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Chicago, I Love You

5 Jul

It’s official: I love Chicago.

I mean, I love Boston a little bit more.

But in a head to head competition, these days I may have a tough time picking between the two cities.

If I ever left Boston for good (and I have no plans to do that), I’d make a beeline to Chicago. That’s just how I feel after a fantastic long (and yet still too short) weekend in the Windy City.

It was my annual July 4 trip to Chicago, which means I also spent time in Michigan City, Indiana. Combined, it was just awesome. Continue reading

Summer in Michigan City

6 Jul

Growing up in suburban New York, I never thought that one day I’d get really excited about spending July 4 in Michigan City, Indiana.

But after going there last year and having a great time, that’s what’s happened. So that’s why I went to Chicago this weekend.

Thursday and Friday I wandered around town (about 6 miles of walking, in fact), took a day trip to Evanston to see Northwestern (just for fun), checked out two of Chicago’s leading cupcake places (Molly’s and Sweet Mandy B’s — both of which were tasty, but not as good as the hype), had some custom-made rapid-frozen ice cream at a place called iCream (really, that’s its name), and finally got to meet my friends’ daughter, who is totally cute.

But spending the weekend in Lake Michigan was the highlight of the trip. Continue reading

The American Way?

24 Oct

I was in Chicago (or, more accurately, at a hotel near O’Hare) this week for the MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer. Great time, a very worthwhile couple days. But don’t you hate it when a nice trip is ruined by the ride home?

Here’s what happened: My two coworkers and I were scheduled to be on the 7:40 American Airlines flight out of O’Hare Thursday night, but we got to the airport a little early so that we could try and go standby on the 5:55. No surprise, we were not the only ones with that idea, and we weren’t so lucky. So, we decided to grab some dinner and wait. The weather outside was bad; it was raining pretty hard. But planes were still taking off, although some were starting to be delayed — including ours, which we learned was pushed back from 7:40 to 10:30. (Holy delay, Batman!) Um, that sucks, we thought, and we ordered another round of drinks.

A couple hours later, though, some odd stuff started happening: We saw that the flight to Boston scheduled for 9:35 had also been delayed, but only until 9:55. Why was a flight scheduled to take off after ours, that’s going to the same destination, leaving before ours? How does that happen? Why was our flight delayed nearly three and a half hours (at this point, the departure time had changed to 11:00), and this one only 20 minutes? That’s very wrong, we thought. Of course, by the time we noticed this, it was too late to try and get on the flight.

And then, around 10:40, we made our way to our gate, where we found just about nobody waiting for the flight. That’s because the time had been moved up to 10:45. We just barely made it! Given how rare it is for a flight to take off early, and given how long this one had been delayed for, why wasn’t there an announcement made over the public address system? How much would that have sucked if we had been at the airport for six hours and then ultimately missed our flight?

I can think of worse things for American Airlines to have done than to delay us for 3.5 hours, and to tell us early enough so we didn’t have to stress. It’s not like they kept pushing back the flight by 30 minutes or an hour at a time, and we had to sit there not knowing what was going on. And it’s not like we were stuck on the plane waiting for it to take off, or anything like that, either. And it’s not like the pilot overshot the runway on his way into Logan Airport. And, truth be told, it wasn’t so bad hanging out waiting for our flight; we ate, we drank, we watched the ballgame, and we had a good time.

But seriously, American. What was up with that scheduling? We should have left before the 9:35 flight did. Isn’t that what being in line is all about? And given the late hour and the few people still left in the terminal, couldn’t you have made a loud-enough announcement about pushing up the departure time?

And, because our flight was delayed for such a long time, aren’t you supposed to offer us a voucher or something? Isn’t that what most airlines do in that situation?

I know the weather and the delays weren’t your fault, but I still think you could have handled things a little bit better.

It Never Lets Me Down

8 Jul

I say it every time I go there, but it’s true: Chicago is my kind of town.

And my trip over the past few days was definitely one of the best yet.

Sure, I do some of the same things whenever I’m in the Windy City (hello, Bean), but I haven’t had the same agenda twice.

There’s always something new and different to do. Continue reading

On the Edge

2 Jul

The Ledge at the Sears Tower in Chicago officially opens today.

I totally want to go and check it out.

I mean, when you’ve gone skydiving and taken a trapeze lesson, how scary can it be to stand in a 1.5-inch–thick glass box that’s extended out 4.3 feet from the Sears Tower’s 103rd floor, 1,353 feet off the ground?

If I get to do it, I’ll let you know the answer to that question. In the meantime, here’s a clip about the Ledge from yesterday’s Today Show.

They’ve Got the Blues

3 Dec

Cadillac Records tells the story of the influential Chess Records label, founded by Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody) in Chicago in the 1950s, and home to such legendary artists as Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), Little Walter (Columbus Short), and Etta James (Beyoncé Knowles).

The film includes all the essentials of the musical biopic, including sex, drugs, and a sketchy manager-type — the title comes from Chess’ habit of paying off his successful artists with Cadillacs, instead of giving them the money they’re rightfully earned.

But it also includes one other very important element: great music. Continue reading

Seriously Good

19 Jul

I’m happy to report that everything you’ve heard, all that hype, is true: The Dark Knight is awesome.

More crime thriller than comic book movie, this film simply raises the game — for Batman movies, for movies adapted from comic books, for summer movies, for action movies, and maybe even for movies in general.

And that’s not even taking into account how cool it is to watch on an IMAX screen.

The Dark Knight is just one great movie. Continue reading

Power to the People

1 Mar

As an idealistic but still naive college freshman, I signed up for a class called “The Sixties” my first semester at Brandeis. The professor, Jerry Cohen, captivated me with stories of protests and social upheaval, and explained how the youth movement tried to transform the nation. And, he told us about how Brandeis itself was a hotbed of activity, and how graduates like Abbie Hoffman were central to the activism of the decade. This course excited me like no other course would, and it started my college education on an inspiring foot.

More than 15 years later, the lessons of Jerry Cohen have come back to life with the movie Chicago 10, a documentary about the infamous trial of the Chicago Seven — folks like Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, and Bobby Seale — who were put on trial for conspiracy, inciting to riot, and other charges related to violent protests that took place in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. (The title comes from a quote by Rubin, who said, “Anyone who calls us the Chicago Seven is a racist. Because you’re discrediting Bobby Seale. You can call us the Chicago Eight, but really we’re the Chicago Ten, because our two lawyers went down with us.”) Director Brett Morgen mixes archival footage with computer-generated cartoons and a modern-day soundtrack to illustrate the trial and the convention week events. As historical documents go, it’s pretty cool to actually see a lot of the older footage and see how folks protested the Vietnam War. It’s also fun to see Hoffman in action; he comes across here as more of an agitator than a political activist, since he seems to delight more in getting a rise out of people than making actual change. The trial itself was a bit of a farce, since few of the defendants took the proceedings seriously. Judge Julius Hoffman (no relation to Abbie) was basically a crotchety old man who looked down on the defendants and made his disdain for them clear. And the fact that they all basically got off only emphasizes how silly the whole thing was.

Morgen uses the actual court transcripts as the script for the cartoon segments (with folks like Nick Nolte, Hank Azaria, and Mark Ruffalo providing the voices), and to be honest, these are some of the weaker segments in the film. The animation isn’t terribly impressive, and the back and forth with Judge Hoffman gets sort of old. On the good side, songs like the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” are used to good effect to amp up the protest footage. I generally liked seeing these events I had in my head actually playing out in front of me. And it’s nice that there’s no present-day analysis from anyone, because what’s happening basically speaks for itself. But that said, the film is missing some degree of insight, and some extra degree of engagement that prevented me from being completely impressed. So I’m giving Chicago 10 a B.

Still a Toddlin’ Town

16 Jul

Went back to Chicago this weekend for Andrew and Fun Summer Rachel’s wedding. As always, a good time was had; Chicago is truly — say it with me — my kind of town. Here are a few tidbits from the weekend:

They did: The wedding itself was great. Very nice venue. An awesome band had me up and dancing all night. Andrew sang “Some Kind of Wonderful” (and he was good). Sat with all of Andrew’s doctor friends from Boston — it was just like old times when I was the only non-doctor in the room. Wine was tasty. Bride was beautiful. Good to see the boys from the bachelor party again. The couple was so so happy. And I had a blast.

Swingtown in Chi-Town: After the wedding and the after-party, Robin and I hung out at the bar at the Four Seasons with members of Steve Miller’s band. Yes, the Steve Miller Band. We talked for a bit with his manager and met one of his guitarists, but the man himself was MIA. Apparently, Steve “doesn’t do the ‘hang out thing’ anymore,” his manager told us. So I replied that he must just “Take the Money and Run.” And we went back and forth with similar references. On the way out, I seized an opportunity. Knowing I’d likely never again have the opportunity to hang out with the Steve Miller Band or their manager, I asked the manager what “the pompatus of love” is. His reply? “Hell if I know. Steve just likes to make stuff up.” And there you have it. (Incidentally, Robin got to hang out with Joe Cocker earlier in the day on Saturday. Apparently, the Four Seasons chain is quite popular among touring singers.)

Back to the Bean: I just can’t help it sometimes. Like a moth to a flame, I’m drawn to the same places over and over when I visit. In Los Angeles, it’s the Getty Center. In Chicago, it’s Cloud Gate, aka the Bean, which I think I’ve now taken every conceivable picture of. I just think it’s so cool. But considering this was the first time I’d been to Chicago in warm weather (the other times were in October and November), I felt compelled to revisit some sites I’d seen on previous trips, like Buckingham Fountain (which was going at full blast) and Navy Pier. And yes, I took a ton of pictures at all three of these places. Actually, the ones at Navy Pier are pretty cool because I went up in the Ferris Wheel and the view was real nice.

Good food, bad food: Another trip to Chicago and again I didn’t eat at Ed Debevic’s. (Most would say that’s a good thing, though.) Instead, on Saturday I went with Samara to Giordano’s for lunch for some Chicago-style stuffed pizza. Yum. So good, but so so filling. One slice was enough. And that one slice sat in my stomach for most of the day. Ugh. On the other hand, I tried the new SoBe Coolatta from Dunkin’ Donuts this weekend. In addition to the sugar in the coolatta itself, now it has an extra kick. And, it tastes good. So … I’ll be needing one of those Monday morning.

Anyway, it was a great weekend. If you want to live vicariously, here are my pictures.

A Town That Won’t Let You Down

6 Nov

Alright, I didn’t just put my blog on hiatus these past few days, I put myself on hiatus and headed out to visit my friend Andrew in Chicago. Suffice it to say, a good time was had by all.

It’s been two years since I was last in Chicago, and in that time much has changed. For example, whereas two years ago Andrew didn’t know much about the city, now he still doesn’t know much about Chicago — but he could fake it convincingly by giving me a whole dissertation about the grid system and how easy it is to navigate around. (ha ha) But more importantly, Andrew’s engaged, so one of the biggest reasons I went out there was to meet his fiancee, Rachel.

It was a packed weekend: I got in Thursday night and we went to dinner at Shine Morida; Friday I was on my own and walked all the way down Clark to Michigan Ave., where I went to the Hancock Observatory, did some shopping, and visited Millenium Park; at night we brought in dinner from Bacino’s and saw a show at Second City; Saturday, Andrew and I had brunch at Stella’s, then went to the Field Museum; at night we met up with some of Rachel and Andrew’s friends and had dinner at Las Tablas, then Andrew and I went to Rosa’s Lounge, a great blues club where Jimmy Johnson was performing; Sunday, we had brunch at Panes, and then I headed home.

That’s not really all we did, but something tells me you would be less than impressed if I told you we also watched five — yes, five — episodes of Grey’s Anatomy now that Andrew and Rachel are hooked on the show and are catching up with the season two DVD set. And you probably would have little sympathy for me if I told you I did a lot of walking around in the cold (40 degrees or so) since it was apparently just as cold back in Boston. And it’s a funny story, but the fact that we tried but could not get into Buddy Guy’s Legends doesn’t add much to the overall recap. I also figure you don’t care that Chicago’s WLIT was already playing Christmas music 24/7 and that it made me smile.

But all told, it was a great weekend. It was nice to see different parts of the city than those I saw last time, and it was nice to see that Andrew’s found himself a great fiancee. And of course, I took a lot more pictures than the ones you see here; if you want to see the rest, just follow this link.

Ah, Chicago. It’s my kind of town.

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