We awoke to the horrifying news that an 8+ magnitude earthquake plus a tsunami had struck Japan. Our room TV was switched on for the first time during the trip in order to catch up on the situation.
Realizing there was not much I would be able to do to assist, I zipped on my long gray coat, shouldered my (vaguely hideous) pink shoulder bag, and moved onward into the sunny morning.
As with each day of this trip, I had a sketchy sort of plan in my head that did not exactly to as, well... planned. First priority of the day was to see Moody Bible Institute, where my parents met in the 1960s. I thought I might as well make a day of it and spend the day on the North Side. And actually, for the most part, that’s what I did.
I began by taking th 66 bus to the corner of LaSalle and Chicago, where—quite unobtrusively—sits Moody Bible Institute.
Somehow, no doubt as a result of having spent hours paging through my parents’ yearbooks, I always imagined the school in black and white. Instead, I found a red brick compound on a quiet, tree-lined street. The only signs of life were in the reception area, where a very eager and kindly young man offered to help me and then became unusually excited to learn why I was there poking around.
From Moody, I hoofed it to the El a block away and wound my way through Old Town. If this part of the city was a bit less enthralling than I had been expecting, the lovely little all-day breakfast place I found for lunch more than made up for it.
Catty-corner from both the Chicago History Museum and Moody Church, Elly’s Pancake House offered a fantastic array of breakfast, lunch, and dinner items, and—most importantly—had the best coffee I’d tasted since showing up in Chicago. Taking my time with lunch, I happily sipped coffee and indulged in some hardcore people watching until well into the early afternoon.
While waiting for a bus toward Chicago Avenue, having planned a walk down the Magnificent Mile for my afternoon—I got a text from Sarah asking if I’d like to meet her and her friend John over near Union Park to go to the Lyon and Healy harp showroom. Never one to miss out on a new experience, I hopped onto the El and wound my way in a southwesterly direction toward Ashland. I’d arrived at the showroom a bit before John and Sarah, so I sat in the front with the receptionist and waited for their arrival. When they eventually did walk in, Sarah went immediately to the desk to check in with the receptionist, so I walked over and introduced myself to John with a typical cheesy Ruth smile and a handshake. My attempts to chat with him turned out to be unexpectedly awkward before I realized the problem: John thought I worked for the showroom! He should have known better, as I was not dressed nearly fruity or artistic enough to have worked there. Plus I was still wearing my travel bag and fingerless gloves, but apparantly these did not register with him. His excuse, “I just saw a beautiful smile and thought you were welcoming me to the showroom!” Nice save, John. Nice save.
While Sarah nerded out over the harps, John and I chatted about musicals and the city of Chicago. After getting a glimpse of the price list for these harps, I walked on tiptoe between the rows, imagining with realistic horror what would happen were I to knock one over at the end of a row...
Somehow Sarah wound up testing electric harps and having hard-core music chats with one of the salesmen. Sarah and John stayed a bit longer, but I zipped back to the El shortly after that and popped back to the northern end of the Magnificent Mile, having determined to walk it while there was still daylight. Taking a recommendation from a friend, I stopped first at Ghirardelli’s for a decadent hot chocolate, which I sipped as I walked south past the big-name stores. I must have looked like a local, because I was stopped at least twice and asked directions. Surprisingly, I was able to be helpful in both cases, which did nothing to help my ego problem, but much to help the poor lost tourists.
I arrived back at Michigan and Wacker just as the sun was dipping behind the horizon. With the air temperature plummeting, I decided to nip back to the hotel to put my feet up for a while before deciding what to do about dinner. This also gave me time to catch up with world events via CNN. I won’t lie: it’s hard not to feel a little bit guilty for having such a great day when people on the other side of the world are going through hell on earth.
At any rate, by 7:00pm, I had worked up an appetite that could no longer be ignored. My original plan had been to have Chicago-style pizza; however, I failed to take into account the the fact that nobody seems to dine at home on Friday nights. I was hard put to find any place with a wait less than an hour and a half, which is how I wound up at a Chili’s a bit off the beaten path. Still, the evening was not a total loss. I was able to eavesdrop on a totally hilarious conversation at the table next to mine, which was populated by young men in their twenties. Most of them looked as if they most likely played Dungeons and Dragons in their spare time. They spent most of the evening talking about the internet and girls they had met through LiveJournal. I was sorry to see them go.
My waiter—“Walker”—was quite solicitous, expressing concern that I was Dining Alone. I had to be careful not too look up too often, because any time we made eye contact, he would come over to see if I wanted anything. I usually didn’t. After I was done eating, he did bring me a hot tea (which I noticed he did not charge me for!), so I left him a nice tip, wrapped myself in my various winter garments, and walked out of his life forever.