Eric's Chicago Trip

Day One: Chocolate

Tom and Evelyn picked me up at Midway airport, and we went straight to Rick's house. (Rick is one of Evelyn's relatives. So is everybody else I met in Chicago.) We picked up Marisol and took the train into the city to begin a whirlwind chocolate tour. The first stop was Marshall Field's to check out Charbønnel et Walker, an English chocolatier. It turned out Marshall Field's also carries the chocolates of Joseph Schmidt, Neuhaus, B.T. McElrath, Lake Champlain and others. So we were there for a while. (One of my hobbies is reviewing chocolate stores.)

When we left, we walked up Michigan Avenue to go to Vosges Haut-Chocolat. By chance, we passed Moonstruck's new chocolate bar. I had planned to go to the Moonstruck store I knew of outside the city, but this saved me a trip. We stopped there and then finished the walk to Vosges. Evelyn wanted to know what I thought of the city. I don't think she was happy that it impressed me as "New York light." However, when I leave the elevated train and walk on the street under the girders, it's impossible not to think of New York.

We finished the day's chocolate shopping at Neiman-Marcus, which used to carry the chocolates of Le Francais but no longer does. There were no great new finds in this chocolate search, although Vosges' Woolloomooloo is nice. Complete results have been entered into my chocolate store reviews.

I don't waste any time when it comes to chocolate, so we were done before one o'clock. Evelyn wanted to ride the elevator at the Water Tower, the next block over. It's some sort of nostalgia thing. Then we took the subway north to try the Chicago Diner, a vegetarian restaurant. That was the last time I had any control over where I ate in Chicago. The Chicago Diner is nice, but I miss the Candle Café in New York City.

I wanted to find a gift for my hosts, Evelyn's sister Ruth Constante and brother-in-law Patrick, so we shopped at the nearby Century Mall. Then we took the train back downtown, stopped at the Merchandise Mart in the loop, and made our way to the Constantes', where I was introduced. We played Family Business with Ruth and Patrick's children, Stacey and Patrick, and we picked up a stuffed pizza for dinner, apparently nostalgic for Evelyn and Tom. Since we omitted mushrooms from the vegetarian side of the pizza, Stacey, who is nine years old, asked if I didn't like mushrooms. I told her that mushrooms were icky, squishy, and trying to take over the world. She disagreed, so I told her about the 1500-acre fungus in Washington state. Then Stacey looked at Evelyn. In fact, every time Tom or I said anything the least bit questionable, Stacey looked to Evelyn for confirmation. I think I convinced her that there is a huge fungus, but she doesn't think it is taking over the world.

Day Two: Airplane Rides

Evelyn's second cousin Mundo flew us to breakfast. He's got an airstrip in his backyard. Tucked into an ordinary residential neighborhood are several rows of houses with extra-large garages that border on taxiways. Along Mundo's street, one side of the garages opens onto the public street. The other side opens onto the airstrip. He just drives the plane out of his backyard onto the taxiway, along the houses to the runway, and takes off. After breakfast, we flew around Chicago. Pictures are below.

We wanted to visit Fermi Lab, but a call to the lab led us to believe they only had tours for groups of ten or more. Later, a return call revealed you can take a self-guided tour anytime. However, it came too late for us to go.

We picked up a thin-crust pizza for dinner, another of Evelyn's nostalgia. I presume it fills a similar role for her as Ledo's in Maryland does for me. The pizza was even a little like Ledo's. Stacey and I picked up the fungus discussion. She maintains they taste good but admits they are squishy. I say they are icky and maintained that the fungus is trying to take over the world, even if it won't. (In fact, there is an even larger fungus in Oregon that is killing trees.)

After dinner, we flew around Chicago again, at night.

Day Three: Gambling

In the morning, we went to the Field Museum of Natural History. It's always good to get a little culture. Especially when the museum has a chocolate exhibit. I'm afraid the exhibit was too short, didn't say enough about the current chocolate market, and didn't have enough video of chocolate. You know, they have videos of roaring fireplaces, how about a nice, hypnotic video of swirling chocolate in a conching machine?

The museum also had a good exhibit on animal diversity. The collection displayed a very broad range of animal forms, habitats, defenses, food-gathering, reproduction, colors, and so on.

After the museum, we drove through Tom and Evelyn's old neighborhood and lunched at Lalo's Mexican Restaurant, more Evelyn nostalgia. Then we went back to the Constantes' and played Apples to Apples Junior with Stacey and Patrick. After their parents got home, we went to the Moldau Restaurant for dinner.

It was pretty late by then, and I was ready for bed. We had to get up at six a.m. the next morning to get me to the airport. However, Evelyn and Ruth wanted to go to the Empress riverboat casino. Evelyn doesn't get up early on a normal day, let alone after spending a late night in a casino. So I thought this was a bad idea. Plus, Evelyn hadn't told me a casino was on the itinerary, so I had not prepared. Playing optimal blackjack requires memorizing some detailed tables.

However, I went with them. If I hadn't, they might still be at the casino. I watched folks playing roulette for a while, and I spent a little time figuring the average return on some of the craps bets, and I helped Evelyn with a few blackjack hands. However, I wasn't gambling, so I stepped out on deck, which was deserted. Since the casino is a riverboat, it has to have a trained crew, but the ship never goes anywhere, so the crew must be bored out of their minds. We left at 1:30, so it was 2:30 before I got to bed, leaving only 3½ hours to sleep. We made it to the airport on time, but I don't remember much of the plane ride home.

Photographs from the Plane Rides
Sears Tower
As we approach Chicago, the Sears Tower is prominent.
Wide view of Chicago
Chicago gets closer.
Chicago River
We cross the Chicago River.
Downtown Chicago
Leaving Chicago.
Fermi Lab
Fermi Lab.
Chicago at night
Chicago at night.
Airplane in front of garage
The airplane at home.
Neighborhood airstrip seen from garage
Outside the garage, you can see the central runway and a taxiway on either side.
Garaging the plane
Mundo and Tom park the airplane for the night.

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© Copyright 2002 by Eric Postpischil.