A Day in the Loop


Sometimes I feel out of the loop. Even at the ripe old age of 21, I still have trouble keeping up with the latest acronyms, fashions, movies and music! In my lifetime, I have probably watched less than 10 hours of MTV total and it's even gotten so bad to where my sister-in-law (whom I love dearly!) has said, "Ooh Kristi! I like those jeans! Just so you know, that style is totally in right now."

"Just so I know"?! I'm 21! Not 51! I can still tell a cute pair of jeans when I see one!

In any case, today I was--indisputably--"in the loop." It helps that I can say this in the most literal sense. The Loop is downtown Chicago's core--the financial and governmental hub of the city. It's called the Loop because there is a ring of elevated train tracks that encircles it. This is where Brock and I spent our entire day.

We started off by going to the Harold Washington Library Center--the largest public library in the country! A whopping NINE stories high! It was absolutely insane. If you put all of its shelving together, it would run for 70 miles! We noodled around in here for a bit and explored what it had to offer. Something it had that I thought was particularly cool was an entire half-floor devoted to books in other languages. From Afrikaans to Zulu, you were sure to find a book in any language you wanted! I love books so much. Sometimes walking around a library makes me sad because there are so many wonderful things to read and so little time! I really want to start reading Dostoyevsky. He was so ahead of his time and a great political commentator.

Then we headed into the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) building. They had a really cool little museum in there that we spent about 30 minutes in. Talk about fascinating stuff! It all started out when a few merchants back in 1898 decided that they wanted the prices of their butter and eggs to be more stable. So they formed the the Chicago Butter and Eggs Board, which later became the CME to incorporate more goods. In 2002 the CME became a public company on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). This was a huge leap of faith for the CME (imagine being able to buy "stock" in the NYSE and you'll get the idea) but it's paid huge dividends. Overall, it was a fascinating visit with way too much information to absorb in one sitting. Visiting this museum got me excited to take Econ 110 in the fall!

Next stop: the Civic Opera House. I took one look at normal ticket prices (over $100 for nosebleeder seats!) and hightailed it out of there. But Brock, being his inquisitive self, found someone to talk to and asked about student discounts. As it turns out, all you have to do is sign up on an email list and you can get seats to non-sold-out shows for $24! Awesome! It always pays to ask :)

We proceeded down the road to the Chicago Temple (not of the LDS persuasion!). It was this looming, Gothic-inspired skyscraper with a beautiful chapel inside adorned with stained-glass windows. Sometimes I wish LDS buildings had those. We sat on a pew for a while and just took in the coolness of the air, the murky smell, the architecture, and overall feeling of the place. As we were doing so, we were interrupted by a poor man who was in search of tampons for his 13-year old daughter who had just started menstruating that day. He said he couldn't afford them, and was wondering if we could help me locate some. He never explicitly asked for money, but we were, of course, suspicious. The three of us went up to the second floor where a receptionist gave us a packet of all the places around town where the homeless can get free things, and we gave the man a map of the city we had in our backpack. I felt bad because a Walgreens was right down the street and tampons cost like what, $4? But still. It's just so hard to trust people in this city. Desperate people will come up with all sorts of stories as to why they need your money. And it kills me to say no sometimes--especially when you can tell that they're mentally impaired (as this man was)--but you just have to draw the line. As un-Christian as it sounds, you just can't give money to everybody. In this particular case, we did as much as we could, and sent him on his way. I guess I can't really feel guilty for that. In my point of view, I give 10% of what I have to the Lord, pray for those less fortunate, and trust that He'll provide. Hopefully that's enough to get me through the pearly gates!

We then headed over to the James R. Thompson Center (aka State of Illinois Center) which is probably one of the coolest buildings I've seen in Chicago. On a sidenote: I LOVE Chicago's architecture!! In one city block, you can see gothic, classical, art deco, Beux Arts, and contemporary styles. And in just about every public square there is a huge modern sculpture of some sort. It's amazing! Anyway, the State of Illinois center is this 17-story, tubular building with 24,000 shimmering curved glass panels comprising its exterior. Inside, there is a soaring skylit atrium (if any of you have seen the movie "Running Scared" with Billy Crystal, this atrium is in a memorable scene!) that houses all sorts of governmental offices. Brock and I rode the crazy-fast, see-through elevators up to the top and back down again...a serious vertigo rush!

Our tour of the Loop ended with a hour or so of reading at Barnes and Noble. Awesome :) We parted ways, and then I went to pick up some groceries at Dominicks (Safeway). Can I just say that I am a STUDETTE? Dominicks is about five blocks from where we live, and I managed to bike the rest of the way home with $60 worth of groceries on both my arms...into a headwind! I must of looked so ridiculous peddling down the street with about seven bulging plastic bags on each arm.

Overall: a great day in the Loop! Yet here I sit in my comfortable apartment, with fresh groceries, worrying about the poor man who approached us in the Chicago Temple. I mean, there's a 50% chance that he was lying. If he was lying, then we did the right thing. But if he was telling the truth, of which there is also a 50% chance, we sent him on his way to find free tampons somewhere for his poor 13-year old daughter, when a Walgreens was no more than 100 steps away from us (and, despite not being the richest people in the world, we could have definitely ponied up $4 to help this guy out).


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