There are many ways I could go about recounting my three days in Chicago -- descriptions of the clean city streets, tales of happy and helpful concierge interaction, or picture-taking adventures inside a big giant ass -- but instead, I'm just going to say this:

Merch.

If ever there were a reason to get on a plane, defy your own death, and spend hundreds of dollars on a three-day vacation, it is barrels upon barrels of Gutenberg! merchandise. Merchandise… that makes the world go round.

I'll admit that I was not expecting much when I arrived in the windy city. Having a good time with my friends, that was going to happen regardless. Seeing the greatest show ever written or created, that was a given.

But then there was the merch.

Before I made my way to the theater that night, all I had really been hoping for was a poster. A simple piece of oak tag that I could put in a frame and hang on my wall for inspiration. The New York production never had one. There was never anything available on the Internet. And yet, while my hope had been shattered before, a glimmer of it still remained in Chicago -- and I kept the faith.

That faith was then rewarded. With merch.

The Chicago presentation of Gutenberg! The Musical! was a non-equity production in a 65-seat theater, which under normal circumstances might lead the common theatergoer to predict not even getting a program. That is why when one enters the theater and sees a stand full of merchandise, they have to start believing in miracles.

I'm going to admit that I gasped when I saw it. A loud, guttural gasp that may have disturbed a few patrons -- for not only was there my desired poster -- but there was a hat. And a magnet. And a CD order form. And a T-shirt. And yes, folks, when you made a purchase of $10 or more, you got a free Gutenberg! bracelet.

I've heard many times that money doesn't buy you happiness.... but when you HAVE money and you can use it to buy Gutenberg! merchandise, happiness is included in every purchase. Maybe I didn't need doubles of every item, and maybe that hundred dollars would've been better spent on the poor, but happiness doesn't come in the form of charity.... it comes in merch.

The show itself was also a whirlwind of goodness. The actors were hysterical. The show is still the greatest show ever. Our 800-mile trip was rewarded with greetings from cast and crew and an hour-long drink fest with a cast member afterwards. And I've witnessed firsthand that learning about the rehearsal process and the logistics of doing this show, from a person directly involved, is an incredible experience.
 
It is even better with merch.

As for the rest of the vacation, I walked a lot. I saw a lot. I had a lot of fun. A lot was learned. And a lot was done.

On the first night of our stay, after a group of teenagers stumbled upon our cab and tried to get in with us, I quickly realized that Chicago is a city that likes its booze. Grocery stores have entire aisles devoted to the selling of hard liquor, beer gardens grow plentifully throughout the area, and intoxicated men talk to you for ten minutes about the swirlies at Julio's Hacienda. As a person who does not enjoy the drink so much, I was a little wary at first of the effects this alcohol affection would have on the sober. But then I remembered that people who are hung over have a strong desire to eat really bad food.

Enter in: The Super McDonalds, a 24-hour, two-floor, 2-lane drivethru-able spot of goodness that has an escalator, elevator, malt shop, flat screen TVs, and several lounge areas. Throughout our stay in the great city of Chicago, many a good time was had in there -- and many a good burger was eaten.


The only thing missing? Merch.
 
Our second day in Chicago, July 4th, a vast amount of time was spent taking in the city and the various attractions the area had to offer. Without this experience, one may not have learned that entertainment in the midwest consists of searching for non-existent gift shops, free Bonnie Rait concerts, and fountains where fake people spit at you.
 

Another attraction is the Taste of Chicago, where for over a week, the entire city packs itself into a blazing hot park and samples of food are offered from all the city's restaurants. If one were less naive, paying $3 for a quarter slice of pizza might sound like a good idea, but instead, my compadres and I partook of the free games and walked away with t-shirts, photos, bags, and my personal favorite -- the suntan lotion.

Suntan lotion, if purchased in a Chicago grocery store, would have cost the average person $11, plus tax. And for those of you who've been paying attention, you all know what that money could have been better spent on.

Merch.

In the evening to celebrate our country's independence, time was spent on the Navy Pier, where because of some smart thinkin' individuals, we had prime staircase seats for the fireworks display -- which right after being announced to start at 9pm, shot up at 8:45. The Navy Pier also offered up some delicious funnel cake, a terrifying ferris wheel, and a crowd of obnoxious children to interact with all night.

In short, it was a lovely experience, and if not for the teenage intercourse sex show in a bathroom stall afterwards, the fireworks might have been memorable enough.

But alas, no.

Unfortunately, I did not have to pee on this July 4th evening, and so missed out on the entertaining peep show. But from watching the culprits run out of the ladies room like bats out of hell, and listening to the descriptions from my friends and hysterical strangers, I was able to feel like I was part of the experience.

And thankfully, I was to be present for the second sex show that would happen a day later.

During our trip, The Reagle Beagle, a local bar in town that no local actually seemed to know of, became a favorite of my friends and I because of its sitcom nostalgia feel and its affinity towards Vanilla Ice rap songs. On our first night there, we spent over an hour admiring the Doogie Howser posters on the wall and singing along to bad 80s pop music.

On our second night there, we watched old man make out with teenager.

 

 

 
 
 In the real Reagle Beagle that was featured on Three's Company , I have a hard time remembering Jack Tripper sucking on a girl's breasts in the middle of a crowd -- but if Mr. Furley were to have done it to Chrissy's titties, while grinding up and down her, and licking her face, it would have probably looked a lot like what we witnessed on that Saturday night.

And while those two people looked like they were enjoying themselves a hell of a lot, they were not nearly as happy as I was.

With my merch.

On our final day in Chicago, we spent time learning about hacksaw amputations at the Surgical Museum and watching some very entertaining monkeys at the Lincoln Park Zoo, where we also paddle-boated inside an oversized swan. While some might find it enjoyable to actually paddle while inside a paddle boat, others who are smarter agree to straddle the middle seat and steer.

Other attractions seen in the fine city of Chicago before we left included the illustrious Chicago Sun Times building, which had no visible entrance; the smallest, tallest building in America, The Sears Tower; and a parking lot where suicidal drivers go to die.

On Sunday morning, as our return flight home was scheduled for 7:30am and we needed to leave for the airport before 5, we napped quickly and spent the night saying goodbye to the Super McDonalds, and to the city that had been so kind to us on this journey. Then at 4:45, after we had checked out of our room, walked out of the Marriott hotel, and loaded our belongings into the back of a cab, just like had happened at the start of our trip, we were once again greeted by an inebriated fellow – who proceeded to take off his shirt, get inside our trunk, and sit on our luggage.

Inebriated fellow is very lucky my bag was unharmed in the process.

I had a whole lot of merch in there.                                     


Thanks for the mem'ries, Chicago!