Southern Boy in ChiTown

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Good Eats

After my post of a couple of weeks ago about not eating out, we've now managed to get out and do a little discovery of some of the local eats.

Last Tuesday J and I got taken out to dinner by one of my old work friends and one of my old bosses that happened to be in town. Dinner was at Trattoria No. 10 which really was as good as advertised. The next night I had a vendor in town staying at the Wyndham, so we met for dinner a block away at Viand, which J had been wanting me to try. It was good enough that J and I went there the next night.

One of the things I've been trying to find is someplace to eat relatively often that doesn't cost twice as much as what we're used to in Chapel Hill. The Thai place a couple of block away (Amarit) fits the bill although the food is nowhere near the best Thai we've had. On the other hand, Fornetto Mei at the Whitehall Hotel on Delaware is much more expensive but if you're not too shy to order appetizers as entrees it's not bad. The reviews are pretty spotty but we stopped by there Monday night after we flew in and had a really nice late-night meal in the bar area. It'll certainly be worth a trip back.

Lady J's birthday is Tuesday and she's trying to decide between Zest and Roy's for dinner, both good choices.

Lying Bastards

You know who you are! "Oh, you're going to Chicago at just the right time - spring is great!" "Wow, you're going to love Chicago in the spring!"

Uh, no. So far the best I can say about it is "hey, the wind doesn't bite through my overcoat quite as bad as it did back in March" or "that constant rain isn't quite as cold now as it was a few weeks ago".

Seriously, kids, didn't you think I'd find out that spring in Chicago is a myth? I'm assuming that you knew I had to come up here anyway so were just trying to make me feel a little better about it and I suppose that was nice of you but seriously, this just pretty much sucks.

In all honesty, Friday evening wasn't that bad. Both Lady J and I had had pretty crappy days and the best thing I can ever think of for that is to get some fresh ocean-blown air. With the Atlantic a couple thousand miles further away than I'm used to, we were perfectly happy with the inland sea of Lake Michigan. It hadn't hit me until then that J hadn't even been to the lake yet, so we walked out Chicago Ave to the Lakeshore underpass and walked up the lakeside to the Oak Street beach. Did a little window shopping on Oak Street and Rush while watching all the Friday diners hitting the restaurants before walking back towards the apartment and checking out the neighborhood Thai place.

But nights like Friday have been few and far between and the forecast for the next week (into next weekend) is for rain or at least heavy clouds every single day. Bleecchh!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Homesick, but for where?

Spent all of Easter Sunday in the apartment working - I literally did not step foot outside the building. By Wednesday I had over 40 hours in and was feeling really homesick - ready to get the hell out for a few days.

3:30 Friday rolled around and I walked out of the Aon Center to head north and I realized that as I walked past the folks already hanging outside at Quartino's on State Street in the beautiful afternoon sunshine and as I passed folks doing the same at Rosebud's on Rush in the cab on the way to Midway - hell, I didn't want to leave at all! I wanted my sweetie with me but I would have been perfectly happy to plop down at one of the outdoor tables at any of those places and not leave until they kicked us out.

Finally made it up to Division Tuesday to meet a couple of guys from work (for those that are not Chicago-savvy, Division and Rush is one of the bar/restaurant/club scenes). I doubt I'd be interested in hitting it on a Friday or Saturday, but Tuesday felt about right - lots of people around but not so crowded that it was uncomfortable.

Noticed something on the way to the airport - all the cabs have Illinois license plates of "nnnn TX", which would imply that there are a maximum of 10,000 cabs in Illinois. I would swear to you that there are at least 9,950 at any given time along about a 10-block stretch of Michigan Ave, so for you folks in Champaign and Peoria, good luck hailing a taxi!

Saturday, April 15, 2006


I'm finding that on the few occasions that I'm not either working or trying to sleep, I end up going out and just walking. I did that twice last night - first walking down Dearborn and then Wabash to Wacker and back up Michigan before cutting over to the lakefront at Chicago Plaza. It was there near Navy Pier that I took the horrifying shot above - I can think of few things more frightening that a LeRoy Neiman show at a gallery. /* shudder */ The gallery complex itself though is definitely on my list of places to come back to.

After getting back to the apartment, I dropped off the camera, changed clothes, and decided I needed some magazines that I could take with me for when I decided to eat out alone (I'm still working my way through Neil Stephenson's Quicksilver in trade, so it's huge and not fun to carry around). So I took a somewhat circuitous route to the Borders, taking me north on State as far as Delaware before wandering back through the Friday night crowds on Michigan Ave. to my neighborhood Italian place for a nice spaghetti putanesca and a chat with the bartender. Walked past a number of restaurants and bars that look worth investigating later, but last night being the first really warm night (and a holiday weekend to boot) everything was packed. Hey, looks like I'll be here for awhile and my sweetie will be back in a week, so there's plenty of time to check places out.

Wabash at the Chicago River

The first couple of weeks I was in Chicago I walked down Michigan to work every day. But the week before I moved into the apartment, I moved into a different hotel and started walking past the new Trump Tower jobsite and crossing the river on Wabash, which gave me a much different perspective on that part of the city (as well as being a much more relaxed walk). Friday evening I finally had a chance to walk back down with the camera (I realized that as part of the "protective coloration" mentioned in the previous post, I'm limiting my photography for the most part to Friday evening through Sunday evening, a period where almost everyone on the street is a tourist of some sort).

The top photo is the best one I've been able to get of Bertand Goldberg's Marina City, built in the early 60's. It wasn't until I'd walked that way that I realized the bottom 20 floors or so is for parking - those are some hell river views those cars have! Just to the right you can see the corner of the IBM building designed by Mies van der Rohe in the early 70's, one of the last buildings to come out of his office before his death and the tallest of his in the US.

The second photo is really the reason I love the walk - the cool mix of architecture that you can see all in one shot. The stark, square Aon Center and the modern 2 Prudential almost hidden by the very Deco Carbide and Carbon Building (now the Hard Rock Hotel) with the funky round Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist in the foreground. Oh, and the world famous Morton's Steakhouse for you carnivores and the oh-so-hip Hotel Monaco peeking in from the right.

The bottom shot is 35 East Wacker (formerly the Jewellers Building), which I like for the Baroque domes and cornices - cleaner than the Gothic Trib Tower but still very cool. What I didn't know before reading a local architecture book is that 22 stories (my photo doesn't really show the bottom 25 stories or so) were originally an elevator-driven parking garage, all done without someone behind the wheel of the car.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Urban Boy

While I was home last weekend and waxing poetic about the dogwoods and wisteria and azaleas and redbuds and how fucking beautiful North Carolina is in the spring, Lady J observed that I seem right at home in the city. That actually brought me up short, as I've thought that before but realized that I've spent almost my whole life living either in the suburbs of southern cities (Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte, DC (and yes, DC is in many ways a Southern city), Greensboro) or in a college town. I do feel comfortable in cities but I certainly have yet to make myself at home in Chicago, due more to spending almost all of my time here working than anything else. I at least feel pretty much at home in the surrounding few blocks, but I haven't ventured out on the L to other parts of the city - until I do, I'm still a tourist.

As far as being a city boy, I'll admit that the thought of having a lawn fills me more with dread than joy and I'd be perfectly happy enjoying those dogwoods and azaleas in parks and on campus rather than necessarily having to have my own. I seem to take pretty naturally to protective coloration (as evidenced by the Borders clerk last week that was convinced we were native Chicagoans and the hordes of people with nametags that are constantly asking me directions). As much as I miss my home and my town, I could live here - no problem - except that I don't think I could afford to live here in the style that I'd want to unless someone continued to pay my expenses!

All of that being said, after the week (and month) I've had, my temptation is to pick up a six-pack downstairs and sit in the apartment tonight playing Dungeon Siege.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Dad update

Part of the reason for taking a long weekend last weekend was to get up to the NC mountains to see Dad in Asheville. Unfortunately our Friday night flight didn't get us home until about 3am Saturday morning. We did go ahead and drive up Saturday night and then spent a few hours with him in the hospital on Sunday before driving back to Chapel Hill. He's continuing to improve, more slowly than he'd like sometimes but still improving. He was a lot more comfortable than we were as he'd picked up a hospital-common resistant staph infection which meant we had to be gowned and gloved while in the room (and I HATE the gloves). But he does seem to finally be healing, he's getting some strength back (although he and his physical therapist are still having it out) and certainly seems to feel better in general than he has in months. There's a chance he could be home in another week or so but as he said, he wants to make sure this is really better - he ain't going to go through this again!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The View

No, not that horrible TV show - the view from the new apartment! We moved in early Saturday afternoon (April Fool's Day) and the first picture is the sight that greeted us as we stepped onto the balcony - a skycrane at about eye level delivering an AC unit or something to the building across the way. The apartment faces pretty much due north and yes, that is Lake Michigan you can see in the background. The second pic is looking to the right (east) from the balcony - nice view of the Hancock bldg in the clouds. It really isn't always cloudy, but you'd be hardpressed to convince Lady J of that, especially after the thunderstorm that rolled through on Sunday (she swears she saw lightning that originated below the level of the apartment). We're on the 45th floor of a 52-story building - pretty neat!

It's a one-bedroom (really a one-bedroom, not a studio, although the bureau and bed take up 98% of the floor space in the bedroom) with two large-ish closets and a kitchen/living room/dining "room" (and an oddly-large bathroom). The package includes broadband and cable but Lady J is sad because the cable includes about 23 Spanish-language channels but no Sci-Fi! It also includes a washer-dryer, which was a real must.

Didn't get a second key until Wednesday or broadband working until Thursday but all-in-all, very few problems. It ain't home, but it ain't bad.