Two and a half days in Chicago, and I’m not sure if the town ever once toddled, but I like it there anyway. So much so, in fact, that I’d consider moving there in an instant if (again) the weather weren’t so severe. I can deal with the cold and the snow; it’s the summers that would get me. Fortunately, at least on this visit, things were just right. Last time, it got a little cool and I was a little rushed.
I didn’t cover nearly as much ground as I’d have liked, simply because I just didn’t figure in enough time there. I was also unable to connect with Gary or Curt. But the accommodation and guided tour, courtesy of Joe, my host, were great. I predict another visit to the windy city very soon; I have to admit the place fascinates me tremendously.
Diving into Woolworth’s downtown proved to be rewarding. It’s really depressing that this American institution is about to disappear forever. I almost picked up a lunch counter stool for $35, but decided I didn’t really want to carry it around the country and back in my back seat. I’ll probably come to regret that decision.
There was also a visit to the first Ray Kroc McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines. Contrary to popular belief, this was neither the first McDonald’s (that was in San Bernadino), nor the first McDonald’s franchise (which I believe was in Sacramento). It was, however, the beginning of the evil empire we know today as McDonald’s Corp.
Much-anticipated was my return to return to Big Chicks, which may be my favorite queer bar between New York and San Francisco. This time, I even met one of the owners. She was fairly big, but not huge.
The Chicago Reader is without doubt the best free weekly in the country, putting even the Village Voice to shame.
A few more highlights:
- Dinner at the Wishbone, a “home-cooking” establishment which seems oddly out of place in a dark industrial district. Liked the restaurant. Hated that they were out of pork chops.
- Boy-watching (and band-watching) at the Empty Bottle.
- Street cruising on Winnemac Avenue (which I’m told is NOT common). Guess I’m just lucky…
- Compulsively humming the theme from “Good Times” after driving through the Cabrini-Green projects in which it was set. This got a little embarrassing.
- The “el”. Being short for “elevated”, it is not spelled “L”. Keep that in mind, please.
- Yet more White Castle. Yumm…
- A tour of the Chicago boulevards of urban planning fame.
- Joe’s really cool 1972-era book on drag culture.
Chicago is an amazing place, which is unlike any other city of its size in the US. The fact that land was so abundant has resulted in an unusually sprawling city by east coast standards, but still a very dense and concentrated one compared to the rest of the midwest and west. The streetscapes are wonderful and colorful, the road system works, and driving around the city is a joy I might never tire of; there’s something to see around every corner, from neatly-maintained rowhouses to industrial wastelands to the severe decay of the south side projects. Like I said, Chicago just fascinates me.
And there was also my moment at the very start of Route 66 at Lakeshore Drive and Jackson Boulevard. It’s a little disorienting to do Route 66 out of sequence, but it’s better than not at all, I guess.
All in all, it was an eventful couple of days. And, after a drive through the depressing landscape of the south side and the Indiana suburbs, followed by a few hours of Indiana farmland, I have now successfully reached Indianapolis, where I’m living in the lap of luxury thanks to Bob. The Hoosier adventure begins in earnest tomorrow.