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An Italian consulate and a cousin in Chicago
 
 
(Click on the images for a larger version.)
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Living with an Italian person in the US brings lots of experiences you normally wouldn't have as an American. One of the most frequent experiences is making some kind of effort to make sure Ilaria doesn't get kicked out of the country. But even the simplest tasks can require a ridiculous amount of work.

On this occasion, Ilaria needed to fill out some official Italian paper work and to do so she needed an official Italian lawyer. In Boston, she could do this sort of thing at the local consulate. Since we now live in St. Louis, our closest consulate is in Chicago. So we took a ride on Amtrak.
 
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On what happened to be National Train Day.
 
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By early evening we were in Chicago (train ride is 5 hours).
 
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Since St. Louis is a little small for our tastes, we were excited to be in a real city again.
 
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We stayed in a hotel near Millenium Park
 
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with its curious bean that we so much enjoyed the first time we went to Chicago together.
 
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Last time we were in Chicago, it was really cold,
 
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so we didn't hang around long enough
 
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to see its weird fountain
 
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in action.
 
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We stayed in Chicago two days, one day to hang around the town and one day to visit the consulate.
 
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Our goal for this rainy Sunday morning was to visit
 
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the Art Institute of Chicago.
 
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It is one of the top art museums in the country (the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is the only US art museum I've visited that tops this one) and well worth a visit if you're in Chicago.
 
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With plenty of Picasso, Van Gogh, etc...
 
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It's most famous piece by a well-known artist is probably Seurat's Grande Jatte.
 
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But American Gothic is really the most unique painting. Created by little known artist Grant Wood in 1930. This painting has somehow become one of the most reproduced images in the country.
 
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My favorite pieces were The Drinkers by Van Gogh
 
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Untitled: (Portrait of Ross in L.A.).

This pile of candies is supposed to be a portrait of the artist's partner, Ross Laycock, who died of AIDS in 1991.
 
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You are supposed to take a candy and enjoy a sweet in an "unexpected place".
 
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The diminishing pile of candy represents Ross Laycock's dropping body weight as he approached death. Pretty different.
 
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One of the artist's requirements for the work however was that the candy be perpetually maintained by the museum.
 
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After the museum, we headed to the north part of the city for the first time to meet my cousin.

I have a gigantic family (the descendants of my father's mom are ~100 so far). Since my sister and I got old, we really haven't seen our cousins too many times. At my grandma's 90th birthday party, I learned my cousin Michael (my closest cousin by age) lived in Chicago.
 
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He took us to an ice cream place where we had a nice chat about our crazy giant family, being nice to people, living in the present, and everything yoga.

Michael is a super-yoga master. He teaches yoga with his partner Tony,
 
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who we meet up with at
 
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Fat Cat, where they had dinner while Ilaria and I had drinks (it was still early for dinner for us).

They were really fun and interesting, so hopefully we can go hang with them in the big city some time soon.
 
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The next day we were all business. We left our Club Quarters hotel.
 
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And walked
 
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on this beautiful
 
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Chicago
 
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day.
 
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In a few minutes, we had reached
 
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the Italian Consulate.

The Italian consulate is really like a small room of everything bad about Italy. Most of the employees were rude, inefficient, and they could care less that people in the waiting room had come from as far as Denver and had flights to catch.

Rather they would angrily complain that people were "wasting their time" when they didn't have the correct documents (nobody had the correct documents, so the Italian consulate must have been giving crappy instructions). It reminded Ilaria and myself of the downsides of life in Italy.

I felt really bad for the Americans in that place that needed VISAs and things for studying in Italy. The Italian government should at least put some US-style organization/friendliness in the consulates and let folks experience dreadful Italian bureaucracy after the Americans land in a country so beautiful that they are less bothered that nothing bureaucratic functions well in Italy.
 
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Chicago is a growing city. Here's a new luxury living building by Donald Trump.
 
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Chicago is one of the few US cities where Ilaria would consider living,
 
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so we spent the last part of the trip strolling through
 
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some (expensive) residential neighborhoods to get feel for life in Chicago.
 
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Then we walked
 
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to the Amtrak station
 
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and took our train back home to St. Louis.