July 10, 2001—Day 6, Chicago, Illinois


July 10, 2001

Chicago, Illinois, is one of those places you can never get enough of. In 2001, though, it was not the Chicago of today. Marshall Field’s was still its own breed of department stores, maintaining the senior Field’s vision of having a mini bazaar in the middle of Chicago. Lace from Ireland, Silver from France, and clothing tailored in London, Paris, and New York City was displayed for sale on the many floors of Marshall Field’s, which took up and entire city block and went eleven floors above State Street. Home furnishings, lavish walnut paneled restaurants, fountains, and decadent candy stores made shopping here an all day event. Grant Park was still working on its final Frank Gehry redesign. Trader Vic’s was serving south Pacific dishes in the basement of the Palmer House Hilton. For Kyle and I, this was a day of exploration, which involved the two of us getting lost. This was the only time we explored a city without a map.

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The Hex In Lincoln’s Tomb

Deep inside Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, stands a granite tomb built for President Abraham Lincoln. Between 1868 and 1931 the insides and contents of the tomb had constantly changed, but since 1931, when Herbert Hoover rededicated the tomb to the State of Illinois as a historic landmark, the interior of the tomb has stayed the same. By 1966 Lincoln’s Tomb was placed on the historic register of the nation, but none of these prestigious titles is what brings people to the burial site of Abraham Lincoln. No, it’s the myth more than the man that calls people to visit the tomb of the “Great Emancipator.”

Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois.

In the last couple years, Lincoln’s myth has gained, well, even more myth, with the help of movies like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer, and one can assure a resurgence in interest in the martyred President with the release of Steven Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, but Lincoln’s accurate biography and his myth both be damned. When you visit Lincoln’s Tomb, like all sites of reverence and/or history, there’s something in between the myth and the facts of a person that can be filled by each individual. For me, walking the hexagon shape of the halls within the tomb are a reminder that every museum, monument and town that bears the name of Lincoln, or celebrates the life of the slain President, elevates the actions of the man and obscures the fact that he was indeed a human being—a man with needs, wants. Continue reading

Sunset In The Tropics

The building has been abandoned for over seven years.  The Tropics used to be the area’s hottest tiki bar, built by a post-WWII vet who served double-pattied burgers, but the fad of the Atomic Era-inspired South Pacific craze quickly came and went and The Tropics went from a simple coffee shop/diner to a diner to closed.

The Tropics, Lincoln, Illinois. Continue reading

The Lonely Tall Paul in Atlanta

Atlanta, Illinois, was born of the railroad—like many towns/cities in the United States—and when the railroads went, so did Atlanta. With a population hovering around 1,600 for the past few decades, Atlanta is not a withering city, but a small town welcoming visitors with a yellow smiley face painted on their water tower. Back in 2001, I remember driving through the town and seeing nothing but empty, rotting buildings, with the exception of the grocery store on Vine Street that had no signage indicating what it was. Today that market is still there with its front glass window subtly painted with the words “Country Market,” and it’s been joined by a few businesses that have not only been revived, but have a steady (though small) flow of customers daily.

Tall Paul stands in the center of Atlanta, Illinois, across the street from The Palms Grill Cafe.

A few years ago, Atlanta started reshaping its downtown to entice Route 66ers, and when Tall Paul was planted in the middle of Main Street it provided the first of many photo-ops as well as landed Atlanta on the very small map of towns/cities home to a fiberglass Muffler Man, here known as Tall Paul.

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