Twice as big as Toronto, I don't know what made me think I could capture this city in such a short time! But I'm loving it here.
Having left Ottawa on Friday September 26th 's overnight bus, I arrived in Toronto on Saturday morning having had not a wink of sleep. Try sleeping on a wooden roller-coaster and you might understand why this was the case. I saw my swing friend Alisha in her children's musical production of the Ugly Duckling (complete with sweet Charleston moves), I enjoyed a fantastic meal at a raw foods restaurant, I smashed my head into a hanging plant (a delightful experience this was), and then I kicked around Toronto until my ride was ready to leave.
Which didn't occur until 4pm Wednesday October 1st. I was hesitant about leaving at this hour because my housing at Jesus People USA (JPUSA) hadn't yet been confirmed and I knew we'd be arriving late. I was right to be wary: After a very long drive, Allan and I arrived in Chicago at the door of JPUSA at almost 3am and were told to come back tomorrow since the housing coordinators were already in bed. Bummer.
So we drove another hour to a truck stop where I slept almost comfortably in the back seat of the car, 'showered' in the truck stop bathroom sink because I wouldn't dish out $10 to use their showers (bottled drinking water is one thing, but I'm NOT going to pay that much for water to be poured on my head!) and got to laugh at the strange array of foods available for truckers – including 'self-heating' meals. Yum. I passed.
After checking into JPUSA and meeting my new roommate for the weekend (a vivacious and delightful African American Messianic “Jew-nitarian”named Lia, who much like my friend Ulyn has a phenomenal singing voice) we cruised through downtown Chicago until our feet hurt and our stomachs screamed.
What a thrill! I've seen several movies based in Chicago, and to be walking along the waterfront in sight of the Chicago skyline was like walking into a page of my book of daydreams. We rode the 150 foot ferris wheel at Navy Pier which enabled me to get some fantastic shots of the city – though I'm told the great 1893 World Fair in Chicago had a much bigger ferris-wheel – and that a much bigger one is in Chicago's future plans.
We also found Millennium Park and the famous 'big bean' (officially entitled “Cloud Gate” - a large sculpture plated with smooth stainless steel plates thus enabling amazing reflections of people and of the Chicago skyline. Also in Millennium park was Crown Fountain, a fountain featuring faces of Chicagoans that intermittently spits water out of the 'mouths' and out onto the sidewalk. (Don't worry, I took pictures and a video).
All in this same day (yes, the day after we barely slept in the luxury of the car) we also took in a couple hours of the Art Institute of Chicago because it was free day. Got an amazing shot of the sunset through the Sears and another prominent building.
And there was morning and evening the first day.
Friday saw the beginning of WCLX. I still can't believe I got to attend a lindy-hop event in Chicago! Me!! In Chicago! The big city with all the phenomenal jazz and blues scenes and an exchange with over 300 people. Oh the dances I danced! The people I met! I could rant on and on about all the lovely dancers who gifted me with fun dances into the wee wee hours this weekend. Doug, Christian, Andy, Leo, Thomas, and even Andrea with her amazing photographic skills and butt shots... Thanks to them I laughed, I smiled, I felt appreciated and even loved (the consensus is that I am an “interesting person”). The bands, DJ's, and venues were amazing too! Good memories. Thanks y'all. :)
The post exchange brought some interesting experiences. My driver was so tired that we nearly got into a car accident after the late-night. We'd driven the DJ to the airport (or rather he'd driven him – I had to get out of the car and wait an hour and a half outside a gas station since the DJ's cologne had exploded in his luggage, rapidly making the car REAK like a man bathed in musk oil and I as a result was on the verge of nausea and passing out). By 8am, after three nights of 5am dancing, we were a few minutes from JPUSA when I noticed we were careening straight into the back of the car in front of us without any sign of slowing down. “Woe”, I said. Then “WOE!” I shouted. We screeched to a sharp stop mere millimeters from the car. Wow.
Logic would've sent me straight to my room. Common sense would've sent me to bed. But three days of living with little more than 5 hours of sleep tends to banish both. Upon entering JPUSA, Aaron, the friendly blond-dread-haired man at the front desk, persuaded me to join him on a shopping spree to a nearby thrift store that was having a 50% off sale. He'd been up all night doing the night shift so we were both zombies, laughing in the book corner over some Politically Correct Fairy Tale books.
After sleeping all day Monday, I zipped out to a jazzy bar called Fizz Club where I enjoyed some farewell dances with some of the terrific people I'd met at the exchange. I sat out in the car chatting with Andrea who'd driven me home – a ten minute conversation that turned into an hour and a half cause she's such an awesome person. I then wound up spending the remainder of the night reading the PC books with Aaron to help ease him boredom of front desk duty alone. Yes, only for that reason ;) I don't enjoy his company at all or anything :P
I saw another museum Tuesday (an awesome history museum where I got to see one of the original lion pieces that adorned the great blue wall of Babylon) and then spent time hanging out with the JPUSA folk. Great people. I have lost much sleep as a result of time spent with them but it's been well worth it. I'll write more about this Christian community in a future post. Far too much to say on that account. :)
Today was my final day in Chicago - at least this time around - I'm already planning/dreaming of a return trip in June or July (in time for the JPUSA Cornerstone Festival). I visited the John Hancock building - world's tallest multi-purpose building. There's a grocery store, fitness center, condominiums, office buildings, loads of other stores... and a fantastic observation deck in which I spent roughly 4 hours taking multitudes of pictures and watching the sun set.
We leave for Toronto first thing in the morning. I'm waiting around to say goodbye to Aaron but it looks like I won't have the chance. He's been on the phone since I got back at 11 - it's now going on 2:30 in this time zone. Which figures, but maybe it's just as well. He's only planning on being here 2 months so he'll probably be gone by the time I return, if I return. He'll probably just be another one of those really cool people I cross paths with just once in a lifetime. That's how my life tends to fly. Stiff upper lip, ya know? I mean I have the joy of traveling and with that naturally comes the sadness of leaving people behind.
Still, I've had a marvelous time in this great city of Chicago.