Momentous Times

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There have been times in my forty-seven years when I’ve felt the world was passing me by, and there have been times when I’ve felt swept up in the tide of history.

I’m feeling more of the latter, these days.

A wild current is ebbing for me right now. And I’m not talking about the results of the election. Though they could certainly be described as momentous.

(All the rhetoric grew tiresome long ago, so I took advantage of Louisiana’s early voting period. I knew I’d be traveling on Election Day, and I didn’t want any potential delays to cause me to miss the opportunity to cast my blue ballot in a decidedly red state.)

I returned home yesterday from a trade show in Chicago. The travel had been planned for months; my reservation at the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue booked in March of this past year. Long before there was any clue to how the pennant race would turn out.

My flight to Chicago was the day after Game 7 of the World Series. I anticipated a special time in the Windy City, and a pretty neat omen on the flight into Midway confirmed that suspicion. On the approach, the only thing I could see through the thick cloud cover were the spires of the Sears Tower. (It’s currently called Willis Tower.)

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It’s a bit traitorous of me to have jumped on the Cubs bandwagon this past week. If I root for any baseball team, it’s usually the Dodgers. And that’s because they’re the only home team I’ve ever had—Los Angeles is the only place I’ve ever lived with a Major League team. But Husband Tim has been a lifelong Cubs fan, so I could argue that I celebrated the Cubs win as his proxy.

And there’s that whole tide of history thing. The victory parade was the day after I arrived, within walking distance of the hotel. Who am I to be the party-pooper when it seemed all of northern Illinois emptied into downtown Chicago to celebrate the Cubs’ first World Series win in 108 years?

The next set of rapids after that parade involved an entirely different sport, and two English-speaking countries 3,500 and 8,000 miles away from Chicago, respectively. Two days after I arrived, Ireland played New Zealand in a rugby match at Soldier Field. Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first time in 111 years.

My friends and I had been setting up at the McCormick Place convention center all day, and were ready to eat. But finding someplace to get dinner with a wait of less than two hours was a challenge. Looking for a spot in the Hilton’s bar to order some food, a couple of All Blacks fans (who were sitting with Ireland fans) made room for us. They saw us looking for a chair, one of them did a sort of on-the-spot haka, and proceeded to lift the marble-topped table we had gathered around to have us join in their group.

Dinner was served in less than two hours.

Finally, I can’t ever go to Chicago without thinking of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City. I love the whole premise of that book—a notorious serial killer committing his murders, set against the mad rush of the architect Daniel Burnham planning and producing Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair. Being in Chicago makes me feel steeped in history.

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The night I arrived, the Hilton Chicago was hosting the 25th Annual Daniel H. Burnham Award Dinner. I only know this because that title was projected in lights at the entrance to the ballroom at the front of the hotel. There are plenty of other things I found out about the Hilton Chicago from a promotional screen in their elevator. (The final scene of The Fugitive was filmed there, the riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention broke out across the street from the hotel, the hotel itself was built by the family of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens—to name a few.)

Anyway, it all got me thinking about the force of history, and my little place in the slipstream. I think I’m just glad to be able to witness all of it, and to take part when circumstances allow. Long after this President’s time in office, I will have a great memory of my time as a reveler in the White City.

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