Part One here.
Sorry for taking so long to finish this up, but it was a really good trip. Hopefully, this post will finish up the trip. On Sunday after a much-needed good night’s sleep, we took to the streets of Chicago and visited Grant Park and Millennium Park joined by my friend Nikki, who is studying Neuroeconomics at the University of Chicago. At the parks (I’m still not quite sure where one ends and the other begins), we saw the magnificent Cloud Gate sculpture (aka, “the Bean“). Fun fact: All of the funds for this sculpture were privately provided ($23 million). We also saw Buckingham Fountain, Pritzker Pavilion designed by Frank Gehry and the bizarre Crown Fountain, where random faces projected on opposing screens appear to spit water at each other every few minutes. Rising above the park is the Chicago skyline with the Sears and Hancock towers and many other famous skyscrapers.
That night, Team Penske ate in fine fashion at OYSY, which was a little pricey, but had excellent sushi. I opted for the Dragon Maki and Yellowtail roll. After we ordered, our attractive waitress returned from the kitchen and informed me that the Dragon Maki was unavailable that evening, so I ordered a different maki. Then, when we had waited for a bit too long, she came back and informed that the Dragon Maki was (magically?!) available that evening and asked whether I would like it and the maki I had ordered to replace it. I thought this a bit strange (Did they find some eel and octopus in the back of the fridge?), but went ahead w/ the Dragon and politely declined the offer to double my Maki order that night. Our waitress was very polite, though we had some trouble communicating, which I found out later was due mostly to shyness, not difficulty with English. The Dragon was fresh and delicious as was everything. If you go on Sunday night, don’t expect to eat a late dinner. We arrived at 8 and were cutting it close then. They lock the doors at 8:45 and that’s it. Later that evening, we went to a bar near Danny’s called the Wabash Tap, which was ok. We got to see a fight and a fellow get kicked out by the bartender as a result as well as try several delicious beers, including the local 312, which was pretty good. The bartender couldn’t quite manage to fill the pitchers up all the way, which is a pet peeve of mine, but otherwise the place was decent. In fact, several of the waitresses from OYSY and their manager arrived at the Wabash about an hour after we had arrived, including our waitress. At first, she seemed embarrassed to see us, but then we spent about an an hour talking to her and her friends. They were mostly from Thailand and didn’t think much of the Thai restaurant that we had gone to the night before, which I thought was pretty good.
One of the most ridiculous things that I saw while gallivanting around Chi-town were the squads of crossing guards (“traffic management personnel”) stationed at seemingly every large intersection. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the function, if you can call it that, of these city employees was to look at the electronic (“automatic”) traffic and pedestrian signals and then direct cars and pedestrians to do exactly what the lights had already instructed them to do. Unbelievable–the worst make-work program I’ve seen in the US since an ex-con wouldn’t allow me to pump my own gas in New Jersey several years ago.
All that righteous indignation melted away towards Monday evening though as we headed to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs take on the Rockies. First, though we met up with Esther, Gil’s cousin and my friend, for a bite at an unremarkable bar near Wrigley. Well, the loaded fries were pretty delicious and it was really good, as always, to catch up with Esther. I’m not a huge baseball fan, but it is one of the most enjoyable sports to watch live, mainly because you don’t really have to pay attention to the game. You can talk, drink and eat for several hours and glance at the scoreboard every now and then or refocus when you hear the roar of the crowd. It’s a fantastic way to while away an afternoon or evening. Plus, I love to root for the underdogs. I was genuinely happy when the Red Sox won the World Series and the Cubbies have had a longer dry spell than the Sox, so I like to see them do well and I’d love to see them bring home a World Series title. The Cubs did not disappoint that evening, though the end of the game was a nailbiter–they bested the Rockies by one run in the bottom of the ninth. This was after they had just swept the Sox in the previous series and they went on to sweep the Rockies as well–all in all one of the Cubs best couple of weeks this season. Basking in the glow of victory and warmed by several pints of Old Style (not to mention the muggy weather), we took the L (elevated train system, though it also goes underground) back to Danny’s and sacked out.
Btw, Chicago is probably the friendliest big city I’ve ever visited. The one exception being when Kevin and Danny went to pick up our tickets just before the game, a homeless guy tried to knee Danny in the groin. Danny asked him what the problem was and his response was priceless: “I hate Asian-Americans!” Yup, he actually said Asian-American. I guess he’s the most politically-correct homeless racist in the country.
The next day, Kevin and I went to the top (well, as far as they will let you) of the Sears Tower to see what we could see. Not much as it turns out; a storm front rolled in just as we got to the top and pretty much obscured most of the view. There were breaks in the clouds though and towards the end of the visit, the clouds rolled out for much of the view, though we never really got a great view of Lake Michigan. I’ve been up in the Hancock Tower before and though it’s not quite as tall, it has the better view in my opinion. Team Penske reunited for lunch in Chicago’s Greek Town at a place called Greek Islands. I’ve had excellent Greek food many times in my life and this was right up there, if a bit pricey. We had Retsina to drink and I had Pastichio as my entree, which is like a Greek lasagna, but much heartier. Kev and Gil caught the evening flight that night and I went to Hyde Park to eat dinner at a Pizza Capri with my friend Nikki. It was in a slightly sketchy area of Hyde Park (and, no, not all of Hyde Park is sketchy), but the service was fantastic and the Chicago-style pizza was delicious. Seriously, if you go to Chicago, you must try some genuine Chicago deep dish. Hyde Park is not only the home of the University of Chicago, Which Nikki toured me around, but also home to the famous Powell’s Books and many other restaurants and bookstores. Btw, Nikki is neglecting her blog, so you should pester her about it.
On Wednesday, Danny and I headed up to Wicker Park to visit his friend Adam and his wife, Katie. We spent most of the day trying to get his HD Cable set up, but got to go to a local taqueria that I had been to once before for lunch. For dinner, the four of us headed over to Piece, a pizzeria made (in)famous when the kids of MTV’s Real World Chicago worked there. No traces of Real World remained, but the pie (flat, not Chicago-style) was some of the best I’ve ever had–really good. Piece also had many award-winning house microbrews available and I sampled several and even braved the house malt liquor, which was surprisingly not bad. A few of the brews were unavailable, but try what you think sounds good because it likely will be. After that I went up to Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap for a few rounds with Nikki and her UChicago compatriots. Jimmy’s is a landmark in Hyde Park and popular with the UChicago kids. The signage bears the name Woodlawn Tap, but regulars call it Jimmy’s, after longtime owner Jimmy Wilson. They had a good selection on draught and a hole-in-the-wall aesthetic, though the place is actually fairly spacious. Recommended.
After all of that, I was ready to head home and so, I did. Here are a few pictures:
Gil, Nikki, me and Danny
At the Bean
Under the Bean
Crossing Guards for Adults
Danny, Gil and Esther at Wrigley Field
Wrigley’s famous Ivy
Buy me an Old Style and Cracker Jacks (Kev, me and Danny)
Sears Tower and me (wallpaper on the viewing deck)