I nervously sat in the back of the helicopter, nails bitten to the quick. What am I doing? My legs shook and my mind raced, and the pilot mumbled codes and commands beyond my comprehension. My ears, shielded beneath a headset, did not hear the fwump fwump fwump of the rotor blades, or the pinched squeaks that surely escaped my lips. All I could hear was the pilot, the control center, and my own pounding anxiety.
Flying in a helicopter hadn’t been on my bucket list, but after a fellow Instagrammer asked myself and another friend if we were interested in taking a tour of Chicago, it was difficult to resist. After all, we could pretend—for 20 minutes, anyway—that we weren’t afraid of heights. Didn’t people always joke about doing “anything for the ‘gram?” Besides, we were already there, in a city known for its unpretentious, Midwestern realness. Up in the air, my uneasiness softened. Our ears were filled with Bon Iver’s “Holocene,” a consoling tune with an echoing line: “strayed above the highway aisle … I could see for miles, miles, miles.” As the chorus reached a crescendo, the helicopter rose above the teal of Lake Michigan, above the river, above Lake Shore and La Salle, and above everything that kept the city’s pulse. There were the shorelines to the north and south, and the sunset to the west, pale and peaceful. And then there were the buildings—these giants of stone and steel, so small below us. It was humbling, really, to see the chaos of the city dissipate. Humbling. And sobering. And romantic. And marvelous.