Fleeting impressions of Chicago (Part 1)

I was in Chicago for a week. Originally wanted to spend about 3 days but extended my stay so that I could meet up with Ken and Ann. No particular reason why I wanted to do so. Perhaps, as one ages, one places more emphasis on “old” friends, not that I have known them for a long time. But I thought it would be nice to meet up with them. Perhaps, there’s an explanation for this – you gravitates towards what is contrary / lacking in you as you age. I don’t place much emphasis on friendships and relationships. Well, not in the way that most people express them.

Highlights of the trip include:

1. Attending a concert of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

The tickets were expensive! The only single seat ticket available was like $105. The cashier informed me that there’s rush tickets available. Basically, after the final call, holders of rush tickets will be “rushed” to empty seats which belonged to regular ticket holders who failed to turn up or are terribly late. Based on their – CSO experience, rush ticket holders inevitably get to attend the concert. In the worst case scenario where the regular ticket holder turns up for his/her seat and there are no other empty seats, the rush ticket holder will be refunded his/her money.

Anyway, I got rushed to my seat. Pretty good. Actually, it was very good. It was on the first floor, in the middle section and in the middle. Alas, due to my jet lag and not feeling so well after the episode in Amsterdam, I dozed off quite a lot of times during the concert. What a waste of $75. Apparently, the concert was excellent. People was standing up in ovation for the pianist. Hmmm, I can’t even remember the programme now. I remembered hearing a comment from the back that “wow, I didn’t even know that the piano is capable of producing so many colours” – sounds like something from my piano lessons – colours… So, the chicago concert going crowd are pretty sophisticated huh? Seriously, though, to appreciate western classical music, it’s no easy feat. I admit that I am turned off by some pieces myself and start to doze off (hey, that’s nothing to be ashamed of, classical music can be relaxing … sometimes). Anyhow, I sensed that my neighbour to my left was pretty disgusted with my dozing off. LOL.

2. Meeting and getting to know BJ via the Chicago Greeters programme

I was researching on my itinerary for Chicago. I came across this Chicago Greeters Programme. How it works: you register with them at least 10 days before your arrival to Chicago. You list down some neighbourhoods that you are interested in and some of your interests. Based on what you have provided them with, they assign you to a volunteer who brings you (and your group) around Chicago.

Anyhow, I was assigned to BJ. To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the name, whether it’s a guy/girl’s name. Except what BJ conjures to every guy’s mind (or everyone’s mind for that matter). Okay, BJ very nicely sent me an email to introduce herself as my greeter and provided some touristy things to do. Her email signature included the name Barbara something. So, naturally when I replied her, I started with “Hi Barbara”. The next email from Barbara, the subject heading read like this “I am not Barbara, I am BJ” or something to that effect. She said that the name Barbara appears in her email signature due to some computer glitch. I was seriously confused. So, is my greeter a male or female? I even went to check the name BJ, apparently, it’s a guy’s name. But, how could a company make such a serious mistake as to get someone’s name wrong? Anyhow, I decided that I shall see for myself (the gender of my greeter) on the day of the tour.

Okay. my BJ turned out to a woman. I remembered her apologising for a (coffee) stain on the cuff of her sweater, saying that it was due to her coffee mug leaking. She had a Starbucks coffee mug, the stainless steel kind, or was it aluminum? The lower base of the mug was sprayed / coated with purple. Hmmm, interesting. Anyhow, we discussed about where I had been and where I would be interested in going to. We settled on Hyde Park, where Obama’s residence is! (strangely though, there was a “for sale” sign placed on his house – is he moving away?).

Spots we visited included: his house (there were 2 sentry posts, one on the end of the street. apparently, his neighbours and their visitors had to be checked and cleared by security every time they enter and exit their houses), his barbershop, the restaurant where he used to frequent (there’s actually a signboard that lists down Obama’s favourites) and ?.

More about BJ based on my fleeting memories: she was born in California, I think (!). Then she moved to somewhere in Midwest and lived them for 20 years. She hated the place but she met her partner Sherry / Sherrie / ? over there and kind of just continued to live there because of her. Then one day, Sherry had a epiphany that she should be a minister. After confirming the message from God, she and BJ moved to a seminary in Chicago. They lived in the student accommodation for couples and were the first same sex couple to have lived there. We visited the (ex) student accommodation which seemed to have been moved to another place.

Oh yes, BJ mentioned that when Sherry first had the revelation / epiphany, they were very surprised as Sherry was the type of person who doesn’t like answering phone calls. To be a minister requires much extroversion, no? Anyhow, we continued walking and stopped at a church. BJ went to the restroom. When she returned, we went into the sanctuary and sat down. She told me 2 stories – one about quilts in remembrance of (gay) AIDS patients and the other about getting wind of applicants to the police force being rejected based on their sexual orientation (the story was hilarious, though details are not provided to safeguard the privacy of BJ).

After that, we went for lunch at this jewish place. Didn’t know what to order. Settled for something with meat in it. We talked a bit. I asked Sherry why she thought that there’s a strong relationship between Maths and Music, which she mentioned on the bus to the lunch place. She wasn’t sure, perhaps it is the rhythm? Anyhow, my prompt ensued into a lesson on music theory – the construction of major, minor, 7th chords. I’m pretty proud to say that another student gradated from Joseph Hong’s music school! LOL.

BJ goes for a weekly ukulele class in her area. Apparently, it’s very popular, there’s like over 40 students? BJ mentioned that she’s practising a birthday song and she wanted to get it right before recording it and sending it over to one of her best friends for her belated birthday. The birthday day song was provided to them during one of the classes. And the lyrics are not your conventional Happy Birthday: {okay, I couldn’t find the lyrics online}

To end off this highlight, here’s one of BJ and Sherry’s dates (at home): they keep fish as pets and they have an aquarium. There’s this particular fish that comes out for food only when they aren’t around. One evening/ night, they fed the fish, switched off the lights and waited quietly by the tank to await the arrival of that fish. They had a kick when that fish was fooled and came out for its food.  I didn’t do justice to the story. But hearing BJ while she was narrating the story makes it seem like a truly magical moment for her and Sherry.

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One thought on “Fleeting impressions of Chicago (Part 1)”

  1. Very funny stories, Joseph! With credit to American Greetings, the company that made the birthday card, I’ll give you the lyrics to this funny song, sung to the melody of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ . . .
    Let’s all cheer, your birthday’s here
    SO raise the roof and have some fun
    Gifts and cake for you to take
    Until the celebration’s done
    Candles glowing, so start blowing —
    Can’t you see the cake’s on fire
    Sure you’re old but truth be told,
    You’re still someone we all admire.
    I’ll send you a video of my singing this and playing the uke!!

    BJ (this is a nickname. It stands for Barbara Joan, which are female first names in English. Most Americans have “middle” names that we don’t use very often. But years and years ago this nickname was given to me by a new employer on my first day at my new job, since there was already a Barbara Anderson (Anderson is my last name too!) working there. So I’ve gotten very used to it, in spite of its internationally recognizable reference to a sexual feat…..I usually try to quickly explain to people that my nickname, in additioning to be the initials of Barbara Joan, also stands for Beautiful Jewel or Bad Jokes, depending on what mood I’m in. 🙂

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