… when you have a sister who’s a Harvard-graduated, Chicagoan lawyer. B and I celebrated my quarter-century birthday this weekend with Karen and Erik in Chicago. We ate and drank and talked and laughed and walked and looked for 24 straight hours. Our visit went a bit like this:

5:30 pm ~ B and I arrive after a quick trip. At least I thought it was quick – I had my nose in my school books, oblivious to B’s battle with traffic. Karen and Erik immediately introduce us to their new video game, Guitar Hero. I played once, was booed from the stage by my virtual fans and wouldn’t pick the guitar up again. B played once and wouldn’t put the guitar back down until it was time to leave the apartment.

7:00 pm ~ We proceed from Karen and Erik’s place to a shi-shi, windowless cocktail lounge, the Violet Hour, which is so pretentious it doesn’t even bother to put any signs outside, figuring its clientele will seek IT out. Which they do … as we did. It was superb, of course.

8:15 pm ~ After slurping down our drinky-drinks with the utmost snobbery, we headed over to our chosen dinner spot … the Café Absinthe. Yum. French cuisine. I believe B and I ate more fat in those two hours than we normally do in a month’s time. We decided to skip dessert and to exercise our swollen bellies and foggy wine-brains by heading down the street for … dessert and more drinks.

10:30 pm ~ Hot Chocolate is a haven for both chocoholics and alcoholics – as well as the rest of us residing along the spectrum. After a two-hour wait that turned into a two-minute wait (what luck!), we gorged on chocolate- embellished-chocolate, armed with snifters of cognac and sherry. AND, somehow my dessert came with a little extra “happy birthday” decoration …. Remarkably, after all we had consumed, we could still talk and laugh and walk, which we proceeded to do and headed back to Karen and Erik’s place to sleep it off.

10:00 am ~ In the morning, Karen made us all eat gourmet-style, home-cooked Eggs Benedict. After such an awesome breakfast – and lots of Erik’s strong black coffee – we were refreshed and primed to venture out again.

11:00 am ~ We made a beeline for the Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibit, Sympathy for the Devil – Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967, which was an intense two hours’ worth of brain and eye candy for us art and music lovers. And, we had to play with all the cool Alessi gadgets in the museum shop on our way out.

1:30 pm ~ We next jumped in a cab for our last trip across the city, back to Bucktown, to peek into shop windows and grab some coffee. The decision to window shop was finalized only as I promised not to buy anything. Which was a weak attempt at protecting me – super-broke and vulnerable to temptation – from the trendy shops I love and can’t afford. After a harrowing taxi ride we narrowly escaped, we arrived in Bucktown near Karen and Erik’s neighborhood. I managed to weasel my way into a hip little boutique at the first opportunity and picked up a pair of arm-warmers for $20. So stealthy.

3:00 pm ~ Our very last stop was a spontaneous visit to my new favorite Chicago ‘anytime’ restaurant – Earwax. Mmm, num … right? Anyway, tons and tons of veggie-friendly (and delicious, duh!) stuff on the menu and even Lapsang Souchong tea – my favorite.

4:30 pm ~ So, after eating our last meal, we all trudged back to Karen and Erik’s place, B and I dragging our feet with tears streaming down our faces because we didn’t want to leave Chicago. But, I did have an exam on Monday, so it was necessary to hit the road, straight back to the junkyard we reluctantly call home.

All-in-all, a most fabulous 25th birthday. I suggest that if you want one like I had, you’ll have to get a sister like mine first – and good luck on that one.