Chicago, Chicago that toddling town
Chicago, Chicago I will show you around – I love it
Bet your bottom dollar you lose the blues in Chicago, Chicago
The town that Billy Sunday couldn’t shut down.
˜Fred Fisher (1922)
By now, you understand WineGuy’s concept of a vacation: go and go and go until you drop. Chicago was no exception. Day Two of our adventures in Chi-town began and ended with the Museum of Science and Industry. Frankly, I enjoyed the ride down there as much as the museum itself. I’m a little burned out on science museums – Philadelphia, Boston, DC, Los Angeles. I find the exhibits too chaotic and computerized for quiet contemplation. More often I get frustrated when said exhibits do not even work.
At any rate, WineGuy was bound and determined to spend the whole damned day at MSI, and we did. Our City Pass provided us with entry into the museum and one special exhibit. We bought additional tickets to the U-Boat 505, CSI, and IMax. The U-Boat exhibit was outstanding! The museum has the entire (real) submarine, and you are permitted to go inside. The exhibit had movie and radio clips of broadcasts about, to, and from the U.S.S. Chatelaine, which captured the German sub. There was plenty to read, too. The multimedia approach to the U-505 exhibit was captivating and successful. After touring the sub, the museum shows a time-lapse video of how they built the new wing for the submarine and installed it. The boys really enjoyed playing detectives and forensic scientists in the CSI special exhibit. I found the exhibit frustrating: overcrowded and some displays did not work. The Imax movie about the mummies was only fair; the dinosaur Imax we saw in Los Angeles was far better. My favorite part of the museum was The Great Train Story, a 3,500-square foot model train exhibit “depicting the railroad’s winding journey between Chicago and Seattle, passing through the Midwest, the Plains States, the Rockies, the Cascades, and into the Pacific Northwest.” We were exhausted and almost done for the day when WineGuy asked me whether I wanted to see the coal mine exhibit. Frankly, no. Then he pulled his usual passive-aggressive crap and said that was the one thing he really wanted to see in the whole museum all day. Well, thank you for telling me this in a timely fashion. NOT. So, we stood in line
like a bunch of lemmings for some 40 minutes until we gained entrance to the coal mine. Took me right back to the coal-crackin’ country where we used to live in Pennsylvania. The exhibit was pretty good in that it used to be a real working coal mine. I wouldn’t have left it until the end of the day. Completely wiped out, we bussed it back to the hotel and had a fine dinner of leftover Lou Malnati’s pizza. The real treat of the day was dessert. We walked a few blocks up to The Peninsula Hotel and attended its Ice Cream Social in The Lobby Restaurant. It was so elegant and lovely: scrumptious handmade gelatos and chocolates, and hand-pulled espressos, in a superior first-class hotel restaurant overlooking the city skyline at twilight. Exquisite. I wanted to stay and send all the boys back to the Embassy Suites.
Day Three was another sightsee-until-you-drop day. We began the day at the Adler Planetarium, which shares the museum campus with the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium. The Planetarium is a wonderful old Art Deco building with great architectural features and a spectacular location on the east end of the peninsula comprising the museum campus.
It wasn’t crowded, and the exhibits all worked. It was a small enough museum to get through without fatigue. We all enjoyed it, especially “A Journey With Jim Lovell,” about his expeditions to the moon. Exit Planetarium, enter Spertus. Spertus is Chicago’s institute for Jewish studies. It is supposed to have a terrific museum and library. All we saw was the gift shop; everything else was closed in preparation for the center’s upcoming move to new facilities next door. That was a bust, so we took the bus further north to Millenium Park.
WineGuy was so excited to see Millenium Park; the rest of us were tired and wrung-out in the 90-degree heat. He insisted he wanted to see all the sculptures in the park. Oh, joy. I will admit that the giant silver bean, Cloud Gate, was fascinating and that the interactive, spitting Crown Fountain was a lot of fun. We needed to get out of the heat at that point, so we stopped into the Chicago Cultural Center, the former public library. It was a great, old pile of a Beaux Arts building, complete with gorgeous Art Nouveau mosaics, ornate woodwork, and a Tiffany dome. Sufficiently cooled off, we trekked over to Marshall Fields’ flagship store. Sshh, it’s now Macy’s, but Chicagoans insist that it is once and forever Fields. We went up to the 5th floor to see the beautiful Tiffany dome there: it is the largest glass mosaic of its kind and the first dome Tiffany ever built with his famous iridescent glass.
That wasn’t the end of our day by any means. We took the bus back up Michigan Avenue to the Westfield North Bridge Mal for WineGuy to go shopping. Granted he hates shopping, but he wanted to take a look at Vosges Haut-Chocolat. He did just that but didn’t buy anything because they were too snooty and expensive. Undeterred, I headed straight for Nordstrom’s at the other end of the mall. I hoped to find some new shoes, but Nordy’s shoe department had nothing for me that day. Waaah! In pursuit of dinner, we fled the mall.
Dinner that night was truly an adventure. We took a Division Street crosstown bus waaaaay west (in rush hour traffic) to the Humboldt Park neighborhood. We were bound for Maiz, a Mexican antojitos (tapas) restaurant. Antojitos are appetizers or little dishes; here, they were all made by hand and of different varieties of corn. There were freshly made corn tortillas with all kinds of unique fillings, like huitlacoche (Mexican mushrooms) and crab. Our favorite dish was a salad made with chopped nopales (cactus leaves) and fresh corn kernels in a vinaigrette dressing. We ate to our hearts delight then set out to catch a bus back to our hotel. BIG mistake. By this time, the sun was setting, and many questionable characters were roaming the streets of Humboldt Park . . . young thugs in gang colors walking pit bulls on heavy chains; seedy, tattooed women in too-short skirts and too much make-up. There I was, wearing my diamond engagement ring and gold watch, shlepping my three tired kids through the slums. Brilliant planning. I turned my rings around, shoved my left hand deep in my pants pocket, and dragged Moose along behind me. We got to the bus stop on the route which should have taken us right back to our hotel, and we waited. And waited. And waited. The street got dimmer, and the cars zoomed past. There was no bus. Finally, I called RTA to make sure the bus was still running. It wasn’t; it had stopped its route an hour before. Fortunately, the RTA operator gave us directions to the next closest bus stop; it was 2 blocks away. We sprinted back two blocks and caught the bus just in time. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were totally exhausted.
What I wanted to say to WineGuy after this walk on the wild side: “Are you out of your $%^*&*% mind dragging us into gang-land just for dinner? My years of living dangerously are over!”
What I said to WineGuy when he asked me if I had a good day: ” . . . “