Yeah, people can now read it again. Some kind of routine maintenance on the site brought it down at 4am UK time. But now it’s back and I’m talking about how it was down temporarily, instead of telling you about the USA.

This is Chicago, a city in which I once worked for six weeks, after being sent here to help set up the US office of [A Company], my Australian employer. Many CEOs and managerial shakeups later (and a ton of politics under the bridge) the company folded in the US and survived back in Australia. But that’s another sorry tale.

Here, now, it’s sunny, not under a foot of snow, and I’m here with my lovely wife instead of separated by thousands of miles. It’s not my birthday, and instead of sleeping in a small, dodgy hotel room with a pull-down bed, we’re staying with my new step-uncle in his fabbo loft apartment, typing this on a wireless keyboard plugged into a computer driving a huge plasma screen TV.

This is more fun than last time.

The trip so far? NYC was a blast, and I don’t know how we’d have topped that. Chicago deep dish pizza is one way, and we finally got our own last night, from Gino’s East down the road. An enormous, thick, fresh topless pizza pie, loaded with tomato, undercut with cheese, plus crumbled sausage and other things, but if I go on I’ll have to reach over to the fridge for a slice, and then the keyboard would get sticky and make nobody happy. It’s not even as bad for you as you’d think.

Many other things, however, are. Servings are huge, as are a number of Chicagoans. New York seems to have a greater number of fitness/fashion freaks, and more people drive here, so the average weight of the locals increases. The cars, though, are actually smaller. I guess New Yorkers don’t actually need to drive often, so those who do buy cars get them as status symbols. Here it’s a little more real. Cars are pushier, drivers less considerate to pedestrians. Spaces between interesting things are larger, and so walking is discouraged. Oh, the staff – certainly the security staff – at the Chicago Art Institute are just unfriendly, and the place closes early, at 4.30 sharp, with galleries 15 minutes before that. Example: it’s getting near closing time so we’re rushing a little. We ask a security guard where the restroom (that’s loo, toilet or bog to you) is, and she says in a bored manner, with a lingering undercurrent of distaste, that they’re down those stairs, if they haven’t been locked yet. (They lock the toilets a few minutes before they close.)

It’s also probably the only place I’ve been that forces you to check your bag, then charges for the privilege. So take advantage of their “pay as you wish” policy and pay them less; they’re mean and they don’t deserve it. Some nice impressionist works, though.

So while here, we’ve done some shopping – I must be up to about 30 shirts in my wardrobe by now, including the ones shipped home – been to the zoo, seen some tall buildings, some large open spaces, a highly reflective silver sculpture near a Gehry-designed roof (neither open yet, part of the unfinished Millenium Park, just a tad late) and been out to dinner with my new step-uncle, some new and interesting beers and a pizza pot pie – similar to a deep dish but kind of different. Very nice, though the hot cheese on top (after the table-based upturning ceremony) does tend to remind you what your arteries will look like after you’ve finished. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Last night held some drinks with some of my step-uncle’s friends, the aforementioned Chicago pizza and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – which is a Chicago movie. A proper Chicago evening.

Today holds a peace fair and a folk festival, then a beer in the bar at the top of the John Hancock Building, if they let us in. Sure, the beers are expensive, but the view’s priceless, and the alternative is to pay to access the observation deck a floor above. So I’ll pay for the beer instead.

More from the next stop, Star Prairie, where I meet my new step-siblings, the other 500+ residents of the town, and hang out with my dad and new stepmother. She’s not wicked at all. Well, maybe a little. I’ll post from the coal cellar and tell you all about it.