At this point I had been in Chicago for over two weeks. When I first got here I wasn't expecting this whole Chicago thing to have a part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. I thought I was going to get in and get out. But, life throws curve balls, so Chicago gets multiple parts.
Going into my third week I was feeling less pressure to be a tourist. Honestly, being a tourist can get tiring. It requires planning, entrance fees, lines...after doing it for a week I sort of just wanted to get back to doing me. So, that's what I did for the next few days.
Something to know about me is that I'm not much of a morning person. Left to my own devices, I'll crawl out of bed at 10:50 am, start my day around 1:00 pm and stay up until 3:00 am, intently focused on some project. I guess that's how one would describe a "night owl". Yeah, I'm in that category. So these few days of Colin doing Colin were defined by a pretty atypical, sometimes borderline manic, schedule.
I spent much of Saturday with Dave's cousin Erica, who, after spending so many days sleeping on her couch, was my new friend. What did we do together on this sunny weekend day? Well, nothing. We just hung out, and that was really gratifying. We sat in Linkin Park, read books and took pics of the city.
That night I won my first game of Risk against my roommates (at this point Dave and Erica were basically my roommates). The fact that I, the rookie, won the game of Risk seemed to upset Dave, who has a bit of a competitive edge. Somehow after I won the game, he made it a point to lecture us about proper strategy in the game of Risk. Hmm. If he had the right strategy then wouldn't he have won? I'm not really sure how that works out, but I do know that it made my victory that much more enjoyable (comment section enabled in case anyone wishes to share thoughts on the matter).
After the intense game of Risk, Janelle came over. She and I joined my roommates to watch Deadpool, then the two of us wandered to The Den on Halsted for a cocktail. This was the kind of Saturday that could have taken place anywhere. All it really required was good company and pleasant springtime weather.
Then Sunday came around. I had plans to go to the White Sox game with Samira and Hozaifa. I struggled to get out of bed, per usual. Once I did, I hopped on the train and headed South to U.S. Cellular Field.
By now you're probably noticing that I go to a lot of baseball games. In fact, this Sox game would be the fourth baseball game on this trip. It's funny, because I never played baseball as a youth, instead my interest in baseball sort of snuck up on me over time. As a young adult I realized that following baseball was a good way to relate to people, all kinds of people, in my hometown. The doorman at my office, the UPS guy, my colleagues, everyone just really seemed to like BSing about baseball. So I made a conscious effort to start watching games. Then, in 2015, I made a brief trip to Detroit with some friends. My buddy Manny and I decided to check out a Tigers game at Comerica Park. It was there that I really discovered the beauty of going to the ball game. The ball park is a microcosm of the city. In the course of three hours you brush shoulders with the locals, learning what makes them laugh, cry, scream and shout. I got such a feel for Detroit and it's people during that hot afternoon in Comerica Park. Ever since then I have been hooked. I mean baseball is America's favorite pastime for a reason, right?
The game was great. The Sox played against the defending champion Kansas City Royals. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and we even had a view of the Lake from our upper level seats. How could we not have a good time? I was pleased to be able to accompany Samira and Hozaifa to their first Sox game, which they had been eager to attend. Despite having gone to a Cubs game before, I think these two will be Sox fans. I mean, look at them, they've even got the gear!
One of the greatest features of the park is it's incredible view of the Chicago skyline. We took a bunch of great pics, the one above being my hands-down favorite.
You know, earlier I ranted and raved about how amazing Wrigley Field was, and it certainly was, but this ballpark was also really special. The views of the Lake and city are precious. Located in South Chicago, the Sox turn out out a decently diverse fan base. I got less of a party vibe from US Cellular Field and more of a community feel. I don't know, maybe all of my perceptions are airy because at both games the sun was out, the home team won and I was with good company. When you come to Chicago you quickly understand why the city has such a proud history of sport teams.
Monday I sort of spun out of control, but in a good way. That evening Dave, Erica, her friend, Sara, and I did trivia at Rocks, a great sports bar on Broadway. Yes, it was a Monday night, but no, no one was really acting like it. We ate, drank and were merry. We only managed to get fourth place in trivia, but did succeed in getting a round of shots from the awesome trivia hostess, Tara, for, umm, participation? We giggled most of the way back to our apartment.
Once there, the four of us congregated around the living room table where I had been working on a 1,000 piece puzzle. With the help of my roommates we had gotten it about 65 percent done. The only problem with this is, as you may already know, puzzles tend to suffer from the low-hanging fruit dilemma. The most obvious pieces get connected earliest, leaving the least obvious pieces to be connected later on. This means the puzzle gets harder and harder and harder. We were at the hardest point, where only the difficult pieces were left and there were a lot of them so nothing was obvious. Dave made his contrubution by locking in one piece, then headed to bed, which was totally understandable because he had real obligations to fulfill in the morning.
Around 2:00 am my partners threw up a white flag. It was getting late and we were getting delusional, so they called it a night. I told the ladies that the puzzle, which was now about 80 percent done, would be completed by morning. They said there was no way. This really added fuel to the fire. I guess Dave wasn't the only competitive person in the house. The ladies left, and I got to work.
The first thing I did was to organize the remaining 200 or so pieces by shape. These puzzle pieces were all squares that had either 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4 little connectors sticking out. Once I organized the pieces it was simply a question of plug and chug. I would assess the type of piece that some gap in the puzzle needed, then would try piece-by-piece each one that had the right specifications. The nice thing about this system was that it created a place for each unused piece, making it easier to avoid trying the same piece over and over. At 4:20 am the puzzle was done.
At that precise moment I realized something. Sunrise was at 5:20 am. If I hopped on the bus now I could catch the sunrise downtown and be in Millenium Park for the magic hour. The magic hour is every photographer's dream come true. It's the hour at dusk or dawn when the sky is bright, but the sun's direct rays are gone, so everything is illuminated with a gentle light that creates vivid colors. It was on. I grabbed my camera and rushed to the corner to catch an early bus. The normally busy arteries of Broadway and State were completely empty. The sun's first rays hadn't yet made it to the city's drowsy streets.
I hopped off the bus, then followed Monroe street to the shore.
There I was greeted by the sun. I spent a few moments mediating at the end of the pier.
Moment by moment the sun inched higher in the sky. The magic hour had begun. I rushed to Millenium Park to get a shot of The Bean. I was really pleased with how it came out.
This jumbo monument usually acts like a magnet for tourists. For the first time I had The Bean all to myself. This dawn I discovered tourists' weakness: morning time.
A few people passed through park, one of whom I struck up a conversation with. She was Susanna, a young lady from Spain who was in town for a mixology event. It was nice to share my story with her and learn about the Spanish equivalent of a cross county journey, the Camino de Santiago. While speaking with Susanna I had an odd realization. The last time I stayed up all night to watch the sunrise was two years ago on the beach in Barcelona. What a funny coincidence that this all-nighter also had some Spanish connection.
It was hardly 8:00 am and I was exhausted. My mind was hazy from the mini-adventure I had embarked on. There were benches in the Park next to the huge electronic-billboard-face-water-fountains (I really don't know how to describe these things). I laid down on one of the benches, fixing my gaze on the smiling young black boy's face that appeared on the giant monitor. The sound of a bustling Chicago morning hummed in the background. Then at once water began spouting from the mouth of this electronic face. The sound of cascading water drowned out the automobiles on Michigan Ave, gently lulling me to sleep.
I awoke. The black boys face on the monitor had been replaced by a moustached Hispanic man. The señor was not yet spouting water. I chuckled to myself. Man, three days ago some guy thought I was homeless, now here I am sleeping on a park bench. I was intentionally avoiding going back to the apartment because Dave was working on a final exam. As 9:00 am rolled around I figured it was time to head back to the apartment. The city had woken up and I was falling asleep.
When I arrived at 10:00 am I found Dave in full production mode. I swear that I would have just shut my mouth and passed out but we were out of toilet paper, so I headed to the local grocery. I returned to the apartment after the quick trip. I called Erica to let me in. No response. I called again. Nothing. Dammit. I very easily could have called Dave, but I really felt bad about bothering him, so I just sat on the stoop of our apartment, rested my head against my knees, and passed out...next to my shopping bag of toilet paper...
I don't know how much time elapsed before Dave came to the door. In five years of friendship I can't say that I had ever seen the look of surprises, confusion and disgust that Dave made when he found me passed out on his stoop next to a bag of toilet paper. Man, I really can't blame him. I was acting odd. I needed a nap. I hit the living room couch and was out like a light.
When I awoke that afternoon I proceeded to have a completely normal afternoon. I went to the public library, got my beard trimmed and even bumped into my buddy Shareef who had just got off work. That was kind of crazy. In a small town like DC it's common to bump into people you know in the street, but in Chicago? Shareef and I chatted a bit before he headed home to study.
In just three weeks I was beginning to feel like I belonged in Chicago. I was bumping into friends in the street. I was doing weekly trivia at my favorite neighborhood bar/restaurant. I was being adventurous. I had even scoped out my favorite little place by the water where I would read and update my blog. The Chi wad treating me really well. No matter how well the treatment, however, I knew that my stay would only be temporary. I had a purpose. As much as I would like to carelessly float around Chicago, the road summoned me. My friends were making plans to move on, Dave to DC and Erica to NY. I was coming around to the reality that my spring in Chicago would soon be over.