Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Chicago Bear: "There's Nothing Like Summer in the City"

"I'm Bean"

Breakfast on Saturday, June 15 was at one of the many Corner Bakeries scattered throughout the city. The one we chose was "L" adjacent to ensure that Da Bear got to see one of Chicago's most distinctive and recognizable features.

At this point, Da Bear is way more worldly than I was at her age. Growing up outside of Detroit in the 1970s and 80s, the only big city I ever visited was...well...Detroit. Da Bear has been to Edinburgh, Montreal, New York City (several times), Toronto (twice), Vancouver, and now Chicago.

Coming back to Chicago after so many visits to NYC, I was struck by how much lower the population density appears to be. Have you ever seen a street in Manhattan this empty, especially near Broadway?

Heading east toward Lake Michigan, we explored several of the Chicago sights along the way. I remembered this sculpture from our many visits to Chicago in the early 2000s.

Da Bear was unusually game for photographs on this trip. I made the most of it.

We found our way to Millennium Park, home to "The Bean" or more properly, the "Cloud Gate".

Man, that thing is shiny. Surely, there must be some serious material science behind whatever coating keeps it so shiny despite all that weather and the filthy hands of the masses.

This is my favorite shot of Da Bear from the Cloud Gate.

From underneath, some interesting optical aberrations occur. Da Bear and I can be seen in the lower right corner of frame.

Family photo - totally blind shot. Not bad.

This is about as close as we came to the Sears / Willis Tower. Da Bear had no interest.

Walking farther south, we encountered Buckingham Fountain, the city feature made famous by the opening credits to Married...with Children. I can hear Al Bundy now, flushing his toilet in exasperation.

There is an entire story to what Da Bear is doing here, but it is convoluted, so let's just leave it at us goofing around.

Chicago was hosting the third annual Pokemon Go Fest, an event that we found entirely mockable (we kept the mocking quiet and amongst ourselves). When I took this ironic photo of Da Bear with a charging station, a group of 50+ year old men asked me to take their photo with it, too. Afterward, they offered to get a picture of my entire family with the "powerbank". I politely declined without disclosing that Da Bear's photo was taken in jest.

Well, it got my attention. But what the hell is oatmilk?


The Sea Is Filled with Horrible Fish
(with apologies to Stephen)

Next up on our itinerary, the Shedd Aquarium!

We enjoyed a very interesting presentation on dolphins.

We pet the star fish.

Best pickup line ever.

Art deco!

Da Bear loves her sea turtles, even the fake ones.

She also loves lizards (when there is a pane of glass between them and her).

Photo by Kristy

What do you do when your uncle loves Star Wars and your aunt has a thing for narwhals, but they're both in Colorado? You send them a photo of yourself from the Shedd Aquarium gift shop.

The Shedd Aquarium is genuinely terrific. I highly recommend it.

"Piss Off, I'm Watching the Show Now"

After spending the morning at Shedd Aquarium, we departed for the theater district and lunch.

Da Bear brandished a damp umbrella at me while we ate lunch in a sandwich shop. I don't know what worries me more, the look on her face or the fact that none of the other restaurant patrons seemed to find this behavior surprising or worrisome.

That's OK, because Kristy got even with her.

Cool metalwork on top of the Chicago Public Library

We stopped to stage some cowering beneath Calder's Flamingo.

That's some good cowering. I thought it was quite convincing.

We met Pam and Stephen at the CIBC Theater for our second shot at Hamilton.

Here's Da Bear with her Hamil-swag. Yes, it is the same shirt she bought in New York - she outgrew that one already. Clearly, we need to stop feeding her.

Hamilton on Broadway, May 2018. Photo by Kristy.
When we saw Hamilton on Broadway last year, we were in the fourth row.

This time around, we had a very different perspective from the front row of the balcony.

I have been asked how my Chicago Hamilton experience compared to New York. For me, seeing Hamilton on Broadway was magical. We were so close to the stage that we felt like part of the action. We had a cast straight from the island of misfit toys - most of them were either alternates or, in some cases, alternates of alternates  -- but they were extremely talented and clicked together incredibly well and the energy from them was beyond palpable. I also went into that show cold last year. I did not know the story at all and experienced the full impact of it for the first time during that high energy live performance. The Chicago cast was very good and our perspective from the balcony allowed us to see and appreciate things that were invisible to us from the floor in New York. A year later, I know all the numbers by heart, so the emotional impact of the story is not what it was the first time. I am glad we saw it a second time and thoroughly enjoyed it, but the performance did not crackle with the same level of magic for me as it did a year ago.

New Digs

Now joined by Pam and Stephen, we checked out of the Hotel Allegro and took up residence on the fourth floor of an Airbnb row house in the south part of the city.

Da Bear, Pam, and Stephen immediately demonstrated that they don't know how couches work. Da Bear tried to suggest that my reference frame was just off, but I suggested that the reference frame in this case should be gravity and that seemed to puncture her argument.

And Da Bear discovered the knives. Lock your bedroom doors tonight, children!

Dinner that night was at Chicago's Pleasant House Pub, a wee British pub located on the south side. It was small and nondescript, but the food was amazing. My Chicken Balti pie was a delicious hybrid of English and Indian cuisine (better dining through Imperialism!). The pub's house-made fries (chips) were so outstanding that I ordered a side for myself to enjoy with my draft Belhaven Scottish Ale Nitro, probably the smoothest Scotch Ale I've ever had. We dined like royalty that night, my friends. It was all so excellent that we stayed for dessert -- I rarely order dessert -- as a way of giving these fine people more of our money. What a find it was!

Sunday, June 16

On emerging from our bedroom the next morning, I was met with the sight of Da Bear using more furniture improperly.

In a nod to the notion of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", we broke our fast at another Corner Bakery (but we picked a different corner just to spice things up).

Family photo by Pam.

Goofy family photo by Pam.

What you see here is a breach of social contract. For many years, the rule for group photos has been one goofy photo and one nice one. This was intended to be the goofy photo, but Da Bear broke with custom and played it straight. She's a very sneaky Bear.

Really? I thought I taught Da Bear better than that. Oh well. When she turns 21, we'll need to make a field trip to Kalamazoo and Bell's.

We spent the entire day at the outstanding Field Museum. In another forehead slap-worthy moment, I realized the connection between the Field Museum and Chicago's Marshall Field. Wow. I can be really dense sometimes.

These imposing totem poles were accompanied by a statement acknowledging the less-than-stellar manner in which such artifacts were originally collected by museums: by stealing them from the people who made them.

Stephen and Da Bear goofing around. Again.

While there have been hypotheses about life being "seeded" on Earth from space, I was captivated by the fact that this meteorite contained concrete evidence that fundamental biological building blocks exist independently of the Earth.

Da Bear and I reminisced about her younger days when we used to play "Stegosaurus versus T-Rex". The joke was that the stegosaurus would swing its spiked tail (the "thagomizer") at the T-Rex and the T-Rex would run away yelping like a little yappy dog. Nerd humor is the best humor.

I think we're going to have to look elsewhere for whatever left that footprint.

Da Bear trying her best to emote terror.

That right there is the stuff nightmares are made of. That and accidentally going to work naked.

Public service announcement: plastic bags are not toys. Do not let your triceratops play with one. See what happened to this one?

Finally, we came face to skeletal face with Sue, the world's most famous tyrannosaurus rex.


That's right, kids. Sue is a part of our cretaceous exercise program. Only the fit survive!

We enjoyed many other parts of the museum, including the Egyptian tomb exhibit and the rocks and gemstones (in which Da Bear took 500ish photos, like rock hound that she is).

Still, it's a big place and, by mid-afternoon, we were exhausted and our brains were full.

Caption Contest!

To relieve some of that exhaustion, Da Bear and Pam took a virtual reality voyage underwater. This series of photos is begging to be part of a caption contest. Below are my submissions.

Pam: "I hope I don't hurl."

Da Bear: "This is so cool."

Pam: "This is kind of cool. I don't even feel like I'm going to hurl."

Da Bear: "Yay! That was so awesome! What did you think Aunt Pam?"

Pam: "I think I'm gonna hurl."

Dinner that night was at The Burger Point, an unpretentious diner specializing in truly excellent burgers and burger accouterments. After dining at The Burger Point, we drove north in search of a Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream shop.

Along the way, we found this place. Da Bear knocked, but no one answered.

She was a little short to reach the knob.

Stephen gave it a tremendous effort, but ultimately failed. I wonder if anyone was home?

To say that our journey to Jeni's was something of an epic quest would be a gross overstatement of the facts. But we did struggle to park and navigate a street festival to locate Jeni's. There may have also been an embarrassingly large amount of effort that went in to remembering where we parked.

But we found it. And it was good.

Photo by Kristy

Da Bear taunted me with ice cream. Doesn't she know that you should never taunt your pilot with ice cream?

Photo by Kristy 

On a completely unrelated note, Da Bear and I have been watching Futurama on Hulu and her latest obsession is to crab walk like Dr. Zoidberg while snapping her decidedly non-chitinous claws. It is a strikingly good impression.

Stephen decided to (temporarily) immortalize her on the wall at Jeni's, complete with crab claws and Curly Joe sound effects.

Photo by Stephen.

That right there is just about enough wackiness for one trip to Chicago.

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