Just when I thought the book tour was winding down, it gained a second wind in Chicago. We’d tried for weeks to secure a venue in the Windy City, spurred on by advice and encouragement of college friends Racelle Valmonte Armada and Teré Almeda Yap. When our first venue option didn’t pan out, the ever-resourceful Carol Dominguez turned to her alma mater for help, and Kellogg School of Management profferred a room.
A graduate of Kellogg’s MBA program, Carol had flown in from Manila for Alumni Homecoming Weekend and was determined to sweeten her visit with a joint presentation of The Mango Bride and her Harvard Business School-published case study of the Philippine economy. With barely two weeks’ prep time for our May 6 schedule, Carol’s team at John Clements assembled the flyer, while I reached out to Racelle and Teré to help publicize the event. Fortunately everything came together.
I flew into Chicago on Monday afternoon and cabbed to Teré’s art-filled home in the northern suburbs. We had most of Tuesday free before the evening event, so Teré took me on abbreviated run through the city’s greatest hits: a river boat tour of Chicago’s iconic architecture
and a quick stroll to Millenium Park. I hadn’t been back to Chicago in over a decade and the park had grown in the interim. Looking for our reflections as we circled the Bean and strolling down a corridor of flowering trees was truly delightful. After such a harsh winter, even the plants ached for spring.
By then it was late afternoon and I had just enough time to change into a color-appropriate outfit (thank you Kathi Diamant!) before Teré drrove us over to Kellogg. After a year of book tours, I’ve gotten the routine down pat: set out books, hang up posters, cue the slide show and breathe.
This is the second time Carol and I have offered our tandem dog and pony show (it debuted last October in New York) and it went off without a hitch.
Perceptive questions were raised during the lively discussion that followed each of our presentations. Like a good Filipina host, Carol had arranged for plentiful food and, but I can’t eat much during a reading, so Racelle and I went off for celebratory drinks and bar grub before heading back to her condo. I’ve forgotten what a luxury it is to talk with a girlfriend till the small hours of morning, with no curfews or crying babies or weary husbands to intervene. We hadn’t seen each other since college and had several decades’ worth of stories to exchange.
The next day Racelle picked up the city tour where Teré had left off. We walked around the southern stretch of Millenium Park, explored the Modern Wing of the Chicago Art Institute and tried-but failed- to conquer a five inch-high slab of bread pudding at the Tavern on the Park. I’d forgotten about Chicago’s outsized appetites.
Later Anna met us for dinner at Yum Cha, one of those very rare birds: an elegant Filipino restaurant. While those have popped up all over Manila, they are all but impossible to find in the United States. Chandeliers in the form of enormous camellias floated overhead and intermittent mirrors reflected carbon black walls and ebony banquettes.
Racelle ordered a slew of voluptuous fusion dishes: Brussels sprouts garlanded with crispy shredded pork cheeks; stir-fried octopus and chilies; sundry dumplings.
Racelle headed home after dinner but the night was still (relatively) young, so Anna took on the crucial last third phase of my whirlwind Chicago tour: a pub crawl. We closed down two bars, catching up on each others’ lives, and Anna put me in a taxi at 2 a.m. At least where we were, Chicago was a clean, well lighted place. As always, I am grateful for the bonds of long-term friendship and how it has so enriched the Mango Bride book tour. Racelle and Teré welcomed me into their respective homes; I slept better there than I would have at any airbnb rental. Beyond that, I am grateful that they and Anna, deep in the mania of her tenure year, somehow managed to steal away from their busy lives to show me around their beautiful city.
It was worth staying an extra day, even though rerouting the flight to Thursday entailed a four-hour layover in Kansas.
Paris of the Plains? Perhaps.
But I’m with Sinatra. Chicago is my kind of town.