Yesterday, I arrived in Chicago a day early for the Independent Book Publishers Assoc. (IBPA) annual conference. I had some time to waste so I decided to take an architectural and historical riverboat tour through the city. It turned out that the tour was likely going to be the most important part of my whole weekend...
It was cold and windy in the city, but I decided to take the boat cruise anyways since I knew absolutely nothing about Chicago. With great anticipation, I walked down to the old pier and boarded the small riverboat operated by Chicago Line cruises.
The tour guide was incredible, an animated lady bubbling over with architectural terms and historical facts about how the city came to be. She talked of the great Chicago fire and how the city rebuilt to host the World Fair, she spoke of the re-engineering of the river so that it flowed backwards to prevent cholera in the drinking water, and she described the bold and brave builders of the city. She named hundreds of architects and businessmen who came from all over the world to build soaring towers and corn cob-like skyscrapers, and to reclaim old factories for new retail and condos space.
When we reached the outdoor Merchandise Mart Hall of Fame, our tour guide pointed to eight sculptures honouring the most famous merchants from the turn of the century. These men had, essentially, built the foundation and wealth of Chicago.
Wood. Woolworth. Rosenwald. Field. Wanamaker. Ward. Hartford. Filene.
The boat continued to cruise down the river, but I kept staring at the sculptures. I realized that these men had all created something from nothing. They turned a few bucks in their pockets into investments that created some of the biggest companies in American history. They had vision and drive, and knew how to pounce on opportunity when they saw it. They were unstoppable businessmen.
As the boat turned the corner, I felt like the statues were staring right at me, like monolithic father figures lecturing me to work hard, be focused, and to build something great.
If this is the best thing that happens to me this weekend, I'll take it. Sometimes, inspiration is the hardest commodity to come by.
Stacey D. Atkinson is a new author and plans to self-publish her first novel, Stuck, later this year under her publishing company Mirror Image Publishing.