Search Lobsterland

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Holy Macaroni!

Chicago Day 1

Arriving at Midway, there is all this crazy art displayed between the terminal and where you catch the Orange Line to CTA it into town. KCI, take some notes, this is the way to decorate an airport.

My Lovely Hostess works on the Loop, which is probably where I would have headed first if I wasn't carrying a metric ton of duffel bag. I'm pretty sure the architects responsible for the magnificent library on the Loop didn't anticipate an elevated railroad practically touching their enormous bronze lamps.

Wanted to eat at the Exchequer, but I wasn't sure which way to go to get to it, been a few years since I was in Chicago. Turns out, if I'd gone about a half block in the other direction, I was there. But I had a Chi classic even if it's not my favorite, one of those super tall 'stuffed' pizzas at Eduardo's.

Stumbled on Central Camera. Thought the fact their obviously old sign included 'film' was indication that they needed to get a new sign, but nope. They sell film like it was 1989.

Anyway, spent most of the afternoon wandering downtown in general, the Loop in particular.

One thing that struck me immediately: the cyclists. I knew my Lovely Hostess commutes from Irving Park to downtown Chi on a bicycle, weather permitting, but I had to see first hand what a lunatic thing this is. At least she wears a helmet, a third to half of the people I saw 'sharing the road' with the impatient cabbies, the impossible Dragons (the 'articulated' buses that pepper downtown with dangers above and beyond), inattentive drivers and the support columns for the L, didn't think a helmet was worth the trouble. I missed the shot with my camera, last day, but I saw a freak on Michigan Avenue, where freaks who value their asses fear to ride, with nothing but a pointy Mohawk to protect his melon.

I thought I'd seen crazy, but all I saw was the previews.

Well, then there's 'crazy.' Saw a great street lunatic. He spooked me, dancing close to me and shouting from behind me, but he was skipping out across the street like he was alone in a ballroom. I went into the temptations of the Iwan Ries tobacco shop, where I didn't (to my surprise) buy a cigar. This trip was done on a budget, and somehow sending ten to fifteen bucks literally up in smoke just didn't make sense. Inquired out of idle curiosity after some of my favorites from back when I smoked cigarettes (like 15 years ago). Balkan Sobranies are gone, can't get them at any price, don't exist. Players Navy Cut, hit and miss, none in stock. English Ovals, they had those for $15 a box. Fifteen bucks for what was, when I quit, a half day's supply. I'd be better off (financially) shooting heroin.

Emerging from the tobacco shop, the street crazy got an answer to what happens when you do a Bo Diddley impersonation into traffic on Wabash. The cops had him in cuffs, and as he protested, their faces said in plain English, 'This again...'

My Lovely Hostess did tell me to head to Michigan Avenue and check out the Bean. I thought she was talking coffee, as in maybe she forgot she drinks it and I don't. But I found my way to Millennium Park, more or less accidentally, anyway. Found the Bean, aka Cloud Gate. Or, as I think of it, the Big Chrome Art Turd waiting for dorks like me to walk under it and look up.

The effect is dizzying, truly. I doubt my photography captures it, but it's much more concave on the inside than the outside would lead you to believe, and there's a bit of infinity in there.

This, of course, before the Frank Gehry designed amphitheater drew me off. I had to see what it was, besides obviously being something Frank Gehry designed.

Besides looking awesome, the crisscrossed beams arching over the grass suspend loudspeakers, spaced out all the way to the back. So unobtrusive sound reinforcement is available throughout the theater, making it unnecessary to create massive volumes at the stage to reach the back. That, right there, is genius. I'd love to see a concert in this venue.

Millennium Park actually turned out to be loaded with great sculptures. More than one that invite you to walk through or into them.

I'm pretty sure the red car eating a pig, man and woman, not to mention the statue near it of a toy T-Rex 'Made in China' were anti-capitalist propaganda, but I liked them anyway. They help make the distinction between freedom and tyranny: you won't find any statues in Bejing, especially not in a public park, making claims against Communism or the Chinese economy. The difference is a free market, even one polluted with collectivist notions, doesn't need to suppress opposing ideas and can even afford to fund them.

The area around the Art Institute was about what you'd expect. Great reverence for statues and whatnot, not much respect for signs prohibiting dogs from sculpture parks.

And of course, I'm a big Linkin Park fan...

Made it around to Printer's Row eventually.

As you might surmise from these pics, it was raining. Bought a four dollar umbrella at 7-11, and three hours later bought another. The combination of rain and Chicago's signature wind just shredded the cheap umbrellas. Took me until the next day to get the clue and go to Sears, buy a decent umbrella that was made to get further than from the car to the door.

Then, back at my Lovely Hostess's place, I met her parrot. Always kinda wanted one, but you hear things. About what a responsibility they are since they can outlive you, about how they're taken from the jungle and get permanently cranky because there's no cage made by man big enough for what they knew and were made for.

But the whole pirate thing, a parrot on your shoulder, right?

Anyway I let Buddy hop up on my finger and he immediate went up my forearm.

"Usually he's pretty skittish with strangers," she said. "He seems to like you."

Cool, I'm down with the bird. I raise my arm to help him get to my shoulder. He immediately crossed to my left shoulder and I got my camera out. I took a pic, no problem, then my Lovely Hostess took my camera and got a couple. And we were standing there talking and I was being still to make sure the bird was comfortable when he bit the shit out of my ear.

No kidding, the bird drew blood. Cured me of ever wanting a pet parrot, sneak attacking bastard. 20/20 hindsight, he appears in these pics to be sizing my ear up as a potential appetizer.

Ate dinner at Chief O'Neill's, an Irish pub with adorable college aged Irish chicks with authentic accents from the old sod waiting tables. Had the lamb shank, basically a pound of meat served comfort food style, from the land of meat and potatoes and adorable accents.

Then to the boat. I've always thought a houseboat or yacht would be the thing to retire to. Maybe too many Travis McGee novels, but I immediately thought of these digs as the Busted Flush. Though the Busted Flush of John D. McDonald's books was a barge type houseboat, and this was a 37 foot sailboat.

It's a small space. Indoors, about like a piggy-back camper, a main galley area with a bed, a head and a V-berth about the size (maybe smaller as it tapers) of the space over the pickup truck cab. But well appointed and astonishingly comfortable.

I woke a few times the first night, not used to the sounds of the boat and the dock, but immediately went back to sleep. Lake Michigan was rocking me to sleep.

No comments: