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The rarely updated blog of Joel Dixon

Viewing blogs tagged Chicago

Monday, November 06, 2017

Chicago - Blackhawks, Bulls and a bean, 2017

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 06/11/2017 10:30:05

Immediately after we lost the championship game Taylor, Pao and I packed up our belongings and rushed to the airport for an afternoon flight to Chicago hoping we would make it in time to watch the Penguins playing the Blackhawks. While the Pens were crushed by the home team, I'm still glad we made it in time as the game in Chicago was a unique and enjoyable spectacle.

The Blackhawks stadium was full to capacity and this would figure in to the incredible experience that was the singing of the national anthem. While this is a well-known tradition for the Blackhawks audience, I had no idea that everyone in the arena would lend their voices while Jim Cornelison belted out The Star-Spangled Banner before the game. Especially enjoyable was when everyone extended their arm and pointed to exactly where "Old Glory" hangs from the rafters during the "... the flag was still there" part of the song. The guy I was standing next to told me that this only happens during Blackhawks games (and not for the Bulls), so I'm glad we had a chance to be part of it. I wasn't happy to see the home team scoring goals, but hearing the whole crowd sing along with Chelsea Dagger did kind of make it a little easier to stomach. Barely.

It was also great to finally watch a hockey game sitting next to my little brother Taylor, essentially the whole reason we brought him along with us for the trip. While I would have liked to watch a victory with him, we did have a great time. We shared a chuckle at the industrious salesman hawking his "ten-dollar shirts!" with the follow up of a defeated "C'mon guys, they're only ten dollars" and the unmistakable flare of the guy directing traffic. The compressed schedule meant we couldn't spend much time at all with Taylor in our first week, so it was great fun to finally have a chance to hang with my brother (as opposed to all the ex-NHL stars I was now used to hanging out with...).

While outlining our travel plans to my US friends - everyone seemed to be positive about our choice of Chicago, apparently "a bigger Pittsburgh" (which is a good thing). The number one suggestion was to take a boat tour demonstrating Chicago's unique architecture, and I was very annoyed to discover that the boat tours didn't start their season until the week after we left Chicago. If I ever make it back to the US, another stop in the windy city is a must - especially during a better time as far as weather is concerned.

Stupid Weather
The weather was actually quite nice, which made missing the boat tour even more annoying. Pictures like this one make me think we would have loved it

One Shamrock Please
Also important, checking out the architecture of the local McDonald's stores

Even though we did miss the architecture tour, we still had a great time walking around the city (in our heavy jackets). Our first stop the next morning was to Portillo's to have a traditional Chicago-style hotdog - along with a beef chilli and malt. The hotdog was nice but undeniably strange to the taste (which is what you'd expect with pickles, peppers and celery salt among the ingredients). More delicious was the beef chilli I had, perfect food for the almost freezing weather (although somewhat counteracted by the malted milkshake).

Pao Photo
While Pao was busy taking photos of the unique places we were visiting...

Joel Photo
... I was taking photos of the food we ate at those places

We headed out towards the John Hancock Center building for the view when we walked right past one of those trendy new "escape houses". I had heard something about this recent pastime before (it's kind of like a adult treasure hunt / logic puzzle where you are locked in a room with clues of how to escape) but had never really looked into it further. Taylor assured us that they were super fun, so we went inside to see if we could possibly drop in to a session. We chose the more difficult of the two experiences offered (at Taylor's suggestion) and luckily enough there was a game starting in 5 minutes time.

As I think back - the escape room in Chicago was probably the most fun we had together as a group, at least from my perspective. The escape room we experienced was very well designed, with just enough clues to keep interest and red herrings to slow us down. I think we worked together pretty well, and we were probably only 5 minutes away from completing the escape 100%. As we were a group of only 3 (in a room designed for 6) the host let us slide and called it a win - we walked away talking about the puzzles for the rest of the trip.

We continued on to the John Hancock building to enjoy a cocktail, take a photo of the view before heading off to Millennium Park (possibly better known as the park with the giant chrome bean thing - or the Cloud Gate). We took appropriately embarrassing photos (against a delightful backdrop of light snowfall), and continued on to Giordano's for a Chicago-style deep dish pizza. While probably not the #1 pizza on our journey, deep dish is certainly very cheesy and extremely filling (which was not great considering how often we were stuffing our faces while travelling). I'm still happy we could tick off the two most uniquely Chicago foods (at least as far as I'm concerned).

Mr Big
It was a pretty nice view while having a drink, but I suspect it would have been more impressive at night time

I thought it was a pretty pointless installation, but the giant bean does look pretty cool from different angles

Thug Life
Yes, my thuggish brother is flipping us the bird here..

Disney Princess
... whereas here it looks like he is waiting for a bird to land on his hand like in a Disney movie

Looking Good
Ok, pointless is probably unfair - it does look pretty sweet here

Full As A Goog
We really shouldn't have eaten so much food, but how can you go to Chicago and not try their famous pizza?

Our remaining Chicago attraction was to watch the Bulls playing basketball, against Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors. I was telling my good friend and massive basketball fan Ryan how excited I was to watch a Bulls game, as I've been a casual fan of the team since way back when I had myself a B.J. Armstrong rookie card. In a stroke of coincidence he told me that it was possible that Armstrong would be in attendance as he is currently the Warrior's Draymond Green's agent. Strangely enough I didn't end up bumping into him in the bathroom line.

Nose Bleeds
You can't say we got the best seats, but it was still a pretty awesome atmosphere

While not quite up to the amazing level of the hockey game, a basketball game was a spectacle worthy of our time and a lot of fun. Even better, it was an interesting game with the Bulls coming back to win the game from quite a deficit (although this was mainly because Steph Curry was missing buckets he would usually take care of easily). One thing that the basketball game had over hockey games was the mid-game entertainment was actually quite entertaining (at least, more so than hockey). I've watched a few games of NBL back home, and it was a surprising change to see the crowd actually interacting with the various "dance-cam" and silly jumbotron games. More than that - Benny the Bull was just as awesome as I had hoped for, even considering I've watched a fair bit of his schtick on YouTube beforehand. All-in-all it was a great experience and I was happy to finally watch the Bulls in person.

Chicago was awesome, I can't help but wonder how much better it would be during better weather. Perhaps in the future I should ensure I don't need to wonder about that again!

This is the 6th in the Joel Goes To Camp series
Game 1 - Pittsburgh Arrival - Border Security Magic, 2017Game 2 - Mario Lemieux Fantasy Camp 2017 - Day 1 (Registration and Penguins Stadium Series)Game 3 - Mario Lemieux Fantasy Camp 2017 - Day 2 (Contract Signing, Training and Game)Game 4 - Mario Lemieux Fantasy Camp 2017 - Day 3 (Outdoor Game, Injury, Dinner and Drinks)Game 5 - Mario Lemieux Fantasy Camp 2017 - Day 4 and 5 (Final Games)Game 6 - Chicago - Blackhawks, Bulls and a bean, 2017Game 7 - Pittsburgh Return - Fleury, Fleury, Fleury!, 2017Game 8 - New York - Third time's a charmed lamp, 2017Game 9 - Miami, Naples and Tampa - Beaches, Babe and a Baby Sloth, 2017Game 10 - Philadelphia - Not that sunny, 2017Game 11 - Pittsburgh - For some hockey (why not?), 2017

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