This morning I am going on a tour of Hyde Park, the neighbourhood on the south side of Chicago where Barack Obama lived while teaching and going to White Sox games. My guide is a small Pinoy (let's face it: they're nearly all small) who has lived in Chicago all his life. He's part of the city's Greeter programme which uses people who are genuinely so in love with Chicago they're happy to volunteer afternoons to take visitors around. It's hard to imagine such a scheme in Glasgow - if there was one, it'd likely end in a mugging in Easterhoose.
The tour itself is only so interesting and it's not helped by my lack of questions. My fatigue has moved beyond just yawning to something more complete. Still, I follow the wee man around as enthusiastically as I can, even though he has to remind me to take pictures on more than one occasion. After an hour or so we get to the Obama's house, which sits right in the middle of the neighbourhood like any other. "He's the first urban President for quite a while," the professor had said yesterday. He wasn't kidding.
Outside sits a permanent police guard hurrying along any loiterers, including tour busses that aren't allowed to stop. Presumably those on board paid money to see his house and while they technically have, it strikes me as a tremendous rip off. From our vantage point on the pavement across the road, we can take our time to try and glimpse nothing in particular through the trees. Also concealed nearby will be a team of secret service agents, the guide tells me.
From there we go to his old barber, where his favourite chair is now encased in hard plastic and signed. On the wall there are covers of Time magazine carrying his image. They've been signed too. The guide tells me to take a picture of the chair, which I do to be polite, but really it's nothing interesting. Barack Obama is the biggest celebrity in the United States, so said the Republican Party in one of their less outrageous smear campaigns against him during the election. It's hard not to agree with that now, and nowhere is his fame more celebrated than here.
I think my guide is a little disappointed that I've not been a bit more enthusiastic about his tour, but in truth it's kind of hard to get enthusiastic about anything. My physical energy feels OK - I go to the gym to test it out - but mentally, I'm pooped. I piss away part of the afternoon on the internet, mindlessly checking things that I'll forget a few minutes later.
I try outside again. Gino's East is a famous pizzeria in the middle of town; what originally started as family business is now a chain. In each branch, punters have graffitied the inside with thousands on menchies: "Bawbag Snr and Bawbag Jnr woz ere 2 c u, b 4 u" and all that shite.
I skip the queue again, not because I'm anything special, but because I'm alone so they can stick me on a stool at the bar. I'm not sure the small victory of sauntering to the front outweighs the public defeat of being a loner.
I'm here to get the pizza for which the chain is famed - that is until I see the price of it: an individual deep dish is $23. Instead I go for the lasagne which is literally half the price for double the portion. I'm just forcing down the last mouthful I can muster when a staggeringly fat Texan plonks himself on the stool next to me. I look at the fragile wooden structure beneath him... carpentry is an amazing thing.
Surprisingly he's a family doctor, in town with his slightly less humongous wife for some conference or other. We shoot the breeze for a while, but I find myself unsure of whether or not I've already told them some things. With hindsight, there's no way I could have, but I've repeated the same shit to so many people over the past few days ("Yeah, well they do have a lot of tall buildings, but when you actually live there, you realise it's a bit of a nightmare" and so on) that I've kind of lost track. Doubtless the large amount of heavy food and two beers haven't helped, but I quickly retreat to the hotel room, confused.
This is my last night in Chicago - who knows, perhaps ever - and I'm supposed to be going to a blues show. I've been looking forward to it all week, but now my brain feels detached from my body and I'm not sure. "Never pass up an opportunity" my mother told me when I went to Israel a couple of years ago on my first press trip. I've stuck to that maxim since, but tonight, when a cloudburst puts the final nail in the coffin, I'm relieved to be staying in alone.