Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chicago is My Kind of Town

So…Ma and Pa Kettle go to Chicago. Courtesy of Sony/BMG Records, my husband and I traveled to Chicago last week to see an exclusive, invitation-only concert with Jason Michael Carroll. I won the trip simply by putting my name on an entry form during a Q Country 92.5 live broadcast.

(That's me in the Millennium Park garden on the right, and some great architecture on the Michigan Avenue Bridge to the left)

Truly, we didn’t know what to expect. From the time I won a nationwide contest to see Jason Michael Carroll in concert to the time my husband and I got our final itinerary, we were pretty much dumbfounded and in a whirlwind of promo and plans. It seemed surreal, until the final itinerary was delivered.

We exhorted our lovely neighbor, Rachel, to take care of our chickens and dogs while we traveled to the big city: The Windy City. Chi-Town. My Kind of Town. How exciting!

From the minute we boarded the airplane at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to the time we left Chi-Town to journey back home, we wore our cowboy hats and proudly proclaimed we were small town country folk. We got compliments on them from everyone – even one of the TSA agents at Sky Harbor!

Everywhere we went – and we went to as many places as we could in the Chicago downtown area – we were constantly bombarded with questions and made the subject of many a conversation. “Are you from Texas?” “Bet you’re glad to escape the heat of Arizona!” “What are you doing here?”

We patiently answered the questions. Nope, not from Texas, but from Arizona. In the White Mountains, our weather is pretty much the same as yours – in the 70s for a high and chance of rain. Won a nationwide contest just by putting my name and address on a slip and sticking it into a box at the grand opening celebration at the Boot Barn in Show Low. More often than not, our uniqueness resulted in being bought a drink, or more. A DJ at one bar started playing country music just for us. Guess there’s no cowboys in Chicago!

(Giant faces in Millennium Park)

What a fabulous time we had! We got to the trendy and comfy boutique Hotel Indigo Gold Coast in Chicago’s historic downtown district just in time to get to the concert. Once we arrived at Joe’s Bar and Grill, we were whisked to the back bar to meet the star himself, Jason Michael Carroll and treated like VIPs.

He spent several minutes answering questions about himself and finding out a bit about us. We were handed two of his current CDs upon arrival. I was anxiously trying to get the cellophane wrapping undone so he could autograph our copies and he took the CD from me. “I’ll do that,” he explained as he patiently tore apart the wrapping and signed my copy. He even remembered my name!

(Mirror to Chicago, Millennium Park)

The concert was great! Jason Michael Carroll put on quite the show in the intimate venue of Joe’s Bar and Grill with unparalleled enthusiasm. He sang “Where I’m From”, “Living our Love Song”, “Alyssa Lies”, and “I Can Sleep When I’m Dead” with fervor and zest, pausing often to shake the hands of those in the audience of about 200 or so invited guests. His enthusiasm was contagious and made for a truly great concert. We even met a trio of Chicagoans who declared us “too cute”.

After the concert, my husband and I walked the few blocks in a light drizzle to the John Hancock Tower and went up to the 97th floor to have a drink while overlooking the city. While there, the waitress came by and sheepishly admitted that a patron at the bar was wondering where we were from. Of course, we told her Arizona, and gave her the short story of how we ended up enjoying a drink at the top of the John Hancock building.

(American Gothic statue, downtown Chicago)

The next day we visited Navy Pier, Millennium Park, and various downtown destinations. We had an utterly wonderful time and were constantly amazed at the friendly and open people who greeted us everywhere we went. Our trip ended with a fabulous breakfast on the patio of the Original Pancake House and a walk around downtown to view the truly spectacular architecture of nearby churches.

For my money, Chicago is my kind of town. Even though we are more Ma and Pa Kettle than sophisticated travelers, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the big city and appreciated everyone who made us feel so welcome. Thanks, Chi-Town. We’ll come back again now, y’hear?

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