Whenever I visit The Great American City, my birthplace, I find myself happy, regardless of the weather, regardless of the reason for the visit. This certainly isn't the first time I've been in Chicago for the Glorious Fourth of July, but it was the first time I decided to attend Taste of Chicago, and I confess I was less than impressed. I've been to so many enjoyable restaurants there, and none of them were represented. What was available for tasting was rather much what one may expect to see at any similar event. Although the Billy Goat Tavern was represented, the charm of the Billy Goat lies in its location and ambiance on lower Michigan Avenue. Seeing its pale, characterless ghost on Navy Pier was bad enough; seeing it masquerading as a food stand among others in Grant Park was nearly intolerable. Add to this the oppressive humidity and the gargantuan crowd, and I almost despaired.
Almost, but not quite. I was heartened by enjoying some London Pride at the Elephant & Castle on Wabash and Lake (I acquired a fondness for Fuller beers during my visit to Londinium). I went to a wine bar I hadn't been to previously, and there downed several kick-ass reds, all the while snacking on Stilton cheese and olives. The older I get, the more I enjoy good food and drink, it seems.
But above all, I was impressed and cheered, once again, by the proud brazenness of Chicago's downtown. South Michigan Avenue and the park to its east with its statutes and monuments has a kind of Roman character, as does the Loop. North Michigan and the River North area boasts spectacular architecture, and its skyline is continually changing. Even the new Trump monstrosity seems somehow appropriate, as an expression of pride. Chicago's downtown is not subtle. It doesn't whisper words of power. It roars them. It isn't smug or satisfied. The city is still young, and exuberant.
It provides a kind of tonic to this middle-aged man, and makes him wonder whether he can ever be a proper stoic. But stoicism properly considered does not prohibit joy, it merely prepares us to live without it with tranquility if that is necessary. As long as I can visit Chicago, that clearly is not necessary, yet.