For whatever reason, I never seem to remember just how fantabulous downtown Chicago is.  While I think New York would still win the butterscotch pudding wrestle-a-thon to win the spot of most favorite city in my heart, Chicago comes in a pretty damn close second.

It’s definitely cleaner.  I wore flip-flops on a rainy afternoon and didn’t even once have to pluck soggy garbage from my toe-gina.  I enjoy my New York style pizza, but I must admit that deep dish Chicago goodness tastes so good it’ll  make your tongue slap your brains out.  Especially if you sneak a little sausage in that bad boy.  Two solid points to Chicago.

Millennium Park is bad ass.  For lack of a better word (and maybe it’s just because I’ve been around these mid-westerners for quite a few days) it’s just plain nifty in that park.  We walked from Grant Park over the beautiful serpentine BP Bridge and into the Pritzker Pavillion where the jazz group was already practicing for the evening’s show.  The sound was fantastic.  It seemed to improve the further you backed away from the stage, the sound only improved.

We then traipsed through Lurie Gardens.  I have to admit it reminded me of the Highline a little with similar vegetation choices.  Even better though, there was a little stream of water where you could sit down and soak your feet.  There’s no way that would have made it more than a week in NYC before it became a giant urinal.  There’s another point for Chi-town.

Then to the big giant kidney bean I’ve been longing to see!  For a while there it seemed I was in Chicago every damn year but somehow I never made it to the bean.  There was no way I was missing that bad boy this year.

It’s all that I dreamed it would be…and more.  We must have spent at least twenty minutes tooling around that thing and trying all the different angles.  I most enjoyed taking snaps of Rocco, Dad, and Thom leaning their heads against the surface and looking at their mirrored image.  Just what the world needs, more Thoms and Roccos.  That’s an excellent plan.

Then we paused to eat the biggest most ridiculously decadent pizzas I’d ever seen.  I think at least four blocks of cheese were used in the making of each of those pizzas.  The most adorable waiter in the history of the universe just fell in love with our chatty asses, and brought us pitchers of tea.  I filled up my glass but of course all the ice stayed in the pitcher.  I tried to fish out some ice with my fork to no avail.  Then I tried a spoon and made a huge frickin mess.  Dad scrunched up his face and in his best exasperated “DAMNIT KIDS” voice spat, “Use your fingers!”  As if no reasonably cultured or well behaved child would ever hesitate to shove their dirty hands into a pitcher of iced tea for the table.  Mad giggles ensued.  After gorging ourselves on the vast array of complimentary deserts that Mom’s new boyfriend gave us, we hit the streets again to finish Millennium Park.

The Crown Fountain might have been my favorite thing we saw the entire day.  I think that bad boy doesn’t get anywhere near enough publicity.  Maybe I just live under a rock, but I hadn’t heard a thing about it.  I was totally and completely entranced.  At first glance, all I saw was a whole mess o’ little ones stomping in the world’s biggest puddle.  As we moved closer, I could see wide black brick towers on either end of the puddle.  The kids were congregating on either end, hopping in and out of the water pouring over the top and down the sides of these towers.  These kids looked like they were going to freeze their little Chicagoan booties right off.

Then suddenly the towers changed.  The two inner facades were actually giant video walls covered in glass block.  Two giant faces loomed over the soggy children and their caretakers.  From one side, a middle aged, gorgeous black man smiled widely with an adorable gap between his two front teeth.  On the other, a tween Asian girl blinked her amused eyes rapidly behind her horn rimmed glasses.  As I watched, her eyes closed and her shiny gloss-coated lips parted slightly.  The splashing kids immediately rushed towards her mouth.  My eyes swept to the other tower.  Gone was the gap-toothed smile and a huge and steady jet of water poured from his parted lips and doused the waiting children as they giggled through their chill-clenched teeth.  I turned back to the Asian girl just in time to watch the jet of water slow as she closed her lips and slowly opened her eyes.  Both faces smiled again briefly, then faded off the screens.

Bad ass.

I’m awful glad Aunt Sharon’s shower doesn’t have that kind of water pressure.  I’m pretty sure I’d be deaf!

We made our way through an installation of intriguing Chinese art pieces and headed back over the BP Bridge into Grant Park.  Rocco and I had one more “must see” on that side of town.  Mom and Dad were also eager to see where Obama gave his acceptance speech – Petrillo Band Shell.

On the one hand, it was a bit anti-climactic.  It’s just a dingy looking band shell at the edge of a pretty damn busted up field.  On the other hand, being the big leftist dirty hippie that I am, it still felt pretty damn magical to walk across a space that had been just packed with crying, smiling, laughing, hoping, dreaming, praying, fearing bodies that dared to believe in something for a change.  Yes we can, damnit!

As I stood their soaking it all in and thinking about the power of hope, Dad pointed to the one chunk of healthy looking green in the field.  “See that green spot?” he asked.  “Over there, see the one all covered in clover and little flowers?  That’s where Oprah stood.  That’s where her tears fell.”  Then he sauntered off with his bow-legged tai-chi walk to chase through the geese wandering the field, giggling to himself all the way.