Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I saw a man, he danced with his wife

"Looks like a storm coming in," remarked Mr. Hall. Sitting in the lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building, they had a clear view of the coming inclement weather. "Pass some more of that beer cheese and pretzel bread."
After a day of trudging about the museum, it felt good to relax and watch the city put on its lights and prepare for evening. The storm blew in, washed out the view for awhile and then passed, leaving the pavements freshly scrubbed and twinkling in the streetlights. "Feel like walking around a bit downtown?" he asked.
A long time ago, Mrs. Hall had worked at Water Tower Place, and it was nice to see her old haunts again. Oak Street still favored the designer boutiques and the piano bars, and sidewalk bistros around Rush St. still looked as inviting as ever. One of the great things about big cities is that no matter what time of day you find yourself on the streets, there is always something going on and businesses open. Bookstores called longingly to Mrs. H. and travel agencies beckoned. A light mist made everything appear dreamlike.
"Harry's Uptown Bar and Grill used to be here," remembered Mrs. Hall; "and Sweetwater was here and this used to be Elliot's Nest- I remember because I met Nick Nickolas, famous for Nick's Fishmarket, there one night." "That's all well and good, but we're here now, and I think this looks like a good place." said Mr. Hall authoritatively, and they slid into Trader Vic's.
Maybe it was the giddy feeling of being in one of her favorite towns, maybe it was the nostalgia for another time, maybe it was the sensation that their vacation was winding to a close; whatever the reason, Mrs. Hall decided to be a little more carefree in her choice of beverage than usual and gayly allowed the bartender to "surprize her." The bartender returned with a glass of something, hoisting what looked like a lot of fruit. Mr. Hall took a more commanding stance and immediately ordered some food. The tiny sirloin cutlets on the appetizer menu looked appealing, but when they came accompanied with a sterno volcano and some skewers, Mrs. Hall really sat up and took notice. "Flames, alcohol and lots of pointy objects in the hands of the inebriated; well, I mean, really- what spells FUN more than that?" she asked. Finishing their fiery repast, the Halls wound their way slowly back down Michigan Avenue and back to the hotel to call it a night.

The sun seemed to shining more brightly than usual the next morning. In fact, to Mrs. Hall it seemed to be glaring right in at her personally. "Get up- you look like you could use a good breakfast." Even if their room wasn't up on the 38th floor, she would still have been a little dizzy. "I think I got a bad strawberry in that drink last night," mumbled Mrs. Hall, rubbing her head. "All the more reason for some good grub," he said. A short walk later and they were happily ensconced at that North Shore favorite, the Original Pancake House. While the giant German Apple Pancake looked wonderful, Mrs. H. was sure she couldn't manage it herself, and Mr. Hall had already ordered the gutbuster special for himself. "I'll take the Dutch Baby, with ligonberries, instead." Photographic evidence would have shown what a splendid breakfast it was, if the photographer had been a little faster.
Feeling more like the world was on their side, they decided to take in a bit of the city. The elevated dropped them off in the lower loop, where they gazed around at some of the more interesting art pieces at town, and some of them even gazed back. "Wait, wait- there is one piece I just have to see!" exclaimed Mrs. Hall. She ran into a nearby drugstore and grabbed a postcard bearing the image of the attraction. "This is it- and it's just around the corner; let's go!" Racing down Michigan Ave. to Millienium Park, they took the steps two at a time and faced the raised platform. There, reflecting the beauty of the city and the sky, was The Bean. Serene and shiny, its curvy underside seemed to just invite company. Chicago has a long and playful connection with its art and the city dwellers here have come to expect that any piece laid down in the parameters of the urban art scape should be walked on/in, handled and generally explored. This is the elemental joy of the other plaza attraction: the Crown Fountain. Mrs. Hall sat watching the little children scamper in the water at its base until she could stand it no longer; pulling off her shoes, she stood gingerly on the edge of the reflecting pool, until a bevy of munchkins raced by and soaked her thoroughly.
Their time was running short then; after popping in a few of their favorite spots, the lobby of the Palmer House and the old Berghoff, they headed off to pick up their bags and check in at the Union Station Amtrak lounge for first class passengers. "This is the only way to travel," sighed Mr. Hall, as he waited for his complimentary wine and cheese in the dining car. "I'm going to sleep tonight." And as the train pulled out later that night and sped off east with its happy passengers tucked away in their cozy sleepers, Mrs Hall was pleased to see Mr. Hall's prediction come true.

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