July 29, 2019
A month ago, I got on a plane and then another plane and then emerged in Chicago. As air travel in the cheap seats goes, it was fairly pleasant, with an empty middle seat next to my window one on the way to Salt Lake City and then a middle seat in an exit row from there to O’Hare.
When I got to Chicago, I collected my suitcase and made my way via shuttle bus to the rental care center, where of course the longest line was with the company I rented from; others had short or no lines. If the original vision for this trip had been realized, I wouldn’t have been in that line at all, I would have been met by Mr. Karen, who had driven east earlier to do some stuff with his friends in the area ahead of the family reunion that was the impetus for planning a summer sojourn in Chicagoland. But those plans changed when he got an opportunity on short notice to check off one of his bucket list items, something that he’d wanted to do since before bucket lists were common parlance: kayaking the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Of course he needed to do that, even though it meant breaking his streak of attending every family reunion since they started in the mid 80s. I would keep the streak of one or the other of us being there every year (I missed the year I had my hysterectomy, still being in recovery from that abdominal surgery).
In the line for the rental car, I channeled my mom and had a nice long chat with the woman next to me; we both used to live in Chicagoland so that gave us some common ground. Finally it was my turn, and I spent some quality time at the counter while the agent went back and forth with the folks in the lot looking for a car for me. Eventually I was given a stall number and went out and was getting settled in my cute Ford Fiesta, at which point another customer showed up saying he’d been given that same stall number. I stayed put in the drivers seat, and he went to get an employee who checked my paperwork and then went away with the other guy to find him a different car.
Left to my own devices to entertain myself for the time before it was time for the reunion festivities to start, I decided to go see Hamilton: The Exhibition along the lakefront in Chicago, which I have to give credit to the Facebook ad algorithm for bringing to my attention (amazing really that it got that right, since it’s usually showing me things like stripper heels and really expensive cocktail dresses and other things that fit my lifestyle not at all). The traffic I got stuck in on the way into the city didn’t delight me, nor did the “lot full” signs where helpful folks on the internet had told me was the best place to park. I did find an alternate lot, but was super annoyed when I saw many, many open spaces in the first lot as the shuttle bus over to the exhibition passed right through it. Lot full my @ss.
The exhibition was really well done, and way cheaper than going to see the musical again, which was another of my ideas for spending my unexpected solo time in the city. I was also delighted to find I could get the Chicago city flag themed Hamilton shirt I’d spotted at the merch table when I did see the musical but passed on due to crowds and needing to get my mother-in-law Joan settled into her seat before the show and back to the car after.
I spent other slices of my solo time tracking down and eating a chorizo burrito (the chorizo in Chicago is my Platonic ideal of the form; the chorizo served in the northwest just doesn’t hit my tastebuds the same way) and hiding out from the heat in a public library my mom liked to go to when she was alive (I saw triple digits on the car thermometer, which is just not something we get up on the mountain).
I drove out from the city and checked into my hotel in time to get settled in and cleaned up for dinner with the hosts and early arrivals for the reunion on that Friday night. As it turned out, the restaurant they’d chosen was within easy walking distance of my hotel, though I did have to cut through some parking lots and past shipping containers to get there via the most direct route. Dinner was good despite the impatience of one of our number and the loud atmosphere (made more so by large groups of parents and kids in town for a soccer tournament). By the time I walked back to the hotel, the sun was setting, which let me get this beautiful shot; I think the neon of the strip club sign in the foreground adds a certain something most sunset photos lack.
The reunion the next day featured something different to go with the food and conversation and yard games (which saw lower participation this year due to the overly warm weather; it was primarily the younger set that had the stamina to put up with those conditions): an outing to take a tour of a historic home in the city. Despite visiting Mr. K’s family in that area many many times over the years, I’d never seen the place, a home built in Swiss cottage style in the 1860s. I quite enjoyed all the quirkiness and details of the place, and they even had a crazy quilt on one of the beds that looked to have blocks very similar to the ones I inherited from my mom’s side of the family.
The original plan for this trip had Mr. K and I getting in our truck and heading back towards home after the reunion, so when that changed, I had to buy another one-way plane ticket to get myself back, and that was much cheaper midweek, which meant I had some time to fill. I take a short trip over to Michigan. Heading out from Chicagoland, I made a last minute decision to make my time in Michigan even shorter by making a stop to take in the Cirque du Soleil show in the tents setup by Solider Field, which I’d seen while driving to the Hamilton exhibit (the Facebook algorithm fell down on the job on that one). I bought my ticket to the show after I’d parked in the lot next to the tents. The show was Volta, which I’d never even heard of (admittedly, I probably got an email about it which is sitting unread in my Ads folder). I loved the first half and was thinking about what souvenirs I’d buy afterward as I stood in line for the portapotties at intermission when it started to drizzzle. We filed back into the tent under threatening skies, thunder rumbling nearby.
The time for the show to start again came and went; we could hear harder rain hitting the tent now than the light stuff we’d had at intermission with thunder coming at regular intervals. An announcement was made that there’d be a delay in getting the performance resumed. More thunder. More rain. Finally an announcement that the rest of the show was canceled and we could get information about refunds as we left in an orderly manner. Okay then. I shuffled out with the crowd, getting a handout as I passed through the exit and keeping my ears open so I knew to get a second, smaller one with the information about parking refunds as well. I got to my car and sat there with the rain pounding on the windows as I waited for the lot to clear out a bit and used my phone to research the refund policy of the reseller site I’d gotten my ticket from.
Then it was on to Michigan to fit in seeing as many friends as I could, which was not many given the timing and short notice. I did get to eat my favorite Detroit style pizza, so that was a win, and it felt good to be in a place where restaurants are not afraid to show support for Pride, as in this sign outside the Mexican place I met a friend for dinner.
My flight out of Chicago left early enough in the day that I wanted to get back there the night before, which meant I could give Volta another chance. I’d been assured by the ticket reseller I would get a refund for the canceled show once they got official notification, so I went ahead and bought another ticket (this time direct from Cirque) for the show the night before my flight. I was surprised that I was still surprised by things in the half I’d already seen, and the second half was also a delight. I again channeled my mom and got to know the woman sitting next to me; her son worked in wardrobe for one of the Cirque shows in Las Vegas, which was interesting.
I flew home on the 4th of July, with a long connection in Seattle, which meant I got back to Spokane after dark, too late to get a good spot to see a fireworks show. I did catch a few bursts from the ariport parking lot, which will just have to do.
(There are more pictures from the trip here.)