By Daniel Patton
Two weeks after President Trump declared a national health emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago appeared rather desolate on a foggy Friday afternoon. But some people were out and about, carrying on almost as if everything were normal. Almost.
New Eastside News hit the pavement to see how commuters, residents, and visitors are getting by during the crisis.
Lynn and Elizabeth (Lizzy) Brahin, New Eastside
New Eastside residents Lynn and her daughter Elizabeth (Lizzy) were enjoying an outdoor lunch in Streeterville when they graciously paused to explain how the pandemic has affected their lives.
Lynn, a Corcoran Urban Real Estate broker, is mostly showing houses through virtual tours to accommodate the stay-at-home order, a process that she believes may ultimately prove to be beneficial for the industry. “Buyers will become much more informed,” she explained. “Back in the day, it would take a long time to visit several properties.”
When the order is lifted, she looks forward to enjoying the intimacy of companionship once again. “That in-person, eye-to-eye, human contact is so much different than anything else,” she said. “It’s priceless.”
Lizzy is a junior high school student at Walter Payton College Prep who has been studying at home due to the statewide school closure. But the thing is, she really doesn’t have to study at all. “You can do the assigments to improve your grade,” she explained. “But not doing them will not make your grade worse.”
Walter Payton also cancelled a school trip to San Francisco, where Lizzy was scheduled to participate in the Knowledge at Wharton High School Investment Competition with the economics and investment team. “We submitted a 14-page report tailored to the needs of a particular client,” Lizzy said. “She’s a mother, a businesswoman, and the CEO of a multi-million dollar venture capital company who graduated from Wharton.” After graduation from Walter Payton, Lizzy plans to attend college and study economics, of course.
David and Jill Newton, Streeterville
The Newtons wore their optimism well as they prepared to make an unplanned exit from Chicago, where they have spent the past year residing in Streeterville. Since the native Englanders lived as Windy City residents during a previous two-year stint, they have found many things to love about the city.
David, who has been working at home since Kraft Heinz closed its offices in the AON Building three weeks ago, rearranged his retirement so that he and his wife could spend time with their children back near Liverpool. “I had a month of celebrations for me retiring all planned, but none of that’s happening now,” he said. “We want to get back and see our kids and be close to them at this time.” But he will miss “getting on the lakefront” as well as “Kingston Mines and the Green Mill and the jazz clubs and Andy’s and all the different things.”
Jill will miss the theatres, museums, opera, and symphony. “It’s just a great place to live and I hope that things will return to normal before too long and it will be the great city that it is,” she said.
Erin Matsumura, East Lakeview
Personal trainer and dog-walker Erin was strolling near the Columbus Avenue Bridge with a six-month old boxer named Mia when she explained how the stay-at-home era has helped her realize that, “simplicity is maybe the way to go.”
“Everything I thought I needed, I don’t,” she said. “I’m actually pretty much a minimalist anyways, but I mean, you know, buying day-to-day things you think you need or things you think you need to do, you really don’t.”
With so many businesses closed for the same reason, some of her clients have reached the same conclusion. “People are home, so a lot of them don’t need their dogs walked,” she continued. “It’s not like it used to be.” Since gyms are also closed, fitness has taken on a do-it-yourself necessity as well. But Erin offered suggestions for exercising at home. “Go easy and get dialed in with the basic movements,” she said. “Just move — walking, stretching, you know, your basics. If you want to dance, dance. Whatever. Anything to move.”
Susan (last name withheld), downtown
A retiree who is “very involved with the performing arts,” Susan was accustomed to going out “every night” until the health crisis came along. Now she spends her days with a new friend.
“I have this dog to take care of as long as we’re sheltering in place,” she explained. “His name is Oreo, which makes no sense because he’s not black and white at all.”
Susan decided to foster Oreo after Mayor Lightfoot closed all the bars and restaurants in Chicago. “I realized that if I was going to be home all the time, I could get a dog,” she recalled. When she’s not walking the dog, Susan checks out the free concerts that The Metropolitan Opera streams every day. It’s not the same as the live performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle that she intended to attend before it got cancelled, but she said, “it’s really generous of them.”
Oreo has been adopted by a Missouri family, but that’s on hold “because of what we’re dealing with right now.” Same goes for his favorite places to walk — the Riverwalk and the lakefront — but he and Susan still manage to get out about four times every day.
Thoa Le, Viet Nam
Vietnamese medical student Thoa Le came to Chicago for a cardiology conference but ended up sightseeing when it got cancelled. She was disappointed to learn that Millennium Park was closed, but understood the reason. “Every store and market in Viet Nam had to close at least 14 days,” she said. “The pandemic is dangerous and it can cross borders without a visa.”