It is interesting how a visitor can come to your hometown and bring such new information! It may not be unusual because the tourist has hit the books and knows exactly what he or she is looking for; whereas, the locals trudge right pass unknown treasures everyday.
To that point, a friend and I stopped to ask several locals for the MLK Memorial in Atlanta and we were shocked when several hunched their shoulders as if to say, “I dunno.” After a while, it became both comical and mostly tragic and we found the humor in it rather than burst into tears. That was in the late 70’s.
But, I digress. This is about Brian Doyle’s book Chicago which I recently finished and relished. A lot of places were familiar but I had to admit that he gave me several lessons though this has been a home base for many moons. Doyle came here for five seasons right after graduating from Notre Dame. He wrote for a magazine and it was his task to find stories about everyday people.
Yes, I will ashamedly admit that Mr. Doyle had to tell me that Lincoln Park, which I have visited trillions of times was named for Abraham Lincoln. Maybe I knew it some point. I knew that the streets in the Loop are named for the US Presidents, but I guess the fact that the parks were named for them escaped me.
And that mighty Grant Park is named for Ulysses S. Grant and our beloved Jackson Park for Andrew Jackson. I think I recently recall that Washington Park was named for George Washington because of the recent statue controversy.
In some aspects, I am just as guilty as those people were in Atlanta on that sunny day. In our busy, rapid lives, we rush right by these monuments as we hurry to catch a bus or wave down a taxi. We miss so much!
This book, Chicago, took me up and down so many traveled roads He added the love and cohesion of community, the importance of the generosity of spirit and the role of writers who help keep it real when people get lost in the shuffle. Doyle reminded us of the beauty of storytelling and how those stories keep us going as we remember past events.
And lastly, Brian Doyle talked about the name of Chicago which came from the Potawatomi Native Americans. Chicagouate or chicagoua was a form of garlic/onion which grew in abundance to where they say the river poured into the lake. Further research revealed the Native Americans only traded with their kin. Thus, Jean Point Baptist Dusable married a Potawatomi woman and was then able to participant in trading. It has been written that she was ‘crucial to his success.’
Chicago recently renamed Lake Shore Drive to Jean Baptiste Point Dusable Lake Shore Drive. Yes, it is a mouth full, but it seeks to get the historical facts somewhat straight. What we do know is the trade industry gained traction from the point where the Chicago River empties into Lake Michigan. And the rest, as they say, is history. Many thanks to Mr. Doyle who left us too soon, but whose words and good works shall remain.
October 23, 2021