Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Deep Dish Chicago Style Weekend

A week ago we drove up to Madison on a late Thursday night. Joe took this fantastic and entirely educational photography class held at Monona Terrace all day Friday, so while he was busy learning how to blind people with strategically placed lights, I had the pleasure of spending the day fitting into the wild, hectic, constantly on the go routine of my sister in law, Katy. I clung on, catching my breath as she shuttled kids to school and Mimi's (grandma's) and grabbed a quick breakfast with friends and their passel of small humans all covered in four identical orders of chocolate chip pancakes, a nearly universal favorite kid breakfast I have come to learn.


We bought paint so Katy could finish painting the imminent baby girl Sands' bedroom, the boys and I counted paint brushes, I strapped and unstrapped a little boy into his car seat so many fumbling times that by the end of the day I could do it almost as fast as Katy. We hit Target and bought a cart full of stuff that I can't remember. We dropped Connor, the three year old nephew, off at Spanish class and Jackson, the nineteen month old nephew off with Mimi, and Katy and I actually had the chance to have an hour long conversation without her having to wrangle a small or larger Sands boy.


I think it was the first full girls only conversation we've had in nearly three years. It was great. We filled our faces with salad and talked smack about our families and ourselves. Nice Friday. Then Joe arrived back at Jim and Katy's to rousing cheers for "JO JO!!" (What the boys call Joe, they looove him, Jack almost cried when we left, no JO JO!) And we got in the car and drove the three hours to Chicago.

I love Chicago. I've probably been about there about five or six times in my life. Just enough for the city to feel familiar but lacking any tangible ability to get myself around without a map or a guide. And we had the best guides. We stayed with Joe's youngest brother Jon, and his girlfriend Samantha. They live in a young, hip part of town, Lakeview. Their apartment is a good size, especially for a big city. Two bedrooms, filled with beautiful antique Craig's list furniture and their quirky funny style, we were totally comfortable immediately. We arrived tired and ready to crash and ended up staying up hours later, eating late night deep dish pizza, because this is a requirement when visiting Chicago, and were introduced to the most bizarre, fascinating train wreck of a television show that I have never seen before in my life, topped by a second and stranger program. I speak of Hardcore Pawn and Cheaters. One the reality show following the scary staff and customers of an enormous Detroit based pawn shop complex and the second an oddly staged overly dramatic hidden camera adultery show. Bottom of the barrel, groody, tacky and utterly compelling, at least while on vacation and while watching it with our cool Chicago family. Joey Greco, the host of Cheaters, has been punched, stabbed and verbally abused all in the process of helping people discover that their partners are cheating on them with nasty strangers. It's a horrible, horrible entertaining show. But back to Chicago, we did do things other than eat two pound slices of pizza and watch bad third tier reality tv. We hit the city, hit it quick and dirty, in just one day.

There were so many fabulous photos that Joe slipped them into a little slideshow, so enjoy.

Saturday morning we got up and hung out in the apartment, drinking coffee, conversing on serious topics like Family Guy and attempting to sketch out our plans for the day. We started with a quick trek to Jon's favorite enormous Marshall's just a few blocks down the street. This Marshall's was large and fancy and chock full of good bargains and some fancier name brands than we typically see here in KC. So we shopped. And it was good, I snagged some home goods items, and a perfect little black dress and yes, my husband bought a lime green Oxo watering can. After our shopping excursion we walked back to the apartment to drop off our goodies, while I fell deeply in lust with an eclectic little gift shop filled with a mix of vintage items, paper goods and lovely accessories and pieces of art. I stopped and browsed and dreamt of owning my own version of this little store. Instead I bought a dark blue glass hand. Because I had to, it was shiny and it now holds my wedding ring set and trademark silver bangles every night when I fall asleep. Newly purchased items dropped off, we ventured back out onto the mean streets, caught a cab and jaunted off to WRIGLEY FIELD!


I'm not a big baseball fanatic, but Wrigley Field is straight up cool. Plus even though I've never been there before, it feels so familiar since it's in so many movies and tv shows. It was bigger and bolder and brighter than I expected as we came around the corner, it was like, bam, WRIGLEY FIELD. Then we had lunch, which included beer and fried pickles. Come on, Chicago, you are ruining me for other places with your tacky delicious food and third tier reality shows and discount name brand shopping. We had lunch at Goose Island, crammed into a red leather booth we ate lots of stuff and half watched the Bulls game on the twelve big screens. After our greasy feast we caught the train headed downtown. The train was packed, the girls scored seats, and we listened to cool hipsters from Spain tease each other, while a girl with a significantly sized nose ring asked them what language they were speaking, then I'm pretty sure they teased her in Spanish for asking. I love the city.



Train travel completed, we exited and walked over to Millenium Park for photography, goofy Bean self portraits, random conversations with retired chatty marines, and general merriment on park benches, checking out the fountains and face art, the PDA couple that were going at it standing next to the Bean so intently that they might have walked away as expectant parents, and of course the rain. It rained off and on for the rest of the day. So chilled and ready for more calorie consumption from all the walking and photographing, the ladies sought out coffee beverages while the men purchased ice drinks, Joe making sweet sweet love to an orange cream smoothie and Jon downing an iced coffee. Then we shopped some more. And once our shopping energies had been fully drained and with the realization that it was really raining now, we caught a cab and headed over to Navy Pier for some dry indoor fun.



We were not the only people to think Navy Pier was a good idea on this raining Saturday. The place was packed, packed tight. Packed tight with hordes of cheerleaders, just as scary as zombie hordes but with enormous hair bows, eyeshadow to match their mid-drift barring uniforms and glassy eyed pep instead of glassy eyed brain munching. They were everywhere, hundreds and hundreds of them. It was terrifying and precious. Yes, it was both.



We struggled through the crowds, waited in line for the most delicious Garrett's popcorn, meandered through the Stained Glass Museum, took more photographs, counted cheerleaders, and people watched. After more than a hour spent fighting off the cheerleader hordes, we caught a cab back to Jon and Sam's apartment and collapsed, our fingers covered in a thin film of Garrett's cheese popcorn, we threw ourselves into sloth, letting our abused feet rest and watching the Family Guy version of the Empire Strikes Back. The boys watched TV, the ladies napped or read, or read then maybe napped a bit, and reconvened later for another round of Hardcore Pawn before our sushi dinner.

Here's the danger of living in Chicago. All of these truly amazing shops and restaurants are right outside the door. Steps away, these places wait to tantalize your taste buds, to fill your apartment with lovely trinkets and cozy linens, and intoxicate you with custom brewed beers, or Belgian waffles at midnight. And diverse and eclectic people work hard in high rise towers, run to catch trains, avoid rats running across the street at 10pm (this actually happened) and catcall strangers with phrases like "My goodness, someone's looking fine today." Thanks, elderly African-American window washer, you made my day. It's all right out there all the time in a city of this size. It is alluring and fantastic and I kind of want it all the time. But KC is great too, it just involves a lot more driving and planning and parking and personal space and almost everything closes by 10pm at least in the suburbs.

So we walked the three steps down the street to the sushi restaurant and enjoyed some delicious rolls, the Hello Kitty menu holders, some edamame and possibly the slowest waiter in the zip code. He was sweet and young and not great at his job. But we were in no rush and the sushi was good and Grouponed and did I mention it was just three steps away.

Our trip pretty much wrapped up there. We might have watched another episode or two of Hardcore Pawn, maybe, and Sunday morning we got up early, packed, said a fond farewell and headed home. I kind of want to move to Chicago now. If it wasn't so damn cold and windy from October to May I might consider it. But for now, we'll just visit Chicago Jonny and his better half Samantha as often as possible. Thanks for hosting us, guys!



1 comment:

Nae said...

Wonderful post - you've made me homesick, dammit!!!! pizza, rats, trains - gah the whole thing. And woman, the wind isn't *that* bad, unless you spend it ALL downtown, there are good and bad days, and much need for scarves. Fashion! Glad you had such a spectacular, memorable visit.