Tuesday 27th August
The flight to Chicago with Singapore Airlines was delayed by about half an hour and there was some mix-up with seating booking and Mark finishes next to me whereas we should have both had aisle seats for ease of access. We swap seats so that I can hear him better and to the left of me is a Dutch fellow who kindly helps me now and again when I’m in trouble with either the food containers or the electronic gear but then farts in my face when gets out to go to the loo!
Mark makes use of the free promotional time with the SMS and E-mail and gets a few messages off. As usual the food is very good and the Asian girls very efficient. Interesting to compare the size of these slim creatures with the slabs of lard that block the aisles and plug the seats. It was cool at first and I kept my white jacket on but had to put it in the locker later as it soon warmed up to around the 25c mark. I had to remove my hearing aid also so as to use the mini-video.
We arrive at O'Hare airport at 10.30 AM local time and get off the plane. Just as we are out of the plane Mark asks if my hearing aid is safe. I confidently search in my jacket pocket but it is not there. More searches yield nothing, it must have fallen out of my pocket in the locker we deduce, but we are stopped from getting back onto the plane and are told to report the loss at the Airline main desk.
We line up next at Passport Control. Of the 4 lines ours seem to be the slowest. As a point of interest I check the time the next line takes to process a passenger, which is approx a minute and a half but our officer takes two minutes for some reason. By the time an hour has passed the other 3 lines have been dealt with and we are still waiting for about a dozen passengers to be cleared. When we finally get to the woman dealing with our line I notice that she is in her 60's and has some affliction causing her hand to shake so she has a problem getting the rubber-stamp spot on, hence the delay.
Next we are at the desk asking about the missing aid. It is not in the locker. I'm convinced that it must in that case have fallen in the seating area. We ask to check with the team that do the cleaning and sweeping and at the same time ask if we can have some form of note that we have reported the loss to back up any insurance claim. This proved quite difficult to get done. They were most reluctant to commit themselves in that way fearing we would claim against them. However after convincing them that this was not a scam they agreed that on our return there would be a letter that would cover. We were told to “Ask for Anna".
Getting to the city was really easy, first a short ride on the airport shuttle then on to the Blue Line rail transport right into the centre of the city. The whole trip not much more than an hour and only cost 3 dollars for the two of us. We get off at Washington, which is about a minutes’ walk to the hotel but as we were not to book in before 3.00 PM we first made a call at the Visitor Centre to pick up brochures and take in the first of a number of interesting buildings. Still with our baggage we decided to try and get to the Lake as it only seemed a little way off. However after walking quite some way we found the way blocked by a big building and had to retrace and try and find another way. We soon got into Grant Park and could see where the Lake could be reached. However, by this time it was getting close to time of checking in so we rattle off trailing the baggage to the Palmer House Hilton Hotel. We first of all gasp at the size of the Entrance Hall and the decor and then find the desk to check in. The girl clerk who went by the name of Jessica had a trainee in tow, name of Bianca. Whether she was aiming at impressing on Bianca the importance of treating client well we could not be sure but on checking what rooms were available we finished up on the 21st floor in a most gorgeous room measuring 25 x20 and equipped with two bathrooms and two large beds! Each bathroom contained 12 towels ranging from large bath towels to several hand towels. The view was to the north but by poking one’s head out of the window it was possible to get a glimpse of Lake Michigan over to the right and east. The window would only open about 9 inches. We supposed it was to stop clients from throwing themselves out but why anyone should want to leave such luxury defies logic. The room demanded a photo but first we had to sort ourselves out a little.
I had got my jacket in a tangle and was trying to get it the right way up when I could feel something odd in the lining. "What is this? --- It’s the deaf aid". It took quite some time to first of all to get it out and then some more to find how it got there. I was relieved that I had not lost the item. One of the many joys of the holiday was that I had minimum responsibility. I carried neither cash nor credit cards, chequebook, not even my passport. The deaf aid was about the only thing I could lose apart from my way or my wits and there was always my minder at close hand, wonderful.
However, a scheme for getting the holiday expenses for both of us had now collapsed. I had figured on claiming for the loss of the aid and thought it might be possible to claim for the left one as well as they were a pair. With the pay-out I could buy virtually the same aid but much cheaper and easily pocket something like a 1,000 pounds, which would cover the whole week’s expenses. Now all that had crumbled away.
After about an hour we hit the pavements of Chicago with serious intent, we are off to the Chicago Art Institute as it is Tuesday. Tuesday is a free day at the Institute. Marks research had revealed that many of the places of interest were free on certain days. So next Tuesday, our day of return would also find us at the Institute. At the Visitor Centre they had given us a booklet which had close on a hundred tickets giving discounts at major stores, free admittance, two for the price of one, otherwise known as BOGOF’s (buy one, get one free) and informing one of the free bus transport for tourist around the main parts of the city. Mark had gone through this booklet with a fine toothcomb and noted what we could make use of.
The Art Institute has some wonderful items. Very impressive, we saw Andy Warhol's Mao, Marc Chagall’s Blue Windows, the re-sited Old Chicago Exchange Dealing Room with its splendid timber lined walls. Also some amazing items of furniture; could not help thinking how Joe Dixon would have been jumping up and down at the sight of some of the stuff, really great. Feeling a bit peckish we had a snack at the "Corner Bakery", Soup and bread for me and a turkey sandwich for Mark served with bakers chips and pickle for $9.60. Half of which was taken with us for next day. We then walked a couple of blocks to Van Buren where we rubbernecked for a while at the amazing top of the Harold Washington Public Library. Big Green Gargoyles at each corner, I thought at first they must be made out of copper as they were green but we decided it was paint.
We got back to the hotel about 6 PM, admired the lobby again and got back to room 21-120. The 2 bathrooms were still there but for the first couple of days we were expecting someone to knock on the door to say there had been a big mistake. The Palmer Hotel claims to be the oldest in Chicago having been built a couple of years after the great Chicago Fire in 1871. The original hotel was much smaller and possibly not on the exact same site. The present Palmer was built in 1930. Watched some TV. The U.S. Open Tennis was on all week so that was an extra treat. To bed about 8 PM.
We are both awake around 2 AM but get up about 6 AM and make a breakfast out of the remains of last night’s turkey sandwich, plenty of tea, coffee etc. We hear and read about West Nile Fever which can be caught from a mosquito bite, two people have died so far but they were old and frail so we’re not bothered. It seems that the mossies pick it up from dead birds. Mark takes some photos out of the window by holding the camera at arm’s length and pointing it east and west.
As the window opening was so small it was impossible to get the shots done any other way. Gets a good shot of the lake with the sun just up.
Our first call is at the Chicago Public Library to send off some E-mail. A most impressive building. We seem to enter on floor 3, then walk up two flights then escalator two more and finally to where one can get FREE time on a computer. There appears to be only 2 computers but Mark does not have to wait long to get done what he wants. This FREE facility is another example of Marks diligence in getting all that was on offer in this most generous city. Right at the top of the building was a Winter Garden, a lovely covered-in area with a few table and chairs set out. We walk to Marshall Fields, the big department store just a few blocks away. The object was to obtain from the tourist section of the store some vouchers that would enable us to get free coffee and discount on purchases. We are now at the start off our marathon free loading holiday exercise. In spite of landing up in the best room at The Palmer for $70 a night we are hell-bent on screwing every free offer there is going in this fine city. The philosophy behind this is that anyone can go holidaying and spend money but to manage to have a great time and not spend any, now that is something special. A certain talent is required and a bank of frugality-genes is a must, which fortunately we both possess in spades.
As the restaurant is not yet open we go on to the streets and walk a while and discover the Exhibition of the Earth from Above, this is a great show of aerial photos of some of the most interesting spots on the earth’s surface. Roger had given us the book as a Xmas present last year so I was pleased to have come across it again. This time the photos are 6 x 4 foot and mounted on individual stands. It’s incredible when one realizes that these shots were all done on 35mm film stock, the quality is wonderful.
We wander back to Marshall Fields for our free coffee and buy a piece of Frango's toffee chocolate cheesecake ($6), which is plenty for us to split. The store at this time of day is practically empty which makes me wonder how the whole thing manages to survive. On asking one of the personnel I get the answer that nobody lives downtown and all the business is done when the folks gets in from the outskirts which is usually mid-morning.
Mark had arranged with the people at the Visitor Centre for us to have the services of a "Greeter". This is a Chicago organisation that is run on voluntary lines with kind folks who will give of their time to show visitors around the city and tell about the buildings and their history. Our man is 62-year-old Marshall Jacobson. Jewish of course with a name like that and as a regular job he works for an organisation that gets money for people trying to get to Israel.
We tell him that we are just tiny bit Jewish but we are constantly trying to be more so and that we just lurve the Jewish people. We get on fine with Jacobson. He first of all takes us through the Theatre District, then we went into a big round building with shops inside that was the Thompson Building, named from memory after a previous Mayor of the City. We walk up La Sale to Wacker Drive, over Michigan Bridge and then he takes us on a bus ride to Gold Coast where they is a fine selection of quality residences. These included the original Playboy mansion where Hugh Hefner started the organization. Also the large residence of the Cardinal, which was now up for sale. Jacobson is full of information about the area, who lived where and what went on, he also gave us tips of good places to eat such as The Pancake House just off Rush for breakfast and Luciano's, an Italian restaurant. Also where to get the best Italian beef sandwiches and where lively evenings could be found. He gave us Ada' s Deli, which we used every day as it was just in the next block to the Palmer. Ada' s was where we get the most amazing pastrami, ham, turkey, beef sandwiches. These were so full of meat that with addition of the tubs of coleslaw that came with the deal plus a large gherkin that from one of Ada' s it was not difficult to produce an evening meal for two plus breakfast and a snack for a mid-morning break.
We walked all the way back to the Visitor Centre with Jacobson from this trip to the north part of the city but made a stop for a light bite at Flukey's on the 4th floor of the Michigan building. This was a recommendation of Jacobson where we enjoyed a "Chicago Dog" each. This was our treat but Jacobson would only take a cold Coke as he said he had a dinner date after he had left us. We parted at 4 PM after a very enlightening 3 hours. We were his 7th set of people he had "Greeted" but his first Non Americans. So we were a little bit different for him and he was something special for us. We got back to Palmers about 4.30 and as we had been on our feet since 8.30 we called it a day but not before fuelling up at Ada’s with a Ham Sandwich and a Chopped Liver Sandwich for $13, the deal includes a carton of coleslaw and two gherkins, the bag is quite heavy, must weigh close on 2lbs. We relieve the trays in the lobby of their unused butter packs, which together with some mayonnaise sachets from Ada's to lubricate the slices of bread.
Up at 6.30, managed to get my ablutions done and the exercises done quietly before Mark stirred at 7.00. I found it a real pleasure to be able to move about the room in absolute silence so well carpeted and solid was the room floor. Made up a breakfast from last night’s leftovers and recounted the towels and flannels to make sure we had not been mistaken the first time. The sun was just rising on the east-side of the building to the left of our view with the top of the Hancock building just visible in front and quite clear of the low cloud that had been there yesterday. One of the areas we had been looking forward to seeing was the Jewish Quarter but it had not been in existence for some years now but we recalled that Jacobson had told us that there still was a Synagogue not far from the hotel. We were intrigued this morning as to where exactly the sun came up but it obscured by buildings. The steeple of a church poking up quite surrounded by other building crowding in on it made for some puzzlement until we sort it out and found that the base of the church was just a regular office type affair with the fancy church steeple built right at the very top. It turned out to be the First Methodist Church.
We press on and cross the river at Franklin, we always found the river area of interest. Not a lot going on with river traffic but to look up and down and see the many bridges that cross the river was a good sight. We soon come to one of the largest building in Chicago, the Merchandise Mart building, it had apparently been bought and sold at one time by JFK. His heirs were reputed to have made a small fortune out of the deal. At street level was an auction rooms getting ready for a sale of Vintage Motorcycles and Bicycles to be held mid-September. We feasted our eyes on some amazing Mo-bikes and Push-bikes displayed in the show room and took some photos. We then wandered into a rather run-down area with several jazz places and pondered whether we might make another visit to sample some jazz. This is where the well-swept streets of Chicago ended. We had gone out of the regular tourist area and it was noticeable that the streets were more normally scruffy whereas in the centre the streets are quite litter-free and quite a workforce is at it all the time keeping the streets clean, very impressed with that aspect. We sat for a while outside The Rainforest Cafe and had our mid-morning snack. We turn east to the Lake and then south to get to the Navy Pier. Lots of joggers and bikers and walkers on the waterfront getting their workout done. One girl skater had a poodle strapped to her back! We sit again for another bit to eat looking on to a beach with swimmers in the lake before getting on to the Navy Pier proper.
Very much a tourist spot but great fun to watch all the families out for a day’s fun. We walk right to the very end of the pier and back again stopping at midday exactly to hear a jazz trio start up and play. Here we bought a beer ($7) and a burger each ($9) and stayed till 1 PM when they stopped for a break and we decided to push on some more.
The main event that Mark had planned was the river and lake boat trip but this was to take place at 2.15. With a bit of time to kill we take the free trolley to Michigan and walked passed the Wrigley Building where free chewing gum was being handed out. This was the only time I refused a free handout although Mark took some to give to the girls back home. The huge Wrigley Building being part of the Wrigley chewing gum fortune.
The Wendella boat trip was another voucher offer, 2 tickets for the price of one. So for $15 we had a 90-minute trip up the river into the heart of the city to the Sears Tower and then down again and into the Lake Michigan and back. A great opportunity for good photos of the city skyline. We got chatting to a young fellow from the City of Michigan just making a daytrip. We told him about our hotel deal and he was quite impressed. He asked us what we thought of Bush but we played safe on that one not wishing to risk spoiling his day.
We get back to the hotel for about 4.30 and take a break as we intend to visit Grant Park where the Jazz Festival is about to start this evening. On the way Mark spies some bottles of FREE Fruit2O being handed out at a street corner, another promotion that we are happy to take part in. Grant Park is thronged with people by the time we get there. Families picnicking on the grass, some with tables and fold-up chairs and food and drinks. We even saw some party with a TV! A great mix of people an out to enjoy the Jazz. We spoke to a policeman later on and he said it was a most peaceful crowd. Although there could be 20,000 there the numbers of cops were around 30 only. On the way to the food stands we were handed out FREE packets of Pretzels, we make sure we don’t do a "Bush" with them. We had fun watching a stand running a Jazz Quiz. One of the audience would volunteer to answer question about Jazz Personalities and Bands and who was playing in so-and-so's band in 1945 and so on. It was a crazy run thing because the guys around were shouting out the answers much to the much annoyance of the fellows running the show but lots of laughs. Mark managed to get a shot of the crowd taken from a gap in the back of the tent. Took a walk further on into Grant Park and had a good took at Buckingham Fountain, a great spectacle of lights and spurting water. Quite dark by now but we were not at all worried and never at any time did we feel threatened.
We get back to the hotel at around 8.30 armed with another heavy load from Ada' s. This time it’s a Hot Corned Beef sandwich on Rye. We go for the deluxe version, which with soup, we go for Chicken with matzaball and coleslaw and the gherkin comes out at $9.50. Wow!
Tennis on TV keeps us happy for the rest of the evening.
The plan is to explore Greektown, Little Italy, Pilsen and Chinatown. Mark first of all has a chat with the concierge at his office in the main hall and he strongly advises against it. "Not only would I advise against going, I would advise you NOT to go". However we figure all the hotels would give the same advice just be on the safe side. We decide to keep on asking till we get the answer we want! Mark thinks there is a good chance there might be an answer to the emails he sent so it’s off to the Public Library. We find there is no queue so get that done quickly. We ask at the desk the security question re Greektown etc and get "better safe than sorry" a bit better but not quite good enough. We get well on our way, quite a warm morning, we went west on Van Buren until we hit Halstead and then we turn south. We ask a young black guy waiting at a bus stop how far south is it safe to go and he convinces us we should stop at Roosevelt. This sounds more like the real advice from a "native". We stop at Roosevelt and make a right and then another right, which leads us to Taylor and Little Italy. A very ordinary street with the odd Mom & Pop shop. It’s quite hot by now and we treat ourselves to a Mario' s Italian Ice Creams at $1.50 each. Mario's is very well known for this and although it features in Chicago's tourist publicity there is no "Buy one, get one free" at this establishment. So we pay for two and get two. The street looks very peaceful, certainly much less menacing that Brixton High. The ice cream turns out to be a kind of Sorbet with little bits of coconut and lemon and goes down a treat although I must admit that what I had been looking forward to was a regular Italian Ice-a-da-cream-a. Refreshed we press on residential area, which takes up north to Adams. Then east to Greektown with a long view of the city skyline in the distance. We spot an unusual church as it has an ordinary steeple and alongside that a tall structure that looks distinctly Greek Orthodox. We stop briefly for a rest just east of the river and opposite Sears Tower. We had been walking solidly for 2½ hours and it was quite hot.
We get back to the Hotel to recoup and plan the rest of the day. As we approach the room the maid comes out have just done the room and cheerfully says she hopes we enjoy the rest of the holiday as she is off now and won’t see us again, we get the hint and in a rare moment of weakness Mark parts with a few dollars. She still shows up the next day but we let her keep the money!
After a coffee we set of to find the Museum Campus, which holds not only the famous Field Museum but a Planetarium and a large Aquarium too. The FREE trolley takes us there and we look forward to a great afternoon as we have free vouchers for all three but when we get there the free day has been pushed forward to the 27th Sept so we take a brief walk around and Mark re-plans the afternoon. We could have paid to go in of course but our principles got in the way. We find that the tourist trolley to Chinatown only runs at the weekend so we walk on further and catch the regular Red line train at Roosevelt.
When Jacobson treated us to the bus ride on Wednesday we finished up with the unused half of the transit ticket that still entitled us to a ride as far as we liked and also a return provided the return was done within 2 hours. We made use of this on this trip to Chinatown. We walk down the main street on Wentworth looking for a place to have a meal, then round to the right and get round the backside of the area. There we sit for a while in a little green area and watch and rest and observe a stature of Sun-Yat-Sen, the founder of the Republic of China which must have been put there in the 1920’s. It’s about 3 PM now and with some relief we find what we are looking for, a very Chinese looking place where we are the only occidentals there. Mark orders Sweet & Sour Chicken and I have Chicken fried rice. The plate of rice is enormous almost tumbling off the edge of the plate and shaped like Vesuvius. There was no possibility of me finishing the meal so we had it bagged up and it provided a meal the next day. For $10 we had enjoyed an excellent meal with a small feast to come. Back at the Palmer we are intrigued with the Hotel Cops that are on duty in the lobby. With their great girth and their funny hats that have a wide thin brim quite flat they present a most odd spectacle. On the way to the room we lighten the load of the room staff by "lifting" the unused little pots of jam and marmalade from the breakfast trays still uncollected. Unfortunately no butter this time but with the sachets of mayonnaise from the deli this makes an excellent substitute for butter for the "Sarnies".
Mark does a check on the finances, we are half way through the trip but we have spent two thirds of the $180, we really must be more careful.
We get over to Grant Park again for some evening entertainment with the Jazz scene. I enjoy the crowds and the "buzz" of the place and watching the weird motley spectacle that flows along the food street. I regret that I could not get to grips with the Jazz. Maybe we were there at the wrong time but they always gave me the impression that they were either tuning up or waiting for inspiration. Not sure whether Mark enjoyed it, I know he had his earplugs in most of time we were within range of the sound. We shared an enormous sausage, which must have been a foot long. On the way back to the Palmer we pass Ada' s and call in for Pastrami on rye with a request for extra coleslaw which gets thrown in no charge, we are getting to be quite regulars there now.
Mark discovers that he can get FREE but limited email service via our room TV. The full service is $5 or $10 a day. Today is the day we do the FREE Loop Tour but we have to queue up at the Visitor Centre, we get there at 9.45 and join the crowd. They suddenly all start to grab chairs so in the end it turns out to be a chair queue. There are 4 tours throughout the day so we choose the first at 11.35. Whilst there Mark enquires whether there are any Blues Clubs open in the afternoon and get "Andy’s on Hubbard and State". He also makes enquiry about Gospel Services and we hear about 3 places. Greater Little Rock Baptist Church, Herman Baptist Church on N Clark and St Luke’s Church on New Orleans. We decide to top up the money so head off to Marshall Fields where I manage to prize loose one of my traveller’s cheques. Prior to all this we had taken an early morning walk along the river where we get chatting to 2 guys doing some cementing of the paving. They ask whether we like Corned Beef and Potato Pancakes and recommend Manny’s.
A bit of time to kill before the tour so we walk over to Grant Park and have sandwich and watch tennis players. Very quiet everywhere, just a guy on a bench reading a book and the occasional squirrel hopping about. The street sign outside the Culture Centre reads "Honorary Holabird Place". We puzzle who this Holabird guy might be as often a street would carry the name of a famous person. We ask the lady at the Centre, she comes out to have a look but doesn’t know. Somehow Mark manages to wrench the door handle off one of the doors but the doorman just says "I’ll get that" and no problem.
The Loop tour starts with a complete circuit round the loop while someone explains how and when the loop came about. I have some trouble hearing what is said but the next circuit describes the buildings one inside of the loop whilst the final circuit describes the buildings on the outside. The Loop is a big part of Chicago' s history so it was good that we had the chance to take the tour.
As were near the Palmer we drop back to the room but it was still being cleaned so we spend time looking at the other Public Rooms. Alcoholic Anonymous are holding a four-day conference at the hotel and they are using several of these magnificent rooms. We found the hotel gym full of folks working out and then found the swimming pool. After a coffee we are keen to see what the St Luke’s Church looks like and where it is. We pass the Merchandise Mart again and take the opportunity to get a closer look at the old bikes and mo-bikes coming up for auction. After about an hour’s walking we find St Luke’s. The area is quite run down, flats with broken windows and cars with flat tyres in the parking lots but there seems to be something going in the church so we go in and speak with a pleasant black guy who goes by the name of Brother Jerome. He gives us a good welcome and says we would get a fine reception tomorrow should we turn up. We leave with a hand full of information about the church. We walk a couple of blocks east and sit and finish of yesterdays fried rice which having some bean sprouts in it had turned into Chicken Rice Salad. We continue east down Delaware to Rush. We look for the pancake house that Jacobson had mentioned but fail to find it, must be more to the north. We stop at Nordstrom for another couple of Chicago Dogs at Flukeys. Being Saturday it is really busy and Michigan Ave is packed with shoppers. Amazing to note such affluence so short a distance from the run down area of St Luke’s. We have had enough by now and get a rest and coffee in our wonderful room. We venture out at around 8 PM to Grant Park again and amuse ourselves among the crowd. The police tell us that the 4 days’ win have brought out about 100,000 people with hardly a spot of bother. On other big festivals they could get 1 million! This Jazz crowd are "Very Mellow" says the cop, no trouble. The system for buying food is by ticket, which you buy before getting to the food stands. 11 tickets for $7. But everything seems to be priced so that you always get left with one ticket that buys nothing! Tonight is a firework night so we get down to the lake to watch the display launched from the Navy Pier. As we are right at the water’s edge we note the mosquitoes buzzing around.
Sunday 1st September
Early start as the Gospel Service is at 8.45. We set off at 7.45 covering more or less the same ground as yesterday. By 8.25 I was getting concerned that we would be late as I had in mind that the service started at 8.30 however we were in good time and the place was nearly full with a possible 250 in attendance. We were warmly welcomed and took our seats right at the back of the church. The place buzzed with excitement and animation. A woman to the right of us and a little in front was continually caning out "Praise Him, Praise Him", which went on until the actual service started. Nobody took exception, as this was her way of devotion. Behind where the preacher stood was the choir, all 16 of them, backing them were a pianist, organist and drums. The choir were all dressed in a silver gown-like dress, male and female alike. All enhanced with acoustics so that when they gave out you "sho got de message". During the early hymns a woman to the right and more to the front really took off. She was overwhelmed with it and was leaping up and down and swaying side to side with such exuberance that the two people at either side of her were ready and waiting to catch her should start to take off. Somebody made some church announcements; these included the news that next week they would be holding a health clinic where blood pressure could be measured, cholesterol tests, HIV tests and an appeal for clothing and shoes.
The preacher was Pastor James C. Austin. He had a great message. As part of his delivery he likened going to Church to doing the vacuuming in your house. "But there is always those little bits that don’t git shifted … Those dirty sticky bits that need a bit of spirit to git rid of. … Well, that’s when you need Jesus and a Holy Spirit and a good friend to help you git you life good and clean and perfect like the Lor-duh.” That’s how he always came out with the word: "The Lor-duh". He kept this theme up for ages. "Work on dos spots … This spot needs attention" and then another theme: "The Prophet points the way, the evangelist stirs you up, the Pastor nurtures and the teacher provides you with information". Ed-u-cate to El-e-vate, Ed-u-cate to El-e-vate. At one part of his oration he asked if there were any newcomers to the Church. About 8 people stood up and then he asked each one by pointing to them to give their names. "I’m Philip Smalley and this is my son Mark". Then he notes a bunch of people all together. "I see the Robinson Family are all here today, would you all kindly stand up please" and so the Robinson Family all get up amid lots of welcomes and clapping. Great fun. Their website: www.stlukecogic.com.
He started about 10 AM and I knew that at 11.15 there was the children’s service but Pastor Austin just went on and on. I checked my watch with the clock at the back of the hall and noted that it had stopped at 10.35 and he was still vacuuming at 11.05 when he suddenly realized what must have been apparent to lots of folk in the place that he had overrun things. He quickly drew things to a close and then the collection took place. Mark and I both had a little envelope given us and Pastor Austin had slipped in the advice that Church giving should be based on around 10% of your weekly money. Mark observed that the guy in front of him had stuffed a load of bills into his envelope so not to be out of line and possible being caught up in the giving spirit he stuffs $10 in mine and the same in his. Wow. Then we get into the bit where everyone is reaching round to his neighbour and shaking hands and hugging one another. We do the minimum of this, fortunately there is nobody in our pew not within huggin' distance and we ain’t gonna hug each other that’s for sure, we’re bloomin’ English. The whole thing had taken nearly 3 hours but it was quite unforgettable.
Being spiritually tanked up we set off at a pace to Lincoln Park and the Zoo. A young couple point us to a bus stop but after waiting a few minutes someone else tells us that the bus does not run on Sundays. They direct us up La Salle to North Avenue, it’s quite hot now and we stop at a Greek eating-place and get a mediocre cheeseburger each. We should have pressed on a bit further as we would have come to Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder. Not sure whether they were recommendations or vouchers but we miss out on them and get to the Zoo. The place is packed with families out for the day, as the Zoo is free for everyone. We do the conservatory and re-join the Zoo, leaving by the side that is nearest the lakeside. We find there is a stretch of water between the lake and us and we have to walk a fair bit further north to a bridge over to get to the lake. We then turn south to get back home, taking care to keep out of the way of bikers, joggers and speed-walkers all hammering away at the paving, getting rid of weight and angst. The road is on our right and is blocked solid with cars going nowhere. We walk to Water Tower Place and take the tourist trolley to State and walk the last few blocks to the Palmer. This was, at 4½ hours walking our biggest peripatetic effort to date. After a good rest we do the park as it is the last night of the festival, eat our Turkey Pastrami on Rye and as the crowds thin out we return homewards but call for a late beer at Ada’s. $3.50 each. The Bar-girl is engrossed in the TV (court cases). She, we find out, has been on duty since 6 AM as the regular barman did not turn up! A very full day for her and for us too. "Praise the Lor-duh".
First cloudy morning, the day is forecast to hit 89F, which would make it the warmest for us. We set off to Monroe west to Clinton with the idea of returning over Kinzie bridge but it starts to rain so we backtrack to get some shelter. By hopping from shop shelter and the lee of the buildings we get back to the Visitor Centre. We wait a long time as the lady to open the place has got held up with heavy rain which is by now pelting down. We watch people trying to cross the road and get soaked in the big puddles that have collected. 3 black guys sheltering there as well, they are in fits of laughter, they seem to have the facility to make chuckles and giggles out of thin air. Mark wanted to return the form that we had filled in giving our opinion on the Greeter we had been allotted and to get some more brochures.
The rain eases and we move off and get to Marshall Fields again to call on their Visitor Centre and get tickets (2 for the price of one) for The Hancock Observatory. The guy running things today reminds us off George Scott but with an eye patch. He has a great chat line, lurves the English Royals also was a great fan of Diana and he is an avid reader of Hello Magazine. Louis is very entertaining. He gives us a piece Frango Mint Candy to chew on whilst chatting and sends us with the vouchers for the Hancock also vouchers for complimentary FREE coffee which we take at the eating-place down stairs stopping on the way down to look at the Tiffany dome on the 4th floor. The girl on the till says we are entitled to a Frango cookie also so there we go --- delicious!
When we get on the road again the weather has improved and the sun is promising to show up, so we return to Clinton and cross the river at Kinzie. We go up New Orleans and have just made a right turn by St Luke’s Church when we are accosted by a young homeless black guy who points out that we are in a dangerous area and after enquiring where we intend going tells us the way to go (which we knew already). Mark tell him we know the area and have been to St Luke’s Church yesterday. He says he has been saved also and Mark asks him whom he knows at the church. He comes up with elder Austin but that means nothing as the name is on the board outside the church any passer-by would know that and he doesn't know our friend Brother Jerome, so it seems we're better connected than he is and so that puts us one point in front. He finally gets round to the business of why he latched on to us in the first place. He is broke and could do with a few dollars to get some grub. Mark tells him we are hard up too but he is welcome to share our sandwich.
With that I go to pull out the stored food from my bag and a bunch of little milk cartons fall out on the ground, we think he gets the scene by now and says its money really he wants not food and drops us and gets back to waiting for the next victim to come by.
The Hancock building is practically empty when we arrive. Usually you have to queue a good while to get in but we just walk straight in. We pay $9.50 to enter and spend about 45 minutes up there admiring the view and taking photos. The view is quite a treat especially as the light is good and no heat-haze probably due to the early morning rain.
We can make out up to the north Lincoln Park and the Zoo. Over to the northwest we think we can see O'Hare Airport where we landed a week ago. Looking south we try to find the Palmer and east we can see the Navy Pier. I get talking to a chap about 70 who is with his family of 8. They are out for the day; he came to the US 40 years ago from Belize to join an uncle. He then settled and brought up a family, which included the two babes that were with them. We take in a notice that restricts the top viewing platform to 500 adults and the floor below it to 5,000 and we wonder what it is like up here on a stormy day.
When we down to earth the day has warmed up somewhat. We visit Water Tower Place, which is full of shops - all seven floors, quite the most amazing building with the lifts coming up in the middle and gallery where one could look down at all the seven floors. We found a quite amazing gadget shop full of electronic wizardry, the result of some unimagined clever trickery.
Not far along Michigan we come across some guys handing out FREE citrus-drinks so we grab a couple of "Aquafina’s". The next mission is to take up an offer of Ben and Jerry's for two cones for the price of one. We make our way to the YMCA building on Chicago and enjoy a really super ice cream. We both choose chocolate, a great deal for $3.25. It’s now about 3.30 and we begin to drift back to the Palmer. As we walk along I spot a very derelict blackened building at a corner. There is a guy selling papers by the corner so I ask him about the building. I think the answer was that it had been a famous Blues Night Spot years ago but got burnt out and then he launches into a description of where just round the back are some really good spots to enjoy Blues and stuff. Then comes the hard sell He's only making 6 bucks a day selling these papers and his wife has died of cancer and he has an 8-year-old boy to look after. A few bucks would be a great help! He looks better fed than we do and we're doing OK but Mark gives him the contents of his trouser pocket, half of which he had found on the side-walk during the week.
Pastrami on Rye again and back to watch Sampras beat Rusedski in 5 sets. The match had been held up with rain earlier on and there had been warnings of tornados in Milwaukee area also torrential rain an inch in an hour. The bread by now after a week was down to about an inch and a half but by slicing very thin (you could almost read a newspaper through it) I managed to get a few more rounds out of it for breakfast etc.
Theoretically it should have possible to check out of the hotel by using the TV and Mark tried it but it was either not working or deactivated. We leave the bags and keys with the Bell Hop's desk and get on the road for the last day. We have a brief look in at 303 West Madison at the Getronics office and get round to the Library for the last email contact. There were 2 positions available but both were occupied, the free time allotted is 10 minutes. I sat idly by one place while Mark waited for the other to get vacant. A large black guy was at my machine with a white guy waiting, after 25 minutes he taps the black on the shoulder and points out that he should only have 10 minutes. The black guy says he has got more to do. The guy says I'll give you 5 more minutes. A shrug of the shoulders was all the response the black guy gives but he does in fact move before that time was up. I was intrigued as to what would next happen if he hadn’t moved. The black guy was quite big but then they always appear big to me.
Walking up Madison Mark ask a fellow the whereabouts of the old historic Water Tower. The only building left standing after the Great Chicago Fire. We get chatting which is usually what we manage to do when we stop someone. He gives us his Chicago. He is a collector of African Masks as a hobby, and was in real estate and mortgages. "Tony Sallas, nice to meet ya.”. As often the case when it crops up we are from England favourably comments follow. Inside the Water Tower there is a very small photographic exhibition. The photo that grabs our attention is a picture of a close up of the back of an African with a really thick bald head with odd rolls of flesh giving me a suggestion of great physical strength. Turns out to be to a clinical psychologist.
Today being Tuesday was a FREE day at the Art Institute so we did not want to go too far a-field. We called at Hammacher Schlemmers, a shop "Offering the Best, the Only and the Unexpected" and it sure lived up to that. We marvelled at a pedal buggy for 4. Each peddler could peddle at their one pace as it had 4 sets of gears. Only $6,000!
Then there was a bicycle made entirely out of wood. We had a chat with the guy running the shop, Carlos, who is eager to chat about his merchandise. We have a look in the Timberland shop just to check on the prices of shoes. $90-155.
We spend an idle few minutes watching the river scene from Madison Bridge and Mark picks out the Regency Hyatt, a hotel that came up frequently on Priceline, the agency on the internet that we got Palmer through. We decide to tour the whole building of the Cultural Centre and find it most impressive; it might have been the City Hall in past times. Now housing an Exhibition of Japanese crazy objects, broadcasting memorabilia such as old radios and TV sets from the fifties onwards also historical photos of Chicago. One of the photos reveals the answer to our query about "Holabird"; he turns out to be a famous architect who was responsible for many of Chicago's buildings.
We drift into Marshall Fields for a lunch of a "Double Dog and Fries" with a free Frango Brownie and had fun watching our fellow diners and shoppers, always something to engage the eye.
We have our last look round the Art Institute and marvel again at the stuff on display, Frank Lloyd Wright furniture, Picasso, Monet, we have a special hunt for one of our favourite artists, Edward Hopper and his Nighthawks and finish off by seeing a separate exhibition of Japanese gift-wrappings, generally more valuable than the gift proffered and always returned to the giver.
Our time in Chicago is fast running out now and we make on more visit to Marshall Field to get some gift-buying done. The guy serving us has recently been to England so more pleasant chat ensues. He came during Jubilee week and loved it all except the prices, the pound being unusually strong against the dollar.
We get our bags from the hotel and take a five-minute walk to Monroe subway. It’s then 45 minutes to O'Hare airport and the 10 minutes by shuttle to terminal 5. The whole journey from City to Airport in an hour for 1½ dollars. Mark manages to get 3 seats to himself and is able to lie down uncomfortably instead of sitting uncomfortably! A Woody Allen film keeps us amused from time to time.
It’s been a great Holiday and apart from the hotel and the flight our daily costs have been $15 a day for each of us.