Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Chicago Blog, Vol. 3

Day number four of the "Return to Chicago" trip has brought rain, so I'm back in my hotel room at the moment, working on a blog entry until it's time to take a spin down to the University of Illinois at Chicago campus to meet with the English department.

Today may have brought rain, but yesterday brought the pain. While getting off the shuttle after his visit to the McCormick Conference Center south of Grant Park, my dad took a bad step and sprained his ankle. He's currently negotiating day #2 of the conference with a pair of crutches. To add insult to injury, I picked up some kind of achilles tendon bruise of my own. Must be psychic-genetic transference or something.

Previous to the injury fest, it had been a pretty solid day. I started out on Randolph Street on foot and headed towards Michigan Avenue, where I wandered around some of the famous Magnificent Mile shops. I was most impressed with the Tribune Tower and it's elaborate lobby, filled with a series of freedom of the press related quotes etched on the walls. Didn't see one from Roger Ebert, though.

After doing some shopping at the Jazz Record Mart on Illinois Street (picked up some Robert Johnson, Aretha Franklin, and some unfortunate sax-heavy Big Time Sarah), I eventually wound up out on Navy Pier, doing a little sightseeing and taking a few breaks on some beach overlooks on the way. After doing a little shopping to get some going home gifts, I had some decent Gumbo at Joe's Be-Bop Cafe for lunch, then made the arrangements to go out to UIC this afternoon. With that taken care of, I went up north to see the Water Tower mall, then crossed off another of the "things to do" by taking the trip up to the Handcock Observatory.

My observatory experience would fit well in the "poignant" category, partially for the inspirational view, partially because I was conducting my inspirational view as one who has a fully acknowledged fear of heights. I even got a little nervous looking out my sixteenth floor hotel window, and here I was on 94, with little more than an iron railing and a plexiglass pane seperating me from the infinite.

As stunning as the view was, I think I was most impressed with the spiders that had decided to spin webs outside. As windy as it was out there, I don't know how they managed to pull them off. Arachnid overachievers, I suppose.

I took my time up on 94, then eventually got back in the ear-popping elevator and returned to normal elevation, where I caught a bus back to Wacker Drive (forever immortalized for me in the Blues Brothers). Shortly thereafter my dad came back, and we recruited my old friend Cherina Jones to swing downtown and pick us up for a night on the town.

The night on the town became a night on Oak Park, which we reached via an eye-opening cruise across Madison Avenue right through the West Side. We ate dinner at a nice Greek spot, then drove around town looking at the Ernest Hemingway birth house and the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio, where I took some photos and shot some footage for posterity. Pretty low-key overall, but in our condition, it was exactly what we needed. On the way back Cherina drove us around in the Loop for a while, taking in the evening atmosphere and letting me get some more footage before dropping us off at the Allegro Home Base.

It's just about time to go find the Green Line, so that's it for blog #3...