Well hello strangers!
What a month it’s been! I’ve taken some time off of writing, and most social media to take a breath and recollect myself as I settle back into Minneapolis. The time has been interesting, but I think writing helps me process way more than I think it does, so being without it almost felt like I was hanging in mid air a bit. Everything comes in waves and sometimes you don’t always feel like you have things to say.
But, that’s all changing now. I feel my inspiration come back to me slowly but surely and I plan to take the summer to do some major exploring!
Enough of the update, I know you clicked on this link to read about Chicago, so let’s dive right in!
Being from Minnesota, you would think Chicago would be a frequent place to visit, but truth be told I’ve only ever been there twice, and both times were to visit a dear friend of mine who chose to go to art school out there. Now that she’s graduated, she has chosen to stay out there and expand her network to find creative work, and it’s already showing to be a great decision. The post-graduation transition is tough for everyone I’m learning and staying somewhere you’re already plugged in can sometimes make the transition easier.
My decision to go to Chicago was slightly on a whim, and mainly driven by the desire to see a concert. The 1975 was introduced to me by Madisen, my aforementioned friend, in middle school and has played a big part in my musical connection since. She and I have remained fans of there’s since and when I heard they were doing a show in Chicago, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go and see one of my favorite bands with one of my favorite people!
I flew in on a Tuesday on a flight that was paid for in SkyMiles (my first ever reward from my new card) and landed in Midway at around noon. I then got myself on a train and sat until I was almost to the end of the Red Line. Madz lives far North and is not close to either airport, but I had good music and a light bag so I didn’t mind. Once I got to Rodgers Park, I was picked up by the one and only Madisen and although she is short I could see her fiery hair half a block away. We walked home and I made myself comfortable on her futon while she made marmalade toast and tea for me. Her apartment was cozy, as is her style, filled with books, mementos, house plants, and beautiful artwork. I met her roommate Sylvia and before I got too sleepy, we went for a walk around her neighborhood.
Our first stop was The Armadillo’s Pillow Bookstore, the cutest bookstore you’ll ever see in your life, and I felt magic seeping in through the windows just like the sun. The yellow walls were almost completely covered by books or local art, with more piled on the floor and in the middle of walkways. Although the place was small you could easily spend hours in there if you wanted. We then walked to the movie theater where she works, pointed out a coffee shop, and then ended at a Vietnamese restaurant called Tank Noodle where I had the best pho I’ve had in a while. That night while she was at work I saw the new Avengers movie and then went home and slept because no matter how short a plane ride is, it without fail kicks my butt!
The next day we had a slow morning watching Netflix and drinking coffee while we showered and got ready. We left the house about noon to head downtown and walk around a bit. We went to the Institute of Art where I saw some Georgia O’Keefe’s along with many other famous painters. I never realized how robust the Chicago collection was, but it was well worth going. The miniature exhibit was particularly fascinating even though I didn’t know much about it before we went in. Art museums usually tire me out because it’s a lot of stimulation at once, so by the time we reached the modern exhibit I was getting a bit crabby and antsy to move on.
We then got some fresh air and walked around Millennium Park, which is beautiful in the right weather. This time visiting Chicago, I must say the weather was much more cooperative than my first time going. It was November a few years back and I was there for the first snow. It was cold and dark and blustery, not the most inviting thing when you want to see a city. We did however go to a very fun Christmas Market and that made the weather worth it. Anyways, I digress. After we cut through the Park, we went to Cindy’s Rooftop where we took one look at the menu and the wait, decided to take a picture for good measure, and then quickly headed downstairs and around the corner to a much better place called Beatnik on the River. I had two glasses of really great Sangria and three shared plates of fusion tapas. Cindy’s would have been great for the pictures, but Beatnik’s was good on the soul, the wallet, and the watch. They also had cute bartenders which is always a plus!
After dinner we hopped a bus to the Stadium where we saw the 1975 perform and it was so good. They are an extremely honest band and therefore make good performers because everything feels very genuine and fun. They played some songs for the true fans that go way back along with every single one of their top hits. I bought a tee shirt, inevitably, and would say that show was in the top five of ones I’ve ever been to.
After the show we got another bus back to Rogers Park and by the time we got off it was pouring. We ran into her local dive bar (I don’t remember the name, but if you find a good dive bar does it really matter?) and shut the place down while watching Teen Jeopardy on Netflix. We got home late and I knocked out for another nice long sleep.
Thursday I got up groggily and found my way to the Metra station which is the tracks for long-distance rides. I bought my ticket on my phone while standing on the platform because they didn’t have a ticket machine and once it was scanned, popped in a podcast and looked out the green-tinted windows until Lake Bluff came into view. I got off at the tiny station to be greeted by some old friends from Colorado who had just moved in the night before. They both got into PA school up there and would be starting classes next week. It was a fluke that our timing worked out to see each other, but I could tell the move was hard on them. In addition to having their stuff lost, leaving home is never easy.
We had a quick lunch at a build-your own burrito place and took a walk around the beautiful homes. The town was really cute and felt very removed from the city, even though the train ride was only an hour. We stopped at a picnic table on the water and I was stunned to see how icy blue the lake looked! Growing up around Lake Superior, I was always used to the grey water that never got much above freezing, but this looked like shallow sparkling waters comparable to what you would see in the Bahamas. We enjoyed the sun together for a moment and then they drive me back to the train station while they went off to sign their lease. Just having a breath like that in a trip is so good and very needed. Lake Bluff would be a beautiful place to spend a lazy weekend.
Going back to the city I was still on a nature kick so Madisen and I walked down to the beach around her house and we took our shoes off to feel the grass. Then we made our way down to the conservatory, and sprinted around for 15 minutes before they closed. Even though we were only there for a short time I loved every second of it. I’m such a sucker for greenhouses.
That night Madisen had a show to be at so we had half a dinner together before she walked off to the theater and I sat in the window seat of an Italian restaurant finishing my pizza. I topped my dinner off with some gelato and a brisk walk before arriving at the same theater five minutes before the house opened. The last time I was in Chicago, I also saw a show that Madisen was working on, and the theater set up was very much the same. Only about 50 people could fit in the space, and the seating was extremely individualized. You could tell that it really was just one big blank canvas that could transform depending on the show you were doing. I saw The Killing Game and Madisen didn’t say anything to me about it before I walked in the door so I virtually had no idea what I was seeing until I was in the thick of it. I must say for such a creative show, I still connected to it, and it made me think which I think all good shows should do. I’m incredibly proud of her and the work she does and I was happy I was able to see some of the fruits of her labor. Having creative friends is cool.
The next day I needed some air so I spent the morning writing and reading at Starbucks while Madz got ready at home. Sometimes I find that when I’m on a trip specifically to see people, I end up feeling a little trapped by them. Taking some alone space for me is really crucial to maintain mental stability. I remember in Rio, I went on a girls trip to Buzios and by the third day I was crying because I felt like the world had caved in on itself. I just get too in my head and so the ability to step away has really helped me on trips since then. Doing something especially like writing allows me to process and take a pause to feel through things. Without silence I never bother to recognize things.
After a nice quite morning, Madz picked me up and we went to Chinatown to see cousin Martha. We had some great pho and we three chatted about life for a few hours. We took the liberty of walking around and stopped in an herbal medicine shop, a bakery, and a grocery store. It was fun and authentic. I had that evening free so I took the liberty of getting myself a mani-pedi and seeing another movie at the theater. I drank some red wine and ate some chocolate and overall felt like a very happy girl. Since my flight was early the next day, I went to bed relatively early and packed my stuff up to go. I took another train but I cut it too close for my own comfort as I boarded the place last and had only about five spare minutes before we took off. My good old flight anxiety had really kicked in and while I was on the train my shaking hands were willing it to go faster. I ran through the entire airport and cut in front of some people in security and didn’t feel bad about it. The thought if being stranded is never a comforting thing for me.
Alas I made it home safe and was happy I planned to come home on a Saturday so that I could take Sunday to rest and prepare for my week. For a budget trip it was lovely, and of course it’s always great to see my friends, but if I’m to be honest, I think my preference for trips is changing. No longer do I find large cities amusing because it takes so long to get anywhere. The hours spent on trains could be spent in nature and that trade off is becoming more and more clear to me. I guess the grass is always greener, right? Anyways, hope life is treating all of you well and as usual, comment if you have any great Chicago recommendations!