Wednesday, May 27, 2015

do you think about me now and then

And if you don't know by now / I'm talking about Chi-Town
The weather forecast said there would be a chance of thunderstorms on the afternoon I flew in to O'Hare, and during the turbulent last half hour of my flight, I wondered what Chicago would look like drenched by rain and lit by lightning. I had vague flashes of memories of the city from 16 years ago, back when my family used to live in Wisconsin and would drive down once a month to eat at restaurants in Chinatown that actually served food that resembled what my parents grew up eating. But to say that I remembered what it was like is a bit of a lie: while I remember vicariously through old photo albums and stories from my parents, last week was my first time to Chicago where I would be able to make memories of my own.

It wasn't the least bit stormy when I first stepped off the Blue Line train, but the humidity hung thick in the air and clung to my skin in a way I always associate with being abroad. There's something to be said about how the humid heat makes me feel alive in a way the dry heat in California never will. Those first couple of days were too hot until suddenly it wasn't anymore; the gusty winds swept through Chicagoland without warning, bringing overcast days that were colder than winters in the Bay Area.

Charles Ray sculptures
The last few weeks leading up to Chicago were mentally, physically, and emotionally draining beyond what I've come to expect from the end of the semester. When my boyfriend suggested I come to Chicago with him the week after finals about a month earlier, I said yes without hesitation, and this trip has been one of my favorites. I loved every minute I got to spend in the Windy City, from the days I slept past noon and stayed in playing on the GameCube to the nights I spent wandering the beautiful tree-lined streets and taking in as much of the city as I could.

My favorite tourist spot I visited was the Art Institute of Chicago, a spectacularly impressive museum that houses over 300,000 pieces of art. The scope of art forms found at the Art Institute ranges from millennia-old Buddhist sculptures to Edward Hooper's "Nighthawks" to live registers printing out receipts of random Tweets, and the breadth of its exhibits and galleries made it such a pleasure to spend the afternoon walking through. I also visited the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, a fascinating collection of works by modern artists including spattering of short films, thought-provoking and interactive sculptural landscapes, and abstract visual art gallery rooms. 

The "Lou" deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's
Brunch at Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe. The food was so good I forgot to take a picture of the banana bread french toast and wild berry waffles when they finally came. 

Intelligentsia Coffee - from San Francisco to the brooding, practical, and reluctantly beautiful Chicago.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream - home of the best lavender ice cream of my life.
It probably goes without saying that the food was quite possibly one of my favorite things about Chicago. Near the top of my gastronomy list (because of course I always have a separate list for places I wanted to eat at) was to try the deep dish pizza this city is known for. I went to both Lou Malnati's and Gino's East for my deep dish fix, but sadly did not actually eat the deep dish at Gino's because our waitress warned me that it would take an hour to bake when she took our order. I can say however that the deep dish at Lou's was amazing, and I managed to go twice during my week there. I don't know what it says about me considering that I'm barely breaking 100 pounds, but the personal size pizza pictured above was not enough—I want more, s'il vous plaĆ®t.

I also made sure to try Intelligentsia Coffee, which a coffee-loving friend from Illinois enthused about when I showed her my travel list. A coffee shop tour of Seattle over winter break and a semester's worth of weekly coffee dates all around Berkeley prepared me to be an adequate judge of whether Intelligentsia lives up to its hype. While the mocha my boyfriend ordered was probably the best mocha I've ever tried, the "Angeleno"—a shaken iced latte sweetened with agave—I ordered did not impress me as much as I thought it would. I did however have the best latte of my life a few days later at Ipsento; I'm pretty sure the Ipsento latte—made with coconut milk, honey, and cayenne pepper—is the closest thing to ambrosia I have ever tasted. 

As much as I loved going out and walking through the many parks and wide streets of the city, it was also so lovely to finally have a chance to just stay in. I'm only half-joking whenever I talk about how I felt like I didn't have much a childhood; as much as I love and am eternally grateful to my parents for giving me what I call the "Jane Austen heroine" upbringing (one filled to the brim with lessons in piano, dance, horseback riding, golf, watercolor painting, sketching, and countless other activities), I never had time to indulge in many of the millennial pastimes I missed out on. On the days that were too cold for my Californian temperament, my boyfriend, his sister, and their friends finally introduced me to the world of video games, horror movies, and more Lord of the Rings

By Saturday the temperature had crept back up to the 70s again, and the skies were almost clear when I went back downtown to Navy Pier for the Ferris wheel, fireworks, and funnel cake. It was summer again just like it was when I first arrived, and the city looked even more dazzling against the blue skies and sunset clouds than it did when the air had been thick with thunderstorms. 

I got to the CTA station minutes after sunrise on Sunday morning and watched the rosy fingers of dawn touch the glass skyscrapers downtown. I’ve seen more sunrises than I needed to this last year, but there’s something to be said about how still everything is at that hour that’s too late for the night crowd and too early for the morning one. It was still morning when I landed in San Francisco because of the time zone change, and the cold blanket of overcast clouds almost made coming back here feel like coming home.

I've been back in California for a few days now but last week already feels a world away. A part of me wishes I had more time for respite, but another part of me is also glad to be studying again as I start my first of twelve weeks of summer session classes at Berkeley. I'm starting to fully comprehend that I'm entering the last half of my college years; there are still so many things I want to see and do and live and experience before I graduate.

Thank you for all the beautiful memories, Chicago.

xoxo, vivian


  1. Lovely photos! xo

  2. Great post! Love your Blog :)
    Hope you will visit me too.
    Greetings from Pakistan.

    Maria Speaks Prada

  3. Beautiful artistic photos! Chicago has so many interesting features. Glad to hear you had a nice time
    Dresses & Denim

  4. I want to visit Chicago!! Never been there!