I have to wake up before dawn to catch my 7am flight to Chicago. I get to the airport on time, check in (not an easy process, US airlines these days expect you to it all by yourself, at a machine just like an ATM!) and then face a line of hundreds at security. I eventually arrive at the head of the queue. hand my papers, the TSA guy scans them and says: “OK, you’re a four-S, come with me!” Now I have no idea what a four-S is, but I can only guess Squarci Selected for Special Scrutiny, as I am then led into a area cordoned-off for screening Enemy Combatants from innocent businessmen. I get a hand search, my bags are searched with swabs put though an explosives detection machine, but as I’m not in the habit of carrying Semtex, I pass muster and am waved through.
Arrival in Chicago. The I-90/I-94 from O’Hare to the Loop is perennially congested despite the 10 lanes, so it takes over an hour and a half to get to the McCormick Convention Centre where I am visiting an exhibition. I meet all my contacts and customers then get back to the Loop to check into my hotel. This is the Allerton, right on the Magnificent Mile, one of the world’s grandest shopping streets. Nearby the hotel are Neiman-Marcus, Williams-Sonoma, and Macy’s and… an Apple Store right in front! A paradise for shopaholics!
I rest awhile and dinnertime arrives. Where to go? Chicago has innumerable choices, I can certainly recommend the Chicago Chop House for excellent steaks, but I had steak yesterday so something different is called for. Why not combine dinner with another Chicago institution, the Blues? So I head for Buddy Guy’s Legends, just a short El ride away from the hotel on South Wabash.
Legends is Buddy Guy’s Blues Club and museum of assorted bluesy memorabilia that aficionados will appreciate. But it’s also a great place to enjoy southern Cajun soul food: I tried as a starter the fried okra with honey-mustard sauce and as a main course the Legendary Etouffé: crawfish tails and vegetables in a red roux, served with rice and cornbread. Excellent stuff, washed down with plentiful Goose Island Honkers Ale, a malty bitter Chicago beer. A Key Lime pie rounded off the meal.
At 9:30 the music began! The performing act tonight was Eddie Shaw & the Wolf Gang. As my more experienced friends will know, Eddie Shaw, Howlin’ Wolf’s sideman, is a fine vocalist and sax player, and is accompanied by Lafayette “Shorty” Gilbert on bass and Vaan Shaw playing a triple-neck guitar. I’m no expert, so can only say “wow!” – a great gig that had all the audience rocking on their seats, especially when Buddy himself came on for a cameo appearance. A wonderful evening and great value at $ 10 cover charge.