It's always nice to be back in Chicago after a long trip! It feels a little bit surreal sometimes, even just the normal things like walking through the airport, seeing the style of clothes people are wearing, swiping the ventra card, hopping on the blue line, etc. But this time I wouldn't be taking the metro, like I usually do. My brother Ed and his girlfriend would swing by and pick me up, and I got to meet their Golden/Beagle puppy, Thor. We headed back to Naperville to see our parents and then get ready for our friends Kevin and Tracie's wedding.
The wedding also worked out well because I got to see a lot of friends that I haven't seen for a while all at one time. The venue itself was pretty cool, as it had a bowling alley and bocce ball courts attached to it. For someone who doesn't particularly want to be on the dance floor the whole night, I enjoyed this setup. The wedding of course was great, everything was smooth, the speeches were exactly how they should be: short, touching, humorous, etc; everybody was on the dance floor towards the end, and then pizza and bowling afterwards! A pretty good night.
After the wedding I'd spend the week at home with my parents, which was nice to catch up with them, relax, get some laundry done, and run some errands. They fed me well, and I had a few opportunities to get in the kitchen with a complete set of pots and pans and a full spice rack, which is always nice after being on the road. But being without a car in the suburbs can get a bit boring and after a few days I headed back into the city. My brother let my stay in his guest bedroom at first and then I moved upstairs into my friend Jeff's spare bedroom, err glorified closet. But beggars can't be choosers. I mean I could have found a sublet on craigslist, but it's kind of a PITA and you never really know what you're gonna get, so this was just convenient.
So I took the train into the city and then had a chance to wander around the downtown for a bit. We have a pretty damn great downtown. It's right on the lake, the skyline is stunning, and the architecture is just so very impressive. The architecture is one of those things that you kind of take for granted living here. While Asia does have more modern looking high rises, a lot of times they can look a bit cookie cutter. I like that the buildings in Chicago have character! If you're paying attention there are really endless details carved into the massive slabs of granite.
After checking the museum of contemporary art (which is free!) it was time to find the nearest blue line station. Now as much as like Chicago, the metro system is not one of the highlights. Traveling in Asia is a constant reminder of how dated our public transit system is. The majority of the metros in Asia are relatively new, super clean, smooth, efficiently designed, run often and on time, let you easily buy fares based on how far you are going (and don't make you pay extra for a card) and in general are pleasant to use. As with the Chicago CTA, I can't exactly say the same thing. It's not bad (usually) but the rides are much more jerky and rickety, are delayed more frequently, smell worse, and suck at handling lots of people. Well at least they're slowly switching from the inefficiently designed two seater rows to the seating on the outer edges of the cars!
Ok! So I got off at Logan Square, which would be my home neighborhood for now, as it was last year. It's a pretty nice area, not too expensive (yet), and good mix of yuppies, hipsters, and hispanics, with plenty of new bars and restaurants popping up all the time. I got off and wandered down Milwaukee Ave, the central thoroughfare. It's always pleasing walking past the usual bars, restaurants, and coffeeshops and looking for any new or interesting changes in the last 8 months. A pop up bar, dedicated to the show Stranger Things, was hopping early on a Friday evening.
I walked south, towards where I would be living, a part of Logan that was changing very quickly, as it is near the 606 trail, a defunct train track turned into public use space. Many of the nearby buildings were getting bought out, remodeled and renovated, and selling for high prices. It's a weird mix of 40 year old homes and ultra modern 3 flats. So the place is gentrifying quickly, which is bad news for the hispanic residents who rent in this area. But that's how it goes, I guess.
So it was disappointing to me that there was no little mexican grocery store in close proximity, which is where I normally like to buy my fresh produce on the cheap. But there was a more stylish "Fresh Market" complete with many vegan options, craft cheeses, free range eggs, and pricey pre-made meals. The usual yuppie type fare. The amount of fresh produce in the "Fresh Market" was substandard to say the least! At least the craft beer selection was good. There were a couple of new local breweries that I hadn't seen on the shelves before, so I picked one up and headed another couple of blocks to my brother's new home, where I'd be settling in for a little bit.