Frankfurt on the Main means on the Main River, only 19 miles upstream from the confluence with the famous Rhine River in Mainz. I will spare you the history lesson, and only highlight Napoleon, who made it the seat of government for the Republic of the Rhine in 1806. Until World War 2, Frankfurt’s Old Town was the largest medieval city still intact in Germany. The city is home now to 5.5 million people, and they like to call it “Mainhattan.” The Frankfurt airport is the fourth busiest in Europe. Most transfer to smaller countries are made here.
My personal recollection of Frankfurt is rather mixed and nebulous. It was back in 1971 that I last visited anything other than their huge and busy airport. I recall the large US Army presence, a definite Cold War monument and the intersecting Autobahn. And I recall the many bars and restaurants in the city. Other than that, I am at a loss to recall firsthand knowledge of this wonderful looking city.
So, besides Goethe, who else is from Frankfurt? How about Willie Messerschmitt, Amschel Rothschild, Charles the Bald, Oskar Schindler, Paul Ehrlich, Anne Frank, Martin Lawrence, Ruben Studdard, Helmut Kohl, and Pope Francis.
But I am back, for just two nights, to acclimate to the jet lag and time difference from home. I look forward to exploring the city. And you know I love exploring cities and towns. I have probably changed planes here a dozen times!
Frankfurt has become a leading financial, commercial, and high-tech center, perhaps rivaling Berlin. The city is also home to the European Union’s central bank. And yes for you hot dog fans, the city is known for its production of high-quality sausages or frankfurters. Was there not a Supreme Court Justice named Felix Frankfurter? In fact, I recall overdosing on German sausage back in 1971. Or maybe it was the beer?
Goethe University is among the largest in Germany. And the Frankfurt Zoo is one of the largest in the country. Other main attractions are the Stadel Art Institute and Gallery, the Senckenberg Natural History Museum, and the Liebieghaus Museum of Sculpture. This is the birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
So, what might we do in this great city? Romerberg is the old town square, and the Old Opera House looks interesting. Too bad I will miss the famous Frankfurter Flohmarkt, the popular Saturday flea market. But I will find my way to the Kleinmarkthalle, open every day, and filled with a traditional German market and international foods, including sausage, wine, cheese, flowers, and more.
The famous Reingau wine country is just west of Frankfurt, for what wine experts claim is the best Riesling in the world. But I hear the Pinot Noir is also very good. Apparently, we have Charlemagne to thank for mandating the first planting of vineyards more than a thousand years ago. But it was Queen Victoria who became enamored of Riesling produced by the vineyards around Hochheim Village.
Since I have never spent much time here, this might be an interesting few days.
It takes only 15 milliseconds for the human body to register a taste. According to Dr. Hildegarde Heymann, at the University of California at Davis, taste perception is swift because the tongue and mouth (assisted by the nose) are the body’s primary defenses against poison. For our four main senses: taste takes: 1.5 to 4.0 milliseconds, touch: 2.4 to 8.9 milliseconds, hearing: 13 to 22 milliseconds, and vision: 13 to 45 milliseconds. (Winespeed) I did not know I can taste wine that quickly!
And a few words about beer from Winespeed: Ten companies account for 2/3 of the world’s beer supply. According to the publication Meininger’s, the beer industry has consolidated in recent years, with the top ten beer companies producing 32 million gallons of beer annually. The number one producer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, (which own over 600 beer brands including Budweiser, Bud Light, Corona, and Stella Artois) is responsible for a quarter of all global beer production followed by Heineken with 12% and Carlsberg with 6%.
With so many choices regarding what to drink, where to buy and taste, may I suggest a rather simple idea. Ask one of your most knowledgeable friends what they like to drink. You already know mine, but I would be pleased to share it again if there is any interest.
I was worried about a new disorder I might have: placomusophilia. Forget the muselet.
Like most of you who enjoy wine tasting, you have probably tasted wines at wineries, and had to pour or “spit” wine. But I noticed something interesting. I have NEVER been to a champagne or sparkling wine tasting where the wine is spit into a container. Yet, I recently took a champagne course, and the taster spit his champagne into a bucket!!! On my trip to the Champagne regions, and the cities of Epernay and Reims, I never saw a bucket in the tasting rooms!!
Speaking of wine tasting, what do you think of some wineries charging $100 for wine tasting? Obscene!!! My suggestion for you is to join a wine club and try to patronize them when you visit your favorite wine region. For example, I am a member at Domaine Carneros. When I went to France, I arranged a private tasting at their parent company, Taittinger in Reims, through my membership here at Domaine Carneros. Whatever you do, just enjoy it to the fullest, and be sure to tell us about it.
What is placomusophilia? A collector of metal caps found on the tops of champagne or sparkling wine corks. Sounds like I need some antibiotics?
Most of you who know me, know that I travel with my good buddy, Mr. Mike, or I travel solo. Mike is the BEST travel buddy ever. We are not joined at the hip when we travel, though we have similar interests. And we never, I repeat, never, talk about money!!
But perhaps you would like a different perspective on solo travel, other than mine. I had the benefit of traveling solo on business throughout the late Seventies, and most of the Eighties. And I was able to start traveling for pleasure at a fairly young age (to Europe), essentially, on my own.
The Point Guy has a great website, and email. I strongly suggest that you subscribe, not only for travel, but their advice on best use of award points and airline miles to maximize your trips. Here are some of his thoughts.
PG: For all sorts of reasons, you might be faced with the choice of traveling alone, or not traveling at all. Your partner, friends or family may not be able to take the same time off work or they may just not be as keen on the destination as you are. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck at home. I love traveling by myself and have had some fantastic experiences abroad all on my own. In fact, sometimes I prefer traveling alone over traveling with others.
Now given a choice, I would choose Mr. Mike over solo travel. But when we are traveling, we always have the option to go in different directions. He loves to walk the cities, I love the trains and public transportation. I enjoy a museum or two, he prefers the street culture. But both of us are foodies, enjoy good wine and beer, and love to engage locals in conversation.
The best reason for solo travel is freedom. Sleep in or get up early. Coffee in the room or find a nearby coffee joint. Hit a bus or walking tour or explore on my own. Skip lunch or have beer and French fries. Take a nap or rent a bicycle. You get the idea.
PG: Long story short: You don’t have to do anything you don’t want just because someone you would travel with wants to do it.
Meeting new people is easier when traveling alone. While I was in Greece, both in Athens and Santorini, I made lifelong friends. Most of you know I have friends all over the world, from places like Cambodia, Malaysia, Peru, Japan, South Africa, Thailand, Mexico, Switzerland, and now Greece.
Plus, I’ve found that being the lone foreigner at a bar or café quickly leads to interesting conversations. In fact, just last week in Chicago, my new friends sitting at the bar at Joe’s Stone Crabs engaged in one of the best conversations I have experienced during the pandemic.
Solo trips also cost less. But for me, the flexibility to change plans midstream is even better. On my trip to Greece last May, after five days in Santorini, I decided to return to Athens for another six days, rather than head to more Greek islands.
PG: Traveling solo is not always perfect. My solo trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway is a good example. I missed my train, and had great difficulty rebooking on a later train, in second class, no less. Nobody spoke English, save for an unexpected young stranger who came to my rescue while I was being severely admonished by the ticket agent. For some people, mealtime is difficult. My mornings always start with coffee in my room (I bring Peet’s, as you know). Then I head out for a real breakfast. This creates the option to have a light lunch or to skip it altogether. A solo breakfast is no big deal. Dinner is where some people feel alone. Generally, I solve this by sitting at the bar and ordering my food there. And from my business days, eating alone generally does not bother me.
So, where are the best places for solo travelers? I lean toward bigger cities, like Bangkok, London, Buenos Aires, Washington, DC, Tokyo, Budapest, Athens, Paris, Chicago, Sydney, and Berlin. Why? There is always plenty to see, do, and eat.
I will admit to you that certain places should be avoided as a solo traveler. Which ones? Honeymoon and couples locations, of course!
I am not big on group tours. I will do a half day “hop on hop off” bus tour, just to get my bearings in a big city. But a big multi day tour is NOT my idea of fun! The very last one we took to Peru to visit Cuzco, and Machu Picchu were a disaster. Other people in the group were always late when the bus was leaving. Foreigners pass gas whenever they want! Skip the groups!!!
Many solo travelers prefer hostels since it is a great way to meet people. Though my hostel days are over, I stayed in one recently in Dublin. It was great fun, but noisy, and not that comfortable. My desk chair was a tree stump. And even though I had a room to myself, the noise level was quite high, and the room lacked basic amenities, like AC and extra towels.
Bottom line, just be open and approachable. I know this is easy to say as a single male traveler. But I have met many people, of both sexes, of all ages while traveling, and it can be done, safely. Whatever you do, please do not hibernate in your room.
I just signed up for a course on, what else, champagne. Why not? I always want to learn more about my favorite adult beverage. Speaking of, here is some interesting information from Winespeed:
What is remuage? Toward the end of its long resting period sur lie, a bottle of Champagne must be rotated to loosen the expired yeasts that have accumulated during the second fermentation. Known as remuage in French or “riddling” in English, this process involves the gradual tilting of the bottle neck-down, meanwhile rotating it in small increments to collect the yeast sediment in the neck of the bottle. Remuage is still sometimes done manually, using a shaking and twisting technique practiced over centuries by skilled cellar masters. A good remueur (bottle turner) can riddle roughly 40,000 bottles a day. Done manually, remuage takes four to six weeks. Automated remuage is now much more common using a machine called a gyropalette that can riddle 500 bottles at once. When remuage is finished, the bottles are neck-down (sur pointe) and ready to be disgorged.
More champagne by the numbers: Can you believe there are 16,200 growers in Champagne. Small growers collectively own 90% of all the vineyards in Champagne. Some produce their own wine, while others supply the largest Champagne houses. The average vineyard area a grower owns is 5.2 acres (2.1 hectares). There are only 360 Champagne houses in the entire region.
Would you believe 0.3% is the maximum percentage of sugar allowed in Champagnes labeled Brut Nature? Less than 3 grams of sugar per liter (equal to 0.03%) is allowed by law. But often a Brut Nature’s dosage is dosage zero — no sugar at all is added. This style is the driest and most austere of all Champagnes.
Now for a really staggering number. Over 20.8 million bottles of Champagne were exported to the U.S. in 2020. The U.S. currently holds the # 2 spot among Champagne’s top export destinations. The United Kingdom leads with 21.3 million bottles imported last year. Japan ranks third with 10.8 million bottles. Love the Brits!
What are crayeres? In order to have enough stone to construct the city of Reims in what was then Gaul, in the fourth century, the Romans dug three hundred immensely deep quarries in the chalky rock. These same vertical chalk pits, called crayères, are used today by the Champagne houses to age Champagne. They are miracles of construction that seem to defy physics, and descending into their eerily quiet, cold, dark, humid chambers is an otherworldly experience that no wine drinker should miss. Because the best chalk was often well underground, many crayères go down as far as 120 feet (37 meters). They are shaped like pyramids, so the deepest parts of the crayères are also the widest, and the tops of the pits are narrow (this limited air exposure in the quarry and kept the chalk moist and soft, and thus easier to cut into large construction blocks). During World War I, when Reims was extensively bombed, twenty thousand people lived for years in the dark crayères (no sunlight penetrates). Indeed, the crayères under Veuve Clicquot and Ruinart were makeshift hospitals, and under Pommery was a school.
Your first reaction is that both are quite bad, or perhaps even tolerable, given the circumstances. I can probably count on one hand my decent airline meals, and most of those were on Singapore Airlines.
My best hospital meals were at UC Berkeley. I contracted pneumonia as a sophomore there and was also hospitalized with a mysterious and unknown virus while I was in grad school. And I must tell you, the food was well above average, perhaps even pretty good. Why?
I found out the UC Berkeley’s Cowell Memorial Hospital does not have a cafeteria or its own food services. All the food came from across the parking lot, the famous Faculty Club. Once I had an appetite, meal selection became great fun. The menu for the next meal would arrive, and I could select any or all of the items on the list. And it was all pretty darn good, certainly several steps above dorm food (Undergrad), and better even than my ex-wife’s cooking (grad school)!
The best airline meals occur when I am in either Business or First Class. The only exception to this was back in the 80s, when the major airlines had a buffet on board (even in coach). I recall several United flights to Washington DC from SFO. As my row was called up to the buffet, I could make my own deli or Hofbrau style sandwich and sides. But the best part was the dessert, as they had a soft ice cream dispenser with all the goodies!!
I probably should not tell you about the worst meals. I have no other hospital meal experience, other than at UC Berkeley. But I have a good friend who eats more than 50% of his dinner meals at the hospital. He is a lifelong bachelor, holds two or three jobs at any time, and cannot be bothered with cooking. When he gets off work around 3pm, he goes to an afternoon matinee at the cinema, then goes over to one of the major hospitals for his dinner. Since he can afford to eat anywhere, he chooses, I find his choices rather curious.
My understanding is the best hospital food in the world can be found at famous Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok. I do not intend to find out, but they have several famous chefs, ready to prepare whatever the patient and their family requests.
As far as the worst airline food, the US based airlines are always the worst. Almost any foreign airline, at least pre-pandemic, served better, more recognizable food than our legacy carriers. If I had to choose, Alaska and Hawaiian are my choices for the best domestic meals. In fact, for a period, Hawaiian First-Class meals were planned by Bev Gannon of Maui’s Halemaile General Store fame. And the Alaska flights up to Anchorage in First always have great seafood and ice cream.
Now that I think about it, dorm food reminds me the most of airline food. Banquet food fits in somewhere rather low in the pecking order as well. Remarkably, one rather short one-hour flights in Asia, all the airlines provide a full meal and beverage service (at least, pre-pandemic). It is reminiscent of a fire drill, but the flight attendants get the job done!
Most of you know by now to either bring your own food and snacks or eat before boarding. You are on your own to figure out the hospital food. Over the years, I have many friends who were hospitalized, beg me to bring a hot dog or burger. In Third World countries, families are expected to provide food for their family member who is hospitalized. OK, friends, relatives, and others, you have been warned!
I can’t remember the last time I visited Chicago. I think it was back in 2016, when I rode Amtrak from Chicago to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Why? To complete my tour of all fifty states, an accomplishment that I call the “Nifty Fifty” Club.
My parents lived in Chicago for a brief period during WW2, having left Relocation camp in the Gila (AZ) Desert to work in factories supporting the war effort. In fact, they lived on Addison Street, also home to Wrigley Field. Over the years, mostly on business, I have become familiar with this great city. In fact, I prefer it over New York City, since it is both manageable and ever changing.
Many of you do not realize our country’s first open heart surgery took place here. Dr. Daniel H. Williams, one of the first African American physicians in the city, performed the surgery in 1893. Chicago is home to the International Museum of Surgical Science, with over 10,000 square feet of space dedicated to the history of surgery.
The Kennedy Nixon debate took place here on September 26, 1960 at the CBS Studios in Chicago. Many credit Illinois for JFK’s margin of victory in the Presidential election. The Moderator was newsman Howard K. Smith.
Chicago’s first permanent settler in 1779 was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a trapper and merchant credited with building the trading post that evolved into Chicago. With French and African parentage, du Sable hailed from Haiti and settled in what was to become Chicago with his Potawatomi wife, Kittihawa (Catherine).
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed one-third of the city and left more than 100,000 homeless. Its initial spark remains unknown (although it is commonly believed that a cow belonging to Catherine O’ Leary kicked over a lantern starting the fire, but this story is thought to be unlikely) FYI: The Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station on Michigan Avenue, now home to City Gallery and Lookingglass Theatre, are among Chicago’s few remaining pre-fire buildings.
In 1900, Chicago successfully completed a massive and highly innovative engineering project, reversing the flow of the Chicago River so that it would empty into the Mississippi River rather than Lake Michigan. FYI: Each year, the Chicago River is dyed green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It is the only river in the world that permanently flows backwards. The reversal caused the city’s typhoid death rate to drop by 80%, but also resulted in lawsuits from surrounding states and Canada, as it was feared the reversal would cause a drop in the water levels of the Great Lakes. The project took a total of 5 years and cost over $3 million.
I may rent a bicycle while here: Over 200 miles of bike lanes, 19 miles of lakefront bicycle paths, and more than 13,000 bike racks and parking areas. Chicago has the second highest percentage of commuters who ride their bikes to work.
I love the museums here in Chicago. One of the largest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings outside of Paris, is housed at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry is the largest museum of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. FYI: The museum is housed in the only remaining building constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition’s “White City.” It was originally built as the exposition’s Palace of Fine Arts. Of course, our 44th President, Barack Obama is Chicago’s most famous resident. I will look forward to visiting his library someday.
Many acclaimed actors were born, lived, and/or worked in Chicago, including Harrison Ford, Robin Williams, John and Joan Cusack, Vince Vaughn, Jeremy Piven, Kim Novak, Gillian Anderson, David Schwimmer, Melissa McCarthy, Bernie Mac, John C. Reilly, Jack Benny, Raquel Welch, Quincy Jones, John Mahoney, Gary Sinise, Jennifer Hudson, Mandy Patinkin — and the list goes on. Famous musicians from Chicago include: Benny Goodman, Ramsey Lewis, Jennifer Hudson, and Bob Fosse. Comedians include: Bill Murray, Robin Williams, Tina Fey, John Belushi, Amy Pohler, Chris Farley, and Seth Meyers. Walt Disney was born here.
Chicago is the birthplace of gospel, electric blues, house, juke, footwork, and drill. The unique sounds born in Chicago continue to resonate around the world. We’re also the home of renowned artists including Louis Armstrong, Jennifer Hudson, Earth, Wind and Fire, Chance the Rapper, Common Smashing Pumpkins, Rise Against, Muddy Waters, and Kanye West. Chicago is a city music of festivals, celebrating every music genre. Experience Chicago’s most notable music festivals including the Chicago Blues Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, Lollapalooza, Pitchfork Music Festival, Ravinia Festival, and Riot Fest.
Why is Chicago called the Windy City? The nickname “The Windy City” does not come from the cool gusts of air blowing off Lake Michigan. The name actually originates from the 1870’s article referring to the city’s politicians being “full of hot air” due to their boastful manners. I guess Washington, DC could be Windy City #2?
As for something to eat: Chicago has 26 Michelin-starred restaurants, 40 James Beard Award winning restaurants, and 54 Bib Gourmand winners. But there are more than 2000 hot dogs stands in the city! Chicago style pizza did not make an appearance until 1943 at Pizzeria Uno. The Nabisco Cookie factory is the largest cookie and cracker factory in the world. The first McDonalds was opened in Chicago in 1955.
I plan to do a few new activities, as well as few old ones. The new: I am going to see the Frida Kahlo and van Gogh immersive exhibits. The old: Wrigley Field for a ball game, Portillo’s for a Chicago beef, Garrett’s Popcorn, a Charcuterie at Eataly, and who knows? I always feed a few homeless here as well.
For my music fans, I went to Ravinia, about an hour north of Chicago, to see the Roots, the Jimmy Fallon band on the Tonight Show. The founder, Questlove, aka Ahmir Thompson is the leader, and sang for a full two hours. Perhaps a little too much rap for me, but overall, quite enjoyable.
For those of you unfamiliar with Ravinia, it is the oldest outdoor musical festival in the US. The venue is located in Highland Park. Ravinia is one of the few concert venues in the country to allow full meals (and alcohol) to be brought in and consumed at concerts, even allowing alcoholic beverages. Accordingly, most grocery stores and specialty restaurants in and around the Highland Park area offer ready-to-eat Ravinia picnics for purchase.
People were wheeling in large coolers, tables, chairs, and blankets, creating both simple and elaborate dinners. I was able to dine at Joe’s Stone Crabs before heading out to Ravinia. But some of the picnic spreads I saw were quite impressive, including the variety of alcohol. And the people were very friendly, offering anyone nearby a bite of food or an adult beverage.
In 2021, Questlove made his film directorial debut with Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), a film about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which featured performances by Stevie Wonder, Sly and The Family Stone, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, Mavis Staples, B.B. King, and many other top Soul, Jazz, Gospel and Latin artists of the era. SUMMER OF SOUL won both the US Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for documentary at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Disney-owned Searchlight Pictures acquired the film for distribution, setting a new Sundance Film Festival record for documentary film acquisition price. If you have not seen it on Netflix, I strongly recommend it. Summer of Soul is better than Woodstock!
Now for the only downside, I missed the train out to Ravinia, so I had to Uber for $43. I caught the train on the way back to Chicago but had to wait over an hour along with several thousand other music fans. It was well past my bedtime, about 12:30am, so I had to Uber back to my hotel. But I got about 5 hours of sleep, before having to head out to O’Hare for my flight home.
Many cities claim to have the best hotdog. New York, of course, with Nathan’s, Papaya King, Gray’s, Crif, and Shaller’s always claim to be the best. But my personal preference is for the Chicago dog. Why?
First, the Chicago dog is all beef, with a poppy seed bun. It is topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. My favorite place to get the Chicago dog is Portillo’s in downtown Chicago. Hot Doug’s is a distant second. Second, Chicago is my kind of town, Chicago is!!!
Most people know the hot dog arrived in Chicago from Frankfurt, via Vienna. Frankfurt was known for pork sausages since the 13th century. Sometime in the 19th century, a butcher in Vienna added beef to the sausage mixture, creating the wiener-frankfurter. It reached Chicago, a bun was added, and the World’s Fair in 1893 featured Chicago dogs. Another unique feature of Chicago dogs are the cooking method, either steamed or cooked in hot (not boiling water). Less common is the use of a charcoal grill, maybe a California thing? The typical dog weights two ounces or 1/8 pound (57 grams) and features a natural casing. And the bun must be steamed, not toasted or grilled!
Chicago has more hot dog stands than fast food restaurants. Other Chicago “rules” are: NO catsup, NO seedless bun, Vienna beef ONLY, must have “the works”, and heavy on the “salad” portion (tomatoes, pickles, and peppers). Oh, and the dog must be consumed in FIVE bites, no more, no less!! Beer and fries are the most common items to order with the Portillo dog.
Portillo’s started in 1963, when Dick Portillo bought a 6 by 12 foot trailer. There are currently 60 locations, with the closest one now in Scottsdale, AZ. Portillo did not invent the Chicago dog, he merely perfected it. The “neon” green relish is made by adding blue food coloring!
I just learned that each hot dog that you consume can shorten your life by 36 minutes. OK, here is another 26 minutes I am giving back to ??
Whenever I visit Chicago, I usually stop by Portillo’s for a dog or a Chicago beef. In fact, I do the same thing when I am in Scottsdale.
Having just returned from a trip to Chicago, I have some thoughts on travel food. But I must tell you that Chicago itself is a great foodie city. I enjoyed several great meals, at Joe’s Stone Crabs, Portillo’s, Eataly, and a Wrigley dog. But when I am sitting on a plane or train, without any decent food options, I carry my own food. Aside from the usual, I bring food like mixed nuts, cup of noodles, energy bars, and a half sandwich from home. In fact, cup of noodles is the BEST food to take while on the Trans Siberian Railway (8 days if nonstop). I even discovered a new “instant” food, in the form of cup of mashed potatoes. And it was quite good!
But I just found a newer, more versatile option, easy to prepare, delicious, and satisfying.
From Lifehacker (Claire Lowen): Instant miso soup is, in my opinion, one of the best-tasting instant soups, and the easiest to pack. There are no noodles to accidentally crush, and the tiny packets take up very little room. All you need is hot water, and you have a delicious, savory, and comforting snack (or a light meal if you use two packets).
And if you happen to have an egg, spinach or tofu, the soup becomes a very nutritious and satisfying meal.
The packets can be purchased at just about any Asian grocery store. They come packaged as a set of about 4 or 6 as I recall, and very inexpensive. Variety packs are also available, offering a few variations. Just add hot water and stir into a coffee mug. No chopsticks required!
I am sure each of you have your favorite, easy to pack travel snacks and food items. Please share your favorites. And please do not mention boiled eggs!!
Why Not? I think it is one of the great American cities. It is much more manageable than NYC, and certainly less expansive than Los Angeles. But the options for what to see and do seem limitless.
I may have told you that my parents lived here during the end of World War 2. They were allowed to leave the Relocation Center in Gila, Arizona if they went east and worked in factories that supported the war effort. Most of my family worked for Curtiss Candy Company. My Dad worked in an auto shop (Wood Brothers), getting his start on his future vocation. The lived on Addison Street, also home to famous Wrigley Field.
I first started visiting Chicago in the 70s, mostly on business. I learned the downtown area quickly. Then I had a client in South Chicago, which is/was a rather sketchy part of the city. I have also enjoyed the famous Brookfield Zoo, Wicker Park, and the Loop area. And I have done most of the tourist things, like the Hancock Center (96 stories), Wrigley Field, Rush Street, the Navy Pier, the Loop, the El, Second City, Garrett’s Popcorn, deep dish pizza, and Portillos.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my visit is feeding some of the old homeless men in the Loop. I make it a point to find a hungry soul and take him to breakfast. I also keep all of my leftovers, and give them away on Michigan Avenue. Don’t ask me how they survive the Mideast winters.
Don’t get me wrong, I also know how to live it up. I can dine at both famous and not so famous places. And Chicago is a great shopping city. The Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue) is perhaps unrivaled for shopping of all kinds.
Though my business travel days are over, I still love Chicago, even without an expense account. I have fond memories of dance parties, cocktail parties, and some things that are best left in the proverbial “vault”, if you know what I mean. Playing tennis is Chicago was always fun, same for golf. Jogging in the heat and humidity is just terrible. Maybe I will try some cycling since the temps are in the 80s.
In the 80s, it was great fun to visit famous Marshall Field’s Department Store to buy dress shirts. They had every color and style imaginable. After a visit to Chicago, I was the envy of all the other guys I worked with. My favorite was a blue dress shirt with a tab rounded collar. I was the envy of the department!
I particularly remember meeting a nice young lady from Pennsylvania. In fact we called her Miss Pennsylvania. Why? We went shopping at the famous Water Tower Place for a bathing suit for her!! And we got to see her model them for us!!!
But the best story revolves around a dinner at some Italian place not far from Rush Street. After the dinner ended, a group of about 50 followed us to a bar on Rush, where we danced the night away.
Then there is the story of taking some nuns to Rush Street. My buddy and I were on a site visit with a large, Catholic hospital chain here in California. The nuns asked us to take them out to Rush Street, and told us to get lost! When we went to retrieve them around 2am, they had about 5 guys gathered around them. In my infinite wisdom, I asked Sister Michaela if she was ready to head back to the hotel. The guys said, astonishingly, “Sister!!!!.” These ladies told the guys that they are hospital administrators! Yes, I said, they are, but they also are nuns!!!!!
But the focus of this trip is art, in the name of Frida Kahlo, Vincent van Gogh, and Banksy. And maybe a short train ride out to Ravinia for some music.
I am also headed to the oldest outdoor music festival in the US, the Ravinia Festival out in Highland Park. I think my Aunt and Uncle lived there post war, until the late Fifties. Over the years, performers have included: Aretha, Gladys, Santana, Smokey, Mary J., Dolly, Lady Gaga, Tony, Carrie, Diana, and Maroon 5. I am attending Jimmy Fallon’s favorite band, The Roots. The band was formed back in 1987 by Questlove and Black Thought. They are known as a jazzy and eclectic approach to hiphop. I love keyboarder, James Poyser when he plays to Jimmy’s thank you notes.
Big sidebar: My Uber driver was the nicest senior man of Iraqi decent. We had many nice topical conversations. But the best was talking about how our country was built by immigrants, people like him, and my Grandfather. They came here before the overthrow of Sadam, back in 1978. He about lost control when I told him my grandfather came from Japan in 1896, at the age of 6!!!! He spent most of his career at Motorola, got laid off, and now loves being an Uber driver. He and his wife raised two boys who have good jobs. It is the great American story.
Another small sidebar: the Hispanic busboy at breakfast on Friday was a man I recognized from a previous trip. He has been there for 12 hears, works two other jobs, including cleaning a bank on weekends. Another great American story about immigrants!!!!
Small sidebar #2: My cab driver this morning was a Paki guy, so we hit it off after I told him about my Paki friends here in California. I was just about to text Uber, and here he was outside of my hotel. He offered me a good price, so off we went to O’Hare.
My quick dinner on Saturday night before the Ravinia (Roots) concert was at Joe’s Stone Crabs, Chicago branch, of course. I am sitting at the bar with their “regulars” and strike up a great conversation with a really interesting African American couple, and a few of the bartenders. Besides making me miss my train to Ravinia, we had the best discussion of politics, medicine, and race relations. BTW, I had some great oysters, spicy fresh corn, and calamari, along with two glasses of rose’ champagne.
I have managed to feed a family of four and a lone panhandler, and a deaf panhandler so far.
Saturday, I went out to the Cubs game at Wrigley, always a treat. My usher moved me to a great view seat on the top deck, just “because”, I guess. Wrigley is always a treat, with a video version of the great Ernie Banks leading the 6th inning tradition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
So, on to Ravinia, I ended up having to take Uber out there, almost an hour north of the city. The Roots concert was mostly entertaining, a little too much rap for me, but the rest was outstanding. The topper was taking the Metra train back into the City, along with several thousand music fans. The ride back started around midnight (late for me) and must have stopped twenty times between Ravinia and the downtown Ogilvie Transportation Center. What a crazy experience!
So, it was big culture for a few days, but I am so happy to be home!!!