Tuesday, August 12, 2008
My Best Friend's Wedding: Chicago
After weeks of anticipation, planning, and shopping, the epic 10-day holiday spanning 2 continents was finally upon me. I cleaned my house, packed my bags, and left my apartment exactly at 7:30AM to make my 11:20AM flight at Gatwick. Eight hours later, I was in O'Hare and boarding the blue line El train to downtown Chicago.
I stayed one night at the Millenium Knickerbocker Hotel off of the Miracle Mile, right on Lake Michigan. The hotel was under renovation, so the lobby was kind of ugly and the carpeting worn, but the room was quite nice. Small, but with an excellent bed and flat screen tv. The highlight, however, was the rainwater shower head... amazing. Unfortunately, the setup of the bathroom was such that as you stood under the shower you were watching yourself in the mirror; any latent body images I ever have were definitely brought back to the fore as I washed my hair.
Anyway! After my rainwater shower, I had to eat before I fell off my feet. The concierge suggested a sushi place on Rush Street, which turned out to be a really nice little strip of restaurants, bars, and clubs. I sat at the sushi counter, ate some seaweed salad, gyoza, a nice roll, and had a cocktail that tasted like a Shirley Temple but made me sway when I got up to leave. On my way back to the hotel, I stopped into a CVS and did the first of my US shopping - soap, deodorant, tampons, some sunscreen, and a few other odds and ends came to $55 and about 3 lbs additional weight to my suitcase. Nothing makes me happier than a good CVS trip, and I stumbled back to my pillowtop King mattress to sleep off the flight.
The worst part about traveling, however, is jet lag, which for me ended up being the inability to sleep past 7AM. Every day. So Friday morning I was up and out of the hotel at 7:45 and sightseeing by 8:30. I walked from the hotel to the shore of Lake Michigan, over the river, into downtown, and then did some more shopping. I had to be on a 2:30 train out to the suburban location of the wedding, so at 1PM I picked up my suitcase from the hotel and stopped into a nail salon for an excellent mani/pedi (lasted over a week!) and then headed to Union Station. A mere 25 minutes later, I was dropped off in Downers Grove and a cab took me to the Doubletree. I guess all Doubletrees are suites, so I had like a small apartment for just me, and I made a nice big mess in all of the rooms pretty quickly.
Friday night was a party for Rick's family and guests. It included a few Indian rituals that his family was kind enough to explain for all of us. Rick sat under a canopy held by the women while they rubbed a powder into his skin and chanted. We all got a chance to do it, and the boys of course used it as an opportunity to be cruel the way all dudes do. Then the women danced with these pots that held lit candles on their heads, and the men started lifting Rick up on their shoulders. All this merriment was interrupted for only an Indian buffet, and continued in a big dance party until about midnight.
Once the party was over, I had to go straight to bed because the next day's festivities started at 9AM sharp. And by 9AM, I mean that at 9:05AM 2 drummers started an amazing beat in the lobby of the Doubletree. Rick appeared in a turban and an amazing outfit, and the entire wedding party followed him and the drummers down to the wedding location down the road. Rick got on a horse a bit down the road, and rode up to the door of the conference center where the wedding was taking place. Anjali's family met us, and the men from both sides exchanged flower necklaces while the women on Anjali's side offered sweets. After much ritual, we entered the building for the first buffet of the day.
After the buffet, the first wedding ceremony began. Rick is Sikh, and Anjali is Hindu, so they had two marriage ceremonies. Each one was unique and special, and so interesting; their program explained the ceremonies and their meanings, which were really awesome – much more interesting than a Christian marriage ceremony. In between the ceremonies, we had coffee, and after the last ceremony there was another buffet. The whole thing ended at 3PM, and we had only 3 hours to digest and rest before the reception. I of course fell asleep and woke up an hour late, and I missed the cocktail hour (dammit!) but Le Dress and Le Shoes performed admirably - I was able to run up to the reception space right quickly!
The reception featured ANOTHER buffet, and six hours of Bollywood dance party complete with music videos projected on a screen. Le Shoes were so comfy - I danced in them for the entire night, and I had an amazing time. All of a sudden the lights came up and we headed for the after party, consisting of Rick's grandma dancing with us until 2AM. I went to bed around 4, which was a problem as my jetlag didn't allow for me sleeping past 7AM. After tossing and turning for 2 hours, I went to breakfast and said goodbye to people who were leaving; once I was fully caffeinated, I decided to head back into Chicago to see a bit more of the city. I took the train and walked up along the river, back to the blue line, and went out to Wicker Park - the "Brooklyn" of Chicago. I wandered about and did some more shopping and treated myself to a burrito. After about fours hours, I was about to pass out and headed back to the hotel. Two episodes of Law and Order and half of a PBS documentary later, I was asleep in my huge hotel bed and very very happy.
I woke up Monday to thunderstorms, and freaked out about my flight connections. After a hasty but loving goodbye to the newlyweds, I headed out to O'Hare for the next leg of my vacation adventure. Pictures, of course... here!