Growing up in the south suburbs of Chicago, with our garage parties and wet beefs and Comiskey Park love, I considered everything in the city except for Beverly, where one went to St. Patrick’s Day parades, to be “downtown.” The Museum of Science and Industry (the best museum) on 59th was “downtown.” The Lincoln Park Zoo (the free zoo) 1150 blocks north of that was “downtown.” Marshall Field’s (where one looked at the windows at Christmas) at State and Washington and actually downtown was “downtown.” The MoSI is still my favorite museum, I sometimes walk through Lincoln Park Zoo and I don’t go to Marshall Field’s anymore because Macy’s bought it and Macy’s is, as everyone knows, New York. And when I went to New York I only shopped at Bergdorf’s. This is absolutely, totally true.
So when I got to go downtown on my own, on the train, which was terribly grown-up, commuting, as it were, I was very excited and my father told me that I could never get lost because Chicago is a grid. Of course, he was terribly wrong because streets are secondary to landmarks when it comes to where I am. But what I like about Chicago, what I think is so excellent about Chicago, what I learned from a very young age about Chicago is that when you are standing somewhere trying to figure out where you are, when the lake is on your right, you are facing north. The problem is that now whenever a body of water is on my right, I assume I am facing north. I am right 25% of the time.