Month: August 2014

Goodbye Chicago

Chicago Theater_opt

 Chicago Theater


It’s over. Three weeks of indulging in food fantasies, hanging out with my dear brother, exploring Chicago, went by very quickly. Oh, the clothes and shoes I bought. In China it’s virtually impossible to find “western” sizes, so I had a good excuse to go slightly mad in Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Old Navy, and an incredible shoe store called Altman’s, where they won’t let you leave the store unless the shoes fit perfectly. It was old-fashioned service, actually measuring both feet, bringing stacks of shoe boxes for inspection, and fitting my hard-to-fit feet.



Wabash Ave.

 Wabash Avenue, El steps, pigeons


I even took a stab at riding a bike along the lake front. In my college days, I could easily make the 25-mile round trip from Evanston south to McCormick Place, but this time I was winded after just 45 minutes or so. 8 years of China smog, lack of exercise, and laziness have caught up with me (OK, age has something to do with it too).

My brother and I visited the Art Institute on a (free) Thursday evening, to catch the Magritte exhibition. We explored Chicago neighborhoods I’d never visited before, and I experienced the reverse culture shock of returning to my home country only the second time in 8 years. Most surprising, I guess, was the friendliness of the people. I’m a native midwesterner, and lived in Chicago in my youth, but I simply didn’t remember this kind of friendliness. It was a completely different kind of social dynamic than I experienced in my 15 years in Los Angeles. Rather than sounding fake, however, the Chicago friendliness seemed completely genuine.



Snow Drop 1

 Snow Drop Lounge – now Gino’s North Pizza


One of the sentimental journeys my brother and I made was to the former Snow Drop Lounge [above], a beautiful 40s deco bar where we used to hang out in the early 80s. The place had an amazing jukebox, and we would always play the Les Brown/Doris Day version of Sentimental Journey. These days the place is called Gino’s East, and serves pizza. Except for a window wall on the street side, it’s exactly the same.

We met up with an old friend, Lorraine, and reminisced about wacky things we did in younger years, such as visiting a fortune teller, crawling on hands and knees up the steps of Holy Name Cathedral, trying to drive into a 7-11, and re-enacting Lorraine’s birth at 4:30 a.m. on her New Year’s Day birthday at the Orbit Room bar. Generally, all of this was done while insanely drunk. Expriencing Chicago now after 22 years of sobriety was, well, a sobering experience.


Chicago and Lake Michigan_opt

 Chicago skyline from Diversey Harbor


I’m now back in China, having gotten my working visa at the Chinese Consulate in Chicago, which was ostensibly my main reason for returning to the US. My biggest headache – the insanely difficult visa process – is now over, although I’m still experiencing jet lag, and waking up at ungodly hours. All my packing was done a couple of weeks before I left, so now I must make arrangements with a driver and vehicle to make the 2-day cross-China trip from Chengdu to Suzhou. My new job starts next Monday, at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou, and I have an apartment to furnish. My dog and I will make the trip together, and soon we will start the next 2-year segment of our lives.



Goodbye to USA

Leaving the USA to return to China

Chicago buildings

Wabash and Trump

Trump Tower, viewed from Wabash Avenue; the Chicago El (elevated train) is on the left


Chicago is an architecture-lover’s dream. After the 1871 Chicago Fire, and later the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the city attracted many of thecountry’s greatest architects. Chicago was the birthplace of the skyscraper, and home to architects such as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.

I spent part of my 3 weeks in the city exploring buildings I had never seen before. The mild weather made for perfect opportunities to walk and take photographs.




Driehaus Museum exterior-2

The Driehaus Museum (originally the Nickerson Mansion), features perhaps the finest 19th-century interiors created in Chicago, reflecting the sensibilities of the Aesthetic Movement. I took a guided tour of the mansion on my 2nd day in Chicago.



Driehaus 1-2

 Driehaus Museum: main hall and staircase



Driehaus 2-2

 Driehaus Museum: smoking room



Driehaus 8-2

 Driehaus Museum: dining room

View more photos of the interior in my Flickr Album here.



Wright studio 1

 Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, Oak Park



Wright Studio 2

 Frank Lloyd Wright studio, exterior detail



Heurtley House Wright

 Frank Lloyd Wright, Heurtley House, Oak Park. The suburb of Oak Park, where Wright lived from about 1889 to 1909, has a large concentration of the architect’s early work.



Robie 3

 Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House, Hyde Park, 1910. This is Wright’s Prairie Style masterpiece.



Robie 2

 Robie House, interior and leaded-glass windows

More Frank Lloyd Wight photos are in my Flickr Album here.




Carson canopy

One of my favorite Chicago buildings, Adler & Sullivan’s Carson Pirie Scott store; detail of side entrance canopy. A Target store now occupies the first 2 floors.

Chicago food

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks basically living out my food fantasies in Chicago, or re-living fondly remembered tastes from my past. Chicago is a food-lover’s city; if you’re in doubt, just check out the Flickr group Chicago Gluttons.

Here’s a photo tour of some of the food highlights, both alone and with my brother Kenton:




sultans market

My first meal in Chicago after getting off the plane at O’Hare: my brother took me to Sultan’s market for inspired middle eastern food – chicken shawarma, hummus, falafel, salads, pita bread. Yummmm.




Vegan Thai

Urban Vegan Thai food




Millers Pub Reuben

Grilled Reuben sandwich on rye, Miller’s Pub; a blast from the past – I adored this sandwich when I was a college student in the 70s.




Native Foods nachos and chicken

Native Foods – vegan nachos and “chicken” appetizers




Karyn Cooked

Karyn Cooked, River North area: vegan falafel sandwich




Mexican restaurant Loop

Mexican lunch in the Chicago Loop, La Cocina Mexican Grill



Rangoli 4

Rangoli Indian restaurant on North Ave., one of the best Indian meals I’ve had; I ate chicken korma.



Rangoli 2

Rangoli appetizer, fried cauliflower



Five Faces

Another blast from the past: Five Faces on Division Street, open till 5 am. In the late 70s my friends and I would come here after the bars closed for the gyros sandwich with fries. The place is still here after all these years.



Five Faces gyros

Gyros sandwich at Five Faces – just as I remembered



ethiopian food

Amazing dinner in Uptown at Demera Ethiopian Restaurant



Ann Sather salmon lunch_opt

Grilled salmon at Ann Sather on Belmont, “Just good food”



Ann Sather breads

The star at Ann Sather is the home-baked bread; each meal comes with cinnamon roll, cranberry bread, or assorted other delights.