Monk-ey Business

This is the fourth post in a series about a road trip to New Orleans that starts here.

Finally!  I will get to our day in Chicago now.  But I have to say, it’s the little sights and interactions and quirky people you meet while traveling that make it interesting.  You can read about the Art Institute of Chicago in any guidebook or on hundreds of commercial websites, but you would probably not learn that a high street and a downtown are the same thing, and you would never get to know David the Innkeeper.

The temperature had plunged overnight, from the mid 70sF to almost freezing.  The wind sliced through the thin clothes I had packed in anticipation of the New Orleans’ heat.  No matter how much I travel, I always pack optimistically, and sometimes I end up shivering as a result.  Home in chilly Minnesota, I can’t imagine anywhere else could be as cold.

I had checked the map and was focused on finding the Architecture Foundation of Chicago.  I had been on their river boat tours several times and they were great.  It was too cold for a boat tour, but they had lots of other indoor tours, according to their brochures.

Lynn and I wandered up and down Michigan Avenue for an hour and never found the AFC.  I hadn’t realized there was a north and south Michigan, there was construction hiding the building numbers, and finally we just gave up because it was too cold and windy. Besides, we kept being approached by guys dressed as monks asking for money. I say “dressed as” monks because we eventually concluded this was a scam. The first guy approached us and thrust some sort of bracelet into Lynn’s hand.  He started speaking badly broken English and pointing to a booklet he had with pictures and symbols that made no sense.

I tried to hand him some quarters, nickels, and dimes leftover from the tollway—win win!  “No coins!” he barked.

I was inclined to walk away but Lynn is nicer than me.  She’s also been to Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, and everywhere else there are actual monks.

“You’re trying to build a temple, are you?” she asked, as the fake monk showed her a page of writing.  “Where are you from?” she asked.

“Hong Kong,” he replied.

That did it.  She said “No thanks,” and walked away.  “Hong Kong just doesn’t make sense,” she said.  “If he really was from Hong Kong he would very likely speak English.”

“Yeah, I bet as soon as we walked away he muttered ‘bitches’ under his breath!” I replied.

Finally, our site seeing got underway with a walk through Millennium Park:

Bean photo 2

We couldn’t stand the cold anymore so headed over to Starbucks for a hot drink while we waited for the Art Institute to open.  Of course the people in line with us were from Scotland.  That seems to happen all the time.

When the Institute opened we wobbled around for 15 minutes trying to figure out which line to join.  I couldn’t believe it cost $25 to get in. That seemed outrageous.  I was used to the free admission we have at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which is a great museum thanks to all the corporate headquarters we have here—like General Mills, United Health, Cargill, 3M, and Target—plus our tradition of individual philanthropy.  Was Chicago really so different?  Was the city in economic straits?  I don’t know, but after I dithered and protested and probably embarrassed Lynn by asking a security guard “do we really have to pay $25 to just to see the permanent collection?” she coughed up the admission fee plus an extra $5 to see a special Van Gogh exhibit.

Meanwhile, I was snapping a picture of the back lighted wallpaper in the ticketing hall:

photo 3

I’m kind of a wallpaper freak.  I take photos of beautiful wallpapers when I travel, certain that I’ll somehow recreate them in my tiny condo. How hard could that be?

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