Monday, August 10, 2015

Chicago Life

We had barely landed in Chicago, when a cousin I had met only through Facebook asked if I wanted to get together for brunch.

Anne-Marie brought her two sisters and her mom, who was my father's cousin--the woman I was named after. I hadn't seen her since I was a child.

Janet, Anne-Marie, the Kathleeens, Elaine
It was a sweet way to begin our adventure. Well, actually our orientation started a few days before when we first met Mike and Joanne, the people who picked us off a housesitting website. We spent a day together. They showed us around their Hyde Park neighborhood which features lots of brick, flowers, mature trees, and gorgeous architecture. We walked to the Lake Michigan waterfront and through the gothic architecture of the University of Chicago campus.

The Obamas' house is just a few blocks away, surrounded by Secret Service barriers. Down the street is a plaque that commemorates their first date.

They made us dinner that night and breakfast the next morning. Before they took off on their own adventure, we went with them to a moving service at their Unitarian church. It didn't take long before we were encamped in their home with their two dogs. The nomads know how to adapt.

Bear on the chair, Jake on the floor.
Some days we hang out at home, walking the dogs, doing yoga, and taking care of business (me, writing and editing; Dave, working on the development of a new company).

Other days, we explore, or visit the farmer's market, or walk across the street for the free music in the park.

Near the train entrance.

On the days we venture downtown, there is so much to see. The art and architecture are mind-blowing. As are the food and music.
Chagall at the Art Institute of Chicago

Blues at Buddy Guy's Legends.

It's a very walkable city, even in the heat and humidity. Fortunately, this has been a milder summer than most. Still, it feels strange for this native Californian to feel like the air is a thing.

Navy Pier
We launched into full-speed tourist mode when our friends Paul and Mari Carmen arrived from Mexico City. At the same time, our friend Kate has been here as well, serendipitously coming through the area more than three months into her "Big Adventure" road trip.

Kate, Paul, Mari Carmen, Dave, and me reflected in the Bean.
Our tour guide and hostess par excellence has been Pam, a long-time friend who lives in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb famous as the home of Frank Lloyd Wright. Pam took us around the neighborhood to see a bunch of his remarkable homes.

My favorite Frank Lloyd Wright.

The crew with Frank.

The whirlwind of activities included a picnic and free jazz in Millennium Park...

The Kates do headstands before the music starts. architectural boat tour down the Chicago River, where we learned a lot about the history of the stunning array of buildings...
Architecture boat tour down the Chicago River.
...dinner (and a Doors cover band) at an open air restaurant at Montrose beach....
So warm at night it felt like a Mexico beach. 
... and a baseball game at Wriggly Field. Even though our Giants lost (damn), I was glad to have experienced this park that has hosted the MLB for more than 100 seasons. The visibility is really good--and the bratwurst rocks. It was charming to see someone behind the scoreboard manually updating the score!

In our last two weeks here, we plan to kayak down the river, experience more music and perhaps see some of the famous Chicago theater. Even though living full-time in an urban world is not my bag, Chicago reminds me how enjoyable time in a city can be--and how astonishing is its scope.

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