A New Normal: Domestic Vacations
As widespread vaccination blesses the United States, we may finally be at a turning point in this global pandemic. On the cusp of a career transition with several book launches in progress, I took myself on a vacation. But where to? As a vaccinated individual, Chicago is a great option according to every microcovid scenario I could come up with. I stayed at the haunted Congress Plaza Hotel and had 2 top priorities: The International Museum of Surgical Science and The Shit Fountain. All this, with the beautiful spring weather and tulips in bloom, made for a breathtaking COVID-free visit to the Windy City.
The International Surgical Science Museum is Chicago’s own little Mutter. Contained within a beautiful historic residence facing the sparkling sapphire waters of Lake Michigan, four floors of paintings greet you with oddities, medical history, a library, and so much more. While only recently opened, this museum is currently featuring art by ICU nurses working through the COVID-19 pandemic, and an artist-in-residence photographer who uses black and white photography and double exposure to imitate x-ray images.
The public art featured throughout the city of Chicago is everywhere if someone knows where to look. Walking tours of cities, self-guided or otherwise, are COVID-19 safe activities. Some art hides as building side murals incorporating historic painted marquees among the fresh additions. Other art takes the form of statues found all over the city in small parks, gardens, street corners, sidewalks, and everywhere else someone could get a permit (or not) to allow permanent placement. While I loved visiting all the public art, I hopped on the L for a bit, then walked a few blocks over to the Shit Fountain. A Chicago resident of Wolcott St. erected this great bronze turd in 2005 to remind irresponsible dog owners to pick up their precious pooches’ poop piling up. While on the property of a private residence, this piece of public art did not disappoint. Since then travel groups have picked up this piece of art, like Atlas Obscura. The Shit Fountain will forever be one of my favorite Chicago memories. As the metal aged beneath its water flow, the bronze turned brown, creating a browner turd. The exquisite urbanite engraving of “Shit Fountain” at the top of the pedestal beneath the fountain proclaims to all who pass what this beautiful monument truly is. And to think, all of this art, all because someone needed to come up with a way to remind owners not to let Rex poop on the petunias.
As more people are vaccinated, monitor websites like microcovid and the latest public health announcements regarding safety in specific cities. You may find that domestic vacations provide the opportunity for all kinds of excitement that you have missed. You might even get to see more than a shitty fountain!
Featured image by Lo Potter.