Monday, April 22, 2013

Hockey Trip To Chicago - Hanging in the Big City

(Part 1 of 3)

It was a rough season for the North Shore Ice Ninjas and for myself this year in rec hockey. The team had a ton of different players, many nights with too few skaters, some suspensions, and some injuries to key players. Personally, I had trouble with an oblique strain and my first goalless season. We finished 3rd last after being relegated down a division with a 7-20-1 record. Abysmal!

After being swept out of the playoffs we didn't have much to look forward to other than our annual tournament trip. This year, as the title of this post states was Chicago.

This was my second time in Chicago after visiting a few years back. My initial impressions of the city then were positive and this trip cemented my love of the city. Such a fantastic place with so much to see and do:

Fantastic architecture and buildings which almost made me late for the bus to the rink:
Carbide and Carbon building - love the green with the gold top

Trump International Hotel & Tower (which was under construction when I was last in Chicago)

Fantastic public art that integrates and complement the city

A weird exhibit in Millennium Park by the artist Jun Kaneko

The Frank Gehry designed Jay Pritzker Pavillion

Cloud Gate and the skyline

I really can't help but love the giant bean. And yes, I know it's called Cloud Gate, but I just don't care...It's a giant bloody stainless steel bean...and it's awesome. Much like the city, there's so much to love. You could spend all day there just watching the expressions of fellow tourists seeing it for the first time with wide eyes and be entertained. It's just genius how it is perpetually changing based on your angle, the natural light levels, cloud cover and the passing of the day. 

The fact that it is so big and you can position yourself underneath it is just a bonus. However, it should come with a warning, if you have had a few to many 'Old Style' the night before it can induce a bit of nausea.

Giant bean vortex to a land of giants

Each year when we do the hockey trip I start to feel my age catch up to me. I'm probably one of the relatively older guys on the team and my ability to bounce back from a late night for an early morning game wanes every trip. That being said I gave it the old college try.

With a group of 30 guys you are going to get some individual side trips and Mitz and I took the cake this year. As we are both fans of the Blues and listening to bands Mitz convinced me that we should go check out the New Checkerboard Lounge as the original had a great history including a legendary impromptu concert with Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones.

Expecting some great blues we were a bit taken aback when after a long cab ride south of downtown the grizzled old doorman at the New Checkerboard told us there was no blues tonight, just a local rap group performing. Mitz and I looked at each other and decided we should go in for at least one drink. Which in turn the elderly doorman replied "Are you sure you want to go in there?"

As soon as we stepped in we realized what he was 'warning' us of - we were the only white boys in the place and the dress and music pumping were decidedly 'urban'. We settled up to the bar, ordered some Old Style and listened to the first performance which consisted of 6 guys on stage: 1 kind of rapping, 4 hype men reciting "South Side N******" repeatedly and 1 other dude just kind of dancing there. At one point there was a dude on stage whose pants were so low that his belt and the physics of gravity simply ceased to exist. Trust me, the visual below does not do the local atmosphere justice.

We ended up having a few drinks and were soon befriended by an intoxicated amorous woman who took a shine to me. I gingerly navigated that minefield (ask me about in a non public forum sometime) and we took our leave as more and more eyes within the room started turning toward us. With some haste we flagged down a cab and got our mojo working at Kingston Mines for a great night.

And that was an early night of 3am. I was practically spry on the ice the next day.

Next up - Cubs and Hawks (Part 2) & Ninjas/Devils Losers and Champs on the Ice (Part 3)

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