So to elaborate on the esoteric reference in yesterday's post, I will give a brief explanation of where I currently am and why.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Mission: To help mentor and tutor inner-city kids in basic academics and to encourage character formation: good habits, acquisition of good goals and virtues, etc. I'm doing it through a program associated with Opus Dei.
However, I won't discuss that much because it's work and people's privacy is involved and all that. Rather I'll focus my attention on jotting down some impressions of the "Windy City" (which actually is very windy just now, though the city was nicknamed that not in reference to gusty weather conditions, but to loquacious politicians). Not that I'll be writing a lot. As usual, the vast majority of my time will probably be occupied, partly by the program, partly by the fun evening activities we counselors will be doing as a group.
I must say, it strikes me as a very nice city. Other than Boston, I haven't had much contact with American cities, and this is nothing at all like Boston or anything I encountered in Europe. It has a pronounced skyscraper skyline, a forest of surprisingly aesthetically pleasing buildings towering hundreds of feet above you. It's a clean city, especially compared to Rome which, like most Italian cities, has the less-charming side of being rather filthy. And like Syracuse, NY, my mom's childhood homebase, it has a multitude of small ethnic neighborhoods with lots of good ethnic food and families who have lived in the same area since their grandparents got off the boat.
This night we went to get Italian ice (something unknown in Italy, as far as I remember) in the Italian quarter. The place was this tiny family-owned shop tucked at the corner of a row of rather nice apartment buildings. "Mario's" it's called, and the real Mario himself came out and regaled us with a long story about how his dad started him in the business - making lemonade and selling it for 5 cents a cup on the sidewalk - when he was six because he was too hyperactive in school. He proudly told us of his refusal to use computers, palm pilots, calculators, or anything remotely technological (he keeps his accounts on a cardboard box because it doesn't get lost like small scraps of paper do), and his even more vigorous refusal to make it into a franchise, despite his kids' solicitations. What made the tales he spun especially entertaining was the classic Italian American accent he told them all in - all in all, it seemed like he could have stepped right out of the movies (some of which - he said - were supposed to include his stand, but whose directors were firmly turned down when they wouldn't let his own workers stand in as the Italian ice sellers in the movie).