Chicago Again

For the past week, I’ve been in Chicago on vacation. Immediately following is a summary of all the things we did during the time I was there. We did so much every day and night, and experienced a huge range of all that Chicago has to offer. It was a great trip, and I’m really glad I had Adam and Sarah to hang out with and show me around:

* Thursday night – arrived late at 11:40 despite taking the hour earlier flight. Had to check baggage. ugh. Adam and Sarah picked me up, we talked till 2.
* Friday – DuSable African American museum, lunch at Jim’s (sausages). Mario Kart. Picked Sarah up at work, ate at Pint, bar hopping near Sarah’s work and Wicker Park.
* Saturday – Breakfast at Valois. Bike ride with Sarah. Taste of Randolph St. festival. Book store at Lincoln Square, then The Grind for dinner. Mario Kart, Sex and the City, clubbing, Flash Taco.
* Sunday – Watched last of Sex and the City episodes, watched all of Flight of the Conchords, others got up at 1. Couldn’t find a restaurant – Al’s, Wishbone, others near Randolph. Greek Restaurant was open and very good. Checkerboard Lounge for jazz after
* Monday – Breakfast with Sarah at home, then Library. Adam dropped us off at MCA, but it was closed. Walked Michigan Ave to Lego Store and Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge, then to Chicago Board of Trade, met Adam at Fed Reserve. Lunch at Al’s Italian Beef at 4. Back to apt. Kingston Mines for blues music.
* Tuesday – MCA with Adam, Michigan Ave again, lunch with Sarah at Earwax Cafe, Gino’s East Pizza, Jersey Boys
* Wednesday – Chicago History Museum, met Sarah for lunch at Milk&Honey, field museum, navy pier, cirque shanghai, made soup.
* Thursday – Saw Adam and Sarah off, looked up apartments, caught up with email, left the apt, took slow bus to blue line, met Sarah for lunch at Pot Pan Thai, delayed flights, spent night in Denver airport.

And now, the detailed version:

For the past week I’ve been in Chicago on vacation. It was a forced vacation of sorts; I’ve been working too many hours, so I had to take some time off. Fortunately, we have flex time, so it was a week of vacation that didn’t use my vacation time. I used frequent flier miles to book the trip, and I was staying with friends, so the major expenses associated with a vacation were already taken care of.

I left on a Thursday afternoon and got to Chicago just fine. There was an earlier flight to Chicago, so I thought I’d capitalize on it and see if I could get in an hour early. I got on standby, and even had my name called. Once I got on the plane, I was put into first class seating, but there wasn’t any overhead storage, so my bag had to be checked. No big deal, I figured, as I’d still be arriving early and getting a first class seat. Unfortunately, the person who had my seat arrived, so I was almost screwed. There was a counting mistake, and it turned out there was accidentally still an available seat in the back, so I was sent back there. Then the plane was delayed significantly; we didn’t take off until my original flight was scheduled to leave. I arrived in Chicago not having saved any time AND having to wait in baggage claim for my bag. Ugh. Adam and Sarah met me at the airport and we drove back to their apartment, then talked for a couple hours before going to bed.

Friday Adam and I went to the DuSable African American Museum. It was interesting, but a little thin. Afterward we went out for lunch. I really like experiencing the local stuff off the tourist path, and we both felt like sausages, so we went to Jim’s right off the highway for sausages and fries. They came with hot peppers on the side. Curious, I took a bite, and immediately after swallowing had a bout of hiccups that took careful concentration and breathing to overcome. Back at the apartment we played a lot of Mario Kart until it was time to pick up Sarah at 3:30. We parked the car and started wandering around Division and Milwaukee. We had drinks at each of a number of places along the way, eating dinner at Pint, and continuing on to Wicker Park. It rained a little, but nothing serious. we got home and went to bed.

Saturday the three of us went to a place down the street called Valois, which is a great cafeteria-style restaurant, except that they made it in real-time. By the time we got through the line our omelets and sausages and hashbrowns were all ready. Sarah and I went for a bike ride down the path on the lake shore. We went south to South Beach, then turned around and rode back. It was a pleasant ride, with no elevation change and very little bike traffic. We found a festival that looked interesting, so we went to Randolph St. The festival wasn’t as cool as we had hoped; an odd assortment of vendors, food and beer, and very little to do. There was some live music, but we weren’t into it. We decided to go to Lincoln square up North and saw the throng of people leaving the baseball game and crowding into the bars. We had a nice little dinner at The Grind, and went into a tiny bookstore in Lincoln Square that had stacks of books everywhere and no organization or even easy way to squeeze through the aisles. It was cute. We drove back to the apartment to get ready for the night, then watched some Sex and the City episodes and played Mario Kart. We went out clubbing, and were supposed to meet a group of people for a 21st birthday party, but a hangup at the club had us not on the list, so we went somewhere else to wait for the rest to arrive, but their plans changed, and we ended up just the three of us. At about 4am we left and stopped at Flash Taco for some food on the way home. I wasn’t tired yet so I watched another episode of Sex and the City, then slept on the living room couch.

Sunday I was up at 9am. I watched a DVD of Flight of the Conchords, which was pretty fun. Then the others got up at around 1. It was a lazy afternoon. We eventually got out of the apartment and went searching for food. Oddly enough, everything was closed in Little Italy, so the original Al’s Italian sausage wasn’t going to happen. Neither was Wishbone, which is right next to Oprah’s studios. It took us a while, but we finally found a Greek restaurant that was not only open but enormous and crowded. We had some really good Greek food. We dropped it off at the apartment, then went out to a place nearby called the Checkerboard Lounge, which is a jazz club. The band was ok. The saxophonist wasn’t very good, and whenever he did a solo he’d ignore the rhythm and just play as many notes as he could as fast as he could. The singer and trumpet player were great, and the keyboard, drums, and bass were rock solid. They played some tunes I knew and some that I hadn’t heard before. We left a little early, and stopped by the grocery store for ice cream on the way.

Monday morning was pretty lazy. Sarah and I had breakfast at home and talked. Adam got back from his meeting and picked us up. We stopped by the library to get some museum passes, then Adam brought us to the Museum of Contemporary Art and dropped us off while he went to his next meeting. Unfortunately, the MCA is closed on Mondays, so we took a long hike along Michigan Ave, stopping at a mall for Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge and to ogle the statues at the Lego store. We continued our hike to the Chicago Board of Trade. The observation deck to the trading floor isn’t open to visitors, except for some academic groups, so I tried to see if I could make a convincing case to the security lady, but she shut me down before I had the chance to spin my yarn. Still, there was a visitor center, so we perused that for a while. Then we went next door to the Federal Reserve, where they have a small museum. There was a movie, and the docent was someone who had been in the business for a while and had some interesting stories and opinions, so we listened to him for a while, too. Eventually Adam arrived, and we finished up at the reserve. There were free bags of real shredded money, so I got a souvenir. We hadn’t had lunch yet, and it was nearly 4, so we tried again at Al’s Italian Beef, and this time managed to get some sandwiches and fries. Back to the apartment, where we played some more Mario Kart before going out to a place called Kingston Mines for some live blues. The place was free to students, so I used my old student ID to get in, and it was set up with two stages and two bands. First one stage would play for an hour, then the band on the other stage played for an hour. It was a good time.

Tuesday Adam and I had breakfast, then took the public transit down to Sarah’s office and walked to the nearby Earwax Cafe for lunch. Afterward Adam and I took a long walk downtown to the MCA, where it turned out it was free on Tuesdays anyway. Some exhibits were closed, and it was a lot smaller than we expected. Naturally, some of the contemporary art was just odd, but there was some really cool stuff. We had tons of time to burn, so Adam and I walked up Michigan Avenue, eventually getting to Daley Plaza, where we met Sarah. By this time it was 5:30, and we had tickets to see Jersey Boys at 7:30, so we considered some dinner options. We took the bus up to Gino’s East pizza and had a really good four cheese pizza. Then we took a taxi to the theater and found our seats. Jersey Boys was amazing. It was such a good show and even though we didn’t have the best seats and half the cast was understudies that night, it was still really impressive and enjoyable. After the show we caught the bus home and went to bed.

Wednesday we dropped Sarah off at work, then went to the Chicago History Museum. It started off slow, but once we got to the main exhibit hall, we were there for hours. There was so much stuff about Chicago and its history. Such a diverse and interesting past. There was one thing about the museum: they seemed to take credit for everything. For example, there was a big thing saying that a university in Chicago had a huge part in the development of the atomic bomb. Even the text said the university was responsible for the first sustained chain reaction and that then the scientists went on to develop the bomb. But they didn’t say the scientists had actually gone on to join many others at the national laboratories like Sandia, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and Pacific Northwest National Lab to develop the bomb and the nuclear material used. Plus, the accomplishment in Chicago was only a small step towards the bomb, and it took a few years of serious research and development outside of Chicago to create the bomb.

Anyway, we made a running joke out of saying everything comes from Chicago and that all cities are suburbs of Chicago. After the museum we drove to meet Sarah for lunch, this time going to a place called Milk & Honey. Adam and I then went to the Field Museum. I was pretty tired from the Chicago history museum, but we pushed on. The Field Museum was amazing. It was enormous, with so many exhibits, and so many interesting things to see. We didn’t have passes to the special exhibits and we wouldn’t have had time to see them anyway. Adam had to leave for a meeting, so I blitzed through the rest of the exhibits before I had to leave, too. I left the museum and took the water taxi over to Navy Pier. I got a couple cookies there to tide me over, got a few postcards, and picked up a couple tickets for the Cirque Shanghai show. Sarah met me at the pier and we found our seats for the show. For only $15 it was worth it, but it was certainly no Jersey Boys. The acrobats had a lot of really cool acts. After the show we took a long walk for fun and chatted. Eventually we made it to the bus and got back, picking up the car and going to the grocery store for some ingredients. Then Sarah and I made a nice soup until Adam got home around 9:30. We ate, then went to bed.

Thursday morning I woke up to see Adam and Sarah go off to work. Adam had some exercises to go to, so I said a final goodbye. Then I packed, caught up on some email, perused some apartments in Chicago, and watched the Daily Show. A little after noon I got on the bus and took a very long ride downtown, sitting in the same intersection for about 20 minutes because of traffic. Then I caught the subway over to Division and met Sarah at 1:30 as she took her lunch break. We went down the street to a nice place called Pot Pan Thai. After lunch we said our goodbyes and I continued on the subway to the airport, checked in, and managed a small fire at work while I waited on my plane. Unfortunately, a refueling tank in Albuquerque was broken, so my plane was delayed significantly. It kept getting pushed back until it was impossible to make my connection from Denver to Pasco. At that point I scrambled to see if I could find another way to get to Denver on time, but with no luck. Two and a half hours after my plane was supposed to take off, it left the gate, and an hour after that it was finally off the tarmac and in the air. We arrived in Sioux Falls, then the plane was turned around within a few minutes and we were off again for Denver. We got in at 11:30, so I had missed my connection by many hours. Fortunately I had been re-booked on the next flight, but it wasn’t to leave until 8:40 the next morning, so I was stranded for the night. The customer service line was at least an hour long, and there was nothing open in the terminal, so I took the train to the other terminal, where there were a few places serving limited menus. Late at night the airport is in a strange state; the cleaning crews are taking care of things, and people are strewn about the terminals trying to get comfortable on the floor or in the seats with fixed armrests. Nothing is open, but the escalators moving walkways and security announcements are still chugging away endlessly. Everything and everybody is in a zombie state. I fed my zombiness by watching Plan 9 From Outer Space, then caught a couple hours of restless sleep. I caught my flight Friday morning and had a tired trip back to Pasco.

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