The greatness of Chicago depends on you.
This is to help you have a great time in Chicago. At least as great as I've just had...
Here are 10 suggestions. I hope they'll serve you well for your first visit to Chicago.
1. Don't expect constant weather
Chicago is bright - and thunderous. Chicago is lightening - it pours down more than rain. It can also freeze you into action. (I was warned to wear especially warm clothes next time - if it's Winter).
2. Don't expect taxi drivers to be from Chicago
they are from Cameroon, Liberia, Jordan, Ethiopia, Nepal, Kurdistan, Nigeria, Columbia, Korea, Rumania for starters. (This is handy if you're into conversation & collecting stories). Irish taxi drivers are impossible to find - but if you do meet one, please send me your story for my collection.)
3. Don't expect the mass-transport system (CTA) to feel impersonal & confusing:
the black guy in the kiosk at Logan Square Station is as good as the Mayor when it comes to selling Chicago. Real friendly chat. Also, the guy sitting opposite you on the train may speak to you. Might even be the genius who coined "Chicago Cares" (rhyming with Bears) & presented it to me.
4. Don't expect to be an anonymous number
you might not be ignored when you're looking for a warm-voiced stranger. The owner of the bookstore (bookshop) in Logan Square [Uncharted Books] attracted me to his store of 'used' books by showing me a collection of board games & vinyl LPs. [Wednesday night in the bookshop is "Games & Cards" night. Thursday is stand-up comedy. Friday is lesbian storytelling.] He said he has to compete with the big guys at Amazon somehow. People might even podcast with you. You might be invited to read your poetry. [There was an audience for 'Irish Epic Poem in 33 Cantos' (after Dante). You might not be treated as a number in Chicago.
5. Don't expect the people to be small-minded
the 500 people I spoke to (over six days) opened my mind. They sparked off a dream. Could I bi-locate between Cork & Chicago? I warn you: the people of Chicago might seduce you. Many of them have a habit of attending to your unspoken need - like the bar-tending woman who poured me a refill of un-iced water.
6. Don't expect all the food to suit or delight you
7. Don't expect it to be easy to settle into Chicago
you might not have an author-philosopher-storyteller guide like Matthew Kiell. Someone generous enough to pick you up from the airport. Someone to whisk you off on tour through a Mafia neighbourhood. Someone who takes you to rest your weary body in O'Sullivan's Bar and the best beer (locally brewed 'Revolution').
8. Don't expect Chicago to be calm - or to calm you
you might be too excited to notice you've been awake for 23.5 hours before you finally collapse into bed. After networking at the infamous Chicago Social Media Club. After you've had your heart put racing by Anne Reuss presenting her message on how to do business in a fearless memorable way.
9. Don't expect Chicago to make you happy
that's up to you. You might end up sad. You might even become happy to feel sad when leaving. Even the company of stupendous family plus astonishing inspiring adventurous business people like Raul, Andy, Gigi, Becky, Jane, Nigel, Molly, Jenni, Dawn, Eric, Jasmine, Jean, Kevin, Laura, Leslie, Liz, Mana, Jon-David, Mark, Mike, Rosemary, Ric, Shashi, Sheila, Valerie, Marti, Jennifer
- may not stop you feeling sad & fixed on returning to Chicago.
10. Don't expect Tim Howard to be there forever
you'll have to get to know other stars that bind the nation into a stronger community. But if you can bring your nap-sack of local heroes with you - like Roger Overall, Aodan Enright, Miriam O'Connell, Jenny Brennan, Jonathan Amm, Mark O'Mahony, Eoin Kennedy & Ciara Feely (the Unconventional crew who're building the Unconventional event in Cork on 28 October)
- people in Chicago will be supportive of your efforts. Chicago is a breeding ground for collaborations - you better prepare yourself for that - unless you want a reserved quiet time.
If you've been to Chicago already - what are your tips please. If you live in Chicago, please chip in with your tips too.