Day One – Chicago is hot, is not NYC

My hotel is in Chinatown, just south of downtown, and qualifies in the “basic accommodations” category, though it is clean and the AC cold.

Chicago’s Chinatown is interesting, it’s small, just a few blocks from what I can see but feels older than Vancouver’s (though it probably isn’t) perhaps due to the apparent lack of any period of redevelopment.

I left the hotel 90 minutes later than planned this morning (oh heavens!) and the 20 minute walk to breakfast is alarmingly hot, 34c with 80% humidity by 10am, this is less than ideal, to say the least. (Alec, SE Asia may be a problem).

I find an old diner where the owner is making the most of a one-off 2am visit by Tom Waits in 1987, it works for me and the food’s good. They even brew their own rootbeers and the bartender is eager to sample with me.

Breakfast is followed by another 20 minute park walk in stunning heat, by the time I reach the art institute I am overheating badly, I spend the next half hour by an AC vent before buying my ticket.

The museum is extremely exciting, seeing Nighthawks and American Gothic and two dozen other pieces that even myself with no art experience recognizes and am for some reason surprised to see in Chicago is awesome.

I spend nearly five hours here, it is possibly the best gallery I’ve seen, rivals the Met in NYC easily.

Walk around downtown, love it already, can’t explain why, can’t explain why it’s not New York. It’s like New York’s half-brother.

Eventually realize I’m dangerously overheated and head back to the hotel to change into smarter clothes and cool down.

I accidentally nap for an hour or so and have an ice shower and head out for some of this new-fangled Chicago style pizza pie.

The pizza is great, not quite what I expected, lighter and more buttery than I pictured. I manage to scarf only two pieces before I head out to find a drink.

Weekends are terrible nights for dive bars so I’ve got to pack as many into tonight as possible.

I take the blue line and then the green and end up at Richard’s Bar, a classic of a sort I may never have seen in quite so sharp a focus before. it has it all, especially a South Side Chicago slicked back hair bartender with a toothpick in his mouth who is eager to tell me everywhere I need to go in town for each type of cuisine.

Richard’s Bar is just so perfect, friendly person after friendly person, it’s well into the evening before I pay for a drink at all. The evening continued on and included a slice of pie at an all night diner but I seem to have forgotten to photograph the rest of the evening.

I do love the “El” though…

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