Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Well, I meant to write earlier this week but the days and time just got away from me, so here I am, it’s Wednesday, and I’m going to tell you about my weekend.

So, Thursday morning (yes, almost a week ago), my mom, my husband, and I embarked on a little road trip to the fabulous Windy City. I love Chicago, so any excuse for a little mini-vaca there is a good excuse, especially when it involves seeing (and hearing) my ultra-talented little brother sing in a concert for his school. He is currently in his second year studying in the Music Conservatory at the Chicago School of Performing Arts.

We got off to a rather slow start Thursday morning when we stopped over at my parents’ house to pick up my mother and the car. We had decided to drive my Dad’s Toyota Prius hybrid car, taking advantage of some kick-ass gas-mileage. The only issue I have with those crazy hybrid cars comes from my inexperience with them. Instead of starting the car by sticking the key in and turning it, all you have to do is have the key on you somewhere and press the start button. Yes, there’s a button. Well, I still have no idea what I did, but somehow I locked up the transmission and the little bugger wouldn’t start. I must have pressed that button, as well as the P (for Parking) button, 15 times, which probably didn’t help the matter at all. (You’re not even supposed to press the P button, so that shows you how screwed up I was.) In the mean time, my mom was in the backseat breathing like a crazy woman, so when Dan finally got the car started (after a call to my dad at work), we had to wait another 15 minutes for the windshield to defrost.

It was smooth sailing from there on out, unless you count the fact that I locked up the transmission again when we stopped for gas 45 minutes later. Whatever.

So you know how it’s common to bring snacks on road trips (you know, Doritos, Oreos, peanut M&M’s)? Well my mom, she is not common. She brought with her a HUGE Target bag with the following contents: two monstrous Sam’s Club size bags of lime tortilla chips (already opened), a jar of pineapple salsa, bowls from her kitchen, and a 24 oz can of pecans, almonds, and cashews. So weird.

Chicago was wonderful, as usual, and I so very much wish Dan and I could drop everything and move there tomorrow. I absolutely love the idea of living in the city, and I know I would have no trouble making it my home. I guess for now I’ll just have to get the most out of each and every minute of my sporadic visits, but I’m not letting go of my dream to live in the city quite yet.

Thursday night when we got there we checked into the hotel and did some walking around Grant Park, which is pretty much right across the street from Nathan’s college, and then went for a leisurely coffee, passing the time until the concert. The concert was wonderful, as expected, and Nathan was one of the four men with solos, which of course makes his mother and sister even more proud. His talent continues to astound me every time I see him perform, I still can’t believe my little brother is going to be an opera singer.

Off topic. Nathan told me his friend said I’m hot, is it wrong that I took that as even more of a compliment because of the fact that he is gay? I think it goes back to that whole theory (well, not sure if I should call it a theory because it is a total FACT) that women are often more concerned with impressing other women than men. I have this mentality that gay men (yes I know I’m generalizing) have pretty good taste, so I hold their opinions of how I look at a much higher level of importance than, say, my husbands friend Brandon. Just as I couldn’t care less about what Dan thinks of my new shoes, but I would give serious consideration to anything my friend Betsy might have to say about them.

Back on topic. Nathan “fit us in” for a late dinner after the concert, as he had plans to see Harry Potter at Midnight with a few of his friends. Yea, we had to remind him that we didn’t just drive seven hours to see him sing in his hour and a half concert, we were hoping to maybe spend a little time with him as well. He’s definitely the typical self-absorbed 19 year-old college punk, I can’t knock it though, I have TOTALLY been there. ;) A few years ago I took self-absorbed to a whole new level.

Anyways, we went to the beautiful Grand Lux Cafe down on the Magnificent Mile and were seated in a booth by the window with a great view overlooking Michigan Avenue. My mom’s comment of “Oh, I thought this came with REAL lettuce” to the poor guy who dared to bring out her lettuce wraps with iceberg lettuce, (though that’s generally how they’re served), did manage to bring down the group a bit, but only momentarily.

The next morning we went for breakfast at this dive-y diner called Beef ‘n Brandy, only about four blocks from my brother’s dorm and our hotel. It was the kind of place where you can get a decent breakfast for $2.99, enjoy a bottomless cup of weak black coffee, and listen to old ladies gossip in the booth next to you, the table across from them piled high with their tacky hats and crazy poofy coats. It was the perfect way to start out the day in Chicago.

After breakfast Dan and I got time to ourselves to do some shopping while my mom sat in on my brother’s voice lesson. I ended up finding the coat I have been looking for since the beginning of fall at Filene’s Basement for $100, down from $250.00. So even though Christmas is coming up and there is no reason why I should be spending money on myself, I bought it anyways. I haven’t worn it yet because Dan suggested having his grandma give it to me for Christmas, which would subside some of my shopper’s guilt. I should probably start working on my surprised face now.

Nathan had to go into work for a few hours so the three of us spent the afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago, roaming the European painting and sculpture galleries for most of it. I have to say, seeing the original paintings that I have studied in textbooks throughout middle school and high school is just so humbling and awe-inspiring, especially the French Impressionist stuff – Monet, Renoir, Pissaro. Absolutely incredible. That place is monstrous, by the way, we were there for almost four hours and didn’t see half of the collection. Definitely somewhere I’d like to return to, when I have more time.

When my brother got off work we met up with him and decided to check out Millennium Park. We watched people skate on the ice rink, walked around the Lurie Garden, and I took lots of pictures of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which is just incredible. It was nice to just be a part of Chicago on a Friday night; the city is so vibrant and alive, even in the cold winter. My brother took us to Hackney’s for dinner, a very small and quaint pub with a kind of “neighborhood” feel to it. Definite “two thumbs up” goes to the management who, at pretty much the end of our meal, came over and very graciously asked us if we would be willing to move to the table in the corner so they could accommodate a big group coming in shortly. It was like we had won the lottery; they offered us another round of drinks on the house and free deserts, and all we had to do was move to a table 5 feet away that was way better than the one we were at. I think my response was, “Well, Yeaaah!” I’m certainly not one to pass up free stuff! The key lime pie, by the way, was delicious, though I could only stuff a few bites (bummed off my mom) into my already horribly full stomach.

Saturday was our last day, and we weren’t staying long, so we got up pretty early, checked out of the hotel, had a quick bagel and coffee, and headed out to do the ultimate Chicago touristy thing, we paid $12 a piece to go up on the Sears Tower Skydeck. I admit, it was cool to see the entire city from up there, and we had a really good time, so it was worth it. (Definitely just a “one-time-thing” though.) After that, we were pretty much out of there; we said our goodbyes and got on the road. We went a bit out of the way so we could stop in Aurora, a suburb about 45 minutes out of the city, and visit my cousin and her husband, whose baby girl Alexis (their first) was born just a few weeks ago. Our little visit turned into four and a half hours and take-out Chinese, so we didn’t really leave the Chicago suburbs until after 6:30 PM. Blech. So the drive home, well it sucked really really bad, but we made it, and we were fast asleep in our cozy bed by 2:00 AM.

So that is that - - our trip to Chicago, in way more detail than I’m sure anyone would care to know! It was a great time, and I’m all ready to do it again (except, of course, for the driving part, I can’t stress any more how much that really really sucked on the way home).

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