Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Chicago – Ann Arbor (Day 7): Transit

31 December 2013 1 comment

2 December. Index.

My final day in Chicago was pretty short, owing to my slightly late rising, the need to pack, and the Greyhound I had to catch. In between, what was the highlight of the day was lunch with my friend from Carleton, Su Kim.


Lunch was at a Korean restaurant near Lincoln Square. We had the first oysters I’d eaten in quite a while. I enjoyed lunch, and we stayed for quite a while. Life at Carleton can be too busy to afford that much in the way of leisurely sit-down lunches (and maybe especially for freshmen), so I was glad for the time.

After lunch we walked around the square a bit, and we endeavored to find some postcards, though sadly without great success. Su dropped me off at the CTA, and I made my way to the Greyhound station with no trouble.

From the station the next stop was Ann Arbor, via Kalamazoo (not a substantial stop, unfortunately; Kalamazoo is home to Bell’s Brewery). At Ann Arbor, I met someone I was very glad to see.


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Chicago (Day 6): Riches

30 December 2013 1 comment

Sunday, 1 December. Index.

The first stop for the day was Covenant Presbyterian Church. This was the first Sunday of advent. I didn’t get any of my own pictures of the interior of the church, which is a pity, since I remember it being quite nice, but here’s another I found online:

The choir stood in the balcony, which was above and behind the pews (and where I guess the above photo was shot from). It was a small choir, about one to two per vocal part – I thought they were very good, and the people in the pews kept looking back to see them. In the present time, my state in faith is rather wretched, and all I shall note at present is that it was less so when worshipping those few weeks ago.

Following the service, my next task was to procure some of this year’s Bourbon County Brand Stout – something I’d failed to do in the previous two days, with this being the last day it was on sale. The objective was to get into the queue early enough to buy. I had already been feeling slightly pressed for time when I left the service – actually it was something I had to consciously suppress going into the service, with less than total success – and so when I found my bus at a standstill for no immediately apparent reason, I was becoming quite exasperated. I decided to get off and walk.

As I approached the main road, the sound of revving engines (which I hadn’t noticed at first) became more apparent. When I reached the road, I found that all traffic was at a halt, with no pedestrians even allowed to cross the main avenue, because of a motorcycle procession going along the road. I have no idea what it was for, but here’s a picture of them riding out into the horizon:


I got the shot from the train platform at a nearby CTA station. Fortunately for me, the station entrance wasn’t too far from where I emerged onto the main avenue. I’m not sure how long the procession went on, but my bus had been at a stop for nearly 10 minutes, I’d walked for about that long, and when I got on to the train it didn’t seem like the procession was slowing down at all.

In any case, some time later, I found myself in the queue for BCBS, thankfully not too far in the back. It was quite a close thing, but I managed to get a four-pack of the regular version of BCBS. I’d really wanted the coffee stout, but the procurement of special versions seems to require special dedication.

I returned with my prize to the apartment on Bosworth Ave, where I made lunch, after which it was time to sally forth again. My intention was to visit the Art Institute of Chicago before meeting a friend for dinner.

My experience of art appreciation and knowledge of art history are shallow at best, and I suppose that awareness is something that the Art Institute immediately inspires that the Museum of Contemporary Art doesn’t. Nevertheless, I took what time I could to sink into it – and what a luxuriantly pleasurable experience that turned out to be. I’ve got more photos up elsewhere of some of the paintings I liked, but one of the areas which was no-photography was the Judith exhibition, which you can read about here:


The central work of the exhibition was Artemisia Gentileschi’s ‘Judith Slaying Holofernes’. It’s a pretty shocking image (due warning; here’s the link to the image from Wikipedia).

In addition to the paintings, the Art Institute had a few other collections which I found pretty interesting. I found the Thorne Miniature Room collection particularly fascinating.


Each miniature room is a painstakingly detailed re-creation of rooms in the typical styles of a certain place and period, with the details accurate to even the frescoes on the ceilings (which are difficult even to notice, unless you look into the display boxes from a low angle).

Prior to my visit to the Art Institute, I’d felt a little bit uncertain about my ability to take it all in, having already been to a museum the day before. When I left, while I did have the vague apprehension of having feasted overmuch, I guess the thing to remember is that it was a treat.

It was dark by the time I left the museum, and when I got word that my friend might need an hour more to get to the dinner place, I quite happily took the opportunity to drift towards Millennium Park instead.


Millennium Park is home to the famous Bean, but there was much else to be seen, from the blocky light installations to the ice-skaters.



Finally, it was time for dinner at an Indonesian restaurant called Rickshaw Republic (I had my batik shirt on specially). The food was good, and a welcome taste of home. Also the place was BYOB, so I could share the prize I’d collected earlier in the day with my dining partner, Geneve.


The smell of the beer really did infuse the room (to the extent that the cooking allowed), and it went surprisingly well with the dessert (we got pulut hitam and chendol). The conversation was also great, and has provided the material for more thought and conversation since then.

This has been a long post, about a full and richly satisfying day.

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Chicago (Day 5): Lightness

24 December 2013 1 comment

Saturday, 30 November. Index.

I started the day at a diner on Logan Square with a big platter of chorizo and eggs, toast, and coffee for breakfast. Breakfast was served over the diner counter, where I could comfortably watch the other diners and the staff working. The shop itself was pretty interesting: there was a sepia photo of the staff from what looks like more than ten years ago. Of the four men in the photo, two were in the shop.

At Johnny's Grill

The next stop was the Intelligentsia shop nearby, where I purchased new beans, which would be my light cargo for the day. caffeinated, and feeling more optimistic than I had been the day before (before shopping).

On the day before, I’d formed the intention to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art because I felt like I wanted something to lift the mood, so I took the CTA in that general direction and took a bus in the area. The route of the bus that I eventually ended up taking included a loop around Navy Pier, and I decided I’d stop there for a bit before catching the next one. It was actually really nice out.

Navy Pier

After that brief intermission it was on to the museum.

The night before, I had had to explain the reasoning behind the Contemporary Art thing to some of the guys in the apartment. One of them said that he found contemporary art quite stress-inducing, mentioning something to do with the high abstraction and seriousness, but the way I saw the seriousness was quite different, in that I felt like the best way to deal with the ideas was without too much seriousness. I don’t think that contemporary art is necessarily trivial, and I don’t think the art fails to be thematically serious, but at the same time I find that seriousness, when made a principle, can get in the way of the art.


I actually found myself enjoying the museum a lot more than even I’d hoped, helped by the general inclination towards levity, which made the strange stuff all the more fun, and which nevertheless admitted the serious stuff in their moments. I think ‘mordant’ is a word that applies to the mode of a lot of the criticism I was inclined to pick up, and if nothing else I think that having had a lighter starting presumption made the experience better; in any case, I was in pretty high spirits when I left the museum.

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Chicago (Day 4): Black Friday

1 December 2013 2 comments

Friday, 29 November. Index.

If I felt kinda down on Thanksgiving, though, Friday was even worse, first, because I missed the raffle for Bourbon County (see Day 2), and second, because I had to go out shopping. I decided that as I was going to need some serious-ish clothes for the Ethics Bowl that Black Friday was as good a time as any to buy stuff. What I hate most about shopping is never feeling like the decision to buy stuff is ever a good one. I was pretty happy, though, with the shoes I got at an Aldo sale shop – 50% off the already discounted price. I got to see even more of downtown, but it was more crowded, and I was so drained by the retail experience that I didn’t feel like taking pictures at all.

The day, however, took a good turn when Eli (a friend from Carleton in the Ethics Bowl team) came by the apartment to pick me up for dinner. The aimed-for establishment was called ‘Buffalo Joe’s’, and it is legit. Buffalo Joe’s is up in Evanston, so I got to see some of the area around Northwestern U as well.

Buffalo Joe's

(Alex and Eli. Eating buffalo wings. The ones with the peppers are called ‘Suicides’, but they honestly weren’t that hot!)

Eli and Alex informed me that it was tradition for them to stop for bubble tea after Buffalo Joe’s. I anticipated not getting the bubble tea myself (because I’m not quite desperate enough for that particular taste of home to pay what I would see as a premium), but I was interested in checking out the menu of the place anyway. Seeing some seafood fried rice on the menu was impressive enough for comment, and the rest of the food looks pretty legit too.

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Chicago (Day 3): Thanksgiving Holiday

1 December 2013 1 comment

Saturday, 28 November. Index.

I stayed up pretty late the night before talking on Skype with friends and family, and I woke up late today – which was probably just as well, since many things were closed. In the afternoon, I took a walk around the neighborhood where my apartment is at, including a trip to the supermarket and the post-office. I bought about $10 worth of food that has lasted me four meals so far (supplemented a little bit by my giant bag of craisins), and will likely last me at least three more. (One of the best things about the apartment is having access to the spacious kitchen.)

Though seemingly nothing was open and though I was starting to be in rather low spirits, I decided that I should head out. My vague intention was to see the buildings on the cover of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I found that the said buildings were named Marina City, and it’s right on the river in the downtown district. Rich people have boats parked under the buildings on the river. Interestingly enough, though, the building was constructed to prevent urban flight (something I learned at a museum today – more on this later) by providing affordable housing in the downtown area – although I imagine that over the years the ideal would have been compromised by buyouts or other things. Nevertheless, it’s still one of the handsomest buildings in the area.

Marina City

As you can see from the picture, I arrived shortly before sunset, and that, together with the fact that the city streets were emptier than usual because of the thanksgiving holiday, turned out to be a good time to see the city.

Downtown 1

(View from the Chicago Riverwalk.)

Downtown 2

(Outside the Oriental Theater.)

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Chicago (Day 2): Pilgrimages

1 December 2013 2 comments

Wednesday, 27 November. Index.

Such was my disorientation that I woke up thinking this was Friday, and made the trip to the liquor store for the Black Friday release of this year’s Bourbon County Brand Stout in vain. Thankfully, it wasn’t far out.

Leo and I then headed to Wrigley Field to take a look, but there wasn’t really very much to see. Instead, we got back on the CTA and took the train right up to Linden. the night before we’d talked about seeing the Baha’i House of Worship – this was a recommendation from my companions in Chrissie’s car.

It was quite cold that morning, and we were right by the lake. It was also quite windy, and we spent quite a lot of our time outside in the temple grounds. I’d hear that this was one of only seven Baha’i Houses of Worship in the world, probably from one of the people who recommended the visit (my memory fails me here). The building was beautiful – much of the main structure’s exterior was covered with ornately designed panels of cast concrete. The concrete was of a specially developed variety, which involved blending Portland cement with quartz aggregate (both clear and white types) to give the structure its distinctive white color.

Baha'i Temple

After the visit to the Baha’i House of Worship, we embarked on what was (at least for me) another kind of pilgrimage, to the original branch of Intelligentsia Coffee on Broadway Avenue. This was preceded by a hearty lunch at the Chipotle nearby – my intention had been to eat my way out of the morning’s cold. The coffee story is in the next paragraph, but be warned: the paragraph is earnestly hipster. Cringe.

Many years ago, I had a cup of amazing Kenyan coffee at a Starbucks on River Valley Road – and while the name ‘Starbucks’ might be less than coffee-snob-worthy at the moment, to this day I believe that the coffee at that branch was actually better. Part of my belief is based on having gotten to know the supervisor of that branch, whom I met in later years at other places with good coffee (when I left for Carleton he was with another coffee joint in Singapore). One of the experiences I had at Valley Point was watching a video he showed me about the Chemex, after I asked about possible equipment for brewing coffee. (At the time, the Chemex wasn’t locally available, so I eventually got my faithful Aeropress.) While searching through a few videos, I remember him glancing through one that he eventually dismissed (he ‘didn’t like the pour’), but he approved of the second one. This was the Intelligentsia demo of the Chemex. I was in the army when my coffee mentor-of-sorts moved on from Starbucks to an indie coffee joint, and when I bumped into him again in the summer of 2012 at his new place (I was on the way back from a recce for FOP at East Coast Park), he mentioned how it was natural that I’d go from drinking brewed coffee at Valley Point from way back when to visiting that indie coffee joint. So, perhaps you can see how Intelligentsia on Broadway was a point of pilgrimage. Leo mentioned that I looked like I was in heaven the whole time – a heaven of languages for him, and a heaven of coffee for me.


After coffee, it was time for me to move my stuff from the hostel to the apartment where I’ve been staying (Airbnb), so Leo and I parted ways for a while. While settling in to my new place, though, I got a message from Facebook from Yancheng, who had a heads-up about a beer event in the city – a craft beer retailer had gotten an preview sample of this year’s Bourbon County stouts (what I woke up for earlier in the day), and the bottles were going to be that day’s daily tasting. This was the impetus for my third pilgrimage of the day, to the Beer Temple on Elston Avenue. Chris, the proprietor of said establishment, releases some great videos, some of which Yancheng had sent my way before. This story has a happy ending – I did manage to sample all of this year’s releases (I love the coffee stout!), and I even got a photo with Chris:


I am still waiting to obtain some of that amazing coffee stout. I will essay again in the morning.

Chicago (Day 1): Arrival

1 December 2013 1 comment

Tuesday, 26 November. Index.

First there was an 8-hour car-ride – major props to Chrissie, who was driving; I was lucky and slept 3 hours, and happily DJ-ed another two-or-so hours.

Next, I checked in, and sorted out my phone issues with AT&T. The hostel was really nice, way beyond expectations, and I had a good time meeting people in the common area. In fact, my dinner recommendation for the first night (and first foray out of the hostel) came from a fellow traveler from Kaohsiung. We walked out for deep-dish from Lou Malnati’s, and visited a kinda hipster bookstore while waiting for food. I struggled to explain the meaning of ‘hipster’ in Chinese, but after I geeked out over a few books (including a particular instance of why one book was underrated compared to another one by the same author) he said he thought he understood. I found that Leo was really into languages – he seems to be fluent in Spanish, he knows Japanese, and seems to know some German, in addition to English and Chinese – and I was glad when we found the section with language books.


It was back to the hostel for dinner (my first meal of the day, because I woke up late, not having actually slept) after the food was ready – Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza, with some Full Sail winter ale that I had on me from Northfield. I met even more people in the common room while having dinner, including Sangho, who was making delicious peanut pancakes for his Kaplan language class:


And that was all for the day.

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