Sunday, June 15, 2008

Back in Chicagoland

The light bulbs from the Chicago Theatre marquee just went out. I'm up too late.

This business trip for a Wal-Mart promotion was meant to be just an in-and-out thing, but now that I'm here, I kind of wish I had more time to re-experience Chicago. I was here briefly about a year ago for a bachelorette party (and a wedding in Michigan City, IN) but I haven't really spent time in Downtown Chicago since the late 90s and the Millenium, when my work with indie rock bands, singer-songwriters and jazz musicians brought me to Chicago pretty regularly and a night's rate at the Hotel Monaco was more like $150, not the $240/night rate it is now.

This time around I was lucky enough to find a Hotels.com deal for another Kimpton property, the Hotel Burnham - a boutique hotel on the National Register of Historic Places, which lately seems to be a requirement for me to stay somewhere. Formerly the Reliance Building, an office building which had fallen into disrepair and disuse, the Burnham has restored the building to its original splendor, even keeping the original office doors as the hotel room doors, giving the hallways a film noir feeling of approaching the office of a private investigator.

It took me long enough to get here. Predictably, my flight from JFK took off late, but despite actually arriving pretty much ontime to O'Hare, it took me two hours to finally check in to my hotel. Braving public transportation instead of a car service or cab, I found myself at a subway station that did not make change, with transit ticket machines that only took exact change and no credit cards. Feeling like a stupid tourist, I had a pained look on my face after pleading with the booth guy, so some other tourist took pity on me and handed me their day pass which was to expire today, useless to him now that he was about to fly out. Alleviation of massive hassle was even better than getting a free ride, but I was stopped in my tracks shortly thereafter, waiting a half hour on the parked train in the station before finally departing, and then being diverted by construction onto a shuttle bus in a not-so-nice neighborhood. The CTA sucks as much, if not more, than the MTA does.

When I finally got to The Loop, I was glad to have Sebouh waiting for me at a champagne bar with a glass of sparkling rose, and a menu full of cheeses, shrimp, baked oysters, fried chick peas, cinnamon beignets and chocolate fondues, all of which we partook with glee.

Sebouh is a great date and an even better travelling partner. I can't wait for breakfast together tomorrow.