The Zoo, The Water, The Circle and Back

A couple days ago, I took some time to visit Lincoln Park and Lakeview East just out of curiosity.  My initial interest sprouted from hearing about the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is right up my alley.  However, upon arriving in the area, I immediately knew I was going to explore more than just the zoo and park.  I understand that maybe I was supposed to find a story of someone else’s, but after reflecting on the day, I realized that I had the perfect experience for a quaint story about myself.

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This was my first time going to this side of town, so transportation and navigation would prove to be a tad difficult.  My day started off with me going to the wrong train station; I was supposed to take the red line train from the Harrison station to Clark and Division, but due to having my longboard with me, my instincts told me to go to the LaSalle blue line station.  So I rode one stop to Jackson, switched to the red line, and was on my way. Upon arriving at Clark and Division, I spent about twenty minutes simply trying to find the right bus stop, which was SUPPOSED to be right across the street, but my relying on my Maps app led me to believe I was a three-minute walk away.  I ended up saying “screw it,” and ordered an Uber to the zoo.  During the ride, I kept my eyes glued out the window as I normally do in car rides.  It was an overcast, autumn afternoon, and I was pleased to see that the area resembled some areas of my home, Washington D.C., and even Boston, two places where I have some of my fondest memories.  It was a mix of brownstone shops, townhouses, out-dated apartment complexes; quaint restaurants, coffee and donut shops,  Lincoln park itself, and the waterfront that felt so new but so familiar to me.  It’s one of those sensations that’s hard to explain, but can only be empathized.

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I went to the zoo and was surprised to find that it was a lot more impressive than I thought it would be.  Immediately upon entering they have seal, lion, and tiger enclosures open in the front.  We’ve all been to zoos, so we know what the process of walking around one is like, but the part of my visit that was most special to me, was seeing a lioness sitting atop of a rock staring right back at me.  Never, in 18 years of my life, have I ever gone to a zoo and had one of the animals acknowledge me; up until then it had been a one-sided affair.  She was an absolutely beautiful lion, and watching her reminded me of my childhood love for zoology, but didn’t fail to also remind me that it was probably too cold for them to have the lions in their outdoor enclosure.  Other than that, the zoo was pretty standard, and isn’t as big as what I’m used to.  This was completely find with me, since it gave me more time to go on and explore the surrounding area.

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The rest of my time was spent skating and walking around the town, simply exploring. I skated around the perimeter of the park, secretly racing the cars speeding past on the street, and enjoying the twists, turns, tunnels  and slopes of the walkways.  I then noticed that I was right by the waterfront and proceeded to skate on the dock right by the water.  It was pretty windy, and waves were constantly breaking over the dock walkway, so I uncomfortably continued to skate all the way to the end of the dock. The overcast made the lake appear agitated and ominous, and it’s far stretch always makes it appear as an ocean to me.  At the end of the dock I turned around to head back to the main street, when I saw that I had one of the best views of the Chicago skyline I had seen since moving here.  I snapped pictures and videos of my time on the dock, and made my way back to the main street.  After skating for about an hour, I unsurprisingly worked up an appetite.  I skated from the waterfront to Clark Street, where I walked several blocks observing all of the shops and restaurants, praying that one of them would be accommodating to the seven dollars I had on me.  I walked several blocks down and came across this minuscule hotdog place.  The only thing more out-of-place than this place was this brand new, modernized, townhouse-apartment=brownstone combo Target a block over.  I went into the hotdog spot, known as The Wiener Circle, and was greeted by the smell of grease and the warm welcoming voice of the first black person I had seen in the area all day.  After, nice hospitality, and a god-like cheddardog, it was time for me to head back to the Loop.  This time, I had a much easier time making it back to the train station.

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When it comes to these dispatch assignments, I truly struggle to find what we’re supposed to be looking for.  We’re supposed to leave the South Loop and explore new areas, but for someone like me who is still a relatively recent move-in, all of Chicago is still new to me, even some parts of our beloved Loop. I’m sure I have to been to a couple further areas, but this most recent excursion turned out to be a lot more enriching than I initially thought, and maybe more enriching than outsiders can understand. (Armand Rome/CoS Student)

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