Monday, January 21, 2008

Quick Chicago Report, then let's get serious next time

I've been 'tweeting' over at twitter. Twitter's contribution to society is that posts are limited to 140 chars. Unfortunately, some see this as an invitation to post every 10 minutes. 'Leave a trail of genius', as the writing pad at the Marriott O'Hare said. It was perhaps one of the least intellectually stimulating places I have EVER been, but business folks do like the ego stroking.

Anyhow, I was not in Chicago proper, but Rosemont, a secretive suburb famous for the TV nation episode where Michael Moore set up a gate outside a gated neighborhood, so the gated neighborhood dwellers needed his approval to enter the outside world. I spent all my Rosemont time in the hotel or the neighboring office building, HQ of 'a major business intelligence company's Education Division. We were being trained on their product, and learned as much from the other students (m.b.i.c. horror stories) as we did from the instructor, who was a nice guy, even if his ringtone sounded like the theme from 'My Little Pony' (the melody did, I mean - it was some new-agey synthy instrumentation).

We ventured outside Rosemont to go to 'Paradise Pup', a hot-dog/hamburger place featuring '3-layer fries (cheese, spices, and bacon) for lunch one day, to take a $35 each way cab ride for Indian food in Schaumburg another day, and made 2 trips into the city.

One trip involved riding the el's 'Blue Line' to the Damen stop where I met some Bloomington ex-patriates and restaurant entrepreneur friends for a night of book-shopping at Quimby's, falafel at a place whose name I forget now, record shopping at Reckless Records, and cocktails at The Violet Hour. This last stop was research for the soon-to-be-open restaurant, which is going to feature cocktails. It has a speak-easy kind of hidden door, it is not an obvious door but rather a panel in the wall that you open, a good atmosphere inside (dark but you can see, music (Spoon's latest album that night) but you can talk, and amiable bartenders with DJ voices). I had the Winter Sazerac and Egg Nogg, yes Egg Nogg, and they were both very good. Other drinks consumed included the Winter Sidecar, the Chitown Flip (both also involving eggs), and some others whose names I can't remember. No Appletinis!

Reckless Records made me want to buy a functioning turntable, as they had an extensive record collection and I had the feeling I'd find things on vinyl there I would never find on CD. I still made out OK, scoring a Japanese import of the hard-to-find Gilberto Gil 1969 album that got him kicked out of Brazil by the military dictatorship (I have listened to it several times the past week), a Ron Carter (Miles Davis, plus he was on A Tribe Called Quest's 'Low End Theory') solo CD, and the 'Tropicalia' album that featured Os Mutantes, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Tom Ze, and people I'm forgetting.

At Quimby's, I found some early installments of Anders Nilsen's 'Big Questions' series that I've been unable to find at the otherwise great Boxcar Books in Bloomington. This comic series involves a community of finches dealing first with an unexploded bomb, which some think has religious significance, a crashed jet fighter, which all think is a large dead bird, and a developmentally disabled boy wandering about aimlessly after his caretaker grandmother suddenly dies. Lots of laffs.

So all that went well, and the trip on the Blue Line was uneventful.

The other trip into Chicago involved taking the blue and then red line to China Town. We had been told by other Chicagoites to check out Penang there. The transfer to the red line was interesting. We had been warned to avoid the red and green lines, but I didn't listen. For the trip out, it was OK although very crowded and we were the token Indian guy and white guy in the crowd.

Penang was OK but not phenomenal. I had some sort of Malaysian spicy noodles involving shrimp, squid and crab, which I liked, and sashimi, which I also liked. My colleague had insufficiently hot Chili Chicken and stir fried rice. The next stop was the 'Signature Lounge' at the top of the John Hancock building, which we achieved via cab. A 30-second elevator ride got us there, where we enjoyed a spectacular view and drinks that cost more ($12) and were less impressive than the ones at the Violet Hour. However, there was the amazing view, which was essentially what we were paying for. Another cab ride got us back to the red line, now populated by loud individuals reminding me of Tyrone Biggums from the Chapelle Show, and some scary white girl with a completely blank expression running around asking people could she ask them a question. I kind of fumbled with words, eventually coming up with 'I don't know', and she said 'I guess that's no', and hustled somebody else for a couple bucks.

We rode back with I think a crack head couple that whooped it up for the 45 minutes or so the ride took. It was a different experience, but it's good to broaden your perspective a bit. Besides, now I can say that the TSA and the airline industry have made air travel a more annoying pain in the ass than riding the train with crackheads with some authority, because I've had the opportunity to compare; I'm not just exaggerating and making stuff up. Speaking of which, I am very tempted to wear a Speedo the next time I fly, and strip down to that at security just to be a smartass, but it will have to be for a non-work related trip. I will probably be detained for several hours and put on a no-fly list. If not the Speedo, I'll wear the unbearably corny Corona boxers.

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