Saturday, September 16, 2017

Chicago!

Max asked me if I wanted to go to the John Mayer concert in Chicago in September, and I really really wanted to but didn't think it was logistically/financially possible so I told him no thanks. He texted me the next day asking if money weren't an issue if I thought I could be gone for a fri-sat-sun trip and find babysitters, etc, so I said "probably," and he said, "good, because I just bought two tickets."

I'm pretty sure my brain went "!!!!!!!!!!!!" With the financial consideration out of the way, I felt like I could make the rest of it work so I said YES and that was the start of our month-long anticipation of a brother/sister roadtrip to see one of our very favorite musicians and spend the weekend playing tourist in Chicago. It was so fun to plan the trip together, going back and forth on what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go. Our planning paid off because I think it was the smoothest, most streamlined and relaxed itinerary I've experienced. We were never bored or over-stimulated, neither tired nor too energetic. We never had to rush, and in the times that we had to wait for something (i.e. a table at a restaurant) we used the time to go see something else we wanted to see or look up an independent bookstore.

We spent over an hour at Target the night before, selecting baseball shirts, snacks, concert shirts, a belt, two movies, and whatever other miscellaneous junk we decided we needed. I went to bed early; Max stayed up late; we left at 5 the next morning in Mom's van. We got to Chicago before 1, gratefully passed our car along to the hotel valet, and with some of Max's signature manipulation were able to check in early. We dropped off our stuff and headed back out to go see the Art Institute of Chicago.

Max was late for our 0500 departure

 a beautiful sunrise; we trashed the car

On our way we passed the Bean and it was an excellent starting point as tourists in the city - what else screams Chicago more than these pictures?








96% of the reason we went to the Art Institute was because Ferris Bueller did too on his famous Day Off. I didn't realize how many famous paintings were actually there! I am not an art aficionado by any means, but even with my average awareness I recognized many classic works and it was exhilarating to see them in person. I loved all the Monet paintings best.





the lighting was really good so we took selfies. except max's was way better haha. 

*a note about selfies: after this trip, I was so tired of taking them! But I wanted to document moments, so I did what I had to do. 


 these were some of my favorites ^^^ (Mother and Child, Joan D'arc, and Fisherman's Cottage)



We were hungry after the museum; all we had eaten so far that day was a bag of Lifesavers gummies and McDonald's breakfast. Max looked up a random burger place a few blocks away and it was just what we needed: quiet, not crowded, good basic burgers/fries, and cherry coke. Perfection.





We tried to walk to our next destination but got all sorts of turned around and eventually just found a taxi to rescue us. That served its own purpose though because we saw more of Chicago and wasted time that we would have otherwise spent just waiting in line for our boat tour.

*a note about taxis: three separate times taxi drivers turned down our business! Twice because they said the place we wanted to go was close enough to walk, and once because he didn't like the address we gave him for some reason. It was bizarre; like don't you want our business?

The Chicago Architecture Boat Tour was a 90-minute ride on the top deck of a tour boat, narrated by a Chicago native with tidbits about history, current events, and, of course, architecture. We met a couple who were standing behind us in line and struck up a conversation that continued on the boat. We got excellent seats around a table in the back so we could listen to the narrator when we wanted to and talk when we wanted to without annoying anyone. It was really fun to have new friends to laugh with us on the boat and we thought the tour was interesting and entertaining. Great suggestion from Ananda! I highly recommend this if you have time in Chicago.










 The bridges were really cool, really old, and really low. And Max saved the day and lent me his hat, since I didn't have sunglasses.







Another thing I highly recommend: Giordano's pizza. I thought Chicago deep-dish was a tourist trap and not all it was cracked up to be, but from my first bite of the cheesy, doughy, tomato-y pizza I was converted. They have a great system where you put your name in to wait for a table and they text you when it's your turn, so you can walk around while you're waiting. Also, you can order your pizza right when you put your name in to wait, so by the time you sit down your pizza is ready almost immediately after. We spent our time waiting for pizza by walking to a nearby hole-in-the-wall bookstore which we happily patronized. When we got back, our pizza was waiting for us, and I don't know what they do to the onions/peppers but it was some sort of mystical crack that made me want to never. stop. eating.



By this time it was pretty late, so we grabbed a taxi home and watched football with our night-time view of Chicago keeping us company. It couldn't have been a better first day.



This was our itinerary for the second day:
-Wildberry for breakfast (wander around downtown during the 2-hour wait! Buy Cubs hats, sweatshirts, Harry Potter and Star Wars posters at a cool comic book shop, find another bookstore, and check out the Chicago Athletic Club. Great suggestion from Uncle Bob!)


 Old elevator up to the rooftop restaurant with an awesome view.




 The famous "game room." Max beat me at foosball (obviously) and we cooled off with a round of Coke.



Our breakfast! Probs not worth the wait normally, but since we had time and were playing tourist, it was fun.



-Cubs game! (riding the subway couldn't have been any easier, we loved our little cub Cubs hats, we had great seats and weren't by annoying people, and we came late/left early so we didn't have annoying traffic to deal with. Plus the Cubs actually scored multiple runs each inning that we were there, making it an entertaining game!)











-relax at the hotel pre-concert (we watched tennis, I went to get bagels and listen to my audiobook, we took our time getting ready.)

 I forgot to have them slice Max's bagel so he had to put the cream cheese on top hahaha


-CONCERT!

The whole purpose of this trip was for the John Mayer concert, so we were really excited when it was time to head to the venue. It was an outdoor amphitheater about 45 minutes out of Chicago. It was pouring rain the whole drive, but stopped as soon as we arrived. We somehow scored amazing parking, waltzed in, sat down in our box seats, and John Mayer came out literally one minute later. The timing couldn't have been more perfect!



*note to self: always worth the extra $$ for good, assigned seating. You don't have to come hours early to stake out your spot, and at least in this venue it meant we were also protected from the rain.




The concert started with "Why Georgia" and I almost immediately weirdly started to cry! I didn't know how to describe what I was feeling except I was just so overwhelmed with nostalgia, happiness, gratitude, and sentimentality. This is music I've listened to since middle school in Maryland. I can still vividly remember where I was when I heard these songs for the first time, driving around in my mom's old blue van. We listened to Room for Squares to DEATH and eventually had to get a new copy of the CD. I love all of those songs so so much and I guess it was just too much for me to handle with him starting off with one of them. I calmed down enough to not be embarrassing (and thankfully it was dark, so I had that going for me), and he continued to play more and more of my favorite songs. I guess to be fair there aren't really songs that I don't like of his, so it would have been hard to disappoint.




I had to go to the bathroom but I was trying to wait for a song that I could at least bear to miss, and when he started playing something I didn't recognize I took my chance and ran out to find the bathroom, only to hear him modulate into "Who Says." I literally turned around on the spot to run back to my seat; I wasn't about to miss that song!

I tried to capture my joy ^^

The whole concert was just so perfect. It was so surreal to hear all of these songs that I love so much, and especially to hear them performed live and sounding even better than the recordings! John (obviously we're on a first-name basis now) was so real and funny and chill and didn't take up much time talking, but when he did we all loved it. There was a funny part where he bragged about a cool chord in "Your Body is a Wonderland" and said that he didn't know another song that had that chord in it that was played on the radio, and then he shrugged and said, "just sticking up for myself."



The backdrops weren't distracting; I thought they added a lot of nice atmosphere to the concert without pulling us away from the music. It was fun to watch/hear John go crazy on the guitar; he really is extremely talented! Max and I were talking about how we sometimes have to defend ourselves to Mayer-haters (which, why is there even such a thing!?) but that people don't understand how good he really is from a musical standpoint and not just radio appeal. In fact, most of our favorite JM songs were never even on the radio.





It really was a dream come true. I loved going with Max - it would feel wrong to go to a JM concert and not be with him. The concert wasn't too long; when he finished the only song that I really really wanted him to play that he hadn't was "Stop This Train," but I wasn't too disappointed because everything else was just so good. Then he came on and played it as an encore and I was in tears again. He finished with a new song on the piano with just him singing and it was sooo good. I hope it will be on a new album soon.

We drove home in post-concert bliss, reminiscing about our favorite moments and already looking forward to the next time we can see him in concert. I got in bed and passed out almost immediately, tired from walking for two days and all the emotions I felt at the concert. I got up and had breakfast the next morning while Max slept a little more and then we packed up and headed home. We listened to our favorite musicals: Dear Evan Hansen, Les Mis, and Wicked (Max doesn't know Hamilton yet so I listened to that while he was asleep) and oldies like Maroon 5's first CD, Justin Bieber's latest CD, and all sorts of classics in between. My throat actually hurt by the end haha.

 morning after, haha


It was the perfect trip. Perfect weather, perfect company, perfect activities, and capstoned by the perfect concert. Max made it all happen for me and I'm so grateful! He's generous, compassionate, funny, cool, and observant. He really treated me on this trip and it's fun to have new memories to add to our Max/Jessie arsenal. How many people get to travel one-on-one with one of their siblings!? It was awesome.

And I'm pretty sure he missed his cat more than I missed the kids, haha. Til next time, Minkle!

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