What could be more fun than a girls shopping trip to Chicago? Turns out, almost anything else!
We had been so excited about the trip, not just for the shopping, but hanging out on Michigan Avenue, going to swanky bars, and getting our city-look on. Being from a town of 2,000 doesn’t make my friends and me immune to fashion but we decided to really step it up and even went shopping before the shopping trip for our “Chicago outfits”. Oh, we were something else, all put together when we walked out of the Omni Hotel where we were staying. Maybe you are thinking it was all in our minds, but I’ll have you know that the homeless man near the door agreed as he said to us, in his deepest Louis Armstrong voice, “You girls are finer than Charlie’s Angels!” And so began our trip…..
The glam continued as we wandered through the shops of the Magnificent Mile leaving credit card debt in our wake. After we had exhausted our shopping the first day, we ended with cocktails at the lounge of the Peninsula Hotel. A girl has no choice but to act classy sipping her $14 drink. Oh yes, Chicago, here we are. I was so classy I put the coaster in my purse for a souvenir.
The next day one of my friends had her heart set on going to Pottery Barn Kids, which was not on Michigan Ave so we took a short cab ride to North Avenue. After PBK, we perused the surrounding stores of Crate & Barrel and then Banana Republic. I just love Banana Republic and their clothes and as wrapped up in the Chicago feeling as I was, became smitten with a pair of $89 jeans. At the time, they were the most expensive pair of jeans I had bought and I hemmed and hawed over them until I was finally talked into it by my friends. I mean, really—wouldn’t those jeans be great with the rest of my “Chicago outfits”? And so I strutted out of that store proudly toting my BR bag with trophy jeans in one hand and a Crate & Barrel bag with placemats in the other. Look at me now!
And then things got ugly.
I don’t know whose idea it was, but someone said while we were on North Avenue, “Hey look, there is the John Hancock Building. We aren’t far from Michigan Avenue. Let’s just start walking that way and get a cab in awhile.” And so we strolled ahead, shopping bags in hand, down Clybourn Avenue. As we walked further down the street, we noticed fewer and fewer cars going by and began to comment that getting a cab was harder than we thought. With dusk now beginning to settle in, we were starting to regret not taking a cab back on North Ave. And then my friend Tricia said, “I think those buildings are the projects.” WHAT??? I looked to my right and had to agree with her. At the door of one of the buildings was a sea of young men in puffy coats.
I gulped, thinking what we must look like, three women in their “Chicago outfits” toting shopping bags strolling through the projects. I noticed one of the puffy jackets coming toward us. I began to panic, comforting myself with the idea that I only had to outrun my two friends and I’d be safe. About a block ahead was an intersection where I saw the first sign of traffic so we all broke into a jog toward the corner when we saw a taxi coming. The jog became a run and with arms waving and bags ripping we hailed a cab. “Hurry up, get in”, the driver shouted as we piled in and he took off. While we were freaking out in the backseat, he asked, “Why were you girls walking in this neighborhood?” I told him we didn’t even know where we were and shocked, he looked at me in the rearview mirror and said, “You just walked through Cabrini Green.”
I remembered hearing of this neighborhood years earlier and knowing it was associated with crime, murder, and other awful things, never thinking it would affect my sweet, little life. I thought wrong. We were so relieved to be back on Michigan Avenue and after dropping our bags at the hotel, we went to Sak’s Fifth Avenue and just stood in the middle of the store, giving thanks for making it back to the “Fabulous (Tourists’) Chicago”.
We made a vow to not tell our husbands what happened, but within eight hours, we all broke and confessed to them. Let’s just say I have been back to Chicago since, but not without Russell.