A Wobbly New Year’s Venture into Travel Writing… and Chicago

04Jan10

Looking up under The Bean; Millennium Park, Chicago, IL

I spent a week in Chicago.  A very chilly week.  Now, upon returning, I realize how very silly it was to forget my laptop computer.  Oh, I vowed to pack lightly (unlike last year’s unnecessary load for a New Year’s Eve trip to NYC).  I stuffed one little carry-on suitcase with thermals, leggings, and flannels enough to insulate myself against the 6-degree winds sweeping in from Lake Michigan, somberly leaving behind my new pocketknife (a Christmas gift from my little brother) so the grouchy uniforms wouldn’t abduct it at the security checkpoint.  I donned boots, hat, scarf, borrowed gloves (which I lost after stopping for a free sample in Ghiradelli), and carried reading material, phone charger, lighter, even sticky notes in my purse.  No computer.

Writing about travel is one thing.  Writing while traveling is a rather different thing–a thing I fully intend to feign mastery of by the end 0f 2010.

See, finding the time and space (if, in fact, I had brought the equipment) to write in Chicago would have proved a rather crotchety task.  While my dear friend and I often snuck into cafe corners to sip coffee and wait on our noses to thaw, the long-legged window chairs would snatch us up and persuade me to swap journaling for spying on the trendy passers-by.

Now, by deferring all reflection until the end, I have found another irksome snag in my travel writing pantyhose.  What do I tell?  I board another plane tomorrow.  Do I synthesize and move on?  Do I postpone these stories further, trading urgency for completeness?  Organization.  Foresight.  Timelines.  This is my learning curve.

Right now I offer you transparency of process.  Soon, I hope to offer more consistent, focused content.  Until then, here is a whirlwind tour of my week in Chicago:

Plane delays, more plane delays.  I laid out my shawl and did crunches at an abandoned gate until my friend’s plane finally made it from Denver.  We giggled at baggage claim and dragged two benches together where I fell asleep and she went to the bathroom.  I woke up to my friend gone and a large, dark, dread-locked man sitting at the next bench.  She turned up, he limped away and we embarked on a sleepy, pre-dawn trek to an illusive coffeeshop in Evanston.

Oh, following a loose outline of free events and recommendations, we encountered Mission Impossible-type modern art, a new Latin style musical, the delightful eccentricity that is the Blue Man Group…

I had my first encounter with Cirque du Soleil, was chosen as the “medium-sized” participant in a magic show, froze on Navy Pier at midnight watching fireworks dancing to Michael Jackson, Rihanna, and Michael Franti.

We CouchSurfed a 19th-story apartment with panoramic views of downtown, woke up to homemade crepes, hash browns, eggs and coffee.  There was the little white girl who unloaded her gut right onto her cute little boots on the Red Line train.  We encountered her after crashing with two delightful theater students in a darling Wicker Park apartment where we stayed up late drinking tea and watching Sex & the City.

We slurped five-way chili at Ed Debevic’s where the waiters are encouraged to be nasty (though ours may have been the most pleasantly obnoxious man I’ve ever met). We discovered the wonders of Superdawg, the Chicagoans’ hostility towards ketchup, and (too late) the glorious heat lamps at subway stops (although all CTA trains are colloquially referred to as the “L”).

We frequented the finest theaters like high-rollers (thanks to student rush tickets), yet bummed meals, sofas and showers like a couple of dirty hippies–quite a successful week.

Home, though still on a sofa, I am left with a knapsack of warbled anecdotes and chagrin on my cheeks.  No time to fret; onward and forward to Colorado, to the Rockies, to the slopes!

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One Response to “A Wobbly New Year’s Venture into Travel Writing… and Chicago”

  1. Much love for this blog!


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