Chicago in the Present and Williamsburg in the Past

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The Capitol, Williamsburg, Virginia

I got to sleep in my own bed two nights, which was swell but short.  On Monday, May 21, I flew to Chicago.  The Airbus dodged thunderstorms but we were able to land and not divert, as the captain cautioned, to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Zipped through pelting rain onto the suburban bus toward my destination, Evanston and Northwestern University.  The original, blue-sky plan was to meet Cousin Jim in the city for lunch, but we opted for the Sugar Bowl in downtown Des Plaines, a pleasant suburb a few miles north of O’Hare.  We got well caught up and tucked into a nice lunch, then I hopped back on the #250 bus and a quick nap at the Hilton Orrington, a nice old hotel in downtown Evanston.

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On the Northwestern University campus

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Kellogg’s new building, the Global Hub

At 4:30 my long friend Gary Doernhoefer and I met Anne Coughlan, another long pal and marketing professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.  The school had just moved into a huge and posh building close to the lake (as a senior faculty member, Anne got a water view).  Got caught up, ate and early dinner, and from 6:30 to 8:00 helped Anne’s channels course with a case that the three of us co-wrote.  Gary and I ambled back to the hotel, then out for a couple of beers and a good yak.

As happens every time I’m in the Central time zone, I woke up an hour before I intended, and was on an exercise bike in the gym at 5:15.  I had arranged breakfast back at the Sugar Bowl with a former American Airlines colleague at 9:00, so I had a lot of time.  The Transport Geek jumped on the CTA Purple Line elevated train (the “El”), riding almost to downtown, then back north and on the #250 bus to Des Plaines.  My pal Tom got the date wrong – he texted me from Hawai’i saying he thought it was Tuesday a week hence.  Tucked into a big breakfast, back onto the bus to O’Hare and flew home.

For three nights, better than two.  On Friday the 25th, Linda, granddaughter Dylan, and I hopped in the Ford and motored 150 miles south to Colonial Williamsburg.  It had been a decade since I was last there, so I was as excited as a 10-year-old.  Dylan is studying Virginia history in fourth grade, and asked for the trip instead of stuff.  We parked the car, and ambled into the 18th Century.  The place, which is run by a foundation established with support from oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, Jr., is so well done: living history, great explanations, remarkable in all ways.  We ate lunch on Duke of Gloucester Street, and walked the afternoon.  Headed back to the hotel, got our room, changed into swimsuits, and walked a block to the pool.

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Living history, literally: Fiddler, Chowning’s Tavern, and the Marquis de Lafayette

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We spent most of Saturday in the past.  First stop was the museum, with a vast collection (we barely scratched the surface) of furniture, musical instruments, and folk art.  Then we headed to the capitol, site of the first elected assembly in North America, the House of Burgesses, for a dramatic summary of Virginia’s role in declaring independence from Britain – lots of audience participation and fun.  We appreciated that the scripts had been updated to point out, for example, that in order to vote you needed to be a white, property-owning Protestant, and the no-denial discussion of whether slaves were part of the “all men are created equal” business.  After lunch, we saw some more demonstrations (kids’ games, shingle-making).

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Meeting room in the Capitol

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In the museum: an early American piano, and portrait of Virginia patriot Patrick Henry; below, folk art of varied forms and vintages (the plane was from 1994!); at bottom, a superb map from the mid-18th Century

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Last stop was the Peyton Randolph House, where a young African-American woman discussed the wealthy family and the lives of the 27 slaves who lived in and around the house.  Her no-denial explanation was welcome indeed.  We headed back to the hotel, me for a swim, Linda and Dylan to chill in the room, then to a nice dinner nearby.  Drove home Sunday morning.  A great visit, but you really need more time there to see all the cool stuff – the museum, for example, could hold my attention for a full day, and I didn’t get to see some trade demonstrations, like blacksmithing.

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In the dining room of the Peyton Randolph House

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Dylan and Linda in the museum’s hands-on section on toy-making, using buttons and wood bobbins

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