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Thursday 29 Apr 2004
Chicago, USA

Arrived in da windy city!

I arrived into Chicago yesterday morning at 6am after a 3 hour flight from Las Vegas (I was under the impression that the flight would be six hours long because my ticket said that I would leave at 12am and arrive at 6am - Id forgotten about the time difference!). Ah well, another sleepless night, but well worth the 140 dollars for the flight ticket (the States has some amazing deals on flights.. I got my ticket by searching cheaptickets.com.. got some flight info... then went to the website of the relevant airline and got an even cheaper deal by going directly!)

Chicago is a great city! Its a bastion of jazz and blues (about half the population are black), and this was evident even before Id left the airport - a "busking" soul singer was belting out some fantastic vocals, sounding reminiscent of motown. Even walking down the main streets, you are constantly accompanied by the sounds of a sax player or jazz guitarist... and they are all REALLY GOOD! The people themselves are all quite friendly and offer to help you if you look lost... even the guys dressed up in their "homie gangster" outfits. A lot of people here dress in the old-style 1920s jazz-gear with hats, suits n all. The citys got great atmosphere...

Its also pretty damn windy (hence the title "The Windy City") and Id quite often be pushed off to the side of the pavement with a fierce gust! A man I spoke to said that the winds come off Lake Michigan, which borders the city.

The area where Im staying in my hostel, Lincoln Park, is quite affluent and clean. In fact the whole of the central city is quite clean.. Im sure there are dodgy areas, but I havent seen any yet. It actually bears a startling resemblence to the posher parts of Dublin city, in terms of the trees lining the road and the architecture of the buildings, many of which date back to the turn of the century - looking quite Victorian.

The irony though, is that the hostel Im using (Arlington International) is very basic and a tad smelly (and at 25 dollars a night it aint cheap). The first room I was offered even contained a large bulky weirdo who shouted out "Whos there?!?" from the ensuite bathroom when I first went in. Then he proceeded to get insulted when I wanted to air out the room (it stank) and talked to you with his head turned to the side. Strange. Anyway, I quickly got another room and Im staying with a bunch of "saner" people.

I took a long walk into the city yesterday down the "Magnificent Mile" which has some really nice old buildings from the early 1900s and various Indian-War memorials. Very good shops too.. I bought a few bits and pieces, but Im waiting till I get to NYC before I start splashing out and buying loads of clothes (Ill have to buy another bag too to accommodate them!)

Last night I headed out with a friend to check out the local blues scene. Nearby there is a bar called "B.L.U.E.S." (conveniently enough) and it was populated with some real "typical" blues-hounds all dressed up in their 1920s outfits. Saw quite possibly THE most amazing blues guitarist Ive ever heard since Jimi Hendrix, Pistol Pete, who belted out some incredible renditions of Jimi plus some cool improv sessions. Great night... today Im off to check out the Sears Tower, the largest building in the US since 9-11.

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