Second (to none) City Weekend

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.

Some highlights:

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.

Read and post comments |
Send to a friend

40 thoughts on “Second (to none) City Weekend

  1. I love Chicago! Second only to my love of San Diego/La Jolla.What a great surprise – Rob surprised me with a trip there a few new year's ago. The art institute is the best.

  2. I have only visited Chicago twice, so have not really explored it thoroughly. And one of the visits was after my oldest friend's wedding in Madison, when he and his bride invited me, after an interval, to join them at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago. (Tom and Spike had met at an SF convention, so it was fitting). I remember that there was a show at the Institute called Degenerate Art, which was a recreation of a show the Nazis put on in 1937 condemning modern art. Artists included Chagall, Klee, Kandinsky, and Ernst. (The show also was done in Philadelphia, which I actually thought did a better job of exhibiting the surviving art).

  3. oh, wow! what a great weekend! :)i've been to chicago twice, but once when i was really young and the second time i was there for wizardcon. heh. so i didn't get to do any sightseeing. the pics were awesome. :)

  4. Aaaah!! Sounds like it was a wonderful trip–I'm glad you both had a great time! And I've already said this, but I'm just so excited you got to see Wicked. The musical really is so much better than the book, imho–and I'm usually devoted to the original book versions of things.I would love to visit Chicago someday. It really seems like an incredible place.

  5. What a cool trip!! I might be going to Chicago next summer so it was lovely to get a preview – I had no idea about the architecture. Or the pizza, that sounds heavenly! Glad you guys had a good time!!

  6. you shut your mouth, sir! there is NOTHING wrong with Dutch masters, cherubim, seraphim, or the occasional severed head of John the Baptist! (especially if they had any van Eyk! I <3 van Eyk!)
    i've never been to Chicago, but your descriptions really make me want to visit! glad a good time was had.

  7. ai — I would have loved to see that show. Interestingly, the AIC is adding a huge new Modern Art wing. Several galleries were closed b/c of construction — which didn't inhibit us much since we were on a limited schedule, but would have bummed me out if I wanted a full day there.

  8. J — me too — I almost always tend to like the original rather than an adaptation — and certainly a book more than a movie or show. But this one really was better. I loved it.

  9. Cool, cool, COOL trip!! It's been quite a while since we've been to Chicago, and we'd really love to take the kids someday. I just love the concept of the two of you rediscovering a city you both knew in previous lives. Like melding together two more pieces of your individual histories.

  10. Another cool travelogue by Steve! I'm happy that you and your Beloved had a great time. I haven't been to Chicago since 1978; I have relatives nearby and in Indiana and Detroit so I owe them a visit. When I was about 4 years old my Mother took me to the Merchandise Mart a truly unforgettable journey.

  11. Very cool recap post! Chicago is one of my favorites, though of the handful of times I've been there I've inadvertently chosen to go when it's freezing cold and the wind coming off the lake has made me colder than I've ever imagined possible. Glad the weather cooperated for your weekend :)I liked Wicked a lot too. The "backstory" on the Wizard of Oz is so clever and they made the musical so visually arresting. Glad you guys had such a good time!

  12. How fun!I loved my visit to The City That Works this spring. Such a great place. I want to go back again in the near future.I think I might be the only Chicago tourist who doesn't have a picture of himself in front of those lions.

  13. Have you considered the Love Where You Live group? Cool post, I think they'd like it. Hey, also on the sports, have you heard of Glenn Franco Simmons?
    Here's my "most unfavortite" saying-"Check it out!". It's old…..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s