Day two started with a search for coffee in the great city of Detroit (which I did in fact purchase the night before – Detroit, not the coffee). I was curious what the city would look like in the daylight but apparently, as part of the trade, Canada doesn’t allow the sun to shine in the city and I was left, to this very day, wondering if there was in fact anything to see in Detroit. I’m kidding of course. The sun did shine for 20 minutes which was when everybody in the city goes about their business before scurrying home.
In addition to the lack of sunlight, I also learned that the proper greeting in the city of Detroit is not to nod your head and smile at passersby, but instead one must turn one’s head and burp directly in the other person’s face. This fascinating tradition was taught to me by a local when I made the mistake of nodding and smiling at him and was, in short-order, greeted with the traditional burp-greeting; it was both eye-opening and eye-watering – the guy was really well versed in this tradition. With the burp-greeting added to my repertoire I then proceeded to burp in everyone’s face that I met that day. I must have been doing it wrong, however, as no else seemed to appreciate the effort that I was making to fit in.
After a quick trip to the Detroit Beer Company it was off to the first of two Pearl Jam shows on this adventure. The show kicked off at around 8:00 at the Joe Louis Arena and the band played a great set that lasted until 2:00 a.m. (more or less). It was yet another great show that ended with Eddie Vedder burping in the faces of everyone in the audience. I was glad to see that Vedder also knew about this special midwestern greeting.
After soaking in downtown Detroit after the show (where I was so kindly complimented on my legs by a gentleman waking by while I was talking to my wife on the phone), it was off to bed before a flight and drive to Moline, IL for show number two.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Moline, IL, here are a few tidbits about the city:
1. Moline is part of what is called the Quad-Cities which is an area on the border of Illinois and Iowa wherein the population does a lot of leg exercises.
2. They have at least two good breweries where, I found out, it is a sign that the locals like you, if they stare intently at you upon arrival and throughout your visit.
3. Nobody goes outside. Nobody.
I discovered the third tidbit upon arrival to Moline as I took a little time to walk around the neighborhood outside of our hotel. There was no one around. At all. As I made my way up to a local brewery, Blue Cat Brew Pub, I was disconcerted that there was no one around to show off my traditional midwest burping greeting, but soon got over at as I sat down at the bar (there was one other patron in the entire place – though they may not have actually been real; it might have been my mind conjuring a figure next to me to make me feel better about the situation) and had a great pumpkin ale (when I started drinking the beer the figure next to me started to look a lot like Linus – we burped in greeting to each other). Sometime later I made my way to the stadium for the show and discovered that there were in fact other people in Moline – they were all dressed like Peanut characters though.
Inside, I made my way to the GA section of the venue and found myself only a few feet back from the center of the stage. Once again, Pearl Jam put on an amazing show which included them playing an entire album from front to back (No Code), writing a song for the city of Moline (which included lyrics about Snoopy and Charlie Brown) and even took requests from the audience. It was easily one of the best concerts I’ve been to.
As I burped a farewell to Moline the next morning on my way to Chicago, I couldn’t help but wonder why the people in the Quad-Cities were so obsessed with working out their legs when they obviously never walked anywhere.
At any rate, after spending time in Detroit and Moline, Chicago was a bit of a culture shock. There were people. Everywhere. Also there was a lot of horn honking and, on occasion, throwing of brats. I knew this part of a trip was going to be different – I would not be able to buy Chicago as I had the previous two cities. It was a little disappointing. This, unfortunately, wouldn’t be the last time I felt disappointment in Chicago.
After settling in to the hotel it was time to explore Chicago a bit. It’s a big city but it’s quite easy to get around in so long as you want to go in the same direction as the wind is blowing you. Since I had no real sense of where I was going I, literally, went as the wind blows. I’m told there was a lot to see but the wind was blowing quite fast making it difficult to make out any discernible shapes. At some point the wind died down and I found myself sitting in a place called Harry Carey’s 7th Inning Stretch drinking some local beer and watching Notre Dame lose in the last seconds to Florida State. This, unfortunately, wouldn’t be the last time I felt disappointment in Chicago.
As the next day dawned, I could feel the excitement in the air; excitement that could only mean one thing: Breakfast. I was starving. Due to the wind the previous day I was never able to settle down in one place long enough to get a bite to eat. In addition to breakfast, I was also excited because it was Sunday, and I was heading to Soldier Field Stadium to watch my Chicago Bears at a home game for the first time ever. The experience of sitting in Soldier Field watching the Bears play was everything I expected it to be. There was a chill in the air. There were Bears fans everywhere. The smell of brats and stale beer permeated from both the stadium and the fellow sitting next to me. Like I said, it was everything I imagined it to be down to the Bears playing extremely poorly and losing yet another home game this season.
Though disappointed in the outcome of the game, I was not disappointed in the fans; they were everything I imagined Chicago fans to be. They had great insults that they hurled at the Bears players on every play; they had taunts for the Miami Dolphins that couldn’t be spoken by any other fan base; they were large, displeased and genuinely seemed to hate the fact that they were Bears fans. For the three hours I sat at Soldier Field Stadium I felt like I was home.
Making the required 2.5 mile walk back to the hotel from the stadium (cabs refuse to drive people around when the Bears lose) after the game, it was time for one last stop: Ditka’s Steakhouse. The restaurant was a perfect balance between a high-scale establishment and a sports bar. Memorabilia of all sorts lined the walls. There were at least a dozen TV’s to watch. The food was amazing and cost at least as much as the cities of Detroit and Moline combined. It was a good way to end my midwest journey, even though I didn’t get to greet Da Coach with the traditional midwest greeting.
In conclusion, my trip to the midwest was a great adventure and I enjoyed visiting and exploring the cities of Detroit, Moline and Chicago. Each was unique in its own way and provided some great memories. I hope someday to get back to Chicago when the Bears are a better team and Mike Ditka is around for me to greet him properly. As for Detroit and Moline, I will be visiting them often to check on my cities and, perhaps more importantly, because nobody else is going to visit them.