Take a look at this monument. If you sort of recognize it but can't quite place why, let me be of some assistance.
It is the monument featured in Ferris Bueller's Day Off during probably the most famous scene from the movie. Of course it is just in the background but to anyone that loves that movie, it is recognizable. And yes, that picture above is one that was taken in person. It was in the middle of the night, in a somewhat deserted area of Chicago during late fall when my friend snapped it and I bounced around like little girl.
There are often things that we go back to in our adult life that, upon reflection, had a lot of influence on who we were to become. I first watched Ferris Bueller when I was tiny. Sitting on an old blue patched sofa, the wallpaper surrounding me fuzzy and green (not even kidding), my brother put in the then VHS for us to watch while both my mom and dad were out on a job. I couldn't have been any more than seven or eight. I remember watching it and feeling grown up because here was a movie that not only my older brother found to be good, but it used words that I was not allowed to say. There's something always a bit decadent about that as a small child. I was taken into this inner sanctum where my cool teenage brother dwelled, and furthermore, there was a lack of parental supervision around to stop the movie if it crossed lines that a young child should not be privy to. Ferris Bueller, when I was that age, was my sneak peak into the adult world.
Now, it has of course remained one of my favorite movies to date. I don't watch it all that frequently but there is something about this film that has always stayed close to me. Maybe it's the fact that Ferris lives in a world of his making and is able to defy the conventions that normal society wants to place upon him. Or maybe it's the fact that I found Matthew Broderick extremely attractive. I don't know.
I was in Chicago during the fall of 2012 on two separate occasions. A friend of mine who has known me almost as long as I have been alive, had moved there the previous year. Since Chicago was on my bucket list, and this girl is practically a sister to me, there was no doubt in my mind that I would make my way over there. Now, despite my avid love for this movie, it didn't even occur to me that most of it was filmed in Chicago. I think I was so excited over the fact that I was in a city that was filled with iconic brick houses and brewed the most perfect cup of coffee I've ever had, that I didn't make the connection. Not until we were down by Navy Pier, talking about going to the Sears Tower (or Willis Tower if you want), did I think of it. The fact that the DVD for the movie was on sale in a gift shop may have turned the light bulb on in my little nerd brain.
As the sun was setting over Chicago, my friend and I made our way to Sears Tower. There's something about cities at night that appeal to the writer in me. There’s more of a chance for heroes to lurk in the darkness here, slipping down alleyways, unseen by the general populace. And in a city like Chicago, with the history that it has, ghosts lurk in the dark corners of this world, running their fingers across brick and steal that will be here long after we are all gone. I've been in a lot of cities in the middle of the night but Chicago tops them all. It's the place where stories are made, where hearts are broken, and where if you close your eyes, the sounds and smells of the twenties can almost be grasped. Men in nice suites and fedoras walk those streets when your eyes are closed, tommy guns in hand.
Also, I know, my sense of theatrics or romanticism is a bit off. You don't have to tell me.
The city had gone dark by the time we climbed Sears Tower, where we of course, leaned our heads against the side of the glass partition and looked down. You can't be in Sears Tower without doing that and the smudge marks that lined the windows at forehead height, told that story very well.
Looking out over this city at night I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the sheer presence that pulsed through the air. The city itself was so full of hope, passion, culture, death, destruction and gritty realism that every light that flickered before me seemed like a little piece of the world working in tandem with each other to create this beautiful array of life. It's a feeling that never ceases to grow old and each time I'm faced with it my heart flutters in what I can only describe as the moments following three triple shots of espresso on two hours of sleep. Not that I've done that but I hear that its like your heart wants to leap from your chest and maybe do a small dance across the floor.
Either way, Chicago is beautifully dangerous and messy at night and is easily a city that tempts you into becoming lost in its strange and eerie depths.
I don’t know how long we spent in the tower, over looking the city and creating a mental snapshot to take home with us one day. But as we left, we were full of excitement and full of energy and life that we just wanted to breathe back into the world. It was then that we began our epic quest to find that statue. In a evening spent retracing Ferris's steps, how could we not?
I will gloss over the fact that we thought we found it at one point and how when we finally realized, upon stumbling over the actual structure, that we had not, we felt foolish and slightly high on our ability to convince ourselves of anything. But, we did eventually find that iconic red structure, lit up in the middle of the night, standing strong and proud in the middle of an empty expanse of concrete. I may have let out a cry that was unbecoming of someone who is supposed to be a woman, and then promptly ran to the structure to give it a hug. I think we called and texted everyone we knew that night, telling them in breathless excitement where we were and what we were seeing. For one moment, my friend and I were transformed back into little girls. We were the two children that had grown up in the middle of the country, running around fields and pretending to surf on hills, now dancing around the city streets of Chicago under the watchful eyes of the street lamps that served as stars.
Since coming home, I've watched Ferris Bueller again. It provoked a wave of nostalgia in me, even though I had only been absent from that city four a few months. As I continued to watch the movie, I had to laugh. This movie that was created before I was even born, that was watched a few times during the early days of my childhood, apparently had an undeniable influence on the person I am today. My penchant for dark haired boys in jeans and a white t-shirt was suddenly explained (though, maybe my love for it came first and it is the reason why I love the movie?), my later love for all things Beatles suddenly had more roots, and my undeniable urge to visit Chicago, even though I knew absolutely nothing about the city, was all playing out before my eyes. Not to mention the fact that Ferris's world is the type of world we all wish we could inhabit, at least for a day. I feel like I am constantly chasing that type of day, experiencing it when I can, and realizing how fast it moves by when the day comes to a close.
For, in the famous words of our dear Ferris “Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop a look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Photo of the monument is courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/97205176@N06/