Bet Your Bottom Dollar You'll Lose the Blues in Chicago
I've been meaning to check out Chicago for about 4 years now. I went there once in 8th grade and for some odd reason I don't remember much. Just a blur of Planet Hollywood and Rock and Roll McDonald's. (Wesley Willis RIP!) Being head over heels in love with New York right now, I didn't think it would impress me much. But I ended up falling for Chicago, and could totally see myself there if the opportunity arose one day.
I caught a cheap flight from Buffalo to Chicago for $63 (on that terroristic day, FUN) and a return fare for $89,both on Southwest/ATA airlines. The ridiculously adorable Andrew met me at the airport and we navigated to the city on the ridiculously easy train ($2). We took the Blue line El to Damen and had an semi-expensive ($4) Bombay Iced Coffee at Filter Coffee Shop at North and Milwaukee Streets. Filter is the type of coffee shop that Philly lacks- tons of seating (both couches and tables), free wireless, an artsy but not too DIY vibe and hot dudes. There we met up with my gracious host, Maria, my former MC Hammer loving, Cross Colors wearing, middle school pal. Maria 2006 loves all the things I do: architecture, art shit, coffee, walking, vegetarian food and booze aka the makings of a great weekend. After some amazing burritos, we had some drinks at the Rainbo Club on Damen in Wicker Park. Even though it's a huge place, it was packed. The drinks are cheap ($4 for a very stiff well drink), but the lighting was wayyyyy to bright. I look better after you have a few drinks, and even better in dim bar light.
Too hung over for words the next day, we took it easy and wandered the Wicker Park shops and bakeries before I met up with my friend Jason at The Metro for a show. Right near Wrigley Field, The Metro is a pretty big venue that hosts a lot of decent shows. I had probably the best meal of my life at The Green Zebra. It's a bit pricey, the portions are tiny, but it is no less than amazing. Creamed beet ravioli with aged blue cheese and arugula? Walnut soda? Eggplant tart with basil goatcheese and romesco sauce- if you have a refined taste, it's worth every penny. (3 courses and drink, $55/each).
The next day was sight seeing day. After a prereq. stop at the Sears Tower, I wanted to check out the Museum of Contemporary Art ($10/$6 for students) to see the last day of the Wolfgang Tillmans exhibit. Incidentally, I wasn't really impressed with Tillman's work- aside from his portrait of Morrissey of course. The whole tape the prints to the wall thing has been so over done. I'm so over it. The museum itself has an amazing gift shop with a separate entrance for lurkers, and some sculpture outside for those lurkers to gawk at. We also checked out a Chris Ware exhibit, and an impressive permanent collection. The MCA is just the right size that you're interested in seeing what's next without getting museumed out.
Next was a walk down town and to the water front. Chicago is an architectural paradise. One of my favorite buildings was The Tribune Building. It has stones and architectural pieces from famous and historical buildings around the world set into it. Pieces of The Great Pyramids, Notre Dame, The Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal and American pieces adorn it. You can tour the building but it was after 5 on Sunday and closed.
Please note: soft serve frozen yogurt does not exist in downtown Chicago!
And now for my favorite part of Chicago: the over-hyped Millenium Park. Costing a half billion dollars, the park was supposed to open on the lake in, duh, 2000, but didn't until 2004. We walked by the infamous silver "bean"... a big shiny sculpture that warped the city behind you. Then over to the impressive Frank Gehry designed outdoor amphitheater. The very modern stage is set next to the picturesque lake and surrounded by an incline of lush grass. There are free concerts throughout the summer, mostly Sundays at 7:30. This Sunday was Ravi Shankar's daughter, Anoushka or whatever (who will always be referred to as "Ravi Shankar's daughter" I'm sure). Bring a blanket and a picnic and make it a night! The park also has amazing botanicals, picnic spots, a restaurant, and a free outdoor ice skating rink for winter. And the best free summertime activity- The Crown fountain by Jaume Plensa. I LOVED it. The fountain consists of a shallow rectangular reflecting pool with a 50 foot glass tower at each of the ends. Behind the glass are huge LED screens which depict video of giant blinking faces of Chicagoans, which change every few minutes. The towers spout water, and after a few minutes the faces begin to "spit" water onto the fountain goers. The cycle ends with the screens flashing a water scene, and pouring water down harder than before. I spent maybe 30 minutes there, splashing, watching the kids play, watching the LED screens change from cute kid faces to creepy men to weird ladies. What a perfect way to spend a free afternoon.
My trip ended on Monday afternoon. I hitched a ride with Maria to her work, the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. Since it was Monday, it was closed- meaning I got my own private tour! Normally, the museum is free, with a suggested $5 donation. The museum boasts an incredible collection of Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Persian, Nubian, ancient Israel/Palestine, ancient Turkey artifacts. The most incredible piece is a 40 ton statue called Lamassu (a human headed winged bull) in the Mesopotamian gallery. (photo by Maria Krasinski) Having a photography background, my favorite exhibition was a series of the Tut discovery by Harry Burton. Detailing the whole discovery/clearing and excavation of King Tut's tomb in 1922, Burton was the only photographer allowed on site. The photographs are almost as important as the relics themselves, showing in crisp black and white the mummies in their original states, tomb rooms of gifts and offerings for the next life... everything just stacked kind of like a grandma's attic. Burton documented how the tomb was left 3300 years ago- which would never be seen the same again, as the relics were removed and placed in museums around the world. The museum itself is beautiful, and right across the street from Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House that I learned so much about as a child. It seems everytime I see a Frank Lloyd Wright house, its under construction- or are they always under construction? The University of Chicago is also super close to Midway Airport. After my action packed morning, I shed a tear, bid Maria farewell and spent $1.75 on the bus to the airport.
Could it be? I found another place in this country that I could actually see myself living in? It's true... when I graduate, if I'm offered a job in the Windy City, I'm totally there.