Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chicago, the living part

Lake Shore Drive is great for biking, walking or admiring from a towel on the beach.

There's nothing like a real city to make you pine for one. Los Angeles is less a city and more a mass of suburbs, accessible almost exclusively by car. If you remember Steve Martin's character in L.A. Story hopping into his car to drive to his best friend's house, two doors down, that's hardly an exaggeration. I think many people in LA would rather be arrested for shoplifting than to be seen out walking. (LA is a city where people take the elevator to and from the gym on the 2nd or 3rd floor. Honest--I've seen this!).

So spending a week strolling the streets of Chicago was a treat. Andy and I loved our five-minute walk between our friends' house and the El, the urban rail system that took us between downtown and their place close to Wrigley Field. Even the rain was welcome, we see so little of it in Southern California.

Whether you're on it or under it, the El gives you the feeling that you're in some movie you've seen before. But were you in black and white? wearing a fedora? smoking a nonfiltered...?

Bryan and Sara were fabulous hosts!

It was great staying with friends, who enabled us to enjoy a much more personable and close-to-the-ground experience than we'd have had if we'd stayed in a hotel. One morning while they played tennis in a nearby park, Andy and I lazed on a blanket under a tree by the court, reading, napping and enjoying the green grass, green trees, green plants, the green, Green, GREEN! of being away from desert-dry Southern California.

Our Living-Chicago week also entailed taking a nice long walk through the wind and rain to the drug store to buy cold meds for Andy, who came down with sore throat, sniffles and all the rest, almost as soon as the plane plopped down at O'Hare. Still, the air was fresh, washed clean by the spring showers. And holing up under a blanket in a comfy chair, reading a book and hanging out with your buds is by far a better way of coping than lying around a hotel room, obsessing over the money and vacation time you're wasting. Himself got along just fine.

A party at the home of some friends of our friends afforded us another opportunity to live as locals. Just around the corner (about four houses down, one house over, to be precise) is a good distance for a party, particularly if you want to have a drink or two or three...

A quick walk to Trader Joe's supplied what I needed to make a big ol' pasta salad to share with our friends, old and new.

When you're this close, it's impossible to be late!

Scotch with your burger, Andy?

We also had lunch one day with my cousin, who has a lovely condo in a highrise overlooking the lake--a quite different slice of life. She hosted us for lunch at the Arts Club downtown, where the food was good, the company even better and the artwork intriguing but, alas, unphotographable. No cameras allowed! Still, seeing Picasso's pre-cubist stuff is always enlightening.

Why this photo? Overlap between the eating and living parts is inevitable, because eating is such a part of living, especially in Chicago. People may stand in line for an hour or so at Hot Doug's, but everyone seems to be in pretty good spirits about it, because the payoff is grand. I doubt you'd find such a cheerful bunch of people waiting at the DMV. And it was this way even when I stood in line here on a snowy morning in early spring a couple of years ago.

Yarrr, there be pirates in this museum!

It was great getting to experience the city as a temporary local, not being isolated in a hermetically sealed hotel room and whisked from tourist spot to tourist spot in a taxi.

With museums and amusements that appeal to the locals as well as to visitors, an array of food choices I've seen only in NYC and LA, and a beauty and walkability that make it a pleasure to travel on two feet, Chicago is a city I can visit again and again.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go add up my frequest flyer miles and start planning the next trip!

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