When I was a kid, my grandmother owned an apartment building by Wrigley Field in Chicago. Back in the 80s Wrigleyville was a little rough, and we loved it. We were from the suburbs and sheltered, so our idea of fun was to sit on the front stoop and take in the sounds of domestic violence, set against the white noise backdrop of screaming crowds at Wrigley Field. The couple across the street fought viciously with their windows open. We never saw their faces but we heard them year after year, screaming every combination of filth imaginable. Annually, we’d ask our cousins, “Are they divorced yet?” But to our amusement, they were inseparable. Sometimes we’d get cocky on the stoop and imitate them, shouting up at their window. Sometimes they’d yell, “Hey F*** YOU kids!” and we’d scramble inside the building.
We also marveled at the idea of a candy store just sitting across the street from where my grandmother lived. Except it was a liquor store. They were all liquor stores, but we kept our eyes on the prize. Our parents handing us a dollar and waving us off seemed unreal. Without an adult driver, we had no access to candy in Annandale, Virginia. We shrieked and darted into to the liquor store. Our Chicago cousins shrugged us off as amateurs.
Then things changed. My grandmother sold the building and moved into a modest home in the suburbs, and the rest of the family followed. As I got older and visited for weddings, Chicago became a blur of suburban hotel chains and stadium-sized banquet halls.
For the latest wedding, I decided we were going to see Chicago in style. I wanted to experience the city the way I did as a child. When the evening skyline made me breathless. When we found a 24-hour White Castle for a midnight snack. We stayed in the Magnificent Mile. In the heart of downtown off Michigan Avenue, we chose the historic Warwick Allerton, built in the roaring 20s. While a skyscrapaer, it had all the trappings of a boutique hotel. We were upgraded to a giant suite that oversaw Michigan Avenue, glittering below us.
It was just a short walk to the John Hancock building, and Lake Michigan, which locals like to call “the beach.” I kicked off my shoes and took a long walk in the sand. There were actual waves! I marveled at the skyline, and the gorgeous floral arrangements at the luxury hotels.
The Drake was by far the most striking hotel, and I fell in love with the architecture (pictured above). Though built in the Italian Renaissance style, it screamed Art Deco to me.
It was nice to be back into the fold of classic Chicago, with the skyscrapers larger than life. The air smoky with Polish sausage vendors. I can’t wait for the next wedding.