The bulk of my time in the high school repertory theatre group was spent painting walls or moving furniture. Infrequently used, my onstage skills were called upon only when a tottering old woman made an appearance, and then I would be covered in gray hair and handed a cane to wave wildly about. My true genius, and delight, lay in sneaking around backstage amid the created rooms and faux trees, but kept buoyant by the smattering of applause that followed my old lady spin across the stage.
Twenty years later I am still fascinated by the behind the scenes view. From my perch on the eighth floor I look out at a snow covered Millennium Park, home to Cloud Gate and the Frank Gehry designed Pritzker Pavilion, a wonderful front door to Chicago and a definite stop for all visitors. Those same people who spend Saturday wandering Michigan Avenue need to ask their taxi driver to take lower Wacker on the way to the Field Museum. A world down under, it is seedy and dirty and fascinating and, I am certain of this, full of rats. For this reason alone I am enchanted, feeling my true edgy self whenever I wander the streets below. Never on foot, my wandering is generally limited to the seemingly safe backseat of a taxi, but I peer out the window, just waiting to see a giant rat attacking a produce delivery truck. Has not yet happened, I'm optimistic. Never one to let the driver move along in silence, or chatter on his phone in a language I don't understand, I ask about the neighborhood where he lives, or where he likes to stop for lunch. Jack is convinced that all taxi drivers think I am from Iowa, in fact Jack is convinced that people the world over think I am from Iowa, and if they were to think about it, perhaps they would. Which is to then assume that all people from Iowa are madly curious and bothersome, which I doubt to be true.
Without question my favorite routes are just as worthy as the destination. On the days that I put the book down and look around the train do I find the ride most enjoyable. Enticed by what passes outside my window, I am equally interested in the woman sitting across from me plucking hair from her chin (that's not true, hair removal is infinitely more interesting than back porches). However, it's the train ride that takes me far from my north side neighborhood that really engages me. To Devon Avenue, and the shops and restaurants of India and Pakistan, or south to Chinatown, or west to Harlem and Italian markets and bakeries; what lies beyond is what draws me in.
The front of the house is spectacular but the world behind the curtain gets me every time.