Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Outside Myself

My In-Laws lead a very insular life. They rarely leave their small, rural Georgia town. When they do, they set out for the same destination, they take the same route to get there and they stay at the same hotel. Every time.

The road less travelled is not the least bit attractive to them, literally, or figuratively.

I understand being a creature of habit. And I understand becoming entrenched. We all have our comfort zone; a place that we feel completely safe and utterly content, a place where existing from day to day requires little thought or effort because the details are so deeply imprinted.

But what I don't understand is never hungering to see new places and things. To hear the beautiful cadence of a foreign language, so seductive in it's secrecy. To lay eyes upon sights of fantastic alien beauty. To walk where kings, and heroes and poets and philosophers have walked. To do and eat and live as someone else.

I don't understand never wanting to step outside one's self.

Do I get nervous when I'm in a strange place? Sure I do. I worry about getting lost, looking stupid, being mugged. I worry about getting sick or hurt away from home. I worry about the sinister underbelly of places unknown. But I decided a long time ago that I would not let that stop me from discovering the world. There is too much to learn and too little time in this life to let myself be impotent and afraid.

AND....I want my children to inherit a love of adventure and discovery. I want them to yearn for things unknown. I want them to not be afraid. I want experiencing new things to be as habitual as tying their shoes. If I want that for them, then I must be the very model of fearlessness.

This past weekend I discovered a lot. Chicago isn't a terribly exoctic location, and, since I also live in a big city, it wasn't an experience terribly removed from the boundaries of my own life. But it was a different city, with a different rhythm, and a different flavor. It was delicious.

I wrote about some of it yesterday, but I want to share this lovely little place that became, for three days, a literal home away from home.

Newport House Chicago

We stayed in a three story historical home in the Lakeview district. It was built in 1903, and though painstakingly restored and maintained, has retained all of the beauty and character that one expects from such a dwelling.

The house was warm and welcoming and I felt instantly at ease there. But what made it so special were all the little touches that you just don't get from a hotel, even a fancy schmancy one.

Teri Smith, who owns this house and two others in the same neighborhood, and who happens to live on the top floor of Newport House, decorated the home herself, and also added a myriad of details that made it all the more comfortable. Every amenity was provided, every need was seen to. From the pillows on the beds to the fripperies in the bathrooms, it was clear that Teri put an enormous amount of thought into making her guests feel comfortable.

First of all, she let us check in early, as two of us arrived well before the pre-assigned check in time. When I called from the airport to ask if we could come on over, she didn't hesistate, "Absolutely!" she chirped, "But then I will have to kick you out for a little while so the maid can finish."

This may not seem like a particularly big deal, but I can tell you that if you've ever had to sleep in the lobby of a Paris hotel after a transcontintal flight on which you got no sleep because a loud obnoxious British woman was having a tete a tete with the passengers directly in front of you....well...let's just say it was a relief.

When we arrived, enormously glad not to have spent hours at the airport, her paramour Paul greeted us warmly, handed us the keys and the garage door opener, explained the neighborhood parking policies, and then directed us to an area only several blocks away where we could get some much needed food and refreshments.

When we returned, we found a basket on the kitchen counter with pancake batter, syrup, bagels and assorted other munchables. A peek into the fridge revealed another basket stocked with bacon, eggs, milk, orange juice, smoked salmon, fresh tomatoes, zucchini and cream.

From there, it only got better. The house truly had everything we needed. We could have stayed comfortably ensconced in the guesthouse the entire weekend and wanted for nothing.

And I have to say that Teri herself was part of what made our experience so enjoyable. She acted as travel agent, tour guide and hostess for our weekend. She was happy to answer questions and talk about all the wonderful things the neighborhood had to offer.

One night, when we were exhausted from walking around the city and could do nothing but lounge about sipping wine and eating cheese and other goodies from the local farmer's market, she came down to help us with a problem (we had gotten locked out earlier, but really, were just too stupid to use the door properly) and stayed to indulge in some girl talk with us.

She was funny and irreverent and thoroughly entertaining. She told all kinds of stories about the city, the neighborhood, and her experiences with "presences" in the many historical buildings she had been associated with through the years. It only took moments for me to feel like she was an old friend, and I would venture to guess that the other girls felt the same way.

On Monday, everyone else departed pretty early, but my flight was not until 5:30. Again, Teri was kind and accomodating. Since nobody was checking in until the following day, she implored me to stay as long as I needed and relaxe until it was time to leave for the airport. I had planned to just sit on the couch to watch people out of the leaded glass window and perhaps read a little.

But shortly after noon, Teri and Paul showed up to do some work in one of the bathrooms, and ended up keeping me company until the cab came. We laughed, we talked, we shared our lives with one another. And when at last the time came to say good-bye, I felt as if I were parting with old friends rather than proprietors and business people.

Michigan Avenue is about a $20 cab ride away, and since there were five of us to split the cost, this is how we got around when we weren't walking. But there is an El stop mere blocks from the guesthouse, and it is convenient and accessible to almost anything.

As I said in my post yesterday, I think it's shame to visit a place and stay in a cold, bland hotel room. If you visit Chicago, you simply cannot ask for better accomodations than those that Teri and Paul provide.

I'm sure you girls that stayed at the W had a perfectly nice place to sleep. But we...we had a home away from home.


  • At 3:00 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    This left me breathless, absolutely breathless

  • At 3:20 PM, Blogger Sarah said…

    Oh, that sounds so lovely. I'd go with the cozy house every time over the huge modern hotel.

  • At 4:12 PM, Blogger Liv said…

    sounds great. and I totally identify with the old folks and traveling. I grew up to the annual phrase: "And we'll be spendin' the night in that nice New Perry Hotel..." ack!

  • At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I live in the 'burbs and so ache for city life sometimes. Perhaps this would be the best getaway for me sometime. Now, if I could only get a few girlfriends to agree to ditch the Mag Mile!

  • At 7:33 PM, Blogger Christine said…

    Sounds say the least.

    I've had a bunch of posts knocking around my brain but I haven't been able to articulate them the way I'd like. I'm thinking I might take these words of yours, "Do I get nervous when I'm in a strange place? Sure I do. I worry about getting lost, looking stupid, being mugged. I worry about getting sick or hurt away from home. I worry about the sinister underbelly of places unknown" and make them into a few travel related posts of my own. Maybe it will help get my writing juices flowing; if not, it will allow me to indulge in some good -and not so good- memories.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • At 10:27 PM, Blogger Kathy Gillen said…

    Discovering new places and letting strangers into my life, even for a few minutes is one of the greatest gifts I hope to pass on to my children. My husband and I just returned from Colorado and we stayed in a different place each night, B&Bs, lodges and hotels. One of my favorite things was stopping in a tiny, funky mountain town and walking into a yellow painted house/yoga studio because a sign said "Massage - Walk ins welcome". We had great massages, way better than any resort. You should be a travel writer!

  • At 9:41 AM, Blogger Katie said…

    What a lovely post. My partner and I had an experience much like that at a B&B in West Virginia while white-water rafting.

    On the fearless traveler note: I feel the same way. My in-laws are also pretty set in their ways. They actually haven't even been to see us because they don't really like to travel. I worry that my partner, who is like them in so many ways, will slowly meld into the couch, and I won't be able to get her out. I'm also militant about travelling now because, like you, I need need need it to be a part of my life. And when I have kids, I want it to be a part of theirs.

    Beautiful post. And of course now, I'm desperately longing to go to Chicago.

  • At 11:01 AM, Blogger Foofa said…

    That looks like a wonderful place with a great host. There really are great homes in that area! How lucky you were to find it.

  • At 11:47 AM, Blogger Ms. Skywalker said…

    Wanderlust mixed with great hospitality and alcohol.


    Sounds like you stumbled upon a piece of heaven.


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