When we were planning this trip, there were a few things that I never thought would happen: I never expected to go to a baseball game, I never expected to stay in a suite at a five-star hotel, and I certainly never expected to spend half an hour in a steam room, chatting to Hollywood highest paid actor.
When we told people that we were walking into Chicago, everyone warned us about the south side. We’d been told statistics about how it had more murders annually than Iraq, so we decided it might be a better idea if we took a train into the city.
Having spent a working-summer over here a few years ago, my brother still has a few friends in the area, and two of them were kind enough to let us stay in their apartment whilst we were in town. During their summers, Josh and Adam were counsellors at the camp my brother was working in, but these days they both have grown up jobs in the city, and an incredibly grown up apartment to go with it. They live with two other college friends in a great building, in an even greater neighbourhood of Chicago.
We sat outside the building on west Huron street waiting for Josh to finish work; it was 100F outside and when we met up with him he told us off for not sitting inside where there was air conditioning (and probably because we looked like two tramps begging outside the building). An apartment that sleeps 4 people was never going to be small, but this place was like a whole house at the end of a hallway! Better still, up on the roof there was a gym, swimming pool, BBQ area, sun loungers and a terrace with an incredible view of the whole city.
It was on this roof terrace where we spent the majority of the evening, chatting, drinking, and waiting for midnight to come, to celebrate Josh’s impending birthday. To call Adam and Josh’s housemate ‘a big guy’ is an understatement. Matt is a mammoth of a man, and he’s also a nightmare to drink with!
Neither me, nor Jack could keep up, and when we noticed that nobody else was even trying we knew that it was ok to stop.
One of my favorite things is bumping into someone you know in another country, and even though I knew my brother was due to arrive at any moment, it was still amazing. Besides Jack’s, I hadn’t heard an English voice in almost two months but hearing Joseph’s didn’t seem strange, after all it’s a voice I’ve heard constantly for the last 24 years; it wasn’t until his friend Emily got out of the cab that I felt a very long way from home. While the Americans headed out for the evening, we sat on the sofa catching up then grabbed a (much needed) early night
The following morning we headed out to Josh’s parents house in the suburbs, where they were hosting a birthday brunch for his 24th birthday. Kevin and Robin were so welcoming to us, treating us like we’d been friends of Josh’s for forever. We sat and chatted about the walk, what we had seen so far, and what we were still hoping to see. When Josh’s sister Jenna and her husband AJ arrived, they bought with them huge platters of bagels, fruit, fish, vegetables and doughnuts; the sort of breakfast I’d been dreaming of for so long. After eating, chatting, singing happy birthday, and playing with Jenna and AJ’s dog Buddy for a few hours, we said our goodbyes and headed back into the city. There was a long night of drinking ahead of us and everyone needed to rest up.
A party trolley had been organised to take us to a few different bars in different neighbourhoods, with our final stop being a retro disco (I’m pretty sure nobody managed to make it this far). The night started with “pre-game” at the boys apartment, and also a few games of beer pong. The Americans seem to play a lot of this and are pretty cocky about how they play, but let it be known that we were unbeaten all evening. Everyone had been drinking steadily by this point, but things got messy very quickly. There were litres and litres of spirits on the trolley, but nobody seemed to be wasting time with mixers, and we were encouraged to follow suit. Joseph and Emily seemed to be behaving a lot more sensibly, drinking in moderation, but for me and Jack, by the time we got to the first bar the flood gates were open. Luckily, it seemed everyone else in the group was in a much worse state than us; when we reached the second bar people began dropping like flies, by the third bar people were dancing on tables, and after a certain someone in the group decided he could use the female bathroom we got kicked out of the bar. We’d also run out our time with the trolley so had to find our own way to the club, which by the time we arrived had a huge line out front and we decided it was best to call it a night.
My hangovers seem to be intensified by a couple of things: not sleeping in my bed, not getting enough sleep, sunshine/heat, and loud noises. Lucky for me this hangover ticked all of the boxes. Obviously I was sleeping on someone’s sofa, we didn’t get home until 5, then had to be up and ready at 11 to make our way downtown to sit in the sun at a baseball game. We met up with Ross(whose dad had hooked us up with some great tickets to go see the White Sox) Koby, and Brian down at Brian’s incredible loft, then headed further downtown to Cellular field.
The game was something I had really been looking forward to, and for that reason I told myself I wasn’t going to drink too heavily so that I could fully appreciate it. Too much of a good thing I guess. Sporting events here seem to be totally different to at home; when you go to a football match you go to watch the game, and you’d probably get annoyed with people shuffling past
you every ten minutes to go for a walk or to get some food, but here it seems like a whole day out, where eating and drinking is just as big a part as the actual game.
We had amazing seats in the ball park, right behind the batting plate. Unfortunately, the fat, shouty, sweaty, drunk man behind us had equally great seats. The eight of us spent our hung over afternoon with this guy heckling any opposing player who got up to bat.
“A, B, SEEEEEEEEEEEEE YAAAAAA!” seemed to be his favourite one, and he repeated it over, and over, and over! I must admit it went full circle from funny, to irritating, to aggravating, back to being funny, and we found ourselves repeating it long after we left the game.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering back up town, through Chicago’s amazing parks and outdoor music venues. We stopped to take some obligatory photos at ‘the bean’.
My brother, sister and I all grew up on Home Alone 1 &2, and I think Joseph had been planning on visiting the house where it was filmed for a very long time. Please don’t think this is a regular tourist attraction, it isn’t! It’s just someone’s house on a regular street in a sleepy (affluent) suburb of Chicago. It’s so far off of the beaten track that we had to take an hour and a half round trip just to get there. I have to say, I wasn’t to excited about going to the house, it was more about spending time with my brother, but when we got there I have to admit I was actually pretty excited. I’m sure Joseph’s next goal is: to someday buy the house and recreate the scene where Kevin sledges down the stairs.
Not only was I fortunate enough to rendezvous with my brother in Chicago, but as luck would have it, my cousin Amy-Jo was in town on business too. She was staying in a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria and had been kind enough to let us CouchSurf with her. Now I must admit we have stayed in some pretty incredible hotels on this trip (Super8, DaysInn, Motel6, look them up) but this was something else! I don’t need to go into too much detail because you’ll see it in Jacks video. Amy is always fun and interesting to be around (even when she’s jet lagged), so It was a shame I didn’t get to spend as much time with her as I’d liked, but she was there to work after all.
The next morning we said goodbye to Joseph and Emily as they headed off on their 3 week tour of route 66, and the plan for the rest of the day was for me to rest my completely battered feet. By this stage I already had a suspected stress fracture and strained tendons in the left foot, but later that afternoon I managed to break a toe on the other foot by kicking the marble shower!
As I was putting my stuff away in my locker, Jack appeared over my shoulder and hissed, “Channing Tatum is behind us”, and he was right! There he was, Mr Step-up himself. I headed off to the steam room and Channing decided to follow me. He noticed my accent and that I wasn’t local, then asked what I was doing in the states. After the usual question and answer session he seemed more interested than most people and confessed that he was currently reading a book about a guy doing exactly the same thing. He also said how he’d love to do it himself and asked how he could get I contact. We exchanged email addresses and he said that at the very least he wanted to let as many people know about our cause as possible; still no tweet Channing…
So that was that; after a weekend full of partying and meeting new people, catching up with family, then a few days relaxing in luxury it was time to head back out on the road (but still with two feet pretty much out of action).
This blog entry is massively abridged. There were a lot more sites that we saw, and more importantly there were a lot more people we met; i suppose that will all have to wait for the book.
Next time we: swap our feet for pedals, cross a state in 6 days, I finally get over my hatred of canals, and we reach the Mississippi .