Southern Boy in ChiTown

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Week that Wasn't

Jeez, I'm obviously way, way behind in blogging.

I did make it out for a run along Lake Michigan last Sunday - cold but very clear and there must have been millions of people out there with me, including a number of people training for the Boston Marathon (complete with attended tables of water). Very nice - looking forward to many more like it! I crossed under Lakeshore at Chicago Ave and made it up past Castaways to the next set of beaches before turning around for home.

Also made my first foray into the Chicago underground after realizing that the day before I'd been inadvertently charged $33.50 for the latest issue of Flaming Carrot Comics at Graham Crackers, instead of the much more reasonable $3.50. Subway was fine - pretty much halfway between the NY subway and the DC metro in terms of age, cleanliness, etc.

The rest of the week was pretty much a blur of work except for a really nice dinner Thursday night with a friend from work at Cyrano's Bistrot (yes, Bistrot). Then it was fly home late Friday, drive up to Asheville Saturday to see Dad for a couple of hours, turn around and drive back to CH then spend Sunday packing and flying back to Chicago.

But this time at least I was not alone - Lady J is here with me now and I'm a happy guy, except maybe that it makes working long hours suck more. Weather sucked tonight but it should be getting better by Wednesday. We don't have huge things planned for this weekend primarily as we'll be moving into the apartment Saturday and I expect the rest of the weekend will be devoted to settling in. Look for pictures by Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Timing is Everything

I can't complain too much about the timing of this (temporary) move to Chicago. I managed to have a couple of weeks to enjoy early spring (which actually starts in late winter) in the Piedmont of North Carolina before leaving. The redbuds, cherry trees and forsythia were in full bloom, as were the daffodils (you can often tell where the old farmhouses on formerly rural roads were by where the daffodils are) and the Bradford pears (I know the pears aren't native, but they really are gorgeous). The jasmine on the arbor in the backyard was just starting to bloom again (of course it seems to bloom every two months lately regardless of the time of year).

The bummer is missing the second part of spring - the dogwoods and azaleas and wisteria, all of which make North Carolina in the middle of spring one of the most magnificent places on God's green earth. On the other hand, everyone that I've talked to says that despite the unseasonably cold weather here in Chicago this week and next, I'll really enjoy spring and summer here. I have no doubt about that, but I'm betting there are no dogwoods or azaleas...

I don't mean to sound homesick - despite the pressure, this was a pretty good week and I expect things to go well over the next few months. There will undoubtedly be ups and downs, but I'm confident that it'll go okay and be fun! (After seeing the view today that we're going to have from the apartment we're moving into in April, I'm even more psyched!).

Finally, Some Pictures (Part 2)

Got up around 8:30 this morning, threw some clothes on and took off for the lakefront. I walked way too damn far in way too much wind with way too little coffee in me, but it was fun (and I was back in the hotel by 11:15 with the room already done). Walked around Navy Pier joined primarily by hordes of joggers (I think after all the walking I'm going to wait until tomorrow to run) and a few delivery guys. Then on down past the Chicago Marina to Millennium Park and the obligatory photo of the Cloud Gate (lower picture above - click on it to get a better view). By the time I started back up Michigan Avenue the sidewalks were starting to get packed. Planning to grab a shower, walk over to the new apartment building (they're having an open house and I'm hoping to see some models) and then maybe pick up a couple of shirts from Eddie Bauer. I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to try to catch some basketball out tonight or stay in and catch up on some work (the work's got to be done sometime this weekend but I'm thinking I deserve ONE day off).

Finally, Some Pictures

Figured I'd start with my two new homes - the Aon Center (with 2 Pru to the left) on top and the Allerton in from of the Hancock Tower below. I'm pretty sure I've spent more time at the Aon Center so far than the Allerton. That's the Pritzker Pavilion in front of the Aon Center in Millennium Park - pretty obviously designed by Frank Gehry. The window just above "TIP" on the Allerton is where the treadmill is - need to spend more time up there next week.

Friday, March 17, 2006

First Week Survival!

You know, I'm pretty sure that in a drunken stupor last night I posted something but I'll be damned if I can find it, so maybe it got blown away.

So I made it to the end of the week! Shaken and stirred, dazed and confused, cross-eyed and painless, but alive. Work, as I imagined, was pretty damned tough, but I had a couple of successes and no huge failures, so I'm already a frickin' hero. Hell, I suspect that as long as I didn't drop trou in front of the customer and didn't try to jump the security turnstile on the way in, I'd be a hero.

I am embarrassed to say that after spending all that time looking at all the great places to eat around here, I've eaten at Elephant & Castle (small chain I'm familiar with from Ottawa), Subway, TGI Fridays, the hotel restaurant and only once at a local place. Had dinner at the bar at Friday's last night watching the tournament and hanging out with the locals (and drinking way too heavily). Tonight I decided to take care of myself and walked over to Whole Foods and came back with sushi, a really nice salad and a six pack of Sierra Nevada and have settled in for some basketball-watching. I figure I did my St. Patrick's Day celebrating last night.

Obviously I'm going to have to do a lot of work this weekend but I do intend to get my ass out and actually see some of this part of Chicago. It's going to be cold but I HAVE to get out and run along Lake Michigan and after that I plan to do a lot of walking and picture-taking.

I think this will be much easier in a couple of weeks when we get into the apartment, which I've now got settled. On April 1 we move into a 1 bedroom apt at One Superior Place on the 45th floor. With that I'll be able to concentrate a lot less on survival (where am I going to eat? am I going to work out?) and more on enjoying being here. I say "we" 'cause my sweetie will be up here with me for awhile after next week!

That's not to say that I haven't enjoyed it here - the people at work are fine of course and I had a good time hanging out and talking hoops with the locals last night. Tuesday night was awesome - walked all the way down to Hubbard to find Andy's Jazz Club which I remembered from our trip up here a dozen years ago. Barbara the bartender was great, the music was quite nice and the food was actually pretty decent. I'm looking forward to hanging out there as often as I can afford.

More later after I see if I can get the Carolina game off the CBS website. George Mason just upset Michigan State but unfortunately UConn just finally took the lead over Albany.

Monday, March 13, 2006

First Day Blues

The storms that caused tornadoes down in Springfield knocked me out of bed last night but things had calmed down by time to walk in to work. Less than 20 minutes - not a bad trek at all. The first day of work, of course, was bordering on hellish, but that was not unexpected. Everybody wants everything and they want it yesterday. Unfortunately, I let too many people get my time for too many things which put me behind on doing what's most important (it's the budget, stupid) so I've got some catching up to do tomorrow (I'm not doing it now because it's too late and I'm too tired). I'd hoped to get out tonight to do a little exploring, but was unable to do so due to work (including a 7:30 call), so I ate dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was way too slow.

But I do have some damn nice things to say about the Allerton! First of all, Lex and mapgirl will appreciate that the conference rooms are names Wright, Burnham, Sullivan, Root, etc. And I have been extremely well-treated (despite the slow response at dinner) both because my company apparently sends a lot of trade their way and the fact that I'm here for 2 weeks running. I found a bottle of wine and a basket of fruit waiting for me when I got back from work (unfortunately aNOTHER reason I didn't get everything done tonight that I needed) and a voice mail from the business customer manager offering to move me to a suite when one is available Wednesday. While that sounds nice (this is a SMALL room), I don't relish packing everything back up tomorrow night so I think I'll pass.

The walk into work was nice today - we'll see what I think about it tomorrow when it's 30 degrees with 40 mph gusts. The Chicago River was still green this morning - that might be the normal color or it might have something to do with the St. Patrick's Day parade being last weekend. I enjoy walking past Chicago landmarks like the Wrigley Building and the Trib Tower (and Niketown and the temple of Apple) but I do recognize that if I actually MOVED here I'd never be able to live within 45 minutes of downtown. I am still looking into corporate apartments for this stint though.

Most importantly, I think I've found a comic book store down across from Grant Park - yay!!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I'm Here

Well, I'm finally here. Got to the airport in time to catch the end of the first half of the ACC final and then all of the second half. Sorry BC didn't hang on to beat the Dookies, but they're going to be tough in the tourney (I saw that one of the talking heads on the ESPN bracket show picked BC for the Final Four).

No pictures yet - it was a rainy ride in to the hotel and looks like a rocky night. I'd hoped to walk in to work the first day tomorrow but I think a bus will be more practical. It'll be cold the next few days but it looks reasonably dry the first half of the week (after tomorrow morning) so I hope I'll be able to get some shots posted by Thursday. I'll also need to find a good place to watch the tourney this weekend - something tells me that the ESPNZone is probably not practical!

Room's small but servicable. Lady J asked if it would be big enough for both of us for a couple of weeks and the answer was emphatically "NO" - there's not really enough room for MY stuff, much less for a second person. But it's fine for me. I'm on the 16th, overlooking Chicago Place across Michigan Ave. The sirens are going to take some getting used to (I'm a block from Northwestern University Hospital) but it's actually gotten relatively quiet for the time being.

I'm still on east coast time, so I'll be hitting the sack early...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Calm Before the Storm

Took off Saturday for Dad's house and of course thoroughly enjoyed the Dook-Carolina game. Dropped by Mom's on Sunday for brunch before driving on down to Asheville and the Grove Park Inn. We spent pretty much all day Monday and Tuesday at the spa, floating, steaming, soaking and sweating our cares away. I hadn't realized it until tonight, but this week seems to be my attempt to absorb a lot of my favorite parts of living in North Carolina before taking off for a few months - the Dook-Carolina game, Grove Park, Blowing Rock, Old Salem, the ACC Tournament - about the only thing missing is a trip to the Outer Banks but unfortunately we won't be able to work that in. Saturday will be my day to spend some time down on Franklin Street while Lady J's at Syd's getting her hair done.

I'm also trying to start getting absorbed in Chicago-ness. Lex mentioned reading The Devil in the White City a few weeks ago - I had seen it when it first came out and thought it sounded fascinating, so I've been reading it the past few days. I don't find the parts about the murderer all that interesting but the majority of the book, about the design, building and running of the Columbian Exposition and its aftermath, I find pretty damned fascinating. I've also got copies of The Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and High Fidelity to take up with me next week (guess I also need to find a copy of Adventures in Babysitting). But I don't expect to be watching old episodes of the Bob Newhart Show.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

In Like a Wallaby, Out Like a Duck-Billed Platypus

Went out running in shorts this morning before light, turned the air conditioning on this afternoon and it's supposed to be 77 tomorrow. So yeah, clearly I'm still in Chapel Hill. It IS going to get cooler next week, but our lows will still not be much lower than Chicago highs.

It's been hard to really think much about the new account and the Chicago adventure until today. We finally wrapped up my old account yesterday so I could really get serious about the new one. Still not definite about living arrangements longer term - the first agency that we use didn't have anything available at the Grand Plaza until June but I'm waiting to hear from the other one. I've at least got hotel reservations for the first 4 weeks, so I'm tempted to go on up and check things out before committing to a corp apartment. Less than two weeks...

I did have time to dial into a couple of meetings with the new customer today. It will definitely be a challenge but I think there's a lot of potential there. As I told a couple of people today, at least it will be fun working on a new, growing account rather than an old, dying one! I've had a couple of chances to talk to some of the folks that will be reporting to me and they seem like they're on the ball - as long as they continue to show me that, my philosophy is to let them do their thing and try to keep everyone else out of their way.