Cheerful In Chicago Part 1 – THERE You Are!

A’s name is Emma.

I went through a big debate with myself about whether or not I should officially reveal her real name because you guys should know by now that, other than my own, I don’t use people’s names in this blog.  But I think it may have been confusing sometimes when I called her ‘A’ in this blog, especially at the beginning of a sentence.  Plus, I anticipate that we’ll be taking more trips together in the future (the evidence strongly supports this conclusion since we’ve had three trips so far in the year and a half that we’ve known each other) so I decided that it was time.

As you know, Emma lives in LA.  We easily agreed that we wanted to meet up on this trip but we deliberated briefly on where that should happen.  I didn’t necessarily want to go all the way to LA and she offered to meet me in New York but I wanted to go to some place new so we decided to meet sort of in the middle.  We agreed on Chicago.

I had been there once in my infancy but remembered exactly nothing about the place so I went with a totally open mind and heart, ready to love it.  Let me just say from now that neither of us fell in love with Chicago.  In fact, we both agreed that it’s pretty middling – there’s nothing remarkable about the place to endear it to us – and the big plus about being there was that we spent four solid days together.  It was happily like old times.

On the last Thursday of June, Auntie dropped me at JFK and a few hours later, I was jogging towards Emma in terminal 3 at O’Hare Airport.  We had timed our flights to arrive within a couple hours of each other in the early morning so that we would have the entire day to take on Chicago.  After a quick reunion, we found our ride and made our way “home”.  We had booked a place near Portage Park on Airbnb and our host was also our airport transfer (very convenient).  We dropped off our bags and refreshed ourselves a little, and within twenty minutes we were walking away from the house to a nearby coffee shop.  We needed nourishment for the day ahead so we ordered coffee (duh) and breakfast sandwiches.  After eating, we ordered a Lyft and were off to Navy Pier.

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There she is!

We spent a couple of hours there, taking pictures, walking around, getting back into our usual groove (Emma speed walking and me strolling along behind her, Emma mapping out where we’d go next and me going along with the plan) and just enjoying being together.  Then we walked along the beach by Lake Michigan and headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where we spent another couple of hours wandering around, talking about the pieces we were seeing and anything else that came to mind.  Finally, hunger overcame us both and we walked up the Magnificent Mile to a little bakery Emma found using her super food sleuthing powers.

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Bust of DuSable with Emma and the Chicago skyline behind

After she had her salad and espresso and I had my hazelnut croissant and apple turnover, we felt properly rejuvenated and set off again.  We reversed our path down the Magnificent Mile heading for Millennium Park.  Along the way we stopped at a bust of Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable, a Black man from Haiti who happened to be the founder of Chicago.

Eventually we arrived at Cloud Gate, also known as The Bean, in Millennium Park.  We weren’t down with competing with the throng of tourists to get a decent picture so we only spent a few minutes there before wandering off to see other parts of the park.  I was a little bit delighted to learn that Cloud Gate is the work of Anish Kapoor, whose work I had seen in the High Museum in Atlanta a few months before, during JEXIT.  Immediately recognising the artist’s name made me feel learned and exposed, like I knew a little more beyond my usual artistic boundaries.

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It totally looks like a giant water droplet from this angle…excuse all the unknown tourists in the picture

For a while, we listened to a band rehearsing for a concert that would be on that night in the park then we wandered through a garden that reminded me a little bit of a field from Little House On The Prairie, before finding a bench where we sat and talked about life and romance and men (more on that in a couple of weeks).  Our conversation got cut short by a brief rain shower, which caused us to dash to a nearby building for ten minutes or so of shelter before wandering on again.

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I felt suffused with health after I ate my seafood salad

We felt like it was time to eat again so Emma called up her super food sleuthing skills and we walked to a nearby seafood place.  By that time it was night (though not yet dark) and we were ready to call it a day so we headed home, where we both showered, watched most of a movie on Netflix (Amélie…I had been wanting to watch it for sixteen years but never got around to it) but we sleepily abandoned it with about thirty minutes to go because we both felt too tired to continue; it had been a very long day of travelling, plus we had walked more than fourteen kilometers that day.  We fell into our respective beds at around 10:15 pm.

The next day started early because Emma had a 7 am crossfit class to attend.  I had decided to tag along so that when it was done we could start our day.  Plus, I like to watch her work out (as I had done in Bali) because it’s fascinating to see so much strength packed into that small package.

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My mouth is watering all over again

After the class ended and Emma had showered, we went across the street to get our very necessary coffee infusions then back across the street again to a breakfast place.  Oh my gosh, the food was sinful!  I had crunchy french toast and Emma had eggs.  After we were done inhaling our delicious feast, we set off walking again.  We were taking on Wicker Park that day, where we would end up clocking eleven kilometers just wandering in and out of stores, cafes, and the Flatiron Arts building, which houses a labyrinth of artists’ studios.

As I’m writing this I’m trying to decide which part of that second day with Emma was my favourite: the hour or so that we spent in a used book store…

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Myopic Books, where I picked up two books on medieval and twentieth century Russian history

…the scrabble game we played in a cafe while drinking rocket sauce (a refreshing ginger lemonade)…

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Won by the skin of my teeth but I would have sworn Emma beat me before we tallied up the scores

…the laugh we had over how we looked like homeless hobos (Emma with her ripped jeans and big backpack because she had to bring clothes to shower and change into after her workout, and me with my plastic bag of books), the chat we had over ice cream in the park near our Airbnb place later in the evening…

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Hobo Emma & Kris have Dairy Queen dip cones in the park

…or the gut-busting laugh we shared over Emma mimicking my walking (I walk at the speed of a tortoise compared to her but we still somehow manage to get there together) as we strolled back to our place.  Eventually, we finished watching Amélie and went to bed at around 11 pm.

I think we both went to sleep that night pretty happy with our two days together so far, since we had fallen right back into our rhythm with no hitches.  Now, what could we get up to in our two remaining days?

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