Thursday, July 12, 2007

Day 44

In The End, The Bitterness Always Gets You

Up early again and another run. This morning was 45 minutes and I managed to find a park near the hotel. So I did a few laps in the grass around the baseball fields. I gave it a bit of wellie and felt really, really good. There is still a bit of life left in these old legs and I may manage to get into decent shape yet.

When I got back to the hotel, we sat down and tried to find a hotel nearer to the city. What a nightmare! Anything that was in the city within our budget was totally booked out. I got on the dog & bone and rang a few places but nothing was near enough to the El for us. Finally, I found a Days Inn that was only a few miles from the El and had a room available. I reserved it and then managed to find another place for Friday night. It was very stressful but we had accommodation. Then Paulo made a call to inquire about Cubs tickets for tomorrow's game. Totally sold out. Saturday? Totally sold out. It was becoming increasingly apparent that you can't just cruise into Chicago and make your way through. You need to plan ahead. The learning curve continues...

We found Matty's Diner down the road from the hotel and got our daily dose of vitamin G (grease). Eggs, bacon, hash browns and lots of coffee. We were both shtuffed and ready to hit Chicago.

Now, here is the thing about Chicago. It is huge. And expensive. And not all that easy to find things. And it is bitter. I had booked a room at a Days Inn in Niles Skokie which are two neighborhoods north of the city. To get there we had to take 90 and 94, which are full of tolls. You have to pay anywhere between thirty cents and one dollar every couple of miles. When we came off 94, we turned right but realised the numbers on the street where going down, not up. Bollix. We turned around and started driving west. After a while, the numbers started going down again. Bollix. We had to stop to ring the hotel. We were going the right way the first time. The numbers go all the way down and then start again from 10,000. Eventually, we found the place and checked in.

We ordered a taxi and got a lift to the El station because we were too far away to walk. That set us back about nine dollars. Then, when we got to the station, we asked for help purchasing tickets. The girl says to us that the machines don't give change for bills and she doesn't sell tickets or handle any money. We didn't have exact change. Oh, and she didn't have any maps of the city or of the El lines. Fuck's sake.

We walked to a convenience store, got change and were finally on our way. We got off in the middle of the city and started walking north. Except that we were going south (and without a map). We managed to make our way to Sears Tower but decided not to go to the top for a view of the city. It was late, there was a thirty minute wait and it would have cost $18.50.

We turned east and walked towards Millennium Park. We stopped in Jambo Juice for a smoothie, then ducked into a really posh hotel to get a map and a Timeout magazine. They are supposed to cost two dollars but I did my best to look like I was a guest and know what I was doing so the woman didn't ask me for any money. We had a quick browse and found an ad for Reckless Records. We made it with about 15 minutes until closing time and both bought a few bargain CDs.

Continuing east, we had a look around Millennium Park, which is a new section that has been built at the top of Grant Park. There was a symphony concert on and lots of peeps wandering around. There was an outdoor bar with choons going and of course 'The Bean'.

It's actually called the Cloud Gate sculpture, weighs 110 tons and was designed by Anish Kapoor. It reflects everything around it and since there were some clouds, it was quite atmospheric.

There are also two 50 foot glass-block fountains that project video images under running water.

As well as great views of the city.

We walked into the city again, past the Loop and a few crazy, homeless people.

We were both feeling a bit pecky, so we made our way to Berghoff. This place was the first to open up after prohibition ended and it is a very cool, old school kind of place.

I ordered a portobello mushroom and Paulo had the chili and chips. They were both quality and despite only being appetizers filled us up completely. We washed them down with a Berghoff amber since they brew all of their own beer.

After carefully studying all the music magazines that we had collected, we decided to go to a bar called High Dive. It was miles away but the advertisement for it said that it was the best indie jukebox in Chicago. Paulo was sold.

We thought it might be a good idea if we walked, so we started north. And we walked. And we walked. And we walked some more. Now, I like walking and it was a great summer night. But when we turned left on Chicago Avenue looking for the 1900 block and realising that we were only on the 600 block, we hailed a cab.

Ten minutes later we were in High Dive talking to the barmaid (Meegan) and one of the owners (George). They were totally sound and sorted us out for the night. They gave us complete control of the jukebox, George bought us a few rounds and at the end of the night they only charged us $41.00! Happy days!

We were a bit bollixed, so we got another cab back to the El station, a train and another cab back to the hotel. I don't remember what time it was when we got back but I knew that my head was going to hurt in the morning...

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