Hat on Top, Coat Below


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September 19, 2006

The death of JournalCon opened up a slot in my fall travel schedule this year, a slot that was nicely filled by a gathering in Chicago this past weekend of some of the people from the Green Bay Mini Con. Since this was not a con, there was no official hotel, just a general target area. I chose the House of Blues Hotel for Mr. Karen and me. It should really be called the House of Many Colors Hotel. The red and gold textured velour walls in the elevator were just a tiny taste of what greeted us when we got into our room. The decorating said “Moroccan circus” to me, with lots of curlicueing patterns and bold stripes and color, color, color–multiple reds and blues and creams with splashes of lime and orange and yellow. (I was a bit disappointed that the same fabric was used for the valance and the curtain across the closet opening–why not take the opportunity to throw something else into the mix?) Add in several pieces of vaguely disturbing art and voila, a hotel room I won’t soon forget. We even lucked out and got a view of the river between the Marina towers corncobs.

I love our hostess Poppy for suggesting we all gather at Bin 36 (a restaurant on the ground floor of the HOB hotel) to kick off the con on Friday. They have a long list of wines by the glass, which meant I had no trouble finding a nice Riesling to spend the evening with, but even better, they have cheese flights. Cheese flights! I could happily live at Bin 36, especially if I could snag one of the couches so I could nap between meals. Poppy and Hez were already at the bar when Mr. and I came down, and the Hotel Renaissance contingent of TranceJen, Fredlet, Kari, and Mare arrived soon after. Mary and Joe joined us from the W and before long Mare had procured us a table. Weetabix and Jake had no trouble finding us when they made their way down from their rooms. Wine was drunk and food was eaten (I showed great restraint and only ordered one cheese flight) and conversation flowed. After dinner, most people headed out to live band karaoke, which I was intrigued by but not intrigued enough to stay up late to see it.

Saturday morning Mr. and I headed off to the Museum of Science and Industry. Of all the museums in Chicago, I spent the most time in this one when I was a kid, though it had been ages since I’d last seen it. I spent what felt like half of this visit blinking back tears because this was one of my dad’s favorite places and I remember going with him when I was little and now he’s not around anymore. Look, there’s the Zephyr. Dad loved the Zephyr. And the submarine–it’s in a fancy indoor exhibit now but I remember when it was outside and you could just walk through it without a guide. Now that I’m bigger, I see what Dad was talking about when he remarked on how tight the quarters were; the bunks seemed fine to me when I was little. We didn’t do the coal mine, which was fine with me because I never much liked it, though maybe now that I’m bigger and could see over people’s heads in the crowded mine shaft elevator it would be better. We did watch a baby chick hatch–the only difference there is the new space-age hatchery which wouldn’t be out of place in Tomorrowland–and looked at the aviation exhibit (now with 727) and the model railroad layout and the fairy castle and old time main street. Ah, memories.

After the museum, it was off to lunch with Jessamyn and Geoff and Katie. It was great to meet them. Katie was even more adorable and entertaining in real life than I had imagined from the pictures I’ve seen. Post-lunch, Mr. and I did a bit more sightseeing. I had to walk through Macy’s on State Street to see what they’d done to the grand Marshall Field’s of my girlhood memories; not too much yet seemed to be the answer. There were new awnings, but the “Marshall Field & Company” plaques were still in place on the outside of the building, as was the iconic clock. Then it was on to Millennium Park to take the obligatory pictures of the bean. The only other time we’d been through the park, the bean had been covered up undergoing maintenance so this was our first chance to ponder the shiny. On the walk back to the hotel, we happened upon some art made with mulch and apples along the riverfront–sort of an urban sandcastle.

Saturday evening, Mr. Karen went off with our friend Eli to do guy stuff while I met Mary and Joe at Buddy Guy’s to listen to some blues. That meant I didn’t get to see any of the other NonConners who were gathering at a bar elsewhere at the very same time. As Ursula says, life is full of tough choices. Since my previous exposure to the blues was pretty much limited to hearing bits and pieces of Blues from the Lowlands on WDET on random Saturday mornings, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But man, once Little Arthur Duncan got up there and starting working, I was hooked. After Wayne Baker Brooks and his band finished their set, I turned on my phone and was surprised to see how late it was–those hours just flew by and I left the club with a grin on my face. Like Mary says, “ain’t nothin’ like a good heavy dose of The Blues to make you feel just fine.”

On Sunday, we needed to get home in time to take care of some things before the work week came and didn’t want to get caught in Bears game traffic, so we grabbed a quick breakfast at Jamba Juice before heading back to Michigan. Because it was so early, the lines at the Skyway toll plaza were not that long, but still I cackled gleefully as I pulled through the empty I-Pass lane. Now if Indiana could just get on board, I’d be all set. On I-94 in Michigan, we saw many mid-to-late-thirties hot rods, which was entertaining. I’m not sure where they were heading back from, maybe the NSRA Street Rod Nationals North in Kalamazoo. Heh, I said “rod”.

(There are more pictures from the weekend at Flickr.)


On this date in:
2005 – Server comments that my burrito very big, wishes me luck. Later, server expresses astonishment at how much of burrito has been eaten.
2004 – I am trying very hard not to think of this as “Try to Do Better Next Time, You Loser”.
2003 – No entry
2002 – No entry

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