((Note: Subhead will describe the story more, I like the lead and it is necessary for the story to flow – thanx Vince A.))
I embraced the chills running down my spine after stepping off the elevator.
I was on the 93rd floor of Chicago’s most beautiful building, the John Hancock building, looking toward the Sears Tower against a brilliant background. The sun had just set and left behind an enchanting mixture of light and dark blues, and vibrant reds and oranges.
My good friend, a Chicago native who showed me around the city, and I had been atop the Sears Tower earlier in the day, but as magnificent as the view from Sears was, the view from the Hancock building was much better. From the Hancock, you could feel the city’s culture and charm flow through your skin like a crisp breeze from the tower’s open air viewing area.
Looking toward south Chicago, the Sears Tower dominates the horizon. All other buildings around the tower are small by comparison and seem to look to the tower to give the city its character and strength. The Sears Tower is a source of pride for the city because it seems to represent the city’s proud working-class background.
My friend told me Chicago natives were upset when the Sears Tower became the second largest building in the world after Asia claimed the tallest building with the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur in 1996.
“The only reason it is taller is because the antennas are larger,” my friend said with a mixture of jealousy and pride. “If you count floor space, the Sears Tower is taller.”
Sears is big, bold and empowering. It sits closer to the city’s south side, which is where the Chicago’s blue-collar industries are located. The building is the heart of the city’s financial district, where people trade and profit from working-class labor.
A few blocks down Jackson Avenue, east of the Sears Tower, is Luke’s, a restaurant that serves Chicago’s working-class culture in cuisine form. Polish sausage, deep – and I mean deep – dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches.
My friend had been craving an Italian beef sandwich more than a smoker craves a cigarette. He hadn’t been home for a few months and missed his “beefs.” But with one bite, he knew he was home.
“This sandwich is Chicago,” he said with his mouth half full. “I have had this in Chicago restaurants in Colorado, but they don’t even come close to this.”
The Sears Tower and Italian beef sandwiches represent Chicago’s working class like the John Hancock building represents wealth and consumerism.
John Hancock stands tall and beautiful like a super model. Sleek, simple, yet elegant, the Hancock sits in the upper class part of town – or what I call the fur coat district because many of the women had fur coats – on Michigan Avenue, where all the expensive departments stores reside.
Every thing is elegant on Michigan Avenue. All the ritzy department stores glistened, and the entire area was wrapped up with white Christmas lights, showing people the holiday season is near and Michigan Avenue is the place to shop.
Chicago offers visitors many opportunities to soak up its unique, and diverse culture. Walking along Lake Shore Drive, you can see the city from an intimate distance, and you can turn your head and see the mini, salt-free ocean, Lake Michigan. In the summer, you can take boat trips and view the city from the lake.
Navy Pier, a man-made peninsula, has many attractions and entertainment options for natives and visitors. One popular attraction on Navy Pier is the Ferris wheel, a place to take a date and enjoy the beauty of the city in romantic, youthful fashion.
In Grant Park, Chicago’s version of New York’s Central Park, you can visit Buckingham Fountain, which is another beautiful city landmark. The fountain is off during the winter, but when it is open in the summer, it is great place to soak up and enjoy the sun. Chicago natives and visitors can also take advantage of the mini beaches along Lake Michigan during the summer. However, Chicago also has many winter-friendly attractions, such as great museums and tours of the Sears Tower and John Hancock building. Plus, the city itself is a sight to see, and absorbing its culture is possible in summer T-shirts or winter jackets.
After taking my share of pictures from atop the John Hancock, I relaxed and gazed out toward the city in the open-air viewing area. I embraced the breeze and soaked up America’s heartland from her most impressive city.
Being atop Sears and the John Hancock hits you a little differently than it would have 16 months ago before America lost two magnificent towers in New York.
You feel closer to America. You feel American, and you feel Chicago’s – and the country’s – culture latch on you like the Midwest’s cold, moisture-soaked air.