Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sweet home, Chicago.

Yesterday, I saw the sun for the third time in as many weeks, and this only because I had to break through the clouds in an airplane, on my way back to Texas. Man! Nothing but gloomy days in Chicago, which the weather forecasters told us was a tradeoff--warm days (meaning upper 30s/low 40s) and so gloomy you'd think it was a nuclear winter, or sun and freezing temps. Well, I'll take the balmy days, but I get to leave before getting SAD.

I've rhapsodized about Chicago's awesomeness before, but that was in July, when everything was bright and shiny. But, underneath that thick cloud layer, it's still a fabulous city, and it will always have my heart.

Riding the L (Orange Line) the other day, I couldn't help but snap a few pictures, so you all can appreciate the view from the Southwest Side. Yep, folks, this is as bright as it got.

Near the canal, with the bridge raised.

On the canal...see how the city landscaped a tiny park, directly facing the big warehouses on the other side? This is in Chinatown, and there's a sweet little pagoda that didn't make it into the picture.

You certainly can't call it beautiful...can you? I thought about this as I rode. Being a city girl, I never put much stock in wide open spaces and rolling green hills. Beauty, to me, has always been about vintage skyscrapers (think Wrigley Building) and the hustle of pedestrians. Even the factories and train tracks and iron girders that crowd the Southwest Side, while not conventionally beautiful, embody a certain solemnity, an honesty, that feels very authentic to me. When I visit new cities, I look for this backbone of industry; if I see the familiar warehouses, I feel at home (like in San Antonio).

I must get this from my dad, who worked in factories most of his adult life. When he visited Austin, he looked around and wondered, en que trabaja la gente? How do people make a living around here? I tried to explain that Austin is home to some tech companies (and of course people work in retail, the service industry, not to mention education and the University), but I knew how he felt, that something was missing.

And of course, the Loop. You can't even see the top of the Sears Tower!

While I was home, there was another announcement to stab Chicagoans in the heart again. The first was the acquisition of Marshall Field's by Macy's, and you have to have grown up in the city to understand what a travesty this is. They're not just buying the stores, but they're changing the name!!! Marshall Field's has been around for a hundred years, give or take a few, and every Chicagoan has made the trek downtown at Christmastime to see the windows, which this year displayed the Cinderella story. If you were lucky, or wealthy, you got to go have lunch in the Walnut Room, underneath the Christmas tree. But you didn't need that much money to get in line to meet Santa, and have your picture taken.

The building itself is beautiful, with about 8 floors of retail, and a stunning mosaic Tiffany dome that you can see up close if you go up to the lingerie department. The clocks on the outside corners are instantly recognizable, and the store makes its own mint chocolates, which they've dubbed Frangos.

Have I gone on enough? Is it clear that my heart is breaking over this? Well, the news now is that the famous Berghoff Restaurant is closing after 107 years, because the owner is retiring.

It was the first place to get a liquor license after Prohibition, so it's got liquor license #1. I've never been there myself, but people are up in arms about it. Absolutely incensed, even though the food was so so and the service wasn't so great. One columnist called it a selfish decision, and initially I agreed. Why not sell the business, and keep the tradition alive? But a friend suggested that maybe if they sold it, the new owners would run the business into the ground, and it would carry the family name with it. I can see that point. But it's still sad.

As old, venerated institutions change or close down, new ones crop up. When I first moved to Ukranian Village in 2001, Division Street had a few shops here and there, but the gaps in between them on the street were long. Now, it's completely different. Fancy florists, home decorating stores, funky clothing shops, and sushi restaurants have popped up everywhere. There's even a new yarn store!

I had to take a picture of the store window, because the display just knocked me out. Nina's is probably the most visually beautiful yarn store I've seen, with a selection of hard-to-find yarns (I saw skeins of Japanese paper yarn that I've never seen anywhere else). Sleek and modern are the operating words here; there are other yarn stores that I love because of the overabundance of yarns, making you feel like a kid in a candy store. Nina's is more akin to a jewelry store, with delicate, precious yarns cleverly showcased, and clutter absolutely nonexistent.

There was not a bargain bin to be found at Nina's, but I did manage to scoop up some Classic Elite Star at 40% at Arcadia Knitting, and walked away with five skeins of Adrienne Vittadini Marissa at half off from We'll Keep You in Stitches. WKYS has the best clearance I've come across, made even better by the fact that they throw most of the stuff in a huge cardboard box. Rummaging around in it, you feel like you might discover a treasure.

I certainly thought I did...I found skeins upon skeins of Noro Iro, in a beautiful camel colorway, and a couple of skeins with reds and purples. Oooh! Visions of a mini Lady Eleanor floated through my head as I grabbed a skein and asked the saleswoman for the price. 12.50, she said. And then half off? I asked. She nodded. Delirious with joy, I bagged four of the camel skeins and the two red skeins, and made my way to the counter. She wrote out a receipt, totaled the column, and announced, 82 dollars.

Cheeks burning, I said, I thought it was half off 12.50. You said, and then I said...but no. Shaking her head, she ripped up the receipt as I meekly apologized, then retreated to find something a bit more affordable. Oh, well, the fantasy was fun while it lasted! I walked out with the Vittadini yarn, stash acquisition itch satisfied.

On my way out, I ran into an older Italian man with whom I rode up in the elevator. He asked me what kind of store that was, and I said, Knitting. Yarn. Oh! he exclaimed. That is very good! You never see young people following the traditions of the old country. You're Mexican (he had gotten this information out of me earlier), so you know! It's like Italy. I thought about explaining how knitting is the new yoga, and all the kids are doing it, but then he got a call on his cell phone, and I took that opportunity to wave and hurry away.

I wish I could say that I got tons of knitting done over the winter break! But the reality is that the Flared Lace Smoke Ring just kicked my ass. I knit for hours on end, seeing only a couple of inches of progress. I finally finished, the day before I left Chicago. My mom got her present, a full two weeks AFTER Christmas.

Pattern: Flared Lace Smoke Ring, published by Heartstrings Fiber Arts
Needle: Size 6 Boye circulars
Yarn: Peruvian Baby Cashmere, from Elann

Fortunately, I knit while watching the entire fourth season of 24 on DVD. Oh, my GOD! I am so completely hooked. And the fact that I've been hopelessly in love with Kiefer Sutherland since about 1985 only makes the show that much better. Kiefer, baby! I'm still here! Call me!!

Here's a picture of the Cupcake Hat I made for my niece, with none other than my niece modeling it.

Fast, easy, and fun. (Not me, the hat!) Such a great pattern!

Next time, I wanna jump on the blogging bandwagon about New Year's goals. I gots me a list!!!


At 3:14 AM, Blogger Laura said...

Your comments about the beauty of industrial cities had me nodding my head. My dad worked for Goodyear -- it was his first job out of college, and he worked for them until he retired. He was management, and retired as a vice president. He had the same feeling as your dad when he came to visit me when I lived in Washington, DC. I told him it felt a little like living in a theme park. His response: "I bet, there are no visible means of support." Ha! Being from industrial NE Ohio, Baltimore always seemed to me to be the "real city" when I lived down there.

I was literally just thinking about Flared Smoke Ring. But if the lace knitter says it kicked her butt, maybe not. :) Your mom's looks so pretty.

OK, I am totally ready to cast on for a Scarf Style project. Mini-Eleanor has been set aside. You name it, chica.

So glad you are back!

At 8:12 AM, Blogger Karen said...

Welcome back!!! It's so sad to hear about all the favorite Chicago institutions changing - I am the kind of person who likes tradition and things to stay the same. Alsom bummer about that yarn not really being 1/2 off. Waa. Your smoke ring is beautiful, although you've now scared me for lace knitting (LOL)!! The cupcake hat is so cute, I bet your niece loves it!! Bring on the New Year's goals!!

At 8:46 AM, Blogger Ashley said...

The Marshall Field's thing is a travesty. Seriously. I still feel like a little kid every time I walk into the store and see that ceiling. But do you really think they will stop making Frangos? They can't do that, can they? Please tell me they can't.

And yeah--Chicago is beautiful--even in its winter grimy-ness.

Cutey-cute niece. What is it about dessing children like animals or food that makes them both hilarious and adorable?

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Marisa said...

Welcome back! to the blogging world, not Austin, since I'm selfish and want you back in Chicago. ;)

You really captured the beauty of our hometown quite well. Makes me rethink my own days on the factory assembly line.

But that's another story...

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Welcome back to Tejas, Olga! It's certainly not cold or gloomy down here... I can't quite believe it's January. I loved your post about Chicago... one of my favorite cities. It's so beautiful, even in the gloom. I was sad to hear about Marshall Field's, though - is nothing sacred? The smoke ring pattern is really beautiful - lovely work.

At 7:53 AM, Anonymous Nancy said...

Oh Olga, what a wonderful post about "Our Kinda Town". I live and work here and reading your words actually made me homesick.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger keohinani said...

this is a great blog...i don't even know where to begin my comments. so rather than leave a comment about everything, i'll leave words on the things that sparked my interest (even if it is at the expense of my sounding totally incoherent):

wow! chicago!!!! CHICAGO! jealous!
flared lace smoke ring = pretty!
cupcake hat + niece = adorable!
thanks for pattern link, will make for my niece :)

At 2:23 PM, Blogger knittinmom said...

Macy's is buying Marshall Fields??? Funny but, being from Minneapolis, I had the same sense of indignant outrage when they changed the name of all the Dayton's stores to Marshall Field's (Dayton's merged w/ Marshall Field's eons ago, but for some reason they just decided to change the name a few years ago). And now they're going to be changing to Macy's? It just doesn't seem right!


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