Our adventure is a long one. We were in Chicago from early Thursday morning until Sunday afternoon. It is a tale filled with harrowing events, tragic sagas and humourous comedies. You will either be tickled pink or bored out of your skull. I had an excellent time and I hope you find the account of my adventure as wacky as I did.
On Thursday, I set out from my house at 7 o’clock in the morning for Ceciley’s. The plan was to pick her up and park at the Pentagon where I have a pass to park. We would then catch the Metro and head out to Regan National for our flight.
The Flight to Chicago
Ceciley does not enjoy flying. She said she should be either drunk or sedated before she flew anywhere, neither of which happened so she just had to brave the thrills and chills of flying stone-cold sober. The flight was uneventful except for the fact that originally we were not sitting together. She was in the 11th row while I was in the 14th. I made up some cockamamie story about how she was ill and I was her personal assistant and I had to be with her in case she became violently sick all over the plane. The gate attendant immediately switched our seats after claiming there were no two seats together. We wound up in the very last row, you know, the seats that do not recline. The hour and a half flight was endured sitting perfectly straight up.
The TSA Lesbian Conversation
After claiming our luggage, Ceciley and I took co-worker Angela’s advice and took the “L” train into the city instead of a cab. O’Hare airport was about an hour away by train, so that would have amounted to like a $50 cab ride. I would rather spend money on crap I don’t need than a cab ride. The train ride was long and slow. It seemed to stop at every train stop in America. I became nervous when the train stopped at such locations as “California,” “Washington,” and “Austin.” These were street names in reality, but the ride was so long that I figured that we were really stopping at the state of California or the city of Austin, way down in Texas.
The “L” train is Chicago’s preferred method of public transportation. I was seated next to two lesbian TSA screeners. It’s nice to know that all the problems at BWI are not germane to only that airport, but actually the entire TSA workforce across the country. Lesbian One was having serious problems with someone at work. She sounded perfectly dramatic to me, but I noticed that TSA people everywhere look like TSA people everywhere else. I could have pointed out a TSA screener in Chicago that looked like Miss Pat from D Pier morning shift or a screener that reminded me of Brian Oelerht, the guy whose nut just randomly disappeared into his body and he had to be relieved from the mag.
Anyway, so Lesbian One was talking about how people try her at work and they don’t really know her situation. After careful analysis of her conversation, I discovered that she was trying to say she had PTSD and that when people mess with her it could trigger an “episode” where she changes from normal person to “animal” mode. She actually said this, “I call it survival instinct. I go into animal mode and there’s no telling what could happen.” Lesbian Two had an expression like, “What the fuck ever,” but was politely listening. Lesbian One then went into a story about how someone named Chris poked her in the back for funsies and she felt threatened so she immediately felt the “change” coming on. She then said that sometimes she can’t control it and only has about two or three seconds to tell someone she is about to go into animal mode. After she went off on this Chris, she then demanded an apology from him, his supervisor and his manager. Instead, she got a brief talking to from the manager and she said that wasn’t good enough. She was going to file a law suit.
Needless to say, it was a nice way of passing the time on the train.
Arriving at the hotel was like arriving in heaven. The hotel is situated on the lake. I’m going to assume that it’s Lake Michigan. I’m not really sure and I didn’t inquire. The lady at the front desk, Vanessa was really nice to us. After discovering that it was my birthday and I am in the military, she sent up a complimentary fruit platter with a card saying, “Thank you for your service and happy birthday.” I was really touched by that.
The room was the bomb. Completely modern and sophisticated. Dark panelled walls instead of gay flowery prints. The bedspreads were deep purple, the carpet was grey. The room was accented with bamboo plants and small purple orchids. We were on the 27th floor with a view of the city that was rather spectacular. All rooms were equipped with flat screen plasmas and an ipod desk and sound station for your ipod. I thought that was the best feature of all because we were in our room rocking the whole time. There was a mini bar but we left that alone since a bag of M&M’s was $2. The water was $8, but it was Voss water so….
The hotel also boasted a posh restaurant and bar. Vanessa told us that on Fridays and Saturdays a DJ comes to play light techno lounge music and that the place is usually packed with social drinkers before they head out to the clubs. There was also an exclusive gift shop that carried Kenneth Cole, Marc Jacobs and other high end retail items. The gym was to die for. That shit was better than my gym at home. State-of-the-art equipment and a big pool that was apparently heated. The business centre featured Macs and there was a lounge on the 33rd floor that overlooked the city.
The Acura Experience
After we dropped all of our shit, we headed downstairs so that we could immediately begin shopping. We stopped by the concierge to ask how we could get to Bucktown and Wicker Park. We were going to take a cab until we found out that the hotel offered Acura MDXs and a personal driver for its guests. Imagine my shock and awe. You have to book your reservations, of course, and they only run during certain hours but instead of getting in some scummy cab, we rode around the city in an Acura MDX driven by Rick. The ride was quite nice. They do try to sell you the car, of course. The whole ride Rick is telling us about the features of the car. We pretended like we were seriously interested, but it was quite fabulous to be taken around town in an Acura. I felt very diva.
Shopping in Wick Park/Bucktown and the Chicago Reception
This area of town is kind of like the bohemian area. It’s full of weird little shops and boutiques, consignment and thrift stores, and just random stuff I am interested in. It’s not at all trendy, but more off the beaten path. Becky suggested it to me, and Ceciley found all these random stores to go in. We only stayed on one street because we didn’t want to get lost. We spent a lot of time toiling in the various stores looking for bargains. When you shop consignment, you really have to look at each item because most of the time there is only one of each thing you see. If you catch a deal, you have to jump on it because it might not be there when you get back. I picked up a lot of cute items that I know I wouldn’t be able to find at home.
But I wanted to talk about how we were received. It was very mixed. Although Ceciley and I are black on the outside, we are the type of black girls that are usually labelled “white.” We get a lot of remarks from other black people about how we talk and dress and the kind of things we are into. It’s quite ridiculous but my focus, right now, is not how we are received by other black people, but how we are received by whites. Most of the time, I get along well with white people since most view me to be just like them. In Chicago, it seemed to be a mix reaction.
Some stores we went into, we were treated like we were about to rob the place. One store, this guy followed us around watching everything we touched just to make sure we put it back. At another store I was looking at some items that were locked in a case. One of the workers stood over me like I was about to commit a smash and grab. I could have sworn his co-worker said, “Watch her.” Maybe I was paranoid, but I kept getting that feeling that they don’t get too many black people in that part of the city. But then we went into other stores and everyone was really friendly, talking to us and offering suggestions of places to see, or whatever. It was kind of weird. Just by looking at us, we don’t really look like the type to commit criminal activities.
And I know this is going to sound terrible, but it’s how I feel and I have to be honest: I don’t like being compared to other black people sometimes because I know I am nothing like it. So I get annoyed when someone looks at me like I’m some poorly educated ghetto chick from the projects. There is nothing wrong with that, but that is not me. My parents didn’t work hard for us just so we could be confused with hood life. Anyway, this is not an article on black relations. It’s an account of my adventure, and I just wanted to note that in some places it didn’t seem like black people were welcome, but then again, in other places, for instance, right next door, being black didn’t seem to be a problem.
Gino’s East Pizza
After shopping, we went back out to get dinner before the tattoos. We had decided that we would try real Chicago deep dish pizza. We got a lot of suggestions on where to go but we decided on Gino’s because it was in walking distance. The restaurant itself was designed to look like some trashy greasy spoon but in all actuality it really wasn’t. A Chicago deep dish takes about 45 minutes to bake, and when it arrived it was worth the wait. It was very good, but I have to say I do prefer a New York slice. With a New York slide you can walk around and shop, fold it up, eat it and go. A Chicago deep dish has to be eaten at the table or you’re going to get crap everywhere. One slice was enough. I ate that one and then just picked the toppings off the second one. Way too much going on.
The First Tattoo
Becky suggested that we get our tattoos from Tattoo Factory, and I must really thank her for her suggestion. I took my Japanese Kanji drawing and gave it to Jerry Thrash who tattooed me. He was a real cool guy, a bit strange, but very cool nonetheless. It took about 8 minutes to do my tat. While I was getting my tattoo, Ceciley got her piercing. She got a piercing called a conch. It’s that deep spot inside the ear. It’s very cute. It’s nice and small. She said it didn’t hurt, but that shit does look painful.
This particular tattoo parlour is a very busy one. They stay open real late, and there were a ton of people in there getting tats and piercing. They have walls and walls of pre-designed tats that they are willing to work for you to make into your dream montage. We liked it so much that we decided to go back two days later. More on that in Saturday’s account.
The Bitter Chill of Winter
I couldn’t close this out without remarking how goddamn cold it was. Before we left, I monitored the weather in Chicago carefully just to make sure I had appropriate clothes. The temperatures were supposed to be in the mid-60s. Mid-60’s to me is very pleasant, light sweater or light jacket. In all actuality, it reached the mid-60s for about 12 seconds and the rest of the day was bitter and cold. We were totally unprepared for the serious wind. Yeah, I know it’s the windy city but I guess I didn’t think about how we were right on the water. When that wind blew it was like some evil cutting through to your soul. I had no gloves, no proper coat, nothing to combat the raw chill. When we tried to buy gloves there weren’t any to be found. We were laughed at because everyone was like, “Winter is over!” Yeah right, it felt like a blizzard was about to happen. It is apparent to me that the sun doesn’t usually make an appearance in Chicago. I saw it for about 15 minutes in the morning and then that was about it.
By the time we got back to the hotel that night I was frozen stiff but that only made my luxury bed feel all the more extravagant. Oh my god, that bed felt so good. Stacks and stacks of pillows, 800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and this fluffy ass bedspread. When I laid my head down that night, I was immediately in a deep coma.