Killing The Blues In Chicago
My Reasons For Going
Who needs a reason to go to Chicago? The city is amazing but before I really got to experience that my motives were the following:
The Walters Wanted Me To Work 4th of July: I live and work in Maryland. Worse off I "work" for the City of Baltimore so everything is legally "at will" when it comes to working holidays. As a part timer I was not going to receive any special holiday (ie. double) pay for doing so.
My Love of 80's Movies Wanted Me To Go There: Code of Silenced, Above The Law, The Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Running Scared, The Untouchables. I mean Chicago was like the New Orleans of the 1980s man! With my love for movies it feels like I have this connection with the place.
There Was A Girl Involved: Her name was Brittany, and yes, I was completely wrong about her. What else is new? However thank God she didn't turn out to be a catfish, but personality wise she kind of was.
My Father Once Went There But Didn't Get To Do Everything He Wanted: This is an easy problem that I discovered my second time to the Windy City. Back in the day my Dad was a printer, for Mail-Well Label, for 35 years. At one point he went on a business trip to Chicago to help one of the plants with their new presses. He mainly worked and never had a chance to see the city.
The Flight Was The Inspiration For These Hubs
Going through security and the flight itself was not so bad. It was the landing and meeting my friend for the first time in person that were unexpected hard parts. It was definitely the first and last time I would ever fly with American Airlines, it was like a sardine can on wings.
Looking back, when I met her, I realize how golden silence is. Her apartment was in Hanover Park, an hour train ride outside of the city. Still she didn't kill me in my sleep so everything was going good at that point.
4th of July, a Saturday. If you're one of those people that likes to stand in line you would love Chicago on the 4th. Navy Pier was insane. I had never seen so many people packed into one place. Millennium Park was pretty damn nice, but the Pedway (or at least what I was able to see of it) was kind of lack-luster. My friend was wearing sandals so it wasn't really worth the walk for her. It's a good idea to wear hiking boots or tennis shoes if you're going on a day trip in Chicago, your feet will thank you later. The walk from Millennium Park to the Buckingham Fountain is blister worthy alone.
From a distance I shouted out "dude is that the 'Married With Children Fountain'!?" Britt had never heard of that show. She was four years younger than me, but for Pete sake there's a thing called reruns. That's how I watched it cause God knows I was only a toddler when it went off the air. I soon discovered that if it wasn't TMZ or reality shows then she had never heard of it. Jesus Christ...
Still it was her idea to watch the fireworks from Grant Park (the hell away from the chaos of Navy Pier), showed me how to keep the flash off on my Canon Rebel, and paid for the cab rides. So I couldn't fault her completely for not being as bat-shit excited as I was when I would make a reference to a movie made in Chicago and how I spotted a filming location.
4th of July Fireworks From Grant Park
Stayed at Brit's apartment the entire day. Played GTA, napped, and got into an argument over going to a tavern that was up the road. I wanted to get the hell out of her place and go do something, but she recommended that if I wanted to "go out drinking" that I should stay somewhere else. She didn't exactly talk much for the time I was with her, and I had already gotten the impression that I wasn't really welcome. I assume her father was a mean drunk and that she thought I'd be the same.
That night I booked a room with The Chinatown Hotel. You know somewhere actually IN Chicago? Looking back I should have done this to begin with.
I left Brit's apartment to move into the actual city. Once I got into the city I really started site seeing and actually enjoying myself. Union Station is freaking massive! One of the things I wanted to check out there was the stairs the famous shootout from The Untouchables was filmed. I was going by what I vaguely remembered, but after watching it when I got home it was the right staircase!
Right up the street from Union Station is the WilliSears Tower, which didn't have as long of a line being the Monday after 4th of July weekend. Still had to wait a little bit though. Now that I have been there I can say it was ok. The only thing it has going for it versus the John Hancock Building (which I'll get to later) is the sky box. Yeah it's pretty cool looking straight down over 1,353 feet but it's not a very organized setup. The only staff member up there is the person working the photo booth in the far-left skybox. The others have some extensions set up for the haphazard lines.
The crowd gets pretty restless having to wait when visitors don't have a time limit. I thought the Kashmir Border was going to light up when a Pakistani guy yelled at the father of Indian family because he was taking too a ridiculous amount of pictures. The Indian guy's argument was "I paid just like everyone else!" and I bet he did! It cost me $20 and I'm a single adult. It was right around that time I realized how much better off I was financially.
I ate my first deep-dish pizza in their basement cafe then bought my parents some souvenirs in the gift shop.
Speaking of roughing it on the cheap the remainder of my time in Chicago was spent at The Chinatown Hotel. I know you probably think it's a fleabag motel, but it really wasn't. After watching An Idiot Abroad and realizing how bad it COULD be I'm not hard to please when it comes to motels. I still won't stay at The Alamo without a full body condom on though.
I had a shower, a remote control A.C., a toilet, a sink, a mirror, and a TV. Yes the view was the back alley and a brick wall of a neighboring building. It's ok though I just needed a bed, a shower, and a place to keep my stuff. I was here to see Chicago not stay cooped up inside the whole time. Though the TV did have some good channels, one of them being Decades on it. Needed something to watch while falling asleep, getting dressed, etc. Mainly I felt like Liam Neeson in Next of Kin or Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Heat, or Dan Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers (except he had a hot plate....) anyway you get the idea, but the room was way nicer.
You know how I love my pub crawls and drowning my troubles in alcohol so that night I went to Buddy Guy's Legends. I had heard about it being a landmark in Chicago. You name any famous blues singer and chances are they have sang at Buddy Guy’s. I had heard blues music was therapeutic, and it was. For once drinking took a back seat. The guy who was playing was pretty good but I never got his name unfortunately. I was still sober so that’s not drunk me recollecting.
While I was there I talked to this old guy, Rick, about what happened. He told me to try singing the blues, and no we didn’t have like an 80s Crossroads moment where we sang together, but it was an enlightening conversation. The best advice being not to ever bother trying to help a girl who has social anxiety. Especially if I couldn’t overcome my own shit.
After I left Buddy Guy's I wondered around the immediate area, stopping in at a couple of different places to drink some beer. Before finding the closest red line station back to Chonatown. Where I drank some kind of blue thing and it started raining. If you ever go to Chinatown, in any city, don't eat the food ok? I mean you could, I guess, it's your stomach, but I had to make a double take when I found out there were chicken feet on the menu. I thought I walked into a 70s grind house movie.
Pictures From the top of Willisears TowerClick thumbnail to view full-size
This was it. If I was going to the Field Museum it was gonna have to be this day, my last day. I developed a blister the night before, which popped as I made my way downstairs. "Shit!" I exclaimed to myself but I made my way to the Field Museum. It hurt like hell to walk but I wasn't going to let that stop me! You can literally walk popped blisters off. though resting on the L train was probably helpful.
At 5PM the Museum closed and I started the long wa... No I took the water taxi to Navy Pier. Wanted to see it when it wasn't filled with wall-to-wall assholes. Also took the opportunity to shoot some photos. Drank my first Manhatten then took a taxi (on land this time) to John Hancock Plaza. What I noticed about it versus Sears Tower is most of the grandiose exhibitions are in the basement. Including the cafe and gift shop. The little film at J.H.P. might not be as long as the one at Willis but it has more heart. The lines are also A LOT shorter. Actually there wasn't any line.
Besides the view of the lake there was an actual cafe at the top of the building. Instead of in the basement like Willis Tower. There was a nice girl, never got her name, who showed me how to get to the Chicago Red Line. Along the way I saw Mike Ditka's resturant and a car dealership with a Bugatti Veyron in it! "That's a fucking Bughatti!" I exclaimed. They don't sell stuff like that in Baltimore, no one can afford the taxes....
The lady also told me to always use Uber while in Chicago, the taxi cabs are a racket. Good thing I only paid for one of those cab rides! Thank you Brittany!
Pictures from the Top of the John Hancock Building.Click thumbnail to view full-size
My last day in the Windy City. Showered, checked out, and made my way toward O'Hare via the Red Line. When I transferred over to the Blue Line at Jackson Station I realized just how bus Chicago can really be. I've never been to New York City (and I'm not really in a hurry to go there), but I'm sure the subway traffic is just as even. In Baltimore there isn't that many people riding the subway. Especially since ours just goes in a straight line like everything else.
When I got to O'Hare International Airport I discovered another facet of how rinky dink my hometown is, the actual size of an INTERNATIONAL airport.How is it that BWI has "International" in the title yet I need to get a connecting flight from New York to get to London? Which brings me to how my crappy mood started to come back. The pee stained walls of the public bathrooms... AND train stations. The late MTA scheduling and the shitty anit-white attitudes. Yeah... When I got off the plane I really felt back at home....