Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Chicago Trip

Happy Labour Day! Well ok, it is the day after, but usually this is the day that most parents are most happy about anyway. Back to school day. My blog today isn't going to be about that, it is going to be about my trip to Chicago. It is also going to discuss modes of transport and other silly things I noticed during my trip.

The first silly thing was booking the mode of transportation. Why in the world would anyone want to travel by train. From my house to Chicago and back was $196 with a whopping 20 hours total on the train. Or $204 round trip for a plane ticket with less than 3 hours on the plane. No brainer. Trains are definitely not the mode of transportation if you are just trying to get away for a weekend.

Airports - Buffalo "International" is like a portable behind a Catholic High School compared to O'Hare in Chicago. Wow, almost overwhelming. Also, have any of you arrived at O'Hare and had to get picked up? You walk out of Terminal 3 to see 6 lanes of traffic with a sidewalk between every two lanes. I had to get to the second sidewalk to be picked up by regular folk as the first two areas are for cab pick ups only. No cops directing traffic, no lights. Look to my left, look to my right - a "flambouyant" flight attendant. I guess he read my facial expression.

"Just walk right out", he says.

Sounds of screeching tires as cabbies try and break when he steps off the curb with nary a concern.

"If they hit you, you sue them!", he yells.

We make it to the first sidewalk. I try and gather my wits.

"Don't stop, two more lanes to go!"

Additional sounds of screeching.

Second sidewalk, now I wait for Bob (pseudonym).

"Bub-bye", he says (as he strolls out into the final set of lanes before the parking garage) 

Now we have screeching and the added horn blowing.

As he walked away all I could think of was unicorns, rainbows and faery dust (Not that there is anything wrong with that - really there isn't!). I was surprised he was still alive based on how he walks out into traffic.

The Night Time Tour
Bob (pseudonym) picks me up moments after my white knight walks off into the darkness that is O'Hares parking garage system. He proceeds to take me through downtown Chicago to show me some of the sites - its dark so I am not sure how much I am going to retain. We get to his place, I unpack (basically throw my suitcase into the corner) and we head out into the Chicago night.

He takes me to Taylor Street, which is "little Italy" to a place called Hawkeye's. Absolutely wonderful - you can get tater tots instead of fries and you get to "build" your burger (with a pretzel bun). Yum.

The Ball Game
Friday was a relaxing - Bob (a pseudonym honestly) had to work but when he got home around 3:30 we were going to head to US Cellular Field to watch the White Sox play the Seatle Mariners.

The Waitress
This requires a separate subsection. Before the game we stopped into the Bacardi Restaurant for a few drinks and some food before be entered the stadium. We order a couple drinks and they are brought to the table behind us about 10 minutes later. She sets them down in from of a black guy and a white guy. They say they didn't order them. She proceeds to fight with them saying they did and that she was going to get them thrown out if they don't pay for them. We lean over and remind her that they were our drinks. She then takes our food order. You guessed it, about 15 minutes later she brings the food to the table on the other side of us that had 5 guys sitting at it (including a black guy) and argues with them about ordering the food and needing to pay up. Again we let her know that it was our food. She brings it over. Now really - 2 pastie white guys being confused with 2 other guys (one black) and a whole table of 5 guys (including a black guy). Wow this waitress can truly fit into the "dumb as a stump" category.

It gets better, we realize that game time is quickly approaching. We decided we are going to ask her for the bill (we did ask for two more drinks earlier but never got them), and see how long it took her to get it to us. We asked for the bill, after she left I throw out there that my prediction would be 13 minutes before our bill comes back. Well thirteen minutes later she comese to our table and askes if we would like anything else. We said, "no - just the bill". Yup another 13 minutes before if finally arrived. Luckily the missing drinks were not on our bill. It would have been difficult to prove that we didn't get them. No tip for her.  

Back to the game...Typical baseball game - yawn until the 9th inning when is got exciting. Sox lose like a 6 run lead to be down one in the top of the ninth. Bottom of the ninth they score 2 to win the game. Pretty exciting, sort of like the Toronto Maple Leafs, without the coming back to win part.

Segway Tour
You have to get one of these things, what a freakin' blast. We went on an Architectural Tour of Chicago with a very knowledgeable guide that made the tour extremely enjoyable. Totally recommend this tour if you are in Chicago, but remember don't lean too far forward or you will fall on your face and be spitting "chiclets" for the rest of the day (say the "remember" line with a Boston accent and I guarantee that you will chuckle on the inside). Watch out for Pomeranians.

Lunch at the Cheesecake Factory
Nothing can be added here except for us having an excellent waiter. Everyone needs to go to at least once to a Cheesecake Factory in their lifetime.

Shopping and the Navy Pier
After lunch we went to a mall in downtown Chicago that had a 4 or 6 storey Macy's in it. Picked up a pair of jeans for my daughter using quite a bit of electronic communications (photo of jeans, text to wife for approval, then discussion of size). Got jeans, took a cab to Navy Pier. Got the souvenir shopping done for the kids. Best part is the walking through the gate at Navy Peir and buying an alcoholic beverage to sip while you stroll the pier. Public drunkeness is totally acceptable I guess.

Quiet Sunday
Well we were pretty tired. We got up had waffles and watched the clouds open up - so much so that Bob (really not his name) was getting flash flood warnings sent to his smartphone for the greater Chicago area. We decided the museum could wait for when I come back (with my wife). So we went shopping (I needed some clothes desparately - Kohl's all the way). Returned to his apartment and played video games and watched movies for the rest of the day. Early to bed - had to get up early for my flight. Had to be at O'Hare by 6:00am.

The Flight
Early morning flight was relatively peaceful. The bus ride home was entertaining. Eleven persons on the bus, we get to the border, 10 get through immigration, the last one forgot some of their paperwork and the immigration officials decided a strip search was in order. That was 45 minutes. Now some of you are thinking - that is not too bad, however; considering the actual drive from my house to the airport is 45 minutes, the strip search doubled my travel time.Although it gave us something to chat about while we were waiting the other passenger to come back to the bus.

I was home about 1:00pm Monday, handed out the souvenirs - the one that particularly mademe chuckle was the t-shirt I got my son that read, "my momma thinks I am special", which I got from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. My daughter thought it hilarious until I pulled a gym clothes bag out of my suitcase that said the same thing. Funny thing is she has been carrying it around quite a bit. I guess I was successful with the souvenirs.

Have a pleasant back to school.

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