived in New York, and I've seen the photos of Sao Paulo with those skyscrapers that seem to stretch on forever.
     Scientists tell us our Milky Way galaxy contains about 100 billion stars. The number leaves one stunned. (On a clear night in the country, we can see only a few thousand of them.) Yet our galaxy is only around half the size of the average one. So apparent size can be both relative and deceptive.      

     When Chicago began unveiling her treasures a couple hours ago as I drove in on Interstate 55 from the south, I felt I was in the presence of an infinite wealth and an unlimited aesthetic richness composed of the elements at hand: sun, sky, sea (lake), people, and architecture.

     St. Louis, where I had spent the night, is a big city, thrusting "up" impressively as one approaches from the surrounding plains. So, for that matter, is Kansas City. San Francisco, near which I currently live, exists on a still larger scale. But Chicago simply dwarfs them all.

     I had a mental image of cities as lovely trails of fireworks that have exploded in a dark sky, each one unique and glorious. Of course, as we know, each also contains impoverished and "ordinary" areas equal in magnitude to the grand display of the presenting skyline. I had a chance to see a little of the less glamorous side of Chicago when I mistakenly wound up on one of the expressways at rush hour, and got shot into the bowels of the city. From there, a little later, I drove interminable, shop-and-gas-station-lined streets to meet some friends for dinner in Cicero.
    In these sections, too, though, I felt a sense of greatness, the greatness articulated by Carl Sandburg in his poetic evocation of the city's energy, which remains, I think, the most powerful picture of it that exists in words.      
    Everywhere, I found a place simply bursting at the seams with variegated Life.

the Nissan parked for free in a near North Side neighborhood of sumptuous brownstones.
flowers beside the sidewalk
park on the near north side, soccer game in progress
lincoln park zoo
children suspended like monkeys at the Lincoln Park Children's Zoo
     The 4 pictures above are all from the near North Side, where I drove in order to park for free: top: the Nissan on Webster, a lovely street of  brownstones; next 2 going down are flowers in a median, and a park, same area; and just above, as well as to the left, are scenes at Lincoln Park Zoo — quite simply the nearest public Men's Room, and where I got directions.  

"What Remains Is the Essence",
the home pages of Max Reif