Chicago – 8

A couple of leftovers to wrap this up.

I’d forgotten to include this in my comments on Wrigley Field, so here it is. The fans have a thing called “Moundball”, where they make a friendly wager on whether or not the ball will come to a stop on the pitching mound when the home plate umpire tosses it there at the end of a half-inning. It all seems to be in fun; I didn’t catch any actual betting. A good thing, no doubt; I’d hate to see the sports gambling sites start to take wagers on it.

The official name is “Cloud Drop”, and according to the creator, it’s supposed to represent a drop of mercury just before it impacts the ground. But everyone calls it “The Bean”, for obvious reasons. And the best photos are from underneath…..

whoa…. trippy!

Chicago, or at least part of the “downtown” area, has a basement. Technically, it was built up so that there are “upper” and “lower” versions of some streets. You’ve seen Lower Wacker Drive in The Blues Brothers (1980) and The Dark Knight (2008). Looks like a lower level in a parking garage. And God help you if you’re walking and take a wrong turn and wind up down there, because even though there are sidewalks, there’s nothing to help you get out.

Remember what level you parked on!

One of the downtown landmarks is the old Chicago Tribune Building. Take a close look at the facade; it’s studded with rocks and stones and pieces of buildings from around the world. They were “collected” by Tribune reporters on their assignments across the globe. Loose rocks from battlefields and the like I don’t have a problem with, and perhaps that brick was acquired when the place was undergoing some renovations and it was going to be discarded. But pieces from temples and monuments? Erm…. Well, things were different back then, and I suppose if someone asked nicely for the return… We’re not talking the Elgin Marbles here; just some bits and pieces about the size of a football. In any case, it’s kind of cool to see them. Might be the closest you’ll actually ever get to some of those places.

Like a lot of large cities, Chicago has plenty of music festivals and free concerts. I happened to be in town for the Grant Park Music Festival, a bunch of classical concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Grant Park (duh). The Pritzker name shows up all over the place in Chicago, by the way…. I was misled about the starting time for Wednesday’s concert, so by the time I was able to navigate through the security maze and get on the “lawn” in front of the pavilion, I’d missed the first half. At least I got to hear all of Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D Minor.

Right across the street from the Art Institute is the end of East Adams Street. Or perhaps it’s the start of East Adams. It’s definitely the start of the most overrated road in the US – Route 66. Way back when the US Highway system was being planned, it was the first road to go (mostly) all the way across the country. It got a “booster” organization before the thing was even finished! Have you noted that all the songs and stories about it cover going west to Los Angeles? No one ever uses it to go east, or come back home after their dreams of making it in LA fail miserably.

Where does it END?

Like a lot of cities that are rediscovering their riverfronts, Chicago has its own “Riverwalk”. A nice walkway / park, with bars and pubs on the south side of the Chicago River. The dual-level nature of Wacker Drive helps separate the Riverwalk from (most) street traffic. Now, I can see wanting to close things down at a reasonable hour on weeknights. But closing the Riverwalk at 11 pm on a Friday or Saturday? OK, I’ll let you close the bars at 11. But would it kill you to leave the park open a little later?

Stan’s Donuts rule. That is all.

All the major cities I’ve been to have some sort of “vibe” or “feel” to them. New York is The Greatest City in the WorldTM; New Orleans is “The Big Easy” and pretty much a non-stop party. Las Vegas is an amusement park for adults; Montreal is a combination of Paris and New York City. Even Atlantic City can be described as “Las Vegas’ Kid Brother, on The Shore”. But Chicago? The “Windy City” isn’t much of a moniker. I never got much of a sense that I was in a place with character. It felt like a Generic Big City. Maybe I was missing something – or maybe Chicagoans don’t feel the need to brag about the place. They know it’s great; they don’t need to justify it to the world.

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