Is there another northern American city that can pull off a spring break like Chicago? In August? Without a beach? Well played, Chicago, well played.
Last week, Kathy and I went to Chicago for a couple of days. It’s my favorite city in the US., perhaps because of my loyalty to the Midwest. It’s an easy four-hour train ride, there is always much to do, and beautiful Lake Michigan views aren’t too far away.
This visit was planned some time ago and since much of what we were going to do was south of the river, we decided to stay in that area. On the recommendation of a friend, I booked a room at the Congress Hotel, directly on Michigan Avenue and across from the beautiful Grant Park.
Three days before we boarded the #365 Blue Water Express, I learned that Chicago’s huge four-day music fest, Lollapalooza, was going to be happening while we were there. At Grant Park. Directly across from our hotel. With 100,000 18-25 year olds. When I saw these kids toting large coolers and even a microwave onto the elevator with us, I knew we were staying at party central. Ahhh, my dreams were finally coming true, just forty years too late.
It was good for me to be surrounded by this madness. My life is pretty removed from the bikini-top clad young women and the too-hip for themselves young men that were everywhere. I smiled when I imagined they were going to listen to today’s Elvis Presley, Beatles, James Brown, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, … You get the idea. Parents didn’t get those guys either just like I’m not hanging a poster of Wiz Khalifa in my room today.
Though a storm canceled the first night’s headliners for the concert-goers, we were able to do everything we’d planned. A trip to the comedy theater Second City, and being in the audience for a recording of the NPR radio show, “Wait, wait, don’t tell me” filled our evenings.
During the day, we enjoyed the Chicago Institute of Arts and my very first visit to The Field Museum. How fun! Kathy’s eyes lit up when we learned about the special tattoo exhibit, and the on-site tattoo “parlor”. “Let’ get one!” she said.
Kathy has a fascination about the message behind tattoos, and when I learned that most are simply acts of self-expression and adornments to the body, I was relieved. I’ll continue to self-express through writing and adorn myself with scarves. No tattoos for me.
Thank you, Chicago, job well done. I know the city needs this week to recover from the abbreviated spring break experience they created, though the twenty-year olds were probably able to sleep it off in a day. As for us? We got out of there before Big Sean or Chance the Rapper played though I’ve got to tell you, I sort of like him. I wonder if he knows he has a portly middle-aged white woman sporting capris and tennis shoes as a fan?
A word about Second City: This was my second time and I don’t think there’s a better value for your money in Chicago. We saw “The Winner of Our Discontent”, a two and a half hour show, part scripted, part improv. You have to listen carefully because the jokes are rapid-fire and subtle. It’s rated R but we’ve heard worse at Trump rallies and Scaramucci interviews. No topics are off limits and the actors are phenomenal. I’m keeping my eye on one woman who I’m sure started making faces to entertain her classmates in first grade.