Monday, 2 November 2009

Travelling Around USA/Canada Pt II; Lost in the Midwest


The Windy City. Blues. Jazz. Soul. House. Gangsters. Home of the Skyscraper. Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan. Pizza. Sears Tower. Blues Brothers. Al Capone and an amazing local rock scene. Definitely open!

Its the weekend and Chicago beckons like the metropolis it is. Except we're stuck in some serious rush hour traffic. We book in at the Ohio hostel this time as camping isn't really the done thing when you're in Chicago or 'Chico' as me and my bro have renamed it for reasons of our own. We rejoice in having actual beds to sleep in although Dave looks like he's taking the floor because we could only afford two.

We watch the ridiculously entertaining if very flawed Alien 4 as we prepare to hit town. The first bar we discover has a pretty girl standing near the door to take your drink order, we all agree that this is the work of genius until we realise she wants a tip. There are complimentary nuts and offensive ciggarette machines. We feel a bit out of place as we seem to be mixing with the Ally McBeal type crowd when we're some losers from limey land who think AC/DC are clever. We try some more bars but they are worse with added arcade games and eurohouse.

Then the night takes a turn, reluctantly getting my guide book out I decide it would be good to walk to the more bohemian Westside. We walk for no more than 5 minutes when we notice the razzmatazz of before fading ominously, the streets are dark and it looks like a building site. Suddenly we hear a call from behind and see a guy approaching, he scares the fuck out of us by telling us that he overheard some guys saying that they we're going to jump us and that we were in the ghetto now. He offered to escort us back for some dollar which we duly obliged having just filled our pants. So we retraced our steps and gladly welcomed the eurohouse like a long lost brother.

The next day was sunny and touristy so we did Sears Tower which took over an hour just to get to the top. The views are amazing as is the surrounding architecture. Inside the top deck there are themes of Chicago such as its sporting history and entertaining natives and ex-resident funnymen, Murray, Belushi and Candy. Then we hung out in Grant Park where we saw a squirrel and attended a free Jazz Festival. We saw someone called Roscoe Mitchell but missed Elvin Jones who was John Coltrane's drummer because we had to go to a gig that night. Shame.

My brother had decided that we going to see some emo-pop punk band called Reggie and the Full Effects who were entertaining but the venue called the House Of Blues seemed to take the fun out of it. A security guard thought my bro was smoking spliff because he was using rolling tobacco and crowd surfers were stoically marched back into the crowd. What happened to the Mid-Western hospitality?

Before this we did manage to hang in the West Side which was one of my favourite places we visited the whole holiday. There was a nice bohemian feel to the neighbourhood with fly posters everywhere. It even had a Reckless Records, like the one in London town, apparently there's one in L.A. too. This one had things you wouldn't find back home and at unbeatable prices. I bought two CDs for a tenner. I had to prized away. Luckily there were many bars around.

One bartender told us about someone he knew who ended up in the back of a van confronted by several gun barrels owned by drug dealers. It seems Chicago can't shake its gangster past only now they don't dress as smart and are even more ruthless. Then to cap it all we almost ended up drunk in the same ghetto we were in before but only avoided it because we asked directions and got advised not to walk further but take the next taxi to the aformentioned gig. The hood we walked into, by the way is called Cabrini Green, see earlier link,  and is only a wrong turn away from the city centre. Avoid it, it's not clever.

After this exhausting day me and my brother decided to have a go at one another over probobly not much so I went and got some beers in to relax. We fell asleep watching The People vs Larry Flynt. The next day it rained so we left, besides we had to be back in Toronto by the next day. Driving across the boarder provided a moment when i'd accidently folded money into my passport which didn't impress the rather solemn boarder guard. The Canadian official on the other hand made nice conversation about back home. Everyone's got relatives there. We didn't get into bed till about 3am because we couldn't find the camp site so we forked out for a travel inn.

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