I first visited Chicago in 2001. It was December, and it was cold. I was working for an event planning group and we had a show the early part of that month. I was also 5 months pregnant.
If you don’t know, McCormick Place is huge! Our show was there and it was tiny in comparison to some of the major shows that McCormick hosts. We did a lot of walking (and running) and the show went pretty well – but that’s a story for … uhhhh … never. I will say this: Chicago was the first and last place I ever got yelled at for putting a hook on a grid wall. Apparently, there’s a picture hanging union in Chicago and I had overstepped. I apologized and all was forgiven, but man, it was eye-opening for me, coming from a place where unions aren’t as big a part of life.
I digress. After the show, I stayed in town for a couple of days with my work friend and we were able to see the sights. We’d had an event at the Field Museum (in the atrium, and Sue was right there!), so I’d gotten to see that and we’d had another event at the Adler Planetarium, so I’d been there, but what we really wanted to see was the van Gogh exhibit at the Art Institute.
We got up bright and early to get to the Institute and worked our way through the exhibit, which culminated in a tiny room where The Starry Night was the only item on display (I think). We got in the room along with what felt like 200 of our closest friends and suddenly the temperature felt like it had climbed to about a million degrees. I worked my way to the back of the room trying to find cooler air (remember – 5 months pregnant) and suddenly my vision started to go dark. I think I may have called out my friends name, but it gets a little fuzzy. The next thing I really remember is sitting on a bench in one of the main exhibits with my head between my knees.
I joke now that The Starry Night was so amazing it made me pass out. Interesting sidenote: the child I was pregnant with is now almost 16 and my most artistic child. Coincidence?
The point is that I fell in love with Chicago on this trip. The history, the art, the architecture, the vibrancy of the city. I am a self-professed country girl, but Chicago is the one city that I would visit over and over. I put Chicago over New York. Every time.
I was really captured, like I think so many people are, by the mystery and tragedy of the Great Chicago Fire. It wasn’t until a decade and a half later and multiple visits to Chicago, that I decided to make that event the backdrop to book two of The Star of Time Series – The Star of Fire.