Travel Notebook: Chicago in January

19 Jan

I travel a lot for work. Usually I slide in on a Monday morning and peel out Wednesday or Thursday afternoons. This week I arrived in Chicago a day early so I could visit my college roommate, Karen before all hell broke loose on the work-front.

I flew in Sunday, cabbed it to her place Uptown, then walked around the corner to a phenomenal Indian restaurant, Marigold, that’s owned by one of our fellow Michigan State alums. The menu is simple, but the food is phenomenal. After dinner, we stopped a few doors down at the Green Mill – which enjoys tourist fame as a former speak-easy and haunt of Al Capone.

The Green Mill - Former Speak-Easy of Al Capone Fame

The cool thing about the Green Mill is that it hasn’t just rolled over and catered to tourists. It’s still a cool place with a loyal local following that shows up weekly for poetry slams on Sunday nights. We swung in just in time to learn how to use claps, snaps, hisses and groans to provide feedback to the performers, and we did just that over the next two hours as all types of poets took to the stage. Our realization: truly good poets generally don’t do so well at a slam – what’s good on the page isn’t great to perform.

The next morning, I caught a cab down to our office at Union Station. All went well, right up until I paid the driver, jumped out of the cab and walked around to get my bag from the trunk. He apparently forgot I had luggage (despite the fact that I asked him to pop the trunk as I was hopping out), because he started to take off. I had a flash of fear as I imagined three days in Chicago without clothes or toiletries, so chased after him and slammed my palm on his trunk – hard enough to dent it. It worked: he stopped, the trunk opened and I fetched my bag. He pulled away without so much as a wave.

I looked across the river at the Sears Tower, took a deep breath of frigid winter air, and thought, “Welcome to Chicago.”

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