Sunday, March 07, 2010


I spent the past weekend on a quick trip to the windy city with a view to seeing as much as I could. Last time I was there I was doubled over with a bad neck and though in good company, wasn't really mobile enough to get around much.
I was only in town for about 36 hours and spent much of that time walking....and walking....and walking. As you can see the sky was a brilliant blue and the sun was shining. Weather like that tends to banish the cobwebs for me.
One of the key attractions of Chicago for me is the architecture. Besides the Gotham City buildings (all the Batman movies were filmed there), there's an iconic structure I just had to visit.
Tall buildings are a bit of a fetish for me:
Burj Dubai .
Taipei 101.
Eiffel Tower
Canary Warf
The Petronas Towers.
Empire Stae Building.
The CN tower in Toronto.
With the exception of the Burj ( just newly finished on my last visit ), I've been up on observation decks of all of them.
Newly added to my list is the Willis (formerly Sear's) Tower.
Here are some "fun" facts about the building:

  • The tower stands 108 floors, 1,451 ft.
  • It's the tallest building in the US and fifth tallest in the world. It was the tallest in the world from 1973-1996 until the Petronas Towers in Malaysia were completed.
  • The 104 elevators ascend at 18mph.
  • The building leans 10cms from vertical because of its design and its sway in high winds has been known to induce motion sickness for people working in the upper floors.
  • The toilets on the observation deck (103rd floor) are the highest flushers in the Western hemisphere.
  • The tower has over 25 miles of plumbing, 80 miles of elevator cables and 1500 miles of electrical cables.
  • The white strobe lights on the top blink 57,000 times a day (if that isn't a useless fact, I don't know what is).
  • The above list shows I've become the master of the mundane.

The "Sky deck" is on the 103rd floor and predictably the views are awesome.
On 2 July 2009, a viewing ledge built of three 1.3-centimeter thick glass layers, and suspended from the 103rd floor, opened to the public.
On Saturday March 6th, 2010 after much agonising and telling myself to "get a grip", I took these pictures from that ledge. As I said, it took me a little while to work up the nerve, but I did it.
Its the adults who feel queasy.
Kids seem to have no problem with the concept of jumping and bouncing around little boxes bolted to the side of the building 1000ft+ up above the sidewalk.
This tended to shame parents into a brief weak knee-ed foray for quick pictures. Unique ( in my experience at least) to Chicago is the "L" train which takes an elevated rather than subterranean journey around the downtown core.
I don't know why but I find the whole concept kind of trippy. Deserted as the downtown was on a Saturday, the rumble of the train provided a reminder of big city sounds.Besides tall buildings, I've got a "thing" for fire escapes.
I don't know.
I just do
Maybe the symmetry taps into some latent obsessive-compulsive thing hidden in my brain.
Or maybe I just like em.
Despite a clear schedule on Saturday, I didn't get to see as much as I wanted. Time got away from me as I walked around and snapped pictures and I think that isn't such a bad thing.
I was relaxing, and that's a good thing.
I did see the "Magnificent Mile" which to me was much like any other street of high end stores.
Chicago is known for music and though I didn't go to see any Blues I did go to two different Jazz places:
The first was "Andy's" on Hubbard Street downtown. I went there on my last trip and enjoyed it so much I made a point of going back.
It didn't disappoint.
Friendly and crowded, the place takes its music seriously, but not to the point of intimidation. I know very little about Jazz but felt very much welcome.
The cover is a little pricey and drinks aren't cheap but the place has a nice vibe.
The second place I went was "The Green Mill"
Opened in 1909, the place gained notoriety in the 1920s when Al Capone's henchman " Machine Gun" Jack McGurn "acquired" 25% ownership and the bar became a watering hole for various shady characters of the mobster era.
Its some distance from downtown (about $15 by cab) but I made the journey having been told that though in a "crummy" area, the music was the best in the city.
The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the bouncer: He was about 6ft 8, had a Mohawk and enough face piercings to give airport security fits.
The second thing I noticed was that all the customers were white.
I found that strange.
I have no idea if that's the normal state of affairs.
It may be the particular group playing that night were of no interest to African Americans.
I settled down in the packed bar area and struck up a conversations with three or four people all of whom seemed anxious to tell me about their third or fourth generation Irish heritage.
I found this also very strange.
I didn't stay long though everyone was pleasant enough. I just got a bit claustrophobic as the place began to pack out.
The music was good and the drinks cheap.
Worth a visit.
That's it for today.
I'm in the US until Friday and then its off to the UK and Germany.
Stay tuned and stay well

1 comment:

Kjell Tjensvoll said...

Great post and great pics as usual Terry. I'll be in Chicago for 10 days so thanks for the pointers. I'll definitively try those glass viewing boxes in the tower - looks awesome.

Happy trails,