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Anatomy of a Perfect Day

September 19, 2004 | Category: In My Life

Sometimes a woman's got to do what a woman's got to do. In the case of a group of my close girlfriends, we've been letting life get in the way of our sanity. It was time to march out the door and do whatever was necessary to recharge ourselves and our friendships - a day together in Chicago. No agenda, no schedule, no kids, no partners, no work, no diets, no plan.

This is my photojournal of the day.

11AM Off we went from my place, in C's Expedition. We rolled through a Dunkin Donuts for coffee. I started making fun of the way Bostonians give directions... "Go to the Dunkie's, bang a left. Now you're on Route 3 South going west. So go another - one, two, three Dunkies - the one with a drive-thru - bang a sharp right."

The highway bled into the city and we decided to swing onto Lake Shore Drive up to Roger's Park, a lakeside neighborhood to the north. It took about 30 minutes to untangle our way through the downtown streets because of setup for the Celtic Festival and the ongoing hordes for the AIDS Walk. The delay didn't bother us in the least. We agreed that it was a perfect September Chicago day - deep blue skies, soft breeze, about 70 degrees.

12PM Found us in the most northern part of the city at Berger Park. We sat on the rocks and watched a guy throw sticks for his chocolate lab to retrieve from Lake Michigan. We listened to the waves, talking in fits and starts about life, dreams, men, women, children. We agreed that the guy from Highlander - the TV show, not the movies - was serious fantasy material.


12:30PM We walked over to a local diner. We found a booth and ordered, trying not to be obvious the way we stared at the Elvis impersonator. The food was forgettable. The jukebox was fine, fine, fine. We played the Beatles and Santana, we sang along with Earth Wind and Fire. The diner was a run-down local institution, full of people from every part of the social spectrum. We dawdled, soaking in the moments.


2PM We parked on Clark at Division and walked towards the beach past all the bars and night clubs shuttered to the sun. I remembered that fantasy guy's name was Adrian something. We decided it was the ponytail, the accent and the body. Well, C liked the sword. OK, we all liked the sword.

A bride and groom rolled by in an horse-driven carriage. In the tunnel under Lake Shore, a violinist played. Up on Elm Street Beach, there were only a handful of people enjoying the glorious afternoon. Another friend joined us, and we dug our toes in the sand and took pictures of the afternoon sun across the skyline.




3:45PM We drove south to Millennium Park, the newest attraction in dowtown Chicago. Yet another bride, this one dashing in front of the Prudential Building with an attendant holding her train.


4PM Despite its name, Millennium Park opened just last year. The cost overruns, delays, and controversy over the art and architecture are by now legendary. This is Mayor Daley's baby, his vision for bringing even more recognition to Chicago as a world class city. The park replaces an old trainyard that was a blight for years - smack dab in prime real estate adjoining Grant Park and the lakefront.

We explored the paths, landscaping, and sculptures. There's one we called "Coffee Bean" - a silver sphere that cast all sorts of interesting reflections. We joined the tourists at an open air restaurant and drank martinis from plastic cups and munched on a light, yet overpriced, dinner. Our waiter was a cute guy, young. But no Adrian-from-Highlander. I'm just saying. Plus? Bad service. The sun streaks had turned golden in late afternoon. We talked about our jobs, the politics of our careers, our plans for the future.


5:30PM We headed north for a mile or 2 up Michigan Avenue. At each intersection, the east-west crossing street would be aglow. We'd stop and gaze into the deepening sunset.


The city was bursting. We wiggled and clapped for the buskers - drummers, guitarists, and a horn section. We admired the skyline, pointing out buildings to each other. We were yelled at to repent or vote for LaRouche by street corner evangelists.


We walked in different configurations, changing partners, slowing down here and there and then speeding up, running against a yellow light. Eventually we ended up at the Water Tower and headed into Ghiradelli's for hot fudge sundaes.

7:20PM By the time we were done, it was dark. Riders in the stream of horse carriages now had blankets. We walked a block or so and then hailed a cab back to Millennium Park.

7:30PM We'd left ourselves a pair of sculptures to investigate. Two towers with water flowing over them and into a shallow pool. The towers alternately glow different colors or have faces of Chicagoans on them - they are best appreciated at night.


Every few minutes, one of the video faces "spits" - a stream of water projected from the mouth. You got wonder about the pitch session for this purchase. Spitting Sculptures? But they were a lot of fun. There was a crowd milling about, children playing in the shallow pools.



8PM We dug out the car from the garage and headed for home. We passed under the 'El" train - each of us used to commute on that train once upon a time. We looked up at it in silence, comfortably ensconced in leather seats and climate control.


The ride slipped by too quickly. I think we all wished the day could last a little longer. I was grateful it lasted as long as it did.

Total tally:
Statistics of party:
4 women representing -
Combined age of 145 years old, 5 kids, 2 husbands, 2 ex-husbands, 1 live-in partner, 4 cell phones, 4 dogs, 6 cats, 1 SAHM (and Partner in family-owned business), other 3 Careers representing 2 senior positions and 1 executive with combined salaries of over a quarter million. Average salary when we met in the early 90's - $5/hour (we worked at the same place).

Other Statistics:
Number of Brides seen: 5
Number of pictures taken on Canon Digital by me: 127
Number of shampoos it took to get the sand out of my hair: 3
Hours slept, in blissful exhaustion, afterwards: 10

Costs of the day (per person):
Dunkin Coffee: $2
Brunch at Diner (with tip): $7
Parking: $2
Buskers: $1
Dinner at Millennium Park: $20 (with Martini)
Sundae at Ghiradelli's: $7
Cab: $2 (We all pulled crumpled dollars from our pockets)
Total, per person: about $42

The Perfect Day with old friends? Priceless.

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Tagged: Chicago, Tourist, Landmark, day trip, life, pictures, humor Corporate, Mommy, Life


It's been years since I lived in Chicago, but you made me "homesick."
I loooooove the new look.

Posted by: Soccamom on September 20, 2004 08:22 PM

Even though it's hard for me to get a day off, you've helped me to breathe a little easier.

Posted by: Terri on September 20, 2004 05:39 PM

That sounded just grand. I loved the pictures, too. I just can't believe you can park anywhere in a garage in Chicago for only $2. In NYC, it would have been like $17 a half an hour.

Posted by: RP on September 20, 2004 04:05 PM

I didn't know you were from Chicago! I grew up in the suburbs : )

Posted by: Fredette on September 20, 2004 09:29 AM