America 2019: Day Twelve (Wednesday 29 May)

We’re Wildcats, we’re Wolverines
We’re Tigers, Buckeyes, Bruins
Bulldogs, Hogs and Hurricanes
We pray before we race
Cheer 14 and 48
And we drink ice-cold beer on Friday nights
Yeah, we’re one big country nation, that’s right

                                                                                                                                    – Brad Paisley

 

Wednesday 29 May

Over the years, Chicago has become my favourite city not named Sydney. Aside from the obvious reason – that I am fortunate enough to have great friends here – I have become a huge fan of the city itself. There’s plenty happening, but it doesn’t happen quite at the same breakneck pace of New York City. It’s a little more laid-back, which is fantastic. If it weren’t for the brutal winters and the fact that I love Australia, I reckon I could live here pretty happily.

Being basically an honorary Chicagoan by now, it’s always fun showing people the city for their first time. After breakfast and a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts we headed downtown, parking underneath Millennium Park at the very handy garage there. We visited the iconic Bean, which is pretty much the biggest tourist attraction in the city, before walking down Michigan Avenue to meet Will for lunch.

I wrote yesterday about Giordano’s with Mike and his crew becoming a nice tradition here. Well, so is meeting Will and taking a cab down to Portillo’s for lunch. A staple on the Chicago food scene for nearly a hundred years, Portillo’s is famous for both it’s Chicago-style hot dogs and it’s Italian beef or sausage sandwiches. It’s hard to choose between the two latter options, so I did the combination beef and sausage, and let me tell you, it hit the spot perfectly.

 

After Will left us to get back to work, we walked further down Michigan Avenue – the shopping strip better known as the Magnificent Mile – to the John Hancock Tower, which has an observation deck on the ninety-fourth storey. The sun decided to make a rare appearance, so we caught the elevator up, forty-five seconds, about twenty miles an hour, and were treated to spectacular views of the Chicago cityscape and the mammoth Lake Michigan. Probably my favourite view in this city is of Lake Shore Drive making it’s way north along the Gold Coast, and it was particularly beautiful today, with the sun peeking out, and a few low clouds around to add some texture.

Somehow – and I don’t know exactly how – Nathan and Kat were still hungry after Portillo’s, so we stopped at The Cheesecake Factory for an afternoon tea of immense proportions. I happily enjoyed a cold beer in the sunshine, but the thought of eating anything was too much for me. It was nice sitting outside, even if the weather has turned cold. It’s probably only a few degrees warmer here than it is back home in Sydney. Mother Nature’s all over the shop at the moment, here and at home.

Our afternoon was spent walking down to the Buckingham Fountain (via a quick comfort break at the lavish Hilton – not at my instigation this time!) and then back through Grant Park and Millennium Park to the car. The conditions were ideal for walking around, but not exactly the summery weather we were hoping for.

From downtown, we drove out to Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox, one of two Major League Baseball franchises in this city. We met up with my friend Bill there. He’s a native Chicagoan who lives in Australia and works at my office. It was fun to watch a game with him after a bunch of years talking about the Sox back home.

For the record, the Sox opened up a 7-1 lead early, then gave up 6 unanswered before scoring one run in the eighth inning for a nerve-wracking 8-7 win. My perfect record at the Rate is intact, at least until we come back on Friday night. The game featured plenty of big plays, a couple of White Sox home runs (that are accompanied by fireworks) and a lot of fun sitting in the new Goose Island section in deep right field, which features about 80 different beer choices and nice food, all brought to your seat.

Hanging out in Wheaton tomorrow: lunch with Matt and Scott at Shane’s, then watching Brooke play softball in the evening before some quiet beers with Matt. Hopefully not Fosters!


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