Sometimes when I fly somewhere I feel like I've entered an altered reality. That's how I spent my weekend. Friday morning, too early, Steve, Robin and I flew to Chicago where we met Renee, who flew in from NYC, and went out to the university for parent's weekend. I spent most of the weekend thinking "it used to be this way" or "I was here when." I really don't like thinking this way, but the university was one of the good places from my past. It's easy for me to go there even though I had to keep telling myself to forget it.
We flew into Midway Airport, Chicago's first airport, unused for many years, now busy, bustling and unrecognizable for me. The first time I flew, in 1953, was from Midway. Those were the days when for entertainment you would park on 55th Street and watch the planes land. I flew to Los Angeles and spent 21 days with Aunt Flo and many other relatives, among them two of my mother's brothers. But that's another story.
Renee and I stayed downtown. There is almost no decent accommodation near the university. We got on a bus to go to the south side; again there was that sense of altered reality. I remember much of the south side of the city as a barren wasteland, destroyed by the urban renewal craze and further devastated by the riots after Martin Luther King's assassination. There are still some blighted areas, but much has been rebuilt. Not for the first time I was awed by new, good-looking buildings.
The bus ride added to my sense of altered reality. Chicago is still a segregated city. We had the only white faces on the bus, and the only white faces we saw until we arrived at the university. Although the bus was not crowded that anonymous, recorded voice kept telling the nonexistent people to move to the back of the bus. I don't want to give the impression Chicago is completely segregated. I think it's possible for African Americans to live where they want and where they can afford. At least I hope so. It seems like it's us, white people (Chicagoans) who don't want to live with them. Pittsburgh is supposed to be equally segregated, but I live in an integrated neighborhood and I enjoy it.
We went to a reception in Charna's dorm at the resident master's apartment. Both the dorm and the apartment were much better than any place either Robin or I lived. My only perk was maid service; Robin had no perks that I could see. We all went out for dinner at a Mexican vegetarian restaurant in another Chicago ghetto neighborhood. Saturday, more disorienting bus riding, then Humanities Day with a full schedule of classes we could attend (keep us out of the kids' hair). Saturday night dinner at Cedars, a Mediterranean place in a shopping center that replaced the building (and many others) R and I lived in when we were first married. I told this to Charna, then realized how silly I was. She couldn't possibly care about something that probably hasn't existed for forty years.
Sunday, Renee and I went to dim sum in Chinatown with Betty, another nostalgia trip; Betty and I, and our spouses did this often. We went back to the university and hung out until it was time to go to the airport. Now it's like it never happened.