So starved for Big City entertainment, we have braved some of the hottest streets of summer to suck up the goodies available here. My friends Julia, Ruth and Sally, who grew up in the nearby suburbs like Winnetka, conveyed enough of the thrills to make me dream about a trip to Chicago since college. The second largest city in the U.S., it feels quite different from NYC, in summer anyway. Perhaps it is the influence of Lake Michigan and the breeze that makes it feel more casual and beachy, where NYC just feels ugly sweltering this time of year. Both provide enough modern art exhibitions (SMART in Hyde Park, The Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC), and The Art Institute) to overwhelm even the dedicated enthusiast of abstract art. (Who is the tall, goofy guy trying to blend in with the cartoon faces over his head at the MAC?)
Then there is the joy of catching the latest films (Woody Allen’s fascinating and sad, “Blue Jasmine”, showcasing a Bernie Madoff type widow descending into madness; Cate Blanchett is so great in this role, the audience suffers through every stupid decision she makes, just waiting for the bad consequence to follow, then digging herself deeper, popping pills and telling lies as her only treatment. I preferred the John Cassavettes’ lovely and tragic “Woman on the Edge” with Gina Roland, as she was so enchanting and creative, trying to claw her way out of a depression in a family and community with no understanding of clinical depression. Both movies make us so grateful not to suffer from clinical depression, and to have built up a “Bank”, of loving and wise people, financial stability, and good health to endure great losses. However, we decided we needed an immediate alcohol injection at a bar with a view to “process” the film and our feelings.
We found it at a hidden gem hotel bar: The Holiday Inn! With floor-to ceiling windows on the 16th Floor, overlooking the River and the full moon over the top of legendary skyscrapers, it was an extraordinary find with no crowd after work on a weeknight, a killer fennel/radicchio pizza, and great, reasonably priced cocktails. It made up for a lousy deep dish pizza; “Lou Malinetti’s” (his dad Rudy started making deep dish at the original Uno’s restaurant) couldn’t touch our best Berkeley/Albany/San Francisco deep dish pizzas from Zaccary’s and Little Star. Go west young man, and learn how to make a real deep dish pizza with fresh local ingredients!
We also enjoyed the convenience of the “L” for getting around town, and our visit to one of the oldest Vegan restaurants in the U.S., founded in 1981: the Chicago Diner in Boystown, all vegan, all the time, even before it became a hipster choice. Amazing Reuben sandwiches, “milk”shakes, and the best boneless Buffalo “Wings” (made from seitan). Hey Vegans, bring your BBQ ribs cravings here!
My reading group assigned, “Devil in the White City” by Eric Larson, about 5 years ago. It showed the dueling architects’ roles. As the City had burned down in 1871 (except for the old water tower in the featured image), Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan (father of the skyscraper and mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright) had a clean slate to work with in the historic constructions for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. It was also the story of America’s first serial killer, who lured young women looking for work at the Fair to his boarding house…with a crematorium in the basement…creepy…!
The 90 minute river tour by the Architecture Foundation must be delayed for cooler weather, as will our tours of the neighborhoods, with Chicago Bungalow and Prairie Style architecture. As it was still 87 degrees at 10 PM we bailed on the chance to dance with the local Tangueros and attend the Jazz Concert outside on the Terrace at the MC. However, we did appreciate the folks boogying with the goofy yellow spotted sculptures there, and shopping at the best Museum Store we have seen yet. We are committing ourselves to return to this wonderful city sooner than later, but NOT during historically hot summer days.