Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Chicago Landmarks Quest, An Introduction

About a week after the Unemployment came, I was in the Loop killing some time between a trip to the dentist and lunch with a few friends. I took a walk through the Chicago Cultural Center and passed through one gallery, which featured "Chicago Landmarks Before the Lens," a collection of simple photographs of some of Chicago's landmark buildings. At the end of the gallery, there was a stack of maps of the 277 Chicago Landmark structures. I took one, opened it up, and I immediately knew what to do.

I would visit each of the 277 landmarks. Preferably by foot. It is a project that suits me perfectly. I like buildings. I like exploring. I like Chicago. And more than anything, I love creating a check-list and checking things off of it. Here was a ready-made list of 277 to-do's.

At the time, I was reading City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America, about Chicago in the 1800's. The book discusses the lives of a number of early prominent settlers. I was struck that many of them shared the hobby of walking the city, especially during periods when business was slow. It seemed to be an act that allowed them to learn the geography and people of city intimately, something that bonded each of them to Chicago. While I'd been in Chicago for about 7 months, I had not seen much of the city, outside of my daily commuting. Here was the impetus to get out and see the city, and see the parts and points of it that one might miss.


A blog is essentially an exercise in boredom. Bored people create blogs, then bored people read them. Having recently achieved that nirvana state of boredom that we call Unemployment, there was no choice but for me to channel my boredom into creating a chronicle of my boredom.

So. What does one do when one has nothing to do? (Other than start a blog, of course) We so often pine for the freedom to do whatever we want, yet now that I am in a position nearing true freedom, I struggle to find things to fill my day. I read, I philosophize, I bike and walk and do errands. But much of the clarity of purpose is missing. Before, I was Architect. What to do with my days was simple. Go to office. Build buildings. Eat. Sleep. While I miss the structure and simplicity that employment offered in retrospect, I have stumbled upon a real challenge: what do I want to do? Not in a big, overarching sense. In time, the economy will improve and I will resume my career.

The question of what to do is of a more immediate nature. I have, relatively speaking, complete freedom. I am compelled to do virtually nothing. My basic needs are covered. I have financial security (a byproduct of a lifetime of cheapness), but I don't have the budget for big undertakings. So, with the city of Chicago utterly accessible to me with my feet, bicycle, and CTA Card, I ask myself, "Self, what shall we do?"

As I answer this question, each day, I hope to find answers that alleviate my boredom. With any luck the answers I find will be of enrichment and interest to me and, by extension, the readers of this blog. Hopefully, my quest to alleviate my boredom will alleviate yours.