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A weekend in Chicago: pizza, piercings and heavy metal

By WILL KRISS
Staff Writer

Chicago is one of my all-time favorite places to visit. I’m not sure exactly what it is about the city, but every time I go there, I feel completely at peace with myself.

I haven’t visited since the MMCC holiday trip in December 2012, and I was sorely disappointed to learn there would be no holiday trip this year, in addition to the recent news that the MMCC Spring Break trip to Nashville was cancelled. This was partially what inspired me to take my own vacation to Chicago recently.

Photo by Will Kriss

Photo by Will Kriss

My initial reason was to go and visit my cousin, who goes to college in the city. Then I found out that one of my favorite rock bands, Stone Sour, would be making a stop at the House of Blues in Chicago on the same day that I would be arriving, bringing with them opening bands Pop Evil and Stolen Babies.

The forecast during my stay was supposed to be -25 degrees before wind chill, placing it somewhere in the -40 range. Armed with six layers of clothing, I began the trip.

Amtrak is one of the best ways to travel, in my opinion. Until this trip, I had only ridden once from Chicago to Seattle when I was about 9 years old, and the experience was even better than I remember. I took the train from East Lansing at 8:45 a.m., with an expected arrival time of about noon. I was impressed with how relaxing the train ride was. I had plenty of space for my legs and luggage, and a round-trip to Chicago only cost $50, which is an incredible deal compared to the cost of gas, plus the hassle of actually driving to (and in) the city.

The experience was also much better than the claustrophobic and rattling quality of a bus ride. After making a few stops in Michigan and Indiana, I finally arrived at Chicago Union Station a little past noon.

I stepped off the train and met with my cousin Hannah, and the first thing we did was hop on the Redline out to the Lakeview district for an appointment at The Chicago Tattoo and Piercing Co., which is the oldest tattoo parlor in the city. When I got my first tattoo, this is the parlor I went to during the MMCC holiday trip. For this trip, my plan was to get my industrial piercing done, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a few years now.

Just like last time, I was impressed with how welcoming the staff members were, and after waiting for a brief period, the steel surgeon Rudy Carrillo welcomed me to the back room with an air of confidence and friendliness that made me feel absolutely comfortable with getting a giant metal bar shoved through my cartilage.

The entire process only took about five minutes, and Rudy was very helpful in making sure I knew all of the cleaning tips. Despite being the most painful body piercing I’ve ever had, I walked out feeling elated, and my cousin took me down the street to an establishment that I’ve never heard of until this visit – Blaze Pizza.

In a style similar to Chipotle, Blaze Pizza offers build-your-own personal pizza with completely fresh ingredients. I’ve noticed that I only enjoy thin crust pizza when I’m in Chicago, and Blaze did not disappoint. I don’t remember exactly how many pieces mine was cut into, but I had two leftover at the end and was completely satisfied. I thought this was an exclusively Chicago-based chain, but there are two locations here in Michigan. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out next time I find myself in Royal Oak.

After lunch, I headed towards south State Street to one of my all-time favorite locations in Chicago – Reggie’s Rock Club. In addition to being one of the coolest music venues I’ve ever been to, Reggie’s features top-notch bar food, as well as a record store on the top floor of the building called Record Breakers, and an extra store full of T-shirts and other merchandise for metal bands.

The first time I came here was in November 2011, when, on a surprise Chicago visit, I saw the thrash metal band Exciter. When I returned for the MMCC holiday trip, I saw Hanzel Und Gretyl and Angelspit back-to-back in the same weekend. There were advertisements pasted up around the building for an upcoming in-store signing by Johnny Winter, which made me feel disappointed that I’m not returning to the city until April.

Every time I go to Chicago, I make a point of stopping here at least once to add to my ever-growing music collection. I always spend at least an hour browsing before I even start to decide what I want to buy, and the decisions never get any easier. This time, I wound up walking away with CD releases by Converge, Hanzel Und Gretyl, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, as well as a vinyl by All Pigs Must Die.

The last stop of the day was the Stone Sour concert at the House of Blues, providing a great ending to the weekend.  (See Stone Sour concert review here: http://wp.me/p2boSh-1fq)

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