Chicago – where I slept, primped and posed

Chicago skyline

Chicago skyline

I’m just back from Chicago and I wanted to share a few places while they’re fresh in my mind. My trip was really exceptional and, other than my response to Chicago style pizza,* all positive.

First – where I stayed. Using Hotwire I booked the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place for less than $100 a night. It was a tremendous value and I was very comfortable in my spacious room, complete with lake view. The location was exactly what I prefer – in a quiet part of town with great access to transit and trails for running. If you like to be in the midst of everything, this would not have been an ideal spot for you, but I’d much rather feel like I can get away from the fray. There was a nearby small market, complete with alcohol, and a couple of restaurants, although I didn’t eat in the neighborhood. Where I ate is a whole ‘nother blog post.

Tip for you: always call your hotel directly in advance of check in and request a room with a view or inquire about having a bathrobe and slippers made available. It can’t hurt to ask and not packing a bathrobe definitely lightens luggage and leaves more room for shoes and workout clothes. Oh – and always pack a swimsuit. This hotel had a sauna which I enjoyed each day of my stay.

I was in desperate need of a pedicure when I arrived in Chicago. I did a Yelp search in my general area and located a number of places. My first choice didn’t have availability that suited me, but my second choice was able to get the job done in fine fashion OMG Nails on Michigan Avenue provided me a quality pedicure in a clean, comfortable and relaxing space. My nails really look great (OPI Lincoln Park after dark, natch) and I managed to get out of there without a smudge, which I have to attribute to the nail tech spraying my nails with something and then sliding plastic baggies onto my feet for my trip back to the hotel. $45 + tip.

On the morning of my departure day I was committed to getting a yoga class in before getting on a plane, since I had run close to 20 miles during my visit and probably walked another 10. The nail technician had mentioned Core Power Yoga, a studio that offered a free week of classes for new registrants.  In a few minutes time, I had myself digitally registered and ready for a 60-minute yoga sculpt class gratis.

The studio was on the top floor of a five-story building and had a terrific view east. I went to my mat with two sets of light weights and an intention – to stretch my muscles and sweat and after an hour of sweaty effort, I accomplished both. The class was challenging and left me drenched and still sore two days later.  It was an excellent class.

I really, really liked Chicago.

*call it something other “pizza” and maybe I can get on board.

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommendations, travel, yoga

Upon waking to the news of Donald Trump’s victory

cwzjnxoveaapolxIt seems appropriate that the sky is grey and the ground is wet. It matches my mood perfectly. I can’t stop shaking my head – whether to clear it of the thoughts which are racing about or as an inescapable response to lunacy around me, I’m not certain. This is bad.

When I went to that Trump rally last spring, I left with two conclusions. The first, which has been proven to be undeniably false, was that Donald Trump could never be elected. The second, prompted by my gazing around the arena and wondering who those Americans were, has been confirmed in a manner I never before imagined. I don’t know those people.

There are some things I do know, though. I will never allow the government to rescind the civil rights of LGBT Americans. You see, I do know those people and, unlike Trump and his supporters, they don’t scare me. Last week, when the Indigo Girls played at the Egg, we had a number of lesbian guests and I was struck, as I listened to the good-natured teasing going on between women who had never met before,  by how much progress our society has made in the last twenty years or so. Living a true and genuine life is not something exclusive to heterosexuals and I will stand shoulder to shoulder with my brothers and sisters should they need to battle to retain their equal rights. Going backwards is not an option.

Despite being beyond reproductive age, I will continue to support women and their right to choose when to bear children. I’ve stood up before to those wishing to deny legal and safe access to abortion to women in our country and I am fully prepared to do it again. If you don’t approve of abortion, don’t have one. That’s what’s called a choice.

As a first generation American I’ve always felt that it is my obligation to demonstrate traits which have been ascribed to immigrants in this country for centuries – hard work, honesty, self-reliance and personal responsibility. The only change now is a sense that I must commit to helping other new Americans to have the same opportunities as I have had.

During the presidential campaign I observed that Trump supporters loudly celebrated and gloated each Clinton flaw which was revealed, while Clinton backers reacted with distaste and appall as the laundry list of Trump’s outrageous behaviors was exposed. As an educated and reasonably intelligent woman, my response to both sides was to wish that we, as Americans, had been offered better options for whom to cast our precious votes. We have to do better in a world threatened by terrorists, impending environmental disasters, lack of access to healthcare and the vulnerability of persons of color and those who identify as LGBT.

I hope that a man who is supremely unqualified to hold the highest office in our country proves to be a champion of all people. There’s nothing I’d like more than for Donald Trump to prove me wrong again. Other than 4 more years of Barack Obama, that is.

3 Comments

Filed under News, Observations, politics, Uncategorized

5 questions for Election Day

95d00716-6f66-4af0-91c9-ba34ed0a572e-8665-00000b1bc4435617_tmpIt has been a particularly unpleasant and long campaign season and I’m looking forward to it being over so I can just enjoy the grace and dignity of the Obama family for a few more months. But, first some questions.

  1. Why do elections bring out the worst instead of the best?
  2. How is my vote important if the electoral votes determine the winner?
  3. Is there a reason other than racism to justify the complete lack of acknowledgment of the accomplishments of President Obama?
  4. Who are the people who believe that Donald Trump is concerned with their interests – other than other wealthy people who have learned how to Trump the system?
  5. Will this election with all of its controversies, ugliness and accusations compel people to be more or less involved in the process in the future?

Vote.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under musings, politics, Uncategorized

Read the Inquisitor’s Tale

Every so often a piece of young adult fiction comes my way and then refuses to leave. You know, it just sticks with you. The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz is one of those books. I heard about it at a recent librarians’ book group meeting and was immediately intrigued. The story, set in the Middle Ages, blends historical figures and myth in a manner that is humorous, suspenseful and incredibly sensitive and I was completely taken in by the tale – and sad to see it end.

The novel is told in a fashion reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales with a cast of character relating the story in individual chapters. They provide lively narration, pausing mainly to quench their thirst, in the pub where they have gathered to share the story of “three magical children and their holy dog.” The opening tale relates the miracle of Gwenforte, a dog, who becomes sanctified after she protects infant Jeanne from a poisonous snake, only to lose her life as her actions are misunderstood. This tale provides the perfect example of actions and intentions being misconstrued by those who only possess a small piece of the puzzle, an occurrence which occurs repeatedly throughout the novel.

The characters in this book are colorful and wonderfully complex and the relationship between the children is realistic. In a time when our contemporary world is filled with conflict between cultures and religions, this book provided a welcome escape. Beautifully illuminated by Hatem Aly, this is a must purchase for lovers of fine young adult literature and those wishing to encourage young people in their life to read. Don’t tell Quinn, but he’s getting a copy for Christmas for sure!

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, favorites, Recommendations

My Gregg Allman fantasy – rated R for rock

fullsizerenderThey say you never really miss something until it’s gone and when it comes to the Allman Brothers Band, I guess I’m just going to have agree with that sentiment. Growing up listening to Eat a Peach is one of the many things I appreciate most about being a child of the 70s. Well, that and the joy of Sunkist soda, Charles Bronson movies and Marathon bars, that is.

But, back to the Allman Brothers…

I have few regrets in life, but two of them involve the ABB – the first is missing that Dickie Betts Live at 5 show in Albany in 2002. The set list was epic and I’ve only heard raves about that free show. Damn. The other thing I wish I hadn’t missed were the shows at the Beacon Theater in NYC where the Allmans were practically artists in residency. Why didn’t I ever make the effort to get to one or a dozen of those?!

For consolation, there are the memories of when I did see the band, mostly at SPAC, but with a couple of other venues thrown in over the years. The SPAC shows are particularly memorable because two of my three children were in attendance with me (on separate occasions) and it almost feels like those shows were a rite of passage for my family. Good memories all around.

While I’m sad that my youngest will never have the experience of jamming out to the ABB on the lawn in Saratoga, my fantasy about Gregg Allman is a bit more self-serving. In a couple of weeks, I’m going to see a band, Live at the Fillmore, down in Woodstock.  They’re an Allman Brothers  tribute band and I’m pretty psyched to check them out. I know that Gregg has been around the Hudson Valley in recent months (he played at a 4th of July party in Westchester) and I’ve been thinking that it would be amazing if he dropped in on the show in Bearsville.  You know, did a cameo and rocked out a little bit.  Can you imagine how incredibly thrilled every single person in attendance would be? It would make for a night that everyone could talk about for years, like those long ago nights on the road filled with groupies.

Come on, Gregg. It’s a Friday night show – how about you let your eagle fly?

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, concerts, Uncategorized

Trifecta of halves

img_0356I may be slightly delusional on this topic, but when it comes to running I don’t really consider myself to be competitive. Unless, you’re talking about finishing a race strong and trying to pass other runners as we near the finish line. That’s different.

Early in the year I came up with the idea of running a certain number of miles, not early enough, of course, to come up with a totally balanced schedule to reach my goal, but definitely within the realm of possibility. As the year passed, my goal evolved to include running new to me races, as well as a mini aspiration to run 3 half marathon in 3 consecutive months. Today I made that goal.

One of the coolest things about running is that no two runs are ever exactly the same. The three halves I ran recently have a single thing in common – the 13.1 mile distance. The first one was crazy humid, the course was on roads traveled simultaneously by runners and cars and the last couple of miles were the most taxing. September’s race in Saratoga was, at times, on the road, but it also included trails and paths through a park. It was relatively flat and the weather wasn’t particularly sunny, yet it was pretty comfortable temperature-wise. That run also felt far easier than any of the other longer races that I’ve run. Honestly, it was satisfying as hell.

img_0359Today’s race was a straight up trail run and the conditions were a little gnarly – lots of wet leaves, crazy roots and rocks and fair amount of mud. Pretty much textbook autumn trail conditions, I think. This race, the Hairy Gorilla, was new to me. I’ve done the Squirrely Six, which is the alternate race, a couple of times but I hadn’t ever challenged myself to go the entire distance. Until this morning…

The lunar b*tches were an intact threesome with two of us committed to the half. The weather was the best I’ve ever experienced at this event – comfortable temperature, reasonably dry with peeks of sun along the way. There were spots which were absolutely quagmires and I personally nearly went down twice. I’m actually curious to see how my back feels tomorrow after “catching” myself as I stumbled over pesky roots and doing my best to stay on my feet. I witnessed a couple of spills, but nothing with apparent injuries, and the worst conditions of this race was still better than the best conditions in the Seven Sisters.

img_0363

Image: Chrissy O

The views were phenomenal, water and snack stops plentiful, and the people I encountered unfailingly pleasant. I got to cross the finish line with one of my peeps and we had enough time post-race to soak in some wood smoke from the warming fires and have a bite to eat before heading down off the mountain. I’m on pace to meet my 1000 miles for 2016 goal with a feasible 21.5 miles a week for the remainder of the year. I think I got this.

1 Comment

Filed under beauty, Events, Exercise, friends

Is Chicago my kind of town?

image: Flicker by ph4nn1 Chicago Skyline Panorama

image: Flicker by ph4nn1 Chicago Skyline Panorama

Last summer I made plans to go to Niagara Falls and Toronto with my kids for a few days. We’d never been and it seemed like a cool and economical getaway. I made hotel reservations and enthusiastically crowd sourced for some tourist recommendations. Then my two older sons got jobs. Plural. Not one to complain about employed children, I cancelled the trip and instead took my youngest down to NYC for a couple of days. That slacker doesn’t have a job, but I suppose he is only 11. Soon enough, little man.

A few weeks after the change in plans, I ended with both a Southwest voucher and a credit on my credit card, a situation which I immediately interpreted as a sign from the universe to buy a plane ticket. I reached out to my posse of friends, a number of whom were also celebrating a milestone birthday this year, to gauge interest in taking a weekend trip somewhere. While there was interest, it didn’t translate into action, so I decided it was time for me to take my first ever multiple night solo – Chicago, here I come!

So, I’ve got three nights in Chicago coming up in a few weeks and I’m a bit overwhelmed by all of the things there are to do! The luxury of traveling alone means I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to, which is pretty amazing. Knowing myself, I see my days being structured kind of like this:

  • Wake up, get out and do something.
  • Go back to the hotel for a nap.
  • Take a run.
  • Take a shower.
  • Go out and eat something tasty.

I imagine there will be alcohol involved, at times, too.

The two things I definitely want to do are the architectural boat tour and an art museum or two. I know there are a million places to eat, but I’m most interested in places where I can eat at the bar.

What can you tell me about Chicago?

5 Comments

Filed under art, drinking, Eating, ideas, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation, Wine