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Minding the Gap

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How I Found My Zen

Minding the Gap

Zen on the Cheap …

Illustration by Jason Schneider

The Loop is a great place to develop an anxiety disorder, which I did two years ago, having worked there, daily, for five years. There’s a sense of loneliness that accompanies subsisting among skyscrapers: the omnipresent emptiness of monuments to capitalism combined with the lingering panic that everyone has some place to be and, yes, we’re in each other’s way. It’s why I came up with a routine that allows me a pace more in line with my raised-in-the-forest heartbeat: I walk, slowly, across Chicago’s bridges.

It’s not about being Baudelaire’s flâneur — unlike Parisians, we Chicagoans have places to fucking be. It’s just a few transcendent moments to remind myself why I choose to live here. On my way home to East Garfield Park, the Lake Street Bridge acts as an airlock between the world of frantic conference calls and my neighborhood block, slow and familiar. It’s not a border; it’s a passageway that brings a sharp temperature drop and long breezes, with views of barges, water taxis, and skyline, all at once.

In this segue I’ve picked up tidbits from tour docents (the Reid-Murdoch clock tower was once the only way workers had to keep time since watches were too expensive). And I’ve chatted with tourists after they trusted me with their cellphone cameras, letting them know that, no, McCormick & Schmick’s is not a great restaurant. For me, the bridge is a therapeutic construction, a literal object of connection, linking not just riverbank to riverbank, but us to one another. On our bridges we become less alone.

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