Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Take Your Blog to Work Day

Have you heard of "Take Your Child to Work Day"? Well, my kids are too young for that yet so I decided to take all of you with me on my commute to and from work. I thought it might be fun to share some of what I experience every day.

I've heard us commuters referred to as "cattle" and while I find that reference kind of offensive I guess when you see the mass of slow moving people all going east (in the morning) and west (in the evening) we do kind of look like cattle. Many of us just put our heads down and walk, knowing that our feet will get us to work without our brains really having to think about it.

Some days you will get dripped on when the window washers are working up on their scaffolds, so when you see soapy drips on the sidewalk you know to steer clear and do NOT look up! This particular morning a man was cleaning this metal pillar with soapy water and a rag. Yup, good old-fashioned soap and elbow grease! These buildings are beautiful and I can't imagine the cost to maintain them, including all the little things like washing all the windows regularly and keeping all the shiny metal looking good. I haven't washed the windows of my house and I've lived in it for four years.

This is a rare sight - a vacant lot. It seems to be in a prime location so I'm surprised someone hasn't built something on it. I used to be able to cut across this lot and shave a few seconds off my walk but then several years ago they put up the fencing. Shortly after that I saw that it was being used to store movie equipment when they were filming the Batman movies - "Batman Returns" and most recently "Dark Knight". I saw cars with the Gotham City PD emblem on them parked there as well as row after row of trailers for the extras.

Almost every morning I walk down Wells St. and get a chance to see this adult video/bookstore sandwiched between two fast food restaurants. It always makes me laugh a little - grab your take-out lunch at AsiaGo or Taco Fresco and then stop in the adult video store before heading back to work? In fact, in addition to this store I have counted three adult video/bookstores within a two block radius of my office. I'm not sure what that says...

Ahhhh, good old Standard Parking. If you ever drive into Chicago you'll probably park at one of these and it is NOT cheap. So take public transportation if you can! I wonder how this company was able to get a corner on the parking garage business...

I had to get a picture of the Sears Tower - can you see it peeking out? It has the two-pronged white antenna sticking up.

Here is another shot looking south towards the Sears Tower

I have been watching this construction project for quite a while, from when it was at ground level. Oddly about six months ago all work seemed to stop. Now with the financial crisis I wonder if this was a little foreshadowing of what was to come. These are "hotel condos" which I don't know a whole lot about but I understand that when you are not living in your unit you can have it used as part of the hotel option which can earn you some cash flow. But the building has to be finished first...

This is The Merchandise Mart - it is a huge building and actually has its own zip code as well as a lot of interesting history. You can't help but feel its presence when you walk by.

Marina Towers - you may recognize them from the opening credits of the "Bob Newhart Show" (I'm dating myself) or the crash scene from "The Hunter" when a car drives off the building and into the Chicago River below. The famous "House of Blues" is also located in Marina City.

You can also see the new Trump Tower, which is under construction, in the background. The old Sun Times building was razed to build the Trump Tower; while I am normally against tearing down perfectly functional structures in this case it was a definite improvement. The prior building was hideous and hugely non descript. In fact the building they moved into now is still pretty much just a brown shoe box... nothing like the beautiful Tribune Tower but I digress...

Just an interesting shot looking down Wacker Drive...

Ahhh, the elevated train! aka "the el". This is why the heart of Chicago's downtown is called "the loop" because of the pattern that the el tracks form.

It is absolutely deafening walking under the tracks when a train is going by, but you really feel you are in a bustling city when it does.

One of the many high rise office buildings I have seen go up. It's really fascinating to see them go up from literally a hole in the ground to this point and beyond. "Awwww, I remember when you were just a muddy hole in the ground - look how big you are now!!"

The Lyric Opera is right near Union Station which makes me think it would be ultra convenient to take the train into the city, catch a performance and then hop a train back home. Unfortunately, I don't care for opera... I wish I did, but I don't.

I feel very cultured every time I just walk by their entryway - just look at how pretty and elegant it is. This is one of the various street performers I see and hear on a daily basis. He is a regular and I really enjoy hearing him play his makeshift drums. He is always so upbeat (no pun intended) and seems to really enjoy himself. He changes what he plays and sings based on if the Bears are winning, or if it's Christmas time. Having played an instrument when I was younger I know how hard it is and always appreciate it when I hear a street musician playing and I make sure to let them know by dropping a few dollars in their bucket.

The water taxi - I love this idea and although I don't use it anymore (I walk instead) one summer season I used it every day and it was a wonderful way to start and end my day. The ride is only about seven minutes up the river but something about being on the water is so soothing.
This man is a bit of a puzzle to me. I've seen him for at least five years - interestingly he started out sitting in a wheelchair (always has had the dark glasses on but recently I saw him do something that makes me thing he isn't blind). About two years ago he switched to a regular chair, then crates and now in the last few weeks he has started to stand with his hands out. He doesn't say anything but is very friendly if you talk to him. He also used to have a different religious themed quote on a large piece of poster board that he had propped next to him. He has phased that out but will occasionally put a poster out - one of the recent ones was in July when he announced his 91st birthday.

He is one of three people that are always posted right outside the train station - I wonder if some of the changes he has made has been to "compete" with the other people asking for money? One of them is an elderly woman who sells "Streetwise" a publication for homeless people to sell to try and earn money, and another very frail looking man who holds a piece of cardboard saying he is a Veteran. Interesting how they all seem to appeal to different groups of people...
And here I am, at the end of my day and hopping the train to go home.

Hope you enjoyed your little virtual tour of Chicago!


Anonymous said...

Have to ask you. Why did you decide to live in Chicago?

I've always admired those who choose to live in a big city and I like to visit them but I can't live in such confined quarters. Love your virtual tour. When I get ready to visit Chitown I'll ask you for directions.


Noelle said...

Hi Susan, I do not live in Chicago proper but in the suburbs. However, I do work in the city so I feel like I'm lucky enough to get the best of both worlds. I experience the hubbub of the city Monday through Friday and have my quieter suburban home with my little yard and garden, dog and family. I know life-long city folks that do not even have a driver's license because they don't need a car. I have some neighbors that relocated from tony Lincoln Park in the city but once they had children they wanted the quieter suburban existence for them. Last time I asked them they admitted it was hard to adjust at first, but it is possible :-)

Laurel said...

Thanks for the "tour", Noelle! It's been too many years since I've been to chi-town!My dad used to take the family there a few times/year--he would work & we got to hang out at some neat hotel. Of course, this was back in the 60's and 70's when companies let business men take their families on business trips with them!

I love to see that cities are actually THRIVING these days. Detroit is--and has been--such a PIT!!! I love travelling on the el's, walking Michigan Ave, going to Navy Pier...going to neighborhood places! Chicago has a pride about it that Detroit has never had--at least in my lifetime!

Thanks so much for sharing your walk with us! It was fun. :o)