Illinois is Illin’

Yes, I am still alive! I’ve just been chilling out in Chicago since Monday and been pretty occupied with soaking up one of my favourite cities and hanging out with some fine Chicago folk I met last here last year.

I sort-of saw the city last year so I was pretty familiar with where I was and where I was going, but considering I spent 3 of 4 days at Lollapalooza I didn’t realise how little I actually experienced till I came again this time. This year’s Lollapalooza was only 3 or so weeks ago and the evidence is still apparent in Grant Park, and walking through it only made me wish even more that I made it along. Oh well, there’s always next year.

Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park

I’m still amazed by Cloudgate (aka ‘The Bean’). Especially on such brilliantly blue-skied days as the past few, there are people out everywhere, the place is buzzing and it’s fun just watching it reflect and bend images. I don’t know, I probably sound a little crazy. I also found it really hard to stop myself from photobombing other people’s photos by getting my reflection in the background of their photos, but I tried not to be a dick (for once), so there were no ruined vacation photos for anyone. This time around.

As always, plenty of other cool sculptures and public displays. I’m hardly into art, but I love the creative spirit of the city, there’s always something cool to geeze and gawk at.

Tuesday I went for a bit more of a walk, but this time more up Lincoln Park way (north of the city), and after hours and miles of walking I kept thinking I’m about to break. Also went up towards Goose Island, which I guess is kinda like the Newtown of Chicago…. Cool shops, full of bars etc.

This is more for Damien (and Mel?) since he’s probably the only one who has any idea what I’m on about, but I came across even more MBW artwork. This guy is everywhere!

I even managed to get on down to the corner shop which was the setting for the record shop in High Fidelity.  It’s all boarded up and useless these days, locals probably wondering why I was being a weirdo and taking photos of a derelict shop front.

One thing I missed doing last year was heading to Chicago Zoo. Not that it’s anything particularly special, but it’s a free zoo and hey, why not? So I get down there and I came across a barnyard farm. You know the type, cows, chickens, rabbits, goats, that kind of thing. Pretty disappointing when you’re expecting hippos and bears and monkeys and cool animals. Then I read the sign: “Farm At The Zoo”.

So turns out they have an actual zoo. With actual hippos and bears and monkeys and cool animals. And for a free zoo, it was pretty sweet. My favourite bit was getting to MAKE my own plastic gorilla souveneir toy with a totally bitchin’ old school ‘Mold-O-Matic’… Though the irony of a zoo preaching the message of conservation and then encouraging you to make plastic toys was not lost.

I think I’m going to name him Jordan, after former White Sox baseball superstar, Michael. I think the dude had a bit of a career in basketball too.

Now for the “awww” factor:

This one's for Megan... I don't suppose you remember the "Bird Of Prey" song, do you?

Penguins

...and polar bears

You could be like Damien and go to the arctic circle to see puffins. Or you could go to a free zoo. HA! Joke’s on him

One of the best things about travelling is the people you meet. Last year at the end of the last day of Lollapalooza I made friends with some Chicago girls on the way back to the hostel (being the total ladies man that I am, of course), and the short story is instead of getting back to the hostel within the 20 mins it should have taken, we ended up hanging out for a few hours, cruising round the city and getting up to shenanigans. Ended up staying in contact with them and this time around caught up again and even had a couch to crash on for a couple nights. So good being able to live in the comfort of a house than in a 6-12 person dorm, sharing the world’s dodgiest bathrooms.

They took me out to see a bit more of the city and up to a bar on the 96th floor of one of the highest buildings in Chicago (The Hancock Center). It’s really quite hard to grasp the size of the city until you view it from such a vantage point. Walking along you become dwarfed among the abundance of high rises (I was amazed to discover they even have a high rise prison in the city), and without being able to see anywhere in the distance from the ground it’s hard to put into perspective just how far and wide it spreads.

The views are incredible from up there in that bar. Such a good idea to go up there, and I snapped a few pretty cool photos.

In Philadelphia at the moment, updates on that coming soon. Bye for now.

Written on August 27, 2010