Chicago 2011 Day 5: Thistle and Shamrock

Although Robin was up and out at some unearthly hour, Sarah and I barely surfaced long enough to tell her no, we weren’t planning to get up, before rolling over and shrugging the fluffy duvets back over our respective heads. We did not stay slugabeds for long, however, and by 10:00am I was on my way to brunch and Sarah was on her way back to her convention.

I’d been planning to catch a bus up Michigan Avenue to the Grand Lux Cafe, as I had been slathering for their brunch since getting a peep at their weekend menu when Becca and Dustin took me there; however, even in my pre-coffee dullness, I was able to notice the crowds of excited-looking people thronging the Chicago Riverwalk across the street from the hotel. In one of those rare serendipitous coincidences, I had happened to stumble out of the hotel at the very moment that the Chicago River was being dyed green.

The Dyeing of the River

Lining up

Green River

Heading North up Michigan Avenue, I was moving against the green-clad crowds thronging the sidewalks walking in the direction of the parade, an event that seemed to be extremely exciting. Never one for large crowds, and even less of one for standing still in cold, windy weather, I chose to spend my Saturday morning having a delicious, leisurely brunch at the Grand Lux Cafe overlooking the Magnificent Mile.

Grand Lux

After brunch, I tried my hand at some shopping, but as the only things that caught my eye were 1) a $2,500 plum red chaise lounge at Crate and Barrel, 2) what I thought were some over-sized rings at Anthropoligie, which turned out to be door knobs, and 3) some bracelets that I thought my sister would like, but that actually turned out to be napkin rings, I finally gave up and headed back toward the hotel. Once again, I found myself going against the post-parade dispersal of the crowds.


Back in the hotel, I snuggled down to upload some pictures, watch CNN, and watch the hotel maid clean the room (a situation I found a bit awkward. It was hard to keep from offering to help her). This was, after all, supposed to be a vacation, and I felt determined to at least rest a little bit so as not to start my teaching week feeling like death warmed over.

In another of life's serendipitous coincidences, I accidentally sat on the TV remote and switched from CNN to PBS, on which was showing the Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Concert. New afternoon plan, I thought; however, it wasn’t long before Sarah called me from downtown, announcing that she and her other music nerd friends were headed to the corner of Jackson and State to pick up some famous gourmet popcorn as an afternoon snack. Since it was the last day of the trip and I had not hung out with them basically at all, I hopped on the Jackson Express and hotfooted it down to where they were, only to discover that they’d bought their popcorn already and were headed back to the hotel for an afternoon rest. Not to be deterred, I decided not to waste a perfectly good trip downtown. I set my face to the wind and walked north on State, hoping against hope that I would be able to find some sort of jewlery for my sister that was not actually intended to be home furnishings.

A nip into the store Forever21 was not only unfruitful: it would almost qualify as disturbing. Let me put it this way: ladies and gentlemen, just because you can shop at a store called Forever 21 does not mean that you should. (Yes, middle-aged men, I AM TALKING TO YOU.) I had more success down the street at another boutique which, as fate would have it, was having a sale on jewelry.

Fast forwarding to 7:30pm would find us snugly tucked in to box seats at Chicago's Orchestra Hall preparing to see Helmutth Rilling conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mendelssohn’s Elijah. Somehow, Sarah’s friend John (who had reserved our seats) had managed to maneuver us right next to the VIP box. We were seated right next to the director’s wife! And that wasn’t all: due to Sarah's music nerd connections, we were sharing our box with a certain Irish composer. (Incidentally, you can check out his choral group's work here. It's fabulous. I'm actually glad that I didn't really know who he was or anything about his music at the time, because I think I may actually have died of a geekout. It wasn't until we got back from the trip and I started listening to his music that I realized how close a brush with glory I'd actually had. No wonder Sarah was so worked up!)

It was a glittering night.

Although I failed at bribing John to participate in various fun sideshow activities (i.e., putting his arm around the director’s wife, asking for her number, telling her that her husband is fiiiiiiiiiiiiine, etc.), I did succeed in having a fantastically entertaining evening watching some of the world’s finest vocal and instrumental musicians show off (including a very attractive male cellist who appeared to have the body of a football player and the soul of a poet.... not that I’m reading into things too deeply or anything... But whatever. Stop judging.)

Other moments of amusement throughout the night:

The director’s wife spent the intermission leaning over the balcony rail, calling down to friends, waving and people, and tossing small candies from the balcony. Perhaps such things are not frowned upon in Germany? Or perhaps she’s just a saucy old girl who refuses to conform.

John fumblingly dropped his program during one of the pianissimo moments.

John told us various stories about his adventures throughout the week, including the time he supposedly got “locked in a bus” by a grouchy CTA worker.

The cellist who turned pages with his bow (same as aforementioned...again with the judging).

A quick taxi back to the hotel, some time lounging in front of the fire in the front lobby, and then to bed for three hours of sleep before hopping a cab to O’Haire to catch a 6:55 flight back to the Palm Beaches.... on spring time change morning. Oh, yeah, we thought that one out when we bought the tickets.

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All of the Chicago pictures are now up for viewing



  1. Karis Findlan (If you remember her from CCC- I think she was Lisa's class) lives in Chicago these days. One of these days I'm supposed to go up and see her.


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