In Chicago, we hit the packed-to-the-rafters Chicago Field Museum mainly to see the "Real Pirates" exhibit with relics from the Whydah Galley, the flagship of "Black Sam" Bellamy. The Whydah was originally a slaver taking part in the "triangle trade" but was captured by Bellamy and converted into the ultimate pirate ship; the Whydah was one of the most technologically advanced sailing ships of its time, and there was really nothing in the Atlantic to match it--except the hurricanes, which eventually sank it off the coast of what would later be the United States. The exhibit was excellent, as advertised, and I did pick up some good new information. The only tickets left were for 3:00, and we couldn't have gotten those if we hadn't been members of the museum, but we got our money's worth. They had to shoo us out at 5:00! First, though, we started the day by taking a tour with a friend who works at the Field Museum. We didn't see anything top secret--you can see the same things at the semi-annual Members' Nights--but we never get to those because we simply live too far away.
The next day, we had lunch with some of my wife's old friends and watched the babies play together for hours. I don't know what we did for fun before we had babies to watch, but now that fills an afternoon nicely.
Later, we had dinner at the home of a Chicago gun-rights activist whose comments you've probably seen many times at online news articles; he and his beautiful wife grilled delicious lamb chops and made cookies that would have been illegal inside the city limits. Other guests included semi-vegetarian teenagers ("I don't think it's wrong to eat meat, it's just, well, gross") and two other Chicago-area activists who are actually suing the city of Chicago to overturn its onerous "registration" laws. One of the guests brought some really weird Hungarian wine called "Bull's Blood," which actually wasn't half bad (had my glass of wine for 2009--maybe I'll have a nice Chardonnay in 2010.) In a stunning reversal of standard procedure, the twins charmed everyone in the place while Sean screamed and threw tantrums. There was actually remarkably little gun talk as we enjoyed each others' families; the conversation turned more to wordplay and personal histories. Of course, there was some showoff time, and unfortunately, the only gun I had available to show off was my Gun Blog .45. Luckily, others were along to take up the slack. Essentially, their gun collections put me to shame, the hosts' lovely house put my money pit to shame, their dogs are well-behaved and their teenagers sat at a table with 12-year-old boys and had a friendly meal with them. Clearly these people are a great deal more competent than I, but they're gracious about it.