Chicago: The Day Everything Went Right

It wasn’t quite the crack of dawn when Charlie and I got up on Saturday to head to Chicago, but it sure felt like it. It must have been worse for Charlie than myself, though; he’d gotten very little sleep on Thursday night (including a 4am trip to the ER because of throat problems) and even though he’d gone to bed on Friday night as soon as he came over he was still on a definite sleep deficit.

Before too long we’d deposited the car off at the daily garage, and headed down a series of completely empty corridors (that grew progressively creepier—where was everyone?) before finally arriving at the ticket counter so Charlie could check his bag, which was just slightly too big to fit in the overhead compartment. “Technically this is a late bag,” the helpful Southwest employee told us, affixing a gigantic LATE BAG tag to his luggage. “But only by a couple of minutes, so I’m sure it’ll make it on board, no problem.” (It did.) The flight was also oversold, but thankfully Charlie had printed out our boarding passes the day before so our position in the “A” boarding group was assured.

The flight was quick and uneventful, and before long we were checked in at the very nice Wyndham Chicago, just a block off of Michigan Avenue. The weather was much cooler than in DC, and also perpetually threatening to rain. Undaunted, we grabbed umbrellas and headed out. We just walked around for a while, enjoying the sights and grabbing a bite to eat. In our wanderings I was quite amused to finally see the Cloud Gate, Anish Kapoor’s sculpture in Millennium Park that’s more commonly called “the bean.”

Cloud Gate

It’s actually quite impressive to see in real life; my pictures don’t really do it justice. It was fun to gawk at your own reflection in its face, or to see the shifting world of Chicago appear all throughout it. Eventually we moved on, our first official stop being the Museum of Contemporary Photography. This turned out to not be that much of a stop whatsoever; it’s miniscule, although to be fair one of the two spaces for exhibits was closed as they were setting up a new collection there. (I’d have thought they’d want it ready for a holiday weekend, but I guess not.)

On the bright side, this meant we still had lots of time to visit the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s very nicely laid out, and I really enjoyed being able to look at the different pieces with Charlie and bounce ideas back and forth. I think it is safe to say that the moment in which we laughed the most was in the contemporary art section where we saw Dara Birnbaum’s “Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman,” a seven-minute film remixing transformation scenes with Linda Carter turning to and from Wonder Woman, and including a disco song about Wonder Woman. Truly sublime. Lots of great exhibits there, though; there was a fantastic photography exhibit that I loved, and the Thorne Miniature Rooms (68 painstakingly created miniature rooms spanning centuries in time from different parts of the United States and Europe) have to be seen to truly be appreciated.

After the museum closed, we swung through the gift shop (and I found a birthday present for a friend, we’ll see if I remember that I purchased it come this fall) and then out into the gardens on either side of the museum. Charlie admitted that he’d never been in them before, and while it was lightly drizzling that actually made them more inviting, branches heavy with water hanging over fountains. I don’t think Charlie was really ready for me to start climbing up on railings and such to try and take pictures, but humored my attempts.

Canopy of Branches

By the time we were done with all of this, both of us were ready for a nap. Charlie’s the kind of guy who falls asleep really quickly, but I think he might have literally been asleep before his head hit the pillow. After some much needed rest, we decided to try and get some dinner, but upon calling our originally intended destination (that doesn’t take reservations) we discovered the wait would be at least two hours, probably longer. So, we called around and after talking with the hostess at Boka Restaurant even though officially there were no tables available, we were promised a table if we headed right over.

And oh, what a dinner. I’m a little sorry I didn’t take any pictures of the food but it felt crass to do so in such a nice restaurant. I started with a squid stuffed with shrimp and scallops (which was spicy yet delicious) topped with pineapple, and followed it up with a duck breast paired with a stinging nettle flan, which sounded strange but was great. For dessert we split a chocolate raspberry tart, and a strawberry/rhubarb oatmeal crisp with vanilla ice cream. Everything we had? Outstanding, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. One of the most delicious meals I’ve had in quite a while, and in a really nice place.

Riding in the cab back to the hotel, I’d turned to Charlie and said, “This is one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.” And it was.

A Break in the Rain

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