From New York, we got a ride share to Chicago, meaning we just chip in with petrol and tolls, it was a fourteen hour drive, the last four of which in heavy snow but we made and headed to Joe's place just outside of town. Joe is a fella we first met in Ushuaia, the tip of Argentina, he was cycling most of the continent and then again in Bolivia, Peru and lastly Colombia, all by chance, and so kept in touch and he kindly invited us to stay with him during our stay in Chicago. Chicago was bitterly cold, with highs of minus 5 celcius and lows of minus 20 celcius. Our highlights here included having a coffee on the 96th floor of the John Hancock building- scary, having a real Chicago pizza(its more like a pie without a lid), going to see Dirty Dancing, "nobody puts Baby in a corner!" on Broadway, ice skating and a night out in the 'hood.
It was our last night in Chicago and Joe, a blues fan, found a free gig in the local paper. He gave us directions to meet him there and so we went off sightseeing downtown. At 8pm or so we jumped on the Loop train and headed to this bar called Gene's Playmate Lounge. After the first few stops leaving downtown, we were the only whites on the train, no problem, Joe said it would be mainly blacks in the bar. We get off the train and ask the ticket office where is this bar. She had no clue and told us we're in the wrong neighbourhood and we should head home. Well, not easily deterred, we headed on out to look for the bar and it did seem pretty edgy. Cars were slowing down checking us out and Kerry was getting a bit freaked out then I spotted the bar, both feeling relieved we headed on in. There was Joe sat having a beer so we sat down. Sure enough the only whites in a pretty quiet bar which had a kind of caberet/social club feel to it. Over comes the waitress to take our order and ends each sentence with 'baby'. And I ask if there's any specials and got a puzzled look in return, "you say what baby?",
'av yer got any in on offer?'
So, she's speaking jive and me scouse, neither of us really understanding one another but eventually I got a beer (there were no specials) and we had a laugh about it, so I spoke jive for the night as her scouse wasn't too good. Slowly the characters wandered in from the streets, an old boy in black suit, white polar neck and black trilby hat too cool to say hi, just a tilt of the head. He sits at the bar with a neat whiskey and lets the crowd acknowledge him and they come to him, you can tell he has power. Next through the doors is a cool kid in a fair coat, the band kicks off but only after giving shouts out to most the people in the joint, including us, 'friends from England' I play it cool too and acknowledge our host with a tilt of my head, like I'd seen moments earlier, I was getting with the vibe and actually feeling cool too, then I remembered I was wearing a Bolivian alpaca jumper with lamas that looked like reindeer circling, maybe I'm just not meant to be cool.
Our first singer was dressed like Michael Jackson in Thriller, black leather pants and shiny red shirt, most of the buttons undone, piano player in grey suit with a white scarf that looked like a pianos keyboard, then in walks Notorious BIG, a huge fella in grey suit, jacket down to his knees wearing a bowler hat. By now were singing the blues and people are letting there emotions get the better of them and shouting things like, 'yeah baby', 'I feel it baby', 'Alright brother'. Everyone was having a good time in there and most people said hi to us, and we left with most people saying bye too, I actually didnt want to leave, I felt like I was in a 1980's movie, it was great and a really different experience and on the way home Joe bought us a square burger.