june 2001 chicago

in june 2001 i went to visit j. i had wanted to do this for quite some time, but had no cash. i was also curious to see chicago, since j was always raving about it. anyway, i found some money and scheduled in the blues festival. may as well combine as many good things as you can. here is a picture of santa j in fine form. if i remember correctly, this was the first morning. quite a way to wake up :)
the back entrance to j's apartment was like something from a movie set. i swear that one day j will be going out the back door only to find them filming "the silence of the lambs, part 3" in there. later in the trip i met the brian and eniko unit, which i had wanted to for quite a while. b and i had had some great discussions in daveworld (a mailing list), so it was really great finally to meet. that list used to be quite a list. it was also here that i met j. more recently i have found the pace to be less to my liking, and have bailed out.
the secondary reason for coming here was the blues festival. this all happened in and around chicago's downtown park, grant park. somewhere in the middle of this park is a large fountain called buckingham fountain, where i repeatedly found myself. that's j and i by the fountain in one pic. the park itself was surprisingly empty a lot of the time, and quite large. it was also fairly devoid of vegetation, consisting almost exclusively of grass, rimmed with a few trees, and the occasional flower bed. it was in this park that the concerts took place, so each day i was down here.
note america's dog. in canada i think we would call this a gull, but i was never any good at biology, so maybe i am misunderstanding something.
the blues guitar kid is here for just one reason: he is the best blues guitarist i have ever had the pleasure of hearing. that includes recorded greats, like hendrix, srv, john lee hooker, b.b.king, and many others. it was incredible to watch this little skinny white kid play with such incredible accuracy and more importantly, feeling. and he was only 15. you really had to watch where you stepped because there were many jaws on the ground that day. this kid handily outperformed some of the most highly anticipated acts in the whole festival.

chuck berry was also playing. i stayed for three or four songs. he was ok, but it was important to see him anyway. he must be very old by now, and he is still playing. it was funny to see this 80+ year-old guy (i am guessing) doing the duck-walk. more like the duck-hop, but everyone appreciated his efforts. sorry for the lousy picture of him. it was dark, i was holding the camera above my head, and i had no tripod.

the downtown area is very weird, and very unlike any other city i have been in. at first you don't notice, but then it kinda sneaks up on you, and it takes a while to identify what it is. there is just so much room everywhere. the lanes are wide, the streets are wide, the sidewalks are wide, the cars are wide. yet right downtown there are lots and lots of skyscrapers. it is a very odd mix. throw in the fact that the downtown skyscraper area is almost a perfect cube, with the tall buildings starting *very* suddenly, and the whole thing gets even more surreal. i never really felt like i was anywhere else while walking around downtown chicago. at a glance you could mistake parts for manhattan, except when you look closely at all the extra space in chicago. very odd indeed. i guess this all comes from chicago being right on the prairies. space is cheap and plentiful out here, compared to the east.
the picture of me in there was taken right after i got a haircut from one of j's friends. well, haircutter friend. the guy was gay and very sexually adventurous, and had (non-x-rated) pics all over his stall to prove it. in many of the pictures he looked like a beautiful woman. he was also quite a riot, and after an initally cool reception he warmed up to me and we had fun chatting. great haircut, btw. he made me smell like strawberrries though.

this reminds me of a party we went to. it was j's friend geoff's birthday, and he is perhaps the biggest queen i have met yet. quite a riot, this guy. he had fun with a pink feather bolero j got him (j reminds me that i tried it on in the store. something i would rather not remember), and was terrorizing everyone all night, making people do things for him because it was his birthday. for some reason j saw fit to sic this other guy jason on me... he was actually quite a nice guy, but see, there is just this one little problem... :)

there are a few canals around the downtown core, which is kinda interesting.
hotel wacker. wtf? i can't imagine what kind of people would check into a hotel called that. or maybe i can, and i'd rather not talk about it. it's on wacker drive.
the house of blues is very famous all over the world, probably, but i was shocked to see what it looked like. i had imagined an old building full of charm like preservation hall in new orleans, but instead it was this modern montrosity. oh well.
the subway in chicago is actually mostly a superway, and runs above the streets. this makes for some quite surreal locations, like the intersection in the picture below. it is also made from all these rickety-looking steel and wood structures. the picture of the tracks of the el (the elevated train, it is called, but everyone says the el) is just so chicago, almost more than many of the other pictures. i can still almost smell the tarred wooden beam baking in the sun. i am told that one reason that downtown rises so suddenly is that the el loops around it. the inside of this loop is called "inside the loop". duh.
i am quite a frank lloyd wright fan, so i spent one day going out to visit some of his early buildings in oak park. i don't like all his stuff, but i have a tremendous respect for what he was capable of doing, especially with light.
i also spent a half day in the art institure of chicago, which i would highly recommend to anyone interested in art. it is very huge (as opposed to slightly huge), so you really should either pick carefully, or plan to go back on several occasions. i picked carefully. here are some of my favorite things. the second photo is actually a painting. it was huge, maybe 8 foot tall, but you had to stand very very close to see the painstrokes. it is not so interesting, lacking much in the way of "interpretation" or style, but it was beautifully done.
and that about wraps it up. i was only there for something like 6 days, but really saw a fair amount. the nights were spent going out with j to various bars and places. there were some pretty interesting ones, including the one club which had s&m wednesdays, or somesuch :) people in chains being whipped, lots of, erm, interesting attires, and generally a relaxed, homey kinda feeling.

i really quite liked chicago, but there were also some darker aspects to it. there is a lot of racial tension in chicago. j confirms that the north side is white, the west side hispanic, and the south black. and it pretty much stays that way. you don't see many people mixing. that was quite a shock to me, being from toronto and montreal where you often barely notice who is of what background. there were also a couple of nastily uncomfortable situations that i would rather forget. you don't goof around in chicago unless you want to take risks.

but on the whole i am very glad i went. i would actually like to go back another time and see more. i was in a strange headspace when i went, and not super chatty, and i kinda regret that. anyway, thanks j!

p.s. oh before i forget, j has a whip. it used to be someone else's i think, but once at a party j got ahold of it, and showed such a natural instinct for wielding it that no one was able to remove it from her hands, and so she kept it. or something like that ;) one guy lost a cigarette out of his mouth, if i remember the story right. i probably don't. some stunt similar to this did happen though. buddy was not amused (but he *was* cowed).