Chicago, Nov. ’19: The Clouds, The Coffee, The Concert.

“I’m never going back there again”, she said while booking her flight ticket.

I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail.

H. L. Mencken

In honour of spring break (and spring in general because the weather outside is bee-yoo-tiful), I am going to take this opportunity to recount my most previous and unpleasurable-with-equal-parts-pleasurable trip to Chicago.

I love school breaks. I love the fact that they never seem to come until you’re absolutely dying for it; which I am. Right now. In college, breaks from school mean so much more. I mean, when you don’t even bother to attend class, it may mean a lot less but regardless, you get to a point in the semester where you can’t even breathe anymore, let alone pick up the growing pile of dirty laundry on the floor.

Midterms. Ugh. It’s bad guys.

But the sun smiles on us again, this time literally. The sun has shown up to remind the hot girls (and guys and non-binary folk) of who they really are. For us right now, that’s spring break. And it’s come at a time when me and my mutuals need it the most. This is the first in a succession of three breaks (I’m talking about Thanksgiving, Winter and Spring breaks) that I won’t be travelling anywhere or doing anything too specific and while sometimes it burns that I’m too poor to go to Afronation in Puerto Rico, Davido’s concert in Denver, New Orleans, or basically anywhere outside of Dorothy’s Homebase, I’m also looking froward to slathering myself all over my disgustingly, plain leather couch and not getting up until March 16th.

Don’t blame me, I have a mountain of shows to catch up on and I’m pissed because I said I’d die when Sex Education came out but I still haven’t even seen it so…

I love big cities and I love walking around in big cities; it’s the best way to discover a new place. I had been to chicago a couple of times before this trip but the other trips were mostly for visa applications and because they were so condensed I never really got to see chicago.

Actually that’s not true. My first ever Chicago trip was fall break of my freshman year. I travelled in a relatively big group of people in a faith-based organization. We did a lot of touristy things but in a very non-touristy way. We had soooo much good food. it was a little bit chilly but it was a great trip overall. From there on, I was in love with Chicago.

Then I went to chicago again in May 2019 for my first ever concert: The 1975. Good show. This dumb girl tried to fight me though and I one hundred per cent would have slapped her if I needed to.

Anyway, that trip was kind of terrible because I had missed my visa appointment by a week and freaked out at the embassy. It was kind of a stressful trip overall. So after that I hated chicago, or I hated the idea of having to go back. But after my fourth concert that year (Rico Nasty!!) I kind of had my sights set on Jaden Smith. I loved him back in the day, I was convinced we would get married one day; that was obviously before he kind of made it obvious that he was only dating white models.

Sigh.

Anyway, he said he would be going on tour with Willow and I thought okay cool, he probably won’t come to KC because they almost never do. Then the dates came out a lot quicker than I thought they would and I said hell no I’m not going back to Chicago.

And then I booked a ticket.

Naomi, hours after walking around Hyde Park and stumbling upon the University of Chicago campus

So, what I said about walking in big cities? I mean it. I’ll walk anywhere if the weather is nice and there’s something to do or see. I walked over 27,000 steps in one day in Munich. But that’s a story for another post.

Despite it being unbearably cold, I had every intention of wandering around the trendier areas of Chicago and even visiting some college campuses because some days, KU just isn’t my style and I would like to dream of what it would look like if I cared enough to pack up all the stuff I’ve accumulated.

It’s a lot of stuff guys.

Mi y la hermana (commonly referred to as my twin especially in bigger cities) practically scaled the campus, going on and on about their architecture and what we imagined were the inner workings of the institution. Then we let ourselves fly with our imagination and talked rapidly about transferring “we have pretty good GPAs right now, we’re more likely to be accepted” but stopped once the topic of the weather came into question.

Chicago in that way is like London. Except Chicago is specifically for the insane.

I grew up in a 365-day summer okay, you don’t know what nice weather really is.

We also went to their museum because it was free (the Art Institute of Chicago has a less than impressive student discount) and it was also very interesting. I thought the curation was cool, it was quite immersive. I think the Spencer Museum could do with some more art pieces that audiences can interact with.

The Almost-Vegan Sandwich I had for breakfast at Cafe 53

I did not have as much coffee as I thought I would have given that I could finally live out my dreams of being a Carrie Bradshaw-type; coffee in hand, coat swishing at my shins, cute purse on my side.

I’ve never actually seen Sex and The City so don’t take my word for it.

It also didn’t help that when I was about to get some coffee their coffee machine wasn’t working. Alsoooo, it wayyyy too cold to have your hands out holding onto a cup of coffee for dear life. It was enough of a burden to stop and take cute pictures.

Our Airbnb was somewhere outside the city (not as far as you’d think) and as much as I felt tempted to, I was never a big fan of jetting around in an Uber. Our little group of four silly girls, led by me the silliest of them all (maybe not, if you think about it) were all motivated to use public transportation as much as possible. I hated the fact that a day’s ticket was 10 dollars. We were in Chicago for about four days? Maybe three and a half and we really could have done with a weekend-type of pass (a three-day thing for visitors, kind of like in Berlin) but nooooooo I had to pay 40 dollars even though I was spending most of my time shivering down every block.

I don’t do well in the cold, I don’t even know how people spend most of their lives in the cold.

But in addition to that it was so cloudy. I didn’t see the sun for four whole days until I got back to Kansas. Which obviously adds to the cold and the gloominess of the whole thing. I had honestly been looking forward to doing nothing in Lawrence for Thanksgiving but also kind of looking forward to Chicago. I have to admit, when I got to Chicago, all I wanted to do was go back to Lawrence.

The food made up for it you know. I’m bougie, dining our is my thing,

Thai Curry at Star of Siam

The food in Chicago is a feature of the city itself; I’d even say it’s a tourist attraction.

We had this meal the day of the concert, I was feeling particularly special because I had done a full face of make up, I looked kind of cute and weather-appropriate. I was walking around in Chicago having just gotten used to their public transit system; I felt alive.

I’m a city girl, what can I say?

The ambiance of the restaurant was really nice too, the seating space was relaxing; it was kind of like a bench-style thing but it wasn’t uncomfortable. It wasn’t too cold, the waiters were very nice and the lighting was pretty. The scenery they had on the walls and hanging from the ceiling were very cuisine-appropriate. I loved it.

The Willow & ERYS Tour

I think we had found out the day we got to Chicago and were having lunch/dinner at a Chinese restaurant in *gasp* Chinatown, that a very close and dear friend of ours was also in Chicago for a concert. We had hoped to catch up sometime in the city but he only came up for air on the actual day of the concert and his show was beginning just as ours ended. Turns out their concert was happening on the other side of the street. I had seen them going in by chance as we were about to hop on a train; it was cute.

Anyway, the concert.

We wanted to go early but not too early because it was COLD. Lord. It was RAINING that day. We had run around trying to find the largest Starbucks in the world and ended up at a completely different Starbucks (There’s like a 1,000 in Chicago alone) and didn’t even realise until after we had placed our order.

Coffee in hand, we flew across the city to get on a train to the Riviera Theatre, where we stood shivering in line for maybe 2 hours. Other people waited longer in less clothing than me and I guess they got their reward for that but I didn’t envy them. My toes were frozen by the time we were allowed in and I was wearing clunky Steve Madden boots.

I would NEVER actually describe these boots as clunky, they’re very stylish, but I’m trying to paint a picture of the size here.

Mateo was one of the opening acts; which I was kind of floored by because he was someone I grew up watching on TV (Lab Rats, anyone?) but all the opening acts were pretty good. One of them ran into the audience for what ended up being a relatively confused kind of mosh pit.

I feel like I had been ready for this concert for a LONG time. I was ready with the lyrics (lol, no I wasn’t), I was ready for every song and I knew them so well that it wouldn’t even produce this blood-curling cry from me every time something I loved was performed.

It was a good show though, no doubt. I only expected it from them; Jaden and Willow are both very good performers and very talented young artists. They’re also people I admire strongly, Jaden especially because of the ways in which he has been taking initiative and giving back to his community, spreading awareness and empowering young people.

They had a table at the entrance to register people to vote; which I thought was really cool.

Starbucks Reserve Rostery; the largest Starbucks in the world

On the last day of our trip we finally found the largest Starbucks in the world. There was a line to get in. I had to leave my sister in the Airbnb because my 24 hour transit ticket was about to expire so I had to get the hell out and she had to catch up; which she did eventually but it felt like a while.

I don’t like being alone.

But I did like walking in the streets with nothing but my music. Misty by Ella Fitzgerald came on and it was the most beautiful accompaniment to a nice Sunday walk through a cold, cloudy city.

Once I made it through the line, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. It’s not so much of a tourist attraction like they’d have you think. You just go in, take pictures of anything you think is particularly pretty and maybe buy something or leave if you’re broke and have better things to do. I decided to buy something because there was this guy on the second or third floor in a turtle neck sipping wine and looking as rich as he possibly could and he was all but daring me to buy, something so I did.

I also had to wait for my sister to actually get there, I couldn’t just leave and be waiting for halfway across the city.

I cannot remember for the life of me, what they called this bread, but it isn’t just any kind of bread, as you can see.

The restaurants inside of the Starbucks were all very bougie, you have to have a reservation types of places and they weren’t serving doughnuts and hot chocolate either. I got something cheap and small because I was starving but we were due to have brunch soon. I had to buy another one of these olive-infused breads because they were SO good.

I hate olives, love olive oil. But that bread was exceptional.

Also, I couldn’t be in the largest Starbucks in the world and not order a vanilla soy latte, like, what do you take me for?

Anyway, after my sister finally showed up and we had gotten our cute little coffees, we went to go have lunch at Vapiano; which wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever come up with but it’s Vapiano which means even though you can probably do better, it’s good enough.

Look at that lighting…

I also nearly gave this lady a heart attack when I came downstairs to order because my sister had already ordered and she thought we were twins. I mean, I said yes, we ware twins and she believed it so… yeah.

I was quite relieved to finally be going home though, I missed the space in my apartment, the relative warmth compared to Chicago and the underrated joys of a simple life.

But I do love to get around.

xx

Naomi

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