August 2011 - Chicago & LA

Wide awake at 530am wondering why both of us just couldn't go back to sleep and then when we wanted to it was 9am and time to seize the day.

Started the day in a Cafe for breakfast watching the clouds roll over and start bucketing down rain (pouring people)! My pineapple smoothie and Raisin Cinnamon French Toast was nice but not nice enough to distract me from the very obvious thought: Are we going to make it to the Baseball today?

Not wanting to be drenched like drowned rats outside we decided to take in the sites (and by sites I really mean shops) in the 900 building that the Hotel is connected to. Gigantic Angry Bird Pigs and Fraggle Rock characters in the toy store, a quick look into Bloomingdales and Mum buying a cardigan in Banana Republic we headed back to the Hotel's special entrance into the shopping centre, only we took a stop to speak to a delightful character that could sum up the rich American Stereotype in but a few words.

You see next door to the Hotel is the Four Seasons Residences, what we didn't realise was they had a special door into the shopping centre as well and when we saw these two people walking out we assumed this was where we were supposed to be...

"Do you live here? I don't recognise you," in a droll american accent that oozed jaded superiority into the air around us.

I knew straight away what had happened and with a short conversation involving where the real entrance was (I didn't think I walked that far) we were back on track. Why oh why didn't I have a great comeback to that? Even a "Well that's nice because I don't recognise you either." would have been enough. Please add a comment with any choice words or awesome phases you would have liked me to use in response to the snooty American.

Of course when we went back to our room to grab a couple of things housekeeping was servicing our room. So we head out into the rain and across the road to the next shopping centre, Water Tower which has the Ritz Calton (the other FS in Chicago) above it (our building's nicer but their shopping centre is better). Seven small floors (compared to the oversized shopping centres of today) covering everything from American Girl to Sephora, Abercrombie to Betsey Johnson, Lego to Victoria's Secret. We got the lay of the land. Didn't try or buy anything. And now I can talk about the American Girl Craze which I've wanted to for a day and a half now.

Oh my God!

For those of you that haven't heard of this American Girl has about 12 stores across America selling, well Dolls but it is so much more than that. It is a marketing person's dream, think of pre-Beiber obsessive little girls needing something to sink their teeth into before boys stop having coodies. This is that craze. Buy a doll (recommended for ages 8 and up) for $100 that looks like you. Add earrings and glasses if you choose (more $), she will need a change of clothes (more $), she needs a bed to sleep in (more $), she needs a pet (more $). There's special edition dolls too (more $). You can also buy clothes that match or dolls (or Visa Versa depending on how you look at it). But if you think it ends there people I have news for you... not by a long shot.

In the store they have a doll salon (more $) where you can get the latest hairdo for your doll... seriously check out the website. The pictures of ponytails and curls, french twists and braids. This isn't stuff you can't do at home but it is all for the experience of being in the store. The doll gets a seat just like you would in a barber shop and a cape. You can have a picture taken with your doll and have it placed on the cover of the latest issue of American Girl magazine. Yes, there is a magazine and a bookstore and a baby doll section if you are 3-7 years old (because that market hasn't been tapped yet). You then have a restaurant in the store where you and your doll (in a special seat of course) can sit and enjoy Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch or Afternoon Tea. Oh, wait... if your dolly is sick she needs to go to the Hospital... Hand it over the counter right? Oh no this is an American Doll. She must be dressed in a hospital gown and wheeled out in a wheelchair (which you can buy in the store for $34). It's a Department Store... for DOLLS.

The greatest part of this is that the dolls are kind of scary. Made of plastic and rock hard. The pets aren't even soft and fluffy. Oh and if you are a redhead, forget it, you won't find one that looks like you because their versions of redheads are more blond than anything else. Clearly they aren't catering to that market. But it's nuts people, NUTS I say. The amount of bags walking out of that store, on the streets and in the Hotel. The number of times I've seen a little girl walking the street with her matching doll in her hands is ridiculous. I've also seen a couple of disgruntled father's carrying them too. I've even seen special rates at the Regent Beverly Wilshire catering only to the American Doll Craze. THAT is how huge it is. So to those that didn't know the phenomenon before, go to the website, have a look, and believe me. It's out there... EVERYWHERE!