Having finally stepped out of Union Station in Chicago after my marathon train ride (for which see my previous blog, The Two Fingers To 50 Tour: NY To Chicago), my first realisation was that it’s not named the Windy City for nothing. I was almost blown off my feet as I waited for a cab in the snow flurries which were now circling the station. (Mind you, I’m only small.)
The second was that the central area, the Chicago loop, is a very attractive location, which features a number of those fantastic massive scale 1930s Art Deco buildings which I’m obsessed with from old films (like the Carbide and Carbon building, below).
Fortunately my hotel was right in the Loop, which meant that I was able to spend plenty of time schlepping about craning my neck at these buildings in the short time I was there. Not to mention also allowing me to flick a V sign at the Trump Tower every time I stepped out of the lobby, as it was right across the road (much to the amusement of the hotel staff). This also meant that I was able to lighten my purse spending far too much money in the shops on Michigan Avenue. FFS, I was close enough to my baggage allowance as it was, but once I’d got a sniff of the department store sales there was nothing going to stop me.
Having an English accent in America is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it opens doors, both literally and figuratively, as soon as anyone hears you talking. It’s a curse because everyone, and I mean everyone, wants to stop and talk to you. Being an irascible old mare, this is not always welcome, but people in the US are just so goddamn nice, you’ve just got to let them get on with it. So where, if I was back in the UK, if someone in a shop or café exhorted me to “have a nice day” this would inevitably lead to an outbreak of violence, over here I’m somehow able to deal with it.
This was particularly the case in Bloomingdales (yes, again) where I was accosted by Sharon, a perfume sales lady who was probably around 75 and could sell ice to Eskimos. She looked and sounded like Ethel Merman, and as she closed the deal she told me all about her late husband, grouse shooting in Scotland and how much she loved the Scilly Isles. She didn’t quite ask me if I was related to the Queen, but you get the gist. Sharon certainly proved adept at parting me from a couple of hundred dollars for some exquisite but far-too-expensive-for-me Hermes perfume, the price of which will mean I will probably need to eat Pot Noodle for a month when I get home. Still, I persuaded myself that it will last until I’m doing the Up Yours 60 Tour or something…
After a tough day of shopping and sightseeing – sadly, no time to do any stalking of Urge Overkill in any of their stomping grounds, which were further out of the centre (bathe in their genius here) – I decided that, as I had to get up at 5am for a flight the following morning, I should reacquaint myself with some American TV.
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a TV aficionado par excellence. I could spend all day and night channel hopping to find old episodes of The Sweeney and The Professionals, before, say, Ripper Street or The Musketeers comes on. Whenever I have visited America in the past, I have been both appalled and fascinated by the level of shows available, and always become totally hooked on some new car crash trash from which I can’t drag my eyes. This trip, it is Duck Dynasty.
I discovered this reality nonsense when channel surfing after what I had been told was a light snack in the hotel bistro (below left – breakfast on the right). It’s a good job I was only here for less than 48 hours. If I had stayed longer, I’d have been the size of a house. Or at least, at my height, a small bungalow.
I actually thought I was hallucinating when I surfed idly onto Duck Dynasty while digesting my massive mushroom burger. Christ on a bike, if you weren’t on drugs to start with, this might be enough to get you started. This show is like watching The Dukes Of Hazzard mating with ZZ Top after listening to too much Pantera in Louisiana, and then turning the redneck knob up to 11. I watched in horrified fascination as the featured family variously talked about huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ ducks: this particular episode appeared to centre on a competition as to whose beard measured the longest in ‘duck call reeds’. No, me neither. It was absolutely hilarious, compulsive viewing, and not always in a good way. I can’t imagine why it’s not on in the UK and I can’t wait to watch the next episode.
I felt I was still tripping out on Duck Dynasty when I heaved myself into a taxi at 6am and, via a hairy 100mph ride out to O’Hare on the Expressway, I was loitering at airport security waiting to board a flight to Seattle. I was finally going back to my spiritual home.