Sweet Home Chicago

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From Iowa, we pulled into Chicago, where we took a taxi to Hyde Park. Hyde Park is a culturally flourishing neighborhood on the South Side, dominated by the University of Chicago. Since I both attended college at the University of Chicago and lived there for another three years after that, when I married someone who immediately after our wedding began law school at the U of C. I’ve totaled about ten years in the neighborhood, and I have missed it. It was a lot of fun to see the place again.

We spent our one night in town at the Hotel Sophy — appropriately named for a university district, as Sofia means knowledge or wisdom in Greek. It’s new since my last visit, but that was about ten years ago, so it’s not all that surprising.

The Sophy is also a beautiful and comfortable hotel, and we had a good time there. It has lovely artwork on the walls; and unlike the standard two-bed hotel layouts, which have one nightstand shared between the beds, at the Sophy each bed has its own nightstand and between those, there’s a small sofa-let that’s quite useful for putting on your socks and shoes or hanging out on while you talk to someone else in the room.

We didn’t try the hotel restaurant; we ordered out locally. Italian. You can always find Italian in Chicago. I couldn’t talk M into tasting stuffed pizza, however. When I went downstairs to pick up the food, I discovered that there was an insanely loud DJ event in the hotel lobby! I could barely hear the desk agent, who could only tell that I was asking about the food that was just delivered because, well, the food was just delivered a couple of minutes ago. I took my food and ran for the elevators. I could still hear the music from the fifth floor, as I got out of the elevator! It was coming up through the shaft. It didn’t make it inside our actual room, though, so all was well.

The next morning, we walked over to KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation, the synagogue where I used to be a member when I lived in this neighborhood. It’s in the middle of renovations right now, but the super was still happy to give us a tour, and it was wonderful. They told me a lot of stories about how things had been there over the last twenty years, and I told them a lot of stories about how things were there during the days of the great Rabbi Wolf, who is still one of the legends of the synagogue. We saw the sanctuary, which has its seating torn out but which is still beautiful — in fact, even more so now that it’s been cleaned. M took a lot of pictures in the library of books that they wanted to read someday. And before we left, they gave us two copies of Rabbi Wolf’s book — one for each of us, though since I already have one I’m planning to give mine to my youngest.

Afterwards, we went to visit some friends at their apartment. One is a professor in the history department at the University of Chicago, and honestly I wish the ages worked out that she’d been there when I studied history at the same school! She teaches through participation in wonderful ways, and she told us a lot about her current project: a full scale live action roleplaying game based on the papal election of 1492. It has 90 student-players, and it’s the only course she teaches this quarter, because it takes so much of her time. It sounds like a fantastic thing to play in. Her partner and an SF writer whose work I knew but had never met before were both there also, and we had a lovely lunch and a good time talking. The author (I’m not giving names because I didn’t ask them if I could) spoke with us a lot about our plans to start an SF bookstore, and they had some incredibly useful information to give us about what SF is available in Europe and what mostly isn’t. If we can get the parts which aren’t, it could help us a lot. They even gave me contact information for a friend, an SF fan who lives in Amsterdam.

Catching a Lyft to the train station, we made a brief stop at the university campus to wave at my beloved school, and then spent a couple of hours in the first class lounge of the train station, before finally boarding the Cardinal, en route for New York.

A large lobby with marble columns in the background, and a glass ceiling.
Chicago’s Union Station

By this point, although the train route is one of the prettiest out there, both M and I were a little tired of the trains, I think. The compartment was more comfortable than the one we’d shared on the West Coast, though not as comfortable as taking two of them across from each other like we did on the California Zephyr. We were tired and frazzled by the time we arrived, at nearly midnight, in New York’s Penn Station. We looked forward to a few days at my father and stepmother’s house for a nice rest.

And then we got to Dad’s place, and discovered that he had Covid. My stepmother, who uses a walker, was desperately trying to take care of him and herself despite being unable to stand up and use her hands at the same time.

So much for rest! What happened from there will wait for the next post.

One response to “Sweet Home Chicago”

  1. FreyjaRN Avatar


    I lived in the Chicago suburbs when I was a kid. There was so much to do. I was older, I lived in Milwaukee, so Chicago was not so far. I do miss the Midwest. It’s pretty out there.

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