Forget wind, this is a heat wave

Trip Start Jan 05, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Thursday, July 5, 2012

If I were to summarise Chicago in two words the first would have to be expensive (atleast on my budget) and the second, and probably more meaningful, would be infatuating. To begin with Chicago feels like yet another city experience you could probably have gone without but slowly it grows on you and you find yourself smiling as you think about the little things that make Chicago unique.

When I arrived in the 'windy' city it was in the midst of a heat wave and I declared it the ‘humid’ city. It wasn’t so bad though, despite the local Chicagolandian’s having a freakout about the "fatal" heatwave, because to me it simply reminded me of those two weeks or so in Australian summers where it goes about 40 degrees Celcius.

It wasn’t just the heat and humidity that reminded me of Australia, on my first day in Chicago I got caught in a hit-and-run thunder storm and was so happy! I honestly missed the rain in Australia while I was on the west coast of North America. The rain I had experienced in North America before this thunderstorm is best described as weak, I hated it. Finally a drenching downpour with lightning and thunder!

My first day in Chicago I decided to do a self-guided walking tour and my first stop was the Chicago Zoo. This zoo is really nice to walk through (partly because it is free entry). It has a lot of really interesting creatures including the typical favourites such as the Polarbear.

I continued along the boardwalk for quite a while and realised that Chicago really needs more drinking fountains when I ran out of water and found it difficult to fill up. Suddenly I realised I was about a minute from Navy Pier (a place the hostel said I probably couldn’t walk to in one day but to save it until I decided to take the train… proved them wrong!!!) It was a typical crowded tourist spot, although there are some very interesting things to check out there. At one point though the pier there was a stained glass exhibit which was really cool to look at and started giving me a whole bunch of art ideas. Also, later on in the week I went to Cirque Shanghai and watched amazing acrobatics for a relatively cheap price (when compared to Cirque du Solei anyway).

I was proud of my first day of exploration, but surprised that I hadn’t seen more graffiti. I had seen some murals, but no graffiti. I found out later (and this isn’t confirmed) that spray paint is not sold in Chicago and that is why there is no graffiti. This is a let down in my opinion, because I always enjoy seeing graffiti everywhere I travel.

My second day I aimed at exploring the downtown area, another tourist hot spot. I started with the Magnificent Mile – basically a bunch of shops towered over by tall buildings. There was the water building, the only building to survive the ‘great Chicago fire’ which was nice to look at. People seemed particularly interested in the Hershey’s store which to me was a little boring, and as for the amazing Chicago style pizza all I can really tell you is that it is amazingly expensive. It would have cost me $15 for a 10 inch pizza (size of a CD)… and yes it is thick like a pie but I can’t see a reason for spending that much on the chance that the pizza is good. (Please read my NYC blog to find out if NY style pizza lives up to the hype!)

Chicago also has the tallest building in North America with a viewing platform, but I decided that rather than pay to view the city from up there I’d go to the John Hancock building and travel to the 96th floor where there is a bar and look out of the windows there. I sat with some guys I met in the elevator (because in terms of seating it is better to go to this bar with company as people by themselves are instructed to sit at the bar facing away from the window… unfair!) I got to see the city from up high without the cost.

Now that I had seen the city and gotten a feel for it I decided I needed to see some shows. I went to the award-winning Looking Glass Theater where they were showing a new musical called ‘Eastland’, a story similar to Titanic of a ship in Chicago sinking very slowly and with a large number of casualties. It was an excelently written, directed and acted play that had audience members crying as they used wet clothing to signify the death of a character. The dripping water sounding the same as it would have when they were pulling the drowned victims out of the boat during the incident. Very powerful.

I also went to Second City, where Tina Fey learnt how to be funny. There I took a one hour improvisation class, it was similar to the kinds of activities I get my high school students to do the first day of class to ‘get to know’ each other… I found it boring and almost decided to give the teacher some ‘suggestions’ on how to not waste time. I mean, these games can be fun but not for an hour straight… there comes a times when you need to be pushed a little further. Afterwards, I watched a comedy show called ‘We are all in this room together’ and found it was enjoyable. The comedians were all very good with timing, and improvisational humour. The play itself was a mixture of separate sketches with different characters, and I was a little disappointed there wasn’t a more linear story within the show

As for Chicago nightlife, I wasn’t drinking but felt I needed to see if this city was enjoyable on the point of view of spending time with people. So, I got someone to sponsor me a night on the juice and went out. All I can say is I shouldn’t have bothered. Firstly, the people at the hostel were somewhat dull or maybe a better word would have been vapid. There were two irish girls who were really nice and fun to talk to but seemed to want to look like bimbos. Then when I went out with some other hostel people the only people I actually thought were good value were the Aussie blokes who were just enjoying a good ‘ol laugh and having a bit of fun. The people in the club we went to were way overdone… I felt like pulling some of the girls aside and asking them how long it takes to remove their makeup so they can figure out what they look like again. Anyway, it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. There are probably two more people from the hostel I should mention: the midwestern girl, and the African guy. The African guy was a complete sleeze and was simply annoying because he seemed to think because I waited in line with him (without talking to him) that we had a connection… whatever you loser. The midwestern girl was so screwed up it wasn’t even funny. She seemed to think she was all open and accepting of people but she was such a backwards person who had no idea what she was doing that it soon became tiresome to listen to her whine about yet another pointless thing. I felt like shaking her and saying stop complaining and do something with your life.

So, my overall opinion of Chicago would have to be that the city is really enjoyable to explore but that the people are not so enjoyable to meet (of course, I only met two locals and they were very friendly if not a little uptight).
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claire Allan on

I am a friend of your Dad and I have enjoyed reading your impressions of Chicago. A few years ago my daughter lived in Chicago and thought it was a very cultured city, with art galleries museums and the arts

vagrant_reality on

I agree with your daughter. It has a lot of arts throughout the city!

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