Yesterday, I had to drive into downtown Chicago for work. I was helping pack boxes. Thrilling, I know.
But as I drove into the city from Lakeshore Drive and began trying to find the parking garage I had been assigned, I got lost. Several times. There is a maze of tunnels north of Millenium Park, streets underneath streets…it turns into a multi-leveled maze beneath a swarm of hotels and hotspots and skyscrapers, and one minute you’ll be driving above ground and the next you’ll descend into a helter-skelter pattern of concrete-and-steel passages in the city’s underbelly. I was reminded of that show I had a passing fancy for, “Cities of the Underworld,” only that show was about ancient cities lying underneath modern ones; this is a modern city lying underneath a modern city.
I found my spot and did my work, and came back, and left. But as I walked from North Michigan Aveneue back to my parking space in a garage on East Illinois, a thought occurred to me. I could have been born in this city, and spent every hour of my life, from birth to death, simply walking the city. I could have walked underneath the L, ridden its trained, explored the underworks, descended to the sewers, and still have found only a fraction of this city. And it is a certainty that, once I grew old, I would find areas of that city I thought I had explored, and find them under construction, or condemned, or revitalized in ways I could never expect.