Last Friday mayor Lightfoot opened up the parks and the lakeshore so my friend Julia and I walked along Chicago’s lakefront path. We didn’t have a plan except to start at thirty-first street and keep our distance from others. I miss a lot of things in this new Covid life. One of them is people watching. So I hoped to see what our fellow human beings would do with the somewhat unfettered freedom to enjoy one of Chicago’s best assets. As it turned out, a detour to an empty Northerly Island was the most interesting part of the day.
Northerly Island is a spectacular nature preserve and outdoor concert venue. The story about how it became a nature preserve stars mayor Richard Daley (the younger) and includes a secret midnight demolition, indignant politicians, irate corporate chieftains, screaming headlines and lots of hand wringing and finger wagging.
As Julia and I veered away from the main path, we found ourselves in front the Adler Planetarium where a female guard yelled at us to move along — which we did…finding ourselves on one of the gravel roads that wind through Northerly Island.
Aside from a few security vehicles that passed us, we might have been in the middle of the wilderness. It was getting late (we needed to be back at the car by eleven) and we couldn’t figure how to get to the main road. ( I am an urban creature and even the sight of the downtown Chicago skyline did not assuage my fear that we could be wandering for hours).
Finally some bicyclists pointed in the general direction of a road leading back to civilization as they sped past. This was when we came upon the building that was once the airport terminal for Meigs Field. It’s swinging 60’s style architecture made me think of the heyday of “American Industry”; men in business suits and hats boarding the company airplane to jet them to their three martini lunch. Now it’s being used as…I’m not sure exactly what it’s being used for… but it would make a great place to eat or watch the sunrise or the birds fly by. Or maybe a groovy visitors center.