An American Journal: Day 19 and 20 (Springfield -> Chicago)

Day 19

Having not drunk in a while meant that an evening of cocktails and strong beer had dire consequences. Both Mari and I woke up to the kind of hangover that seems to pulse through your head with every beat. We slept through breakfast and well into lunch before we were feeling strong enough to engage with the day. Even then a dinner of Taco’s prepared by Wendy was the most interesting thing we managed to be a part of for the rest of the day.

Day 20

Our time in Springfield has been the perfect combination of relaxation and engagement. I’ve got to see a part of the States I never would have coming here on my own and it’s also been a time to be able to reflect on our journeys and spend some time writing. Bill and Wendy have gone out of their way to make me feel at home, showing me the sights of Springfield and making sure I never went short of American delicacies including Lucky Charms cereal and instant mashed potatoes.

But sadly today we had to say our goodbyes to Mari’s dad Bill and Mari’s dog Bruno, and make the three hour journey to Chicago.

On our way out of town we stopped at Sunrise Cafe, a popular cafe which serves all the usual Midwestern delicacies, and ordered cheeseburgers and cheese fries to take on our road trip. While waiting for our food in the Cafe we watched as horseshoe breakfasts covered in tater tots and gravy, followed by bacon covered waffles, hash browns and omelettes passed us on the way out of the kitchen. Each passing order made it less likely our burgers would last much longer than the walk to the car.

The drive to Chicago was wet and windy all the way through. Not once did it let up and combined with the heavy traffic made it an uncomfortable drive for Wendy. We were grateful for her efforts in our three hour slog.

Mari had booked tickets to see one of her favourite artists, Julian Baker, play at a venue in Chicago called Thalia Hall. When we arrived at Mari’s brother’s house at 4:30pm we only had an hour to stretch our legs and change our clothes before her friend Ryan picked us up to give us a lift into town.

The venue was originally designed as a multi-purpose property in 1892 which offered shopping, residential properties and a public hall. It was redesigned in 2013 into a restaurant, bar and concert venue and has now hosted many notable musicians who’ve come through Chicago. We arrived early and had a few drinks with Ryan in the downstairs bar before making our way upstairs to the concert venue.

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The venue is a large open room with balconies that run along the sides in the style that was copied from the original design of the Prague opera house. The concert was very different to anything I had been to before with a small bar that served popcorn and hot dogs along with beer and soft drinks where you waited in line like you might at a food store rather than a typical bar. When Julian Baker opened her performance, there was hardly a sound to be heard from the audience who listened intently to her every word. This was an unfamiliar way to listen to an artist, although honestly her style of music isn’t one that I’ve watched live very often in a venue like this. Her performance was stunning and she was particularly captivating when she let loose more emotion.  While she isn’t not really my first choice of musical genre, I enjoyed the experience as a whole.

We ended the evening at a Taqueria down the road from the venue where Mari again took amusement in my pronunciation of a the word ‘pollo.”  As we rode home for the night, we were entertained by an Uber driver named Boris who gave us a rundown on the voting trends of Eastern Europeans living in Chicago.