The city hasn’t changed much since the last visit. Only the traveller has. The lake front remains in its deceptive calmness, with boats and geese competing for space and attention. On one street corner is a lone saxophonist playing for change. On the other side of the street is a group of barely clad black dancers showing off to impressive hip-hop beats. They have an audience. A few feet away is a gay advocacy group holding up cards and urging pedestrians to get on the move to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois as it is being done everywhere else. (After all, Chicago used to be the third biggest city in the US and thus the next biggest place to gather for such protests).

The other differences are conditional: a summer heat, a working fountain which – according to a guide – was said to have also been donated to America by France (just like the Statue of Liberty). The truth is less direct, of course. Wikipedia says the fountain was only designed by a Frenchman. The Bean of Chicago (actually called “Cloud Gate”) remained where it had always been, eluding contact on the first visit, and still impressive on contact. It’s made of stainless steel although everything else suggests otherwise. But of course, glass does not curve like that and would not have survived so much touch, knock and human contact, so there.

The Abraham Lincoln statue still sits in Grant’s Park, and the Ulyses Grant’s statue still stands at Lincoln Park. Chicago’s park humour. There are a few more: a homeless guy with a sign that says “Why lie. I (just) need a drink.”

 

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