Greetings from Chicago

After a fun time in Minnesota, Gwen and I drove back down to Chicago on Monday. Stopped at one of Wisconsin’s many shrines to dairy products for sandwiches, ice cream, and fresh cheese curds. After that, we drove through very heavy rains for about 90 miles–disconcerting in a big truck with bad handling. Took US 14 in from Jaynesville, because I-90 was under construction on the way out, and we’d rather not pay tolls for the privilige of driving slow. Just inside Illinois, in the town of Harvard, we drove past a huge and completely vacant corporate campus–no signs to say who once had occupied it. We later learned it was a Motorola site. Made it to my parents’ place in good time despite the weather.

This was Gwen’s first opportunity to see their place. It doesn’t seem to have scared her off yet. My mom gave Gwen the tour, showed her numerous examples of porcelain that might be interesting to some collectors with a deep appreciation for certain sub-types of dinnerware, etc. We spent the night there and took the Northwestern line into Chicago late Tuesday morning. Rendezvoused with my sister Lissy, who is putting us up. We dropped our bags at her place, and then took Lissy’s car on an errand.

Tuesday night, my parents were having a party at a restaurant to celebrate their 40th anniversary. When we were all younger, my parents would often observe special occasions by bringing home a schwartzwalder cake from a Viennese bakery in town, Lutz’s. My sisters and I decided this would be a suitable occasion for a schwartzwalder, so I volunteered for the mission. It also gave Gwen a chance to see a little of Chicago, which she has never visited before.

On the drive up there, I observed that lights in Chicago cycle much faster than those in Austin. I also realized that Chicagoans don’t buy new cars as readily as Austinites do. My guess is that because the city is so hard on cars, people are less willing to splurge on them–but those who do, do so quite lavishly.

We had some time after taking care of this, so we strolled the trendy shopping area around Armitage and Sheffield. Found an excellent paper store, Paper Source.

The party my parents threw themselves was quite nice–more of a to-do than I had realized it would be. Quite a few people of their generation who I hadn’t seen in at least a decade. Time is a bitch.

Today was a walking tour of Chicago for Gwen and me. We had breakfast at a nearby old favorite of mine, Nookie’s, and wandered north along the lakefront to the place where I grew up on St James Pl near Clark St. As always, it was interesting seeing what had changed and what remained the same in the old neighborhood. We then worked our way south to Michigan Avenue, in particular to take in the troika of brand-porn, the Apple store, Niketown, and the Sony showroom, which are shoulder to shoulder, all occupying one block between them. I had never seen an Apple store before, and was suitably impressed by the spare, ethereal design (the glass staircase is a nice touch). Niketown was much less the onanistic shrine to Nike wonderfulness than it once was–and much more a retail store. The Sony showroom (no retail–that would be too crass) was pretty much what it always is. We goggled at some HDTV images.

I observed that Chicagoans seem to be a little more trend/fashion-conscious than Austinites.

At various points during the day, we ducked into shoe stores. Gwen tried on lots of shoes, and we laughed at many more, but she couldn’t find any that were comfortable and stylish enough to buy. Shoe designers seem to delight in mixed messages these days, with painful pumps borrowing details from sneakers and hiking boots, or from dominatrix wardrobes. And I don’t understand the current vogue for high-heeled shoes with impossibly long and sharply pointed toes, which look more like weapons than footwear. I have dubbed these “dueling slippers.” Despite her unwavering avoidance of uncomfortable shoes, Gwen was sufficiently seduced by one such pair to at least try them on, though not enough to buy it.

Having made the rounds, we resolved to go home. Slowly, because our feet were killing us after all the walking. Walked up Dearborn, which has some of the best residential architecture in the city. Apartments renting for $4000/mo (hardwoods, 2/2, no dogs allowed).

Having made it home, we were quite hungry, so after massaging each others’ feet and taking a little siesta, we hit the pavement again to grab a bite. We wound up at Pasta Palazzo on Halstead near Armitage, which we enjoyed immensely.

2 thoughts on “Greetings from Chicago”

  1. Nookies… around the corner from the kids I took care of when I was a nanny. I forgot about that place.

    Going to Chicago is basically an excuse to go from restaurant to restaurant, except I think my parents do that all the time anyway.

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