Chicago, Illinois

8/8/2008 – 8/11/2008

After finding out that my place to stay had fallen through on Tuesday, I had three days to find accomidations. I quickly managed to make a reservation at the Hosteling International hostel in downtown Chicago, but at $34 per night I hoped to find something cheaper. A couple of phone calls later, I had several friends trying to find me a place to stay. On Thursday, Ben came through by setting me up with the totally awesome husband-and-wife Mig and Lety.

Sculptures of the Puerto Rico Flag mark the borders of the neighborhood

Mig and Lety live in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, a mostly Puerto Rican neighborhood just a short distance outside of the city center. Even though they had a few plans throughout the weekend, these two were great hosts, letting me tag along to a friend’s birthday party (free drinks!), hanging out with me a bunch on Saturday, and giving me lots of good advice.

Many thanks to Andy, Tara, Kate, and Ben for out-of-town suggestions on what I should do during my visit. I didn’t manage to do everything, but I feel like I had a great Chicago experience.

On Friday I took the train from O’Hare all the way to Union Station. I currently have a small backpack and a big hiking pack with me — I’m carrying too much stuff. I plan to drop a lot of it off at my mom’s house in Eugene, but for the moment I’m stuck with it. Anyways, I went to Union Station because I knew they had lockers and I didn’t want to carry the big bag around all day. I didn’t really think the plan through, though, because my big bag had lots of stuff I would need during the weekend in it. Like clothes. So I ended up keeping the both bags with me, hanging out at a coffee shop and doing some computery stuff for a few hours, and then walking a few blocks through downtown to meet Mig outside his work. Along the way I visited the post office to send a few pounds of stuff to Eugene. Kind of expensive, but worth every penny. After meeting Mig and taking the train back to his place, I relaxed for a while before we all went out to a friend’s birthday party. Nothing too eventful happened. Good food.

The Bean, Millenium Park

Saturday morning I woke up at a decent time (Mig had to get up early to take an exam) and went out for a run. Humboldt Park, after which the neighborhood takes its name, is actually pretty nice. An interesting mix of people out walking their dogs or playing soccer and suspicious characters sitting in their cars. As far as the run goes, I’m again amazed at how fast I am when it’s not humid. When I arrived home Lety was in the midst of preparing breakfast, so after a quick shower I joined her for coffee and a delicious scramble. We then headed downtown and visited the Chicago Cultural Center. It was pretty small, but the library dome is pretty cool. I then split off and explored Millennium Park, paying particular attention to “the bean” seen in the picture. I think it has a real name but apparently that’s what everyone calls it. I also read in the park–The Alchemist is a very good book–before wandering around downtown on my own some more.

It was about this time that I discovered my phone’s google maps transit directions feature. Andy had suggested that I try a Maxwell Avenue Polish hot dog, and had suggested a chain that served good ones. I cell-phone-google-mapped (how’s that for a verb) it and google gave me great directions including which bus to take, where to catch it, and when. Super convenient, and I used this feature quite a bit while I was in Chicago. I think I was able to see a lot more stuff because I took buses and trains more than I would have without my phone’s access to google maps.

After the hotdog and another bus ride for no particular reason, Lety called and I headed over to where they were hanging out. We trekked north, eventually catching a bus, to go to a huge gay street festival called Market Days. Fun times, lots of shirtless and/or drunk guys, and sloooow service at a street-side restaurant. We walked by Wrigley Field just after the Cubs finished getting spanked and took in the craziness that is Chicago post-baseball fandom. Lakeview is a wild neighborhood. Took the bus back to Humboldt Park and spent the evening in a local bar drinking beer, finishing the the evening off with a damn good late-night burrito. Lety and Mig shared Super Nachos. I think that’s a funny name for a dish.

First thing Sunday we walked over to the laundromat so I could start my small load of laundry. Next stop, awesome breakfast place three doors down. After breakfast, we stopped back by the laundry and moved the clothes to a dryer, then walked around the park for a while. Noticing the time, we had to rush back to the house so Mig and Lety could get ready for their soccer game. Mid-Run, Chicago and Me While they were playing, I was planning to run along the lakeshore. They dropped me off at the lake on this beautiful morning and it was a truly excellent run. I got to see a lot more of Chicago and Chicagoans. And the beaches are crazy popular! Who knew? After returning home I got cleaned up, watched some Olympics, and then headed out on the bus to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Dinner was weirdly good Potato and Rosemary square pizza and great Goose Island beer, then more Olympics watching until bed.

I got up at work time with Mig Monday morning and took the train downtown with him. After saying goodbye, I went to Union Station and dropped my bag off at a locker, for real this time. I toured around the Chicago Art Institute’s gallery for an hour or so before heading back towards Union Station as train time approached. I rode the L, just for kicks, attempting to use my farecard one minute after it expired (the nice guard let me in anyways) and stopped for a kate-recommended Billy Goat Tavern burger and beer. Good stuff, and a great way to leave the city. The train left on time, and I settled in for a long trip.

Arrival: United Airlines flight into O’Hare, $127.99 + $15 checked bag fee

Reading: Mirrorshades – finished on the plane; The Alchemist; On The Road – started on the train

    Departure: Amtrak California Zephyr, Chicago’s Union Station to Denver’s Union Station, $186.00

    1 Comment

    1. Andy said,

      August 13, 2008 at 13:19

      The Bean is actually known as ‘The Cloud Gate’. I am glad you had a good time in Chi-town!!