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Sunday, November 01, 2009


Chicago Day 6
Part I: Miller's Pub

I was out of Hawaiian shirts, so it was time to go back to KC. The harbor was glass smooth, and it was cold and still when I got up to make the final trek to the yacht club showers.

I couldn't get close enough to get a great shot of this cycling freak. He was hectoring people who passed him, a real windmill chaser.

I broke my fast on liver and onions with bacon at Miller's Pub. If you're going to eat just one meal in a day, it should have a full day's colories, right? I love Miller's Pub, a classic of the loop on a par with The Exchequer. An amazingly well-oiled machine, too. Fast and efficient, with good hustle.

I do tend to think it's weird when there's ice in the urinals. I guess the theory is it keeps the smell of your piss from possibly reaching your nostrils, but I've never peed, even after eating asparagus, and thought, Damn, if only I could have some ice to pee on! But in this context, I thought, well, it's definitely weird, but it's a detail, and maybe the management figures if there's always ice in the urinals, there's other details that fall into place to make sure the customers are happy.

Part II: Up Michigan Avenue

Realizing I'd never been north of Navy Pier before this trip, I also realized the last day that this still extended to Downtown north of the Pier.

So I remedied this by making my way up Michigan Avenue to the Water Tower.

Upper Michigan Avenue felt a lot like I remember Manhattan's Upper East Side feeling. I know, can't imagine why there'd be any similarities in where the urban swells live and shop.

One thing I don't remember from New York was being pestered by quite so many panhandlers. I got to where I could tell a guy was about to hit me up and I'd try to avoid him.

Up near the water tower, a morbidly obese guy started to ask me for money and when I turned away before he could finish the question, he shouted, 'Asshole!'

I briefly considered punching him as hard as I could. I'm an asshole? Funny, I'm not the guy who is pestering strangers for money despite obviously never missing a meal or even a snack!

The beggars I'm used to seeing tend to be more pitiful figures than the panhandlers I encountered in Chi. Obvious actual street-dwellers who stand on a corner with a sign, I think maybe they've made bad choices in life, but maybe their range of ability to make better choices isn't what mine is. I sometimes give them a buck or two. But the panhandlers I ran into in Chicago were all able-bodied and most seemed plenty quick-witted, perfectly capable of earning a paycheck. But then, maybe being able to choose whether to roll the window down makes the difference. You have to walk places in the city, and that means you have to walk by these guys. There's enough pedestrian traffic that even a low percentage feeding the bears, begging will be lucrative enough to keep these guys going.

I never understood the Water Tower. It doesn't have a big tank up top, wouldn't hold a thimble of water for a city the size of Chicago even circa 1900. Obviously a huge public works project, it's like a castle. Actually there's a second castle across the street that holds a huge modern pumping works in it.

Turns out, the tower was a 3 foot standpipe that was used to regulate water pressure. The original pump worked like the ones you use on campground, but much bigger. The tower kept pressure consistent by providing a standing reservoir that went up and down to absorb the thrusts of supply the pump provided.

I think the guy said by 1911, they'd outgrown even that and had to put a different kind of pump in, the housing of which is still in use, though the interior has been changed out a few times.

I missed the shot with my camera, I kept waiting for the ultimate crazy cyclist downtown to share with you. I have a few blurry shots of a couple, nothing worth posting. But the guy I wanted to get was the craziest of the crazy. Coming up Michigan Avenue to the Borders by the Water Tower, he had a racing bike and for head protection, a spiky mohawk.

Part III: Opportunity Cost

Made my way back into Millennium Park, spotted a sign leading to a cycle rental joint.

I thought. I could have rented a bike and ridden the Lakeshore trail instead of the 78 bus on Sunday when the weather was gorgeous! But I kept finding things like this in my last few hours in Chicago.

And except for that one disappointing bus ride, despite all the things where I said, 'I wish I'd known about this two days ago,' it wasn't quite true. Because to do the thing I didn't know was there, I'd have had to miss something else I did.

So I look at these as things to do next time. And maybe next time bite the bullet and drive so I can bring my guitar and bike. But then, too, I wished so many times I had my honyocks with me, and without someone to look after Mo, I'm not sure how I'd ride the Lakeshore trail.

So I settled for enjoying the Frank Gehry designed bridge leading from the amphitheater to Lakeshore. And walking down a bit before getting back where you can catch a bus so I could show you what they did to Soldier Field.

Soldier Field now looks like a shot out of Independence Day. They kept the classical columns outside, but then built a bowl that sits out over it. Disgusting.

Nooo! It ruins it! Stupid, fat hobbitses!

Part IV: Getting Back

On the way to the airport, there was a particularly annoying lunatic who got on the train. Actually, I shouldn't disrespect honest lunatics, because he was fucked up on purpose. And here is how I know.

He was crazy, my first impression. Lurching back and forth and shouting, rhythmically, what I eventually realized was an attempt at rap. He was making people visibly uncomfortable, with his gestures, his crazy foul language, and then a guy got on the train who looked like a real hard on. He looked at the guy, watched for about ten seconds and I thought he was going to go vigilante and clock the guy. But instead, he whipped a badge from his belt and said, 'Keep that up for two more seconds and you're off the train.'

Like I say, if the guy was crazy, that'd be one thing. But the CTA bull shut the guy up with just that.

Until a few stops before the airport when, after giving the rapper the evil eye the whole way from Downtown, the bull got off the train. I couldn't believe it, I thought for sure he'd ride until the rapper decided to get off. The show resumed, and I'm pretty sure the woman/girl standing closes to the rapper got off before her stop to catch the next train rather than ride all the way to the airport next to this freak.

Let's see, to quote this guy, I remember the line, 'Watch out, your bitches, I'm gonna fuck 'em in the front, then gonna fuck 'em in the back. Fuck 'em! Fuck 'em!'

He continued along in this general milieu for a few miles until a couple guys shouted at him and one said, 'Please, there are women present.' Which I thought was an impossibly old fashioned notion to phase a young Ludacris wannabe. He protested that he had to get this rhyme done by tomorrow, but he surprised me by actually simmering down, more or less, before getting off at Pulaski.

After he was off, several people commented at how disgusting he had been, most vocally a middle-aged black woman who had been sitting across from me with an iPod on who hadn't seemed to notice any of the scene prior to this. And we all agreed the CTA bull was derelict in not staying on the train until Snoop Dog got off.

At the airport, I was promoted to an 'expert' traveler by security. They had three queues you could get in, and I guess not enough of us were bold enough to claim to be old hands at going through security. I have at least learned to take my CPAP out of its bag before going through the x-ray, though they still have a cow about them, wiping them with paper coasters that go in a machine to tell if the CPAP is actually a bomb.

I asked what the disc absorbed or detected, and the guy just said, 'Stuff that can't go on the plane.'

So it's a secret? National security would be compromised if I knew what the sensor looks for? The guy repeated, 'Stuff that can't go on the plane.'

Sorry, but the bad guys probably already know the answer, and if I have to take my sneakers off before I fly, can't I get a straight answer?

I also don't know why the cell phones and iPods have to be turned off during takeoff and landing, but I definitely got that memo, heard that rumor, it's hard to escape. At one point the stewardess on the overhead while we were getting ready to take off said, 'In case you didn't hear the last five announcements, you need to turn off your personal electronic devices, all cell phones and MP3 players, laptops and so on.'

The guy across the aisle from me was still listening to is iPod, which I guess is why he didn't hear the announcements. A stewardess finally had to touch his shoulder and tell him to turn it off, and he said, 'Really?' I guess he's not an expert traveler.

Not quite as cheap as originally envisioned, but I've spent a lot more money on much shorter vacations. I'm immensely grateful to my Lovely Hostess and the Wise Sea Captain who made this even marginally possible to do. And it did everything a vacation is supposed to: it relaxed me, reset my instruments, showed me new things, made me want to go back, and used up all but 30 frames on a pair of 2GB SD cards.

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