Well kiddies, I survived the trip to Chicago/Milwaukee with virtually no problems. Despite all the little things that went wrong along the way, the overall trip was fun and well worth it. Not to mention the added bonus of expanding my (mentally) allowable travel range a little further than before. Another step on the path, you know. I had a non-stop out there, a layover on the way back. Different airlines, different jet models. The little puddle jumper was not as stressful as I thought, and I’m a new fan of that big Boeing 777. So big you can barely even tell you’re in the air, and I almost didn’t notice we had landed. Plus the bathrooms are huge comparatively… ah, but I digress. Anyway, if you’re interested in the trip, read on. Here are some scattered impressions:
- There’s a certain magic to travelling that I do miss sometimes. It used to be that I travelled almost every week for work, to the point that I probably took it for granted. In a taxi heading into downtown Chicago from the airport at dusk, I observed its skyline for the first time. At once both familiar and foreign. You could see that it’s a world unto itself. And I got to thinking about how to millions of people, Chicago is “the city” the way that to me San Francisco is “the city.” Chicago has its own neighborhoods and character, its own touristy areas and locals-only bars and restaurants, its own scenes and players and hot shots and local celebrities. And to think that every big city around the country (and even the planet) are each their own little world the way that S.F. is its own little world. It’s one of those things that makes you feel tiny in the grand scheme of things. In a word: wonderment.
- Chicago loves it some brick buildings. I suppose if San Francisco ever had a bunch, earthquakes would have knocked them down by now. But I don’t know if it’s an exaggeration to say that half the buildings in Chicago are brick. Unpainted brick. Which is to say that a lot of the city is the same color. But I didn’t dislike it. It had a ton of character wholly unlike any west coast city I’m aware of. The scores of burned out factories might be considered “blight” by the locals, but I found it charming. The library was amazingly decorated on the outside. And though there were plenty of skyscrapers (including the epic Sears Tower which there sadly wasn’t time to visit), there’s still a lot of open space between buildings which S.F. somehow seems to lack. Not to mention a river going through the middle of the city. My evidence, though collected in only a couple days, is based on time walking around the city, through the outskirts, and even riding on the famous elevated subway.
- Chicago also loves it some flowers. Tulips to be precise. Many buildings throughout downtown and really all over the city were landscaped beautifully with these perfect tulips. All I could think was that in S.F. those would last about two days. As it was, it gave a certain Disneyland quality to walking around town. It didn’t hurt that I saw almost no litter anywhere there.
- Oh, and Chicago also loves it some purple shoes. Fashion in general was a little off, but it could have just been our proximity to the colleges and their awkward youths. But whatever the reason, I saw plenty of ridiculous hipsters and more than my fair share of purple shoes. I don’t get it. There also seemed to be a trend that I don’t notice around here so much: many young, black women seemed to dress in a sort of traditional 60’s girl group style. By that I mean nice plaid dresses, tasteful hairstyles, super classy all around. I much prefer it over what I usually see in the Bay Area. Maybe it’s a Midwest thing? Also, I saw virtually no rockabilly folks, but there were some tatted up goth types here and there.
- This trip reminded me some of old times. It used to be the with band trips, we’d all pile into the same van and deal with the hassles together. It seems to breed a certain camaraderie. Over the years, we’ve all gotten to where we book our own trips and make our own plans with other friends or girlfriends or wives, and band trips end up just like any other trip… and the show itself ust happens to be the one time we all meet up. Well, for this trip we all shared one car and one room, and for all the occasional inconveniences that go along with that arrangement, I think it’s nice to do that every so often… get in the trenches with each other as it were. Sure, it stretches you comfort zone a little, but the benefits far outweigh the hassle.
- The food on the trip was decadent and delicious. We ate at Girardano’s pizza the first night and the famous Gino’s East on the way out of town. Gino’s deep dish actually did live up to all the hype. It was amazing. I had lunch at some point at a place called the Midtown which was also great. Chicago has several 24-hour combination Baskin Robbins / Dunkin’ Donuts. They are seriously on every other corner, including directly across the street from our hotel. I saw at least as many of them as I did Starbucks.
- We didn’t spend as much time in Milwaukee, but it also had a lot of character. The last (and only time) I’d ever been there previously was near the end of 2004, right around the time I first started bloggin’ I think. It’s a nice town with a liberal feel. We ate at the equivalent of S.F.’s Ferry Building, and I had a delish made-to-order salad and some juiced apple/beet/strawberry/lime concoction. Unfortunately that was about all I had time for before it was time to fly home.
- I guess I should say something about the shows, huh? The Double Door in Chicago was a big place, and it reminded me of a slightly-smaller Slim’s. The sound guys were great, and after a rough start, we played a good show. Astonishingly, there were a few separate people from the San Jose area that happened to be in town and came to the show. Apparently, this is a hot little place, with such acts as The New York Dolls and The Buzzcocks coming there later in the Spring/Summer. As for Milwaukee’s Shank Hall, they fully embrace the Spinal Tap tie-in. They also have a history of some huge acts, which of course I can’t remember now. But the walls were adorned with autographed publicity photos of those bands. Hundreds of them. Smashing Pumpkins, Blue Oyster Cult, The Reverend Horton Heat, and a ton of others. Anyway, the sound here was great too, and we played well I think. Because of some logistical issues, we didn’t get a chance to hit the hotel before the show, so I played what I believe is my first ever TCB show where I did not shower immediately before. I survived, but it is not my preference. Not only do I feel clean and refreshed, but it helps to clear my head and prepare me for the show.
- A general comment on the trip… I am again reminded how easy it would be for you and your significant other — and this goes for me too, of course — to just take a quick weekend trip to some far off city for a date/getaway weekend. If you plan ahead, you’re talking like $200 round trip. Fly off to Chicago or wherever, some city you don’t really know, and just explore and find new vistas and restaurants, just the two of you. Sounds like an adventure, doesn’t it? I don’t know why I haven’t and don’t do that more often. Seems like such a good idea!
- On my way out of Milwaukee, one of the TSA ladies took a look at my pedalboard case and laughed at the sticker that reads “I ♥ Hunting Accidents.” She told me she loved it. I explained to her that it gets me a lot of dirty looks and I wasn’t sure how wise it was to display it up north, and with a wink she said “yeah, we may be the only two people in this whole state that support it, but I do.” It made my afternoon.
OK, I think I’ve bored you enough. In closing, fun trip! This weekend, TCB is off to Bakersfield and Fresno, and then the following weekend is our big Slim’s show! Tell your friends! Spread the word! Goodnight all!
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
— Warren Buffett