20.05.2011 - 20.05.2011
Friday 20th May
My last day in Chicago was going to be spent doing two things: visit both the ‘Cloud Gate’ (otherwise known as the bean) and the Chicago Bulls basketball stadium.
A quick side-track; if you read my most previous blog you will know about one of my roommates snoring habits. Well today I woke up well slept and of my own accord; I was messing around on the internet when one of my roommates left the room and left the door open… I heard it again. I could hear the same awful sound, only quieter. The sound was coming from another room! He had moved rooms and I could still hear him! The very same unmistakeable merciless sound. The sound came through one closed door, a bit of corridor and into our room. It made me laugh that I could still hear him, and glad that it hadn’t kept me up all night again. I don’t know if someone in our room had complained but I was glad all the same, and gutted for those in the other room.
Anyway, first up was the Bean, as most people called it. The official name, the Cloud Gate, is a nice fitting name but perhaps a little too ‘arty’ to catch on. The slightly dull but more common ‘Bean’ seems to have stuck better.
So it’s basically a huge bean-like art structure in a park. The thing that gets it the most attention is that it’s one giant curving mirror.
I entered the park and first caught a glimpse of it through some trees and realised just how big this thing was. It looked so peculiar through the trees, like an alien spaceship parked there in the open, totally mirroring its surroundings. As it appeared through the trees the spaceship became a real but bizarre art structure. The place was packed with tourists and I came to make it worse. It was like being inside a surrealist painting. It had a weird aura about it that just made me smile.
The mirror surface distorts everything in all directions depending where you stand. It was like a huge seamless house of mirrors type effect with the reflections constantly changing wherever you moved. It was mesmerizing. The perfect blue skies reflected all over the bean and justified the name Cloud Gate as it brought the heavens down to the ground.
I took photos from all angles, getting myself in the reflection in some, and other times just getting mirrored shots of the surrounding skyscrapers. Being shaped like a bean, the middle is raised off the ground, and so you can understand just how big it is… that bottom arch in the middle is 12 feet high. The total height is something like 30-40 foot; a lot bigger than I imagined it would be.
Tourists filled the under belly of the bean taking photos straight upwards in the centre. I got curious and went underneath. When you stand there and look up you see lots of different distorted reflections and in the very centre is you looking up. The mirrored effect at this underneath position is really cool; you look like you’re really far away from the mirror (or that you’re a dwarf).
The Cloud Gate was a lot better than I thought it would be; the size and reflectiveness made it fascinating and I enjoyed trying to get some cool photos. Next was the Chicago Bulls stadium. I had done a quick Google map the night before and knew it was a little way from the Bean but it was just down along one street; how long could one street be?
I should have taken a bus. This one street was never ending. After walking for about thirty minutes I was starting to think I’d somehow missed it – but how could I miss a massive stadium? I asked someone on the way if I was going the right way and was told I was so I continued onwards. It took me about an hour to get there, plus it was a hot day. To this day I never knew how far it was so I just Google mapped it right now and have found out it was three miles to the stadium. So I did six miles just for five photos. Yeah just for five photos, because I couldn’t go into the damn stadium and there was nothing to see except the Michael Jordan statue - that I was excited to see anyway - but apart from that there was nothing. I had hoped for maybe a museum of some kind considering they had claim to the greatest basketball player of all time. But no, nothing except a statue. A bit gutted and having seen no buses on the road, I headed back to the centre.
I headed back to the hostel after the Bulls stadium and chilled out in a common room on my laptop for a bit. I got talking to a few guys and we decided to go out for some drinks at a nearby bar. I still wasn’t feeling super great but it was going to be my last night in Chicago so that was the only sell I needed to convince myself of a night out.
I donned the smartest clothes I had with me and headed out with three other guys from the hostel. We were all different nationalities. It sounded like the beginning of a joke: An Englishman, an Australian, a German, and a Brazilian walk into a bar…
…there’s no punch line sorry. The bar we went to was pretty modern and filled with young-ish locals rather than other travellers. They had an awesome deal on; pay $20 to get in and get free unlimited drinks until 11pm. We had an hour to make up our $20 spend – challenge accepted! Of the four of us that went out, only two of us took to the bar to initiate operation binge drink. The middle-aged Aussie and I didn’t move far from the bar for the whole hour. I think I got up to nine or ten vodka-cokes in the hour.
The Aussie I met was a cool guy; funny and potty-mouthed. He had been living in Columbia and now was in Chicago for a while before either going back home to Australia, or back to Columbia. I forget why. I do remember that he spent most of the night using me as a human Viagra though. He would walk up to girls and say, ‘’Hi this is my friend, he’s from England.’’ Apparently this impressed the girls in Chicago and this got him talking to them after I said yes I am, and that no, I didn’t know the queen. Obviously not being single I didn’t stay in the situation too long after I laughed and obliged him. I’d wander off to either the bar or find the other two guys. The bar/club was fairly big with two bars and three areas to dance.
After the initial first hour of binging on vodka and cokes I didn’t drink too much to save on money. The two other guys we came with had stuck together most of the night and didn’t seem like big drinkers and they said they were leaving at around 1am. I found Mr Australia and he said he would stay at the bar, so the Englishman, the German, and the Brazilian left for the hostel – not before a visit to yet another McDonalds.
I’m not proud of how much junk food I’ve been eating on this trip; in fact I’m pretty ashamed. But it’s hard to avoid when they’re the cheapest and most plentiful option wherever you go. As unhealthy as it must be to my insides, I’ve actually lost weight so it’s not all bad up to now – ill catch up with my healthy eating to avoid a middle-aged heart attack when my travelling is over.
Diet aside; the night out over, I headed to bed as the next leg of my journey began tomorrow. As usual I made the mistake of going out drinking the night before I’m due to check out early, but I was proud that I came home ‘quite’ early. The next blog will cover two days as I go on a 1100mile, thirty hour train journey all the way down to Austin, Texas.