The Windy City
Okay, so my best friend Ryan lives in Chicago with his fiance Amber. The missus and I were sitting on two $150 airline vouchers that we had to use by the end of the year, and we got a little one coming in the next six weeks. D.C. to Chicago is doable for 150 bones a person, we had never spent any significant time in Chi-town, and the boy needed to see his godfather. Off we went.
Before we left, I contacted our friend Robert, a big fan of Chicago who is currently repelling down glaciers to get to his office in Norway. You'll see Robert in the news soon for going on a rampage and clubbing thousands of baby seals with a piece of frozen cod because he's suffering from acute lack-of-beef poisoning. Nevertheless, he was able to stop the shakes long enough to suggest some stops in the Windy City. Much of what follows was under the guiding hand of the Robert...
The Art Institute of Chicago is full of stuff by dead people. Some favorites that we got to see up close and personal:
Winslow Homer, The Herring Net
Pablo Picasso, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler
I think even the boy had a good time. Here we are by some American neo-classical sculptures:
As you can see, the pregnancy is going well. I mean, I don't seem to be having any trouble carrying the weight. Wow.
From the Art Insitute we followed Robert's suggestion for some 'plain, hearty food' and went to Berghoff's German Restaurant.
No mean thing, that. Robert has a deep hostility to salt, so when he says food is "plain," well, I was expecting sawdust spetzels and cardboard schnitzel. But it was great. And Ryan and I enjoyed their house lager.
We hopped on the subway and headed back to Ryan's place to put the boy down for his nap and let my lovely and very pregnant wife get some rest. Ryan lives on the north side, only about a mile from Wrigley Field. The Cubbies were playing that day, so on a whim, we started walking toward the field. We got tickets for ten bucks a piece, about seventy-five feet from the right field pole, lower deck. Excellent. Here's Ryan and me at Wrigley. Notice the look of dull-witted concentration as I try to hold the camera still:
Next a few thousand close friends sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (Ryan's next to me laughing because I'm doing my best Harry Carey: "It could be fair!! It could be foul!! It is!!!"):
It didn't matter, but like Harry Carey would say: Cubs win!! Cubs win!!
Next day Ohio State kicked hell out of Iowa, and we missed a golden opportunity to drive to Evanston and watch the great game between Penn State and those purple-wearing Wildcats. So I made crack dip, and we drank instead.
Invigorated by the Buckeye's win and Ryan's playing of OSU anthem "Hang on Sloopy"--"Haaang on Sloopy, Sloopy Hang On!! O! H! I! O!"--we got on the bus and did the obligatory trip up the Hancock Building. Here's the view from the Signature Room bar (we drank up there, too):
Can you go up a skyscraper any more without thinking of September 11? Me neither.
We came down from the heavens and walked the streets looking for a place to eat. Funny, this modern world: the boy got to see a horse up close for the first time--in a city of almost three million:
We didn't go into the famous Marshall Fields. The boy had other things in mind, escpecially when he saw The Disney Store. Our journey into Uncle Walt's Empire led to possibly the cutest picture ever:
Followed by possibly the cutest thing the boy has ever done. Apparently inspired by the Mickey Mousey sugary poppy music blaring over the store, the child went to one of the toy displays, grabbed Donald Duck, and began to dance in circles. Complete strangers were taking his picture:
Needless to say, Donald came home with us that night.
For dinner we went to the Rainforest Cafe, a chain restaurant with marginal food but a great jungle atmosphere. The boy was digging the animatronic gorillas. So was my son.
We got back to the apartment, put the understandably exhausted boy down for the night, and went on to have more drinky. In anticipation of the Browns game, and after having one or ten Jack and Cokes, we all (including Ryan) woke up to find out that Ryan had become an artist in the wee hours:
He burned a hole in the mask so the cigarette would stay in place. I'm not kidding. (Totally irrelevant fact: Ryan is a lawyer who works in the appellate public defender's office. That means he represents people who have already been convicted of crimes--he doesn't have to pretend like they are innocent. So every once in a while we'll be talking on the phone and he'll say something like, "I gotta go, I have a meeting with a guy who killed his mom with a weed wacker.")
We watched the game at a sports bar just outside O'Hare called Shoeless Joe's. Ryan insists ole Joe Jackson did much of his damage playing in Cleveland. Ryan's right. The Browns lost.
Still, great trip, great town. To paraphrase that other Chicago tourist Ferris Bueller: if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend it.
Best of all, the boy had a good time. Maybe too good a time. You decide: