This post may make you feel tired – no EXHAUSTED – by the time you’re done reading it. Just be warned.
The next morning was another late start thanks to the late evening the night before. John took a fair amount of primping time, but less today since he decided to wear a baseball hat.
So for "breakfast" it was decided we should try Giordano’s stuffed pizza. We headed to the one on Rush street and found out that the wait would be an hour and a half. Since it was already noon time and we were starving, that simply wasn’t an option. While I felt bad we never got a chance to do Giordano’s – a pizza I’ve had my share of on my trips to Chicago – it did give us a chance to go to Portillo’s for another Italian beef sandwich, sausage and for the guys to try a Chicago-style hot dog . Our entertainment for lunch – besides our own crude senses of humor – was a large protest happening at the landmark "Rock n’ Roll" McDonalds across the street. They were protesting for fair wages for tomato growers and pickers.
Yes, tomato pickers. The best part were the signs: one being "McDonald’s Makes me Grimmace," painted on a large cut-out of the bulbous purple monster-mascot. The winner however was the sign that said "you say tomato, we say oppression." This lead to an entire day full of tomato and oppression jokes, showing just how cold-hearted we are. It also got us thinking that McDonalds is a weird place to be protesting about tomato harvesters since there’s not that many of their popular sandwiches that actually HAVE tomato on them: none of their burgers do at least.
Anyway – we left the protesters behind to head to the Jazz Record Mart, a place that I had passed by several times before but never had the opportunity to explore. I was in heaven there, even though even they didn’t have some of the obscure jazz artists that I was trying to locate. I could have spent hours in there, but just as I felt bored in H&M and Filene’s, John was completely out of his element there, and even Erock was intimidated by the selection and the granularity of the sorting system: jazz, vocal jazz, pre-WWII jazz, R&B, R&B vocal, blues, motown, etc. etc. That may be a place to go to the next time I’m in the city by myself; though I’ll probably need to bring an extra suitcase for what I could end up buying.
From there we walked down Michigan, finally crossing over into the downtown "Loop" area for the first time, heading towards the Art Institute. The main goal of the Art Institute visit was to see three paintings: "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," "Nighthawks," and "American Gothic." The first one was as impressive as I remembered it, a huge painting that is truly impressive and draws a huge crowd. Nighthawks was great to see, as it has obviously been parodied and copied many times over in a variety of mediums. Unfortunately "American Gothic" was out on loan to the Smithsonian (damn them!) so we didn’t get to see that. We joked about asking for four of our $12 back since we only got to see two of the three paintings we went to see, but figured it might be in poor taste to do so.
We also had the opportunity to check out their contemporary art wing, which was… um… interesting. I still can’t be convinced that a string of light bulbs sitting randomly on the floor is a piece of art simply because the artist says that the bulbs burning out makes it a symbol of our own temporary time here on earth or some B.S. like that.
Anyway – we left the art museum and walked around the loop for a few hours, checking out some of the public art displays and the towering architecture. We wound up walking past the Hard Rock hotel and stopped in to check it out: definitely looks like the type of place I would love to stay in next time I’m in Chicago. A quick stop in the gift store was entertaining as the two gay men in there helped with a recommendation for another mid- afternoon chocolate snack. At the Moonstruck Chocolate Shop & Cafe we enjoyed another round of chocolates, shakes and floats. This gave us enough time to figure out the plan of attack to get up to Wrigleyville, with a dual purpose: one being the ultra-manly goal of simply seeing Wrigley Field, and the other to visit the ultra-gay "Gaymart." Yes, we are all good friends.
Hopping on the El red line, we traveled out to Wrigleyville and got our pictures taken in front of the famous Wrigley field sign. The area around the park reminds me a lot of the area around Fenway Park in Boston: kind of a residential area loaded with sports bars and restaurants.
However, what Boston DOESN’T have is an entire gay "mecca" just a few blocks away on Halstead street. We knew we were in John’s territory when we say the obelisk-shaped (how phallic can you get?) cut-outs with rainbow colors lining the street. There were a few scary looking (well, for me and Erock) "lingerie" stores using male mannequins in the window and a hilarious poster for "Lube Wrestling" at one night club, hosted by a drag queen. Just down the street from there was "Gay Mart" which wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was or that John was hoping for! It was really a store jam-packed with pop culture kitch, including the Simpsons, Family Guy, Betty Boop, I Love Lucy, and assorted other cartoons and movie/TV icons. Every once in a while a rainbow-themed button or sticker would pop up, along with a selection of cards featuring men with freakishly large penises.
Once we successfully pulled out of there (pun intended) we moved onto Broadway, as recommended by the store proprietor (who made a comment regarding swallowing something wrong that made John refuse to look at me for fear I would start laughing). We came across what was basically a very gay-friendly version of Thayer Street here in Providence, with a lot of independent music, clothing, and book stores, along with independent restaurants. Not a chain in site. It wasn’t as overtly gay as Halstead street, with its rainbow colors, but there were plenty of gayness to be found: even the Episcopalian church had a little fish symbol on it with rainbow colors!
We came across a funky little artsy store (surprise surprise) that kind of freaked me and Erock out when we first walked in as they had a large male mannequin with a boa and white hat just as you entered, but it was proved to be another dumping ground for classic pop culture memorabilia. I hustled John out of the used clothing section before I even got a chance to realize that there was that part of the store, including an operating coin-op version of Karate Champ.
By this point we were closer to the next stop further south on the El, and caught it there to head back to the hotel and relax and figure out where we wanted to go eat. Energy was starting to wear low as we rode most of the way back in silence and we were all pretty ambivalent about where to go to dinner: we were sick of waiting and eating so late because of the waiting and had tried the gastronomic guilty pleasures that Chicago is known for: pizza, beef sandwiches, hot dogs and sausages. By default, we ended up at the Hard Rock Cafe, affording me the opportunity to put my All Access card to use. If you travel and/or eat a Hard Rock Cafe regularly, GET THIS CARD. For $25, not only do you get $20 back for every $200 you spend on anything at Hard Rock Cafe, but you also get to jump to the head of any waiting line for seating at any Hard Rock Cafe. That proved to be valuable Saturday night, since even though we were getting there at nearly 9:00 p.m., we could have been facing over an hour’s wait. Instead, we sat down within 10 minutes of setting foot inside the restaurant.
The Hard Rock was a good choice for Saturday night, as it provided a familiar, yet vacation-appropriate setting, as well as good food (the wings are reviewed seperately here at Hot N’ Saucy wings) and attractive waitresses. We had an adorable blonde number with fantastic legs and a nice personality who took good care of us. It also led to one of the funniest moments of the trip, when the waitress leaned against the back of the booth Erock was sitting in, and upon her departure from said spot, he leaned over and gave the general area a deep, disturbing, Quagmire-inspired sniff. Brilliant.
Leaving The Hard Rock Cafe, we caught a cab up to Subterranean on North Ave in Chicago to see Beatallica. I had seen the show advertised in the local weekly entertainment rag and the name caught my eye. I assumed that it must be some sort of Beatles/Metallica mash-up of sorts, but then we got into a discussion about how it could be that or Metallica done in house or dance music style, or even reggae (?!?!?!) style. However, its true – its a Beatles/Metallica mix and was so good it deserves its own post.
Once that show ended about 12:30 a.m., we wanted to head off somewhere else to finish off our last night in Chicago with some drinking. We attempted to go to Shenanigans on Division street, but the long line outside discouraged us. We ended up walking down Clark street – where I FINALLY found a mailbox to drop my post cards in after looking for one all day – to the Clark Street Ale House, which had the laid back atmosphere we were looking for. A nice selection of beers and scotches would keep us busy for a few hours. About half-way through our second beer, we noticed a fine-looking blonde lass come walking in the door… that turned out to be our waitress from the Hard Rock! When we spoke at the restaurant she said that she frequented a place up on Clark street, but through it was named "Clarks" or something. Turns out it was the Clark Street Ale House. We said hello to her and her entire HRC crew and went on with our drinking, including a shot of SoCo.
The place got more crowded the later it got, and when we finally left a little before 4:00 a.m., the place was more packed than when we got there around 1:00 a.m. Since we were drunk in big city on what was a relatively nice night, we did what any reasonable adult males would do in that situation:
We went to McDonalds. At 4:00 a.m. I tried taking a photo of the digital sign outside of MickyD’s to prove that we were there at four in the morning, but the sign changed before I had a chance to capture it and wound up with an empty screen. Yes, it was the sign’s fault and f**k you for thinking otherwise.
Anyway – after a well balanced meal of processed meat and potato starches, we stumbled our way back to the hotel and collapsed at 5:00 a.m., setting my alarm for 9:30 a.m., allowing for a nice 4 1/2 hour nap before having to get going to catch our 1:30 plane. Yes, that was giving us a lot of lead time, but we did have a gay man who had to get himself ready, and we were ALL going to be moving slow.
Sunday (the rest of it at least) was uneventful. The plane took off a little late, but the plane ride was quiet and smooth.
As you can tell, we had a great time and a total blast with each other, and I got to finally spend a few days in my favorite city, simply enjoying everything it has to offer.