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We struck the home trail now, and in a few hours were in that astonishing Chicago--a city where they are always rubbing a lamp, and fetching up the genii, and contriving and achieving new impossibilities. It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago--she outgrows her prophecies faster than she can make them. She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.
~ Mark Twain "Life on the Mississippi," 1883
Breakfast: eggs, potatoes, toast
28 March 2004
When we woke up, Chicago had disappeared. The beautiful view we have from our window was gone, presumably out there somewhere in the fog, but not able to be visually penetrated. I was glad I'd taken pictures of it the day before.
At 8:30 we walked down to a coffee shop a block from here, and next door to Ellen's hotel, where we met Ellen and had what ended up being a huge breakfast. Then we went to a bus stop and waited for a bus to take us to Chicago's famed Museum of Science and Industry.
It's about a 15-20 minute ride on the bus, so we got to see a chunk of downtown and then along the lake, passing by the aquarium and art museum and then Soldier Field, the home of the Chicago Bears. Fascinating building because the stadium itself looked very modern, but it had old gothic pillars in front of it that made me think that this was where Chicagoans bring Christians to throw them to the lions (or bears :). I expected some guy in a toga to be walking out on the balcony as our bus passed by (though, given the chilly temperature, that wasn't likely).
Next to that was something you don't see in Davis...a snow board ramp, like a very tall ski jump, full of snow and brave souls hurtling down the ramp on snow boards.
The Museum of Science and Industry is, in a word, enormous. Reminded me very much of the Smithsonian's Museum of American History. It had a lot of hands on stuff, "buttons to push and machines that didn't work," Walt described it. We found out about HIV and AIDS, saw sliced frozen sections of the human body (discovered that the bones in cross section look like mini steaks), and took tests to see how our brains worked.
Downstairs, we saw a huge model railroad layout, which will show you the train route from Seattle to Chicago. It was absolutely impressive and reminiscent of the days when Mike Blackford kept model trains and dragged us to model railroader shows...only this was on a huge scale.
In other parts of the museum, I learned the difference between a Connostoga Wagon and a Prairie Schooner and the difference between and eastern stage coach and a western stage coach. And I learned how they make the statues for the Oscars (I didn't realize they were made here in Chicago).
Eventually, Ellen and I had hit the wall, so we headed to the gift shop (of course) while Walt went off to investigate another train (of course). And finally, it was time to leave. Ellen was off to the real train station to catch her train back to Milwaukee; we were headed for the bus stop to the train station to the first theatre we attended today.
Blue Man Group. I knew essentially NOTHING except that Ned said I couldn't leave Chicago without seeing Blue Man Group. Steve also said they were great. Initially I didn't think we could get to see them, since we had tickets for The Big Voice for both nights, but I checked and discovered that Blue Man Group had a 4 p.m. show, so I was able to get tickets for that show.
It is safe to say that Blue Man Group is the most unique piece of theatre I've seen since I reviewed "Puppetry of the Penis" a year ago. I suspect that it's one of those things that you just have to experience...guys in blue skin tight full head masks playing drums with paint poured on them (we knew there would be a mess when the first five rows of seats came with plastic suits for the patrons to wear! We were upstairs). Stunts like you've never seen. Audience participation on a level seldom seen. And use for paper and rubber hoses that you just can't quite believe.
The thing about Blue Man Group is that I could so clearly see Ned, Paul and their friend KC doing this show.
So, thanks, Ned for shaming me into seeing this show. It was very definitely an experience!!
When the show was over, we had an encounter with one of Chicago's homeless, our second. In California they ask you "do you have any spare change?" Here they ask for "a dollar or two..." Walt usually carries loose change so he can help someone out with something, but his quarter was apparently an insult to this guy, who followed us for two blocks asking if we couldn't give him a dollar or two because he was hungry.
Now, I've worked with the homeless, and I've worked with low income people so it's not like I'm insensitive, but I got to thinking about it. This guy followed us for less than 5 minutes. I wonder how many people he hits up for "a dollar or two," who figure it's a small amount to pay to get rid of him. If only half of the people he pesters give him that dollar or two, he could easily collect more in an hour than I make. All tax free too. I suspect that things are not always what they seem with pan handlers.
The show was out at 5, and "The Big Voice" wasn't until 8. It was only 7 blocks from Blue Man Group, so we set off on foot, stopping halfway there at an Indian buffet. Delicious food.
We stood outside with Jimmy before the show and met Danny and his partner Carl, both from the TLS ("The Last Session") list, familiar names, but people I had not met before. They were delightful.
The show was good, of course, and when it was over, I was thrilled to discover my good friend Sarah in the audience. Sarah is from Cincinnati and one of my favorite people. She is also on the TLS list and we met her when we went to Cincinnati a couple of years ago when Steve did the show there. Her husband was in Las Vegas for the weekend, at a bachelor party and she decided to come to Chicago to see TBV. Wonderful to see her again, however briefly.
Sarah and her friend, with whom she was staying, offered to give us a ride back to the hotel, so we avoided cab fare tonight and that was also very nice.
Now it's pushing midnight Chicago time. We have part of a day to kill tomorrow, and have to leave for the airport around 3 or 4. At the moment we plan to try out the hotel exercise room and then walk around downtown.
I've discovered here at this ritzy hotel, that the rich pay thru the nose for everything. No free phone. We do get free coffee in the room, but no cookies and no free continental breakfast. The room has a private bar for which you pay handsomely: A bottle of Evian (that's water, you know!) is $4.25. A small bag of cashews is $7.25. Peanut M&Ms are $2.50...etc., etc. If you use the mini bar to store something you bought yourself there's a charge for that as well. I'm surprised they're letting us have the ice for free. The room has the equivalent of Web-TV, but I haven't even turned it on. I'm sure I'll be charged by the second for use of it. Places like the Holiday Inn are looking better and better to me after this trip.
So our whirlwind weekend in the windy city is coming to an end. When I next write, it will be from the comforts of my own home, on my very own DSL line where I can do whatever I damn well please with photos and time on the internet.
I sure am glad we came. I am completely exhausted, but this has been so much fun!
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