Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Kind of Town

I woke up on Esther’s living room couch the next day, enjoying the smell of cleanliness around me. I’d set up the Duckies on top of the cushions next to me, and Esther had seriously thought about taking a picture of me sleeping with them watching over me, but somehow had resisted that urge. This was a Monday, mid-morning. The first thing we ended up doing was jumping on a Red Line train back to the Loop to spend some time at The Bean, aka Cloud Gate in Millennium Park. Esther couldn’t hang out the whole day, as she had to drive out to “the suburbs” that afternoon to do some shopping for the wedding she was going to in Michigan later that week. I think I was lucky she was able to hang out at all this Monday.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the Bean and surrounding areas:

The first shot of Esther being enthusiastic:

Some funky pics of reflections from many angles on the underside of the Bean, and a few of us making faces and trying to be fully visible despite how dirty the surface is:

The Bean

Of course, the Duckies showed up perfectly:

I remember smacking my head on the hard underside of the Bean several times because I’d bend down to set up the Duckies and then had a tough time telling where the surface began and thin air ended haha. Once outside, we took more pictures in the warm midday sun:

Here’s a few that remind me of the Blues Brothers for some reason (I guess I would be Elwood based on height…):

Those reflection pics were challenging, I was not a good enough photographer to take full advantage of the setup. These next ones though, lying down, with the sun in our eyes, were nigh impossible:

This next one shows the beard at what I consider to be its zenith for the trip. This was about 4 weeks in, and you’ll see it’s nicely filled in, and not too bushy nor out of control yet:

Skyline pictures standing up are much easier than the selfies:

And here’s a clean jumping picture!

It was now time to head back to Esther’s apartment, and we took the El train whose tracks you can see above the street in the distance:

Once we got back to the apartment, she took off in her beloved truck:

And I took a couple of the school soccer field and nearby buildings:

Gotta love those dense, older neighborhoods you find in the Northeast and urban Midwest. I spent more time than I should have that afternoon doing research on more things to do later that evening in the downtown area. Then, I packed up the camera and started walking along Foster Ave. toward the lake shore:

As I turned south, I found a beach:

I kept walking south, seeing downtown off in the distance along a surprisingly scenic shoreline. The weather was fantastic, 75 degrees and sunny. This means Chicago does make up somewhat for its bitter winters:

I bet that water isn't 75 degrees though...
I got on the Red line, and rode to Chicago and State, which became my primary El stop as I got more comfortable getting around in Chicago. I emerged from the underground area after paying a fee to get more cash from the ATM there, and began the journey to one of Taylor Finch’s favorite Chicago eateries, Portillo’s Hot Dogs. On the way, I walked past a Rainforest Café and a huge Hard Rock Café and the biggest golden arches I’d seen in a long time:

Taylor had given me a very specific order to get there: an Italian beef sandwich, fries and a cake shake. Portillo’s is known more for their hot dogs, but I wanted to experience the place exactly as Taylor had in the past. It was a good, heavy meal. The Italian beef was fairly moist, but had a ton of beef in it, so I got my money’s worth. The cake shake was literally chocolate cake in shake form, it basically had to be eaten rather than drunk. I consumed the whole thing, but it felt like I’d eaten a boulder. The only thing that prevented a massive food coma was getting up and walking quite a ways to the John Hancock Tower, passing the downtown Apple store along the way:

The John Hancock Observatory had been free the last time I’d visited with other Comerica analysts in 2010, but this time it was $17 to take the elevator to the top floor. I had planned to be there for multiple hours, and it was a very rewarding time investment. This was my second time up there, and my first with a real camera, where I tried to prove you can see Michigan from up there, or maybe the curvature of the Earth:

Regardless, you can see a long way across the lake from 1,000+ feet. And a long way across Chicago’s beautifully vertical downtown:

Of course I had to take a Ferris Bueller style shot of the Duckies looking straight down out the window:

They enjoyed that, as did I! More pictures from up there in the late afternoon sun:

I’ve put plenty of comments on my Facebook album of pictures from this same location from when I went back in March 2013, but suffice it to say, Chicago’s downtown has 73 high-rises that are over 550 feet tall, and according to Wikipedia, based on the average height of the ten tallest completed buildings, Chicago has the tallest skyline in the nation and the third-tallest in the world. This makes sense given that Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper and there is an architectural style known as the Chicago School.

After a few laps of the Observatory floor, I ordered my first latte (delicious) and grabbed a table by the west window to attempt to take artsy pictures of the latte in front of the sunset, and then just the sunset itself:

I was perfectly positioned to capture the exact moment of sunset, and moments thereafter:

This is the cheesiest possible way to say this, but this particular sunset reminds me of the flaming, golden hawk Ron Burgundy mentions in Anchorman. It’s such a special moment in each day, a sunset is.

The reflections of light from within the Observatory began to kill my pictures at this point, but it was cool to see the lights begin to come on in other skyscrapers and across the city as twilight fell. I got a couple of the Duckies in front of the downtown:

I stayed a long time after that, maybe another hour, doing lap after lap of the top floor:

A neat feature of the John Hancock experience is seeing the lights of the very long avenues of the city heading west away from the tower. Chicago is one giant grid with only a few diagonal avenues, thus it’s easy to see where most of the roads lead, from up there at least.

There was a lot of history of the city, shown on displays on one of the inner walls:

Some of those historical notes talk about the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Most of the center of the city burned down, and had to be completely rebuilt, hence the origin of the “Second City” nickname. Chicago was also second to New York in population for nearly 100 years until it was overtaken by Los Angeles, which is another reason for the nickname. That’s why the previous post was called The Second City, in honor of that name. And now for the night pictures that turned out to be my favorites:

There’s two of those that I should get framed for a wall poster someday. By this point I’d ordered another latte, and was working on a piece of cheesecake that to this day is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

Eventually I had to come off of this Cloud Nine experience high above the Second City, but I was reluctant. It’s just so serene being above the flickering city lights like that. Especially while consuming cheesecake. I did come down to earth around 10, taking the train back to Esther’s, where she expressed distress at not being able to tour with me that day:

Good Chicago vibes abounded in my brain that night, leading to Frank Sinatra’s “My Kind of Town” to cap off this post:
Good night!