Friday December 5 was the highlight of Bro’s recent visit. We did the Chicago tourist thing for hours and hours. Bro has made these excursions enough times that we can go farther off the beaten track than tourists who are in Chicago for the first time, and/or only have a day or two.
We started our day with a visit to the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture. Some of our ancestors were Lithuanian, so when Bro saw the sign along the Stevenson Expressway showing the exit for the Lithuanian Culture Center, of course we had to go. Never mind that I’ve seen the exact same sign approximately a thousand times and it never occurred to me to check it out.
It was swell. It’s small and not nearly as shiny as the big fancy lakefront and downtown museums, but what a great introduction to Baltic culture.
The highlight was No Home to Go To, a recently-opened exhibit on Baltic people who were displaced by World War II and its aftermath. We pretended to be flies on the wall near one family group: the mom asked her elderly mother to share memories of life in the relocation camp for her teen daughter. The artifacts on display helped give them a point of reference, bringing this family’s history alive for the younger generation.
Yes, I wrote about this Chicago History Museum exhibit in my last post, but 1968 was so excellent it deserves another mention. It’s hard to pick out my favorite part, but if you pinned me to a wall and demanded an answer, I might say it was the music section towards the end. We especially enjoyed the multi-player trivia game. There were four spots at a console with a set of buttons at each position, allowing you to choose answers that were presented as multiple choice. They started you off with a couple of softball questions and then got into some highly arcane musical lore. BK would own that game. I’m encouraging him to take Lori and Danny when they’re here for the holidays.
Close to the music quiz game was another interactive display that allowed you to design your own album cover. Supposedly you could email a jpeg of the finished cover to yourself, but I never got it. I think my spam detector might have kept it from me. It was still a hoot to do, however.
After history, there was Pizano’s. Pizano’s on Madison is currently our favorite spot for deep dish pizza, hands down. This is where what could have been a 100% awesome day got knocked down to 98%. Don’t get me wrong: the pizza was as scrumptious as ever. But we really, really, really wanted to sit in Uncle Chach’s section. Here are a few links to help you know why:
In my experience, you’re about as likely to get the Chach when you simply wander in on a night he’s working as when you make a reservation ahead of time and especially ask to sit in his section. We just kind of walked in, and we didn’t get into his section. So while we were disappointed not to get Uncle Chach as a server, we did get to visit with him for a few minutes.
We had already had a pretty good day. Bro felt, however, that one thing missing from his previous Chicago tourist forays was a visit to a real Chicago blues bar. Not a big shiny one—something more working class. Sis asked around and someone told her about BLUES on Halsted. Turns out it’s not that unknown. It’s practically across the street from Kingston Mines, a venerable blues establishment.
Bro’s main requirement was that our destination ought to be the kind of place where “nobody gets out of here without singing the blues.” No one made us sing. No one even asked us to sing, actually. Maybe they’ve heard us. However, we were required to shake our money makers. This was where my belly dance lessons came in very handy.
I bet the music at BLUES is always great. We heard Vance “Guitar” Kelly and the Backstreet Blues Band. If you get a chance to go to BLUES when they’re playing, go for it. The doors open at 8. Live blues didn’t start until 9:30, but you might want to get there closer to 8 if you can. The place was absolutely packed by the time the music started, and only got more crowded from there.
Sis and I got in free! We were waiting in front of the place about 7:50 when a couple came up and told us they’d like us to be their guests. We were touched and pleased. It turned out that they had a special Groupon deal—admission and a drink for four people. Since there were only two of them, they decided to ask the first two people they saw if they’d like to get in free. People can be so nice. Thanks, Sam and Selena!