Some weeks back my wife and I flew to one of my favorite cities: Chicago. The purpose (as if one needs one for such a cool town): the annual AAA (American Academy of Audiology) convention. Regular readers may recall that I've described this annual event over the past 2-3 years. It is a large (this year, over 7,000 audiologists and industry people, the highest attendance ever) gathering for the purposes of continuing education for the clinicians and wares hawking for the exhibitors: hearing aid companies, publishers, earmold factories, etc. etc. Last year's event gave me a certain amount of pause as I reflected on how my attitude towards the event changed since my inaugural trip to Washington D.C. in 2005.
This year I had similiar ruminations, noting how comparatively few of my old classmates and professors I saw, but the ones I saw were significant - including the preceptor who was my clinical nemesis back in school. Oh, the drama. As I've said, then and now we get along just swell outside the clinic. We exchanged hugs and kisses and all that. She had left Florida and began a post in another educational facility; she seemed quite content, if a bit greyer in the follicles.
This year I spent more time alone than in the past, and was just fine with that. I had no particular goals in bittersweet reunions, though there were a few. I was happy doing my thing, going to the sessions I wanted to (mainly vestibular and tinnitus related), then meeting my wife for a night on the town after each day's business was done.
Oh, and as always, the hearing aid company Starkey threw a big bash - this time a private Blues Brothers concert at the House of Blues downtown. Yes, it really was Dan Aykroyd as Elwood, with Jim Belushi filling the wide black shoes left by his brother John as Jake almost 30 years earlier. Great, energetic show. Despite these guys being in their 60s, they were falling on their backs and propelling themselves back up as they blew into harmonicas. Starkey thankfully handed out foam earplugs at the door; it would be the first time I ever utilized them. It was damned loud in that place, an old opera house, I believe. The plugs were quite efficient: not a cymbal crash or bass note was lost, but the levels were just lowered to a safe region that would not cause Temporary Threshold Shift.
Outside of my travels within the McCormick Place Convention Center (a gargantuan venue, easily one of the largest I've ever seen) we walked what seemed like most of the city, past Soldier Field and the Shedd Aquarium (my wife hit it one afternoon along with the famous, also gargantuan Field Museum) and Rush Street, where we had the (in)famous deep dish pizza for which Chicago is well known. We ate at Giordano's, but Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due and Gino's are longer established. Near Rush, we had drinks with a cousin at the cozy 5th floor bar at the Peninsula Hotel. I loved this place; plush furniture, dark, woody, fireplace, incredible drink selection (the spirit and even non-alcoholic lists were extensive).
We also visited Millenium Park, within view of the Chicago Tribune building. The above shot features the "bean" a steel oval structure you can walk under. It endlessly fascinates vistors with its convex reflections of a magnificent cityscape. Interestingly, during one of my afternoons at the Convention, my wife decided to take in a movie after her first visit to the park and its famous bean. The movie: SOURCE CODE, set in Chicago. Jake Gyllenhaal et al. racing around all the locations my wife had just seen! Surreal. Earlier that day, she had also walked through the Art Institute of Chicago in Grant Park. Ever see FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF? Recall the scene when Cameron becomes hypnotized by this famous work:
This work is titled "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette" by Georges-Pierre Seueret. My wife snapped this and several other well known pieces. Wish I had been there with her that day - it would've been surreal for me as well.
This was my 3rd visit to Chicago. The first was in 1999, when I lucked into Cubs tickets and got to hear Harry Caray sing during the 7th inning stretch. In 2005, we went to see see two of my classmmates tie the knot in the suburbs before we looked down from the top of the Hancock building. I love this town. Something so inviting, relatively peaceful about it. Still coolly urban but not rife with the sort of unease other cities often have. The Midwestern genuineness seems to be alive and well there, despite rampant political corruption and the sort of corrosive crime we see elsewhere. My view remained untainted, even as we saw some of the more depressed parts of the city. Difficult to put into words. It's another town that feels like home. Might even be worth braving those punishing winters and lake effect snows someday.