The day sticks in my mind because it was Dec. 31, 1999 – as in the final day of the past century (the one in which my own life feels predominantly a part of, no matter how long I live into the 21st Century). It also was the end of the old millennium, and there’s just no way I’m going to continue to exist into the years 3000.
I REMEMBER WALKING around the city around Michigan Avenue where it intersects with Chicago Avenue. I remember trying to take in the sights of everything at that was around me – almost as though the coming of a new millennium would bring about new things and I’d want to forever remember what Chicago had evolved into at that point in time.
Heck, my own strongest memory from that date is of checking out the Water Tower Building while bearing with the winter chill (it was late December, after all), and recalling the childhood stories about how it was the lone structure to survive the Great Fire of 1871.
Thinking to myself that there was a certain grandeur to our home city that had developed throughout the years – and also wondering how long would it all last before Chicago changed even further with the passage of time.
Just as I’m sure someone from the mid-19th Century Chicago wouldn’t recognize much of anything that exists now, I wonder how much it will all continue to change into a something that won’t be the least bit relevant to me or the lives of my contemporaries.IN FACT, WHAT I find myself thinking every time I come into the downtown area these days is just how much the city resembles the mental picture I took that day – and just how much new stuff has developed throughout the passing years.
For while it feels like that date of my mental picture could have come about just days ago, the reality is that we are now about to move 19 years into this current century -- which, of course, was supposed to be the end of civilization as we knew it (remember all the computers crashing that was supposed to occur?).
We actually have a generation of people now developing into fully-productive adults who are entirely products of the 21st Century. I have two nieces who fall into that category, and often think to myself they don’t know what they missed by not being around in the 20th Century.Although both of them would be the first to snap back with a sarcastic retort about how out-of-touch and old fogeyish I come across with such thoughts.
SO NOW, WE’RE about to approach the end of this century’s second decade. The coming of a new year that shows just how time continues to fly by – and my own thoughts turn to wondering at times just how much longer I will have to continue to exist.
And just how much more will things change to the point where I won’t recognize that toddlin’ town I call my home; either because of continuing construction and development, or the advancement of senility (if not both).
Not that all change is bad. I find myself wandering through Millennium Park from time to time and enjoying the spectacle of it all, while also gagging every time I see that monstrosity of a structure that Donald Trump felt compelled to erect in our city back in his real estate developer days. One that actually has me missing the tugboat-like structure the Chicago Sun-Times once called its home.Of course, there’s one aspect of this ongoing change that does bring me a tiny bit of comfort. It’s knowing that even the most annoying and obnoxious of aspects about our city are not forever – even the Trump Tower will someday be just a tacky, bad memory.