Paul Goodwin

Via Chicago

Published on Thu 10 Jun 2010

I'm sat at JFK airport glumly contemplating the fact that I have to go home, and worriedly contemplating the fact that I have half an expensive but enormous pastrami sandwich that I couldn't finish at lunchtime to eat before I go through security. New York has been properly brilliant - I feel like a real person again. Wonder how long that will last. 9.30 on Monday at best I'd have thought.

The morning after I got back from Barcelona, having had about half a night's sleep and having had the taxi turn up 15 minutes early (not helpful!) I met up with Fliss, (an old workmate of my old housemate Mat) at the station ready to go to Chicago for Mat's wedding. The train journey went nice and smoothly and checking baggage in is a joy compared to having to unpack a bulging rucksack to put your toothpaste in a small plastic bag. Once all that was dealt with I had a "breakfast" from the bar place the other side of security (nice enough, but not enough - come on people there should be a two sausage minimum on a breakfast. When I am king etc. etc.) and bought "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" on a whim, because for some reason I wasn't up for reading the books that I'd brought. Not that there was time to read really and the plane had a better movie set up than the one to Vegas - 65 films that you could start whenever you wanted. I think I said what I watched at the time. This thing being 10 days behind is making for a hard to follow story. We got a bit confused on the subway system on the way to our respective hotels, despite it being really obvious, but a nice man couldn't do enough to help us out. In exchange for a tip. I think 10 days in I might have finally got the hang of tipping every time anyone does what they're paid for already, but it's still annoying. Sales tax is stupid too - I'd have ended up with a lot less change if people would just tell you what you're going to have to pay in advance. I'm coming round to the grid system at least - it makes navigation really easy, even if it does mean you spend as much time standing at junctions as walking.

Anyway. That evening a fairly big group of us went to watch The White Sox play The Texas Rangers. It wasn't quite the spectacle that it was in Japan (despite there being big fireworks for the home home runs) and the stadium wasn't overly busy, and the White Sox lost despite taking a hefty lead, but I do really like watching baseball it turns out. They pretty much never fail to take catches though - if it was football they'd be forever proposing making those mitts smaller to make it more exciting. I guess that would just make it last longer. A few Goose Islands and God knows how many hours awake meant that I was very much ready to go to bed when it was over.



Next morning, even though my body clock must have been a right state, I woke up early enough to make the effort to get the complimentary "continental breakfast" (i.e. overripe banana and dry croissant) from downstairs (I did not make that mistake again) and headed off on a walk. Chicago is a very handsome place and I wasn't really prepared for how BIG everything is. Even the smaller buildings in the city centre are about 10 storeys high. I really like the 'L' train (so called because it's largely elevated above the street) - it reminds me of Due South. I have a thing for rickety mass transit systems - they make places seem more romantic for some reason.




I indulged in a Baconator at lunchtime, just because I could, and it was as good as I remembered. Oh Wendy when will you bring your impractically square pattied goodness back to our shores? It also marked the first in a long run of people getting my orders wrong (Sprite instead of Coke in this case). I then continued the walk for another 3 hours taking in such sights as the water tower (one of very few buildings to survive the huge fire of 1871 that while being a bit of a problem at the time meant that they could essentially start Chicago again),


the river and, most importantly, Rush Street (which of course the 1991 Richard Marx album, the first CD I ever got, is named after)


before heading up the John Hancock Center (sic).


There David Schwimmer told me many interesting facts about Chicago, most notably that he went to University there and his theater (sic) company is based at the bottom of the tower and information about what's going on there at the moment is available at reception. And that there are actually 32 windier cities in America than Chicago and it is only known as The Windy City because its politicians kept waffling on in order to win the World's Fair of 1893. For which a Mr Ferris made a big wheel. Interesting stuff David. The views from the tower are pretty special.




That evening, after I had a substandard KFC in which they somehow heard "mashed potato" when I said "corn on the cob", Fliss and I went to watch some local bands at a really cool venue called The Empty Bottle. It's a shame the whole thing wasn't a week or two later because Eli 'Paperboy' Reed and Margot and the Nuclear So and So's were both playing in the near future. It was quite a trek from the nearest station and it decided to rain for the exact duration of my walk. The rain in Chicago doesn't seem to have any settings in between "Not Raining" and "Really Bloody Raining". The bands were, as American bands always seem to be, very good at playing their various instruments. The first two were fun but a bit classic rock for me, but the last guys Green Grocer were really likeable - three guys stood in a row one on keys and tasteful weird noises, one on guitar and one playing drums (probably the only person I've ever seen really get away with playing drums standing up - even the woman in Low looks a bit uncomfortable to me). I liked it so much that I bought a CD (not that I've listened to it yet). Clearly a band after my own heart, they'd only brought 5 with them, and seemed genuinely surprised anyone wanted one. I dunno why though - anyone who does an electro version of "Sin City" is alright with me.

I had a bit of a lie in next day then went to the David Schwimmer Museum of Natural History


where I learned that David Schwimmer had been to university in Chicago and that his theater (sic) company is based at the bottom of the John Hancock Center (sic) and also that the book of dinosaurs I had as a child seemed to have been based on the David Schwimmer dinosaur room in the David Schwimmer wing. They had all the classics - Stegosaurus, a Tyrannosaurus Rex called Sue (that would be a nice variation on the Johnny Cash song), Triceraptops (my favourite of the dinosaurs) and Protoceratops.



They also had mummies. Mummies and dinosaurs is pretty much the perfect museum experience for me. I was also impressed that they had thought to put a McDonald's in the basement.


When it shut I went to the beach for some pre-wedding games and drinks aboard what was either a beached ship turned into a bar or a bar built in the shape of a ship - I couldn't decide.


It got too cold eventually so I went with some of Mat's old uni mates to see some jazz (though thankfully it was more like blues) and then to a sports bar, though thankfully I managed to leave before the end.



I have to finish this sandwich. If I die of beef poisoning on the way home it was probably the aeroplane food.