Thursday, March 14, 2013

... from north to south (north)

my last day in chicago was taken up with revisiting north milwaukee ave, following up where i'd briefly visited on friday night. i caught the blue line north but ended up gong slightly too far, stopping at damen instead of division. by the time the blue line reaches damen, it's elevated, and walking down milwaukee gave me a great opportunity to see the shops that were all closed and dark when i visited on friday night for the reading at the boring store.

i wanted to find out more about the boring store and 826-chi and was lucky enough to get a good spiel from the staff member behind the counter. the boring store exists, effectively, to support 826-chi and its work in chicago: 826-chi is part of a nationwide reading and writing programme called 826 co-founded in san francisco by author dave eggers and educator nínive calegari. the website has a great video that's too good to make you go to the link, so i've included it below:

the 826 programme is one of the most exciting things i've found on my trip here. i'd never heard of it before and while i think it has a particularly american flavour - if for no other reason than that so many american schools languish terribly under a lack of resources - i can't help but think that the model would be awesome to somehow bring to australia. there are so many learning centres and kumon-style places, so many parents who want to see their children do more than they feel their schools can get them to, than they feel they themselves can get them to - i really think that a volunteer-backed, grassroots movement like 826 would work wonders in australia.

the boring store has a dazzling array of entertaining stuff and i would easily have spent far more time and money there than i had of either. i left and headed to the next stop: oberweis ice cream and dairy store at wicker park in chicago.

the staff at oberweis were very friendly and helpful and i really couldn't recommend them enough (except in one small regard that really is more of a personal taste thing... but more on that later). again, i was almost licking the windows wishing that i were staying long enough to be able to justify buying the 1/2-gallon bottle of chocolate milk but, alas, it was not to be. i ordered the biggest glass of chocolate milk i could and sat down to enjoy it. if you're familiar with yogo dairy dessert back in oz, i can say it tasted very similar to that, just runny enough to be milk but with a good strong body to it.

unfortunately i couldn't make the drink last forever. i had a hankering for mac-and-cheese and asked the young man at the counter if he knew anywhere local i could get some. not local, no. try whole foods at north kingsbury. you can walk there from here. (i didn't really want to.) he even ran off a google map for me.

that was enough to get me going, even though internally i was a bit leery of mac-and-cheese at a big supermarket-y ind of place being worth trekking for. he was very excited about it and i was hardly one to point the finger, given how much mac-and-cheese i've been eating since i arrived in the us. i was definitely not walking, however, and i caught the blue line back downtown and changed for the red back up to north and clybourn. i lost my bearings a little bit but, aside from the slight distraction of the container store, i found my way there. the staff were friendly and helpful - particularly one hispanic lady in the hot foods section who indicated to me what the best containers would be to use, gave me a taster sample of the sweet potato fries - and there was a great mezzanine to sit at and watch the hoi polloi shopping downstairs.

the mac-and-cheese was all right. it wasn't fantastic, although it definitely hit the spot, and that would be the only thing i could fault the staff at oberweis on: he talked it up just a little bit too much. it wasn't really mac-and-cheese that i felt keen enough to cross a city for. as it was, i did, but i wouldn't do it again for that particular mac-and-cheese.

i browsed the container store for a while, noting a few things that would be awesome to have, and left without buying anything. like visiting ikea, i could see how easy it would be to rationalise almost any purchase there, so i felt a tiny bit chuffed that i didn't buy anything.

it was beginning to get dim when i arrived back at the hostel. i was tired, though not overly so, but i stayed up for a bit, read some zines, had a peanut butter twix (my snack-machine achilles' heel) and got myself organised for the morning. my flight to wilmington left at 2pm and while it wouldn't be onerous to get to the airport from the hostel (the blue line terminates at o'hare), i didn't want to leave any more timing to chance than was natural. i tried to get a somewhat early night.

i woke with my alarm on tuesday morning and hustled into the shower. the showers at the hi-chicago really weren't as good as the ones at hi-boston, if for no other reason than that people seemed entirely okay in chicago with leaving their wet towels on the floor of the cubicles... after drying themselves off on the dry floor. what the - ??? i'm pretty forgiving about accommodations when i'm travelling and i understand that people behave a little differently when they're away than they do at home but this is one thing that really gets my goat: why, in a shared environment anywhere, would you step onto a dry area to dry yourself off??? i don't get why people don't dry off while they're still standing in the shower cubicle or bathtub and only step onto the dry floor when they themselves are now dry?! it baffles me. like standing in a queue for five minutes at a coffee shop and ignoring the menu clearly displayed above and behind the service counter... until they have to make a choice about what they'll order. argh.

breakfast was not particularly noteworthy, although i did snaffle a couple of bananas to eat later on in the morning and while i waited to change planes in charlotte. i checked out without any fuss, got my bags unhurriedly to the blue line station on jackson (around the corner from the hostel) and then couldn't get change from the ticketing machine. argh! oh well. it didn't cost any extra to get off the platform at the end of the line and into o'hare airport (take note, sydney airport!!!) so in the end i didn't begrudge (reporting it aside) the 5-dollar rail ticket.

not being in a rush, i had a fairly easy time of checking in and getting on the plane to charlotte. i've made a habit of booking seats near the back of the plane - not many people like to ride back there so i've had one or two free seats next to me during my travels - and it also means that sometimes i can check an extra bag for free. us airways, on domestic flights, charge you to check in luggage - $25 dollars for the first bag, $35 for the second - but it you have a carry-on bag they have no room for on your flight, they'll check it through to your final destination for free. nice. my satchel is chiefly for carrying around my laptop, so my cabin-bag - bought specifically with this trip in mind - has chiefly been used to store each day's additional dirty-washing quota. checking it for free is just icing on the cake.

the flight was pleasant enough and charlotte is just a beautiful airport! i've waxed lyrical in the past about how much i love san francisco airport as a place to transit between flights but charlotte is just delightful. while i can say that none of the food outlets really did much for me, there was a chocolate shop i bought peanut butter fingers from that were great. besides which, i had my bananas with me.

the connecting flight to wilmington, north carolina, was likewise relaxed and it was great to see the friendly face of my australian host at the airport. my plans, after arriving in wilmington, changed somewhat from what i had originally envisioned, and my blogging is lagging a bit, so i'll be doing a bit of summarising over the next few entries, which will bring me up to date in portland, or.


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