Sunday, July 25, 2010


Damn Stieg Larsson. It's taking all kinds of willpower to drag myself away from his last book to write about my weekend adventure. Because I put off writing about my Thai massage for a few days to travel home, and look at how long it's taking me to finish that post. Still, my Kindle's sitting nearby, taunting me....


Last Friday I drove out to the airport for my third weekend in a row and hopped on a plane for a quick trip to Chicago.

I got there at about 3:00, checked into the hotel and headed out to do some shopping before seeing a show that night. Billy Elliot is on tour there now, and I've been wanting to see it since hearing of Teresa and Jason's enjoyment of it in London and New York respectively.

Sadly, I did not particularly like it. It felt predictable and some of the directorial choices were downright bad. Giant dancing dresses? Policemen dancing in a mock-ballet style with little girls? They kept going for the stupid joke over meaning. The choreography was choppy and lacked any flow or build. The kid was really excellent; and I enjoyed the pas de deux fantasy part, although I wish they had kept it at the end. The other actors were unintelligible (I couldn't understand a single word of the dance teacher's introductory song), hammy, and sloppy.

I asked Jason about it, since it's unusual for our opinions to differ so much. We concluded that it was a sad result of being a touring production (so, depleted set and a weaker talent pool). I was still miffed about how predictable musicals are and found myself missing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

After the show I walked back to the hotel in the rain and, in passing, got mistaken for a Muslim thanks to the scarf I was wearing to keep the rain off. When I got up to the room, I raised the blinds so I could watch the lightening storm and called Jason. Poor fellow. He left later than I did so he could work that day, and had spent an hour circling Chicago because of the storm before being re-routed to St. Louis to refuel. We talked for a while as he waited on the plane to see what would happen next and I pulled the cushy chair in front of the window and propped my feet up on the air conditioner to watch the storm. We had been talking for about 30 minutes when the pilot on his end announced that they were grounded for the night. Jason resolved to get on the first flight out in the morning and I promised to call the architecture cruise company we had tickets with the next morning to try to reschedule. I watched a lightening bolt hit one of the buildings I could see from my window before getting into bed.

I called the cruise company the moment they opened and discovered that they had canceled all tours that morning due to the rainstorm. Sadly, they were also sold out the entire afternoon. Jason and I stayed in touch via texting all morning as I went for a walk around the city and got some bagels for us for breakfast. Without too much on my agenda and with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo just getting interesting (entirely too much exposition to wade through and a bit of the Russian novel syndrome - do that many people really have names beginning with B in Sweden?), I opted to stay in the air-conditioned room and read while waiting for him.

After sitting in traffic for over an hour because of flooding, Jason finally got to the hotel around 11:00. Again, poor fellow! We got him fed and showered, then decided that the best course of action was a nice, long lunch.

A friend had recommended Frontera Grill, which was right down the street from the hotel. After eating, we walked across the river to see the Sears... I mean, Willis Tower. Sadly, it was closed due to the weather, even through the storm had passed and the sky was blue by now.

We walked over to Millennium Park, and I began to realize just how tired Jason was when he asked me to walk a little slower. I don't know how many of you have walked somewhere with him, but his "relaxed" pace is closer to a brisk jog. We slowed down and admired the fountain and the lakeside before walking over to the Art Institute.

He was really tired at that point, so we just hit the highlights (Nighthawks, American Gothic, Sunday in the Park, and some Monets and Picassos with a quick turn through a modern design display). Jason headed back to the hotel for a nap while I hit the bookstore to look for materials for my Humanities class.

40 minutes and 5 books later, I was walking to the hotel when I got caught in a good-sized and unmoving group of people. Jason and I had walked past the scene of destruction earlier in the day - cars banged up and burnt, pieces of the roofs of recognizable buildings of that block lying crumbled and cracked on the road, an entire two block section of the downtown area taped off and protected by police - Transformers 3 was filming major action sequences right in the middle of our vacation. I was wondering why we were all at a standstill when the crew in yellow t-shirts all yelled, "Fire in the hole!" and a series of gunshots and fireworks went off as flames leapt up and stuntmen were whisked from the ground into the air on various flylines. Dang it! Now I'm going to have to see Transformers 3.

After they called "Cut," I managed to squeeze my way through the crowds and book it to the hotel. I quickly changed for the evening and we decided to take a cab to the restaurant since we were running a bit late.

We met Jason's friend Vanessa at Feast and had dinner together. I had a chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese that was delicious and decided that this was a keeper restaurant for future trips to Chicago.

Vanessa walked with us to the Watertower building, just a few blocks over. Kelley and her husband, Mark, were there waiting for us. I was really excited to see Kelley again, and we talked as Jason and Vanessa wrapped up their visit. Vanessa headed on her way and the four of us went into the theater for the show that had inspired this trip in the first place.

Do you remember when I went to Chicago in the fall to see Arabian Nights at the Lookingglass Theater? I absolutely loved their production and their premise as a theater company, so when I found out they were performing their signature show, Lookingglass Alice, I proposed the excursion to Jason and Kelley.

Oh, the show was good! It was innovative, gorgeous, funny, playful, sweet, and creative as hell. It made me terribly happy and gave me all kinds of ideas for things to use in future productions. It was, in short, very, very good theater. It also made me consider moving to Chicago just so I could be a season subscriber and go see their shows all the time. Sadly, that's not practical. But, oh! I wish I could. And I certainly hope I can keep saving up enough money to keep taking weekend trips to see what they do.

Happily, Jason, Mark, and Kelley all loved the show, too. Kelley and I had similar enough artistries that I was sure she'd like the show - that's why she was so fantastic to direct with at DPJH and why I've missed working with her so much since then. We discussed the show as we crossed the street and got dessert at Ghiradelli's. Sadly, Kelley and Mark had to skidaddle right away - they're moving back to Salt Lake this weekend. Saying good-bye again wasn't too bad, since I knew I'd get to see Kelley in a week when I came out to Salt Lake for my brother's wedding.

Mark and Kelley crossed to the bus stop while Jason and I headed down Michigan Avenue. He had mentioned that there were some movies out that would be fun to see together, if time permitted. I asked if he was game, since he's the one who had gotten only three hours of sleep on a chair at the baggage claim in St. Louis. He was, so we walked to a movie theater just off the Magnificent Mile that was showing Io Sono L'amore. Oh, the artsy-ness! I enjoyed it both because it was so pretentious a movie and because it was provocative enough to keep us discussing it as we walked back to the hotel at 1:00 in the morning.

Sunday morning we got up earlier than needed so we could have a good chance at getting breakfast at the Bongo Room. We got there at 8:50 and there were already 8 people ahead of us in line, waiting for them to open at 9:00. It worked out beautifully, though - we were seated and enjoyed a fantastic breakfast with plenty of time before I needed to hop on the metro to get back to the airport. (I had brioche french toast topped with a four berry compote, white chocolate sauce, and gingersnap crumbles - yum! I did eye their signature dish, though, which a gentleman nearby ordered - a chocolate french toast tower.... Next time, right?)

Jason walked me back to the station down the block and we said farewell. His flight didn't leave until later in the day, so he was planning on walking back through the park to see some of the sights he missed before getting his stuff from the hotel and leaving. Oddly, we don't have immediate plans to see each other again, although we did talk about taking a trip together over New Year's and/or next summer. I also mentioned that I had $150 coupon from United thanks to a broken entertainment screen on my flight from Bangkok to Tokyo. There's all kinds of enticements for me to go to DC, and we both agreed that he needed another try at Chicago, since this trip was shortened by weather. Probably another try that could be arranged around another show at the Lookingglass Theater....

We left it open, and I headed for Midway. My flight home was uneventful, aside from my smoldering anger at the airline policy that e-readers have to be turned off for takeoffs and landings. Stieg F-ing Larsson!


  1. Anonymous11:47 AM

    All right. That's it! What do I have to do to get to fly out to the Berkshires for a weekend of theater? (all free tickets, by the way...) We've got a stunning production of Richard III, a hilarious and truly moving Winter's Tale, two new delightful modern plays, and a cracked up adaptation of Moliere that I'm in. We've got fancy and plain restaurants, art (Degas meets Picasso, and also Sol Le Witt), music, and nature.

    Just sayin'. I see you your Chicago and I raise you the Berkshires! Come visit!


  2. What fun! I recall having similar sadness when departing from Midway and wondering what it would take to become a native of the windy city. Lucky for you tickets from DIA to Chicago are usually abundant and (more) affordable than most!