[ written 11:30pm CDT … ]
Feeling rather bittersweet tonight. It’s hard to believe we’re heading home tomorrow. Guess that means it’s really complete now, yes? And I don’t just mean the honeymoon. We’ve been on a bit of a crazy tilt-a-whirl for most of this year between wedding saving, planning, scheduling and… oh yeah. The same set of tasks for this lovely 7 day Chicago excursion.
But we got through all of it and now we can (sort of?) relax!
It hit me tonight while we were out on the last major planned event- a sunset cruise on Lake Michigan. Looking back at the Chicago skyline made me so happy. I didn’t want it to end. I have told Packy many times that I would want nothing else in life if I could own a home on a lake and swim in/boat on/relax by that lake every day (excluding the summer months when that would be somewhat ill-advised, I suppose… an iced-over pond does not a relaxing swim make).
And… okay, I suppose it’s not just the pond. I’ve oft talked about a pony… and an estate…
But that’s for another time, isn’t it?! :)
I kid. (Though if anyone has a spare pony laying about, email me! lol)
[ continued 8:16am CDT … ]
Aaaaalmost done packing now. Thanks again for all of your generous contributions to the honeymoon fund to make this entire excursion happen, friends! It’s been a wonderfully memorable week and we couldn’t have done this without you!
OH! A note for ya: Even though the honeymoon is over, keep checking back in here over the next few days. We have a LOT of pictures that still need uploading, plus I’m sure Packy still has a final journal entry or two to contribute.
And of course the big plus about the lovely creation known as “INTERNET” is that you can come back and visit this website any time you want! It’ll be here. Heck, any time I want to relive bits of my honeymoon, all I have to do is pull up this site and read away… rolling my eyes at my grammar mistakes… slight spelling gaffes…
Whoops! Being pulled out the door!
Again- THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!!!
Okay, I don’t have much time to write since Packy and I are about to hit the beach… then Wrigley Field for the afternoon Cubs game… then god knows where, then god knows where else–
Oh. Sorry. Wrong thing. It’s just… you know. ;)
Anyway, I just wanted to mention that I put up my photos from the CHICAGO Theater tour yesterday. Since I’m still working on a top-secret project that this is related to, I’ll only say that yesterday’s tour was MUCHO inspiring and, quite frankly, the best thing I could have done for my work. Balaban & Katz sure knew how to make a HECK of a gorgeous theater. I wish more people appreciated the craftsmanship that went in to creating these gorgeous old buildings. Sometimes the show isn’t only on the stage, you know.
Next time you visit an old theater to see a show… look around you a bit, eh? That’s my word of wisdom for the day.
On day five, we chose to stick around downtown Chicago because we had to be at the Chase Auditorium at 6:30PM for the taping of this week’s Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
So, after a quick breakfast at the Original Pancake House (again), we set out for a long walk along Lakeshore Drive. At first, Kay’s plan was to walk up and around Lincoln Park until it got close to noon, and then catch a Red Line train downtown, but we wound up walking down the shore to Navy Pier, around Navy Pier, then over to the Chicago Theater, where we arrived 40 minutes early for our noon tour.
The tour was amazing! All I can say is take a look at the pictures we took (Kay will, undoubtedly, have lots to say about the tour).
Then we headed out the Brown Line to hit a restaurant we went to two years ago when we were out here last: Glenn’s Diner. Back then, Kay had chosen it because it was just a few stops out from the Belmont Ave stop, where we needed to be to get to the performance of Dennis DeYoung’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame we were seeing that evening. Since then, it was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. I had a killer Cajun Laughing Bird Shrimp Caesar Salad with a bowl of Spinach & Feta chowder, and Kay had a Lobster Roll. Mmmmmmm…
We then went back to the hotel, rested, and headed out for Wait Wait. The show was AMAZING. I can’t reveal anything from the show (if I do, Carl Kasell will hunt me down and kill me). I will say, however, that Kay and I both nailed the “Bluff the Listener” segment. Usually, we have a hard time picking which story is the real one, and we often wind up each picking a different story to cover our bases. But tonight, we both looked at each other and picked the same story, and we were RIGHT!
We also got a preview of an upcoming show: in mid-August, Peter Sagal is taking a week off, and we got to see the guest host do a practice run of “Who’s Carl This Time?” using last week’s questions and this week’s panelists.
Unfortunately, this kept us at the Chase Auditorium even later, and it was 10:00PM by the time Kay and I got out. We didn’t think anything else was open, so we wound up hitting a 24-hour Subway for dinner, a Walgreens for some drinks, and then we came back to the room to eat our sandwiches and watch footie on the tele.
Tomorrow? We go to Wrigley Field to watch a game. :)
Welp, after a full day spent taking in the flora and fauna of a ‘burban zoo, today was back to downtown Chicago and that oh-so-special place known as… TOURISTLAND!
Okay, not entirely. I may do ridiculously touristy things from time to time, (ask Packy and watch him shudder) but I always try to mix something local and unique in there to balance it out.
Today the “Local Flavor” category was quite literally flavor- of the diner variety. See, Packy and I are big fans of a little show on the Food Network you may have heard of- Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The show is hosted by Guy Fieri, a man who is both a professional chef/restaurant owner in his own right and the biggest Average Joe-type “foodie” you’ve ever met. They say you know you’re in the right profession if, after years and years in the field, you can still find aspects of your job which genuinely excite you. If Guy’s reactions to the places he visits on “triple-D” are any indication, he’s not only in the right career- he’s downright ecstatic about it.
Anyway, today Packy and I visited a spot on the west side of Chicago that Guy went to this past season- The Depot American Diner. Though I sorta thought the “small diner” thing was played up for TV, I can tell you that they weren’t kiddin’… this place is TEEENY. It actually may have been a very good thing that Packy and I got on the wrong L line and went a few blocks in the wrong direction. Had we arrived at this place during the breakfast rush we would have most certainly been waiting for a table. Don’t think size is an indication of quality, though. To borrow an over-borrowed expression, great things come in small packages!
Check this out:
Killer egg sandwich. I probably didn’t need the short stack of pancakes beside it- the sandwich was waaaaay more than enough to fill me up. And that bread didn’t mess around, it was AWESOME. When I ask for “whole wheat” I’m used to that meaning whatever was grabbed from the shelves at a supermarket- refined flour and bleached whatever. Blech. THIS, my friends was WHOLE WHEAT, GRAIN bread. Delicious.
But moving along… our next stop of the day was to a 2pm matinee of a little show that Packy and I saw together on Broadway for his birthday in December of 2008. Yes friends, I don’t care how sick the rest of the world if of the Shrek franchise, the two of us love that green ogre. My general opinion of SHREK THE MUSICAL when we saw it two years ago was that, overall it’s cute… but it could have been so much more. Kind of a missed opportunity. The book is okay (borrowing heavily from the movie for it’s best laughs), but the score is a little underwhelming. The best songs were written for Fiona, hands down. Donkey has a couple cool songs and Shrek has a great solo number in Act Two, but there’s a whole lot of “ho-hum” in between.
WARNING: THEATER PERSON RANT AHEAD!!!
The production playing here in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theater is “newly revised” according to advance press, which was enough to make me curious. Going in, I knew they had changed a few things- the biggest being the big puppet “Dragon” for Donkey to interact with. What I didn’t realize was that they have replaced a song, substantially rewritten large chunks of the book and in many ways just overhauled the show in general. I won’t catalog each and every change here, but things still hold together well. Is the NEW SHREK! a revelation? Not especially. There are still some weaknesses, particularly in Act One. Also, (and this hurts me to say since I hate people who compare “new cast” vs. “old cast”) I found myself greatly missing Brian D’Arcy James- the original Shrek on Broadway. Simply put, Brian managed to completely, 100% transform himself in to the guy (with a little help from the ol’ makeup department, of course) and I never once balked at the portrayal. His Scottish accent was dead-on and he made Shrek the kind of “heart on his sleeve”, “bark worse than his bite” fellow that audiences expect. Eric Peterson… well, let’s just say that Alan Mingo Jr. as Donkey COMPLETELY walked away with the show today. Every scene he was in was brilliant. The musical works best when Shrek is able to parry Donkey’s sideman antics… and, I’m sorry but Eric Peterson as Shrek let Alan walk all over him. Eric had some nice moments, but he needs work. Also, the accent was a bit patchy and that was very jarring.
For the record… Haven Burton as Fiona was adorable. She seemed to have a bit of the “matinee sluggishness” going on at the very start of the show, but she picked up pretty quickly and was on fire by the end of Act One.
My mini New York theater critic is done now. Promise. :)
THEATER PERSON RANT COMPLETED!!!!
Post-show I decided to fully embrace the tourist end to the day by heading over to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. Yes, it’s ridiculously over-priced and the definition of a tourist trap, but I was just in the mood I guess. I did it for the sake of saying I went and picked up some HR swag at the end to seal the deal. Food was very good… not the best I’ve had so far on the trip, but tasty. Honestly, for the prices you pay at the Hard Rock you can have a good three meals elsewhere at other local spots with just as good (perhaps even better?) food. But for the experience, sometimes you just have to crack open the wallet and embrace the tourism around you. I mean, I can now say that I ate macaroni & cheese next to Mick Jagger’s pants. That’s worth it… uhh… right?
Aaaaanyway, I should wrap this up. Packy is snoring peacefully beside me in bed and we have a full Thursday coming up. To preview the big event? Those of you who listen to NPR, keep your ears peeled during “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me” this Saturday. Pack and I will be in the audience at tomorrow’s taping!
I do believe it. I do believe it’s true.
At this very moment, Kay is ushering me out the door for Day Four, so I don’t have any time to write up my thoughts on our day at the Brookfield Zoo (other than to say how grateful I am that Kay spent a day at a zoo with me). So, much like Kay did, I’m just posting a photo blog:
I’d have taken lots more photos, but my phone’s battery died.
Ok, now off for Day Four!
So, today was Packy’s day to plan the itinerary. His most excellent choice was to spend our time wandering around the Brookfield Zoo. Instead of writing a long, rambling blog entry about the day, I decided to do a photo blog tonight… and let the pictures do the talkin’!
We started off the day by heading out for breakfast at The Original Pancake House on Bellevue Place. Kay got an egg-white omelette that was made with egg whites whipped to the consistency of meringue (I tried a bite, and even though I don’t like eggs, I liked this omelette). I, on the other hand, got the apple pancake:
This thing was AMAZING. It wasn’t like the buttermilk pancakes I’m used to everyplace else–it had a custardy texture, and it was covered with a piping hot mass of thinly sliced green apples with a cinnamon sauce.
After we finished breakfast, we got ourselves our 7-day CTA passes and hopped on the Red Line to take a walk down memory lane. We got off at 35th/Sox and walked over to the new Comiskey Park U.S Cellular Field, where we looked at their World Series monument… of course, it’s a little sad that there are teams for whom World Series championships are so unique they build monuments to the ones they have–perhaps the Yankees shouldn’t hog a quarter of them… nah, where’s the fun in that?
Where was I? Oh, right, White Sox stadium. After that, Kay and I wandered over to IIT, where we stayed the first time we came to Chicago as a couple. We walked by the dorm we stayed in, found a water fountain to refill the Nalgene bottle, and then hopped on the Green Line to head up to the north side.
Once we got off the El, we went in search of an address. The street had changed names from Crawford to Pulaski, but we think we found the site. Even though we know the theater we were looking for had been torn down in the 50s, it was a little sad to see that whatever had been constructed in its stead had been recently torn down. (If I’m being a little confusing, it’s because Kay’s not talking publicly about the project she’s working on, so I can’t just come out and say what theater this is she’s researching.)
A little disheartened, we came back to downtown Chicago, grabbed some subs and had a late lunch. I also grabbed a half-hour nap, because I’d been falling asleep on the El.
Once Kay was able to rouse me and get me out the door, we went looking for a beach. We found one at Navy Pier, but we couldn’t find anyplace to change clothes (and then it started to sprinkle rain), so we walked back and went to the firsts spot we had on our wedding registry: Giordano’s.
We weren’t able to settle on a pizza quickly enough to put in a pre-order, so we ordered our spinach deep-dish as soon as we got to the table (for those of you not familiar with how Giordano’s does things, they hand you a menu as you wait for your table and you can put in your dinner order before you even get seated). After a really long wait, we finally got our pie:
It was delicious. I wanted to eat my three pieces in one sitting at the restaurant, but Kay made me save room for dessert (we wound up taking the two remaining pieces back to the room and then heading out to a Mrs. Fields that we’d visited on our last day in Chicago when we were here back in 2008). I wound up eating that third piece while I was writing this post. :)
While we were waiting for the pizza, though, Kay made a discovery. Chicago has two zoos. We were planning on going to the Brookfield Zoo tomorrow, but Kay found a review of a cupcake bakery that made reference to the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is right in Chicago, only 15 minutes away by bus, and free.
This placed me in an extreme conundrum. Naturally, if left to my own devices, I’d go to the Brookfield Zoo one day, the Lincoln Park Zoo the next, and hit the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum for good measure. However, honeymoons are supposed to be fun for BOTH members of the couple, and I would feel bad dragging Kay off to zoos and aquariums every day of our honeymoon (though, she does confess that she likes aquariums, so we might go to the Shedd rather than go to the Field). So, I spent the rest of the evening trying to pick between the Brookfield and the Lincoln Park zoos. I think I’m going to stick with the Brookfield Zoo for a few reasons: it’s open a half-hour earlier and closes an hour later, so we’ll have more zoo time; it’s much larger, so there aren’t any animals in cages (Kay’s depressed by animals in captivity in general, but cages are worse than open enclosures surrounded by moats), and they have a pair of golden lion tamarins running around loose in the trees! I feel really guilty, though, because Kay did score a real find in locating the Lincoln Park Zoo.
And that’s it for the day. Kay and I are getting up early to hit the zoo right when it opens, so it’s time to get to sleep. Until tomorrow!
In 2004 I was lucky enough to spend some time studying theater in England. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, but the hassle of traveling that far was also *hella* intimidating.
Why do I bring this up? Well, even though the trip was nerve-wracking at first, it also forever changed how I handle vacationing. Basically, I was fortunate enough to have the professor in charge of our England trip take me under his wing that first day in London and orient me in one marathon six hour session. I learned how to handle the London Tube (“underground” or “subway” to the rest of us), got my currency exchanged, learned the basic lay of the land, booked tickets to a few shows I really wanted to see *AND* arranged for a day trip to Liverpool, England… alllll in one shot.
Yes, I slept like a baby that night, but I didn’t have any plans-related stress for the rest of the trip because I had been pushed to take care of it all early on. I also never got lost ONCE on the London Underground.
Thank you, Richard. From the bottom of my heart.
Anyway, that’s basically what Packy and I spent today- our first full day in Chicago- doing. Not navigating London, but laying plans for the rest of our time in the good ol’ Windy City.
Even though we visited here two years ago and already had *some* of that “getting the lay of the land” work done already as a result, there were still lots of things to figure out. We bought our 7-day train passes, located a great breakfast spot, found the closest beach, booked Cubs tickets and even squeezed in time for me to do some important “on location” research for the play I’m writing.
Oh, yeah. And we had a rather delicious deep dish dinner. Just sayin’.
Tomorrow is Packy’s day to coordinate what we do… looking forward to getting a bit “wild”… and that’s the only hint you’re going to get. :-P
Well, we left the house at 8AM this morning, and we drove and drove and drove, and finally, 14 hours later, we’re here in Chicago and checked into our hotel.
The highlight of the day was the stop we made in Elkhart, IN. Kay had been on the phone recording her radio show, Exposed!, from 6:00PM until 7:30PM, so I wasn’t able to stop for gas, and by the time we got to Elkhart we were running on fumes. We hit the first gas station we saw after exiting the highway and filled up. Once our car’s hunger pangs were assuaged, our own tummies started rumbling, so we headed out down the road to find someplace to eat.
We saw a couple restaurants, but then we spied something special: The Simonton Lake Drive-In. It was an old-fashioned drive-in with homemade ROOT BEER!!! Kay and I ordered two burgers, some fries and onion rings, and two frosted mugs of root beer. It was all quite delicious, and it took me back to my childhood in the 1970s when my parents used to take me to an A&W Drive-In in Whitehall, NY.
So now it’s time for Kay and I to get to bed and get some sleep, because tomorrow’s our first full day in CHICAGO!