Let's Go To Chicago!
« I fell in love again
All things go, all things go
Drove to Chicago
All things know, all things know »
We drove up to Chicago from Pittsburgh listening (and singing along, too) to these lyrics. One hour early, because, of course, in a country this big, you already have a time difference between New York and Illinois. It’s pretty convenient for inevitably late and light-headed people like us. Anyway, the Angulo family was waiting for us in a super cool area of Chicago, and they gave us the warmest welcome possible. It’s not that surprising: Jaime, Joan, and JJ are simply the most generous and positive people we’ve met. So with a Corona in one hand and our bags in the other, we crashed in their home for four nights.
We had been warned: Chicago is an amazing city, and it has little to envy to New York. One of the main reasons is its architecture; every skyscraper downtown has a story of its own. As soon as the sun was out, we did the whole touristic tour. The old public library was pretty impressive, with its white marble and its Tiffany’s dome intended to support Chicago’s cultural power. Just a stone throw away is The Bean. A very weird, supposedly modern sculpture that’s really just a giant selfie-stick magnet inside the Millenium Park. A bit further away on Michigan Avenue, there’s this building that has probably the most diversified set of bricks you could find: a stone from Injun Joe’s cave (I’m dedicating this to all the Tom Sawyer fans out there), another one comes from Jerusalem’s Western Wall, a third one from St Peter’s basilic… Later on, we came across the giant Abraham Lincoln, colorfully displayed next to the Johnson & Johnson founder’s grandson who (from what we heard) thought it would be a good idea to sculpt himself next to Abe. And in the same dimensions. That’s probably one of the most outrageous ego-trips we’ve ever heard of. Oh, speaking of ego, the Trump Tower oversees the Chicago river not far from there, and despite all of ours efforts, we could not prevent ourselves from enjoying the mesmerizing view it was part of. Driving by at night is pretty breathtaking. The tour ended in an unusual way: with our feet in the sand facing the Michigan Lake.
Chicago also happens to be one of Uncle Sam’s main blues cities. The industrial hustle and bustle going on in the early 20th century dragged in poor black communities from the South who hadn’t forgotten to pack blues and jazz in their bags. One of the main figures of the Chicago blues is Muddy Waters, who swapped his acoustic guitar with an electric one. That’s one of the main characteristics of the Chicago blues: electric Delta blues. And that’s something Art knows better than most of us. This good-hearted urban cowboy has been taking pictures of all the great musicians passing by Chicago for years. He goes on hopping from one music club to another, traveling around with his pro camera, on a quest for the picture that will best capture the thrill and the passion. It’s no coincidence if we met him at a live music bar. From that point on, we followed him on his special quest like two excited little dwarves following a dark-magic knight of some sort. And that night indeed was pretty magical. He brought us to the Kingston Mines, which is one of the best blues clubs in town. Among the music-playing wizards around, one struck us the most: Joanna O’Connor. She first made us a sort of funny impression. A big lady, of a certain age, wearing glasses and earrings was on stage with a guitar. She kinda looked like a soccer mom, you know. But then we started listening: incredible. She had everything, the technique, the charisma, and the bluesy, rocky passion in her veins. A rock n’ roll badass. This About Work project is all about tearing down workplace stereotypes, so we’re supposed to be immune to first impressions and misconceptions that turn out to be wrong. But that was big. And this odd rock goddess just simply put her guitar away once the show was over, she got in her car, turned on the lights, and that was it. Out. We decided it was time for us to head home, too. When we got to bed, our hearts were still pumping on O’Connor’s tunes.
Let me tell you a bit more about Chicago
- Chicago means 'wild onions' in Native language
- The remote control was invented there
- Its first official inhabitant was Baptiste Point du Sable, a Creole slave made free in 1780
Chicago is located between Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, so it became quite naturally an important commercial city (officially in 1833, after winning over the Natives), it even became the world’s grain trading capital with the Chicago Board of Trade, the very first commercial board of trade. But in 1871, while some were losing Alsace and Lorraine on the other side of the ocean, a great fire spread through the city which had mainly buildings made out of… wood.
Chicagoans moved on so quickly that they built the world’s very first skyscraper (alright it was only 10 floors but at that time it was really impressive) only 13 years later. What really changed the game were two groundbreaking innovations: elevators, and the architectural structure. They ‘hooked’ walls on the main structure made out of steel instead of bricks, meaning that the building would not collapse under its own weight. 16 years on, Chicagoans do something even bigger: they change the course of the river, to make it flow into the Mississippi rather than into the lake, to stop infecting the latter with lovely unhealthy bacteria. At that point in time, Chicago was very similar to other European cities, as tensions between labor and the bourgeoisie grew, involving anarchist terror attacks. Simply put, Chicago was a big, busy, industrial beehive just like in Europe, only it would develop jazz and blues like nowhere else.
You already know who the Chicago mascot is: that is, of course, Al Capone. Come on, he was only 21 when he operated millions of dollars of illegal trade of alcohol. You know, back in the Prohibition days, when bootleggers would distribute liquor to speakeasies and the poor would kill themselves drinking ‘canned heat’. You can still have a feel of it at the Green Mill, which is Al Capone’s old club exactly the way it used to be. Some remains can also be observed in local politics, as corruption seems to be still pretty common. Oh and another particularity that just won’t wear off: the wind. It’s no surprise if the city nickname is the ‘windy city’. As a matter of fact, some Chicago suburbs actually faced a tornado, with power outages and trees flying over their heads, while we were there. In July. Yep.
What we liked :
> The architecture !
> The old library: magnificent, rich, luminous, colorful, and light.
> Randolph Street, whoever that guy really was
> Musical exploration with Art
> The walking tacos (thanks again JJ!): you can eat nachos out of Freetos bags of chips. It’s simply beautiful. And really good. Loved it. Really.
> Mangoozers !
> That once-in-a-lifetime guacamole
> Politically disagreeing with Jaime
> Joan's positive energy
> JJ's sarcasm
> Jaime, Joan and JJ
Ce qui nous a saoulées :
> La pluie
> C'est tout.