So this past weekend, The Beloved got her final birthday present, which (unbeknownst to her before Friday) was a weekend’s trip to Chicago. Why Chicago? Well, mostly because we’d both lived there before we knew one another. I cut my professional teeth working for Abbott Laboratories in the late 90s and the Beloved earned her PhD from Northwestern in the early 90s. I think I got a good surprise in, because she was giddy with excitement when she found out where we were going. Travel was easy coming and going (20 min late, and 15 min early respectively), and the weather was good (clear with highs in the mid-70s). Our hotel was swank and comfortable – when the cab let us out, I knew that I’d chosen the right place for us.
Public spaces. Chicago has to one of the best places to see world-class art and architecture for free. Really, all you need to do is walk around some and look up from time to time. One block has a Picasso AND a Miró.
The architecture is so monumental its almost desensitizing after a while (oh look, there’s another marvel…).
We spent a good deal of time in the new Millennium Park (which I guess was a year or two late, but who's counting…) — a great open space with couples stretched on lawns, kids playing in fountains, and the sculpture "Cloud Gate " or as it’s simply known as, "The Bean". From a distance, the Bean’s curved, reflective surface gives an interesting perspective to the sky and skyline and from near-in puts them within easy reach of the viewer (with a cool fun-house sort of aspect to boot). The Bean is great because it is both something to look at AND something to interact with.
We walked further down Michigan Avenue, which I remember as being pretty remarkable back in the day, but now really seems more like a high-end mall. So we hoofed it over to one of Susan's favorite pizza joints for lunch, which I gather used to be in a pretty dumpy area, but that is now a design center. It was nice being off the beaten track and we might have found chairs for our living room. Plus at the end, there was beer!
Food. We were able to eat a Chicago dog on our initial foray after checking in, and Saturday provided the aforementioned deep-dish pizza. Me? I'm an east-coast, fold-over-and-form-the-river-of-grease sort of guy – but the sausage (sorry, saass’-ij) and onion pizza was pretty tasty. The best meal we had was Friday night at Blackbird. Minimalist, accessible place — small, but not tiny — really aggressive menu of interesting things in cool preparations and with delicious, unusual accompaniments. Bonus: Awesome cocktails. Double bonus: Fantastic desserts. Perfect night.
Inside art and theater. In addition to the large public art, we also got tickets to see "Wicked" on Saturday night. This was a show, I'd always been a little hesitant to embrace, since I thought the book had a clever premise, but I grew to dislike the convoluted plot by the end. Well, the playwrights kept the fun stuff and jettisoned the baggage and made what I thought was a wonderful and dazzling production with great performances and clever writing. Really fun.
By Sunday morning we were looking to power down a little and decided to cap our weekend with a little time at the Art Institute of Chicago. We had a few hours, so each of us chose an area to explore. The Beloved’s choice was 16-17th-C European (think Dutch masters) – and my choice was 19th-early20th-C American. My choice was so much cooler – many fewer cherubs and not one Saint Jerome or severed John the Baptist head.
All in all, it was a great, great time. Very special for us to “rediscover” a place together that had been home to each of us for a while and see in a whole new way.