The second we stepped outside Adrienne’s house a friendly breeze gently nudged us down the street and the soft heat from the sun spread smiles on our faces. Adrienne happily led Joey, Tom, Bern and me to a diner with a bounce in her step. She complemented the neighbors on their flowers and told us our breakfast was going to be amazing - the omelets were the size of your head.
One by one we filed into the Horizon Café
and, after a small wait, thoroughly enjoyed our brunch complete with one of these mega-omelets. We chatted contentedly over our paper copy of The Onion
and our hugely portioned meals, but when we were all too full to manage even one more bite we put the mighty meals in Styrofoam containers to come back for later.
The five of us wandered through the beautiful July day back to Adrienne’s, each of us confessing our love for Chicago as we went.
We hashed out a loose plan for the day at Adrienne’s which mostly involved us following her, and her leading us to some really fun outdoors stuff. We had a full day of walking and park hopping to do according to our hostess’s directions and we gladly followed her out of her home on Bittersweet Street near Boy’s Town and wandered down around Wrigleyville.Wrigley Field
surprised me - I had never seen a picture of it before and was expecting some new mammoth stadium but instead came face to face with a baseball field. A real, wooden, modest, original looking baseball field that I could imagine Babe Ruth or Shoeless Joe Jackson hustling around the bases in. It was pretty cool and kind of made me appreciate Cubs fans.
There was a lot of walking to do though so we snapped a few pictures and got on our way. Something exciting was happening here in Chicago right downtown at the Sears Tower (which had just recently been renamed the Willis Tower
). It was the grand opening of the recently added Sky Deck, where visitors can walk out onto a glass balcony and see straight down as well as all around them from right near the very tippy top. We were excited and imagined the crazy pictures we were going to get from way up there. Adrienne works close by the Tower and was expecting a friend in from Hawaii named Christina so happily bounced off to meet her.
Joey, Tom, Bern and I rounded the corner coming up to the tower and our hearts dropped when we saw the line outside the building. Tom and Bern were both ready to let the whole thing go rather than wait in line, but Joey and I were too disappointed to give up so quickly. Joey asked a woman at an information stand how long the wait was going to be and she guessed maybe forty-five minutes. Joey and I were sold - we could definitely handle that short of a wait for such a cool view. Tom and Bern got in line with us and we called Adrienne to tell her that when she and her friend met up they could come over to the tower because by then we would probably be at the front of the line. Adrienne and Christina showed up just as we were passing through the revolving glass doors into the building and they joined us in a short line inside the lobby for the elevators.
All six of us crammed onto a huge elevator loaded to the absolute breaking point with other sightseers and dropped down one floor. Confused, we got off the cramped elevator and got in another line. By this point Tom was over and done with standing in line. Joey, disheartened but still hopeful, asked a girl at the ticket stand how long this line would be. When he came back and reported that it would be another hour and a half no one had to say a word. We all slipped under the rope and headed out of the tower without seeing much more than the lobby. Better luck next time I guess.
But never fear, America! One unfortunate event is not enough to spoil our spirits! Adrienne led us quickly onto a much more fun way to spend an hour and a half by bringing us to a street festival. She explained that during the summer in Chicago, each section of the city has a designated weekend where they block off a street or two and throw a party. I can imagine that if you live in Chicago and endure the winter there you might get pretty excited to see the summer sunshine again. This festival proved it when we wandered in the sectioned off area and saw all the happy people.
We were met with a Talking Heads cover band complete with crazily dancing band members, amazing food from nearby restaurants who came prepared with a limited menu for eager tasters, and of course lovely grassy hills to enjoy a brew on top of. The sun warmed our backs as we stood around a table munching on some tasty treats and getting to know Christina. Tom and Bern took a walk around the festival to see what was what while we stood around talking but eventually they made their way back to us and we all adjourned to a nearby grassy spot on a hill. Having thoroughly enjoyed a few rolls down the hill after some small children gave us the idea, we decided it was time to keep walking. The sun was getting lower in the sky and it was about time for some salsa dancing lessons in another park nearby.
The walk over to the salsa dancing park led us by some pretty fun looking summer events and many Chicago locals outside loving life. We wandered on a path by a large field and as we crested the hill we saw it was an outdoor concert venue and an orchestra tuning on the stage below. The people scattered across the grass to watch the concert were there in high style. They each seemed to have gone to the same Crate and Barrel store to find a small, short, square table with wine bottle holders built into it. They sat on spread out blankets with their wine glasses and looked entirely enviable.
Salsa dancing was calling our names but as we passed by the concert goers we were drawn to a giant shiny orb that very closely resembled an oversized kidney bean. This silver blob was enchanting many young people as it sat in its shimmering glory across a cement park so we wandered over and posed in its reflection. A very amusing piece of what I guess is modern art - is this Chicago’s response to Minnesota’s giant ball of twine - America’s largest silver coated kidney bean?
Down some steps from there was the most interesting water display I’ve seen yet, and I’ve seen the water displays in Las Vegas. Two very large towers stood facing each other across a rectangle black tile area in the center of the cement patio. These towers had giant TV screens on the front and back that showed pictures of people’s faces blown up to be as big as the towers were tall. Water streamed from these towers in different patterns to an inch deep pool area below. My favorite water pattern was when the faces made their lips look like they were spitting and a thick stream of water poured from their mouths into the pool. Joey and I stood in the water and I was surprised at how freezing cold it was. Some small children raced by us kicking up water as they went so we walked out of the pool, slipped back into our shoes and finally made our way to the salsa dancing park.
When we arrived the sun had almost faded completely and the deep purple clouds above us were becoming a starry night on the horizon. We had missed the lessons but a live band was wailing away on stage and everyone on the dance area below was packed in with each other and dancing their hearts out. We got ourselves some beer and then dove into the crowd ready to start twisting around in a mock-salsa attempt.
Joey and I followed Adrienne and Christina into the crowd but quickly lost sight of them and we had lost Tom and Bern somewhere between the beer and the dance floor, so Joey twirled me a few times and I mostly dodged women’s high heels coming down on my sandaled feet while we danced. We wandered over for one more cup of beer and some interesting looking Mexican food from a vendor and found the same grassy spot near a tree that everyone else seemed to have found as well. We ate and drank for a little while but Adrienne told us we should get going if we wanted to catch the fireworks at the Navy Pier
. No one was in any kind of rush but we flagged a few cabs and climbed into the backseats of the yellow cars. The windows were down and I let the cool night air rush over my face until we arrived at the pier.
As we walked toward the end of the pier we were watching the finale of the fireworks, the black night sky echoed each bang and fizzle and the dazzling light danced on grey smoke clouds. The show ended as we got to the very end of the pier so we parted ways with Christina (who was going to visit other friends at a party somewhere else) and hopped on the subway headed towards Adrienne’s house.
The day had been long and very full so as soon as her key unlocked the door each traveler found a place to lay their head and sleep. I picked a couch in the living room near Joey who was on another couch and was just slipping into the Land of Nod when Adrienne’s friend Dan stopped by to pick her up. She went to shower quickly so I talked with him while Joey snored to the music emanating from Adrienne’s iPod. We talked about being an American abroad and how the perception of our country is poor pretty universally. We talked about more that just that, we talked about people in general and places to go see, and as we talked Adrienne emerged from her room dressed and ready. She quietly went into the kitchen and listened to us adding her two cents now and again and all of a sudden brought us a bowl of homemade hummus, sliced carrots and crackers. The three of us happily munched on this delicious surprise snack but Dan eventually convinced Adrienne it was time to go. They wandered out into the lively Chicago night and I lay down happily sinking into a deep sleep.
Until next time America.