I got to Chicago on Wednesday, the night of Halloween. Once you start driving in the downtown it’s impossible to stop; the reason being you have nowhere to park. The place is a traffic nightmare. People use their cars as skateboards and make intrepid U-turns when you less expect it. I finally found a spot in front of a 7-ELEVEN and paid the fare for the parking machine. Then I went to explore the atmosphere in that party night.
The hostel was at North Avenue and Damen, a six corner intersection that was under construction. The architecture of narrow facades with dark alleys seems intentionally designed to hide bodies, and the rusty structure of the train rails that runs above the open streets kills the last hope for sunlight.
The first thing that I saw was a black Honda crossing at full speed in front of a taxi cab, crashing on one of its doors while avoiding a frontal impact. The guy of the Honda and the taxi driver got off yelling as in those movies portraying decadent cities in the opening credits. I kept walking but checking at the same time if any of the men was handling guns, ready to throw my chest on the ground. I almost did it, but not because of weapons but because of a massive vomit in the sidewalk that made me slide. After three huge strides flipping my arms, I manage to stay on my feet.
There were some small clubs and bars. I have no problem with decadence, but I seriously reject nastiness, and this is the nastiest downtown I have run into so far. The whole picture is revolting. The first thought that crosses my mind was “How many suicides these people have per year?”
All and all, I explored some bars and found that people still keep some talkative features from the west, but they check the point of the conversation really quick, just as in the East. But Halloween night always has this show-off factor that makes the crowd more extroverted. The point of walking down the streets in a custom gives us a license to engage in socially acceptable ridicule. Many take the opportunity to disguise like they really are. It’s also a good chance to know who is dressing for the mirror and how is dressing for the public. I managed to have a pleasant conversation about politics with Frosty the Snowman and the Cabbage Doll. A homeless joined us, as he was already wearing the customs of desperation. Having spoken with many homeless people, I notice a pattern in their conversation: the perception that problems come from the outside and they have no control whatsoever. They keep for themselves the role of spectators.
The next day I got out of the hostel and drove my car away before 8:00 AM when the parking rules change. The city makes it complicated like “No Turns on Red Between 9:00 AM and 4:30 PM Monday to Friday... Except for Buses and Holidays” And they write all that under the Stop sign!
I couldn’t stop until I got to a building that will charge me $30 to get out and see the Willis Tower (still known as the Sears Tower). Well, I went to the top of the building to take my pictures as any devoted tourist and then went for a coffee not far away. The parking there was $22. So my car was spending more money standing still than moving.
I explored some of the neighborhoods to be sure that my first bad impression wasn’t biased for the wrong corner. I then had the opportunity to see places even worse.
After that, I headed to a Motel 6 (free parking) and decided to leave the city. I’m not a tourist for misery; I had enough in my days. Still, I decided to give a little chance to a small club called “Spin” the next day.
This is the old trick: you walk into a gay bar, all girls think you are in the team and engage in conversation. They don’t want the pressure of a guy who wants their number. After a couple of hours, I was dancing with five gorgeous girls and having a great time.
The club promoted a shower contest among the customers. It was a bath shower in stage (with real water) and four people got listed to perform. It’s not the first time that I see people in underwear trying to dance in public, but it was the first time that I saw this combined with one dangerous wet stage. Three beautiful women and one guy actually risked their neck with their amateur performance. The price was $100, but it won’t cover the medical bills for a single slip, like the one I had with the vomit. In any case, it was refreshing to see a business owner willing to accept the risk for the show time.
Everybody was authentically having fun and not defensively avoiding it. One of the girls I was dancing with won the shower contest and she gave me her number. That’s the problem with this tactic. At some point you need to admit that you are not gay or keep going with the story arguing that you became lesbian.
That night saved my memories of Chicago. With the sun rising I jumped into my car and left for Cleveland.
I learned that the first atomic chain reaction was actually obtained in 1942 under the football field of The University of Chicago, without any warranty that the place would stand. After knowing the city, I suspect that was a calculated risk.