Days 26–29, August 19th–22nd: having fun in Chicago!

Greenhouse gas emissions (CO2eq): 2,157 kilos
Sigurðar saga fóts: 130/252

So, visiting Chicago was cool. Here are some cool things about Chicago!

Blueberry pie! One never says it out loud, of course, partly because it would be rude and partly just for fear of jinxing one’s chances, but when you visit some friend in Finland who has a track record of offering the sort of hospitality that deserves the name (rather than the ‘er, I think there might be a tin of beans here somewhere’ sort of hospitality that people mostly get from me), you always kind of hope that they might have made mustikkapiiras. But it had never occurred to me to hope for this in the New World. Then lo and behold, what should I find upon my arrival in Evanston, thiry hours on the road, delayed by derailment, harangued by a ninety-minute DVD of the Eagles’ farewell tour? NEW WORLD BLUEBERRY PIE! Made not only with New World blueberries, but with maize too. This made the pastry very yellow, which was double cool.

A THUNDERSTORM! We don’t really do thunderstorms on the Atlantic islands. I hadn’t seen a good thunderstorm since I stood for ages in the small hours, with the survivors of my leaving party, on the balcony of the House in the Sky, silently watching the lightning flicker across the Helsinki skyline. And, I mean, Iceland’s even worse than Britain: there you’ll pick up the national broadsheet and the headline might, occasionally, be, like ‘Thunder heard near Stykkishólmur!’ It’s raresticks. Unless you have a volcanic eruption of course, but that’s kind of cheating.

Anyway, the Sceptical Ex-Pat did this intensive course in witchcraft in 2009–10, and she and her M laid on this amazing thunderstorm for me! The clouds were so dark and so low it was like night, except they were slightly yellowish or greenish, which, as with the mustikkapiiras, was cool. And then you got thunder noises just like in films! Sometimes they were so loud you could feel them, and the house shook. And water gushed from the sky, or, well, the clouds, like the house was sitting under some giant waterfall. It was amazing!

(North America is clearly pretty good for thunderstorms. There was also an impressive one in Toronto on Day 31, with less rain but more forkies, as the Goon calls them. The first time I saw one strike the CN tower I was, like, blimey! And you heard this big cry of ‘Ooooooh!’ from across the city. And then I just realised that you could just stand and watch the CN tower and you could see all the forkies you’d ever want. But it wasn’t as apocalyptic as the Chicago storm. Apocalypse points to M and the Sceptical Ex-Pat!)

BTW, I wonder what it would be like if the soundscape of films was British rather than American? I mean, I’d always assumed it was just made up, but if the thunder here really does sound like film thunder, then maybe when people hit each other it really does sound like a gun going off? And maybe when you press a key on a computer it really does go ‘BEEP!’, followed by the appearance of a diagram which goes ‘bipbipbipbipbipbipbipbipbipbipbipbipbipbipbipbipbip‘ ? And, you know, if by some accident of history the home of the talkie had turned out to be Holyrood instead of Hollywood, maybe when cars accelerate really quickly, the sound effect would be the grinding of the clutch rather than squealing of the tires?

And, anyway, we went to the Chicago History Museum. Quite good—certainly enjoyed it. Everything went anti-clockwise, except that we went clockwise, which meant that we saw everything in reverse chronological order. Oops. Interesting to see about the various race riots, set, in my mind, against the recent UK riots. And the Art Institute Chicago: very impressive; I particularly liked the American folk art display. But the Art Gallery of Ontario came in ahead on local colour.

But probably the best bit was this festival, the Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest. I say festival. It was more kind of an urban version of a village fete than what I’d call a festival, but the more fun for it. I mean, without bash-the-rat, which was a shame, but with music. I was interested in how consistently American the music sounded. Like, I now realise that I think, perhaps wrongly, of most pop music genres as being basically American, so I didn’t think I’d notice any difference in the music on this side of the pond. But

  • the bluesman was, well, a Chicago bluesman I suppose (and his drummer turned up late because he was still in church)
  • the mediocre but inoffensive alt. folk band was, er, certainly not from anywhere else
  • and the Tom Waits covers band was convincingly similar to the real Tom Waits
  • and the bluegrass-and-country band sounded distinctly more like a country band than old Johnny Badapple used to (well, that’s not saying much, but still).
  • And the Mariachi band was a Mariachi band, and you can’t say fairer than that.

You know, a strong overall sense of meat-and-two-veg guitar music, but if you’re going to swap something in for any of the veg, it will make you sound more like Tom Waits, not more like David Bowie. (Plus mariachi band.) Nothing wrong with that—I really enjoyed it—but not a single bloopy Mac to be seen! No Icelanders here then.

And yeah, a real sense of an interesting part of town, and a diverse bunch of people coming together, in terms of class and—to an unusual degree, my hosts tell me—race. At any rate, people seemed quite accommodating to the random oddballs hanging around being weird. It was groovy!

But still, actually, that wasn’t really the best bit at all. It was the second best. The best thing about Chicago was my brilliant hosts! Woo!


About alarichall
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1 Response to Days 26–29, August 19th–22nd: having fun in Chicago!

  1. Aah. How nice! You know, you have set the bar pretty high: we are going to have to lay on a full forked lightning storm or maybe a double rainbow for your next visit.

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