Christmas in Chicago - Part 2

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Wyndham Blake

Flag of United States  , Illinois
Monday, December 26, 2011

American accents have always grated on me a little and I've never really worked out why. In the UK theres something about a southern drawl or a high pitched rasp that just makes me squirm inside a little. And I've noticed that I haven't been squirming at all about it the last few weeks. Whats the difference and why has that small blessing dissapeared?

Theres a couple of reasons I have come up with. Maybe the most annoying Americans are the ones with the most money and hence they are the ones that tend to travel more or they stand out in the crowd with their loudness and confidence in a country full of insecurities and self awareness (which is much more likely). This is a couple of possibilities and the reason I notice them so much in the UK. Maybe it is because the relative noise of America compared to the UK is louder and so they are drowned out more over here - another possible. And maybe it is a combination of the two. All I know is that in the contained monkey house of Lincoln Park Zoo, when the children started pointing and chirping about the activities of our primal cousins; all I wanted to do was strangle the little blighters (the kids and not the monkeys). I looked into the cages and saw the monkeys laying relatively still staring in bewilderment (as was I) at the little children jumping to and fro, knocking on the glass and swinging from the protective barriers - which is the developed species? 
The noise they came up with, the general din was louder than anything I have heard in any public place. It was as if my tolerance suddenly broke over the course of a couple of seconds. Maybe I had been suffering from an ear infection or something which had miraculously cleared but I don't ever think I have been so annoyed. And then a little while later I stood in a queue to order something from a restaurant and I heard myself speak.
I heard my English carefully pronounced tones and realised that this travelling is seriously messing my head up. I don't especially think I speak particularly properly and have been for life stuck with a somewhat base Home Counties accent with a hint of 'H' dropping. It's no where near Queens English, but when I heard myself amongst the laid back Americans I realised I sounded like I was ready for my afternoon tea and scones before needing to go out and play polo at Windsor. What a pompous git. My own voice irritated me. I don't like the Americans loudness, but I can see we can sometimes sound uppety. I need to get home, where I sound slightly more normal and people are generally quieter before I crack.

It's a little sidestep on what was thankfully a good Boxing Day. It was one of my things noted during a day in which we spent a bit of time shopping for Kate's NYE dress (I waited in a chocolate shop watching repeats of adverts over and over again on my own drinking coffee in the meantime) and a lot of time in Lincoln Park's free Zoo. This time the animals were not the centre of attention although we did look at all of them (I wanted to see a Polar Bear) but we were there for the million plus christmas lights and festivities that light the park after 5pm. The park is decorated to an extent I have never seen before, and coupled with an ice sculpting demonstration, it topped off a very Christmassy couple of days.
Christmas itself passed without incident. No crying, no tantrums because we agreed on not getting each other any presents (and we didn't) and sadly no crackers. But a good day nonetheless.

The Lockwood Restaurant was pretty posh for our 2pm Christmas Dinner. It was $60 a ticket (without gratuity) and was a self serve buffet (doesn't sound posh I know) with champagne included. The Restaurant is based in a hotel which is famous for the creation of the Brownie (an American icon clearly) and is located in the centre of Chicago just off the Magnificant Mile, Chicago's version of Oxford Street. 
The food included the likes of Salmon, trout, king prawns etc for starter choices, carved beef, turkey or salmon for mains and a selection of fantastic cakes for deserts as well as a selection of cheeses if you fancied anything more. Kate and I are a little dissapointed in ourselves. We had two starters each (both had a soup and a salmon/prawn mix with salad) a large entree with all the normal christmas trimmings and a plate of desserts (photo attached for typical arrangement); but then we were full. We had eaten all we could, The meal had taken a good couple of hours and had included about 3 refills of our champagne but in that same time our neighbouring table had managed to down at least double the food quantity. They weren't even the big sort of Americans - they were normal size.
We waddled out stuffed and beaten but pleased with our lot - I think we got our money's worth.
After dinner we stopped at a 7Eleven to top up on some wine for the evening and headed back to our hotel room to watch House and Family Guy christmas specials and a couple of movies. Our plan had first involved going for a walk after eating, but in our new broken state it seemed like far too much work.

It doesn't sound like a great Christmas I know, and for Kate it probably wasn't. For me though it reminded me a little of Christmases at home where we would eat till we were stuffed and then pretty much fall asleep and watch rubbish Christmas TV for the rest of the evening. It's a Christmas of over indulgence and then complete relaxation.
 It was great speaking to everyone in Kates family over skype on the laptop before dinner and it did make us feel like we were there a little. We could imagine the rest of the day and it felt good to be a part of it in some way, but at the same time by the time we phoned Christmas was all but over in the UK which made things a bit easier.

For me it was nice just having a day to reflect a little on what we have been doing, to over-indulge, to be pleased with the success of planning (this meal was a nightmare to find and book - You would be astonished at how many food/drink places in Chicago close over christmas compared to the UK which sees it as an opportunity to make loads of cash) and to spend a full Christmas day with just me and Kate. We havent had one before and I don't think we will likely have one again just because how things turn out, but it wasn't a bad Christmas and it was an experience.

I appreciated through this Christmas how much of the excitement is in the build up and also how much we dedicate to buying and searching for presents where in truth I've really really enjoyed not doing any of that.

Normally, Christmas is all just a big Cracker. It looks pretty and sparkly, creates a lot of noise but in the end you're left with a small plastic frog that you lose within a few minutes.
Hopefully this year will be like when you recieve one of those thoughtful presents. Now it kind of feels a bit underwhelming  and dissapointing but in a few years time we'll dust off that present when we need it and cherish it along with the best.

Enough with the metaphors, Merry Christmas.
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