Friday 18th May.
More like The Freezing City. The air temperature has turned bitterly cold here in Chicago and like the UK all conversation is about the weather.
Last night we went to Buddy Guys Legends Club. Sadly he wasn’t there as he is till out touring at 81. Never mind the band for the night was called Cash Box Kings featuring Joe Nosek on vocals and harmonica (called a harp in Blues circles) and Oscar Wilson on vocals. This is Chicago Blues at its best (look them up). The line up varies with the exception of these two. Of particular note was a brilliant lead guitarist called Xavier Lynn. At just 18 years old he is a very talented and exciting guitarist. A definite star of the future. On the walls of the club are guitars signed by friends of Buddy Guy and dedicated to him. Such as Clapton, Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughn, BB King, Robert Cray etc – priceless.
Poor photos I’m afraid but they were taken surreptitiously. Here we are with Oscar Wilson. Such a nice man and a truly great blues singer. His banter alone was worth the entrance fee. He has 12 children, “40 odd grand children” and 2 great grandchildren. He can’t remember all their names so he just says “hey kid, come here, have some candy”. What a character.
Before going to the club, we had a delicious curry at one of Chicagos top restaurants (we didn’t want to risk it this time). Our young waiter, originally from Goa, was a massive fan of the English Premiership and a supporter of Liverpool FC. It never ceases to amaze me how popular this league is around the world and especially in Asian countries. He knew everything about it (I pretended to keep up with him and nod in the right places). He was aware of Southampton FC’s season end predicament and had watched the game on TV. Later on our Uber driver – from China – was equally conversant. He too had watched the Saints game on the TV and lost $50 betting that Swansea couldn’t possibly lose their home game to stay up in the league. Small wonder it’s the wealthiest league in the world.
Chicago is a city similar to many other modern cities full of skyscrapers, parks and busy people dashing around. But it is also a very attractive city with large open spaces internally and the added attraction of the vast water front courtesy of Lake Michigan. Which as you know is the 3rd largest of the 5 lakes. Name the others and their ranking correctly and I will award a Big Mac to the winner! We like it very much. It is intimate and friendly. I could easily live here. On the downside it is very noisy due to the over zealous emergency services which chase through town day and night with their ridiculously loud sirens screaming out. Out hotel room is 22 floors up yet still we are disturbed by them all night long. We won’t miss this aspect of Chicago. We caught the hop on hop off bus today and stayed aboard for the complete circuit which lasted 2 hours. See the un skilful selfie above as evidence. The Frank Gehry structure above is pleasing, as always, but rather pathetic for a city the size of Chicago. Its only purpose is to front an open air concert venue. It must have been approved at the end of the cities budget year?
Our tour guide suggested we have lunch at Portillo’s. As he didn’t mention the Burger word, we dicided to go for it. Turns out it was one of those lovely success stories that could easily have ended differently. When Dick Portillo used his last $1,100 to open a Hot Dog stand his wife was so angry she threatened to leave him. Fast forward many years and he sells the extended business for $800,000,000. I wonder how his wife tells the story now? Something like “I always had faith in him and was always being the plan”. As they say ‘success has a thousand fathers and failure is a Ba****d’. I had the speciality Hot Dog which was delicious and Linda the Hot Beef Sandwich. Equally as good and which could have fed a small family.
Early to bed tonight as our limo driver, Nelson (friend of the affor mentioned Reggie), is taking us to the airport at 3.30am to catch the 6.00am red eye to Seattle. Mrs F is not amused as by the time we touch down THE wedding will have been done and dusted. It wasn’t planned this way, honest.
This therefore completes the first stage, the blues trail, of our adventure. I have enjoyed it enormously as would be expected. The bonus is that so has Linda……no really. Plenty of people were concerned about her I know, including our eldest grandson (which I took as a massive betrayal) but they needn’t have worried. We have visited 6 cities, dozens of towns, stayed in 8 hotels (in 16 days) and driven nearly 2000 miles. For me its a big tick off my bucket list. For Linda she now knows what a 12 bar blues is and has seen where John Lee Hooker was born. Her excitement is palpable!
By this time tomorrow we’ll be on the west coast and at the start of our adventure down the coast road towards L.A.. All the hotels are booked and our flip flips are unpacked. Can’t wait!
(Again apologies for any typos etc)