Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Chicago Blog, Vol. 2

Just got back from pondering eternity atop the John Handcock building. Eleven dollars gets an adult the opportunity to tour the 94th floor skydeck with the option of spending even more money for a superimposed photo of yourself with a Windy City skyline backdrop.

I didn't bite on the offer. I own PhotoShop.

But catching up, yesterday after making a run to the South Side, my dad and I returned to the Loop and made a triumphant return (for me, for my dad it was a triumphant arrival) to Giordano's pizza. Four slices of a mere small stuffed crust pizza later (featuring pepperoni, sausage, and "fresh tomatoes") we were quite defeated; a fine pizza got the better of these supposedly manly travelers, just as it has to many other such fine men over the years. Bottom line: it was worth the wait.

Much of the afternoon was spent wandering about the greater downtown area, not necessarily with any purpose in mind, but mainly to take in our surroundings and see what was around. The time we didn't spend wandering around we spent sleeping.

After we'd logged sufficient sleep and wander time, we once again ventured out with the intention of getting dinner. Regrettably, the Giordano's leftovers were unsuitable, as most hotel rooms in Chicago (even the 172 dollar-a-night ones) don't have a refrigerator. Our first option was the House of Blues, but we were discouraged by the long line of patrons outside trying to get in to the L.L. Cool J. concert. One would be amazed to learn of just how many times in life I have seen my plans foiled by L. L. Cool J. Ladies truly love cool James. Down the street was Harry Carray's restaurant, but since we weren't terribly hungry, and instead looking more for a "tide-over" meal, the notion of shelling out $25 a person for what I'm sure would have been top-notch food was out of the question. So we forged on, thinking momentarily on the Hard Rock Cafe option, wishing we knew where Ed Debevick's was, then finally landing on a Thai food restaurant on Clark street. It was fine. It was cheap, it was quick, and it did the job. Won't be erasing any memories of the Thai Siam, but hey, why would I want to?

With two meals under our belts, we pressed on to one of the only planned events I had in mind for the trip: another triumphant return, this time to the Blue Chicago. Yes, while my compatriots in Utah were busy celebrating Pioneer Day and all of the dedication and vigor it holds, I was back in the state the fled, hanging out in a blues bar. Cover charge $8, one-drink minimum (and no refills on $2.50 soft drinks, apparently).

Before I discuss the show itself, let me mention one of the phenomenon's--other than toll roads--I have reacquainted myself with on this trip: tipping. In Utah I was a generous tipper, and it was easy to do so, since the only time you had to tip was when you went out to eat. However, here in the city we have bag check guys to tip, valet guys to tip, club waitresses to tip, I even considered tipping the rent-a-car shuttle guy for a second. If I ever obtain the personal entourage I know I deserve, the guy that walks next to my "theme music" guy will be my official "tipping guru" guy, a key component during all trips to cities of over 500,000 people.

Back to the Blue Chicago...

The evening's attraction was the same band I had seen seven years ago, Big Time Sarah and the BTS Express. Anyone that has heard this story, or read it here, will remember this as the occasion where I proudly sang with the blues band. Well, this time the band sounded even better, mostly due to the presence of one Ricky Nelson, drummer extraordinaire. Now, Ricky was a far cry from the Ricky Nelson most people know, and an even farther cry from the band his twin sons formed as the butt-rock era was circling the porcelain throne. No, this Ricky Nelson was a blaze of energy, the kind of guy that simultaneously reminds me how little I know about drumming and inspires me to learn all of the rest of it. The guitarists--they had two alternating leads--were fantastic, and the bassist was the traditional unassuming guy in the back corner. Sarah herself looked great, aside from the ankles that seemed to be bothering her, mostly because she had probably dropped about 100 lbs. She still earned her nickname, though: Big Time Sarah is still Big Time.