The Field Museum kicked our ass and other stories from the Windy City

We arrived in Chicago late Monday night and drove right to our friend Grant's apartment, where we stayed for two days. Staying with Grant was great, not only because we got to catch up with a good friend, but because Grant was J's first roommate when he moved to Chapel Hill which coincided with the time me and J started dating. So the three of us spent a lot of time together hanging out in their apartment and this was just like old times. We've been to Chicago before but definitely haven't seen everything the city and this go round we wanted to check out some of the things we missed last time, like the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum, which are located right on Lake Michigan.

We walked from Grant's apartment a couple miles down Michigan Avenue, along the Magnificent Mile and all the wonderful shopping experiences there (and, I might add, I showed great restraint), over the Chicago River, then down to the Lake Michigan and finally to the aquarium where we spent a few hours observing all sorts of fish, Beluga Whales and even a few river otters.

I like aquariums. I think part of the reason I like them so much is I went to the Baltimore Aquarium a lot as a kid, so there's the whole fond childhood memories connection.

The other thing is that aquariums are pretty relaxing. I mean, unless you're a marine biologist, or a super nerd, you don't go in there planning to memorize every fact about every seahorse and sting ray. I'm totally satisfied to check out the fish, maybe read a little about where they live - maybe - and move on. I know this isn't the most educational way to go about things, but I think we all deserve to calm down and stop learning stuff every now and then.

Also, I simply like seeing cool creatures you wouldn't see otherwise, like this guy:


J and I were feeling ambitious Tuesday so after the aquarium we headed directly over to the Field Museum, with only one, quick stop in between to get a Chicago style hot dog from a street vendor, another thing we'd wanted to accomplish.

I'm gonna tell you something about the Field Museum right off the bat. It's enormous. And, they've somehow gathered every artifact in the world and put them all in glass cases. Like, millions of glass cases. I mean, you may have been to other natural history museums, but you don't know the half of it until you see this one.

Now, here's the other part of this post where I sound like someone who'd definitely rather spend their time watching "The Hills" than reading Plato (I was a philosophy minor in college so I've totally earned that right, just so you know) - whenever I see anything relating to the Incas and the Mayans and those other ancient cultures responsible for civilization today, well, I kind of want to run for the hills. I had to learn all that in sixth grade. I know it's important and fascinating, I totally know, before some anthropologist goes crazy on me, but it's just not my cup of tea. All those millions of clay pots. Rugged tools handcrafted from sandstone or whatever. Flat surfaces used to grind corn.

The Field Museum had a lot of stuff I really liked, like the best preserved T. Rex in the world and rooms full of shiny minerals and jewelry prized by civilizations living thousands of years ago. But somehow J and I got caught in a maze of rooms filled with the artifacts of ancient peoples and I honestly thought we were never going to get out.

Furthermore, I CANNOT BELIEVE that even though I emailed everyone I knew and asked them for advice on our road trip that no one thought to at least warn me about this:



We did make it out, though, exhausted but feeling good about ourselves, called a couple friends and ended up at the Signature Room lounge on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building, which a couple people had recommended to us and now I understand why. It's gorgeous up there, the city sprawling below. They keep the lights dimmed, and windows span every wall, floor to ceiling. That's where we started our evening, after a day of walking and looking and yes, even a little learning, and it felt amazing to be surrounded by that view, and by good friends.

In fact, I felt so good (thanks, also, in part to the drinks we had up there on the 96th floor) that when we'd exited the building, were walking down the street to our next destination and J glanced at a man wearing a baseball cap darting across Michigan and announced "David Schwimmer in the house," I only hesitated a heartbeat by grabbing my friend Kate and darting back to the scene where I had full intentions of yelling out to the man, "Hey, are you David Schwimmer?!"

I didn't, however. Despite my exhilaration being in a city amongst city people, and, you know, the red wine I'd been drinking, I had the good sense to pause a moment before shouting to a man I know only from watching countless episodes of "Friends" because, did I want that kind of immature celebrity stalking to be part of this adventure, the road trip I'd always wanted to take? Of course I didn't. And anyway, I was already with people I loved in a place I loved and we were off to Milwaukee and Madison the next day and that was certainly enough. So I let Mr. Schwimmer remain anonymous, as he undoubtedly wanted to remain that night, and we soldiered onward into the Chicago night.