Day two in Chicago and after a quick look round the Newberry Library, outside which anarchists and revolutionaries once used to converge but is now rather sedate, we head to Wicker Park. About six stops north and described in the guidebook as being a little like Chicago’s Williamsburg, Wicker Park and its neighbour, Bucktown, are a mix of cool bars, galleries, second-hand book stores and expensive clothes shops. First floor windows display signs that read, art for sale, come on in, and the people walking about wear winkle-pickers or are dragged behind beautiful dogs.
After buying some books in Myopic, we walk south to look at the Gingerbread House, which looks more like a cuckoo clock and was built by once of the first German Residents. Further down there’s the Ukrainian Village, where there’s a couple of Orthodox churches and a bath house. The streets round here are quiet, so quiet that we’re practically the only people walking. But the mixture of old and new, of expensive new condominiums and run-down row houses, of the old Eastern European and Russian communities and the new arrivals from Puerto Rico, give the streets give the place an air of almost tangible movement.
Nothing seems to stay here for long. Several of the cafes recommended in my Time Out Guide are no longer there. And even the chairs outside the cafe where we stop for lunch are wired together with lengths of metal rope.
At night, we head to Lincoln Park to the Kingston Mines, a blues Club. There’s two stages in two rooms and you carry your beer – five bottles in a metal bucket for $15 – from room to room. Unfortunately it’s not quite what we wished it to be. It’s decorated to look authentically rundown with maps of the deep south on the walls and lots of vintage signs. But the clientele are mostly white American males with crew cuts who, when they’re not texting, shout, ‘all right,” and punch the air with their fists. The music is Blues Lite and verges occasionally on muzak. We jump in a cab and head back to our hotel. Two days in Chicago, we realize, isn’t really long enough to more than scratch the surface of this huge, diverse, amazing city.