Recently my family and I flew from Los Angeles to Chicago, the Windy City. The purpose was to visit the city we once lived many years ago. So it was a walk down the memory lane, an attempt to reignite our fond and bitter memories of the city.
Winter in Chicago is characterized by bitter cold with a wind-chill factor that sometimes drops to minus 70 degree Fahrenheit. I for one would not wish to experience it again. Once was enough; I had my share of cold during my stay in Chicago. When the wind blew, it slapped my face making me numb. But people tolerate it with the anticipation of pleasant days ahead. Spring through fall is a beautiful time of year in Chicago. That is why we chose the month of August to visit. It is also the time when the famous annual music festival called Lollapalooza is held. The three day event is believed to have attended, according to reports, by a million people, mostly youngsters, from all over the country, including Natasha, President Obama’s daughter.
Architecturally and culturally, Chicago is exciting. It has good public transportation; the city can be reached by the subway and the bus systems. But in spite of the good public transportation system, many people in Chicago have cars. It seems Americans have a love affair with the automobile. I too as a student who really didn’t need a car, had one in keeping with the American tradition, until one day the engine fell off in the Expressway. When the car died I bought yet another used car, a better one this time, which lasted for five years. In cities where snow falls, a car’s life is shortened by the salt the city municipality uses to melt the snow away.
I was a Ph.D. student at The University of Chicago and my family and I lived in Hyde Park, a university town. I used to walk to campus every day to attend my classes. I remember falling on the icy sidewalk. That indeed wasn’t a pleasant experience, not to mention the embarrassment one feels from the spectators. When that happened I would question why on earth I was there of all the places in America.
Taking the family to public parks and museums during the weekends was the usual fare. Leepi, our daughter, who was four years old, still has faint memories of the celebrated exhibition that came to Chicago. It was the King Tut show. Thousands of people came from all over the country to see the rare artifacts. My family and I were lucky to see the show on the very first week of its opening because I was a graduate student at The University of Chicago and had received special passes from the museum.

Graduate students are considered financially poor. I was no exception. I had a partial tuition fellowship which was not enough to pay for the rent and buy food. Although I was a full-time student, I held a part-time job. My wife, on the other hand, had a full-time job. Between the two of us, we ran the household with a car on the side.
Although we had traveled and seen much of Chicago, we had not taken the riverboat ride to admire various monuments in the city. Neither had we stayed in a five-star hotel. So we went back to the city as tourists and did everything that a tourist does—stayed at a lake-front hotel, took a ride on the giant Ferris Wheel on the Navy Pier, ate at expensive restaurants, went on the architectural tour on the boat. I even went back to the campus of The University of Chicago just to see how much it has changed. Like every place else, it has changed with new buildings. But its soul appeared intact—the grandeur, the old establishment of American academy was all there to be seen.
It was a trip that was worth remembering. My family—especially the young ones—enjoyed it very much. That was something money could not buy.