Thursday, May 14, 2009

Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago

I needed a mini-vacation before the summer, and I needed to go somewhere other than Iowa. The trip to Seattle to see Sister Sarah fell through (but we'll reschedule). But then my excellent travel agent suggested we make a triumphal return to Chicago, and the rest is history.

This was my fourth trip to the Windy City. The first was with the family in the mid-Nineties. Then two weekend trips in college: one during spring break with old high school friends, where nine of us shared one hotel room; the other with Tonia, Ryan and Volesky to visit our friend Maria, who was serving at Amate House at the time.

For this visit, I flew into Midway, which Tonia rightly described as not much different than Omaha's Eppley. The plane was ahead of schedule (I am a new fan of Southwest, by the way) so I kicked it in the terminal for awhile until my car and drivers arrived. (You might be surprised how easy it is to pray evening prayer in a bustling airport.)

After attracting the glaring eye of the curbside TSA lady with several minutes of attempting to shove my bag into the dark recesses of the trunk, Tonia, Lacy and I were off to Union Station, where Ryan had already procured Andy. (The phone conversation leaving Midway would tell a different story, however. Tonia: I have the Naser. Andy: I have the Hoffy. Not sure why she called the Miller for confirmation.)

The rest of Friday night was an Ocho de Mayo fiesta at Ryan's apartment near Loyola's north campus.

Saturday morning got off to a rousing start with Lacy bitching out Our Gracious Host for his lacking kitchen facilities. But all was better when we got to the Hancock. Instead of paying $15 for access to the observation deck, we stopped at the lounge a few floors below for drinks and a view of the city. Did I mention it was at 11am? Hey, it was vacation.

Then it was off to lunch at Tempo Cafe. While waiting to be seated, Tonia played volunteer hostess by holding open the door for other patrons and expressing her hope that they had enjoyed their meal. Andy, once Tonia stopped sitting on him, did his part by wishing passers-by a Happy Easter.

No trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to the Art Institute, and it was there that we spent Saturday afternoon. We even met a friend on the bus ride there. She was a nice woman who couldn't help but laugh at us (a reaction we tend to have on people). She also took our picture--to turn into the authorities, no doubt.

We took in a Second City show that evening and then had dinner at a nearby pub, which disappointingly served only thin crust pizza. The calzones were good, however.

Sunday included a nice morning stroll to Holy Mass. Unfortunately, Ryan took ill in the middle of things, infected, I concluded, by Lacy who had been feeling under the weather since Friday. (I believe the CDC has categorized it as the L1S1 virus, colloquially known as the Sprung Flu.) So after Mass we all rested back at Ryan's, until it was time to return Miller to the bus stop.

Ryan didn't go with us, but he did give us a map and directions back to Union Station, and I was named navigator. The fact that I was in the bathroom while directions were given was apparently unimportant. But after driving around the Loop for a while and calling Ryan for clarifications, we found the bus stop and bid Miller a fond farewell.

I was dropped off there as well, and met up with Hannah for a few hours. It had been a long time since we'd seen each other, and in the intervening years, she, among many other things, has gotten her nose pierced. (You will remember the discussion we once had regarding nose piercing. It turns out she was right.)

Then after a nice walk up LaSalle Street, I rejoined everyone for Chicago deep dish pizza at Pizzera Uno. Tonia's Cousin Sarah was there and we discussed their family vacation to Estes this coming September.

While leaving the restaurant, the host said to Tonia, "You should get a job here." I can only assume that she must have volunteered as hostess while waiting for a table there, too, and her talent was noticed.

Monday morning we took Ryan to work before dropping me off at the airport. The most memorable part of the drive was his spicy Latin elk calls. I believe he will also be scheduling a fall trip to Estes to participate in the Elk Fest calling contest.

Now, as promised is a photo of us enjoying each other's company in Millennium Park:

Good times, good times.