Captain’s Log – Chicago, IL

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field

We left Madison with 1060 West Addison Street Chicago, IL plugged into Google maps. Traffic, construction, and the lingering effects of Madison night-life slowed our arrival to the matinee game with the Rockies and we didn’t stroll into Wrigley field until the 4th inning. We sat deep down the third base line under the overhang. The old walkways hidden behind the grandstands resemble scaffolding and it’s fun to imagine how the styles of the fans that traverse them have changed since 1914 – when the stadium was first built. Bleachers sit atop the nearby buildings and expand the number of potential viewers beyond the approximately 41,000 capacity of the stadium. The stadium itself sits in the middle of a suburban neighborhood on the north side of the city and the streets bustle on game day. Even on a Thursday afternoon, the stadium was nearly full. Although spent, we enjoyed the game and were revitalized by the Cubs fans – a group known for its delusional, unwavering devotion to the team they love.

We left the stadium and headed towards Wicker Park where we would make our home for the weekend. The emphatic David Goldman was kind enough to let us crash at his apartment just above what’s known as the six corners intersection. We grabbed some tacos and beers at BigStar – the hippest taco joint in Chicago – before nap time.  That evening was spent relaxing as David played host to Ilan Benjamin and his crew of Lollapalooza goers and laughter and mirth was shared by all.

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock

The next day we headed for the Art Institute of Chicago. This has got to be one of the best museums on the planet. We started with late 18th century French oil on canvas paintings – they have quite the Monet collection.  I went to explore the armor room where I was impressed by the full busts of ornate metal plates that used to be worn by warriors of old. We then left the old world for some more modernist artwork which I clearly don’t have the cultural complexity to comprehend. There were some Jackson Pollock’s – which actually feel like they have some depth to them despite just being mostly paint splatter. Then there were some Pollock wannabes who’s relevance can really only be attributed what Will described as “a racket” – expletives may or may not have been edited.

We headed downstairs to Josef Koudelka’s very interesting photo journalist collection that captures the Soviet invasion of the Czech Republic in 1968. Also downstairs was the video artist Bruce Nauman who’s Clown Torture exhibit was on display – look it up.  The special exhibit was by Belgian surrealist Rene Magriette who is famous for his painting “The Son of Man“.  Once again, out there, but pretty neat. We spent the better part of the day there and still didn’t explore everything they had to offer.

The Bean - Millennium Park

The Bean – Millennium Park

Freshly cultured, it was time to indulge in Chicago’s true societal contribution – the deep dish pizza.  After an obligatory stop at Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) in Millennium Park, we sat down at Lou Malnati’s and ordered more than enough food. The pizza was good but the bruschetta was enlightening. The other boys finished their pizza but I didn’t have the stomach to down my last slice – a decision that would pay dividends around 3:00am the following morning. We left and carried our full bellies back onto the L (Chicago’s public transit train).

That evening we were ready to take on Chicago on a Friday night. We hopped on the L and made our way back to “the Loop” district. The Loop is the colloquial name for the main downtown business district, home to Sear’s Tower, and where all the L lines congregate – for the BART riders out there, it’d be like if MacArthur was in downtown San Francisco. We were on our way to a hip bar known as Three Dots and A Dash but Matt saw some friends from school in line for Bub City and proceeded into the country music bastion of downtown Chicago. We continued our trek on to Stanley’s where Matt’s awesome friends made up for the bar’s marginal atmosphere. After a nice jog to the L to try and catch a train that wasn’t coming, we resorted to walking some 2 miles back to the apartment – upon our arrival, my last slice of deep dish came in handy.

Wrigley, Chicago Tribune, and a modernist building

Wrigley, Chicago Tribune, and a modernist building

The next day we headed back downtown to partake in the Chicago architecture boat tour. This is well worth the $40 price of admission. Our tour guide J.J. lead us down the Chicago river and introduced us to the wide variety of styles that make up the Chicago skyline. The great Chicago fire of 1871 flattened most of the city and architects flocked to the area to rebuild. The city became the destination for architects and engineers which has endured to the present day with Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill calling it home – the architecture firm behind the Sears Tower, Burj Khalifa, and One World Trade Center.  The mix of old and new styles chronicle the changes in dominant forms throughout the years. We all thoroughly enjoyed the tour and our guide J.J. was quite the story teller. Matt had entered us into a 24 hour radio production challenge and we received the theme just before getting on the boat. In a stroke of genius, Matt recorded our tour and then reached out to the tour company in hopes of getting in touch with J.J. and making him, and the city’s history, the focus of the piece.  Matt left his number and we continued with our day.

We explored Navy Pier which juts out into Lake Michigan – which is like a calmer, less smelly ocean. We took a couple interviews while sailboats cruised by before returning to the apartment. As soon as we got back, tour guide J.J. called Matt back and enthusiastically scheduled an interview for 9:00am the next morning. The 24 hour radio contest would end at noon the next day but Matt was determined and we figured he would still be a fascinating person to talk to.

The rest of us left Matt in peace to do some preparation and headed the the hip bar we missed the night before. After showing the very well dressed bouncer our IDs, we descended under a landing of skulls and into the darkness. As our eyes adjusted to the dim green and blue lighting emanating from the stained glass fishing floats, we were directed to a table and handed menus featuring a selection of mostly rum cocktails and appetizers. We enjoyed the Tiki bar’s deference to its Bay Area forefathers as their menu cited two cocktails that originated at Trader Vic’s in Emeryville and one from Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. Malcolm and I made our orders and enjoyed as the conversation flowed with great ease.  We befriended our waitress and got some recommendations that served as trade winds for the rest of our evening.

Blue Line on the L Train

Blue Line on the L Train

Back on the L again, we headed towards Logan Square for two dollar tacos at L’ Patron. While slightly out of the way, it was nice to explore another part of the city. Logan Square has a Mission District of San Francisco vibe with Latino influences and a sort of prideful grittiness. The wait was long, but the tacos were great and we brought one back to our hard working comrade back at the apartment.

The next morning we awoke as planned and headed to the apartment of one of Chicago’s finest writer-poet-historians. The four of us clamored onto J.J. Tindall’s couch and let the man tell us his story and the story of his city.  Check out Matt’s great piece that tells a little about the history of the city and the origins of the name “Chicago”.

The rest of the morning was spent tracking quotes and then Matt went to work while Malc and I went in search of a couple more interviews before another storm rolled in.  The speed and strength of these Midwestern rain storms has caught us off guard – we’ve probably experienced more rain on our trip then the state of California has had all year.  We tried to wait it out but the hour was getting late and we decided to head back downtown with our sights set on the Signature Lounge in the Hancock Tower.  This is the locally recommended way to take in the skyline.  As opposed to the $20 fee for the Skydeck in the Sear’s Tower, the Signature Lounge is a one drink minimum bar that charges about $8 for a 12 ounce beer and a view only partially obstructed by a giant support beam – still worth it.  We then returned back to the apartment for some gruel and relaxation for our last night in town.

The next morning we headed north on another public transit adventure out to the Heartland Cafe in the Rogers Park neighborhood for a farewell breakfast with our host.  Chicago treated us well but it was time to get back on the road and we packed up and headed out to see with our own to eyes whether or not it plays in Peoria.  Onward and upward.

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