My view of Halsted this afternoon sipping cafe au lait and doing email.

My view of Halsted this afternoon sipping cafe au lait and doing email.  And pondering the meaning of changed names.

Today I was in Chicago.

I was in Chicago with personal missions to complete.  Like a new pair of shoes to wear with my Salvation Army officer uniform.  Alamo Shoes on Clark in Andersonville.  It’s been my shoe salvation for many years.  It’s not easy finding my size for this kind of shoe.  Alamo has always saved me.  Today, I walked in, a salesman greeted me, I told him what I wanted, a moment later he had the shoes.  I was out in ten minutes.  My kind of shopping.

But I utterly failed in finding a replacement metal teapot for Yoshiko.

For years my mother has used a small, very small, aluminum teapot to brew green tea.  When I visit we share tea from this increasingly worn pot.  Her favorite tea:  genmai cha.  Today I thought Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights would be teapot salvation.  Wrong.  I am so sure that I once saw this type of pot in Mitsuwa’s grocery store, but today nothing.  And the little shop once in Mitsuwa, filled with all sorts of Japanese household articles like a metal teapot, gone.  Today, only an empty space.

After my disappointment at Mitsuwa I drove from Alamo this afternoon to Joong Boo Market on Kimball almost under the Kennedy Expressway.  It looked promising when I started searching but again, disappointment.

On the way I drove California between Irving Park and Addison and passed the high school our youngest son graduated.  It’s name has changed.  Once, Gordon Tech.  Now, DePaul College Prep.  But that section of California still also has the little signs bearing the honorific name of Gordon Tech.

As time goes by more people will wonder.  Why ‘Gordon Tech?’

After the disappointing Joong Boo I stopped for lunch at Penny’s Noodle on Sheffield under the Brown line ‘L’.  The waitress smiled when I entered.  It’s gratifying to be recognized after a long absence.  But the menu she offered said “Paul’s Noodles”.  Yes, there too was a name change.  But she assured me that the same family still ran the restaurant.  I believe her.  My warm bowl of wonton soup was as good today as in years’ past.  It felt very good on this sunny day which warmed only to the low 50s.

And my bank (I still bank in Chicago).  The same bank, but it got a new name several months ago.

And Caribou Coffee.  Now, Peets.

The changes in names today invoked pattern-searching instincts in me; what’s going on?  I’m not sure there’s any significance to all the name changes.  Still, I wonder.

Names and identity.  In such a densely populated place like a city, a place with so many places, we can feel lost without the familiar.  The school building, the noodle shop, the bank were all still there.  But, the names.  All different.  I felt faintly bewildered and not completely liking all this changing of names.

Mitsuwa was once Yaohan.  It went through a name change several years ago. I have grown used to that change.

Sears Tower, now Willis Tower. Many Chicagoans have not gotten used to that.

The things are there, mostly unchanged in appearance and perhaps substance.   But the names.  How is it so that it matters?