Every year in early March there is a large analytical chemistry conference PITTCON (The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy), which this year was taking place in Chicago. The research group at Michigan State University, in which I got my Ph.D, goes every year to give talks or posters about the advancements they’d made in the previous year with regard to research. As such, my boss approached me a few weeks ago to inquire as to if I could go give his Sunday talk due to a scheduling conflict that had come up and he could no longer make it. Of course I acquiesced, prepared for the talk and headed to Chicago a day prior to get settled. Finding myself arriving in Chicago a little before noon, I had all day to seek out new adventures, ultimately having one of the most random, spontaneous, best days of my life.
Since October, I’ve been obsessed with Hamilton! I’ve been listening nonstop to the soundtrack, hearing random quotes everywhere in every day life, and dreaming about going to see the show live! Refusing to pay an enormous mark-up, in November my family and I all bought tickets at face value to go to the show in Chicago my birthday weekend, a full eight months away in August, which felt like a lifetime to wait, but we were all still ecstatic. Once I’d found out Spence had wanted me to give his talk at PITTCON, I’d been monitoring ticket prices for Hamilton and had all but given up on finding an affordable ticket, until the night before my train departed for Chicago I could not believe my eyes when I found a ticket price that was too good to be true! Needless to say, I bought the aforementioned ticket for the matinee show, beyond excited that I was not only going to see Hamilton but also going to see Wayne Brady starring as Aaron Burr! I’ve loved Brady since his days on Who’s Line is it Anyway and in his skit with Chapelle! While the walk to the theatre proved to be an adventure on its own, involving me wandering unknowingly through a patch of wet cement, and taking one too many wrong turns, I finally make it just on time to the beautiful PrivateBank Theatre! Overall, I didn’t think there was any way that I could like Hamilton any more than I already did, however I was quickly proven wrong as seeing the songs performed live was such an amazing experience. I may or may not have cried in the opening number (Yes, I’m a crier!), and at random points throughout the play (It happens.).
After leaving Hamilton, I was pondering what to do with the rest of my night; so I did the obvious thing and started Googling the top bookstores in Chicago. Finding Myopic Bookstore on the same list I’d found John K. King’s Rare and Used Books, which highlighted the top bookstores in America I became intrigued and had to look more into this Wicker Park bookstore. After a relatively short Uber ride from the hotel, I found myself entering a three story, literal maze of books. The layout of the store is a whimsical hodgepodge of alcoves and dead ends all filled floor to ceiling with books. This bookstore was filled with treasures as I found a first edition, first print of the Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, which comes very close to completing my Outlander series collection of first edition/first prints. However, I could hardly contain my excitement when I found a signed, first edition/first print of The Martian by Andy Weir ($15), which was a book I desperately wanted to add to my collection, however couldn’t justify the cost. The book itself was rather beat up with the dust jacket getting the brunt of the abuse, however I’ve checked the book probably ten times to make sure I wasn’t making a mental fabrication regarding the line number. As such, I’m not sure how this book was marked so low, and it is probably too good to be true, however just maybe I’ve found a bit of hidden treasure! Regardless, next time you visit Chicago, this charming bookstore needs to be added to your must visit list!
2017 Chicago Beer Festival-Field Museum
On my way to Myopic Bookstore, I received a text from my friends, Megan and John who own their own hard cider company, Farmhaus Cider (Hudsonville, Michigan). They happened to be in Chicago for the 2017 Chicago Beer Festival and upon seeing that I was also in town, they’d reached out to see if I had plans for that evening. As such, I ended up joining them at the Field Museum for the festival, which very much had Night at the Museum vibes. I had such a good time catching up with John and Megan! In the photos below you can see them hard at work plying their wares to eager patrons. You should go check out their website and learn more about their delicious cider!
Lastly, check out the awesome wax figurine souvenir that John and I found in the museum! I may or may not have geeked out at it being a triceratops.
So concluded my spontaneous and exciting day in which I finally witnessed the current pop culture craze of Hamilton, wandered through a maze of books, and explored a museum after dark all the while sampling delicious craft beers and ciders. Of course this brings me to the reason for my trip to Chicago in the first place. The next day my talk went well regarding our diagnostic for multiple sclerosis and I thoroughly enjoyed the remainder of the conference, both catching up with old friends and learning about the new advancements in analytical chemistry. Plus, you have to love a conference in which we fully embracing our nerdiness. When at an analytical chemistry conference, one must build race cars out of legos with as much excitement and competitiveness as when we were kids! Of course Andre and my car won out of the Spence research group!