Saturday, June 14, 2003

Thursday was Joseph, Mommy and the City.

Michael needed to spend all day at the show, there was no way I was going to try to manage Joseph there for seven hours and equally no way I was going to a)spend all day at the Residence Inn or b)hassle with driving around Chicago.

So I decided to take the train.

Actually, with just a couple of mishaps, and the continual awkwardness of negotiating subway stairs and turnstiles with stroller, diaper bag and 2-year old, we did fine.

I love riding subways and trains in cities. It is such a civilized way to get around, although I guess if had to grocery shop, get kids to and from school, and so on, I might wish for a car - except for the probable fact that all of that would probably be in my neighborhood, so I wouldn't need to.

But anyway, I like getting on the train in the 'burbs and riding into the city. It is always such a Cheeverian/Rob Petrie kind of moment in my imagination even if I'm a chick hauling a stroller in Chicago rather than the man in the gray flannel suit coming in from Westchester.

Anyway, we decided that Michael would drop us off at O'Hare and we would catch the train there (just a couple of miles from the hotel), which seemed like the perfect idea, until I sat on the train and we made our first stop - at the Rosemont station, almost within walking distance of the trade show. Ah well.

So we made it into Chicago, where our first stop was going to be back at the Shedd to see the whales again, since they were doing free admission this week and all.

Since they were doing free admission this week and all, the line to the front door of the Shedd ran all the way to the Field Museum, so I decided that one whale sighting this year would be fine for Joseph. I was a little worried about convincing him of the wisdom of this plan, until I mentioned "dinosaur bones" which then became the mantra that replaced "big fish." The line at the Field (also doing free admission this week) was negligable (understandable - the Shedd is much flashier, and actually more interesting for kids), so we saw dinosaur bones and elephants and the displays of stuffed mammals, which of course used to be the mainstay of natural history museums, but now seem rather archaic and bizarre. I don't know if it's because there are more zoos than there used to be, or because of television, but it just seemed really odd to me standing there looking at stuffed giraffes (yes, big old stuffed giraffes) than I recall it being when I would see them as a child.

But Joseph absolutely loved it, and we ate lunch at the Museum's branch of the Corner Bakery, where we sat at the same table with three Indian women, who made me, as usual, feel like the most inarticulate person on the planet with their precise, clipped diction and efficient conversations:

And what kind of salad was that, Auntie? Rather good, wasn't it?

One the way back to the subway, we encountered an actual living animal, in the person of a police horsie, who generously allowed himself to be patted by a thrilled Joseph.

Oh, and for those of you following the hagiography of Joseph, we made a point of asking him what he was going to see this time in Ca-go. A deer, he responded.

And yes, the line at the Shedd was too long, so Joseph saw.... stuffed deer at the Field. You may scoff, but...

Then it was my intention to go to the Navy Pier, even though I had no idea what was there except a ferris wheel. It just seemed as if it would be easy to get to from the subway line, and there might be stuff to entertain Joseph there.

Well, it was not easy, and it was partly my fault, but partly not. If had figured out the buses in Chicago, I probably wouldn't have had to walk as much, but you know, I need to walk that much, so it was okay. But the problem is that the map I had made it look as if these subway stations were right at the Museum campus or the Navy Pier, and by God, they're not. They're at least six blocks west, and I was further delayed on the Navy Pier attempt because I missed the right station, got off at the next one, and instead of waiting for another train to take me back to the right one, I decided...oh it didn't seem that far. Couldn't be, right?

Besides, Joseph was asleep in his stroller by then, and I needed to walk, and...

Well, I got that walk in, good for me. Ended up at Northwestern (no, not in Evanston..the Chicago campus), - after a stop in the restroom of the American Girl store, because I knew where it was, knew it was clean, and yes the place was as wretched as it was last time, was even more crowded with little girls hauling huge sacks of loot for their freshly-coiffed dolls, and made me even madder - then walked, walked, walked until I finally got to the Navy Pier, at which time Joseph finally woke up. There's a children's museum , but by that time, I wasn't up to being surrounded by dozens of manic children not related to me, so we instead got snacks, then walked through the quiet of the Smith Museum of Stained Glass that's located there, with Joseph breaking said quiet with his announcements of "May-wee" and "Jee-Jee" when...can you guess? Mary and Jesus appeared in glass before him.

Then, I truly and deeply thanked God when, at the end of the pier, one of those free trolleys that never shows up, and when it does is always crowded to the ceiling, actually showed up at my feet with plenty of room for us and our stroller and our diaper bag, so I could let someone else drive me back to the subway station to get us back to Rosemont, where Michael picked us up.

Returned to hotel. Ate free food. Watched About Schmidt. Watched Joseph run laps around room. Was tired.

The next day we headed back here, with a short stop in Munster. More on that later, but in short, the interesting part of the journey ended with us standing in the parking lot of the Carmelite shrine, eating pirohy (and don't correct me, that's how it was spelled)we'd purchased at the Ukrainian Catholic Church next door, with Michael speaking some of the Polish he'd learned as a child from his mother and maternal relations.

It was fun while it lasted, but now it's time to rest. Until next weekend, when we go down south, where I'll be doing research at the St. Meinrad library and we'll be staying in Louisville for the weekend...

Is summer over? It hasn't started yet? Oh.