I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t finished. And you’re right, this was all I could sketch at the time. I might have finished it later, but I didn’t. It’s the sort of view I might do a drawing of, on a bigger piece of paper, to test my drawing patience, but this one was drawn pretty quickly from the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building (sorry, it’s not called that any more), which might not be the tallest of Chicago’s big skyscrapers, but it was still pretty damn high up. The view made my knees go all trembly. That slightly wobbly line, that be the horizon, that be the eye level. So you can see that the two taller buildings in this view are the Sears Tower (sorry, the Willis Tower) and the Trump tower (yep, still called that). Our hotel room on the 16th floor was low down and quaintly street level by comparison. It was down there somewhere, we could see it. On the same observation deck there was this ‘ride’ where the windows would move outward from the building so that you appear to be hanging suspended over the city. Needless to say, I didn’t do that. The view didn’t look quite real. Buildings that had towered so far above us at street level as to be hard to grasp, were now some way below us. It was a bit like when I’d play Spider-Man on the PS4, except nothing like it. That is a great game by the way, as is the Miles Morales follow-up. When I’d sketched just about enough, we got the elevator down.
We did spend some time up at Lincoln Park, going to the Zoo, eating the most incredible corn dogs, wandering about a bit looking for a record store my guide book had told me was amazing (only to discover it had closed a while ago; well of course it had, a record store, in 2023? Why it’s next to the penny farthing store, just past the monocle repair shop). So we got the ‘L’ (the Elevated train) back downtown, feeling very much like we were in the Chicago from the films. One of our favourite films set in Chicago is High Fidelity, the one with John Cusack from about 2000. For me and my wife, that film may well be responsible for our whole relationship (to paraphrase the film). Well sort of; we both talked about it a lot when we first met, so I lent her the Nick Hornby book (set in north London of course) which was one of my favourites, and then we started going out. So it kinda is, actually. We were therefore excited to see sights we had seen in the film, such as the Kinzie Street Bridge, sketched above. It was about a 15 minute walk or so from our hotel, and I remember it in the film when Cusack’s character Rob was giving some monologue to the camera, although I think there were fewer big glassy buildings behind it then. When my wife and son went back to the hotel, I stayed to draw the bridge. I was listening to a fascinating Chicago history podcast, several episodes about how things in Chicago have often changed their names, and despite said things only being named something for a relatively short time, locals would refuse to call it by its new name for many decades longer than it had the original name. A bit like people who keep saying ‘Baby Yoda’ instead of ‘Grogu’. I did learn a lot about Chicago’s history and places though, and wished I had a lot more time to explore, but I would probably get tired, and like that record store, the places I’d be looking for might already be gone. Story of my life. Still I was very happy to have some mild weather for a moment to spend time drawing a bridge.
These next few are from the afternoon of the next day. I have some others from the morning of the next day, but those involve dinosaurs and I’ll post those next time. We found the big Chicago Theater with its bright red sign, and I stuck around to sketch it. Eventually it started raining, so I stood under some shelter and sketched Chicago people in my little book, using a brush pen. As I sketdched, one lad came up to me and asked if I had a disability. I laughed, strange question, no I just like to draw in the street. It turns out he was asking about the way I hold my pen. Ah. No, always done that, but thanks for asking, I guess. I mostly drew people coming out of the Metra station (yes that’s ‘Metra’, not ‘Metro’, that’s basically the Subway).
I also drew this fire hydrant, a few blocks away beneath the L. Standing under the ironwork of the L, with the train rumbling above me and the traffic rushing by beneath, I really felt like I was in Chicago like you’d imagine it. Not far from here there are those busy roads that are just underground, beneath the other roads, that make me think of the Fugitive, which we had watched not long before our trip.
Before heading home, and to get out of the rain for a bit, I found a very cool pub with a bit of a Belgian beer theme. Monk’s Pub was the perfect stopping off point, and good to sketch. I had one pint, and drew fast. I listened to a couple of older lads next to me talking with some passion about baseball. Monk’s was warm and welcoming, but I had to get back to the hotel to rest before dinner, so I waited for the rain to ease off and walked back.