Start me up Chicago

21 Mar

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing defines Chicago as "Windows 95." This is an apt nickname for Chicago. I would never live in Chiacgo, just like I would never use Windows (too many bugs). But it is tempting to visit just to see what they've ripped off from other cities (and what other cities might want to rip off from them). For example, there's "One Book, One Chicago" at the Chicago Public Library which was cleverly taken from the Seattle Public Library. There's also the John Hancock Observatory, which turns out to be a clever rip-off of the Eiffel Tower. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871? A total copy of the Great London Fire of 1666. The list could go, but the point is made. In short, Chicago is a fine place to visit, if you can stand all the "bugs" like heavy traffic and large crowds, but most of what it has to offer I can get elsewhere for a lot less aggravation.Samantha and I drove to Chicagoland on Saturday. Sam is not a very good navigator. She swears the map had exits, but who are you going to trust: Sam or AAA? After many dollars (OK, just cents) spent on extraneous tolls, we got off the tollway and found the hotel. We then decide to drive down to the city center to visit Michigan Avenue and the Hancock Tower, which has a much better view then the Sears Tower of the city according to every guidebook in existence. I was navigating, so we got done there alright except for one glitch that put us in the Loop instead of the just North of it. That wasn't too bad. I tried to show her somewhere to park, but she freaked about the price and went somewhere else, which turned out to be more expensive. Portland has Smartpark, where you can park downtown for $.95 an hour. Chicago has dumbasspark, where you are lucky to avoid paying $15.00 for two hours. Sam's mistake cost us $23 altogether. She was so incensed by this costly error that she didn't do anything remotely entertaining for the rest of the trip. After parking, we went to the Apple Store. Then, we went up the Hancock Tower and say the skyline. Some balloons floated by and Sam spit on pedestrians below. Wait, that would have been entertaining. So, sorry, no balloons. We then went back to the car, drove to the hotel, and ate at the Baker's Square next to the hotel.

On day two, we took the airport shuttle to the airport and then took the train into the city to see the Field Museum. We got there just in time to take a tour of the highlights, which very few people took and most jumped ship before too long. That took about an hour. I think the best part was Sue, the most complete T-Rex skeleton yet found. However, I recently read about a special exhibit opening at the Field Museum in the most recent issue of Discover. It was an exhibit of artifacts from the last great Chinese Emperor, Qianlong. Some had never been exhibited before and most had never been out of the Forbidden City. It was actually the third day the exhibit had been open to the public. While it was enjoyable by itself, the comments of the viewing public were also entertaining. I particularly liked the guy who said that China was great until Ho Chi Minh came along and screwed everything up (it took me a second too). The other guy who thought Qianlong's poetry looked like a Chinese take-out menu was just sad. After the Field Museum, we took the train back to the airport, took the shuttle back to the hotel, and went and ate at the Spaghetti Warehouse next to the hotel.

On day three (Monday), we went downtown to the Art Institute of Chicago. It was very nice, but I've seen better. It did have my second favorite painting of all time, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. American Gothic and A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884 were also very nice. I did discover a new painting I enjoyed alot — Time Transfixed by René Magritte. I think the train should have been bigger, but otherwise a fine piece. Afterwards, we went and eat pizza at Giordano's. After the pizza, Sam dragged me to the Chicago Historical Society. On the way there we meet a nice old man who said he was friends with Don Rumsfield. Told us that Rummy should have run for office against Clinton. Also told Sam she was cornfed and that he was going to go to City Hall and cane the mayor to death since the Dead Sea Scrolls commanded it. He was also has a "terror sense" that tingled before 9/11 and it was tingling again. He said that he would Don to kill him self the next time they talked since that was about all he could do at this point. The Historical society wasn't as horrible as I thought it was going to be. I particularly liked the Civil War tables and Lincoln's death bed. Afterwards, we walked through the Lincoln Park Zoo. For a free zoo in the cold weather, it was pretty nice. We also took the bus to Union Station, walked by the Sears Tower, and ate near the Palmer House Hilton ate at the Beef'n Brandy.

On day four, we started out at the Adler Planetarium. I hate schoolkids. They'd overrun the place and many of the exhibits didn't work. Not very exciting. We walked down to the Shedd Aquarium afterwards and all I can say is WOW!. That place rocks. Best. Aquarium. Ever! Lots of good stuff to see there. I really liked the dolphin show, with Pacific dolphins no less, and who doesn't love sea otters. The Wild Reef exhibit is absolutely the best interactive exhibit on fish I've ever seen. If you go to Chicago you shouldn't miss the Shedd. After that it was over a quest to find a charm bracelet charm for Samantha. The city of Chicago's gift shop was closed, so we went to the urban mall next to the Hancock Tower. We found a shop on the seventh floor. We then ate at the Cheesecake Factory. Nice.

On the last day, we checked out of the hotel and drove for nearly an hour and a half (off the freeway per Sam's request) to the Museum of Science and Industry. We parked for $12.00 and then headed inside. It was a nice museum, but it was basically the same as OMSI with a little more cash. They had a Mercury and an Apollo capsule and a underground coal mine. They also had a really big model train exhibit that included mock ups of Chicago and Seattle (to show the connection between the two). They also had a full size train, the Burlington Zephyer, which was a personal favorite. The Fairy Castle was very nice. Everything else OMSI has too. An IMAX, a submarine (although theirs is bigger and German), school kids, etc. Oregon school kids are far better behaved though. They also had this crazy Swiss pin ball machine called "Jollyball". Sam navigated us out of Hyde Park and we drove to Davenport, Iowa where we ate at the Machine Shed. Yum. Then it was home to see the cats. Yes, Lolli was very happy to see us.

My Chicago ratings:

Overall (**): 1/2 a Portland for its horrendous traffic, homicidal drivers, subpar mass transit system, noisy airport, and unruly school children.

Adler Planetarium (*): Not much to see here except broken exhibits and noisy school children.

Art Institute of Chicago (**): Good place to visit, but if you aren't an art lover not much to see. If you are, you'll love it.

Field Museum (**): A nice, large natural history museum. Better then Vienna's, but not very interactive. Would have been rather boring without the special exhibit.

John Hancock Observatory (***): A wonderful way to see the city from up high and clearly a nicer view then the Skydeck at the Sears Tower, which is more expensive and more crowded.

Museum of Science and Industry (**): Too many annoying school children. Overall, a nice, solid science museum. The coal mine is worth a trip if you are in town.

Shedd Aquarium (****): The only must-see museum I visited. The Wild Reef is the highlight and shouldn't be missed. The Oceanarium was also excellent since it has dolphins, whales, sea otters, seals, and pengiuns. So many cute animals in a small area made up to look like the Pacific Northwest.

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