Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Toddlin' Town

I guess when Dean said, 'Chicago Chicago that toddlin' town,' I didn't get why at first, even if I had heard the song with somewhat different lyrics many times. But I think now that he knew it'd help me to think of this enormous roar and massive architecture of a place, where the most bridges on any river in the world all open and close, as a 'toddle,' rather than to really think too much on about its gargantuan splendour and echoing traffic noise, its history of wild gangster fights, the various street craziness which we have to take into account, or do we? A revolution in music took place here too of course, the divine Charlie 'Bird' Parker et al for instance, it is also the home of American architecture and the arts here are complex, rewarding... their public library a beauty to behold, it looks like it could fly. There are also excellent examples of art in many buildings, a Picasso in one, Henry Moore in another, since they have to spend some of their building budget on art, by law so their foyers and plazas are the better for it. This is the best art too, high excellent wonders. http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/provdrs/public_art_program.html 

Arriving here was an easy run in a train from Galesburg where Dana Williams and I wrote a blues song I could post at some stage, (along with the epic poem I'm writing about Bettendorf), we trundled across flat and slightly rolling river plain country, farmland everywhere. The mid-west where corn stubble fields recently cut looked blackened in places and lines of pretty trees in spring colour including lilacs were interspersed with old-fashioned telephone poles, next to the occasional bunch of white, new windmills. A huge sky bigger than I've ever seen, but a little like Hamilton where I grew up, and a carriage in upstairs coach where half the space was inhabited by Amish passengers. So I did get to see their style, which I rather admire, when they disembarked. Women, children and their men, all in what looked like their newest clothes and speaking a Germanic language, just as you'd expect except the women wore dark blue and I always thought they wore black.  

An annoyed woman near me in bright pink also spoke for a while on her cellphone about how she was going to do this thing and then another thing, but realised she was telling her (horribly fascinating and alarming) business to the whole train and gradually reduced details and volume. I was literally praying she would, it seemed she would come to harm with the person she was speaking to, if she kept it up, and I did not want to know such lurid things, anyway. 'Give this woman dignity and peace,' I kept saying in my head.

So after three hours of pleasant dozing most of the journey, the Amish filed off and so did I after everyone else, a mixture of people mainly adults. Then the last suitcase was my heavy one and I got some help from the conductor, trundled it down the gloomy platform of Union Station where the trains all arrive underneath the building in the sooty, sooo dark but vaguely orange-lit area, their noise and machinery for all the world like something could at any time break open the world. It terrified me at first. I kept calm and stopped myself from shutting down by chanting pleasant ideas in my mind, walking along for a good 200 metres at least maybe more, with a doorway somewhere ahead I hoped but could not see one. 'Sunshine and lollipops and red and pink roses, tra la...' or somesuch I cobbled together in a panic, anyway. I think I was quite inventive, (wish I'd been able to record them, ha), but those thoughts served their purpose.

                           picture not taken by me and does not show the soot and dreadful noise
                           i have many pix in devices i cannot download, being a fool re gadgets
                           this one is from here http://www.redoveryellow.com/trips/chicago/index.html

My first-ever publisher Nigel Rowe met me, (Martian Way Press, he published many fine people's work years ago, including David Eggleton, Michael O'Leary, Tim Jones and myself). Nigel is a history and architecture fan so he told me enormous amounts about where we were and what had happened there, while we walked to my hotel a short distance away. He lives with his wife nearby and works in the tallest building also close, handy. 

The walking took forever, Nigel kept saying, 'Just around the next corner.' Then there'd be another marvellous facade or building to gape at and I'd sit on the edge of some fabulous granite edifice for a brief rest, soon we'd be off again. 'Your hotel's just around the next corner.' All men are liars. It's in the bible. Wonderful to see him in any case and we chatted on for some time.

My hotel is quite close to the station but not as nearby as it appeared at first.

Now I'm in my room over-looking Chicago's enormous park which edges the lake. It's a sublime place. A retro-style hotel which I prefer, although I did not know the hotel has one of the longest running disputes going. It's hard to find out what it's about but I'd already paid and was almost ready to collapse, so standing on principal with sketchy information seemed to foolish even for me.

Nigel later took me along the almost deserted streets around 10pm, since I'd had to sleep through dinner-time. This is inner-city Chicago where about 100,000 people live, however the avenues are broad and the park area is especially enormous with wide stretches of concrete everywhere. That was why I thought not many people were walking round, they were dwarfed by the immense spaces. We had to find somewhere to eat but it was too late, then at last a pizza-place stood open since many students stay nearby in a purpose-built hostel, (a glamorous golden place with elaborate architecture and a column of common rooms on the corner of it, which are round). I was so hungry I ordered fries too with a Buffalo Chicken burger but fasted all day today to make up for it.  They were delicious at the time. Iced tea afterward, chock-a-block with corn syrup I realised too late after I'd bought it, o well, the calories have kept me going daylong so that's saved some money I suppose. Wish I had a camera to record the way the woman looked at me in amazement when I said I did not drink soda, (not usually), when I'd asked for juice and found it was not available.

Nigel is tall and wears dark clothes, he looks confident. I am not a great walker but think I look like I know where I am, not afraid, usually. These things matter. Accompanying me back to my hotel he said, 'Not a great place to walk around at night. They have armed robberies here you know.'
I laughed. 'O yes I do know. Today I lost my credit card [and reported it missing], what say I get my money stolen too?'
He talked calmly, 'That's when you say, 'This is all I need. Credit card gone and now you're taking my money too?!''
We laughed and rounded the corner with massive city block buildings and grand skyscrapers all about us, in the dim orangey night light of Chicago, but I recognised someone I'd seen when we popped into the pharmacy for pain killers earlier, so maybe I'm already at home here? 

Today has been fine, alone writing in this hotel where Vivienne Plumb said the hallways remind her of Barton Fink, the film where the corridors catch on fire, you know, in his imagination since he has writers' block? Loved that movie, but I'm blessed with the curse of talent so it's not my life, *touchwood* I've been quite busy and shall post a link to the review I wrote tomorrow maybe or the next day. Just waiting for someone to comment on the review (which they did later on), in case it's not quite there yet.

Lovely to know you're out there. Stay keeping an eye on me and comment at will, it's okay.


  1. Raewyn, It all happened as you described. Although now I get to relive it with a lot more humour (humor over here!) and style. Nigel P.S. Some men aren't liars, but you can't trust those types.

    1. o yes well, hmmm, men are also often making out they are the only ones to trust ha