Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Now, Where Was I...
I always viewed Chicago as being a lot like Boston. Same sport fanaticism and emphasis on architectural excellence, with a nice mix of historic and high-rise buildings. Both have similar greenways and awesome cityscapes lining a waterfront, as well as popular public transit systems, marquee colleges, world-class museums and long, bitter winters.
Whenever I visit Boston, I return home fat and happy. Chicago, I’m learning, is no different.
I already mentioned that the flight tuckered me out. But I got my second wind just in time to join co-workers and some pretty cool executives for a dinner of deep dish pizza, antipasto salad and wine and, back in my Omni Hotel suite, a hand-delivered pint of the best peach ice cream I’ve ever tasted. I devoured half the carton while watching a movie on one of two giant televisions in my room. I also wondered if those chatty, well-dressed women carrying O magazines in the elevator had been guests of the Oprah Winfrey Show.
The next afternoon, after officially being relieved of work duties, I readied for an evening of laughs. First we hit a Brazilian steakhouse called Brazzaz, where gauchos deliver 16 different kinds of meat to your plate. The portions don’t stop until you turn over a plastic chip on the table. I had enough protein to last a year within the first 30 minutes. At one point, a belly dancer had arrived to entertain a party celebrating someone’s 21st birthday. I had to chuckle at all the male waiters who suddenly needed to serve our tiny section.
From there, we headed over to N. Wells Street to take in The Second City Comedy Club’s performance War! It had a lot of funny moments, though the show’s into its fourth year and could stand to update its material. But I thoroughly enjoyed it and even got the local jokes.
The hotel had included in the guest services book a map of a 7.5-mile jogging trail that I’d have been on the next morning in healthier times. Instead, my bum hip and I decided to find a park to enjoy a non-fat chai latte and muffin from a Corner Bakery. I saw lots of runners (sigh) and took lots of pictures.
Shortly after I settled in, a clean-shaven man sat two benches down and asked if I smoked. When I said no, he said he wouldn’t have his cigarette then. We struck up a conversation and then Charles (pictured below) told me about another park he enjoys that offers a change of scenery. I never got to check it out, but that hour I spent learning about life in Chicago from his standpoint – that of a recovering drug addict just grateful to still have his family and friends and a job – left me feeling great the rest of the day.
Well, sort of.
We spent that afternoon on a chartered yacht, watching an air and water show from Lake Michigan. Within an hour I was ready to puke. Instead, I held it together and eventually learned bartenders on these boats always have Dramamine. It kicked it just as I was ready to go overboard with my pasta salad. That evening, we decided to settle our stomachs with excellent seafood at Riva on the Navy Pier. I can still taste my Australian barramundi on a bed of mushroom risotto. I then was invited to go have a pint in some Irish pub, but I declined because the Dramamine was still coursing through my brain and making me quite groggy.
The next morning, I couldn’t fully wake up. Not while rushing to the airport, dealing with the huge lines, trying to watch the airplane movie or even after I got home. Everything moved in slow motion before me, like I was stoned. Then once the fog lifted, the seasickness returned. It was so weird. When I sat still, it felt like I again was rocking on the boat. I should have let my gut go; instead, I stepped on the scales.
I’d gained seven pounds.
In five days.
It had to be that latte :-).