Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sens. Durbin & Douglas

Sen. Dick Durbin may be distinguished as a Senator but I'm afraid his countenance isn't all that distinctive. Put him in a board room or mid- to upper-level manager's office in just about any kind of business that uses offices, and he'd fit right in. But his business happens to be governing, and I'd say he's reached upper management -- he is the Majority Whip, after all.

I'm not the sort of man who will ever have an office littered with awards and decorated by photos of me with various luminaries. For one thing, the most recent award I won was in 1983. For another, if a luminary is at hand, I'm more inclined to take a picture rather than be in it. This is Sen. Durbin and Joanna, the PR woman who invited me to the breakfast at the Halsted Pershing Business Center.

The property is on the South Side of Chicago, near the site of the former Union Stockyards. When mapping out my route to the place (no GPS for me), I noticed that the Stephen A. Douglas Tomb and Memorial wasn't all that far away. So after shaking hands with one US Senator from Illinois, I went to pay my respects to another, one with a more distinctive look about him. Or maybe that's just the 19th-century tailoring and hairstyle.

The tomb sits on a square of land right at the end of 35th Street, or perhaps the beginning. When the street plays out, a footbridge crosses Metra commuter rail lines and Lake Shore Drive to the parkland along Lake Michigan. If it had been a little warmer, I might have crossed the bridge, but a chilly wind had followed the rain, so I took a look at the tomb. This is its base, looking about as 19th century as Sen. Douglas.

There's a statue of the Little Giant atop the tomb, but it's impossible to get a good look at it without binoculars. "A larger-than-life bronze figure perches ninety-six feet in the air surveying Lake Michigan -- or preparing to dive in, according to more than one critic," says the AIA Guide to Chicago. "To offset the height, sculptor [Leonard] Volk placed allegorical figures on freestanding plinths around the vault that contains Douglas's sarcophagus. The grounds were intended for Douglas's own elegant home."

To take a picture of the upper part of the monument, I had to leave the grounds and go across the street, but it's still a distant figure. I also wondered why Sen. Douglas faces east, considering his advocacy of westward expansion. Then again, maybe he's having second thoughts about the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

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At 5:29 PM, Blogger Geof Huth said...

Ah, the Merrill Moore Award. I think that was my most important one, thus far (and probably into the future).



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