Updated: Feb 20
“I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail.” ―H. L. Mencken
In the wee hours of the morning on the 10th of May, I caught a Lyft to BWI airport. During this ride, a nascent sun was just beginning to peak above the horizon. Pink, orange, and purple hues intertwined to create a vision that caught the attention of my half-open eyes. It was going to be a beautiful day--in Baltimore.
I blinked and I found myself in Illinois. The month was May. Spring was gently tap-dancing its way out of the scene to a standing ovation as Summer waited eagerly in the wing. Or so I thought.
After about an hour on the plane, I awoke to the voice of the captain. We were beginning our decent and would be arriving at Midway shortly. To my dismay, as I raised the window, I was greeted with a monotone, overcast Chicago. Conditions wouldn't improve.
Carry-on in hand, I skipped the baggage carousel and head out to the airport pickup to meet up with my parents. 2-3 hours later, we pulled into a garage on the campus of U of I and ran into the auditorium where the hooding ceremony would be held. Another 2 hours later, the ceremony was over, Kyle was now Kyle, PhD and I had 48 more hours of Illinois before heading back to Baltimore. Aside from catching up with my brother, I wanted to see the sights, to learn more about the place he had called home for the last 6(ish) years. As the excitement began to build for the adventure which surely awaited, I was presented with an inconvenient truth: Urbana-Champaign is totally lame.
Adventure, however, was to be had elsewhere, so we made our way to Monticello on Saturday and Chicago on Sunday. The trip to Monticello took us to Allerton Park and Retreat Center, a much welcomed dash of green in what had been a bland, flavorless visual soup consisting of mostly dirt and dead produce. The overall vibe of the place was similar to the Getty Museum, just with less art, no sweeping vistas of Los Angeles, and few visitors. In the words of Paula Cole, where had all the cowboys--I mean, people, gone? This last note, allowed me to absorb the experience through a quaint Silent Hill-esque filter.
I entered the complex maze of vines and shrubbery at the center and eventually made my way to the each end. At one end, a statue. At the other, a watchtower overlooking the estate. Given the setting, the choice of a maze, as opposed to a labyrinth, was an interesting one. It has been said in a maze, you get lost, whereas in a labyrinth, you find yourself. While I was neither lost nor in the middle of finding my center, I enjoyed the view from the watchtower, taking in the uniqueness and solitude of the environment.
Sunday morning came early. After a breakfast of a microwaved cheese omelette and a Golden Malted waffle smeared in peanut butter and drenched in cheap syrup, we departed for Chicago.
We left the rental car under Millennium Park and hit all the highlights: Buckingham Fountain, Cloud Gate (aka The Bean), Architectural Boat Tour. The fountain was huge, the bean was interesting, and the boat tour was freezing. Cold and hungry, we disembarked from our riverboat and made our way to Giordano's for a slice of Chicago's famous deep-dish pizza. As luck would have it, we arrived at Giordano's to find a line well out the door. Given our flights departed shortly, we had to find an alternative. After repeatedly striking out, we settled on Exchequer Restaurant & Pub, which was established in 1920 as a speakeasy-brothel combo and often frequented by Gangster-Hero, Al Capone. While I didn't know Capone personally, I can only assume he had an extremely sophisticated pizza palate...leading me to believe the bland, cheese-dense, sauce-less pizza I was served was very different than the pizza which graced the lips of Signore Capone.
A few blinks later, I was on the tarmac of Midway, fervently praying that the cheese, the undeniable hemlock to every lactose intolerant, would spare me from its wrath. To those who flew Southwest Flight #1370 on May 12th----I'm sorry.
Camera: Canon EOS Kiss III with 50mm f/1.8
Film: Kodak TMAX 100
When: May 2019
Where: Monticello & Chicago, IL