If the State of Illinois wore a bejeweled crown on it scalp’s northeastern side, then one of the diadem’s most glittering gems would assuredly be Chicago’s Navy Pier, constructed in 1916 under the masterful eye of architect and city planner Daniel Burnham. Debuting as a convenient dock for lake freighters to unburden themselves of cargo, it underwent a tonal change in 1946, when it was reinvented as a naval training center. Now in its latest act, it operates as a City Mall-cum- Amusement Park showcasing more than three dozen shops and restaurants, a 150’ Ferris Wheel, a resident theater company, and the annual return of a the superhuman performance troupe, Cirque Shanghai. It is the City of Big Shoulders’ Number One tourist attraction, continually reinventing itself in order to steal the valuable attention of sightseers.
To consider Chicago tourism is to mull over the city’s decades-long offerings. From the ear-popping elevator ride up the Willis Tower’s 110 floors to the earthbound bus tours that explore the legend of famous gangster Al Capone, the town’s vigorous tourist industry has always existed, even in the ‘80’s, when a young French girl won Spiaggia maitre d’ Chris Lister’s admiration with an unexpected show of derring-do.
“I couldn’t tell if it was a family or not,” he began,” but they were very rich and stylish, and had a little girl with them. I couldn’t seat them, because she was wearing denim.”
Denim- or, in other words, blue jeans- was the height of casual fashion in the mid-to-late ‘80’s, whether worn cut off, cuffed or stone-washed. Because of the material’s unfussy nature, Spiaggia’s formal dining room disallowed it. Explaining the policy to the family as clearly as he could while the elder French wildly gesticulated and pointed at the little girl’s mode of apparel, Chris witnessed the scene’s denouement.
“Finally, the little girl looked at me and said,’ No problem’. She reached behind her, unzipped the skirt, and stepped out of it. Underneath she was wearing satin camisole pants.
“She handed the skirt to me with her fingers like this,” Chris said, pressing imagined side seams between the gaps between his opposing thumbs and indices,” and said,’ Merci. Coat Check?’
“If I could,” he smiled reminiscently,” I would have given her the window. She deserved it.”