So it's been a while. Hi! I'm not dead. I'm down four wisdom teeth and almost moved out for college, but other than that not too much is different. I'm still me, you're still you, right? Right.
So last week I traveled alongside my aunt and mother to one of the greatest cities in the world, Chicago Illinois. I know what you're thinking: the midwest? Why? I'll tell you why: THE BEAN.
Okay, I'm kidding, we didn't fly a third of the way across the country just to see a bean, even if it is a majestic stainless steel sculpture of awesome. We did a heck of a lot of cool stuff in not a lot of time. That Wednesday morning we flew out from Pittsburgh International and landed at Midway around 7:00 AM Central. Time travelling (or traversing time zones to be more accurate) is an amazingly cool and disorienting thing. Especially when your wristwatch refuses to get with the program and change from EDT to CDT, but that's a whole other rant.
We took the Orange line into the Loop, which in hindsight is about the size of Downtown Pittsburgh. Plus: it's walkable and flat Minus: you walk way more than you realize and are exhausted by the end of it. But oh well.
That first day we went to Millennium Park (Home of the Bean), the Art Institute of Chicago (Home of a friendly cashier who made me realize I have a weird accent when it comes to saying the word "pin" versus "pen" as well as home to American Gothic and other famous art such), Giordano's Pizza (home of amazing deep dish pizza), the Briar Street Theater (home of the Blue Man Group), and then the Club Quarters hotel (temporary home of us). We got up around 4 AM Eastern to fly out, which is 3 AM central and finally got to the hotel to sleep around midnight central, or 1 AM Eastern. It was an exhausting but amazing day.
Day two was just as busy. I had amazing french toast at Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe on East Randolph. We took an architecture boat ride through the city of Chicago along the Chicago River. We also stumbled upon, and longtime followers of my blog will appreciate this, THE 2015 CHICAGO RUBBER DUCKY DERBY! They had a giant (not really) rubber duck and launched THOUSANDS of them off of a drawbridge and it was amazing and seriously the ONE time I go to Chicago we just so happen to find a ducky derby. (Confused yet? Click Here...). I took a detour to the Chicago Cultural Center (home of a GAR hall with an awesome dome and another hall with another awesome dome), another pilgrimage to the bean because THE BEAN! and that evening we travelled north to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs take on the Giants.
I'm not a Cubs fan, and I'm not a Giants fan. I am a self-diagnosed stubborn Pirates fan. So it's really weird going into a ballyard you don't know to see two teams you A) don't really care about and B) don't know really at all to watch them play. But it's Wrigley Field so you have to. So what are you to do, root against the home team? If you ask the random sea of Giants Fans around us yes you do. Or you could just cheer for everyone without worry because it doesn't matter.
Unless of course you're worried about the Buccos' Wild Card Chances. Which, after seeing the Cards series I suddenly am...
Three years ago I read a great book about Chicago and the 1892 World Fair. It's called "Devil in the White City" by Erik Larsen. Good Swedish name, though I doubt he's Swedish. Anyway, the worlds fair took place on the same plane longitudinally as Midway Airport (Midway = Midway Plaissance).. Most of buildings from the amazing worlds fair that debuted Tesla's Alternating Current and, you know, the Ferris Wheel, have burned to the ground. They all have, except for the Palace of Fine Arts. It was fireproof (a marvel of its time) and now houses the Museum of Science and Industry. So on the third day we trekked south in search of the Worlds Fair. I didn't realize how freaking huge this place was until I got there. It was overwhelming and amazing (both in architecture and size and the cool exhibits they had there - I sat in a combine harvester!) and so I wandered about a bit, and before catching the Metra north ran all the way around the building (which, much to MSI's credit, they've kept intact from the 1893 detailing) to look out over Jackson Park, a place I must explore next time I'm in Chicago. Because it's beautiful and haunting. Exactly as I hoped it would be. The world nowadays has no real place for worlds fairs - innovations are debuted on large stages and in keynote addresses by men in turtlenecks, but it's important to realize that there was a time where you had to travel to see the new. It wasn't just beamed at you or around you, you had to get your ticket, hitch up a wagon or train to see the impressive marvels of technology.
The rest of our last day in Chicago was spent wandering about the Navy Pier, which jettisons out into Lake Michigan complete with (of course) a ferris wheel, and some interesting oddities including the studios of WBEZ (this American Life, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, and most other awesome things to come from Public Radio) and a museum dedicated to stained glass from Tiffany & Co.
Standing at the edge of the Navy Pier overlooking Lake Michigan is nowhere near as inspiring as looking out over the Atlantic Ocean from Bethany Beach, Delaware. But much like the rest of the marvel that is Chicago it forces you to compare and to examine. The city was planned after a fire, and has three layers, so the top layer - what us tourists see and the wayward streetgoers do - is always clean and pristine. Below is the through traffic, and below that is trash collection world and the trains. Chicago as a whole is planned to the T, and is a constant experiment of pushing higher (inventing the skyscraper) and more practically than you could think possible.
In conclusion, I love it there. It's too dang flat for me to even begin to compare it to my beloved Pittsburgh, but at the same time there is something to be said for flying in and seeing the city far beyond a sunrise summer haze over Midway.
Chicago is an inspiring place that forces you to think about human possibility. How the hell do you eat this gigantic deep dish pizza? Why do so many people flock to the bean? How did a city known for slaughterhouses and fire rise from its bloodied messy past and become an awesome and clean metropolis? It's a wonder of its own, and I've never experienced anything quite like it.
I give all credit to my amazing Aunt and Uncle who made this possible. For my tolerant mother for letting us drag her around Chicago, and even to a baseball game (I love it, she hates it) and to the giant rubber duck, to which we owe credit for all awesome and dorky things.
You just knew I'd find some way to circle it back to the Giant Duck....
If you'd like to see any of the pictures I took of this trip, I made an album on Flickr like usual: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alexanderpopichak/albums/72157656832984110