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  • Yesterday I awoke at 5:15 am. I wanted to finish my workout early so I would have time to prepare for the drive to Chicago.

    After a breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage, I showered and shaved and laid out a nice shirt, jacket and slacks for the meeting with Ilana, a friend with ties to publishing in Chicago. Due to a couple of slight delays, I was able to leave at 10 am, equipped with a cup of coffee and a printed map to my destination.

    After fueling in Peoria, I proceeded north on War Memorial Drive and followed along Illinois 116 through Metamora, Germantown Hills, and Roanoke, turned east through Benson and Flannagan to meet up with I-55N. From there it's a straight shot to Chicago, and I exited on the 292A turnoff to the Dan Ryan expressway to Ohio Street, Michigan Avenue, and Pearson Street, where the Ritz-Carlton is located. I arrived a few minutes before 1 pm.

    The drive itself is incredibly diverse. You begin in a small urban area, transit through rural towns and fields filled with country folk or commuters, depending on their skills. This time of year, the corn fields are filled with yellowing stalks ready to be harvested and the soybeans are beginning to yellow, giving the land a sort of golden glow in the filtered sunlight from an autumn day. There are so many contrasts in the buildings you encounter. Modern, eco-friendly brick structures embedded into the surrounding earth with solar panels and windmills alongside barns and multi-story houses in various states of decay and even disuse. The new replaces the old, and the future comes to us whether we like it or not.

    Surprisingly, the outskirts of Chicago have not changed since the last time I was there. While I did see a little indication of the continuing urban sprawl, it was not as pronounced as I thought it would be. The traffic was a bit more than I remembered, but I suppose that is to be expected in any metropolitan area.

    The streets of Chicago have certainly not changed, hoards of pedestrian traffic in various styles of dress scurrying to and fro in pursuit of myriad agendas. Black stockings seem to be in vogue for the younger office workers, or perhaps it is the season that requires the darker and somewhat heavier protection from the weather beneath the plaid and pleated skirts of the young ladies. Baseball caps and t-shirts on tourists are like a beacon to indicate their fascination with the city itself, as they are almost constantly looking up and about with puzzled looks on their faces. Businessmen in suits are a common sight, and the colors indicate the seriousness of their professions. Lawyers and Doctors in smooth blues and blacks, Marketers and others in shades of brown or leisurely sports coats, all with multi-colored ties and smart phones constantly to their ears.

    The valets at the Ritz-Carlton are exceptional in their appearance and courtesy, apparently well groomed to make the experience of staying their pleasant from your arrival. I proceeded to the 12th floor where their extraordinary restaurant, deca, offers not only incredible cuisine, but a marvelous view of the city from the terrace. Since Ilana was not in sight, I gave her a call and learned she and Katlyn, the teacher who is interested in my book on the Psalms, were a few minutes away. I took a seat in the lobby across from the elevators to wait.

    Even the lobby is impressive, with beige marble walls and elegant gray marble floors extending to a huge fountain just outside the open seating area of the restaurant. Several contemporary paintings line the walls, and the furnishings are a revival version of the post modern era, featuring brocade materials and lots of exposed dark woods. The tables are glass supported by gilt legs and give you the impression of being in the anteroom of a museum instead of restaurant. The lighting is impressively subdued and intimate, so that you are comfortable in any area.

    Ilana and Katlyn arrived and we were immediately shown to our table by a very cordial maitre de who fawned just the right amount of attention on Ilana, who is a frequent client. Our server, Emad, a portly and distinguished gentleman with impeccable grooming, quickly came to the table to get our drink orders and place our menus, then returned in minutes with my coffee and wine for the ladies. I was offered a glass and refused, as I never drink when I am driving, especially on such a long journey.

    The remainder of the next two hours was spent in pleasant conversation and discussion of the portions of the book Katlyn would like to use for her class. Ilana and I caught up after ordering our lunch, and Katlyn told me her ideas about using the Pslams for a class in biblical poetry. We agreed to begin with a selection of ten of the psalms of David which would give a breadth of the content without revealing the entire book. She believes a taste of the material will encourage the students to read more on their own, which might lead to a semester spent on the book itself. While I would prefer to see the entire book used, I agreed to edit and arrange a Student's edition for her purposes. It is a first step I am very happy to see happen.

    Wanting to avoid as much traffic as possible, I began to excuse myself at 3 o'clock and was able to depart the hotel at 3:30. The Dan Ryan was packed, of course, and it took me almost a half hour to travel the 4 miles from the Ontario Avenue on ramp to I-55 south. But once there, I was surprised to find the traffic flowing nicely. The only obstruction was some construction work about an hour south of the city that restricted the traffic to two lanes instead of four, but that delayed me about 10 minutes, so I was able to make a smooth transit back to Peoria, arriving about 7 pm.

    I stopped by the local liquor store to pick up a bottle of Scotch, then drove to the house. Olivia was up in arms, wondering where I had been and doing her little Happy Dance for me to pick her up and pet her, which I did. Part of it was put on, I know, since I had arranged for Brittni to “dog-sit” and I am sure she received plenty of attention while I was gone. Still, it's nice to know you are missed, even if it is only for the day.

    I changed out of my jacket and into some comfortable clothes, prepared a light meal, read a bit more of Baigent's “The Jesus Papers”, and relaxed from my long drive over a glass of Scotch and my repast. At 9 pm it was time for me to join my friends on IMVU, and I retired at midnight. After a day of driving, it felt very good to lie down in my familiar bed.

    The alarm went off at 8 am this morning, a bit later than usual, but I felt I deserved a bit more sleep after the drive. I'm off to do some chores, accomplish a workout, and begin editing my book for the students. A most productive and interesting day, I think. Or should I say two days?

    I hope your days are blessed.

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