Sunday, August 03, 2008

Chicago Riverwalk Is Cool

If you've been in Chicago near the Chicago River during the last few years, you've undoubtedly noticed some noteworthy improvements. The Chicago Riverwalk is an area beneath street level, on both sides of the Chicago River, directly adjacent to the water. Chicago is not a city to waste precious downtown space, so they've turned that area into a sort of miniature outdoor mall, with restaurants, a small (yet beautiful) memorial park dedicated to Viet Nam War veterans, and even art displays. There have been several businesses on the north side of the river for quite some time, but the same was not true of the south side until a few years ago when the city of Chicago did some major construction work in order to transform that side of the river, which is the side closest to the Loop and to Wacker Drive.

In order to save money on transportation, I sometimes walk to the Harold Washington Library at 400 S. State Street, from my current residence at the Lawson House YMCA, rather than taking the bus or the El train. The walk takes about an hour for me. (Mapquest says it's about 1.3 miles between the two locations. But I think it's slightly more than that right now, due to construction which is currently going on in the River North area.) On a really hot day, I can get pretty sweaty by the time when I get to the library, but fortunately, the weather this summer has been relatively cool. Even so, I like to take a few paper towels to mop my brow, and I sometimes stop for a brief rest break at an air-conditioned hotel on Wacker Drive, right after crossing the river.

Today, I was crossing Clark Street, and as I crossed from north to south, I heard the sounds of a 3-piece jazz group (led by a guitarist) playing at a place known as Flatwater. I've never eaten there, but the place certainly has a picturesque location, and I enjoyed listening to the jazz. I stopped in the middle of the Clark Street bridge, once I'd reached a somewhat shady spot, to listen briefly to the music, feel the cool breeze coming from the river, and watch as the boats passed beneath the bridge.

Chicago is by no means a perfect city, but there have been brief moments during the 16 years that I've lived here which could be described as sublime. That was one of those moments.

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