All I wanted was a map of Chicago. A simple street map. That was it.
It’s not that I can’t find my way about without one. I have a GPS hand-held, a laptop computer and a cellphone. All can pull up digital maps, but none can give perspective like a big paper map. There, you can “x” important spots, get the big picture of the place. Write notes here and there. Save it as a mark-up of your trip. Admire it for its beauty.
Our version of MapQuest began yesterday, our first full day in Chicago. We have a small but expensive hotel room on the north side, in the Lakeview area. Just west of Lakeshore Drive and Lake Michigan.
It was a Sunday, a wet one at that. Heavy rain came down in spurts. Showers, I guess they’re called. How the devil would I know? I come from Arizona. Think three small rains in seven months. Along the sidewalks of Oakdale, we ducked under a few of the many towering trees and once under the roof of a parking garage in an apartment complex and stayed less than soaked in traipsing over 7.3 miles in the land mass of dark and trashy brick buildings south of Wrigley Field. Ugly but not disinteresting.
We called three nearby bookstores, even visited a gift shop, looking for a Chicago street map. No, none to be had. I was almost certain there would be maps at Powell’s, a large bookstore on Lincoln Ave. To my shock, the store was closed, out of business. “About two weeks ago,” said the cashier at a small hamburger joint where we sought shelter from Deluge No. 2.
At a gift store on Clark, the clerk directed me to some decorative maps of old Chicago. Then the light dawned. “You mean useful maps,” she asked, then led me over to another area and appeared to diligently search the shelves. Finally, she said, “I guess we’re out of them.”
We tried grocers including Treasure Island and pharmacies CVS and Walgreen. Again nothing. It’s like no one comes to the north side of Chicago who has never been here before. It’s like the young bearded guy we passed. We asked him where the nearest Starbucks was and without hesitation, “Clark and Belmont, a few blocks up on the left.”
Still, without a map, we managed to find two used-book dealers, Bookman’s Corner, and Bookworks, the latter where I purchased “The Last Days of T. E. Lawrence,” a brand new paperback marked down to $10. And we managed to find our way back to the hotel on Broadway, wend our way to supper on Saturday night at El Mariachi (Mexican) and on Sunday at PingPong (Chinese). All without a large paper street map, which, really, in some cases, can be a work of art.
Well, we may be mapless in Chicago. But we’re not clueless.