chicago (via michigan)

Back in the U.S.A.! We crossed through the border in Sarnia on the Canadian side right where the St Clair River empties into Lake Huron. In long ago days when I was a sales rep for a Canadian educational book publisher, my territory spanned all of Ontario, and the picturesque town of Sarnia was always at the end of the line. Today I get to cross the line. We’re in Michigan, heading to the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills to visit fellow Van fans Liz and Steve Wood for a couple of days. Sit back, relax, put the stereo on and listen to some Van. Poolside.

When we’re not lounging by the pool, we’re eating, with the piece de resistance taking place at Mike and Lori Seltzer’s, who live about 10 minutes down the road from the Woods. Six Van fans in attendance – a mini preshow in the making: drinks and hors d’ouevres all around, followed by a delectable meal that Lori has prepared. And then there’s the dessert Liz has made.

Bridget and I love it when we get to visit with fellow Van fans on the road – there’s the love of the music that binds us, and for me, it gives me a chance to spend time with my friends in the community, time I never seem to get when we get together at concerts. But just like at the shows, the time comes to say goodbye for now, we’ve got to go. Next stop, Chicago. Thanks, guys, for making our short stay in Michigan such a good time!

Five hours down the road we’re in Chicago, smack dab in the middle of dinner hour, with a lot less traffic than expected. We’re staying with Bridget’s friends Willy and Justin in the Logan Square area of town, one of the myriad neighborhoods that add to the vibrancy of the city. Their apartment is a seven-minute walk from the California subway stop on the blue line. We pick up a three-day transit pass in the morning, and for the next two days we make full use of our passes, going everywhere by subway and bus.

Day 1 in Chicago takes us downtown to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where we meet up with Sam, another of Bridget’s friends from Ithaca. The last museum Bridget and I were in was the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, so we are overdue for some culture. Two of the current exhibits at the museum catch my eye – the first is work by Rashid Johnson, who does a lot of black wax melted on glass …

And the other is an exhibit depicting skyscrapers, an apt exhibit for Chicago, as I am about to find out as we stroll through the city streets and parks. But for now, here’s one of the pieces of art in the skyscraper exhibit – the artist’s name escapes me now – created from refrigerators. How cool …

Around the corner from the museum is one of the few buildings to escape The Great Fire of 1871, a fire that destroyed pretty much all of the city’s structures at the time. This is the Water Tower …

Sam took us to her neighborhood – Wicker Park – for a stroll down Milwaukee Avenue, in and out of the shops …

… stopping for coffee before heading over to her parents’ house for a beer and burgers off the grill. Then it was back on the subway to Logan Square and a little bit of Olympics watching on the telly before calling it a day.

Day 2 had us heading downtown again, and the first thing on our agenda is riding the “L” over to Millennium Park in the city center on Michigan Avenue.

Sights in Millennium Park

Water park, where kids of all ages can splash beneath the tower fountains

The sphere inside Millennium Park, probably the most photographed structure in Chicago

We stroll past Grant Park and the sign says tonight there will be a performance of Scheherazade in the bandshell, but we won’t be attending; we’ve got other plans this evening.

Grant Park

Tonight we’re going to see Buddy Guy celebrating his 76th birthday at his club, Buddy Guy’s Legends on South Wabash, but first a bus ride to the south side of Chicago to 2120 Michigan Avenue, former home of Chess Records. We arrive after office hours so all we can do is peer through the front window and imagine the musical history inside those walls. And get my picture taken.

We’re back in the city center in plenty of time for a bite to eat at an outdoor café on Michigan and a good view of the full moon rising over Lollapalooza, or at least the sign for it. Lollapalooza doesn’t officially start for a couple of days – another show we’re going to miss, as we’re leaving town tomorrow.

But tonight it’s Buddy Guy. Legends is packed, standing room only, by the time we get to the club shortly after 9.

While I’m busy snapping pictures of the greats who have played at the club over the years, Buddy comes in through the front door with his, I presume, wife on his arm. It seems that a lot of folks in the audience know Buddy, and he stops to chat with many of them. Toronzo Cannon and the Cannonball Express are the band playing tonight, and their first set opens with a 12-bar blues and goes on from there. Not a powerful set, but it gets better with 20 minutes of it left to go, when Buddy takes the stage. He’s enjoying his birthday celebration and in a slow drawl, the gist of the song is about how he wants to get off the stage and go get drunk.

Bobby “Blue” Bland

Ray Charles

Big Joe Turner

I love Chicago! For all the people to see, places to go, and music to listen to, it’s the architecture that blew me away. Everywhere I looked up, there was another great photo op. The city is an absolute architectural wonder. Here are just a few of them.

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