Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Windy City Whims

When my maker told me we were going to be riding on a train today I was so excited! I had never been on a train. We were going to be riding a commuter train, she said, to the city of Chicago, IL. Another city I would get to see, a big city, even bigger than Little Rock! My maker, her daughter, and Abbot and I arrived at the train station in enough time to twiddle our thumbs a bit. Abbot, as usual, could hardly contain himself. This was his very first trip to a large city, as he didn't travel to Little Rock with me. He gargled and wiggled, paced and rocked, until we heard the sound of the train's whistle. Then he immediately scurried back to my side, sort of burying his face into my belly as if the sound of the train frightened him.
Climb aboard we did, and made our way to a seat with a large window so we could watch the scenery pass like a real-life cartoon. I was fascinated by the sights, both good and bad. Good ones were children and parks, dogs and flowers, moms and babies holding hands. Bad ones were trash and graffiti, lonely people and insects, billboards and broken buildings. The Good Things I saw were repetitions of things I see everyday when I go into our town, but the Bad Things I was not as familiar with. The Bad Things made me sad. I think Abbot felt it too. He questioned my facial expressions when I encountered the Bad Things. My maker then said, "Caruthers, you will probably see many more Bad Things today, but there will be Good Things too."
After we arrived in Chicago it was a long walk to Millennium Park, our first stop on our list of sights to see. We were very taken with the sculpture called Cloudgate, which is also dubbed "the bean" to those in the know. Upon viewing Cloudgate I understood the reason for each of its names. It was a HUGE bean shaped mirror that reflected the Chicago skyline, and thus, the clouds. Many many people crowded around it to look at themselves inside the reflection. Some made faces, others pressed their noses to it. Some stood far far away to see a tiny image of themselves along with the beautiful reflection of buildings. My maker took a few shots of Abbot and I.
Since we are so small and a chair was not available to us, my maker's daughter held us up high so we could get a good photo of our reflections. The bean is so very shiny, just like a mirror, one can barely tell which is us and which is the reflection of us.
It was hard to say goodbye to the bean, but there was more to see.
Also, there in the same park, was a fountain of sorts, in The Crown Fountain Plaza. It was no ordinary fountain. It had two very tall pillars on either end of a football field sized area. In between the pillars was a wet area where the children would play. I wondered how the pavement became so wet. It was not raining. I looked at the pillars a little more closely and behind the block-like facade were human faces.....but not a LOT of faces....ONE face per pillar. they were the biggest faces I've ever seen! The faces looked at each other from across the space. When one face smiled, the other would smile. When one frowned, then the other would frown. It was as if they were communicating in some secret language. And it was then that I realized the language wasn't secret at all. It was just another talent that humans have that they can read each others' emotions through their facial expressions. In the same way Abbot and I communicate. Then something marvelous happened. The lips on the faces puckered, like they were about to kiss someone, and stream of water shot like a rainbow from their mouths! All the children squealed and ran to be under the shower. They clapped and danced, closed their eyes and laughed as they got soaked in the water spray. Abbot was so thrilled he stood at the edge of the pavement. He so wanted to get wet with those children. I couldn't blame him. It was a hot day in the city.
I managed to drag him from the water's edge. My maker and her daughter ate a cookie while Abbot and I perused the gardens and the flowers. We encountered some squirrels, but they didn't speak our language. We smiled at them. Some smiled back and others hurried along their way, hiding food in their mouths or clutching their finds to their bellies.
Our next stops were up Michigan Avenue, where we saw the Chicago River, bridges, monuments, and architecture. We could not stop to take photos, however, because there were so many people it would have been unsafe for us if we had to halt traffic. We stopped at the WGN Radio station because my maker listens to the station every morning. Her favorite radio personality was not on the air at the time, but we took a photo anyway. The building is very old and very beautiful.
We did a little shopping, a little more looking at this and that. Mostly I remembered what my maker had said earlier, about seeing more Good Things and more Bad Things, and she was right. The Good Things were smiles and laughter, tourists on vacation having a great time, boats and trolleys, shopping bags and tall ladies. The Bad Things were homeless people asking for money and food, garbage thrown on the ground by people who don't care, car horns honking impatiently, noises, frowns, and hurrying. It made me think. I had a lot of questions. These are, again, those questions that have no definitive answers. The kind of questions that make me sad and confused. I wonder how, in a world that is full of so much joy, could these Bad Things exist. It weighs heavy on my heart and kind of left me feeling melancholy today, despite all the fun I had. My maker put her arm around me on the train that took us home. "Caruthers," my maker said, "I know just how you feel."
Until next time.