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Don't drive to Chicago if you can avoid it. And you can.

Matuszak family selfie with dinosaur at the Field Museum. (Photo submitted)1 / 4
The Bean travelers. (Photo submitted)2 / 4
"Cloud Gate," known by everyone except the artist as "The Bean." (Photo by Tony Webster, Wikimedia Commons)3 / 4
The Buckingham Fountain in Chicago, the one from the opening credits of "Married With Children." (Photo submitted)4 / 4

So my wife and I are not travelers. For us, a day trip to Bemidji involves months of planning, palm-sweating and finding a legal guardian for the cats. We hardly ever leave the house. Pizza can be delivered to the front door with one click of a mouse (although using a computer is preferred) and sweat pants are plenty fancy for a living-room davenport party.

However, our daughter Kaylee has these crazy ideas about needing to go "outside." She wants to see friends, experience life, go to school ... you know, nonsensical teenager stuff. Being the attentive parents that we are, we do occasionally cater to this irrational child, which was how we found ourselves on whirlwind, big-city tours to Chicago and Denver this past summer. Whoever said that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" has obviously never had 10 gallons of sweat leave their bodies via the wide expanse of their hairless head.

But we survived and here are a few observations about those summer excursions for anyone thinking about doing something ludicrous, like traveling anywhere other than Proctor. (Come to think of it, that's kind of a crackpot idea as well. What's the matter with you?)

Chicago: the city of windy shoulders (or something like that, I lost the brochure): Chicago is vibrant, alive and fun. The surrounding freeways are frenetic hellscapes of imminent fiery death. We have friends who live near Chicago — in Racine, Wisc. — who offered to drive us around. Not only do we owe them gas money, we owe them our lives. (Doug and Kim are their names, by the way, and they definitely upgraded their status to Super-Best Friends Ever after this trip.) The treks in and out of Chicago were horrific. I still have thigh bruises from where my fingers were clamped down tighter than Denny Anderson's toupee.

And parking? Canal Park is an annoying drip compared to Chicago's tortuous waterboarding of a parking nightmare. Kim actually searched for a spot ONLINE the night before our trip, then laid out an outrageous sum of money for the "privilege" of leaving the car two time zones away from our destination. Luckily it was a beautiful day, so we enjoyed the walk. And when I say "we," I mean Doug and Kim because they dropped us off at the front door of the Field Museum of Natural History and joined up with us later. (See what I mean about Super-Best Friends? I almost feel bad about making fun of their Wisconsin governor. Almost.)

It wasn't all unspeakably loathsome, however. (Hey, that should be Chicago's next slogan!) There was some cool stuff:

• Dinosaur skeletons at Field Museum.

• Got close enough to breathe on the famous "Sunday in the Park" painting at the Art Institute.

• Took just short of a bazillion reflection photos in The Bean, a giant sculpture that is really called "Cloud Gate" by the artist and no one else.

That's about it. Next week, I'll chronicle our trip to the Mile-High City of Sweat: Denver!

Brian Matuszak is the founder of Rubber Chicken Theater and invites you to follow him and his theater company on Twitter at twitter.com/rchickentheater, like them on Facebook at Rubber Chicken Theater, and visit their website at www.RubberChickenTheater.com. He and Sue celebrate their 28th wedding anniversary this month. He loves her more every day and promises to finally buy her a present when they hit No. 30.

Brian Matuszak

Brian Matuszak is the founder of Rubber Chicken Theater and invites you to follow him and his theater company on Twitter at twitter.com/rchickentheater, like them on Facebook at Rubber Chicken Theater and visit their website at RubberChickenTheater.com.

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