windy city, part iv

For the record, putting refrigerated pies in a paper bag and blasting them with hot air from a blow dryer does not reheat them. It may bring them a maximum of 5 degrees closer to room temperature, depending on your patience and the intensity of your hunger and the control you have over your saliva, which will assuredly be pouring out from the look and smell of these amazing pies.

Sunday was our Teenager Day – we felt like Young Folk the entire time.

We walked into the giant, four-story mall on the Magnificent Mile, only to find the mall very much open and the stores very much closed. The genius of this setup eludes me.

Months ago, Joshua had signed up for the Chicago area Groupons (smart!), and we had purchased one for a deal on ice skating. This we did, making it a full three times around the rink, wobbling along, very nearly losing our balance a few times, and holding each others hands quite tightly. Very teen.

From the depths of a Brides magazine article about Chicago, I had discovered Garrett popcorn shops, which apparently started up right there in the Windy City. They’re most famous for their Chicago mix, which is caramel corn mixed with cheesecorn, but I’m not into cheesecorn. So we got caramel pecan, and let me tell you…good stuff. If you’re into popcorn covered in sweet brown syrup and sprinkled with pecans.

My unbelievably gracious brother had agreed not only to pick us up and drive us to the Charlotte Amtrak station at 1:00am, but also to pick us up from the Charlotte Amtrak station and drive us home at 2:30am upon our arrival back in the Queen City. He’s tough to buy for, but we wanted to get him some token of our appreciation. We found a Tchaikovsky record in Reckless Records and hoped that would speak clearly enough.

Trying the mall again, we found it open and hopping. Our one draw was Vosges Haut-Chocolat, a chocolatier who really has it going on. Whoever heard of pairing chocolate with olives? Chocolate with balsamic vinegar? Chocolate with hemp seeds? Chocolate with bacon? Chocolate with rooibos tea? You name it, they have it, and even if you can’t name it…they have it. I was awed.

The ferris wheel at the Navy Pier gives a delightful view of the city and Lake Michigan, if you’re willing to fork over the $6 to do so.

We tried Willis Tower again, only to find a long line (due, no doubt, to the crystal clear skies) and a long wait. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the hour to spare before catching our train. So no Willis for me this time around.

Having to fill up some time before heading out to Gino’s East for our signature deep-dish pizza, and yet not having enough to spend at Willis Tower, we decided to get some coffee. Our culinary escapades the previous night had kept us up until past 2:00am. Intelligentsia softly called from just around the corner from Willis, so off we went.

Only to find that it’s closed on Sundays.

Starbucks! Somebody save me!

Starbucks closed at 3:00. We got there at 3:02.

Joshua shrugged and decided we should just go ahead and have our pizza. It was a bit of a trip to get there, anyway. So off we went.

Gino’s East has massive posterboard slices of pizza framing its doorway. Scary big.

The inside of the restaurant is covered in graffiti, and I mean literally covered.

Wouldn’t you know it, this pizzeria takes 45-60 minutes to get their pies on the tables (probably the deepness of the dish contributes to the length of cooking time). So it turns out that all the closed coffee doors were merely ways of forcing us toward the window of pizza. We were able to enjoy a leisurely dinner and still catch our train in plenty of time. Such would not have been the case had we not decided (been forced) to get over there so early.

Waiting for our train in our cool Amtrak lounge, an old man with white hair was being plied by a similar old man, with no hair and many tattoos, to start up a moonshine business on his lake. The first old man had one answer, which was interspersed throughout the second man’s many grand ideas: “I’d rather be a goldminer.”

Our “roomette” was way smaller than our first train sleeping compartment. This was equipped with two seats, which slid down to form a level surface for the sleeping needs on one person. A loft bed folded down from above for the second person. And that was literally all that could possibly fit in this tiny little train space.

And it was HOT. Stuffy. Steamy.

And then, later on the night, it was COLD. Freezing to the point where I put my jeans back on.

And then the temperature seemed to regulate. No one knows why or how (and who cares, anyway?).

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