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William Wolcott


August 5, 2008 at 11:41 PM

Tomorrow, my family and I will go to Chicago for a short vacation...

No doubt our family will see several museums, the art museum (cannot wait for that!)... will we see the standard attractions, to be sure (though I would really love venturing out more)... the aquarium, planetarium, etc...

but, for me, it will be a visit to the past. It will be a visit to the city a small boy stayed for two summers to study violin. It will be a visit to the city where my father felt so alive before he died... no doubt scents and sights will bring back memories.

My father and I stayed in the Blackstone Hotel right on Michigan Ave. No car, not a whole lot of money. Just a whole lot of walking and a whole lot of living. I remember the glorious if not somewhat long Amtrak train ride-seeing the tracks, eating in the dining car, sitting in the observation car. I remember the "beware of pick pockets" signs all over the train station as we got off the train. I remember the honking of cabs and the smell of bus exhaust. I remember playing frisbee in Grant Park well past dark (glow in the dark frisbee). I remember perusing all of the bookstores, old and new, taking in the people in the store as well as in the pages; and the feel, the texture of the paper itself, and the musty smell of the old books. I remember walking down Michigan Ave. for what seemed like endless miles to my violin lesson, and being surprised when people kept walking even though the sign said "Don't Walk." I mean, what the hell is that for, anyway? Really ticked the cab drives off, though. I remember walking up several flights of stairs in the American Conservatory of Music- no air conditioning on a hot summer day- I nearly fainted at least one time, it was so hot. I remember hearing the sounds of traffic from the building- and the great view out the window. I remember my father grasping my hand tightly one day on one of our long 'adventure' walks as we passed a dead woman on the sreet. I remember the restaurants, the music, lots of music- from live jazz at the Blackstone to recitals, chamber music, solo, orchestral, etc. So much music. I remember practicing- a lot. I remember studying with my teacher and now dear friend, George Watkins. I remember the lake, playing chess, seeing The Terminator in a really old, huge, once beautiful but run down theater. I remember riding the El and seeing rats at various stations. I remember discovering all of the streets under the city, and I remember that horrible waitress at the Artists' Cafe, in the Fine Arts building, right on the way to my lessons. I remember the sparkles in the pavement... so many memories.

Most importantly, I remember my father being so happy, feeling so free, so alive. He loved the city- New York, Chicago, whatever- a real city. I saw a different person during our stay in Chicago. For those two summers, I saw a writer, an artist, a friend, a brilliant man.... and a father. Thank you, dad, for supporting my dreams. I only wish you could be here now so I could support yours, too.

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