Two Thursdays ago Jeremy and I drove to Chicago to visit my sister, Alicia, and her boyfriend, Caleb. It was Jeremy’s first time in the city. We had been looking forward to this trip for quite a while, and it kind of felt like the only bright spot in the world after the colossal disaster of Election Day two days before we left.

We managed to hit the road at 9 AM (Ohio time), exactly as we had planned, and we made it to Alicia and Caleb’s apartment building around 2 PM (Chicago time). I had only seen their apartment via video chat before, so I was really glad to get to see it in person. It’s technically a studio, although there’s a glass block wall that kind of sections off the space where their bed is. They’ve taken a very small space and made it feel really homey, which I think makes it feel bigger than it actually is. There are also windows all along the back wall, which let in a lot of natural light. The rest of their building is also really cool. They have a dry cleaner and a convenience store on the first floor, and there’s a pool, and there’s a lounge that has about eight large bookcases where residents can donate their old books and DVDs and take things that other people have left. Caleb was getting rid of some books and told me to pick out a couple things I liked, so I now have The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, all of which I’ve been wanting to read, plus seasons 2-5 of The West Wing on DVD!

Jeremy and I hung out with Caleb until Alicia got home from work around 6:00, and then we all went to Navy Pier because Jeremy had never eaten at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. I had their tilapia over mashed potatoes, which was ridiculously small and pretty bland, given the $18 it cost, but everyone else enjoyed their food. We got cupcakes from a really cool bakery and took a detour into a Target that had an alcoholic Starbucks, and then we went back to their apartment and hung out for a while before bedtime.

Family picture at Bubba Gump

On Friday morning, Caleb took Jeremy and me to a place that makes frushi, or fruit sushi, which was really tasty. I also had an egg sandwich with peppercorns and raspberry jam that was the bomb. We walked over to the dance studio where Alicia works, and I got to look through a costume catalog while she was finishing up some office-y things. If you’ve never looked through a catalog of dance costumes, you don’t know what you’re missing! We walked to Wrigley Field, which unfortunately now has all kinds of temporary walls and fences around it because they’re doing construction, but we still got some good pictures. Then we popped into a big store selling Cubs gear, and I found the perfect World Series Champions T-shirt. Jeremy was very tolerant through everything.

I was so excited to be at Wrigley Field! Jeremy the Indians Fan was less so.

That afternoon we hit up some of Alicia and Caleb’s favorite local retail establishments, including a couple of comic book stores. We took Jeremy to see the Bean and the other sculptures in Millennium Park, and then we had an early dinner at Pizano’s. We got there right as the shift was changing, which meant that our favorite server, the Chach, was just getting off work, but he stopped by the table a couple of times anyway. Alicia and Caleb eat there frequently and they always try to get him as their waiter. He remembered me after not having seen me for four years, and he shook Jeremy’s hand and promised us all a free dessert. That evening we played Trivial Pursuit, which I won!


Jeremy’s drawings on the paper tablecloth at Pizano’s.

Saturday morning started with amazing breakfast sandwiches at the Billy Goat Tavern, a little hole-in-the-wall, greasy spoon place tucked under an overpass. It’s famous because the original owner, “Billy Goat” Sianis, supposedly put a curse on the Cubs in 1945 (the last time before this year that the Cubs were in the World Series) because he and his pet goat were forced to leave the stadium during a game because of the goat’s smell. After breakfast, the boys and I boarded a boat for a tour of the architecture along the Chicago River and the shore of Lake Michigan. Caleb has spent the last two years working as a bartender on the tour boat, so he got us on for free. Jeremy and I spent the first quarter of the tour listening to the tour guide with the other guests, and then Caleb showed us around the boat, including the pilothouse, where his friend Monica was serving as captain. We spent most of the rest of the trip on the lower deck talking about Doctor Who with Caleb’s friend Joe and listening to some of their cool stories from their time on the boats.

That afternoon we went to the Field Museum (Alicia met us there after work) and got to see both of their current special exhibits, one about China’s terra cotta soldiers and one about the history of tattooing. We also spent some time with the dinosaurs, because of course. We went to Portillo’s for dinner, where I had my first cake shake (chocolate cake mixed into a vanilla shake). The four of us sat and talked for a good long time — about weddings, of all things, even though none of us are getting married any time soon — and I kept thinking about how grown up my little sister has become, and how we’ve both found such great men who get along so well with our family and with each other. This trip to Chicago marked the first time that Alicia or I had ever gone to visit each other just because, not for some event like a wedding, performance, graduation, or the Crystal Ball. After Portillo’s, we popped over to Dylan’s Candy Bar, which is an enormous, two-story candy store that has a bar where they serve candy-inspired drinks. We didn’t drink, but we did taste some fudge and buy plenty of Japanese candy, gummies of various shapes and flavors, and little chocolate bars that said “Madeline,” “Jeremy,” “Caleb,” and “#1 Sister” on the labels. (You used to always be able to find Alicia’s name and never find my name in stores. Now it’s generally the opposite.) Alicia and I also got matching packages of temporary tattoos. We put the rainbows on that night. We’re saving the unicorns for Christmas!

The apatosaurus is my favorite dinosaur.
The triceratops is Alicia’s favorite dinosaur.
Tattooed ladies

On Sunday morning, the boys and I drove out to a mall in the suburbs. We did some shopping and had lunch at a really cool Cuban restaurant. My meal didn’t come with plantains, but they shared some of theirs with me because they’re the best! We got back to their apartment shortly after Alicia had gotten home from work, and we hung out for about another hour before we had to head back to Ohio.

All four of us had such a fantastic weekend. Chicago has always been my favorite big city, and I was so glad that Jeremy loved it too. I’m so glad that Alicia and Caleb live near enough that we can drive out for a quick visit and some fantastic adventures!

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