More Sights and Sounds from Chi-Town

Last week’s trip certainly wasn’t my first visit to Chicago. I’ve blogged about past Chi-town based adventures including my first-ever couchsurfing experiences, The Passion event, and coverage of the 2007 Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 (actual coverage of the race can be found on

This time, the U.S. Africa Agribusiness Forum brought me to Chicago for Novus International sponsored coverage on You know, the event that reaffirmed my inspiration for the “Dollar-a-Day” Charity initiative. (Nope, haven’t forgotten about that!) The Novus crew that I worked with was great. Very welcoming and easy-going. The best kind of people to work with! Jeremy, one of the Novus clients, and I sprung for a “cheeseborger” at the infamous Billy Goat Tavern. The “Gotham city” tavern and the curse of the Cubs was a frequent theme and popular skit for a while on Saturday Night Live. The burger joint dates back to 1945 and is located underneath the viaducts on Michigan Ave near Navy Pier. Our visit came complete with “cheeseborgers” and little, paper souvenir hats.

Anyway, after work I jumped right back into Chicago’s urban playground. As luck would have it, the Taste of Chicago was just kicking off as I got into town. Restaurants throughout Chicago set up booths in Grant Park and offer single-serving sized portions from their menus for a specific amount of tickets. Twelve tickets could be bought for eight bucks. The ticket system meant things were a bit pricey, but hey, when else can you skip around trying dishes from a slew of restaurants?

I managed to track down some couchsurfers who planned a cs outing to the Taste of Chicago the very Saturday I was going to check it out myself, so I had a band of “instant friends” to share the festival with. I enjoyed a wide array of cuisine including African plantains, Indian something or other, gelato, ravioli… and even shark! Shark was an absolute new one for me. Not bad. Tastes like fish, but more dense. Not quite as dense as chicken though.

Food wasn’t the only draw. Stevie Wonder performed a free concert that evening as part of the Taste of Chicago Festival. Some csers and I scoped out a spot way back from the stage though and to be honest, we couldn’t see or even hear Stevie wow us with his wonder magic. I did enjoy simply relaxing under the shade of small trees with everyone else though!

Speaking of music, I can’t forget to mention the awesome sidewalk drummers that were putting on an impromptu show in downtown Chicago. I was already a tad late meeting up with the csers but I couldn’t resist stopping to grab some video of these guys go at it. They’re incredibly talented! Check it out:

While wandering the booths of Taste another group put on a sweet performance. This time tap dancing. You should definitely check out this vid too (even though I halfway forgot I was doing video and inverted the camera like I would for vid…lol) :

Here’s a vid of them having a dance-off:

Then our little cs group stumbled upon a local African group letting loose:

That’s still not all. That evening, after the free Stevie Wonder performance, I had the opportunity to enjoy another free concert. This time is was a part of Chicago’s summer music series “Music Without Borders” with concerts held at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion in Millenium Park. I got to listen in on a small Senegalese symphony performed by Orchestra Baobob. Here’s a quick bio:

Orchestra Baobab returns to Chicago with Made in Dakar, an album that celebrates this Senegalese super-group’s roots in one of the world’s most explosive musical cities. A great iconic band, their music includes a range of influences from Afro-Cuban and Portuguese Creole to Congolese rumba, high life, calypso, American soul and traditional Senegalese styles.

Now you can check em out:

All throughout the grassy lock under the Pavillion (which covers old train tracks), couples and groups of friends had blankets spread for a twilight picnic of breads, wines, cheeses and more during the international concert. Some even had candles lit, offering the final touches to the perfect evening in the city.

The entire day truly highlighted the finer aspects of living in a big city. So much going on from organized food and music festivals to impromptu street side performances! Music was everywhere!! All these wonderful activities absolutely reaffirmed my love for the city life!

But wait, there’s even more! The cs fun wasn’t over yet. Metin, the same wonderful host that organized the cs outing to Taste also set up a cs party on the rooftop of his Lake Shore Drive apartment. This offered a fantastic view of Navy Pier. Even though it was the 28th of June, the national celebration at the pier had already begun. I got an early fireworks show!

I talked to a handful of csers all of which had great stories… and a great listening ear I might add. Many of them listened to me babble on and on about my recent travels abroad. Even the Thai guy listened to all my stories about… Thailand. Haha.

I also managed to meet a German on the bus on my way to the cs party. The couple days I had left in Chicago were spent with him acting as my “unofficial guide” to the city. We ate at some great restaurants, checked out a local piano bar and caught a movie (Wanted).

Then on Sunday night, my friend Dustin who lives in Chicago came home from a family visit in Florida. The next day, we were taking off together and heading out West… for California!

So of course, my next post will be all about my many West Coast adventures…

Bad Ass Coffee Shop in Santa Cruz, CAFor now, I leave you. It’s time for me to move from my post in the Bad Ass surfer coffee shop (Bad Ass is the actual name mind you) and meet up with one of my newest friends. I’ll be having dinner at the wine bar he cooks at in Santa Cruz…

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