When I took this photo, I was standing at the corner of Jackson and Dearborn in downtown Chicago. It was one of those quintessential Chicago days: bright and bitterly cold. The air feels serrated, you know? I was there to visit the Monadnock Building—one of the first Chicago skyscrapers, designed by Burnham and Root in 1890. You can see it here, looming above me, all sixteen stories of bruise-colored brick. But that’s not what’s really at the center of this photo—not for me, anyway. I wanted to spend some time with this building because it’s one of my mom’s favorite buildings. She used to take me to see it when I was a child, and she’d tell me all these obscure details about how it was built. She taught me to see architecture as more than physical space: she showed me how buildings are pieces of art, with all the richness of a great painting, all the tension and complexity of a knock-out sonnet. So, she’s really at the center of this photo: that’s why I come to see this building, even just for five minutes, whenever I’m in Chicago. It returns me to that center, the enduring core of who I am. That’s what travel’s all about, isn’t it? We leave in order to come home; we set ourselves in motion in order to connect with the unmoving, unmovable parts of ourselves.

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