Last week, I was in Chicago, taking a short holiday, visiting some friends and catching up on the latest trends in skyscraper architecture (which point, by the way, very high – 150 storeys high, to be exact, which is the lofty ceiling of the new Santiago Calatrava spire going up at the mouth of the Chicago River).

It was forty years after the doomed Democratic convention in the very same city, which brought together hippies, yippies, black panthers, war veterans and you-name-its in a legendary (read “short-lived”) confrontation with the military industrial complex in general and Mayor Richard Daly’s (pere) men in black in particualr.

It was the city where presidential hopeful Barack Obama got his feet wet too. It was here, according to a recent New Yorker article, on the city’s infamous south side, that he developed many of his political philosophies and problem solving techniques. This is his place, if ever he had one – not Hawaii, not Indonesia, but in this boastful, barrel-chested city of glistening modernist spires, where America displays its best, along Michigan Avenue and for sale, and its worst, the dreaded southern end of the city, the mire of boarded-up buildings, lingering corruption and unemployment. Though, as many Chicago residents pointed out, his bastion is the enclave around the University of Chicago known as Hyde Park, an area of Nobel laureates (the university has the highest number of prize-winners in the world) and endearing Queen Anne style homes.

It was also forty-five years after Martin Luther King’s famed speech on the Washington Mall. And for the first African-American presidential candidate, that should mean something…

Yet, as a gang of us wandered from the Gehry-designed stage at Milenium Park, where a free Sonny Rollins show had just finished up, checking bar after bar to see if they were playing the speech, the hope that was oozing out of Mile High Stadium in Denver was nowhere to be found. No establishment was playing the speech. And, finally, after we managed to haggle one mafioso-like owner into playing it on one of his many screens, we were deprived of sound.

You see, the Cubs game was on – and the hometown boys were about to stage a great comeback…