Chicago: The Day Everything Went Wrong

GazingOn Sunday morning, Charlie and I had tickets to go on an “architecture tour” of Chicago. The idea is pretty simple; a boat ride down the Chicago River while a tour guide gives a lecture on the different buildings that we see. Chicago in general has a lot of amazing skyscrapers, and while the Sears Tower is the most notable it’s not the only one worth seeing.

Sunday was supposed to be a cloudy, overcast, and potentially rainy day like Saturday had turned out. What we got instead was a bright sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. This seemed at the time to be a good thing. So, we boarded the boat and cringed at the occasional bouts of silliness as the tour begun. (The typical “who traveled the farthest to get here?” questions, and even a pirate-related joke.) Before long, though, I was entranced by the views of the buildings, learning about each one. So entranced, in fact, that it didn’t hit me that I didn’t put on any sunscreen that morning and my hat was still in Charlie’s bag. Uh oh.

Oblivious to disaster looming on the horizon, I absolutely loved the architecture tour. The buildings were fantastic, and I could’ve just stared at them all day. A handful of the photos I took seemed to turn out pretty well. The rest looked like someone drunk took them. I’m sure being on, oh, a moving boat had nothing to do with that whatsoever. (It’s small comfort but I’ll take it.) Eventually it was over, though, and we hopped back onto land and took a leisurely two mile stroll down Lake Shore Drive. The plan was to just enjoy walking along the edge of Lake Michigan and eventually get to the Shedd Aquarium.

The walk was lovely, but what awaited us? Perhaps not so much. It turned out that everyone else wanted to go the Shedd Aquarium. When the line to get in is over an eighth of a mile long, that’s a bad sign. We gamely stepped into it, thinking that perhaps it would move quickly. After five minutes, we’d moved approximately three feet. Well, the Komodo Dragon exhibit (I do love them so) would have to go unvisited, clearly. Instead we decided to head into the Field Museum, since there wasn’t a line. Surely that meant it would be calm, right?

TotemHo ho ho. I crack myself up. We walked through the Egypt exhibit in the basement and let me just say, an exhibit designed to feel like the inside of a tomb is not where you want to be when every child in creation is also present. The entire museum was jam-packed full of humanity in general, and the look on Charlie’s face was not a pleasant one. If I had to categorize it, I’d say it fell squarely into the “get me the hell out of here” group. He suggested that maybe we just see the Gem and Mineral Hall and then leave, and I agreed. We may have actually spent less time in the Field Museum then we did in the tiny Contemporary Photography Museum the other day, and that says a lot.

On the way back to the hotel, we decided to stop by the Sanrio Store to see if they had any cute Badtz-Maru merchandise. (You know, to go with my Badtz-Maru toiletries bag and Charlie’s Badtz-Maru watch.) What did we find? Nothing. Apparently Badtz-Maru has his own new line of product hitting stores in June, so all the old stuff had been cleared out in anticipation. Drat.

We made a couple of other shopping stops; Kenneth Cole, where the air-conditioning was broken; the Gap, where a guy kept bumping into Charlie to the point that it was getting a little creepy; and Vosges Haut-Chocolat, which was pretty tasty. Eventually we got back to the hotel to take a nap, as well as to stare at my hideous sunburn. Ouch. My favorite part is that the sunburn on my arms was formed as a nice stripe down each forearm, with everything else untouched. Classy.

Eventually we made our way to the theatre where we had evening tickets to see “Jerry Springer—The Opera” which by all reports is hysterically funny. Except we got to theatre and discovered that even though the website had said our tickets were for the evening, there was no evening performance on Sunday, just a matinee. The woman at the theatre, after finding out that we wouldn’t be around on Monday to just get tickets for that showing, gave us tickets for their other show that was on Sunday nights. “Barenaked Lads Take Off Broadway.”

Now, I’d heard less than stellar things about the whole “Barenaked Lads” series. I know some people like them (and not just for the nudity, but for the songs and what have you). So we went into the very tiny theatre with an open mind. We took the only available seats; a tour group had taken up almost all of them, so we were in the very front row, as far away from the exit as one could be. Additionally, we hadn’t eaten dinner yet because of the time mix-up. So with a slightly growling stomach, we sat down, the lights dimmed, and… well…

Sears Tower & 311 South WackerThere’s no way to beat around the bush here. I have seen my mother’s elementary school class plays, and those 3rd and 4th graders were probably better actors. The whole nudity thing was actually pretty unappealing (only one of the guys should ever appear anywhere semi-clothed and I’d have been happy if he’d just been shirtless, to be honest), the songs were juvenile, and in what we can only assume was an attempt to draw in a bachelorette party crowd, there was also a (fully clothed) woman in the cast who had little vignettes about being drunk at her own bachelorette fling. About five minutes into the performance, Charlie and I were exchanging horrified looks back and forth. And there was no escape. We were too far from the exit to leave gracefully, so instead we sat in the slow-motion train wreck that included the guy next to Charlie laughing hysterically the whole way through it. Both of us wanted to ask him if he’d actually ever seen a movie, or play, or even read a book before with which to make comparisons. (We finally decided that he must have been the boyfriend of a cast member and was laughing to be supportive.)

Oh yes, and the nudity. First, let me just say that they guys were fully clothed for about half of the performance. So people who are going for that are going to be disappointed. But it also meant that the nudity (unlike other versions of this series where they’re naked the whole way through) really is distracting because first it’s there, then it’s not, and it becomes a big guessing game. It was certainly never arousing (or intended to be), though. Not in the slightest. We actually spent some time afterwards discussing things like, “Did you notice that one of the guys had one testicle much lower than the other?” Such amazing dinnertime conversation, what can I say.

Anyway, after the nightmare ended (and Charlie apologized about 200 times for us going to that nightmare—as I told him, it wasn’t his fault, and we could at least laugh about it for years to come) we headed into the rest of the gay neighborhood to get some food and perhaps a drink. Except, bizarrely, it was empty. Disturbingly so. I was starting to expect zombies to stagger around the corner and eat our brains, it was so empty. Now, I know it was a Sunday night. And yes, International Mr. Leather was also that weekend and that would slightly thin out the crowd. But Monday was a holiday. Where was everyone? What the hell was going on? Why was nothing going as planned?

We finally gave up and took a cab back to the restaurant, walked to a nearby Japanese restaurant, and had a very lovely dinner. That night, before we went to bed, I laughed about how Sunday was clearly payback for everything on Saturday working out so well. But you know what? We still had a fantastic time. I was sad to fly home Monday morning, but glad to have such a great weekend with Charlie.

Added bonus: the full set of pictures from the weekend!
Cloud GateUs in the Cloud GateUs Surrounded By the Cloud GateUnder the Cloud GateFascinationSplash
MetraPeacefulCanopy of BranchesFountainPurple and WhiteHopeful
A Break in the RainLake Shore DriveNBC TowerWrigley BuildingMarina CityCentral Office Building
Reflections of ChicagoBoeing World HeadquartersSears Tower & 311 South WackerFlankingGazingThe El
Operation IvyReflectionBuildings Dead AheadR.R. Donnelly CenterLake Point TowerLove and Marriage
Adler PlanetariumChicago SkylineTotemsTotemSueCrisp

One thought on “Chicago: The Day Everything Went Wrong

  1. […] Chicago: The Day Everything Went Wrong Wherein two men from Washington DC enjoy a pleasant architecture boat tour then make the huge mistake of trying to go to Shedd Aquarium and then to the Field Museum, where they realize that “an exhibit designed to feel like the inside of a tomb is not where you want to be when every child in creation is also present.” […]

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