Saturday, August 10, 2013

Second Stop: The Windy City

August 7–August 8, 2013

SLEEPING for few hours on the overnight bus, got to the closest Starbucks store around 5am and finished the previous post and took care of the online life. It's exciting to observe a city waking up: people stepping in for a coffee and maybe have their first conversation of the day with the barista—who unconsciously has become like a family member to most of us living alone. Apparently, the spot I was on did actually belong to one of the regulars who comes in pretty early to secure it for himself for the morning, and his asking me nicely to move to the other table cost the store supervisor a free-drink offer and earned me just another venti frappuccino for the road.

As I arranged in advance with my Airbnb hosts in Chicago Uptown, headed that way after a couple of hours to drop my travel pack. John and Bozena, the hosts, has a nice big town house there and were introduced to Airbnb two and a half years ago. They enjoyed having guests and the extra income, so kept doing it and have become very professional in what they do, almost running a private hotel for themselves and totally satisfied with the Airbnb system. This particular experience made me realize how the Internet start-ups are taking us back to the future, when every two person in the world could do business together and resolve the conflicts in a good manner.

The Art Institute of Chicago was the primary destination, but ended up in the BLICK art supplies store first, where I found some rare Chinese bamboo brushes and other calligraphy materials that I was looking for for a long time, with no luck.

After the shopping, put the Google Glass on, which made the next few hours in the Art Institute very interesting. Unlike Erie, there were lots of tourists around and people talking behind my back about the Glasses, but also unlike NYC, nobody stepped over to talk about it!

My only conversation in there was with one attendee for the Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit, in which photography was not allowed. He looked at me and said: "What we gotta do now? You cannot take pictures in there." I offered to take the Glass off, but he said he's not gonna ask me to and put a smile in my face; so I offered him to try it out, when he responded: "I will be the first among my friends to have seen one! Can I?" Of course he couldn't enjoy it that much in a few seconds that he had it on—had to get back to his job at the post—but I'm sure he's been talking about it all day long that day.

The thing I liked the most in the Art Institute was their collection of timepieces, spreading over the centuries and set up in every corner of the museum.

And in the classical painting category, I wouldn't enjoy anyone's work more than Van Gogh's and Cézanne's.

The free open Internet access in the institute made it possible for me to share the highlights of my visit with friends online. This was my very first time actually using the direct, quick share functionality in real life, which I think was well received by my friends around the world as well.

(the video is #throughglass)

And of course I wouldn't leave before visiting the Modern Art wing first, for a favorite Jackson Pollock and the rest of the gang!

And when I thought I'm done with museum, another exhibition caught my eyes, Zarina: Paper Like Skin, the first retrospective of the Indian-born American artist Zarina and featuring approximately 60 works dating from 1961 to the present. The collection's all about the paper—the platform to store and transfer knowledge through the centuries—and, the ink—the material to put the idea into the platform—and, how they interact with each other. Liked it in every level! (took the photos before I realize I was not supposed to. Here's a video on the exhibition and she talks about her work)

Anyway, the sudden shower rain in the afternoon made me stay indoors for a while, but left for the Millennium Park as soon as the rain stopped and enjoyed the open environment.

Although I did visit the park last year on another road-trip, I should say I didn't experience the space at all. This time, though, sat there in the park for more than an hour each day, and enjoyed the live classical and jazz performances.

For some reason, I felt like sketching and not plan—as I mostly do—but from my point-of-view. My own hypothesis is that this switch from plan to point-of-view is a side effect of the Glass; as it enforces me to take pictures the same way, all the time.

Feeling satisfied—tourist-wise and Glass-wise—I treated myself to pork stake, fried broccoli with garlic, and a glass of 183 at the Purple Pig, where I sit down at a hug table along, but ended up saying goodbye to a few people around me—mostly geeks as myself—who tried the Glass on and were curious about my take on it.

Even though I was not able to find a host through CouchSurfing for my stay in Chicago, the city group on the website got me to meet a few couchsurfers and made my days. The first evening, I met an Argentinian architect who works on the new Panama canal project and we went for a drink to the Signature Room at the 95th tower, where I got a glass of local Goose Island and a few Glass comments/complements. Although he's kind of new to the whole couchsurfing project, he had his stories and I shared the story of my very first surfings in Cyprus.

The hardest part of that day was to get myself to uptown, in the shower, and into the bed after a night sleep in bus and being on the streets since 5am. Slept like a baby for like 8 hours and just got enough time for the mid-way laundry in the basement and show the Glass to a Mexican family with a little girl who where staying at the same place, before packing again and heading to the downtown for the second day.


Checking my emails on the huge screen of the new smartphone—and still in bed under the blankets—got a response from another couchsurfer who's been in town for a few days, staying with friends for a week-long vacation, and up for the well-received architecture boat ride in the Chicago river—the world's only city-wide museum, as they call it themselves.

Kim, a lovely young lady and experienced couchsurfer, was my company for the afternoon. At first, she was very curious about the Glass and whether she's being recorded all the time—although she didn't express it fast and waited for more than 15 minutes to bring it up. But after trying it out and enjoying the fun, she was very cool with it and gave me the permission to take this photo and share it here.

And the Glass totally suits her!

We missed the 12:30 ride and hopped on board the 1:30 one later, getting ourselves into a 75 minutes lecture on the history of the city, its architecture, and a few short love stories.

A 70's themed diner was her find for lunch—via Field Trip—which was the right setup to talk about the Vietnam War and our second-hand stories of it. Growing up in a family of immigrants, she has a deep understanding of the problems of immigrant families and has been involved in their community actives for most of her life. Admirable!

After a couple of short hours, said goodbye to her and headed towards the lake on the east side of the downtown and looking for another Starbucks to recharge myself and the gadgets. Now, the complex buildings in that part of the city made the Google Map app unsuccessful in routing me to the store. Asked a lady walking down the street—in a lavender business dress—for the direction and she kindly walked me to the store through a short cut, which gave us a little time to share about our days. She looked very excited about my trip and began telling it to her friend at the store, so I wrote down the address of this travel log on a piece of business card for her. She was late for a class she was supposed to teach, so we lost contact, until this morning that I got a LinkedIn invitation from her friend.

After the jazz concert in the park and picking up my travel pack from uptown, I went for the last event of the evening, the weekly meeting of Chicago CouchSurfing group. Met a handful of new people and shared stories with a few: a photographer girl who just got back from South America, a janitor from the parks department, and an IT geek (to no surprise, of course).

Got to the  Greyhound station in time to get over the difficulties and get on the bus. Although the couches weren't as good as the previous one, the rest of the ride was as smooth as the other rides. Up to now, I've been trusting my instincts with these things and everything has been working out pretty well.

Now that I'm in Minneapolis—as planned—I'm thinking of changing the next stop from North Dakota to somewhere in South Dakota, so I can visit the Badlands National Park; and maybe Mt. Rushmore.

No comments:

Post a Comment