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ChicagoNotes2006

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 3 months ago


Photos

A rough cut of photos (sans interesting captions, context, and snappy patter) can be seen here:

still-to-come

 

June 3, Saturday

Lunch at Foster's.

 

Took carry-on luggage and had no problem getting through. In the waiting area at RDU, Liz met a former MALS classmate, Sarah, and they chatted about her programs and plans. Sarah's getting a master's in teaching at ECU. She and her family were on their way to Dublin.

 

Arrived in Chicago with no problems.

 

Blown away by the beauty and the hipness of the House of Blues hotel (formerly an office building). Decorated with lots of outsider art, and its color schemes follow a similarly jumbled pattern. Our room has maroon-striped wallpaper on an off-white or light beige background; the carpet is multi-colored diamonds; there are 2 large pieces of outsider art on the long wall, and another in the bathroom; the TV cabinet and desk all look hand-made and the paint is shiny electric blue enamel. A good sense of humor permeates the place.

  • Room 1611, top floor. And the elevators are very quick.
  • Our room overlooks the House of Blues club and Marina City, aka Corncob Towers. We can see bits of green river and the State Street bridge.
  • And there's a large mirror, circular, set inside a 7-pointed star frame.

 

We walked a lot, getting our bearings. Lots of pan-handlers, a few are forward, most just sit quietly and jiggle their cups of change. Liz noticed that there are no street vendors anywhere, of any kind, unlike NYC.

 

Ate at a Thai restaurant, Streets of Siam. I had a HUGE spring roll and pad thai with shrimp. Liz had a cucumber salad and chicken suprema with veggies. Beers: Phuket and Singha. I had thai custard for dessert; served hot, like hot bread pudding. The waitress told us where to find the nearby Jewel's grocery.

 

Liz took a bath and went to bed early. I read for a bit and was in bed by 9:48 pm. We had the windows open, but the noise level of the city is loud--an ocean roar punctuated by sirens, car alarms, people yelling, horns honking. I closed the windows, got an extra pillow. I turned the a/c off because I thought Liz would get cold, but she said the next day she'd turned it back on in the night. Kind of a fitful sleep for both of us, but we slept a long time.

 

June 4, Sunday

To Bin 36, the hotel's expensive restaurant for an expensive breakfast. I had the breakfast burrito, Liz had an egg and real corned beef hash.

 

Walked to the Jewel grocery store and bought seltzers and small sundries. Figured we could get produce and small deli salads there and take them back "home."

 

We walked to the boat early and got our tickets, did the riverwalk to the Hyatt, where I bought a visor. Thence to the boat where we had a 90-minute architectural tour from the river. Excellent tour, good docent, and beautiful cool sunny day.

 

Chicago really does have an awesome, densely packed skyline. It seems as if so much of the buildings that had been industrial or manufacturing are now becoming codos and residences. The guide pointed out many buildings that had sprouted balconies, bolted to the sides of the buildings; buildings built as residences have the balconies built-in.

 

Saw the fire tower with blinking light where the O'Leary property stood. Disquieting to physically see how widespread the fire was.

 

The guide pointed out a gym that had no windows overlooking the river. She said when the gym was built the river water was toxic and a dumping ground, so there was no benefit to having windows there. Now, with the river somewhat cleaner, she said they would probably put windows in were they building today. She added that environmental efforts had downgraded the river from toxic to "highly polluted." Good for a laugh, but the area does look really good now.

 

Amazing tour, we thoroughly enjoyed the boat trip. A perfect start to the trip.

 

To Corner Bakery. Reminded me of Panera, same style of food and decor.

 

I think we then set out to figure out the el and how the tickets and pulic transportation worked. Better to figure it out on a lightly traveled Sunday than a madhouse Monday. This turned out to be a damn good idea because we were thoroughly confused by the machine that dispensed the tickets. We eventually figured it out. Took the el to Belmont then back to State.

 

Back to the room -- discovered it hadn't been made. Took a nap. We were not up long befor the maid came to clean the room, about 3 pm.

 

To Jewel, to buy some wine and sundries. On the way back, I stopped off at the bookstore near the Thai restaurant. At the bookstore, I picked up a tabloid of local book and literature news, and saw an ad saying that Harvey Pekar would be interviewed as part of some Book Arts Festival. The event was billed as being 4-8 pm, and it was 4:40pm when I saw the ad.

 

Left the bookstore without buying anything and met Liz in the lobby. We'd originally planned to walk to the park, but when I told her about Harvey she was very excited and said we should go. Part of the spontaneous Chicago experience.

 

I think one of the concierges passed by and told us how to get to the joint that was the site. It was about a 20-minute walk and we got to the bar, called Cactus, just as Harvey was sitting down to be interviewed. Was this meant to be or what? (Found out the next day that Cactus is a local institution of a beer joint.)

 

He answered questions and chatted for about 40 minutes. Typical terse Harvey comments--yes, no--some rambling. After each answer, he'd put his chin in his hands and stare at the wall, waiting for the next question. Some egghead in the audience asked him, "What's your relationship to your work?" "I created it." Laughter. "Sorry, I don't know what else to say to that question."

 

Saw Joyce Brabner at a table outside wearing a straw hat. Got in line and bought one of his new books that I didn't have and had him sign it. COOL! I took the opportunity to tell him that his comics were one of the things Liz and I had in common when we first got together, and how much his work meant to us. He seemed both flattered and flustered. I still can't believe our luck.

 

Took the el back to State and wandered around looking for supper. Liz nixed two or three places. We ended up at Redfish, a cajun eatery. She had chicken gumbo and cornbread and I had fried stuffed chicken breast--all of it pretty good. Liz started out liking the place but wound up saying we didn't need to go back.

 

Home. Tomorrow, to Belmont and the park.

 

June 5, Monday

Up bright and early and on the search for breakfast. Eventually walked up the Magnificent Mile and to a food court in a shopping mall there. I got a quiche and coffee, Liz a bagel, though she wanted toast and peanut butter. We've really got to find a regular place for breakfast.

 

Back on the street--went to the Fourth Presbyterian Church and looked inside. 10 stories-high sanctuary, almost paisley stained glass--very delicate. Quiet--quite a change from the bustling street. A marker out front said that when the church was built and they were searching for a name, they saw that there was a First, Second, Third, and Fifth Presbyterian Church, but no Fourth--hence the name.

 

As we were consulting a map on how to get to Belmont, a very nice oler gentleman asked if he could help. (There are many polite people here.) He suggested instead of walking, that we take the 151 bus. The bus turned out to be a great suggestionand we rode by the zoo, Lincoln Park, and saw other sights we couldn't have seen from the el.

 

After we got there, we walked to Aldine, the street where Liz had lived. She thinks she located her old apartment building. We took pix.

 

Walked down their commercial street. I went into a very nice bookstore (didn't buy anything), Liz got a hot tea and waited. We walked to the Wrigley Field el stop and took that a ways to get to the Brauhaus. We got off and Liz asked one of the CTA guys how to get to where we were going. He directed us to get back on the platform and go up 3 more stops. Discovered that our maps really don't show all the streets and aren't to scale.

 

His directions were right on. As we got out of the station, we crossed the street to Lincoln, and about 10 doors down was the Brauhaus.

 

Brauhaus has a really authentic Cherman flavor--a small dance floor and a platform where the drum set and accordion were set up. A quartet of older folks to our left spoke German and English. VERY genuine, down to earth.

 

We got beers, Liz got a brat, and I a stuffed cabbage with mashed taters, and then an apple streudel. All the foods were more delicateand not as heavy or heavily seasoned as I'd imagined they would be. The brat was especially tender. Liz gave me one of her bratsand I put mustard and horseradish on some of the bites. Easy on the horseradish.

 

Thence, walked around Lincoln Park a little. At about 2 pm, walked back to the el. We got on the first car and snapped various train/city shots through the window, seeing the skyline far off and then entering it.

 

Back to the room by 3 pm to find it hadn't been cleaned. But Liz needs a nap from today's walkies, se we put out the "Don't Bother Me" sign.Annoying that the cleaning staff don't keep a schedule that is convenient for us, but there you go. They have to adapt to our schedule, not us to theirs.

 

After our nap, went to Jewel; Liz got a salad, I got a BLT wrap. We walked to the place where we will pick up the Frank Lloyd Wright tickets. We walked to Millenium Park and Grant Park, ate our lunch at a very large, ornate fountain. Walked around various pavilions and gardens, all of which looked wonderful, clean, inviting, and well-tended. Took lots of pix.

 

Walked back home and chatted with the concierge about Chicago history. He's a native and had great stories about the changes from when he was a teen to today.

 

June 6, Tuesday (6/6/06!)

Frank Lloyd Wright Day

 

Bfast at Corner Bakery, but Liz got her coffee at Starbuck's. Lotsa folks lined up for their brand-name caffeine.

 

Bought 2 tickets at the Architectural Foundation for the FLW tour to Oak Park. Trip lasted from about 930am-130pm. The guide was an older volunteer named Sylvia, who pointed out various landmarks along the way, and kept up the architectural and historical chatter. You do get your money's worth with these tours. In all, a very tightly run tour co-operated between the Arch Foundation and FLW people.

 

There are so many tourists to Oak Park in a year (about 80,000) that the town limits how many people can visit, so tourists walking through the neighborhood don't mess up lawns or gardens or create other nuisances.

 

Toured FLW's home and studio. Picked up the term/concept "pathway to discovery." Tight, dark corridors leading to light, spacious rooms. "Prarie Style" -- emphasizing straight horizontals and verticals, eschewing the Gothic and Victorian styles. Liz very taken with the lack of downspouts. Instead, he left square holes in the corners of the roof/soffet, and the water fell into a concrete drain.

 

Walked around the old neighborhood and saw other houses he designed. All very distinctly FLW and different from the surrounding houses.

 

Walked to Unity Church, his first public building. Original colors preserved. Very unlike the Presbyterian church we saw the other day.

  • Ceiling not arched. Flat, with squares of windows letting in light. No spire. Much more light. The congregation sits on three sides and can see each other. You enter at the front of Unity Church and then move to the back.

 

Sylvia talked more about FLW's personal/professional history on the way back and pointed out other sites, like the public art sculptures. A very good and informative trip. We couldn't have done as well on our own.

 

Lunch at Marshall Field's food area on the 7th floor. Too uptown to be called a food court, though the food was probably no different.

 

Walked home. Felt very tired. Liz had called the front desk before we left that morning to ensure the room would be clean when we arrived. It was! Frabjous! I took pix of the room and we both rested.

 

Walked to Navy Pier. Tried to figure out the free trolley that the concierge said ran regularly, but figured walking would be easier to figure out. Took lots of pix of the skyline and Pier from the Ferris wheel. The pier is a long arcade of rides, food vendors, souvenir vendors, IMAX, a theatre -- like Coney Island. As we walked past the Ferris wheel, through some hedges, a blackbird attacked my head and scraped my scalp. It didn't break the skin and was more surprising than hurtful, though I felt it the rest of the evening. Just Odd.

 

Ate supper at an Italian place inside the Pier's pavilion.

 

At the pier, saw a contortionist pretzel himself into various positions and then compress himself into a small glass box. I walked by a magic store and the guy performed an awesome trick, where he made three cards selected by three different people levitate from the deck. Smooth.

 

I bought a Chicago T-shirt (hand-picked by Liz) and a package of cinnamon-coated pecans. Ate half of them there and finished off the rest at home.

 

Waited 30 minutes for the trolley that supposedly came every 20 minutes. Liz had struck up a conversation with a little girl earlier on who was waiting with her family for the trolley. The girl walked by later and said they were taking a bus. We decided that was a good idea and followed her. Took the bus about 5 or 6 blocks to Jewel, where we bought seltzer and other things.

 

To home, very tired.

 

June 7, Wednesday

Up pretty early, tho I lingered in bed. To Corner Bakery for breakfast.

 

To Chicago Cultural Center, met yet another enthusiastic volunteer who happily told us all about the building and the exhibits and the programs going on. She'd gone to the building often in her youth when it was a library. Went upstairs to see the Tiffany Dome, which was an incredibly beautiful room. A pianist who was to give a concert later that day was rehearsing. Saw a display of strange suits made of various materials: hair, feathers, paper and wood, etc. Promised ourselves we'd come back later for a self-guided tour.

 

To Chicago Art Institute. Liz thought we'd spend a few hours only, we wound up spending five. We saw a special exhibit on drawings that we saw, some Victorian-era commemorative handkerchiefs. Lunched outside in the courtyard, more expensive but very classy and gracious. Beautiful, sunny, cool--you couldn't hear traffic or street noise inside the courtyard. There was a large pool/foundtain painted a deep blue with 4 green bronzed mermaid creatures cavorting.

 

We split up and wandered about on our own. Saw the Seurat, Cornell boxes, Manet, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh -- an awesome collection. Their library had a collection of Chicago-based comics artists so Liz patiently sat at a table while I perused.

 

Liz's feet very tired. We took the bus home and pretty well exhausted our fare cards. Stopped at the Corner Bakery; Liz got a salad, I got a sandwich. Walked home from there.

 

Decided to stay in for the rest of the night. Tomorrow, plan to see public sculptures--COntemporary Art Museum with Chris Ware exhibit--"Wait Wait" tomorrow night.

 

We'd decided to travel light today so we left without the camera, Liz's extra coat, water, etc. And kicked ourselves later for not bringing them.

 

Spent the evening from 6:30pm on in the room, resting up. I read my Chris Ware monograph and put off reading the stories I'd brought.

 

June 8, Thursday

Slow wake-up. Walked over to Michigan for morning coffee.

 

To Chicago Place to see the supposedly food court, only to find a McDonald's, where I got a McMuffin. Maybe it meant tallest ceiling? Very few eating joints. I took photos of the grand window and fountain that graces the space.

 

To the Museum of Contempoary Art for the Chris Ware exhibit. Very cool to see his actual working boards and the progression of the layout from the initial tabloid-sized page to the Acme comic to the final rectangular book. The walls were covered with his original Bristol boards. How ideas sketched in blue pencil are changed before the final inking. It's easy to see how he can fit so much stuff into a panel and a page, since they're so big.

 

Also had examples of toys and gee-gaws associated with Jimmy Corrigan. He treats every job as unique, and attempts to design in 360-degrees. He can't just knock off a page--he has to DESIGN it.

 

Interesting comment from Ware in the exhibit placards--one glass case held his notes and sketches on the Corrigan stuff. In the text he wrote for the case, he said that whenever he made notes, that was a surefire way not to us them. Instead, he found it better to let the story elements rise organically from the telling. They float up to be used.

 

Overall, an overwhelming display of his design chops, which are formidable. But I still find his work cold and difficult to warm up to. His contribution will be to the grammar and rhetoric of comics rather than content, which was R. Crumb's major contribution.

 

To Garrett Popcorn for some bags of fresh warm caramel corn ("kar-mel," so says Liz). I got the Chicago Mix, which blends cheese/caramel.

 

After some dithering, opted for Pizzaria Uno, the supposed birthplace of Chicago-style pizza. We each ordered an individual pizza. Very good, as was the garlic bread. Mark Hockney says the crust, which is thick and crunchy like shortbread, is made with corn meal.

 

To the room. We bought 2-day transit passes at Jewel, but really didn't travel far enough today to use them. But they should easily see us through the rest of the trip.

 

Liz's lesson learned: have some easy breakfasty stuff in the room for her to eat. That's what she did today and it comforted her.

 

After Liz's rest, via subway to the area of downtown where the Harold Washington library is. Very large building with beautiful coppery ornamentation on the roof and cornices. Went inside and poked around.

 

Out on the street, began walking around to see the public art--Miro, Picasso, Calder, Chagall's mosaics, the latter of which I found the most delightful and charming.

 

Were very early for "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" and hung out at a Corner Bakery for a while. The coffee was warm. In fact, I had a whole day of bad coffee.

 

To Chase Building for the taping to find a ton of people already in line. Eventually made it to the auditorium, which maybe held 500 people. Guests were Paula Poundstone, Roxanne Roberts, and Adam Felber, three of my favorites. The show was really funny, and the two hours went by quick. Interesting to see how bare the stage is--2 podiums for Peter Sagal and Corey Flintoff, a table with three chairs for the guests, and a banner hanging at the back. Also fun to see how they actually tape the show and watching them record the do-overs. They all stayed afterward for autographs and pictures and chatting with the steaming masses.

 

Back home late. Stopped by the Thai place but they'd closed at 10. To Bin 36 for a light repast. Liz had soup and I had hummus and pita. Everything hot and satisfying.

 

June 9, Friday

We decided this would be a leisurely day. Breakfast at Corner Bakery. I had the French toast, which was quite good. Boisterous German party beside us.

 

Walked down to CUltural Center. Very cool and blustery day. Felt a few drops here and there but it never rained. The weather on this trip has been fabulous.

 

Liz stayed at the center while I walked further to find the comics store I'd glimpsed the other day. Good mainstream place. Bought all the Dorkin Mile&Cheese comics. Back to the Cultural Ctr to meet up with Liz, who'd been reading up on Decatur and other Illinois places.

 

Via bus to Lincoln Park Zoo area. Walked to the COnservatory and looked at the palms, orchids, and Victorian decorative garden area.

 

Walked to North Pond restaurant, which was too high-falutin for us.

 

STarted walking in the neighborhood to find RJ Grunt's, which Liz had glimpsed out the bus window when we went to Aldine the other day. Walked almost to Belmont looking for it. Took bus back down to Lincoln Park area. Walked 1 block further and voila, there was RJ Grunt's. Their claim to fame, accd to Liz and the comic-strip history on the menu, was to begin in the 1970s and introduce such innovations as French onion soup (Liz remembers eating it when it was a new and exotic dish) and salad bars.

 

Tables inside were tight together, manuvering room at a premium (rather like Pizzaria Uno). Dark-wood walls, with 8x10 black and white photos of former waitresses covering all the walls, Nice funky feel.

 

Anyway, had a tremendous lunch. Liz had been on the lookout all week for a fish taco, her Holy Grail of dishes, and that happened to be the lunch special. Hai! I had a peppercorn-crusted burger, onion rings, and finished with a heaven-sent peanut butter shake.

 

On tasting the shake, we had to invent a food rating that was better than "golly." I suggested "good golly." WE really couldn't think of a more superlative yet simple name designating a third level of goodness.

 

Walked through Oldtown as they were prepping for a street festival the next day. Really charming.

 

To home via subway to State. In room rest of the day, resting. Another day with lots of walking, but not at the killing pace of earlier in the week.

 

Did our packing. FInished the wine. Stupidly ate leftover Garrett's popcorn and felt stupid afterward. Liz mixed the rest of her caramel corn with the rest of her Planters Cajun mix.

 

Downstairs to the House of Blues gift store to buy souvenirs and trinkets for the Stellas. They seem to have a different gal working the counter everytime we go down.

 

To sleep with the windows open, so Liz could hear the surf sounds of the city and its traffic.

 

June 10, Saturday

Home to NC! Uneventful. Very hot, compared to Chicago.

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