I arrived in Chicago after a flight from Nashville. Chicago has a really great public transportation system so it was no problem to take the “L” from O’Hare airport into the city.
The first thing I did was try to find a place to stay. First I went to the HI hostel in downtown Chicago. The place was full but they recommended another hostel in Greektown called The Parthenon.
So I hopped on the “L” and headed towards Greektown. Upon exiting the station, I took a right and walked for about half an hour before I found The Parthenon. Had I taken the left, I would have been pleased to discover that I only needed to walk about 50 paces.
I checked into the hostel and met a Mexican guy who was planning to purchase a truck in Michigan. It was time for dinner, so we went out in search of some food. Despite the abundance of Greek restaurants in the area, we decided that burritos were probably the safest choice.
When we returned to the hostel, I met some Germans who invited me for drinks in their room. After who knows how many Prost!s, I ended up in the hospital!
Let me tell you, waking up in a hospital is quite a disturbing experience. Luckily I was OK (aside from being totally disoriented) so the people working there decided to let me go. First, however, I received some Nike basketball shoes, some paper pants, and a t-shirt that says “I’m having an out of money experience”.
Now, I’m not exactly a master of navigation even in the best of circumstances. To suddenly find myself in an unknown part of Chicago, somewhat delirious, without a GPS or a cell phone… suffice it to say that the situation made things rather difficult.
Eventually I managed to find the nearest “L” stop. I decided to sit down and rest for a bit. As I did this, my paper pants ripped and left me with a gaping hole in the most unfortunate of places.
I must have looked pretty rough because a few minutes later an Asian businessman came up to me and asked if I needed any money. In hindsight I probably should have said yes. (I’ve talked with a lot of homeless people over the past weeks - they seem to make a good amount of money!)
Exhausted, I ended up taking a taxi back to the hostel and spent the rest of the day in bed.
The next day, I headed into The Loop to see downtown Chicago.
As I was walking from the “L” station, I passed a bookstore called “Open Books”. It’s a great used bookstore which donates all of its profits to literacy programs. I bought “The Art of War”, “The Prince”, and “Welcome to the Monkey House” for around 15 bucks.
Eventually I saw the historic Water Tower and the Pumping Station. They have a very distinct Gothic appearance, totally out of place in downtown Chicago. (Later I was told that Oscar Wilde had deemed the Water Tower a “monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it.” Apparently the buildings were anachronistic even when they were built.)
Next I strolled down Michigan Avenue, also known as the “Magnificent Mile”.
At lunchtime I ate a triple “cheezborger” at the Billy Goat Tavern. Apparently it’s famous for this Saturday Night Live sketch.
After lunch, I walked through the beautiful Millenium Park. I saw the “Bean” (a mirror-coated sculpture in the shape of a bean) which made a really interesting optical effect. There were some other interesting things there too, like a nice outdoor stage and some very modern-looking bridges.
Then I decided to go see the Cubs at Wrigley Field. They ended up getting crushed 9-1 by the Cardinals, but it was fun to watch nevertheless.
Finally I made it to the Art Institute of Chicago just in time for free admission on Thursday evenings. They had some very nice Impressionist paintings in there along with some Oriental sculptures and artifacts. I’m sure they had some other great things as well but I wanted to make sure there’s something left to see next time.
After that excellent day, I hopped on the “Lake Shore Limited” train headed for Boston.