Chicago – Days 3 and 4

Our last full day in Chicago found us scrambling to get in as much as possible; the city is truly packed with things to do and 3 night were not enough to take it all in. The weather for the duration of our trip has been outstanding – I could not have asked for better bluer days and with those clearskies in mind, my top priority on Friday was to find my way on the water. I had read a lot about the famous Chicago river boat tours and was eager to be a tourist for one of these educational jaunts down the river…

Before we could get to the river, Allison and I had to visit the Chicago Center of Tourism right on Chicago & Michigan Streets. As I mentioned on my Day 2 summary, they have a booth that sells half priced tickets, we snagged seats for the High Fidelity play at 8 PM and we wanted to see Chicago comedy at Second City; thankfully they had tickets to “Stud Turkel’s Not Working” at 11 PM. Now that we had plans for the evening, we ventured down Michigan towards the river tours.

When we arrived, most of the tours were sold out. The “most famous boat tour” – the Architecture tour – was sold out until Saturday, but there was another company running a similar tour for $5 bucks less (and 30 minutes longer). We went for it not expecting great things, but it turned out the extra 30 minutes were for a boat ride on Lake Michigan itself – it was a PERFECT day for a boat ride and we had seats right in the front. The tour was educational – ORDERED CHAOS FACT: Chicago has wider “sofa shaped” buildings instead of the “wedding cake” (famous in New York) because there was more land available. The reason they do the cut outs was because when the buildings were put up, not every section had electricity so they needed more windows to let the light in.

After a great tour we caught a cab (the first time we used one the whole trip) to the Museum of Science and Industry. I had been fascinated with this building since reading Erik Larson’s “Devil in the White City”. The Museum was built as the centerpiece of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and it has withstood the Chicago winters to become a premier attraction in the city. The complex is massive – big enough to easily contain an entire train, a Nazi U-Boat, a full sized Boeing 747 and several un-used space vehicles. For Philadelphians , the Museum feels like a much bigger version of the Franklin institute. We arrived at 3:00 and were informed after waiting in line for 20 minutes that the museum was closing at 4:00 PM. We still paid full price and ran around like lunatics. This is a great place to take a kid, not so much for adults (but there were several attractions closed for renovations or due to it being late in the day). I wouldn’t mind giving the Museum of Science another go – but I will wait until I have kids who can really appreciate it.

Coming out of the museum, some drama occurred: I wanted to check out the grounds since it was on the site of the former World’s Fair. After walking around and taking pictures, we decided to skip the bus and take a taxi back and we hopped into the nearest one. As we were leaving, another taxi blocked our path. It seems that the taxi drivers expect customers to walk to the front of the line (which is a city block, maybe two) and take the taxi in the front. At first I was going to comply not wanting to break a social norm, but as another taxi driver demand my wife get out of taxi, I started to tell the other driver blocking our way to fuck off. This empowered our driver to hop the curb and get around them. Our taxi driver was a nice guy and we spent the rest of the trip discussed the Chicago climate.

Back at the hotel, I researched places to eat near second city and decided on Adobe Grill which was right next door to the second city theaters. A quick cab ride (it was a $6.00 fare) over to Wells Street and we were quickly seated. Before I knew it, our server was presenting us with delicious margaritas and had a girl come out and make guacamole right at our table – excellent. I took the waiter’s suggestion had a sampler of their lamb and marinated beef for dinner. The meat was cooked perfectly and the portions were just the right size. Allison and I ended the meal with a tres leches desert which was a nice way to cleanse the palate.

We went next door and waited for High Fidelity to open. While we were waiting, we heard and saw a man on his cell phone talking about the play’s finances (or lack there of). We saw the actors coming into the theater (you could just tell they were actors) and we both were amazed how late they were coming in. 20 minutes before the show was supposed to start and they open the doors and a crowd finally shows up (there were probably 30 people in total). My thoughts on the play? Here is my review:

*** High Fidelity: The Musical – Route 66 Production Company ***

Official Web Site: High Fidelity – The Musical: Chicago

When I purchased tickets for the show, I didn’t realize it was a musical; I thought it was a play – I hate musicals. The subject matter is near and dear to my heart, but I was getting bad feelings when I overheard the lead’s phone conversation about bouncing checks. Regardless, I cleared my head and went into the show with an open mind.

What I liked:
1. They managed to change the plot to make most of the story occur in the music shop. This worked out well and the minor differences were enough to make it feel different.
2. The two actors playing Dick and Barry (the Jack Black role) were excellent. The guy playing Barry was doing an impression of Jack Black but it was a good one and the guy who played Dick was a good singer and guitar player.
3. The stage set up – it worked out well for a small theater
4. The gentlemen playing Ian made me laugh, but my wife hated him – he seemed like he was having a lot of fun.

What I didn’t like:
1. The lead actor – every time he repeated a Cusack line from the movie it made you realize how much of a poor man’s John Cusack he was. In all honestly, this guy had all of the charm of a date rapist. The dude playing Dick would have been much better in the lead.
2. The songs – some were okay, most were not. A particular gripe – the song “Laura”
3. Most of the women in the play were not so good – the one exception was the girl playing Allison Ashmore/Ana Moss (duel role) – she had a good voice and seemed to be more natural.
4. The length: The play was longer than the movie – about 2 hours.

When the show was over, I was glad to get the fuck out of there. But my escape wasn’t very far because our next show was just a floor below…

*** Second City Players: Stud Turkel’s Not Working ***

I knew nothing about the show, the people in it, or who Stud Turkel was before seeing the performance and that was just fine. Stud Turkel was a real person – he was a Chicago humorist and radio star that passed away a few years ago; the show had nothing to do with him, they just named it after one of his books because the theme of the show was about the Chicago lifestyle, but it easily could have fit into any urban setting (not much was lost in translation to this tourist).

The show was a mix of sketches and improve with the audience and it was hilarious. The cast was excellent as they made funny and acute commentary on local and national affairs. I didn’t recognize any of the staff, but I wouldn’t be shocked if I saw any of these actors onSNL in a year or two. I could go into greater details, but I wouldn’t want to give the jokes or the improve surprises away should you happen to be in Chicago and catch the show. Just take my word for it, it is worth going to see.

*** End Reviews ***

By the time the shows were done, it was 1 AM and Allison and I had to be at the airport by 8 AM to catch our flights home. So back to the hotel for packing and a few hours sleep.

When the morning came, we grabbed our stuff, checked out of the Avenue Hotel, walked a few blocks to Chicago & State to catch the red line. We got off a Roosevelt to catch the orange line back to mid-way. It took 40 minutes but I don’t think a cab would have been much faster.

The luggage check-in lines were huge, but thankfully they moved quickly. We managed to get through check-in and security in about an hour and got to the gate with an hour to spare. I watched Drillbit Taylor as we waited for the plane and one of the little boys in the movie reminded me of my godfather’s son Antonio, but that has been happening a lot lately. The flight was without incident and I am now home to finish this post.

I am going to summarize my thoughts on Chicago tomorrow, but I will end this post by saying Chicago is one hell of a town and I can’t wait to go back. Thanks for reading, here are the last of the pictures I took (most are from the boat tour).

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