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The end of Route 66, where the wind carries away the sound of blues and squalor

The end of Route 66, where the wind carries away the sound of blues and squalor

“It delivers distinct, brash flavours. A typical Cajun dish is one dish in which a bunch of ingredients are cooked together in one pot.” That’s the description I’m reading of Cajun cuisine (pronounced: kidzone) along the Mississippi River. In a simplified way, this direction combines the gastronomy of the French and Spaniards who immigrated to the United States and the culinary habits of the peoples of the Caribbean. As the Chicago River connects the watershed of the Mississippi with Lake Michigan, it is no wonder that a hundred yards from its shore, the waitress sets a typical Cajun dish, jambalaya, in front of me, in a distinct setting, with loud music.

I recently landed at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and on the way I watched The Blues Brothers, a 1980 movie set in the “Windy City” (I’ll go back to the origins of the Chicago pseudonym) on my laptop. And now I sit at the downtown club House of Blues, where pure Chicago blues are accompanied by onions, sausage, peppers, celery, lobster and jambalaya red rice. The food is a bit richer, spicier outside close to Rice Lecho, and the music is a Chicago version of blues based on electronic guitar and harmonica. Even the fork stops in my hands while the local grand dame of the genre, guitar virtuoso Joanna Connor, strikes the strings.

Typical Chicago Nights: House of Blues with Joanna ConnorSource: Dr. Adrian Szász

The guitar solo of the 60-year-old artist recently received ten thousand likes on the Internet, and half of the world searched for the identity of this white lady, who has a black melody ringing in her veins. Well, the day is almost there for me – and a dozen other lucky ones. It is not difficult for me to reward the program with a modest donation of dollars in accordance with local custom, since I have all the cash stashed in the various corners of my clothes. Perhaps it was just too many crime movies shot in Chicago that led to this overcaution, But I did not consider my residence in the Mexican Quarter safe enough to leave my valuables in the room. That’s right, Clint Eastwood’s piercing gaze flashed at me from an apartment window on the first subway stop — from a poster, magnum in hand — so I probably don’t have much to fear yet.

Behind the tulips, the legendary Route 66 “Mother of Country Roads” enters the Windy CitySource: Dr. Adrian Szász

Morning wakes up with a “sweet” surprise: Cotton candy-like clouds are descending in Millennium Park, located in the heart of downtown. The silvery-white, fuzzy background is offset by colorful tulips all around. The park is home to a sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor called Cloud Gate, which, based on its shape, is called Bab (bean) by all. The glossy surface of the artwork reflects the city skyline and people enjoy it in a distorted way. Completed in 2006, Cloud Gate has become just as iconic for Chicago as Pablo Picasso’s colossal 40-year-old Chicago Picasso, depicting a worn-out head, is just a few hundred yards away.

10x20x13m cloud gate, or door, more than 15m high Chicago PicassoSource: Dr. Adrian Szász

or rural roads

Construction of Interstate 66 began in 1926 to connect Chicago to Los Angeles. It was put into traffic in 1938 and initially given the number 62. It was later changed to 66 because it was easier to remember. This road is one of the most famous highways in the United States and the world. It is often referred to as the “Mother Road” or the “US Highway”. Nowadays, almost every section of the 4,000-kilometer highway is visited by tourists and just nerds, or even its entire length. (wikipedia)

I touch the sign at the end of the famous Route 66, and then I ride the subway, the Chicago L, which meanders halfway between the Highlands and has a unique atmosphere. The elevated train has been in operation since 1892, and New York’s only train is much more than that.

The L Train weaves through daily life in ChicagoSource: Dr. Adrian Szász

It is a strange experience to watch the streets of the different neighborhoods worth seeing through their scratched-up windows. Even without a goal, it is worth taking the train up and down, say, in The Loop business district, where you can see local homes from the trains. The railway, known only as the L, was voted one of the Seven Wonders of the City by readers of the Chicago Tribune, for example, along with the 110-story, 442-meter Willis Tower, which I didn’t. Miss the cityscape either.

A view of Chicago’s “Cotton Candy” from the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears)Source: Dr. Adrian Szász

Afterwards, I admire the art murals at the Wabash Arts Corridor, Wicker Park, and Pilsen, before dedicating the evening to local live music once again. In two halls of the Kingston Mines Club, blues parties are held in parallel, while locals eat hamburgers and chat with everyone, including me. Here, children are hardly taught “not to talk to strangers!” Otherwise, even an English-speaking insurance expert whose father was born in Alibaba, but grew up abroad, wouldn’t even call me. He also sings “Sweet Home Chicago” with the audience, then falls on my neck with emotion after I tell him I come from the land of his ancestors.

Murals in the Pilsen neighborhood populated by MexicansSource: Dr. Adrian Szász

The next day also holds a surprise encounter. In the Catholic Holy Family Church, after Mass, with Father Gabriel, who, as it turns out, comes from the Austrian side of the Hungarian border. He sent me on my way with a special blessing, but before that I asked him about the origin of the Windy City’s nickname. Because I’ve had my share of fog and rain, but I didn’t feel like Chicago had particularly strong air traffic. The priest laughs and explains that the name comes from a gay journalist, W.H It does not refer to the weather, but to the ostentatious people whose egos, according to a nineteenth-century essay, are carried away by the wind from Chicago. Like me at the airport, though the blues from the night before were still ringing in my ears, as the locals sang: “I’d rather go blind than see you leave.”

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