That Chicago – it sure is one laid-back city. One of our reasons for choosing it was jazz. It was the first northern city to get into the blues – thanks to a river with a long name and lots of New Orleans jazzmen looking for work. Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven – that sort of thing.
“Hyde Park Jazz Festival!!” the brochure screamed, “Sunday from 11am till late”. Wow, this is it, we thought, pity we fly out to London that evening, and that it’s two buses and two train rides from the city and the same to get back. We’ll have to leave it at 1.30, but still, a couple of hours’ jazz before we leave will be fun – a lasting memory of Chicago.
At 11.30 there's no one there. At 12 noon some sound equipment turns up. At 12.30 some locals and a photographer arrive. There’s a problem: some nouveau-riche Hyde Park resident has his house surrounded by Secret Service men 24/7 and they can’t even walk their dogs, let alone drive. “God – if he gets elected it’ll be worse!” they say.
At 1 o’clock the stalls are opening – near-beer and pretzels. 1.30, still no jazz, and we have to leave.
Moral 1 – don’t believe tourist brochures
Moral 2 - Don’t go to a jazz festival near a presidential candidate’s home.
Chicago has two other famous sons: Ernest Hemingway, who spent his first 18 years in Oak Park, and Frank Lloyd Wright, who began his architectural career with the great Louis Sullivan, then started his own practice in Oak Park. In fact Oak Park really rocks, especially Louie’s Bar. (Has the number of Louis’s in this town anything to do with Satchmo?)
A week later, back in Villefranche, a letter arrives from Chicago: “I found this notebook in Oak Park, Illinois. Hope it finds you”.
Nice people, even if they can’t run jazz festivals.