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!!!